Monday, 1 December 2014

The Truth About Alice by Jennifer Matthieu

This post contains a review and a bookish manicure.

Hey there! It's been three moths since my last post, in that time I've completed my nail technician course and I'm looking forward to getting my business going! I've also been working on other projects so I found I had little time to blog and my reading rate really dropped. Most of the time the idea of reading made me tired, so I just stopped reading for a while. I've been getting back into reading now that I have some more spare time, and it seemed appropriate to get back into blogging starting December 1. I have a bunch of reviews that I never got around to posting, so I'll share those in the weeks to come.

The Truth About Alice by Jennifer Mathieu
Published June 1, 2014
Source: the publisher
Rating: 5 stars

From the blurb: There are a lot of rumours about Alice Franklin, and it's stopped mattering whether any of them are true. 
It all started at a party, when Alice was supposedly with two guys in one night. Soon everyone at Healy High has picked a side in this game of he said/she said. Do they believe Brandon Fitzsimmons, the most popular guy at school and the football hero of Healy? Or do they believe Alice, the girl who wears too-tight T-shirts and was caught kissing Brandon in a closet a couple years before? When Brandon dies in a car crash, there are serious allegations that his death was Alice's fault. As the rumour mill spins into overdrive, Alice's small town becomes suffocating. And when the truth becomes a matter of opinion, something's got to give.

Set in Healy, Texas, The Truth About Alice by Jennifer Matthieu, is a story that revolves around a group of teens, with a strong focus on a girl named Alice Franklin. Alice’s life changed after a rumour spread that she’d slept with two boys in one night, and things only got worse when one boy, Brandon, died in a car accident.

This story is told via four narratives: Elaine O’Dea is a popular girl at Healy High, via her perspective we learn that she’s had it in for Alice because she’s afraid Brandon really likes her. Kelsie Sanders moved to Healy from Michigan a couple of years ago and she and Alice were best friends, until the rumour started and then Kelsie started ignoring Alice so she could stay cool with the popular girls. Josh Waverly was Brandon’s best mate, they played football together, hung out together, and Josh was in the car with him when the accident occurred. Kurt Morelli is considered a loner at their school, but he’s okay with that. He’s had a thing for Alice for a while, and he’s the only one to try and help her when the rest of their town wants to shame her.

I really enjoyed the four different perspectives, each sounded unique and very teen-like. I had my favourites: Kelsie and Kurt, but by the end I also felt for Elaine and Josh. Kelsie’s story made me sad, I was really angry with her mum, but Kelsie’s chapters also made me laugh, plus she loves Grease 2, so I adored her for that. Kurt was so sweet, I was so happy to see someone step up and be there for Alice, plus he knew the truth about the rumour and didn’t know what to do about it. Elaine annoyed me because of her mean girl mentality but she also had issues with her mum and eventually she won me over. Josh was interesting, it was easy to see what was going on for him, but also really sad after the truth regarding the accident is revealed.

What happens to Alice is awful, and it really makes you think about the power of words. These days we all use words without really knowing their meaning and it’s definitely something to focus on. I’ve read some really excellent books on bullying this year, including Carrie, Tease, and now The Truth About Alice. They are all really powerful and thought provoking, and so relevant these days, to both teens and adults.

Thank you to Hardie Grant Egmont for my review copy.

I really love the Aussie version of the cover, it's so pretty and intricate.

I started by painting my nails with 2 coats of Mode Cosmetics Luv-A-Lot.

I sponged on some Wet N Wild On a Trip for the purple gradient.

I used acrylic paint to outline the face and to paint the flowers, vines, and leaves.

I love how this turned out, blue on purple is a great combination and I definitely want to do more nails like this in the future.

