The Challenger

books collage

Hey, so would you look at that – I once again biffed my friends’ annual reading challenge, working through a measly 12 books!  I very nearly made it to 13, but Christmas came, and the time for leisurely reading fell by the wayside.  So 12 it is.  Sorry Julie, sorry Jay, I’ll try, try again in 2019 with your next, just-announced reading challenge.  Maybe next year I’ll get to 14!

But it’s not a numbers game, and it’s important to value quality over quantity, and some other trite expression that’s not coming to mind right now, but I did read a number of excellent novels this year, including The Night Circus, which was a beautiful, dreamy revelation; easily one of my favourite books of all time.  Too Big to Fail was another bright spot; I was proud to have tackled a book about such a dense, weighty and frequently boring subject matter as the American financial system.  I’ll Have What She’s Having was probably the most pointless of all the books I read this year; a humour novel without the humour is a puzzling animal, indeed.

Below you’ll find all of the books I read this year and the matching, inspired-by manicures I did for each one.  If you click on the titles, a link will take you to my thoughts and reviews of each book, plus lots of pics of all that nail art.  Once again, The Night Circus was the big winner here, its sumptuous, Victorian-esque carnival atmosphere providing ample inspiration for five different manicures, although I’m really quite partial to the gothic lettering of those Petunia (of Stephen King’s Christine fame) nails.

The Burning World Collage

The Burning World by Isaac Marion – Another Warm Bodies novel, this one a sequel to the first Romeo and Juliet zombie romance, this entry suffers from having to act as a bridge between that novel and a third, planned book to be released later on this year.  It’s a big exposition dump, and much of the bedrock on which Warm Bodies – a gentle, thoughtful novel about the downfall of humanity – is based is blown viciously asunder (presumably so it can be pieced back together in the final novel, but dang if some of those new revelations don’t smart extra hard; now I know how old school Star Wars fans felt during the overlording of George Lucas.) 😉 I read this book for week 26’s challenge theme of “A book title that sounds like the cool name of a band.”

I Open at the Close Collage

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling – Hey now, another thing to be proud of in this reading challenge – I FINALLY finished the Harry Potter series!  Just 15 or so years off the pace, no big.  I read this novel for week three’s theme of “The next one in a series.”

451 Collage

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury – I burnt the edge of a page of one of TWO forewords to this novel and applied the singed bits to my nails.  I think I might have missed the point of this book.  I read Fahrenheit 451 for week 11’s theme of a banned book – it doesn’t get more banned than being torched with gigantic kerosene fascism hoses, now does it?

Handmaid's Tale Collage

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood – Not the most uplifting of stories, but so beautifully written.  I was just in awe of Atwood’s writing.  I re-read this novel for week 30’s prompt of “a book picked up in a thrift shop.”  I got this copy of The Handmaid’s Tale from the university bookstore in second year, and there’s nothing thriftier than an English student trying to stretch their book budget.

I'll Have Collage

I’ll Have What She’s Having by Rebecca Harrington – I’ve had this little humour novel sitting on my bookshelf for years, and I finally got around to reading it this year for week nine’s theme of a book from your to-be-read pile.  I think there’s a lot of good comedy to be mined from mimicking the wacky diets of image-obsessed celebrities, but this slight book was less observational humour and more straight up observation.  So Karl Lagerfeld is a (self-described) grumpy bastard.  That’s most likely because he starves himself stupid and consumes nothing but Diet Coke.  We’d all be grumpy bastards, too – this is practically a given.  So wither the funny?  Ultimately, there was not much humour here, just tepid commentary on predictable outcomes.  Cute cover art, though.

Bazaar of Bad Dreams Collage

The Bazaar of Bad Dreams by Stephen King – Every ’80s kid’s favourite author is getting old, and he’s super worried about the real world things that go bump in the night.  I read this zippy anthology of short stories for week eight’s theme of “A collection of short stories.”

Gawain Collage

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight by anonymous, edited by W.S. Merwin – A 14th Century epic poem – both in its original Middle English and translated forms – for week 23’s challenge theme of “An epic tale.”  Go medieval or go home, right?

The Night Circus Collage 1

The Night Circus 8

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern – Oh my goodness, I adored this book!  It was utterly enchanting – appropriate given that it’s a tale about star-crossed magicians plying their trade at a mysterious, after hours Victorian carnival.  This was a very gratifying read; I actually sighed with contentment as I closed the back cover for the final time.  I read The Night Circus in service of week 28’s theme of “a work by a debuted author.”

