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.


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!


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


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. 

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!


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


review and cover mani: the unlikely escape of uriah heep

Back jacket description, from Goodreads:

The ultimate book-lover's fantasy, featuring a young scholar with the power to bring literary characters into the world, for fans of The Magicians, Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore, and The Invisible Library.

For his entire life, Charley Sutherland has concealed a magical ability he can't quite control: he can bring characters from books into the real world. His older brother, Rob -- a young lawyer with a normal house, a normal fiancee, and an utterly normal life -- hopes that this strange family secret will disappear with disuse, and he will be discharged from his life's duty of protecting Charley and the real world from each other. But then, literary characters start causing trouble in their city, making threats about destroying the world... and for once, it isn't Charley's doing.

There's someone else who shares his powers. It's up to Charley and a reluctant Rob to stop them, before these characters tear apart the fabric of reality.


Let’s get one thing straight right away: I remain pleasantly surprised by how much I loved THE UNLIKELY ESCAPE OF URIAH HEEP. Mostly because I’m not even close to the ideal reader for this delightful crumpet of a novel, thanks to my aversion of literary classics. Yet despite my clear bias, I was hooked on the first page and had tears projecting from my face by the end. So please believe me when I say that everyone needs to read this book

I don’t even know how to compose this review because there were five hundred things I loved and most of them are spoilers. But I can mention that I took two weeks to read THE UNLIKELY ESCAPE because it’s dense, which worked out fine for me. I didn’t want to leave this world. *hugs hardcover* 

Jacket design by Lisa Marie Pompilio
Jacket Illustrations by Trevillion, Arcangel Images and Shutterstock

I think the key to why I connected so deeply to the story lies in two factors. First, making Rob the primary narrator. As I’m not really a fan of classics and wouldn’t have a clue about quotes or significance, I entered with hesitancy because there’s nothing worse than a book making me feel stupid. For instance, I didn’t know who Uriah Heep was (*literary ignorant jazz hands*). But much to my relief, Rob, older brother to Charley (the one who possessed the summoning ability) didn’t know squat about literary critique either. So while it took me a minute to understand why the person with the powers wasn’t narrating, once it clicked, I knew I could dive right in. Whenever a literary reference popped up, an organic explanation came alongside, therefore making classics accessible. Brilliant!

The second factor was EVERYTHING ELSE. The voice(s), the prose, the characters Charley pulled from books, the enormous scope of the plot, Rob and Charley’s complicated sibling relationship—both on separate and parallel arcs, the idea that literary characters aren’t static and open to interpretation (god this was done so well), plus the secrets. So many secrets. The slow burn pace resulted in a frickin’ forest fire with oodles of twists, so I can’t for the life of me understand how are there only 90 reviews on Goodreads. I was highly entertained and also learned about classic lit. I mean, come on!! Why isn’t this book all over bookstagram?! Why is nobody talking about this gem?! STOP READING THIS REVIEW AND ORDER/RESERVE THE UNLIKELY ESCAPE OF URIAH HEEP RIGHT NOW. For the love of everything, you need to read it. One million and five stars. 

Big thanks to Orbit Books for sending a finished copy!


For this mani, I used:

OPI – Samoan Sand, I Just Can’t Cope-acabana, Gelato On My Mind, matte topcoat

China Glaze – Foie Gras, Kill ‘Em With Kindness, Wait N Sea, Four Leaf Clover, Highlight Of My Summer, Accent Piece

Picture polish – chillax

FingerPaints – Sketch Me, Black Expressionism

So Nailicious – warrior brush