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige

This post contains a review and a bookish manicure

Published June 1, 2014 by Harper Collins AU
Source: the publisher
Rating: 4 stars
From the blurb: I didn't ask for any of this. I didn't ask to be some kind of hero.
But when your whole life gets swept up by a tornado—taking you with it—you have no choice but to go along, you know?
Sure, I've read the books. I've seen the movies. I know the song about the rainbow and the happy little blue birds. But I never expected Oz to look like this. To be a place where Good Witches can't be trusted, Wicked Witches may just be the good guys, and winged monkeys can be executed for acts of rebellion. There's still the yellow brick road, though—but even that's crumbling.
What happened? Dorothy.
They say she found a way to come back to Oz. They say she seized power and the power went to her head. And now no one is safe.
My name is Amy Gumm—and I'm the other girl from Kansas.
I've been recruited by the Revolutionary Order of the Wicked.
I've been trained to fight.
And I have a mission.

Dorothy Must Die is the debut novel by Danielle Paige. Amy Gumm is a teenager living in Flat Hill, Kansas, along with her mother, who spends her time either heavily medicated or out drinking. Amy is biding her time until she can leave Kansas and find a new and better place to live. Then a tornado sweeps her, their trailer, and her mum’s pet rat, Star, to Oz. But it’s not the Oz we know from the film or book. This Oz is clearly in trouble, the landscape has faded, magic is being mined, the flying monkeys are choosing to cut off their wings. What is the cause of all the trouble? Dorothy, and her need for more and more magic.

I liked Amy from the beginning, she’s determined, loyal, and kind. She hasn’t had the best life, she’s been neglected and she’s quite lonely, but she doesn’t complain. What she does is save her money and think of the future. But that will only get you so far, especially when your mum steals your savings and abandons you right before a tornado. Amy’s reaction to winding up in Oz was so believable, she wonders if she’s dreaming, or if it’s an Oz-themed amusement park. Her magical training was also as realistic as magical training can be, it didn’t just come to her, she had to work at it.

This was such an imaginative version of Oz. I liked that there were so many well-known aspects (the Yellow Brick Road, the Emerald City), but it was also unpredictable and edgy, often violent and cruel. I liked that the harsher aspects weren't tamed for the YA audience, there are some really horrible scenes, but they’re still appropriate for YA. The former good guys, Dorothy, Glinda, the Tin Man, the Scarecrow, and Lion are now the baddies, and it’s up to Amy, and the Revolutionary Order of the Wicked, to fix things.

The only thing that lost me was the ending, with a title like Dorothy Must Die, I had expectations as to how the story would end, and I was not aware this was going to be a series, but after that ending it’s obvious this was just the beginning. It’s not a cliffhanger, but there is lots left to wonder about until the sequel. Also, bonus points for no love-triangle - I thought we might have been heading in that direction, but there was a pleasant twist at the end that proved me wrong!

Dorothy Must Die is a captivating re-telling of a childhood favourite. It’s creative, surprising, and sure to leave you wanting to visit Oz again.

Thank you to Harper Collins my review copy.

I first heard of Dorothy Must Die late last year and loved the cover immediately. In February the author, Danielle, commented on another bookish manicure of mine and said she'd love to see nails for her book. So, I waited patiently for the book to be released here, and six months later, I have nails to match!

I began with 2 coats of Ulta3 Black Satin on all nails.

I added red tips to my nails using acrylic paint.

For Dorothy’s dress, shoes, and bow I used acrylic paint and a fine brush.

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Rage by Stephen King

Rage by Stephen King (originally published under the name Richard Bachman)
Published in 1977 by Signet, and later as part of The Bachman Books
Source: purchased
Rating: 3 stars
From the blurb: A high-school student with authority problems kills one of his teachers and takes the rest of his class hostage. Over the course of one long, tense and unbearable hot afternoon, Charlie Decker explains what led him to this drastic sequence of events, while at the same time deconstructing the personalities of his classmates, forcing each one to justify his or her existence.
Rage is Stephen King’s fourth novel, originally published under his pseudonym, Richard Bachman. The story revolves around Charles Everett Decker, or Charlie, a senior at Placerville High School, Maine. In March Charlie attacked a teacher with a pipe wrench, and when he was allowed back to school a month later, he started bringing his dad’s gun to school. In May he takes a class hostage and Charlie tells them his story, delving back into childhood memories, while also learning more about his classmates.