Christine Collage

Christine by Stephen King – I continued filling in the gaps in my Stephen King education this year by reading Christine, one of his earliest works.  It was appropriately unnerving and gory in all the right places, but absent the killer car, I was struck by the simple human heartbreak that formed the core of Christine, which was just your average, emotionally deadlocked family trying – and failing – to grapple with shifting family dynamics.  Whilst being hunted down and murdered by a sentient – and very vengeful – 1958 Plymouth Fury.  As you do.  I read Christine, a book I nabbed from my condo’s community bookshelves, in service of week 15’s theme of “A book from the library.”

Too Big Collage

Too Big to Fail by Andrew Ross Sorkin – I hate these nails (too heavy-handed, and the lighting is crap) but improbably, I really loved this book, which I read for week 14’s theme of “non-fiction to tickle the brain cells.”  More like set my brain cells on fire – I spent a lot of time shouting out various aghast “OMG, did you know”s to Mr. Finger Candy as I stomped about the house, raging at the inequalities of the global financial system.

Blue Shoes Collage 2

Blue Shoes and Happiness by Alexander McCall Smith – After the M.C. Escher-esque financial mindf**k that was Too Big to Fail, I was in need of a literary palette cleanser, which I found in Blue Shoes and Happiness.  My mom loaned me this gentle little book from the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency Series, a favourite of hers set in rural Botswana.  I read this book for week 27’s theme of “A book that was gifted to you.”

Small Spaces Collage

Small Spaces by Katherine Arden – Jay of The Scented Library gave me this spooky little book, ensuring that I’d absolutely hit week four’s theme of “a purple hued tome.”  Also that I’d be thoroughly, delightfully creeped out, and also get some great nail art inspiration out of the bargain.

Advertisements

Well, That Was a Year

2018 Collage

If you follow this blog with any sort of regularity (and thank you for that, by the way, that’s very kind of you!) you know my 2018 is ending on a real down note.  At the beginning of the month we rather unexpectedly had to have our absolutely adored kitty, Weegie, put down.  The fallout from that was that Mr. Finger Candy and I just sort of drifted through the Christmas season, present in body, but nearly totally absent in soul.  For someone who never shuts up, I’ve had a hard time articulating why this particular death has hit me so hard.  I’ve lost quite a few beloved pets over my lifetime, and even more adored people, and yet this is the one that’s broken me.  I suppose this is what some well-meaning dumbass would optimistically term a formative event, and I’d begrudgingly have to agree – I certainly don’t feel like the same person I was at the beginning of the month, a change not necessarily for the positive.

But there’s no better time than the start of a new year to hit the reset button, and I’m looking forward to trying, trying again in 2019.  Because even without the heartbreaking events of the last month, 2018 was a wild roller coaster of big ups and bigger downs.  Sometimes actual roller coasters, even!  It just didn’t feel like the most cohesive of years, and I flubbed quite a few personal goals.

But supposedly we learn from our mistakes and all that good stuff, so I thought it might be helpful to look back over the hills and valleys of 2018 and take note of the things that worked, the things that didn’t, and hopefully find a path through 2019 that’s a lot less fraught with grief than 2018’s.  To a better year for all of us.

The Good

I started off the year on a positive note, promising myself that I’d limit my wax and beauty purchases to a small handful of orders from favourite vendors.  My discretionary spending was quite out of control, and my scented wax stores were fit to bursting.  So I put myself on a casual low buy, which though no real direction on my part morphed into a regimented no buy; there were a few months there where our financial behaviour could best be deemed as stupidly tightfisted.  But there just didn’t seem to be anything I wanted to buy, and besides, saving money felt better than buying stuff, which was kind of the point of reining in my spending in the first place, no?  Anyhow, this one was a proper New Years resolution, the kind you make with every intention of breaking, but somehow, I held fast.  Now, with three lovely, highly anticipated orders in my hot little hands (and hot little warmers) I’m set for another year of waiting and watching and planning and melting. 🙂

2018 Wax Collage

2018 is also the year I taught myself a video editing program, upped my photography and video game and started our YouTube channel, Park or Perish!  Amusingly enough, I can lay all three of these newly acquired skills at the tender little furry paws of our cat, Weegie.  There was a time (oh, just the last four or so years) when our sweet baby beast would NOT abide by either her fur mama or papa sleeping for any longer than it took for her soft food dish to run dry (roughly every hour and 45 minutes.)  So I’d find myself awake at all inhospitable hours of the very early morning, with precious little to do.

