review and cover mani: the two lila bennetts

The back jacket, from Goodreads:

Lila Bennett’s bad choices have finally caught up with her. And one of those decisions has split her life in two. Literally.

In one life, she’s taken hostage by someone who appears to be a stranger but knows too much. As she’s trapped in a concrete cell, her kidnapper forces her to face what she’s done or be killed. In an alternate life, she eludes her captor but is hunted by someone who is dismantling her happiness, exposing one secret at a time.

Lila’s decorated career as a criminal defense attorney, her marriage, and her life are on the line. She must make a list of those she’s wronged—both in and out of the courtroom—to determine who is out to get her before it’s too late. But even if she can pinpoint her assailant, will she survive? And if she does, which parts of her life are worth saving, and which parts must die? Because one thing’s for certain—life as Lila Bennett knew it is over. 


With a super interesting premise and gorgeous cover, THE TWO LILA BENNETTS captured my attention right off the bat. I pictured Lila as Jeri Hogarth from Jessica Jones: a take no shit, ruthless attorney who strives to win no matter the cost. Definitely a harder character to cheer for in the beginning, and the authors’ choice of cases didn’t leave much room for grey. Lila Bennett just wasn’t a great person, her moral compass consistently spinning like a windmill in a hurricane. That is, until a certain situation made her question her behavior. I loved that it was a seemingly innocuous decision—a spur-of-the-moment choice—which split her life into two different pathways. And yet the plot progression, whether “captured” or “free,” had surprising similarities, perhaps suggesting there’s no escaping fate.

Cover design by Faceout Studio, Lindy Martin

A character not prone to self-reflection, being trapped in a concrete cell offered a rare extended silence for “captured” Lila to examine her life, as handcuffs and ankle bindings, dehydration and utter terror have a tendency to do. The tension in those chapters kept me turning pages, simultaneously worried about Lila’s safety and also the secrets she was forced to confront. Slowly but surely, my sympathy for Lila began to sprout as she took accountability for her mistakes, and it felt like an organic evolution. 

Meanwhile, although “free” Lila remained un-cuffed, she was still under attack. Her mystery assailant’s appearance required a deep dive into Lila’s past to find suspects, and through that process, she began to see just how long the list of potential culprits was. No real surprise for a criminal defense attorney, and her slow loss of control served as another source of emotional torture. For a character who’d grown accustomed to being one step ahead, she didn’t adapt well to falling ten steps behind and even though I knew the “captured” Lila had a literal gun to her head, I was actually more concerned for “free” Lila. A clever twist on a trope for sure, so if you love higher-stake thrillers that venture into darkness but aren’t consumed by it, THE TWO LILA BENNETTS is the book for you! 

Big thanks to Liz and Lisa for sending me an ARC!


For this mani, I used:

OPI – A Good Man-Darin is Hard to Find, In My Back Pocket, I Just Can't Cope-acabana, Stay Off the Lawn!, Viking in a Vinter Vonderland, Need Sunglasses

China Glaze – Celtic Sun, Four Leaf Clover, Week it Honey

FingerPaints – Paper Mâché, Inkblot Blue

Julep - Michelle

picture polish - chillax

So Nailicious – needle brush


review and cover mani: sorcery of thorns

The back jacket, from Goodreads:

All sorcerers are evil. Elisabeth has known that as long as she has known anything. Raised as a foundling in one of Austermeer’s Great Libraries, Elisabeth has grown up among the tools of sorcery—magical grimoires that whisper on shelves and rattle beneath iron chains. If provoked, they transform into grotesque monsters of ink and leather. She hopes to become a warden, charged with protecting the kingdom from their power.

Then an act of sabotage releases the library’s most dangerous grimoire. Elisabeth’s desperate intervention implicates her in the crime, and she is torn from her home to face justice in the capital. With no one to turn to but her sworn enemy, the sorcerer Nathaniel Thorn, and his mysterious demonic servant, she finds herself entangled in a centuries-old conspiracy. Not only could the Great Libraries go up in flames, but the world along with them.

As her alliance with Nathaniel grows stronger, Elisabeth starts to question everything she’s been taught—about sorcerers, about the libraries she loves, even about herself. For Elisabeth has a power she has never guessed, and a future she could never have imagined.


There are times when I need to break out my thesaurus to find a term that can encapsulate my feelings towards a particular book. Something that describes the sensations of wanting to climb to the tops of towers and scream, paper a neighbourhood with MUST READ flyers, and the agony of narrowing down which incredible quote to tattoo on my body so I can relive the awesomeness every day. Unfortunately, my thesaurus failed me, but whatever that word may beif it even existsrepresents how I feel about SORCERY OF THORNS. 

