6.11.19

taking a little break

Hello friends,

I've recently suffered a loss and have decided to take a blogging break until 2020. Truth is, I've been struggling to keep up with longer reviews for a while and right now, my heart just isn't in it. I will continue posting mini-reviews and nail art on my Instagram page, so in the meantime, please come say hi there!

Thanks for understanding,
Jennie

18.10.19

review and cover mani: NOS4A2


The back jacket, from Goodreads:

NOS4A2 is a spine-tingling novel of supernatural suspense from master of horror Joe Hill, the New York Times bestselling author of Heart-Shaped Box and Horns.

Victoria McQueen has a secret gift for finding things: a misplaced bracelet, a missing photograph, answers to unanswerable questions. On her Raleigh Tuff Burner bike, she makes her way to a rickety covered bridge that, within moments, takes her wherever she needs to go, whether it’s across Massachusetts or across the country.

Charles Talent Manx has a way with children. He likes to take them for rides in his 1938 Rolls-Royce Wraith with the NOS4A2 vanity plate. With his old car, he can slip right out of the everyday world, and onto the hidden roads that transport them to an astonishing – and terrifying – playground of amusements he calls “Christmasland.”

Then, one day, Vic goes looking for trouble—and finds Manx. That was a lifetime ago. Now Vic, the only kid to ever escape Manx’s unmitigated evil, is all grown up and desperate to forget. But Charlie Manx never stopped thinking about Victoria McQueen. He’s on the road again and he’s picked up a new passenger: Vic’s own son.


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If there’s one takeaway from NOS4A2, it’s that if you happen to hear Christmas music drifting out from a Rolls Royce…RUN, RUN FOR YOUR LIFE. I swear, I’ll never look at a luxury car the same way again. Or a Christmas tree. Or ornaments. Or basically anything connected to Christmas because YIKES EVERYTHING IS SCARY.

So, naturally, I loved this book.


Cover photograph © Pari Dukovic/AMC

Taking something beloved to many and turning it into an evil entity is the actual best and Joe Hill smoked it in NOS4A2. For a beast of a novel, clocking in at nearly 700 pages, I hardly noticed the length. Tension oozed out of the nooks and crannies of the text, and I loved Hill’s trademark exposition when it came to character building. No matter how large their role in the plot, each character received some sort of descriptive treatment, not a cardboard cutout to be seen.

The Brat aka Vic was addictive to watch, a MC with depth, grit, and a major case of bad luck, she was an unstoppable force and therefore amazing. Oh how I cheered for her, feared for her, wept for her. Throughout her life, she carried a heavy burden of responsibility thanks to the covered bridge that would appear whenever she needed to find something that had been lost, so even when Vic was a child, she felt a strong obligation to help others, despite the personal consequences. A combination of horrifying and heartwarming, I flew through pages with such velocity, they kind of blurred together. 



The epic scope of the timeline, following Vic from a child to a young woman, and then as a young mother, made NOS4A2 a saga of horror that only Joe Hill could write. Dark and gruesome, featuring the worst sorts of things people can do to each other, but a heroine who’s easy to cheer for, this book is absolutely perfect to read during Spooky Month. Just make sure you clear your schedule because once you devour the first chapter, you won’t want to do anything else. Five stars all the way. 



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For this mani, I used:

FingerPaints – Paper Mache and Black Expressionism

OPI – In My Back Pocket and matte topcoat

China Glaze – Good as Marigold, Royal Pain in the Ascot, Change Your Altitude, Rock N’ Royale






7.10.19

review and cover mani: ninth house


The back jacket, from Goodreads:

Galaxy “Alex” Stern is the most unlikely member of Yale’s freshman class. Raised in the Los Angeles hinterlands by a hippie mom, Alex dropped out of school early and into a world of shady drug dealer boyfriends, dead-end jobs, and much, much worse. By age twenty, in fact, she is the sole survivor of a horrific, unsolved multiple homicide. Some might say she’s thrown her life away. But at her hospital bed, Alex is offered a second chance: to attend one of the world’s most elite universities on a full ride. What’s the catch, and why her?

