Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Waiting On Wednesday (83): Busted by Gina Ciocca

Waiting On Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Jill over at Breaking the Spine in which bloggers talk about the books they are most eager for!

This Week's Pick: Busted by Gina Ciocca
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Release Date: January 2nd, 2018


Marisa wasn’t planning to be a snoop for hire—until she accidentally caught her best friend’s boyfriend making out with another girl. Now her reputation for sniffing out cheaters has spread all over school, and Marisa finds herself the reluctant queen of busting two-timing boys.

But when ex-frenemy Kendall asks her to spy on her boyfriend, TJ, Marisa quickly discovers the girl TJ might be falling for is Marisa herself. And worse yet? The feelings are quickly becoming mutual. Now, she’s stuck spying on a “mystery girl” and the spoken-for guy who just might be the love of her life… (Summary from Goodreads)

Okay, isn't that cover just so great? It's simple but striking and the colour scheme is on point. I just find it completely eye-catching, and I can't wait to see what it looks like printed.

I adored Gina Ciocca's debut Last Year's Mistake and I've been eagerly anticipating her sophomore release. Busted sounds like such a fun read. One of those books you just don't want to stop reading and wish for more when it's over. I dread January but at least I'll have this little gem to look forward to.

What are you waiting on this week?

- Ciara (at Midnight)

Monday, October 2, 2017

Review: The End of Our Story by Meg Haston

Title: The End of Our Story
Author: Meg Haston
Publisher: Harper Teen
Release Date: April 4th
Source: ARC received from my employer, Indigo Books & Music, Inc., in exchange for an honest review

My Rating: 3.5/5


Meg Haston's romantic and thrilling new YA novel explores a star-crossed high school relationship in a tale rife with deeply buried secrets and shocking revelations.

Bridge and Wil have been entangled in each other’s lives for years. Under the white-hot Florida sun, they went from kids daring each other to swim past the breakers to teenagers stealing kisses between classes. But when Bridge betrayed Wil during their junior year, she shattered his heart and their relationship along with it.

Then Wil’s family suffers a violent loss, and Bridge rushes back to Wil’s side. As they struggle to heal old wounds and start falling for each other all over again, Bridge and Wil discover just how much has changed in the past year. As the fierce current of tragedy threatens to pull them under, they must learn how to swim on their own—or risk drowning together. (Summary from Goodreads)
The first time I heard about The End of Our Story was at the HCC Frenzy Preview. The cover instantly caught my eye, but it was the plot that hooked me. The story of a couple’s break-up, told through flashbacks and present trauma. It sounded right up my alley. When I was offered an ARC through the Teen ARC program at my work, I immediately requested a copy.

I dived head first into this book. I was emotionally invested in the characters from page one. Watching their relationship blossom, deteriorate, and rekindle (slowly, tentatively, and hesitantly) was engrossing. Most books I’ve read start when a relationship is beginning, but The End of Our Story focused on how relationships can break, and the aftermath of that devestation. I loved how thoughtfully this book was plotted. The back and forth between Wil and Bridge, between the present and the past kept me engaged and aching for more.

The writing itself was poignant, beautiful prose. Small sentences would stick out, the smart and heartfelt way Meg Haston would phrase things made it all the more captivating. It was a story where I wanted to read every word on the page, where I wanted to take my time to let myself soak in the prose. It wasn’t flowery or overly descriptive language, but simple direct ways of making the most ordinary phrases into something a little more moving.

I’m going to avoid directly addressing the plot, because I don’t want to spoil it. I still feel, months later, that I’m processing just what happened. I think the problem for me was that I was not anticipating the novel to take such a dark turn. I am usually able to prepare myself, so when the big plot point happened in The End of Our Story (near the beginning of the novel, no less) I was shocked. It took me awhile to process just what was happening, which did pull me out of the story sometimes. It was the characters though, the passionate Bridge and the incredible Wil, that had me sucked back in. Their relationship truly made this novel for me.

