A Lesson in Vengeance: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

Regret always comes too late.

A Lesson in Vengeance by Victoria LeeAfter a year away, Felicity Morrow hopes to keep a low profile at Dalloway School while she completes her senior year. Then she’ll never have to think about the prestigious boarding school or what transpired there ever again.

Being back at Godwin House feels wrong for so many reasons but especially because her girlfriend Alex is dead and won’t ever return.

Still grieving, still haunted, Felicity doesn’t know what to expect from her new housemates, especially the enigmatic Ellis Haley. Everyone knows Ellis. Everyone has read her prodigious debut novel while eagerly awaiting her sophomore effort. As much as Felicity is drawn to Ellis–as much as everyone is drawn to Ellis–Felicity balks at the cult of personality the writer has erected around herself.

Ellis is drawn to Dalloway, and particularly to Godwin House, because of its bloody history. Like Felicity herself, she’s fascinated by the story of the Dalloway Five–the five students who all died under mysterious circumstances with accusations of witchcraft hanging over them.

Everyone knows magic isn’t real. After what happened last year, Felicity needs magic to not be real. But as Ellis draws her back to the school’s dangerous not-so-hidden, arcane history Felicity will have to decide if she has the strength to face the darkness festering at Dalloway and in herself in A Lesson in Vengeance (2021) by Victoria Lee.

Find it on Bookshop.

A Lesson in Vengeance is a standalone novel. Felicity and Ellis are white with secondary characters adding more diversity and brief conversations of the history of segregation and exclusion inherent to elite boarding schools like Dalloway.

This novel is an ode to all things dark academia with vivid descriptions of Dalloway’s ivy-covered glory, brittle winters, and its gory past. Lee also carefully subverts the genre using both Felicity and Ellis’ queer identities to inform the story. Pitch perfect pacing and careful plot management further help this story pack a punch.

A Lesson in Vengeance is a clever, suspenseful story filled filled. Come for the satisfying mystery and evocative setting, stay for the moral ambiguity and plot twists.

Possible Pairings: Little Women by Louisa May Alcott, When All the Girls Are Sleeping by Emily Arsenault, Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood, The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie, The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, “The Night Migrations” by Louise Glück, Roses and Rot by Kat Howard, The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson, We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson, Malleus Maleficarum, Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier, “The Shroud” by Edna St. Vincent Millay, The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison, Dear Life by Alice Munro, All Our Hidden Gifts by Caroline O’Donoghue, What is Yours is Not Yours by Helen Oyeyemi, Wilder Girls by Rory Power, Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys, If We Were Villains by M. L. Rio, Last Seen Leaving by Caleb Roehrig, Strong Poison by Dorothy L. Sayers, I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith, These Witches Don’t Burn by Isabel Sterling, Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf, How We Fall Apart by Katie Zhao

Everything You Need To Know For the Perfect Manicure

I get asked a lot about my manicures so I thought it would be fun to share all of my tips in one handy infographic. The text below the graphic will also have some product recommendations (with Amazon affiliate links).

manicure infographic

1. Start with clean, dry nails.
Use nail polish remover to remove any old or chipped nail polish before you start.
I usually use a pharmacy store brand nail polish remover or Cutex brand (find it on Amazon) with generic cotton balls (find it on Amazon). If you’re looking for more of a one-stop shop you can get a polish remover jar instead. Olive & June has one I have liked (find it on their site) and it looks like Cutex also has their own version (find it on Amazon).
Once you’re done, wash your hands to get off any lingering residue.

2. Shape your nails.
If your nails were chipped or broken, this is the time to smooth them out.
Revlon’s emery boards (find it on Amazon) are the classic go-to but any nail file can work well. The main thing is you want a coarse side for filing/shaping and a smoother side for finishing.
You can also use an orange stick (find it on Amazon) or your nail to gently push back your cuticles so your nail beds are ready for nail polish. You might also see these being called “nail sticks” or “cuticle pushers.” Any kind will work. The main thing is one side will have a pencil kind of point and the other side will have a flatter end. The flatter end can be used for cuticle work. The pointy end will come in hand while painting your nails.

3. Apply a base coat.
I always start my manicures with a base coat. This adds longevity to the manicure. Using a base coat will also prevent your nails from getting stained if you are using a darker color and make the nail polish easier to remove later.
You can use any clear nail polish, even one sold as a top coat! Just make sure it’s not a super shiny version (as in the branding would say “super shine”) as that will make it too slick for subsequent coats. Let your nails dry completely after applying your base coat.
My current favorite clear nail polish is Sally Hansen’s Good.Kind.Pure. clear polish (find it on Amazon). This line is plant-based (even the brush) so it is vegan and 16-free.
NOTE this line is marketed as cruelty free but the Sally Hansen brand is not because they sell products in mainland China where animal testing is required.
If you are looking for a clear polish that is vegan and cruelty free, check out Zoya’s top coat options (find it on their site). You can also try Olive & June’s Super Glossy Top Coat (find it on their website) but I find it is almost too shiny for a base coat.