I read Rage a month ago and have put off reviewing it until now because I really don’t know what to say about it. Did I enjoy it? No. Was it interesting? Yes. Would I recommend it? Well, maybe to serious King fans.

Charlie hasn’t had the best childhood, but I also didn’t feel like it was the worst experience, or an experience that justified shooting people. It’s clear Charlie and his father have never been close, Charlie has always believed that his father hates him, and it’s probably true. He had a couple of experiences with being bullied, and didn’t have many close friends, apart from best friend, Joe. It’s hard to judge someone else’s experience, but I kept waiting for him to describe a catalytic moment or event, but he never did.

Reading this bought back memories of reading Forgive Me,Leonard Peacock. Charlie and Leonard share similar traits: they’re judgmental, they feel entitled and better than others, but in Leonard’s case I understood why he attempted to carry out his plan, I didn’t understand Charlie in this way.

The end of Charlie’s story lost me, especially the last few moments in the classroom and the follow up letters/documents. It wasn’t what I was expecting and I didn’t find it that believable.

In the late eighties and the mid-nineties there were four school shootings, and in each one the shooter either had a copy of Rage or had mentioned reading it. Following the last incident in 1997, King called for the book to cease being printed. If you do want to track a copy down, your best bet is to find a second hand copy of The Bachman Books (I got mine via Abe Books). After reading Rage, you can see how someone in a particular state of mind would find it inspirational, but I don’t think the entirety of the blame can be placed on the book.

King’s books often have references to the Beatles in them, and Rage features two: Maxwell’s Silver Hammer and A Day in the Life.

Rage is a very different book from the rest of King’s work, it definitely reads as something he wrote when he was younger, and it focuses on a more realistic situation, as opposed to his horror books.

Book #4 in my Stephen King Project

Friday, 8 August 2014

Bookish Birthday Manicure

Today is my birthday and I'm celebrating by attending two book events! Tonight I'm going to the launch of Claire Zorn's amazing new novel, The Protected. Tomorrow I'm attending a high tea featuring the three Moriarty sisters, Jaclyn, Liane, and Nicola. I thought I'd combine a birthday manicure with a bookish manicure in celebration!

On my thumb I did a nail for The Protected. I've already done a full manicure for this book, you can check it out here, but I also wanted to have one nail done like the cover for the launch. I started with 2 coats of Ulta3 Bright Me and when that was dry I used acrylic paint and a fine brush to paint Hannah's silhouette.

On my index nail I did the cover for Liane's new novel, Big Little Lies. I started with 2 coats of China Glaze First Mate. I sponged on China Glaze White Out, followed by an unnamed blue by L.A Colors, and then I used acrylic paint and a fine brush to paint the moon and the waves.

On my middle nail I did the cover for Jaclyn's book, I Have a Bed Made of Buttermilk Pancakes. I started with 2 coats of Illamasqua Load, then I used acrylic paint and a fine brush to paint the hot air balloon (balloon = birthday, right?)

On my ring nail I did the cover for Liane's novel, The Husband's Secret. I started with 2 coats of Ulta2 Lucky Bamboo. Then I sponged on China Glaze White Out, Orly Jealous, Much?, Ulta3 Tahitian Lime, BYS Baby Let's Cruise, and then used acrylic paint and a fine brush to paint the balloon (very birthday-y!)

And finally on my ring nail I did the cover for Nicola's novel, Free-Falling. I began with 2 coats of China Glaze White Out. Then I sponged on Australis Blue Tiger, Mode Cosmetics Hook Me Up, Ulta3 Soft Hydrangea, BYS Baby Let's Cruise, and BYS Steal the Limelight. I used acrylic paint and a fine brush to add the leaves.

Done! I used a lot of different polish and it took a fair while, but I really enjoyed the process.

Also, excuse the photos with my tablet - I don't own any of Liane or Nicola's books yet (I'll remedy that at the event tomorrow!), so I used images from online and the glare on the screen makes it quite difficult to see the covers - I might take new pics once I buy the physical copies.