Still searching for answers to this herself, Alex arrives in New Haven tasked by her mysterious benefactors with monitoring the activities of Yale’s secret societies. These eight windowless “tombs” are well-known to be haunts of the future rich and powerful, from high-ranking politicos to Wall Street and Hollywood’s biggest players. But their occult activities are revealed to be more sinister and more extraordinary than any paranoid imagination might conceive.

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NINTH HOUSE I CANNOT.

No, really. I can’t. My brain is incapable of processing all of the awesomeness and my heart still hasn’t recovered. Ughhhhhhh it’s just so damn good. 

Very much an adult fantasy, Bardugo ventured into much darker territory in NINTH HOUSE, eyes open and unflinching. The plot seeped with pain and trauma, including graphic scenes of sexual and general violence, but through a distinctly feminist lens. It felt grounded and not at all exploitive—more focused on the survivor’s experience, including the emotional aftermath. How violence can change a person, and how the burden of violence is carried with a person throughout their life. Think Karin Slaughter but with secret Yale societies that practice magic with Bardugo flare. Gruesome, hard to read, but strangely hopeful in the end. 


Cover design by Keith Hayes

As a protagonist, Alex Stern made my whole life. A true survivor, she didn’t exactly fit in on the Yale campus, which suited her just fine. With a wicked sense of humor and a tolerance for exactly zero bullshit, Alex's natural state had her looking past the status quo and following her gut even when those in power demanded she cease and desist. Especially when those in power demanded she cease and desist, actually. In essence, my ideal sort of young woman, and one I’d follow anywhere. 

Also as a heads-up I would’ve appreciated knowing: NINTH HOUSE was a slower burn, but when the plot got rolling, it was bananapants. Character arcs sewn together into intricate twists, there wasn’t ever a “good” place to put it down, which meant I’d read for an hour and a half at night, 30 minutes over lunch, and any other increment I could squeeze in. The story consumed my thoughts, to the point I had a nightmare about it (re: Karin Slaughter-esque violence). AND THE ENDING OMG WHERE IS THE SEQUEL I NEED IT IMMEDIATELY.


It was just so damn fantastic. GAH, FRIENDS IT WAS AN ABSOLUTE TRIUMPH.

Atmospheric AF, excellent supporting characters, and an intriguing use of magic, all I can say is: Believe the hype (of which there is much). NINTH HOUSE hits shelves TOMORROW, so hopefully there is a bookstore close to you that’s open at midnight because you need this book in your hot little hands. Also, depending on your territory, there are several different covers in play. I love the UK edition the best. ;) But whatever edition you choose, rest assured you’re in for a wild magical ride. 

Big thanks to Raincoast Books for an ARC!!



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For this mani, I used:

China Glaze – Street Style Princess

FingerPaints – Black Expressionism and Paper Mâché

OPI – matte topcoat

So Nailicious – needle and warrior brushes


2.10.19

review and cover mani: the bone houses


The back jacket, from Goodreads:

Seventeen-year-old Aderyn ("Ryn") only cares about two things: her family, and her family's graveyard. And right now, both are in dire straits. Since the death of their parents, Ryn and her siblings have been scraping together a meagre existence as gravediggers in the remote village of Colbren, which sits at the foot of a harsh and deadly mountain range that was once home to the fae. The problem with being a gravedigger in Colbren, though, is that the dead don't always stay dead.

The risen corpses are known as "bone houses," and legend says that they're the result of a decades-old curse. When Ellis, an apprentice mapmaker with a mysterious past, arrives in town, the bone houses attack with new ferocity. What is it that draws them near? And more importantly, how can they be stopped for good?