4. Apply your nail polish of choice.
Apply the nail polish evenly over your nail in a smooth, thin coat. Use the pointy end of your orange stick to remove any excess polish near your cuticles. Alternately you can rub/wash it off once your manicure is complete. Let your nails dry completely after this coat.
If you are new to manicures it’s easier to start with a lighter color with some shimmer. Darker, more opaque polish will require more coats (and possibly patience) to get a finished look.
I only use vegan, cruelty-free polishes and have recommendations if you want to go that route:
Zoya (check out their site): You can shop by color, opacity, and more. Don’t let the scope of colors intimidate you. Also watch for their semi-annual sales where polishes are 50% off with the option to “trade in” older bottles.
Olive & June (check out their site): You can shop by color, season, and set here. Polishes are graded from beginner to advanced which, again, is based on opacity. Olive & June also sells nail art stickers, mini sets, and sets of matched colors to create gradient manicures. I check out their sets page for color inspiration.
Sally Hansen’s Good.Kind.Pure line (find it on Amazon) (with the caveat from earlier that it’s only this line that’s vegan and cruelty free–not the entire brand)
Orly (check out their site): This is a common nail salon brand. They also do seasonal collections and have a wide range of treatments.
Different polishes will work different for different people/nail types so you might have to experiment to find your own go-to brand.

5. Apply 2-3 more coats of nail polish.
Let your nails dry completely between each coat. This is my number one tip for a perfect manicure.
Depending on the color and the look you want, your nails should be done after two or three more coats.

6. Add top coat.
Once your nails are completely dry add a top coat for extra shine and to help your manicure last longer.
In most cases this can be the same clear polish that you use for your base coat.

Advanced tips:

  • As you work on your manicure be sure to bring your nail polish up over the edge of your nails to better seal the manicure.
  • Not sure if your nails are dry? Tap the nail in question with a fingernail or orange stick. Dry nail polish will not get dented and will make a knocking sound. Once that happens, you’re ready to go!
  • Level up your manicure by adding an accent nail in a contrasting color, using multiple polishes to create a gradient effect across your nails, or apply nail art stickers for a fun finishing touch.

Week in Review: February 5

Blog Posts of The Week:

Tweet of the Week:

Instagram Post of the Week:

How My Week Went:

I really want my “Four Sandra Bullock Movies to get to know me” tweet to take off.  If you are on Twitter you should do it.

I also really want to hit 1500 followers on Instagram. So if you’re not following me there, you should do that too!

Natalie Tan’s Book of Luck and Fortune: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

Natalie Tan's Book of Luck and Fortune by Roselle LimNatalie Tan left home when her mother refused to support her dreams to become a chef.

Seven years later, Natalie returns to San Francisco’s Chinatown when her mother dies.

Her return is far from triumphant. The wounds from her failure to finish culinary school and her recently ended engagement are still fresh. The reconciliation Natalie always hoped for with her mother will never come. Even the neighborhood itself isn’t as vibrant as it once was; all of the shops are struggling.

When she finds out she has inherited her grandmother’s famous restaurant, Natalie’s fate is tied to the neighborhood–and her neighbors–whether she likes it or not.

Evelyn Yu predicts good fortune for Natalie and the restaurant in the tea leaves. But only if Natalie cooks three of her grandmother’s recipes to help her neighbors. While Natalie is keen to realize her dream of opening a restaurant, she isn’t sure her neighbors deserve her help after her childhood navigating her mother’s depression and agoraphobia alone.

As Natalie works through her grandmother’s cookbook she begins to realize that memories, like the best recipes, can take time to process. And perhaps the neighborhood didn’t abandon her as completely as Natalie once thought. With help from new recipes, a new friend, and new love, Natalie will learn that sometimes the simplest ingredients can lead to the best results in Natalie Tan’s Book of Luck and Fortune (2019) by Roselle Lim.

Find it on Bookshop.

Natalie Tan’s Book of Luck and Fortune is Lim’s debut novel.

Lim blends elements of fabulism (Natalie cries crystal tears and hears peoples’ “songs”) into an engaging contemporary romance where Natalie finds a second chance at both professional success and love. All characters are Chinese/Chinese-American.

Recipes throughout the novel allow readers to imagine themselves at Natalie’s meals although the magical results may vary. Natalie enjoys a light (as in no steam) romance as she tries to reconcile her complicated history with her Chinatown home with what could be a bright future running her own restaurant.

Lyrical prose and delicious food descriptions add dimension to this story grounded in a strong sense of family and community. Lim also offers readers a thoughtful meditation on loss and family as Natalie grieves both her mother’s death and the relationship they never had while she learns more about her grandmother through the cookbook she inherits.

Natalie Tan’s Book of Luck and Fortune is a richly flavored story filled with good food, good friends, and lots of fun. Recommended.

Possible Pairings: With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo, The Heartbreak Bakery by A. R. Capetta, Death by Dumpling by Vivien Chien, A Thread of Sky by Diana Fei, Accidentally Engaged by Farah Heron, Number One Chinese Restaurant by Lillian Li, Lost and Found Sisters by Jill Shalvis, The Recipe Box by Vivian Shipman