Monday, 4 August 2014

Trouble by Non Pratt

This post contains a review and a bookish manicure

Trouble by Non Pratt
Published February 20, 2014 by Walker Books
Source: the publisher
Rating: 5 stars
From the blurb: Hannah is smart and funny. She’s also fifteen and pregnant. Aaron is the new boy at school. He doesn’t want to attract attention. So why does Aaron offer to be the pretend dad to Hannah’s unborn baby?
I really like how short and succinct the blurb is for Trouble by Non Pratt. It sums up the basic plot of the book without giving too much away. But, there is a lot more to this story and I wholeheartedly adored it!

Trouble is written in a first person dual narration making it easy to get to know fifteen year olds Hannah Sheppard and Aaron Tyler immediately. Hannah lives with her mum, step-father, and younger sister, Lola. Her older step-brother, Jay, recently left home to attend university. Hannah is a fantastic sister to Lola, she also has a wonderful relationship with her Gran, who lives at Cedarfields. Aaron and his parents recently moved nearby so that his dad could take up a new teaching position at Kingsway and Aaron could attend the same school as a student. He volunteers at Cedarfields and befriends a resident, Neville. It’s clear Aaron is volunteering as penance for something that occurred at his previous school.

Trouble covers a lot of topics: teen pregnancy, family, friends, bullying, and death, just to name a few, and it does it so honestly. Both Aaron and Hannah sounded so authentically teenaged and it was great to read their thoughts on the dynamics of high school friendships, dating, sex, and families.

There’s a bit of mystery surrounding Hannah’s pregnancy and Aaron’s past. I found Hannah’s story easy to figure out and guessed the father immediately, but Aaron’s story was more intricate, and so sad, too. I loved both main characters, but Aaron really shone as a good guy. He was so protective of Hannah, but not in that stereotypical aggressive way, instead he was clever, thoughtful, and kind.

Trouble is a story perfect for teens and adults alike, it takes a close look at subjects relevant to teens today and does so in a believable and moving way. It made me laugh, it made me cry, and I especially loved how English it sounded – good UKYA fiction shares the same qualities that make me love AussieYA fiction so much.

Thank you to Walker Books for my review copy.

I LOVE this cover. I loved it from the minute I saw it and knew I would have to do nails to match, how could I pass up a chance to paint sperm on my nails? Ha!

I started with 2 coats of L.A Colors Sea Foam which is a perfect match for the cover.

Once dry I used acrylic paint and a fine brush to paint the O (or the egg) and the sperm.

This one was really quick to do and so fun. The US cover is really different but I really love it too, it has quite a vintage look to it:

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

The Protected by Claire Zorn

This post contains a review and a bookish manicure.

The Protected by Claire Zorn
Published July 23, 2014 by UQP
Source: the publisher
Rating: 5 stars
From the blurb: Hannah's world is in pieces and she doesn't need the school counsellor to tell her she has deep-seated psychological issues. With a seriously depressed mum, an injured dad and a dead sister, who wouldn't have problems?

Hannah should feel terrible but for the first time in ages, she feels a glimmer of hope and isn't afraid anymore. Is it because the elusive Josh is taking an interest in her? Or does it run deeper than that?

In a family torn apart by grief and guilt, one girl's struggle to come to terms with years of torment shows just how long old wounds can take to heal.

Hannah should feel terrible but for the first time in ages, she feels a glimmer of hope and isn't afraid anymore. Is it because the elusive Josh is taking an interest in her? Or does it run deeper than that?
In a family torn apart by grief and guilt, one girl's struggle to come to terms with years of torment shows just how long old wounds can take to heal.

The Protected is Claire Zorn’s second novel. Like her debut, The Sky So Heavy, it is set in the Blue Mountains. The story revolves around fifteen year old Hannah McCann, who attends St Joseph’s. It’s been almost a year since her older sister Katie died, and since then her bullies have backed off, but she’s still lonely and dealing with guilt.