Then one morning as I sat there just staring at the sky, literally trying to will the sun into cresting the horizon, I suddenly thought about all of the photos and video I had shot of our Disney vacations, and wondered what more I could do with them (other than drive you lovely readers bonkers, that is.) 😉  And so that morning I downloaded a little iPhone-based editing program called iMovie and edited together my first project (a collection of photos of Weegie looking unbelievably saucy, of course, backed by Tom Jones’ What’s New Pussycat?)  Since then I’ve produced 27 videos for Park or Perish!, and some of them aren’t even all that bad!  I particularly like sound editing – it’s incredibly satisfying when two tonally disparate clips finally snap into place (nearly) seamlessly.  This is a major milestone for me; as I’ve mentioned a time or 20, I am unbelievably tech-unfriendly.  That I could even find the program in the App Store in the first place was something of a miracle.  Here’s the most recent video I posted, a fun round-up of our adventures at Disney this past year.  I hope you enjoy watching it as much as I enjoyed putting it together.

Speaking of Disney vacations and saving money (now there’s a couple of antithetical concepts) we were able to enjoy two of the former this year precisely because we prioritized the heck out of the latter. We eased up a bit on our “Disney or death!” approach to discretionary income as the year wore on, but generally, if we had two cents to scrape together, we’d throw them into the vacation pot.  It was through this kind of financial nit-pickery that we were able to take two Disney vacations in 2018, both fully (and reassuringly) paid off before we had even stepped foot in a park.  We also became Disney annual passholders this year, because it made the most financial sense given the extent of our plans.  Every little bit helps, and I was incredibly proud of us for hitting this Disney financial goal.

Passholder 1

And speaking of those two vacations, they were wonderful; some of the best moments of my year were had at Disney World.  It’s just where we go to cut loose, explore and have an awesome (frequently margarita-enabled) good time.  We are so fortunate to be able to enjoy such incredible vacations – some people can’t swing a single lifetime trip to Disney, let alone two in one year (actually four in 365 days, but who’s counting besides ourselves and every single one of our friends who has jokingly enquired as to whether we plan on just moving into Cinderella Castle full time (dare to dream!)

Character Collage

Just about my favourite moment of the year was spending Halloween, our 14th wedding anniversary, bombing around the Magic Kingdom rock star cosplaying as two different video versions of Tyler Joseph, the lead singer of twenty one pilots (the October release of Trench was another neon yellow bright spot in an otherwise pretty gloomy year.)  I can’t speak for Mr. Finger Candy (who was the recipient of most of the delighted compliments, including a number of longing and appreciative glances from one very interested lady and a couple of even more interested dudes) but I loved playing rock star for the day, even with that black gunk smeared about my neck and hands (black stage makeup, by the way, and no, it wasn’t difficult to take off at the end of the night.  Messy?  Yes!  Sooty black water droplets allllll over the bathroom.  But not difficult.)  Also, my man looked hella hot in his meggings and shorts combo, and no, I’m not remotely joking.

Tyler Two Pilots Collage 2

The Bad

Losing our beloved cat.  Taking her to the vet one snowy Monday morning, knowing in my already breaking heart that we wouldn’t be bringing her home again.  Holding her paw until the very end.  Lots of uncontrollable sobbing.  That was my December.  I don’t wish to ever experience another one like it (oh, that we could control such things!)  But isn’t she adorable?  Gosh, at one point she was a complete LARD; look at that tummy!  That’s some serious Weege the Hutt action right there.

InstaWeege

Losing Weegie also brought into sharp focus the good relationships in our lives – the people who have been there for us at this awful time, in supportive ways big, small and occasionally virtual – and those that are no longer worth our precious, middle aged time.  It was really its own special kind of compounding heartbreak to realize that with some people, we just didn’t rank, not even in the midst of our grief.

On the other, infinitely more positive hand, this event clarified the truly excellent relationships we do have in our lives, people we are so profoundly grateful to call our friends.  They are such fantastic humans, a realization ultimately worth so much more than the one about the social boobs.  I actually feel sort of hashtag-blessed. 😉

But getting back to the crap, after making incredible strides towards improving my health in 2017, I backslid in 2018 HARD, maintaining my diet and exercise regimen for most of the year before apparently just giving up altogether in the last three months and gaining 25 pounds.  I apparently like to eat my stress and grief.  And everyone else’s as well.  I aim to jump back aboard the treadmill express in the new year, and overhaul our diets while I’m at it.  Please stop the rich holiday food, I want to get off!

And this blog?  My beloved Finger Candy, which turned five impressive years old this year with nary a whisper of fanfare?  I have no idea what this blog is even about any more; I’m not even sure if nail art is my preferred focus.  I’m in a state of blogging flux; I hope to find some solid ground soon.

Okay, that’s it, 2018 – you’re drunk, go home.  Don’t let the door hit you on the arse on the way out.  And cheers to 2019 as it makes its hopefully spectacular way in.  Happy New Years, friends.

Fallish Polish

Fallish Polish Collage

Hello there, friends, just kicking off the work week with a handful of autumn-appropriate polishes, holos tout and perfect for all of your Fall manicure needs.  Let’s take a closer peek at these leafy-looking lovelies, shall we?

Fall 1

It’s the incredibly rare tree whose leaves turn this devastatingly sexy shade of candy apple red – possibly a sumac, they’re utterly gorgeous at this time of year.  This is Different Dimension‘s Naughty, a beautiful Christmas polish that I think does double duty as a classic Fall hue (possibly even triple duty if you factor in Valentine’s Day!)

Next up, we have one of my favourite polishes, period, no matter the time of year, KB Shimmer‘s perfectly pumpkiny Rust No One.  The holo effect with this one is quite pronounced, and I love that bright purple flash running up the center of the bottle – it makes Rust No One look like about three differently hued polishes all at once.

In third place, we have the only yellow holo I own, which of course means it always shows up in round-up posts, even though I’m really not that fond of it because while it’s quite beautiful in the sun, it looks like metallic urine in lower lighting conditions, which is rather unfortunate, and wow, that was one heck of a run-on sentence.  Oh, sorry, this is Enchanted Polish‘s House of the Rising Sun. 😉

Next up we have another one of my favourite polishes, Enchanted Polish’s Lost Boy.  This megawatt super stainer (for all that’s good and not dyed lurid, neon yellow, use this polish with two, even three layers of base coat) doesn’t look like very many leaves at this time of year (they’ve really lost this kind of vivid, fresh green) but there’s still a few clinging to their hues of brighter, sunnier days.

Second from last we have KB Shimmer’s Men Are From Mars-ala, a rich, reddish brown holo that looks like so many wonderful things in the Fall – crunchy leaves, scrumptious baked goods, the final inch of a delicious pumpkin spice latte.  It also looks like the entirety of 1990s beauty in a bottle (brown, kids, there was SO. MUCH. BROWN.)

Finally, we have yet another KB Shimmer polish, brownie-hued Oh My Ganache!  Mmm, brownies…also the raggedy edges of crispy, crunchy leaves.

(Finger) Food for (Blogging) Thought

5th Anniversary Collage

So many ellipses!  But that’s this blog, isn’t it, thoughts within thoughts within thoughts?  With the occasional bit of nail art.  You know, when I’m not yakking on about Disney or The Lost Boys. 😉

This blog recently celebrated its fifth anniversary!  In celebration, I went through just a little over 1,500 published posts and pulled a large assortment of food-related manicures – the candy (and cocktails, and baked goods, and turkey legs) of Finger Candy.

Some things I learned from this forensic examination of my blog?  I REALLY like painting my nails to look like food; 152 chow-related manis bear out that assertion.  Also, while I’m very fond of and actually prefer the free-handed approach to nail art, I have leaned on my food-shaped nail charms time and time again, particularly the multi-coloured lollipop charms.  They were a great investment.  Also-also, the further back you go in my blogging timeline, the dodgier my nail art becomes.  In those early days I just had no idea how to compose or properly light a photo, or even how to hold my hand!  It’s not a problem if I just hold it upside down, right?

Below you’ll find a number of collages I created highlighting many – but not all – of the food-related manicures I’ve done over five years of blogging, divided by theme.  Or in this case, divided by grocery department.  I hope you enjoy this look into a huge, happy part of my life!  And if you’d like to take a closer peek at any of these posts, please just click on the “Food and Candy Designs” tag on the right-hand side of the page.  Now someone break out the cake to celebrate this thing so I can eat it…and then paint it on my nails. 😉  To another five years!