OwlCrate exclusive cover
Jacket design by Sonia Chaghatzbanian; Jacket illustration ©️2019 by Charlie Bowater

Between the library setting, alluring manifestation of magic, and Elisabeth’s unstoppable attitude, I devoured each sentence like a reader who'd been starving for a million years. I mean, the books were alive, people! Restrained beneath chains or locked away in a cabinet, revered and respected while also feared. Perhaps a metaphor for knowledge, and one done exquisitely well. When an act of sabotage forced Elisabeth on a path she adamantly opposed, she learned that life was more volatile and complicated than she ever could’ve imagined. Nathaniel’s wry delivery and sense of humour added some levity to more devastating moments, and there’s another particular character who stole the show with his wicked ways. Also, I cried twice during unexpectedly devastating moments and then straight-up WEPT by the end, trapped in a glass case of emotion where I presently still reside.

Gah! It’s the best when I can immerse myself in a story while also fearing the desolation that comes when I reach the end and have to say goodbye to characters who've become friends. It’s been ages since that terror has invaded my heart and squeezed, simultaneously delivering a story I didn’t know I needed while pummeling my soul. Honestly, I’m having a hard time writing this review because I’m still overwhelmed by the amazingness. By far the strongest, most magically devious fantasy I’ve read this year and yes, I’m counting adult fiction as well (this is YA). 


The end.


For this mani, I used:

OPI – Rollin’ in Cashmere, Russian Navy, I Just Can’t Cope-acabana, matte topcoat

China Glaze – Mix and Mingle, Ah-Ah-Ah-mazing, Truth is Gold, Who Wonder, Trash Can-Do Attitude, Chroma Cool, Dance Baby, Fresh Prince-ss, Four Leaf Clover, Water-Falling in Love, Immortal, Street Style Princess

FingerPaints – Black Expressionism, Paper Mache, Figure of Art

ORLY – Makeup to Breakup

Glisten and Glow – Hpnotiq Hurricane

So Nailicious – needle and warrior brushes


review and cover mani: i'll never tell

The back jacket from Goodreads:

What happened to Amanda Holmes?

Twenty years ago, she washed up on shore in a rowboat with a gash to the head after an overnight at Camp Macaw. No one was ever charged with a crime.

Now, the MacAllister children are all grown up. After their parents die suddenly, they return to Camp to read the will and decide what to do with the prime real estate it's sitting on. Ryan, the oldest, wants to sell. Margo, the family's center, hasn't made up her mind. Mary has her own horse farm to run, and believes in leaving well-enough alone. Kate and Liddie—the twins—have opposing views. And Sean Booth, the family groundskeeper, just hopes he still has a home when all is said and done. 

But then the will is read and they learn that it's much more complicated than a simple vote. Until they unravel the mystery of what happened to Amanda, they can't move forward. Any one of them could have done it, and all of them are hiding key pieces of the puzzle. Will they work together to solve the mystery, or will their suspicions and secrets finally tear the family apart?


Summer camp mystery woooot! Bring on the s’mores, canoeing and, of course, tragic accidents. Or was it an accident? Multiple POVs—the siblings, Sean, and Amanda herself—tried to make sense of what happened that fateful summer and McKenzie did a solid job distinguishing distinct personalities. Her pitch-perfect depiction of deep-rooted insecurities and fears along with a tangled web of family secrets meant that while the cast remained contained, the tension never wavered. When their father’s will was revealed, the aggressive implications stoked those flames of distrust and blame which served as a bummer for the MacAllisters and good times for me. 😈

Cover image: Philip Lee Harvey / Getty Images

I loved the off-season setting of Camp Macaw (caw, caw), and while the summer camp I attended was in Ontario versus Quebec, the similarities elicited a rush of musky lake memories. McKenzie nailed those vibes, and the emotional connection each sibling felt towards the camp, whether positive or negative, influenced their perspective. A prime opportunity for explosive revelations, being stuck between the adults they’d become and the children they were, each chapter kept me on the edge of my seat. 

While the tension truly had my stomach in knots, there was unfortunately one element that deflated my agony. The extreme overuse of a particular word became tremendously distracting. I’m disappointed it wasn’t picked up during edits because the word was so prevalent (sometimes appearing multiple times in the same paragraph) it affected my ability to remain immersed in the plot. But with that said, I’LL NEVER TELL is a still an engaging and twisty mystery, perfect for hot and humid summer days (and if you attended summer camp as a kid, I suspect you’ll feel an extra connection). 

Big thanks to Simon & Schuster Canada for a finished copy!


For this mani, I used:

OPI – My Dogsled is a Hybrid, I Just Can’t Cope-acabana, A Good Man-darin is Hard to Find, Can’t Find my Czechbook, Gargantuan Green Grape

China Glaze – Throne N Shade, Highlight of My Summer, Saved By the Bluebell, Kill ‘Em With Kindness, Just a Little Embellishment

Essie – after school boy blazer

FingerPaints – Black Expressionism and Paper Mache

Glisten and Glow – topcoat

So Nailicious – needle and warrior brushes