From the moment I started The Protected I was completely sucked into the bubble that is Hannah’s life. Her home life is quiet, with her mother spending most of time in her bedroom, and her father, who is suffering from injuries obtained during the accident, often working long hours. At school she still has panic attacks, and even though the bullying no longer occurs it’s clear her wounds run deep. Told in first person, Hannah slowly recounts events from her childhood, her high school years, and the months before the accident, while also allowing us into her present life.

At only fifteen Hannah has been through a lot, the bullying she endured sounded so awful that I felt sick while reading about it, and she was in the car during the accident that killed Katie and injured her father. Now she’s struggling with what happened that day, as well as her memories of Katie, which aren’t always positive.

It was satisfying to see people start to care about her, particularly Anne, the school counsellor, and Josh Chamberlain, a new boy at school. Anne was quite a character and seemed like the perfect fit for Hannah. Josh made me laugh out loud several times; he was so good to Hannah, treating her in such a positive way.

Claire’s writing made everything vivid and palpable, from the heat of the summer, to the physical attacks on Hannah, to Josh’s smile – I saw it, heard it, and felt it all as if I was Hannah.

Often YA fiction seems parent-less, but the parents in this story were very much present, even if their family was on the verge of falling apart. It was interesting to see the different ways the family members reacted to Katie’s death, and Hannah’s dad in particular made my heart ache. The accident, and the proceedings that followed, were dealt with in a very believable way, with realistic consequences.

While reading this I kept thinking about The Accident by Kate Hendrick. Both books feature a strong emphasis on nature (in this case bush fires and the summer heat), the central theme of a car accident, and jump back and forth in time, piecing together the story – if you loved that book, give this a go, and vice versa.

The Protected is a moving, honest, hopeful story of a family coming to terms with death, and a girl trying to find her place in the world. Once I started reading I found it hard to put down, and it left me heartbroken and breathless, in the best possible way.

Thank you to the wonderful people at UQP for my review copy.

My manicure for The Sky So Heavy is still one of my faves, so I was pleased to see Claire’s new book also had a great cover perfect for nail art.

On my thumb, index, and pinky nails I used 2 coats of Ulta3 Bright Me.

On my middle and ring nails I started with 2 coats of China Glaze White Out. Once dry I painted a stripe down the middle with Barry M Peach Melba. Once that was dry I painted the right hand side with Ulta3 Bright Me.

Once dry I used acrylic paint and a fine brush to paint Hannah's silhouette. I also lightly sponged some paint onto the orange nails to mimic the marbled/smoky effect on the cover.

Monday, 21 July 2014

The Shining by Stephen King

This post contains a review and a bookish manicure.

The Shining by Stephen King
Published 2005 by Simon & Schuster Audio (originally published 1977)
Source: Audible Australia
Length: 15 hours and 54 minutes
Narrator: Campbell Scott
Rating: 4 stars
From the blurb: Danny is only five years old, but in the words of old Mr Hallorann he is a 'shiner', aglow with psychic voltage. When his father becomes caretaker of the Overlook Hotel, Danny's visions grow out of control. As winter closes in and blizzards cut them off, the hotel seems to develop a life of its own. It is meant to be empty. So who is the lady in Room 217, and who are the masked guests going up and down in the elevator? And why do the hedges shaped like animals seem so alive? Somewhere, somehow, there is an evil force in the hotel - and that, too, is beginning to shine….

Like Carrie, The Shining, is a book I’ve known about but never felt the urge to read because I was too much of a scaredy cat. But my attempt to read all of King’s books means I’ll be reading all the ones I’ve tried to avoid out of fear. And I’m happy to say this was not as bad as I thought it would be, it was creepy but never too terrifying - phew!

Jack Torrence is a recovering alcoholic, it’s been fourteen months since his last drink, and it’s been two years since he broke his son’s arm for messing up his desk. Now he’s teaching at a prep school, and working on a play in his spare time. But after another violent outburst, this time involving one of his students, he’s in need of a new job. This is how he comes to be at The Overlook Hotel, Colorado. The hotel closes from the end of September until mid-May and the manager, Stuart Ullman, has decided to hire a caretaker for the winter months. Jack, his wife, Wendy, and five year old son, Danny, move in and things start to get creepy.

