Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Blog Tour: THE WINNOWING by Vikki VanSickle

Hello, friends!

It's an exciting day here at Lost at Midnight Reviews because I'm participating in the blog tour for THE WINNOWING! Released on September 1st through Scholastic Canada, THE WINNOWING is the newest novel from Canadian Middle Grade/Young Adult author, Vikki VanSickle.
Vikki VanSickle is an incredible author and overall amazing human and I could not be happier than to help her celebrate her new release. Check out the cover and the description below!

Marivic Stone lives in a small world, and that’s fine with her. Home is with her beloved grandfather in a small town that just happens to be famous for a medical discovery that saved humankind — though not without significant repercussions. Marivic loves her best friend, Saren, and the two of them promise to stick together, through thick and thin, and especially through the uncertain winnowing procedure, a now inevitable — but dangerous — part of adolescence.

But when tragedy separates the two friends, Marivic is thrust into a world of conspiracy, rebellion and revolution. For the first time in her life, Marivic is forced to think and act big. If she is going to right a decade of wrongs, she will need to trust her own frightening new abilities, even when it means turning her back on everything, and everyone, she’s known and loved. A gripping exploration of growing up, love and loss, The Winnowing is a page-turning adventure that will have readers rooting for their new hero, Marivic Stone, as they unravel the horror and intrigue of a world at once familiar but with a chilling strangeness lurking beneath the everyday.
Doesn't that sound amazing? I can't wait to dive in to my copy! 

In celebration of her new release, Vikki is writing "Winspiration" guest posts to discuss just what inspired her to write THE WINNOWING! Without further's Vikki VanSickle!

Up until a few years ago if you asked me if I ran I would answer, “only when being chased,” and then laugh at my own joke.  But in a fit of spring fever I decided to try running as an affordable means of fitness. I liked the idea of running outside,  but soon found I’m too easily distracted. Look, a butterfly! Look, a cat! Look, a great new window display! *posts photo on Instagram* My wandering eye plus a tendency for Toronto to get stinking hot in the summer thwarted all my attempts to run outside, so I signed up for a gym and tried a treadmill.

At the gym I had nothing interesting to look at. I could blast my music and not be concerned with drowning out oncoming traffic, a kid on a skateboard, or the tinny warning bell of a cyclist. I could set my speed, my time or distance, and then just go for it. After a few red-faced, laboured sessions I found I wasn’t checking the clock to see how much time I had left. I wasn’t reducing my speed to ‘power-walk’ every few minutes. It was easier to find my rhythm and then stick with it. I was…enjoying myself. I liked finding that meditative space, staying there as long as I could, and feeling how every system in my body was working. I loved the deliciously stretched feeling my muscles carried with me for the rest of the day. I loved how well I slept at night.

At the same time I was working on The Winnowing. In the book, the kids in Darby develop strange abilities (called Imps) around puberty. Speed wasn’t one of my original Imps, but it wormed its way into my story when my protagonist, Marivic Stone, despite years of being ‘a champion couch potato’, develops superhuman speed. Marivic learns to love running at the same time I did. It should be noted that Marivic’s ability is superhuman; her strength and speed is remarkable and sets her apart from her peers. I will never win a race, nor do I care to. For me running isn’t about setting and achieving goals. I have no interested in beating ‘my time’ or running a half marathon, a 10K or even a 5K. I just like the way it makes me feel.

Not all stories reflect the experiences or beliefs of the writer, but there are little glimmers of me in all of my work. In the Clarissa and Benji books I’m present in Clarissa’s adolescent outrage and the ease at which she becomes disgruntled; in Summer Days, Starry Nights it’s Reenie’s love of summer and how she feels that being a teenager, that ‘learning the language,’ is always just out of grasp. Even in my picture book If I Had a Gryphon, my love of mythology and animals (not to mention my deeply ingrained practical side) collide.  In The Winnowing you see me falling in love—er, maybe like—with running.
Thank you so much, Vikki! 

The last stop on THE WINNOWING blog tour is at Bookmarked on September 22nd! If you've missed any of the other stops, click on this link to catch up. Make sure to add THE WINNOWING to your TBRs! Buy links, as well as links to Vikki's website where you can check out her other amazing books, are posted below. 

Happy reading!

Vikki VanSickle is a devoted member of the Canadian children’s book industry. She is the author of the acclaimed Clarissa books, including WORDS THAT START WITH B (CBA Libris Awards Children’s Book of the Year Finalist), LOVE IS A FOUR-LETTER WORD (Indigo Kids Best Book of 2011), and DAYS THAT END IN Y (Best Books for Kids and Teens selection). Frequently referred to as “Canada’s Judy Blume,” Vikki’s novel SUMMER DAYS, STARRY NIGHTS, has been called “Summer reading at its best” and was a finalist for the 2015 Red Maple award. IF I HAD A GRYPHON (shortlisted for the Blue Spruce Award and the Ruth and Sylvia Schwartz Award) is her first pitcurebook.

After obtaining an MA in Children’s Literature from UBC, Vikki’s career began in bookselling at The Flying Dragon Bookshop, which earned her the 2011 CBA Young Bookseller of the Year award. She is a popular children’s lit blogger and is frequently called upon to speak about kids’ books for radio panels, conferences, and as Lainey Gossip’s YA mentor! Currently she balances writing with her duties as the Marketing and Publicity Manager for Young Readers at Penguin Random House Canada.

- Ciara (at Midnight)

Monday, June 19, 2017

Review: By Your Side by Kasie West

Title: By Your Side
Author: Kasie West
Publisher: Harper Teen
Release Date: January 31st, 2017
Source: ARC received from Indigo Books and Music, Inc. in exchange for an honest review

My Rating: 3/5

In this irresistible story, Kasie West explores the timeless question of what to do when you fall for the person you least expect. Witty and romantic, this paperback original from a fan favorite is perfect for fans of Stephanie Perkins and Morgan Matson.
When Autumn Collins finds herself accidentally locked in the library for an entire weekend, she doesn’t think things could get any worse. But that’s before she realizes that Dax Miller is locked in with her. Autumn doesn’t know much about Dax except that he’s trouble. Between the rumors about the fight he was in (and that brief stint in juvie that followed it) and his reputation as a loner, he’s not exactly the ideal person to be stuck with. Still, she just keeps reminding herself that it is only a matter of time before Jeff, her almost-boyfriend, realizes he left her in the library and comes to rescue her.
Only he doesn’t come. No one does.
Instead it becomes clear that Autumn is going to have to spend the next couple of days living off vending-machine food and making conversation with a boy who clearly wants nothing to do with her. Except there is more to Dax than meets the eye. As he and Autumn first grudgingly, and then not so grudgingly, open up to each other, Autumn is struck by their surprising connection. But can their feelings for each other survive once the weekend is over and Autumn’s old life, and old love interest, threaten to pull her from Dax’s side?

When Kasie West puts out a new contemporary book, I’m always excited. Her stories always captivate me and her characters just leap off the page. Once I start one of her books, I have trouble stopping, and find myself constantly laughing out loud. Although I had a few issues with By Your Side, it still contained the Kasie West staples I know and love.

Overall though, I feel mixed about this book. On one hand, By Your Side was fun, heartfelt, and enjoyable. I felt instantly interested and didn’t want to put the book down. The characters were sweet, the romance engaging, and the writing as light and readable as ever. On the other hand, I wanted more: more character development, more family dynamics, and more discussion of anxiety and the different intersections of it. There was so much potential here that I felt was wasted by focusing on Jeff’s recovery and Autumn’s indecisiveness. This focus created repetitiveness, and a lack of character development and growth.

The issue I had most with this book was the anxiety rep. I never felt Autumn’s anxiety. I don’t think it was ever fully developed. I truly believe that with more research and on page discussion of anxiety and how anxiety disorders manifest themselves, this book could have been a great conversation starter. I am someone who suffers from debilitating anxiety, and although everyone with an anxiety disorder experiences it differently, I never fully bought Autumn’s. It always felt abstract. I will say, I did appreciate the positive portrayal of both medication and therapy. It’s incredibly important to break the stigma on mental health. I even appreciated that anxiety was a subplot in the story. I’m sure there are other people who suffer from anxiety disorders that will like the portrayal in By Your Side but I, unfortunately, just found it to be lacking.

Even though I had some issues with it, this book was great. Kasie West is my go-to author when it comes to light, heartwarming romance books and By Your Side was no exception. I thought the romance between Autumn and Dax was genuine, and developed well. Their time learning about each other in the library was enjoyable to read. I wish we got a little more development on Dax’s family life, but I still felt the impact his upbringing had on the story and his character as a whole. I was sympathetic towards Autumn, want just wanted what was best for her throughout the book. I honestly devoured this book and, considering I’ve been in a huge reading slump, that’s saying something.

By Your Side was a fun, sweet read with great characters and immense readability. Although I wished for more in some aspects, I know reader’s picking up By Your Side looking for another great Kasie West book will not be disappointed!

Thursday, May 18, 2017 this thing on?

Hey, people!

It's been a long time since I've posted anything here. A lot longer than I anticipated. I didn't make a choice to leave this blog. I figured I would put up a post or two every month, in between my hectic schedule.

Clearly, that did not happen. 

Instead, I did something I haven't let myself do in the five (wut) years this blog has been running: I took a guilt-free break. It lasted a little bit longer than I expected (it's been eight months now!) but it was refreshing. It allowed me to focus on my life outside the internet, which has been busy. Incredible, but busy.

I'm graduating school in a little over a month. Which is...wild. It's been a long, difficult journey to get here. And I'll stop you before you ask the inevitable "so what are you going to do now?" question. 

To be honest, I don't know.

I'm taking this year (and maybe more) to travel. I'm also looking for writing and editing opportunities (if you have some, send them my way!) to keep myself busy. I've spent the last two years working two jobs (one paying, one voluntary) on top of trying to pass my classes. It's been chaotic. But now, I have a lot more time on my hands and I want to use it. I don't know what I'm going to do next, but I'm going to take every opportunity that comes my way.

Anyways, that's where I've been. I'm not sure where I'm going. But, for now, I'll be posting on here a bit more. I've got some incredible books on my TBR, and I can't wait to share my thoughts with you all.

See you next time ;)

- Ciara (Lost at Midnight)