Finger Candy

5th Anniversary Candy Collage

Baked Goods

5th Anniversary Baked Goods Collage

Fresh and Fruity (and Veggie-y)

5th Anniversary Fruit and Veg Collage

Drinky Drinky

5th Anniversary Beverage Collage

Savoury Snacks

5th Anniversary Savoury Collage

Icy Sweets

5th Anniversary Icy Sweets Collage

Northern Humidity Sends Its Love

Happy Canada Day, friends!  Because it’s hot as beaver balls in my neck of the Canadian woods (hotter and more humid than Orlando, Florida, whose summer weather I’m convinced occupies its very own circle of hell) I am celebrating this national drinking day holiday indoors, as close to my air conditioner as humanly possible.  I see a lot of Trailer Park Boys in my immediate future, as well as the possibly ill-advised plan, given the humidity, to have a roast turkey dinner at my parents’ house tonight, because apparently we are masochists (or are we?  My parents’ house boasts some very nice central air, and I think there’s no foodstuff more Canadian than gravy; we will put it in and on anything, including, but not limited to, toasted sandwiches, fries and cheese curds, and pizza.)

I didn’t do any new nail art to commemorate the 1st this year, but I thought it would be fun – and, let’s face it, easy! – to look back at these Canada Proud manicures I’ve done over the years.  They feature a wide range of beloved Canadiana, from Timmy’s and 50s, to traditional maple leaves (not to be confused with the Maple Leafs) and the almighty beaver.  Happiest of days, Canadian pals!

Finger Candy Gets a .ca

Trailer Park Mustard Tiger

Timmy Ho

Beaver or Dog?

Team Canada

Mr. Dressup’s Tickle Trunk

The Tickle Trunk

One-Fiddy

Wake Up and Smell the Stupidity

Wax Collage

Also the scented wax coffee blends, but more on those in a second.

In my end-of-the-month spending assessment for March, I indicated that I hadn’t yet worked up the nerve to address the spend-a-thon I enthusiastically undertook in 2017 in any real detail.  Frankly, I was scared.  It’s difficult to confront hard and unflattering financial truths, isn’t it?  But Mr. Finger Candy and I recently made some smarter-than-usual financial decisions, and they have paid off in our ability to hopefully very soon book a second, interim Disney vacation between now and our bought-and-paid-for trip at the end of the year.  We’re even looking into becoming annual passholders.  This would have been completely incomprehensible this time last year for a wealth of reasons, including our actual wealth – hard to go on lots of fun Disney vacations when every cent you’ve got (and plenty of those you haven’t) goes into wax or nail polish or streamable media or video games.

So I took the plunge, and the total as represented through my PayPal account alone was startling – over $5,000 Canadian.  Feel free to let your jaw rest there on the floor for a bit – mine certainly took a while to rejoin the rest of my wide open mouth.  Distressingly enough, that $5,000 doesn’t even represent the purchases I made on a credit card, or the almost vulgar amount of shipping and customs fees I paid out of pocket.  Those alone could total in the thousands.

So yes, this was a hugely unflattering look into last year’s apparent total abdication of financial responsibility, a state we’re only now emerging from thanks to a lot of “sacrifice” and daily diligence.  But it was also a necessary peek behind the curtain, where of course there was a wizard furiously pulling the levers, a nasty little gremlin in dinky short pants who encouraged us to replace life with things.  Turns out, neither one of us was particularly enjoying the gremlin’s not-so-sage counsel, which is the moment we decided to really turn things around.

I love my nail polish and my scented wax and Mr. Finger Candy loves his Apple purchases and his GTA DLC, but I think life experiences, as well as the comforting assurance that your finances are not a total clusterbiff, are more important to us now.  God, getting old can be such a drag, suddenly you’ve got to be all responsible and shit. 😉

As always, some of that responsibility is manifested in the mantra of “Don’t buy more; just use what you’ve got.”  I’ve been following this sage advice for a while now, picking up books that have been sitting on the shelf for years, watching movies that have been sitting on the shelf for even longer and melting through my formerly extensive collection of scented wax.  At the beginning of all of this, I estimated that I probably had enough wax on hand to keep me going for eight or nine months.  Nine months may have been a bit of a reach, but eight is looking doable.  I very much hope the end coincides with a really fantastic Rosegirls sale, or a SMT customs opening.  My Mini Melter cupboard is beginning to run bare (not an actual cupboard; I didn’t go that hog wild!)

And the cupboard is running bare because I have been going nuts on the Mini Melter blends, conjuring up all sorts of fun creations in an effort to not deplete any one scent category completely.  Which didn’t stop me from going further nutso on the coffee blends this month – apparently I was really feelin’ the java!  Here are some of the more successful scent blends I came up with, in case you too feel like getting experimental with your scented caffeine.

Absolute Coffee/Marshmallow Smoothie/Monster Cookie/Raspberry Sauce

Wax 3.1

Starting with a tried and true favourite, we have the pleasant bitterness of Absolute Coffee as set against warm brown sugar cookies, fluffy marshmallow cream and tangy, ultra fruity raspberry drizzle.  Egads, this is a yummy blend!  You’ll note that save for one bakery-heavy combination, everything I’ve highlighted here is a fruit-and-coffee combo.  Very strange, as I generally loathe flavoured coffee, particularly the ones that are supposed to smell like fruit (my husband used to love the stuff; I still kept him.) 😉

Blackberry/Vanilla Hazelnut Latte

Wax 2.1

This juicy, fruity treat is equally delicious when paired with scrumptious Marshmallow Smoothie, but I’m down to my last three pieces of my Precious, so I must conserve.  But this blend doesn’t suffer from a lack of creaminess; there’s plenty of that provided by the rich Vanilla Hazelnut Latte, which holds its own nicely against the super juicy Blackberry.

Royal Sugar Cookie/Snickerdoodle Latte/Waffle Cone

Wax 4.1

Next up we have what is probably my least favourite of the four blends, and that’s because I’ve never been fond of Snickerdoodle Latte, the scent that forms the coffee base of this sweet bakery treat.  To me, it’s always smelled very sweet, very powdery and very phony – like Swiss Miss instant coffee mix.  It fared a little better paired alongside buttery Royal Sugar Cookie and toasty, sugary Waffle Cone, but it’ll never be a favourite.

Absolute Coffee/Apple Clove Butter/Marshmallow Smoothie/Monster Cookie

Wax 1.1

Finally, saving perhaps the very best for last, we have what should be an incongruous mix of bracingly strong coffee, warm and creamy bakery and spiced apples?  Sounds abhorrent, smells positively delicious, like a warm, cakey apple fritter.  It’s the closest thing to a total dupe of a favourite Sniff My Tarts custom – very fortunate, as I’m running low on that gem as well.  Fruit and coffee – seriously, who knew?!

Next month/this month?  More of the same financial goodness and cents sensibility, only this time accompanied by slightly fewer coffee-based blends – I’m in danger of running out!  Perhaps an “Anything but Marshmallow” (and Coffee!) challenge would stretch my blending legs, hmm? 🙂

Beauty and the Books

Beauty and the Books Collage

Last January, feeling as though my childhood obsession with reading was departing for better-read pastures, I decided to re-up my commitment to the written, printed word and signed on to my blogger friend Julie’s 2017 reading challenge.  Julie’s a major reader, and the challenge themes she chose ran the full range of the genre spectrum, from classics such as Hemingway and Steinbeck, to those open to a bit more interpretation, such as a scarlet-hued tome, a book set in Europe or – my personal favourite – a book with words in it.  I figured with that much choice (24 prompts in total) I was bound to find lots of somethings to reignite that reading spark.

Spoiler alert, but that never happened!  I topped out at just 10 measly books (hmm, except for The Stand; I would never call The Stand “measly.”)  I’ve already made my peace with this epic literary suckage, and vow to do better next time, or this time, when I attempt this reading challenge thing once more, with feeling.  Julie has put together another reading challenge for 2018, this time with the collaborative help of our other blogger friend, Jay.  Dubbed the Bookish Jay and the Reading Mermaid Challenge, the 30 prompts (you’re killing me here, guys!) cover everything from travelogues and historical fiction, to a second pass at that Hemingway or Steinbeck you neglected to read last year (I know I did!)  We shall see how this goes.

One thing I do plan on carrying over from last year’s challenge to this one is some accompanying nail art.  Have to keep it at least moderately blog-relevant, you know? 😉  Plus I just like to put my own nail artistic spin on what I’ve just read.  Call it a review in lacquer.  Below you’ll find the manicures I painted to go along with each book, as well as a brief rundown of what I really thought about each pick.  Spoiler alert the second: This is not going to end well for The Walking Dead.

The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides – Re-read a beloved novel.  Creepy, overwrought and maudlin in the extreme, this melancholy novel about the suicides of five sisters is my favourite book.  The final paragraph never fails to move me to giant, sobby tears.

virgin-suicides-collage

The Walking Dead by a bunch of guys who are way more impressed with their thoughts than they should be – Art and literature.  Ah yes, Sandra, but tell us how you really feel!  Okay then – I f**king loathed this piece of shit graphic novel.  Ugly inside and out, the story lurches along in spasmodic fits and starts, hurtling over even the most basic of character development in favour of about 12 agonizingly detailed pages of a beloved female character’s confinement, torture and prolonged sexual assault.

I try to keep things PG around here, but I’m not going to mince words about this one – FUCK YOU, KIRKMAN ET AL.  If this book were mine and not my husband’s, I would have shredded it into filler for my cat’s litter box months ago.  It does not deserve my excellent nail art.

the-walking-dead-collage-again

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, by J.K. Rowling – Magic.  Unpopular opinion ahoy, but I found this installment of the Harry Potter series to be an aggravating slog.  Very little actually happened to advance the story, until the final 100 or so pages when absolutely everything you thought you knew about the franchise was turned right on its head.  I think part of my problem with the novels is that I prefer the Harry of the movies to the Harry of the books.  Book Harry is a petulant, endlessly naval-gazing little whiner.  I’m not sympathetic to Book Harry.  Daniel Radcliffe really imbues the character with a lot more warmth and kindness than displayed as-written.  Just my (unpopular) opinion. 😉

HP Collage

The Guardians by Andrew Pyper – A book gifted or loaned to you.  Eh?  And like The Walking Dead, just a little too impressed with itself.  This languid, go-nowhere story about murder, intrigue and haunted houses in small town Ontario should have been a slam dunk for this lifelong Ontarian.  Instead, its weirdly telegraphed story and ultra abrupt ending made for a jarring and ultimately forgettable read.

The Guardians Book

Let’s Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson – A book in your to-be-read pile. One of my oldest friends loves Jenny Lawson, and she turned me on to this hilarious blogger when she gave me this book.  So. much. taxidermy.

Let's Pretend Collage

Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill – A library find.  An evocative but ultimately forgettable rock and roll ghost story from Joe Hill, son of Stephen King.  In fact, I’m returning it to my building’s mostly-paperback library this evening!

Heart-Shaped Box Collage

Duma Key by Stephen King – Cool book cover art that lures you in like bait.  An appropriate descriptor, given that this ultra creepy phantom abilities tale takes place at the beach.  I loved this novel, even if the ending went predictably pear-shaped.

Duma Key Main Collage

Ben & Jerry’s Homemade Ice Cream and Dessert Book by Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield, with Nancy J. Stephens –  A book to learn something from.  I’ve actually had this little ice cream cookbook since I was about eight years old.  It contains my slightly-tinkered-with, should-be-patented chocolate chip cookie recipe, which I’ve made about five dozen times, but I’ve never really stopped to enjoy the Ben & Jerry’s origin story the book opens with.  It’s a sweet (heh) little tale.  The illustrations in this book are also the cutest things ever.

Ben and Jerry's Collage

The New Hunger by Isaac Marion – A story that takes you to another place and time, real or imagined.  The New Hunger, a prequel novella set in the Warm Bodies universe, seemed like the perfect choice to fulfill this fun, open-ended prompt.  In reality, the nuclear and industrial calamities suffered by the few remaining humans on earth hit just a bit too close to home.  And that’s before the zombies showed up.  Just re-reading this terrifying nightmare fable threw me into a major funk, beautifully written though it may be.

Warm Bodies Collage

The Stand by Stephen King – A book from a favourite author that you haven’t gotten around to reading yet.  A major funk that was helped not one iota by choosing this as a follow-up novel.  Picking up at the logical point where The New Hunger left off, The Stand, King’s early magnum opus, is a gloriously depressing read about the downfall of man.  I really, really enjoyed reading The Stand, loved coming at it from a sort of forensic fan perspective, but it left me in a weird head space that I was glad to be well and done with.

The Stand Collage

In conclusion, I think I could stand to make better, possibly more uplifting choices in reading material going forward.  Maybe then I’ll actually finish one of these challenges, instead of dreading the next upcoming prompt.  Lessons learned and all that good stuff. 🙂