Together, Ellis and Ryn embark on a journey that will take them deep into the heart of the mountains, where they will have to face both the curse and the long-hidden truths about themselves.


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I’ve been looking forward to reading THE BONE HOUSES since I first noticed Emily Lloyd-Jones’s name gracing the bottom of the cover. I absolutely loved the peculiar epic-ness of THE HEARTS WE SOLD, and with October being Spooky Month™, it seemed appropriate to start with THE BONE HOUSES. The only problem? I read it in two days, which wasn’t near enough time to spend with Ryn and Ellis. Curse you, Emily Lloyd-Jones for writing such consumable novels! (Jk, it’s the best.)


Jacket art 2019 by SPIDER.MONEY (Wansiya Visupakanjana)
Jacket design by Marcie Lawrence


The mental image of Ryn sauntering through town with an axe by her side will make my heart smile whenever I think of it. A scrappy young woman who worked hard as a gravedigger to support her family, she also voluntarily patrolled the edge of the mountain to stop bone houses from infiltrating her community. Even though most people in town didn’t believe in bone houses. A character who stared down fear with reluctant obligation, Ryn made for an excellent guide for Ellis, who wished to venture deep into the mountains. Yes, the same mountains where the bone houses resided. *cue the dun dun dunnnnn*

As I’ve come to expect from Lloyd-Jones, the back jacket description mentioned a scant 30% of the overall plot. The journey into the mountains was just the beginning of Ryn and Ellis’s adventure, and what started as a small idea quickly bloomed into a quest to not only stop the bone houses, but understand why they began attacking people. Through folklore, family revelations, and self-discovery, THE BONE HOUSES proved to be a mission with a heart. 



Also, while it isn’t mentioned in the back jacket, I think it’s important to note that Ellis grappled with chronic pain. Ellis’s strategies for pain management and how it affected his life were threaded through the novel with care and consideration. That said, I wanted to mention it because it can be a sensitive subject. 

Creepy but not terrifying, with a surprising amount of feels (I openly wept twice), if you love books with steady paces, oodles of surprises, adorable undead pets (I won't spoil this for you because your  heart deserves to be surprised by the awesomeness), and a melancholy tone by the end, THE BONE HOUSES is the book for you! 
🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟


Big thanks to Hachette Book Group Canada for an ARC!



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For this mani, I used:

Custom beige:
OPI – I Just Can’t Cope-acabana
China Glaze – Throne-in Shade
ORLY – Storyteller (colorlab)

FingerPaints – Black Expressionism and Paper Mâché

So Nailicious – warrior brush






27.9.19

review and cover mani: into the hourglass



The back jacket, from Goodreads:

In the second book in The Evermore Chronicles by Emily R. King, Everley Donovan plunges into the roiling waves of a strange new world to hunt a wicked prince who cheated time.

Everley Donovan’s mission: retrieve the hallowed sword of Avelyn stolen by the wicked Prince Killian, who slayed her family and left her for dead. Should she fail, the seven worlds will come to an end, as could time itself. And no one treasures time more than Everley, whose lifesaving clock heart cannot beat forever. She has set sail with a rogue crew for the otherworlds, where the key to dethroning the prince lies deep within the Land Under the Wave.

But passage through these unknown seas—where horrors lurk and pirates rove—proves a treacherous gamble. The Land Under the Wave was not made for humans, particularly one with a fragile clock heart. Here, Everley’s tragic past resurfaces unsolved questions. Here, too, the prince has hidden secrets more precious than pearls, secrets that could fracture the future forevermore. Everley must take back her sword and break free from this watery world before her time runs out…or so will everyone else’s.

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INTO THE HOURGLASS is book 2 of The Evermore Chronicles, so this review will be scant on details. Instead, I shall strive to convince you to read not only this book, but also BEFORE THE BROKEN STAR. And the best part? Once I’ve successfully peer pressured you to reserve them at your library and/or order them from a bookstore, you won’t have to wait long for the conclusion because EVERAFTER SONG is slated for December of this year.