This story mostly belongs to Jack and Danny. Don’t get me wrong, I really liked Wendy, but there was more of a focus on the guys. For me, watching Jack slowly start to turn against his family was the most terrifying aspect - the way he could look at Wendy with a thin smile but inside being thinking about what a bitch she was was scary. If you’ve ever known an alcoholic this sort of mood swing will be all too familiar. The same goes for his thoughts about Danny. Danny’s wellbeing was the most important thing to me and the fact that he was stuck at this hotel with his potentially violent father was awful.

In addition to this, Danny has psychic abilities, according to Dick Hallorann, the Overlook’s cook, he shines. If he concentrates, he can hear the thoughts or catch the feelings of those around him. He has an imaginary friend, Tony, who sometimes comes to him in visions and Tony begins to show him violent images of what will happen at the hotel. Danny is an amazing kid, especially when he has to deal with seeing these horrible things all the time. He still manages to love his father dearly, which is all the more painful.

Like ‘Salem’s Lot, The Shining deals with the idea that places or buildings can be evil and the Overlook Hotel certainly is not on my destination list. The building is filled with the ghosts of past guests and owners, a lot of bad things have happened there, and there were definitely certain scenes that freaked me out. I mentioned The Diviners in my review of ‘Salem’s Lot, because it too features an evil house, so I’ll suggest this as another book to read if you liked that aspect of The Diviners.

Like King’s previous two novels, The Shining uses an omniscient narrator, allowing us multiple points of view as well as details the characters can’t know or see. Again I think it works well, it helps to know what each character is thinking, it means the story is never one-sided, and your sympathy shifts from person to person.

But, this also means that you know all the details and you know what’s coming. Danny’s visions are described in detail over and over again, he might not understand them completely, but the reader will. I was definitely in suspense wondering how things would play out, but thanks to Danny I was pretty sure I knew what was going to happen, and I think this is why I wasn’t as scared as I thought I’d be.

The Shining is narrated by Campbell Scott and he does an amazing job. I recently listened to him narrate Cell (the book that sparked my SK Project fire) and I was thrilled when I saw he was also the narrator for this one. He does different voices and accents well, and I always know which character is speaking because of the voice he’s doing. It even starts to sound like the characters are speaking, and not a narrator. He’s gone on my auto-listen list, along with Juliet Stephenson and Katherine Kellgren.

I think there’s at least one link between The Shining and the Dark Tower series (Danny), but I also made a note of there being nineteen stairs that lead to the lobby level (nineteen is an important number in the DT series), but that might just be a coincidence.

The Shining is suspenseful story of a family under mental and physical attack from an evil hotel. It explores family dynamics, the inner workings of a recovering alcoholic, and a young boy’s psychic abilities.

While googling cover images I found a post that mentioned the title was inspired by John Lennon’s Instant Karma, and the lyric “We all shine on” – how cool is that? Here’s the post I read, the cover design is awesome!

Book #3 in my Stephen King Project

At the beginning of the year I did nails to match another Stephen King novel, The Eyes of the Dragon. I was drawn that version because of the wonderful cover. While looking into King covers I discovered that it was part of a redesign of King’s books for Hodder in 2007. I love how simple yet perfect these designs are and I’m sure I’ll be recreating a lot of them as manicures as my project goes on. I decided to use the cover from this series for my The Shining manicure:

I started with 2 coats of China Glaze White Out, once dry I used a fine brush and acrylic paint for the wasp.

So, seeing as I had lovely white nails, I decided to go back to book #1, Carrie, and do a manicure to match that cover, especially as I had a special request from Angie to do so! I removed the polish on my my ring nail and began again with 2 coats of China Glaze White Out, painting Carrie and Tommy with acrylic paint and a fine brush once the polish was dry. 

Here’s a photo, and I’ve posted a couple more with my review: