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Jennie Shaw Really Nails Her Book Reviews

Posted by Cybil on July 09, 2018
jennie shaw's nails


Goodreads member Jennie Shaw loves books and incredibly elaborate manicures. Luckily for us, she's combined her two passions in her blog, Jennie's Nails and Tales. Goodreads recently chatted with Shaw from her home about an hour outside of Toronto, Canada, where she lives with her husband and her two dogs, Pickle and Pepi. Shaw told us about her reading habits, her love of magical books, and her tricks and tips for getting those amazing book cover manicures just right.

Goodreads: Tell me how you got started both blogging book reviews and painting book cover manicures?

Jennie Shaw: I started blogging about eight years ago. I'd developed an autoimmune disorder—I'm actually a former rape crisis worker with a master's in legal studies, so I was hoping to work with at-risk young women and survivors of sexual violence—and then I got this autoimmune disorder, so that stopped what I thought was going to be my path and I had to regroup. I started blogging: lifestyle, letters to nobody, just nonsense. Then I found a community online with other bloggers who had book review linkups and nail polish linkups—suddenly I was doing these things.

About three years ago my interests merged. It was the first time I was mentioned in a book's acknowledgements, and I wanted to do something a little more exciting than just a basic review for The One That Got Away by Bethany Chase. There was a little blue sparrow on the book cover, and I thought, "Oh, no big deal, I'll just paint a bird on my nail." It took me so long. If you go back and look at it now, it's embarrassing how long that took me to paint! But I did it. Then I found people online who were doing the same thing but not really including a book review. I was like, "Oh, well, maybe I can do that."

I love it. In my heart, I'm a book pusher. I want everyone to read! You know, I'll meet that person who doesn't, and it hurts my soul! I'm like, "Come on! No books? Like, zero books?!" Whenever I'm in a bookstore, I'm always seeing what people are interested in and then absolutely giving my opinion and sort of forcing them to buy books before they leave. They love me at Coles bookstore.

jennie shaw's nails


Goodreads: How do you approach your blog? Do you start with the book you want to review, with the book cover, with the nails?

JS: It's evolved a little bit. I started out doing "cover-inspired" manicures, but I've moved toward trying to paint the covers as accurately as I can. As I've evolved, I've started getting ARCs [advance review copies of books sent out by publishers], so my reading schedule is filling up! Since I'm not going to love every book that I read, I decided early on that I'm not going to pee on anyone's parade. If I don't like a book, I have no interest in spreading the reasons why I didn't like it. What I don't like, someone else will love. I don't want to contribute to not having wonderful things to say. If I don't want to scream at people about how great this book is, I don't review it and I don't paint the mani. The manis take a long time, and I need that fangirl enthusiasm.

Goodreads: So, you find a book that you love and are going to review. Now tell me about the manicure part of this.


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JS: I've learned to streamline my process a bit. Now on the first day, I'll do the book cover's background as my base coat. And I'll do that at night. It's usually the easiest part. It's just matching the background color and texture. And then I'll come in the next day and usually do the title first, because that typically takes up the most space. Then I'll work in the background. When I look at a book cover now, I almost see it in layers.

And then it dries, and I let it dry forever because there's nothing that makes you want to cry more—I mean, like crawl into a fetal position—than when the top coat smudges! The top coat is important, but it can also make me shake my fist at the sky when it ruins hours of work!

Goodreads: That brings up a quick question: How many polish colors do you own?

JS: A lot! Well, my husband made me a nail polish rack, and I think it held 150 bottles, and I outgrew that pretty quickly. It's really been the last six years that the polish has gotten out of control. Then he built a rack for me that's double the size; it is also full now. China Glaze put me on their mailing list in the fall, and that's changed everything. Now the polish comes in the mail like magic!

I mean, I live in the country, in the middle of nowhere, and it's crazy to hear from people that they like what I do. When anyone sends me anything, a message or follows me on Twitter, I'm like, "Really?!" I just love it so much! It's beyond any warm and fuzzy feeling, really.

Goodreads: What was the hardest book cover to paint on your nails?

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JS: Oh, recently it was probably All the Ever Afters: The Untold Story of Cinderella’s Stepmother by Danielle Teller, because there were 4,000 details. When I saw the cover, I knew it was complicated, but it's Cinderella's stepmother's origin story! I talked myself into it by saying, "You can maybe, even if you don't do the whole thing, maybe you could do a fern and that one flower."

Usually with those book manis, I only do one hand because I'm going to do a picture and then take it off. But if I'm going to go meet an author, I'll do it on my other hand, too. And that's probably the hardest because I'm painting with my nondominant hand.

Goodreads: So, let's talk books. Tell me, what are your favorite reads so far this year?

JS: OK, I loved All the Ever Afters. The author is a doctor, and how does she use both sides of her brain so well? She took that fairy tale we know and love and traced it back with things like, "Where does the glass slipper come from?" "What about the evil stepsisters?" "How does a truth become myth?" She did this with, here's a pun, a surgical retelling. She really made Agnes her own character, and I felt for her. And, trust, by the end of it, I was like, "Cinderella who? I'm team Stepmother!" I've read a lot of retellings, and I've never read one that does quite what she did.

I loved She Regrets Nothing by Andrea Dunlop. That book took me by surprise. I was not expecting to get as sucked into that. The writing was almost melodic to me. I loved The Favorite Sister, I loved Tell Me Lies, and the male point of view with that one was just extraordinary. And The Map of Salt and Stars was so good. That book was so beautiful; mixing the modern story with the fable gave you a break from that raw emotional content. It almost seemed to have more impact, because you had that chance to catch your breath and go back in.

Goodreads: So, that's a lot of genres! What do you like most?

JS: I'm a very greedy reader. I just want to have a taste of everything, like it's a big buffet. First and foremost, magic. It's like I'm upset that I'm not magical! Victoria Schwab? My gosh, I could read her all day. Leigh Bardugo! Holly Black! I should preface this with darker magic. I will read anything if there's magic. Even if I'm not super sure about the premise, the magic will make me want to give it a chance.

Goodreads: How many books are you reading? I mean, you're only reviewing books that you really love.

JS: I average around 80 a year. My Goodreads Reading Challenge goal for the last few years has been 80, and I think I hit 81 a couple of times. I'm ahead this year. Last year, there were so many amazing books, and I'm finding even more this year. So I'm reviewing a little more than I usually do, because there's so many great books that I want to scream about. For reviews, I do anywhere from about 35 to 40 a year. Again, this year is shaping up to be the most ever. I review everything: mystery, thriller, dystopian, adventure, horror. I'm not really a big romance reader. Again, I need something a little darker, like Tell Me Lies with toxic romance? I'm like, yeah, OK.

Goodreads: Is this still a hobby for you? Is this a career?

JS: I've been pretty adamant that I don't want it to become a job. I genuinely love doing this. And I do it first for love. I don't want it to feel like a chore. Yes, I feel pressure, like anyone who uses social media does, to keep posting and keep to a schedule. But I don't want there to be anymore pressure than that. The sensation that you're drowning in your TBR [To Be Read list] is bad enough, and I already have that on the daily. I really only try to have four or five ARCs a month, however many weeks there are, so that I can still read a book for pleasure, and if I want to review one of those, I'll try to squeeze it in. But I don't want to have two books to review in the same week; that's too much. So, I'm slowing it down a little bit.

every single secret nails

Goodreads: What are your best tips for creating these cover nails?

JS: First of all, I have to say your enthusiasm has to be high, because it's probably going to be frustrating at first.

For me, I worked on my tools, and that made the biggest difference. So, I started with standard brushes you find in your average Sally Beauty. Although they look thinner than the brushes that come with the nail polish bottle, they still aren't overly precise. But I worked on my technique with those brushes. You have to get used to the angle. A lot of nail artists paint their nails upside down; I do not do that. I do them in sort of "claw formation." You have to be comfortable doing line work. When I first started, the hardest part was trying to get that straight line. Start on a piece of paper first and try to get the right pressure. Once you get good at that, then move to a thinner brush.

If I had started out with the brushes I have now, I would have been completely overwhelmed. You have to have that steady hand before you can be precise. If you're really shaky, it's going to bum you out, and it's supposed to be a positive experience. So I'd say first and foremost, you have to get a separate nail brush. After that, you could use acrylic paint. A lot of nail artists do that. You get a crisper line right off the bat. I use nail polish. I very occasionally use acrylic to do very small lettering, but 99.9 percent of my manis are nail polish.

Goodreads: What are some of your favorite book cover manicures?

JS: Wicked Like a Wildfire: That cover was my favorite cover of 2017, absolutely stunning. I also loved one from early on, Furiously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things by Jenny Lawson, because there's Rory the Raccoon. I was so proud of his little teeth; that was the first time I thought I could do finer details like Rory's tiny little teeth. Oh, The Fireman by Joe Hill! That turned out really well. Then She Was Gone by Lisa Jewell. Anything with a matte finish! I'm loving this trend of matte covers. There's something so slick about them and ominous. And matte nails, it's amazing how putting that top coat on changes the whole feel of the photo. Take out the light! I just posted The Outsider by Stephen King; I liked that one as well.
Joe Hill nails



Goodreads: So, you spend all this time on these elaborate manicures, but how long do they last?

JS: Oh, anywhere from 24 to 48 hours.

Goodreads: That's heartbreaking!

JS: I know! There's a part of me that does get sad to take it off. But I'm excited about the next thing at that point. It's not like there's a lull. I'll already be 150, 200 pages into another book, and hopefully be jazzed about it and will start planning out what I'm going to do. I'll start studying the book cover to figure out how I can break it down into four little tiny canvases.


Comments (showing 1-50 of 78) (78 new)


message 1: by ♛ Garima ♛ (new)

♛ Garima ♛ Wow! talk about combining your passions :)


message 2: by Ofelia (new)

Ofelia Amazing! Love to see what the reading future will bring.


message 3: by Patti (new)

Patti Ashley Cannot wait to check out this blog.


message 4: by Anissa (new)

Anissa This is a terribly creative way to merge the book & nail art love. I'm not a nail art girl personally, but I quite appreciate it on others and the time dedicated and artistic talent required is noteworthy. Well done, Jennie Shaw!

I do have to disagree a bit with this part of the above: "Since I'm not going to love every book that I read, I decided early on that I'm not going to pee on anyone's parade. If I don't like a book, I have no interest in spreading the reasons why I didn't like it. What I don't like, someone else will love. I don't want to contribute to not having wonderful things to say. If I don't want to scream at people about how great this book is, I don't review it..."

I don't feel a critical review of a disliked book is "peeing on anyone's parade" (and I'm excluding the all-out screeds that lean toward personal insult of the author of a disliked book). If all feedback is fangirling level, of how much critical value can it be to readers of those reviews, as a whole or individually? I suppose it could be argued that critical value is subjective & therefore anything can be presumed to be valuable to someone, so perhaps my question is irrelevant. My personal preference is to look for reviews that tell me the liked & disliked points & why. I also tend to think that when it comes to Arcs, the author & publisher would really like to know how the book was received by the pre-publication readers, not just glowing remarks.

I do appreciate all book reviewers though, be they critical eyes or fangirling evangelists. It takes time and in Jennie's case is levelled up booklove.


message 5: by Amber (new)

Amber That's pretty cool. I hope she has fun with her nail art and enjoys reading for pleasure as it rocks!

I only review books I finish and if I enjoy them, I let people know after telling about the synopsis in my own words then letting people know where they can get the book at. I don't review books that I don't like or can't finish though and when it comes to ARCs that I get after being asked about it and books I beta read for authors, when I read them, I give them my honest review though when I get them. I've only beta read for one author's books so far though.


I appreciate all book reviewers too as I am one but I just do it for fun on here.


message 6: by Brooke (new)

Brooke So creative! I'm currently racking my brain for my favorite books that also have beautifully designed covers and would translate well into nail art... perhaps The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay?


message 7: by Emily (new)

Emily Dann I love this idea! Two of my favorite things in one! <3


message 8: by Jennifer (new)

Jennifer Thank you so much GoodReads for introducing me to Jennie Shaw; I'm already in love with her blog (that took about two seconds, lol) and can't wait to see what books she recommends! :)


message 9: by Gina (new)

Gina Heron Jennie is THE ABSOLUTE BEST IN EVERY WAY!!!! So excited that Goodreads featured her here. She's so passionate about books and reading and authors... and manis! The time she puts into her reviews pays off for the rest of us readers!

Thank you for sharing your talents with us, Jennie, and your LOVE!


message 10: by Ivana A. (new)

Ivana A. Wow! Amazing talent, so creative, so polished (see what I did there?) :)

Well done Jennie, you nailed it!


message 11: by Dale (new)

Dale Stohn Jennie, your creativity, talent and enthusiasm are inspirational!


message 12: by Crystal (new)

Crystal Zavala This is my favorite Instagram page!


message 13: by Heather (new)

Heather McCain OMG, I know her!! *fan girling*

For real, Jennie, you're awesome.


message 14: by Claire (new)

Claire This is a wonderfully create blog idea. Jenny is a fantastic artist, I looking forward to seeing her next reads!


message 15: by Sarah E. (new)

Sarah E. Literally no one deserves this more than you, Jennie! Even back in The Nail Files days, your nonbookish manicures were always literal perfection. I swear my jaw drops every time you share a new one on insta :) I also adore how you said you're a greedy reader. Going to have to use that descriptor in the future! <3


message 16: by Marisa (new)

Marisa Jennie's nail art is simply amazing!


message 17: by Olivia (new)

Olivia (The Candid Cover) WOW!!! Jennie is such an amazing person with the most incredible talent!! :)


message 18: by Kristen (new)

Kristen this is really awesome!


message 19: by Melissa (new)

Melissa Way to go, Jennie!!! I'm so glad you're getting this well-deserved recognition! ❤️❤️❤️


message 20: by Amy (new)

Amy Yay Jennie!! 😍😘


message 21: by SℓιM (new)

SℓιM That's awesome. I actually have the book by Joe Hill, the nails definitely are nice and go with the book. She did good.


message 22: by Leslynn (new)

Leslynn Love this!


message 23: by Cindy (new)

Cindy Wonderer wrote: "You've made it clear that GoodReads doesn't care about its male readers, so let me recommend this woman as a potential interview candidate: Dana Loesch

You could ask her how she m..."


You know, I read all the blog posts. And you always say how you are optimistic and like optimistsic books, etc, etc yet EVERY DAMN TIME YOU OPEN YOUR MOUTH ON HERE you have something negative to say. Is it fun being a troll? I mean, do you have nothing better to do with your life?


message 24: by Megan C. (new)

Megan C. YAAAAAY Jennie!!!! So excited to see you featured. Love following along with you on IG!


message 25: by Michelle (new)

Michelle For whatever reason, I can't grow nails and fake nails drive me nuts, but I love nail art.

I used to be an Amazon top reviewer, and I think there is a way to be critical, and clear on why you're being so, that will do readers a favor while still respecting the author.


message 26: by Elyse (new)

Elyse Absolutely amazing!


message 27: by Jennie (new)

Jennie Shaw ♛ Garima ♛ wrote: "Wow! talk about combining your passions :)"

Thank you so much, Garima!! <3


message 28: by Jennie (new)

Jennie Shaw Ofelia wrote: "Amazing! Love to see what the reading future will bring."

Thank you, Ofelia!! I'm overwhelmed by the response! :)


message 29: by Jennie (new)

Jennie Shaw Patti wrote: "Cannot wait to check out this blog."

Thanks, Patti!


message 30: by Jennie (new)

Jennie Shaw Anissa wrote: "This is a terribly creative way to merge the book & nail art love. I'm not a nail art girl personally, but I quite appreciate it on others and the time dedicated and artistic talent required is not..."

Thanks so much, Anissa!! They do take time, but it's totally worth it! :)


message 31: by Jennie (new)

Jennie Shaw Amber wrote: "That's pretty cool. I hope she has fun with her nail art and enjoys reading for pleasure as it rocks!

I only review books I finish and if I enjoy them, I let people know after telling about the sy..."


Thanks so much, Amber! I really love painting them and of course, reviewing the books! Life's too short to focus on the negative/books that don't quite to it for me, right? ;)


message 32: by Jennie (new)

Jennie Shaw Brooke wrote: "So creative! I'm currently racking my brain for my favorite books that also have beautifully designed covers and would translate well into nail art... perhaps [book:The Amazing Adventures of Kavali..."

Thanks so much, Brooke! And thanks for the suggestion! :)


message 33: by Jennie (new)

Jennie Shaw Emily wrote: "I love this idea! Two of my favorite things in one! <3"

Nails and books are the best, eh? Happy you're of the same mindset! Thanks, Emily!!


message 34: by Jennie (new)

Jennie Shaw Jennifer wrote: "Thank you so much GoodReads for introducing me to Jennie Shaw; I'm already in love with her blog (that took about two seconds, lol) and can't wait to see what books she recommends! :)"

Aww!! Thank you, Jennifer!! I love that you love my manis and reviews! :)


message 35: by Jennie (new)

Jennie Shaw Gina wrote: "Jennie is THE ABSOLUTE BEST IN EVERY WAY!!!! So excited that Goodreads featured her here. She's so passionate about books and reading and authors... and manis! The time she puts into her reviews pa..."

Everything's amazing and I'm dying *weeps* Love your face, Gina!!


message 36: by Jennie (new)

Jennie Shaw Dale wrote: "Jennie, your creativity, talent and enthusiasm are inspirational!"

You're the best, Dale! Thank you!! :)


message 37: by Jennie (new)

Jennie Shaw Crystal wrote: "This is my favorite Instagram page!"

Omg, Crystal!! Thank you!! :D


message 38: by Jennie (new)

Jennie Shaw Ivana A. wrote: "Wow! Amazing talent, so creative, so polished (see what I did there?) :)

Well done Jennie, you nailed it!"


Haha! Puns are my ultimate favourite. Thanks so much, Ivana!!


message 39: by Jennie (new)

Jennie Shaw Heather wrote: "OMG, I know her!! *fan girling*

For real, Jennie, you're awesome."


Haha!! Heather, you're so funny. Thank you!! I guess I owe Skeeter some more maple syrup? ;)


message 40: by Jennie (new)

Jennie Shaw Claire wrote: "This is a wonderfully create blog idea. Jenny is a fantastic artist, I looking forward to seeing her next reads!"

Thanks so much, Claire!! :)


message 41: by Jennie (new)

Jennie Shaw Sarah E. wrote: "Literally no one deserves this more than you, Jennie! Even back in The Nail Files days, your nonbookish manicures were always literal perfection. I swear my jaw drops every time you share a new one..."

Sarahhhhh ahhhh! You're so sweet! Thank you so much!! I kind of miss the Nail Files linkup! Those were the days, eh? ;)


message 42: by Jennie (new)

Jennie Shaw Marisa wrote: "Jennie's nail art is simply amazing!"

Thanks again, Marisa!!! :D


message 43: by Jennie (new)

Jennie Shaw Olivia wrote: "WOW!!! Jennie is such an amazing person with the most incredible talent!! :)"

Awww! Olivia, that's so nice of you to say!! Thank you!!


message 44: by Jennie (new)

Jennie Shaw Kristen wrote: "this is really awesome!"

Thank you, Kristen!!


message 45: by Jennie (new)

Jennie Shaw Melissa wrote: "Way to go, Jennie!!! I'm so glad you're getting this well-deserved recognition! ❤️❤️❤️"

Melissa!!! It's all so crazy and amazing!! Thank you so much, girl!!


message 46: by Jennie (new)

Jennie Shaw Amy wrote: "Yay Jennie!! 😍😘"

You're the best, Amy!! 💜


message 47: by Jennie (new)

Jennie Shaw SℓιM wrote: "That's awesome. I actually have the book by Joe Hill, the nails definitely are nice and go with the book. She did good."

Thank you! I'm happy you have a copy of THE FIREMAN! Such an incredible book!


message 48: by Jennie (new)

Jennie Shaw Leslynn wrote: "Love this!"

Thank you so much, Leslynn!!


message 49: by Jennie (new)

Jennie Shaw Cindy wrote: "Wonderer wrote: "You've made it clear that GoodReads doesn't care about its male readers, so let me recommend this woman as a potential interview candidate: Dana Loesch

You could ..."


(💜💪)


message 50: by Jennie (new)

Jennie Shaw Megan C. wrote: "YAAAAAY Jennie!!!! So excited to see you featured. Love following along with you on IG!"

Thanks so much, girl!!! I love your IG, too! You make me laugh every day!!


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