THAT’S RIGHT, FRIENDS. It means this ENTIRE SERIES will have been released in 2019. Sorcery and witchcraft, how does Emily R. King do it? Also, PLEASE NEVER STOP GAH I CAN’T STOP SCREAMING.


Jacket design by Kirk DouPonce, DogEared Design


I read a fair amount of YA fantasy because I love high stakes and the ferocity of teenagers. Seriously, teens are badasses and anybody who says anything different has never met an actual teenager. They’re passionate, driven and unpredictable, and teen girls in particular possess a fierceness that could legit run the world, which makes for excellent reading set in far away lands. In The Evermore Chronicles, Everley is all that and more, with the added twist of having a clock for a heart. Yes, a clock. For a heart. Because magic is connected with time in this series, and Everley the key to it all. 



Through adventures galore, a slow-burn romance very much à la Anne Shirley and Gilbert Blythe (which, ahem, I do NOT say lightly), sword fights and petticoats, superbly unique world-building, and high stakes everything, I am completely obsessed. This series hasn’t been getting NEARLY enough attention, hence WHY I AM SCREAMING OMG READ THEM ALL THIS VERY INSTANT. Especially if you’re the sort of reader who doesn’t get surprised anymore. You will NEVER be able to guess where this wild plot goes next, so prepare to have your jaw drop. Also, each supporting character is well rounded with personality galore, plus there are mermaids, giants, elves, and a host of other magical creatures. Oh yeah, I’m gonna need some Netflix or film adaptations STAT because if I don’t get a visual depiction of a sea hag living in a lair filled with house cats (yes I included one minor spoiler to demonstrate how quirky and amazing this series is), I fear I may die. Five stars all the way, I can’t wait for EVERAFTER SONG!!

Big thanks to Thomas Allen & Son for a finished copy!



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For this mani, I used:

OPI – I Just Can’t Cope-acabana, Red My Fortune Cookie, matte topcoat

China Glaze – There She Rose, Four Leaf Clover, I Got a Blue Attitude, Saved by the Bluebell, Foie Gras, Born to Rule, Ingrid

ORLY – Makeup to Breakup and Skinny Dip

Essie – Bermuda Shorts

FingerPaints – Paper Mache and Black Expressionism

Picture polish – marine, chillax, instinct

So Nailicious – warrior brush



16.9.19

review and cover mani: the ten thousand doors of january



The back jacket, from Goodreads:

In the early 1900s, a young woman embarks on a fantastical journey of self-discovery after finding a mysterious book in this captivating and lyrical debut.

In a sprawling mansion filled with peculiar treasures, January Scaller is a curiosity herself. As the ward of the wealthy Mr. Locke, she feels little different from the artifacts that decorate the halls: carefully maintained, largely ignored, and utterly out of place.

Then she finds a strange book. A book that carries the scent of other worlds, and tells a tale of secret doors, of love, adventure and danger. Each page turn reveals impossible truths about the world and January discovers a story increasingly entwined with her own.

Lush and richly imagined, a tale of impossible journeys, unforgettable love, and the enduring power of stories awaits in Alix E. Harrow’s spellbinding debut–step inside and discover its magic.

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THE TEN THOUSAND DOORS OF JANUARY was so charming I almost couldn’t stand it. Similar to a hug, this story extended its arms and ushered me into a warm embrace before sitting me down to spin a tale. Although from January’s point of view, there wasn't much charm in her life. Trapped in a gilded cage, January spent most of her time alone. Yes, she traveled in luxury and wore fine dresses, but she had zero autonomy and even fewer friends. Landing somewhere between a ward and a pet of Mr. Locke, January didn’t know where she belonged or what she was capable of. So while I had little in common with January, besides a love of books, I connected with her desire for more—to break out of her restrictive life and learn the truth about her circumstances. Via a strange book, of course. 

*jazz hands*


Jacket design by Lisa Marie Pompilio
Jacket Illustrations by Shutterstock


Once January decided to take her fate into her own hands, the pace picked up considerably and before long, she was off on an adventure. The supporting characters brought humour, protectiveness, and badassery to the stage and her unlikely collection of allies gave January the support she needed. I thought January did rather well taking care of herself, considering her sheltered upbringing, and what she may have lacked in experience, she made up for in bravery. Timidly tenacious at first, I loved watching January come into her own and like most journeys, there were serious lows amongst the highs. One in particular that made me want to throw the book across the room and left me furiously messaging a friend who’d already read it because WHAT THE WHAT NOOOOOOOOOO. 



Somewhat disjointed in the beginning with two stories being told, I encourage you to press through those chapters because afterwards, you’ll be welcomed into an enchanting world. Bewitching to the max, THE TEN THOUSAND DOORS OF JANUARY is a must read and perfect for readers who long to be whisked away to new worlds rife with adventure. ALSO THERE IS THE MATTER OF THE COVER. I mean, come on! It’s beyond stunning and you need it forever placed face-out on your bookshelf.

Big thanks to Orbit Books for an ARC and finished copy!



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For this mani, I used:

China Glaze – Wicked Liquid, Water-falling in Love, Chroma Cool, What’s Up Bittercups, I Got a Blue Attitude, Trip of a Lime Time, Buffalo Bills Bills Bills

OPI – Kiss Me on my Tulips, Mod About You, In My Back Pocket, Need Sunglasses, Rollin’ in Cashmere, matte topcoat

ORLY – Storyteller (colorlab)

Essie – Getting Groovy, Party on a Platform

FingerPaints – Black Expressionism, Paper Mâché

Picture polish – camo

So Nailicious – needle and warrior brushes


9.9.19

review and cover mani: the grace year


The back jacket, from Goodreads:

Survive the year.

No one speaks of the grace year. It’s forbidden. 

In Garner County, girls are told they have the power to lure grown men from their beds, to drive women mad with jealousy. They believe their very skin emits a powerful aphrodisiac, the potent essence of youth, of a girl on the edge of womanhood. That’s why they’re banished for their sixteenth year, to release their magic into the wild so they can return purified and ready for marriage. But not all of them will make it home alive. 

Sixteen-year-old Tierney James dreams of a better life—a society that doesn’t pit friend against friend or woman against woman, but as her own grace year draws near, she quickly realizes that it’s not just the brutal elements they must fear. It’s not even the poachers in the woods, men who are waiting for a chance to grab one of the girls in order to make a fortune on the black market. Their greatest threat may very well be each other. 

With sharp prose and gritty realism, The Grace Year examines the complex and sometimes twisted relationships between girls, the women they eventually become, and the difficult decisions they make in-between.

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THE GRACE YEAR. WOW. 

No, really. WOOOOOOOOOW.

Over the years I’ve reviewed books, I’ve become leery of blurbs and pitches using huge comparative titles to lure in readers. Often times when heavyweight comps are used, I wind up disappointed and wonder if marketing teams/blurbing authors actually read the book. In this case, THE GRACE YEAR was described as a blend of The Handmaid’s Tale and Lord of the Flies and while I rolled my eyes at first, I'm delighted to report THE GRACE YEAR was legit that literary combo, along with so much more. 

Gah. 

I CAN’T HANDLE THE AMAZINGNESS OF THIS BOOK.

*collapses on knees screaming TIERNEYYYYYYYYYYYYY*



Cover designed by Kerri Resnick; Illustration by Hsiao Ron Cheng


Through hypnotic writing, a balance between lyrical and cutting observations, visceral imagery, and feminist AF themes, THE GRACE YEAR examined what it meant to be a young woman in a world that didn’t value them. Well, except when it came to consuming their flesh after being tortured by poachers during the grace year--the greater the pain embedded in the body, the greater the supposed healing properties. Ick. This world, friends. Patriarchy to the extreme, it felt familiar and strange at the same time. A world designed to isolate women, break them down, and turn them against each other to nullify their individual (and collective) power.   

Flush with dynamic characters that behaved in predictable and also surprising ways (yay!), I never knew what the next page would hold, the next scene, or the next chapter. Only there weren’t chapters and instead, a series of breaks, which made the story feel epic because there was no good place to put it down. As such, I flew through pages with such velocity I’m surprised I didn’t rip them. 



The approximate seven million twists and gasp-inducing moments were expertly crafted throughout the book, and I experienced every possible emotion ranging from white-hot anger to joyful agony before crying my entire face off during the last several sections, completely overwhelmed. BECAUSE OMG THOSE FINAL SECTIONS I CAN’T. Absolutely bananapants, blow-my-mind and rip-out-my-heart fantastic, I highly suggest you RUN to your bookstore and library to pre-order and pre-reserve THE GRACE YEAR, which hits shelves on October 8th. Five stars, plus a million stars, for a grand total of one million and five stars.





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For this mani, I used:

China Glaze – Prairie Tale Ending, Athlete Chic, Tropic of Conversation, Fresh Prince-ss, Can’t Sandal This

OPI – A Good Man-darin is Hard to Find, Big Apple Red, matte topcoat

ORLY – Storyteller (colorlab), Makeup to Breakup

FingerPaints – Paper Mache, Black Expressionism

So Nailicious needle and warrior brushes




3.9.19

review and cover mani: the arrangement


The back jacket, from Goodreads:

Natalie, a young art student in New York City, is struggling to pay her bills when a friend makes a suggestion: Why not go online and find a sugar daddy—a wealthy, older man who will pay her for dates, and even give her a monthly allowance? Lots of girls do it, Nat learns. All that’s required is to look pretty and hang on his every word. Sexual favours are optional.

Though more than thirty years her senior, Gabe, a handsome corporate finance attorney, seems like the perfect candidate, and within a month, they are madly in love. At least, Nat is…Gabe already has a family, whom he has no intention of leaving.

So when he abruptly ends things, Nat can’t let go. She begins drinking heavily and stalking him: watching him at work, spying on his wife, even befriending his daughter, who is not much younger than she is. But Gabe’s not about to let his sugar baby destroy his perfect life. What was supposed to be a mutually beneficial arrangement devolves into a nightmare of deception, obsession, and, when a body is found near Gabe’s posh Upper East Side apartment, murder.

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THE ARRANGEMENT featured characters that elicited upfront judgment and I knew straight away that I was in for several hours of wonderfully salacious amusement. Harding jumped in Manolos-first into the fascinating world of sugar babies and daddies to create a perfect environment for catastrophe because the decline of Gabe and Natalie's arrangement couldn’t end in any other way except via a pot of boiled bunnies. And, you know, a murder. 😈


Cover design by Lisa Litwack


Gabe reminded me of the protagonist in MAN OF THE YEAR because he was easy to hate, but in that endorphin-producing way where I couldn’t wait to see how he crumbled. Gabe crafted the pyre of his own demise while blind to his progress, thanks to his unwavering belief that he pulled the strings of those around him. I enjoyed Gabe’s tailspin to the point I started to feel like a bad person, but I suspect it was Harding’s desire because Gabe was absolutely the worst. Grown man tantrums are so amusing to observe and watching the power shift from Gabe to Natalie—a woman he pushed to the edge and then had the gall to call crazy—made for delightfully dark entertainment. Natalie wouldn’t go quietly into the night and while I felt sympathetic to her situation, her unpredictability made her dangerous, which therefore meant I cheered for her so hard that my hands hurt. 




Scandalous subject material and a swift pace, THE ARRANGEMENT was a pleasure to consume in two sittings. The murder mystery component tied the characters together and made for a satisfying end, but for me, the pleasure of this novel lay in Gabe’s descent into madness. Definitely a must read!




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For this mani, I used:

OPI – A Good Man-darin is Hard to Find, In My Back Pocket, Need Sunglasses, matte topcoat

FingerPaints – Paper Mâché and Black Expressionism

China Glaze – Campfired Up and Fur Real Though

So Nailicious – warrior and needles brushes


27.8.19

review and cover mani: the swallows


The back jacket, from Goodreads:

A new teacher at a New England prep school ignites a gender war--with deadly consequences--in a provocative novel from the bestselling author of The Passenger and the Spellman Files series.

What do you love? What do you hate? What do you want? 

It starts with this simple writing prompt from Alex Witt, Stonebridge Academy's new creative writing teacher. When the students' answers raise disturbing questions of their own, Ms. Witt knows there's more going on the school than the faculty wants to see. She soon learns about The Ten--the students at the top of the school's social hierarchy--as well as their connection to something called The Darkroom.

Ms. Witt can't remain a passive observer. She finds the few girls who've started to question the school's "boys will be boys" attitude and incites a resistance that quickly becomes a movement. But just as it gains momentum, she also attracts the attention of an unknown enemy who knows a little too much about her--including what brought her to Stonebridge in the first place.

Meanwhile, Gemma, a defiant senior, has been plotting her attack for years, waiting for the right moment. Shy loner Norman hates his role in the Darkroom, but can't find the courage to fight back until he makes an unlikely alliance. And then there's Finn Ford, an English teacher with a shady reputation who keeps one eye on his literary ambitions and one on Ms. Witt.

As the school's secrets begin to trickle out, a boys-versus-girls skirmish turns into an all-out war, with deeply personal--and potentially fatal--consequences for everyone involved. Lisa Lutz's blistering, timely tale shows us what can happen when silence wins out over decency for too long--and why the scariest threat of all might be the idea that sooner or later, girls will be girls.

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I’ve been a fan of Liza Lutz since The Spellman Files series and THE SWALLOWS definitely didn’t disappoint. I’ve missed Lutz’s knack for writing unlikable characters (who also don’t care about being liked by other characters—the absolute best) and with adults and teens narrating THE SWALLOWS, I was reminded how great she is at writing younger voices. One thing each narrator had in common (err…except for one) was chutzpah. Whether playing a long revenge game or suddenly wanting a change, these characters were determined to shake things up. And all they needed was a catalyst to get things going. Enter, Alex Witt.


Jacket art and design: Emily Osborne


With dark humour abounding from Ms. Witt’s chapters, she arrived at Stonebridge Academy to find the usual assortment of white and privileged teens amongst enabling teachers and an administration that strove to protect the institution’s reputation no matter what. Lutz did a phenomenal job of threading that privilege through the book, showing how untouchable certain students felt because of “who” they were—that the threat of social suicide and expulsion enforced the code of silence for students inside and outside of The Ten. But Ms. Witt had no problem being the first wave to rock the boat, even if it meant her secrets would be exposed. Gotta love a character who doesn’t take any shit, eh? But The Darkroom wouldn’t go down without taking other causalities with it. The ending left me feeling amped up and also a little conflicted. For sure one that I'll keep thinking about because like the back jacket said, in a world where boys will be boys, it's only a matter of time before girls will be girls.



If you loved the THE NOWHERE GIRLS or THE FEMALE OF THE SPECIES, I have full confidence you’ll be into THE SWALLOWS. Smart writing, a quick pace, and feminist AF, it’s a book you can devour in a couple of sittings. My only critique would be the unbalanced teacher/student ratio but since this was fiction, it was easy to let that slide. I absolutely remain a fan of Lisa Lutz and can’t wait for her next release. 

Big thanks to Penguin Random House Canada for a finished copy!



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For this mani, I used:

OPI – A Good Man-Darin is Hard to Find, Malaga Wine, matte topcoat

China Glaze – Intelligence Integrity & Courage, Change Your Altitude

FingerPaints – Paper Mâché and Black Expressionism

So Nailicious – needle brush

20.8.19

review and cover mani: the turn of the key


The back jacket, from Goodreads:

When she stumbles across the ad, she’s looking for something else completely. But it seems like too good an opportunity to miss—a live-in nannying post, with a staggeringly generous salary. And when Rowan Caine arrives at Heatherbrae House, she is smitten—by the luxurious “smart” home fitted out with all modern conveniences, by the beautiful Scottish Highlands, and by this picture-perfect family.

What she doesn’t know is that she’s stepping into a nightmare—one that will end with a child dead and herself in prison awaiting trial for murder.

Writing to her lawyer from prison, she struggles to explain the unravelling events that led to her incarceration. It wasn’t just the constant surveillance from the cameras installed around the house, or the malfunctioning technology that woke the household with booming music, or turned the lights off at the worst possible time. It wasn’t just the girls, who turned out to be a far cry from the immaculately behaved model children she met at her interview. It wasn’t even the way she was left alone for weeks at a time, with no adults around apart from the enigmatic handyman, Jack Grant.

It was everything.

She knows she’s made mistakes. She admits that she lied to obtain the post, and that her behavior toward the children wasn’t always ideal. She’s not innocent, by any means. But, she maintains, she’s not guilty—at least not of murder. Which means someone else is. 
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Without a doubt, THE TURN OF THE KEY is my favourite novel by Ruth Ware. A gothic delight with a zooming pace, creepy setting, and intricately laid clues that escaped my attention until the end when they snapped together and left me no choice but to mentally applaud Ware for a job well done. Plot twists have become a staple in mysteries and thrillers, a gotcha moment where the reader is supposed to be surprised but not confused. Laying notable clues throughout a novel without arousing suspicion is no easy feat, and in THE TURN OF THE KEY there were multiple unexpected reveals working together yet I didn't see a single one coming. Absolute perfection. 


Jacket art and design by Alan Dingman


Also perfect? The delivery: letters written by Rowan to a lawyer in an attempt to explain her side of the media-saturated story. Her overall goal was to have a big-shot barrister take her case, which meant she needed to convince him of her innocence. Starting the novel at the end so to speak, where Rowan had already been arrested and charged with the murder of a child formerly in her care, cast an immediate shadow over Rowan’s character. Her voice in the letters felt nervous, sputtering even. Exceedingly vulnerable. It was clear she longed to tell her story but was anxious about possible reactions and judgments. A masterful command of tone because Ware conveyed worry from two directions: the barrister believing she’s guilty and Rowan believing that she’s a bad person. It had me on the edge of my seat, wanting to trust Rowan even though my suspicions remained intact. That duality added rich dimension to this mystery and confirmed that Ware knows how to keep a reader hooked. Also, some seriously scary stuff happened in that smart home, friends. SO VERY SCARY. I didn't know what or who to believe and the further I wandered into the eeriness, the more uncertain I became. In other words, it was suspense-central and I loved every second. 




The contrast between the smart home and the isolated, rural, and creepy af property made it a perfect location for a (possible) haunting, so prepare to clear your schedule in order to devour this tension-riddled little number in one sitting. Especially if you’re the sort of reader who enjoys feeling like you’re losing your mind because oh yes, THE TURN OF THE KEY will mess with you, but only in the best ways. Five stars all the way. THE TURN OF THE KEY hits Canadian shelves on Aug 27th, available now in the UK and US.

Big thanks to Simon & Schuster Canada for sending me an ARC!




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For this mani, I used:

OPI – Lucite-tanly Look Marvellous, Coalmates, matte topcoat

China Glaze – Chroma Cool, Street Style Princess

FingerPaints - Paper Mache and Black Expressionism

So Nailicious – needle and warrior brushes