I also experienced some nostalgia while reading this book. For make-ups and break-ups. For moving on and growing up. Although Bridge and Wil, their town, their school, their lives overall did not resemble mine, there was something there that reminded me of the past. This is a novel I will look back on with fondness. I’ve only read one book of hers, but Meg Haston will be an author I watch out for.

If you like emotional, character-driven, thoughtful novels, put The End of Our Story on your TBR. You won’t regret it.

- Ciara (at Midnight)

Find This Book: Amazon.ca | Indigo | Goodreads | HarperCollins | Meg Haston 

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Review: Genuine Fraud by E. Lockhart

Title: Genuine Fraud
Author: E. Lockhart
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Release Date: September 5th, 2017
Source: ARC Received through my employer, Indigo Books and Music, Inc., in exchange for an honest review

My Rating: 2/5

The story of a young woman whose diabolical smarts are her ticket into a charmed life. But how many times can someone reinvent themselves? You be the judge.

Imogen is a runaway heiress, an orphan, a cook, and a cheat.
Jule is a fighter, a social chameleon, and an athlete.
An intense friendship. A disappearance. A murder, or maybe two.
A bad romance, or maybe three.
Blunt objects, disguises, blood, and chocolate. The American dream, superheroes, spies, and villains.
A girl who refuses to give people what they want from her.
A girl who refuses to be the person she once was. (Summary from Goodreads)


I wish more than anything that I was writing about how intriguing, exciting, and mind-blowing this book was. I wish I could sing it's praises. But, I can't. In fact, the longer I sit thinking about this book, the more frustrated with it I became. Because there was so much potential in this story. Or, should I say, retelling. And I think this is where the frustration begins. If Genuine Fraud had been marketed as a gender-swapped retelling of a certain famous book/movie and actually did something different with it's execution, I could have been behind it. If it had used this story line as a jumping off point to discuss gender, female friendships, and the perception of women, I would have been all about it. But, it wasn't. Anyways, I'm getting ahead of myself.

I want to start by saying: this wasn’t a terrible book. I know I rated it pretty low, but it wasn’t because of the writing, or the overall feel of the book. I definitely did find the pacing to be off at points, but my interest was definitely piqued at the start. That is, until this book started following a path I had already seen before. 

In an effort not to spoil, I won’t say what book/movie Genuine Fraud mimicked. There’s lots of reviews on Goodreads that will tell you. Honestly, it felt like this book was just [redacted] with different characters, different cities, and told as a nonlinear narrative. As soon as I realized the comparison, the suspense immediately dropped off. I knew exactly how it would all play out, which completely took away the thrill. I hoped, even though I knew the plot, that there would be some deeper exploration at work. This book is gender-swapped (in terms of it's original premise) and E. Lockhart is a pretty feminist writer. I was hoping that this would be what it's all about: how women can treat each other, how society views and mistreats women, the psychological effects of obsessive female friendships. Sometimes I read lines that seemed to be going down that path but they were never followed up. Which made me sad about what this book could have been.

The thing is, if you haven’t read or seen [redacted] this book was good. An interesting unreliable narrator, the stirrings of obsessive friendship, and a mystery that unravels slowly all blended together to make for an intriguing read. Although I was frustrated, I definitely wanted to see how it would all played out. I’m not the type of reader that needs a definitive ending. I love an exploration of character, a slice of life with no beginning or end. But, it needs a little bit more in the middle, more depth for me to appreciate it. I feel like the focus on the plot, a plot I’d personally already seen, lost me. I just kept wishing for a bit more from this book. 

On the positive side: I love nonlinear narratives, and I think Genuine Fraud did a good job using nonlinear narrative to its fullest potential. Each step back in time led to new revelations. Sometimes the revelations were small, sometimes much much larger, but they kept me itching to see what would be revealed next. Jule was interesting because you could never quite trust what she was saying. At the beginning of the novel, I was hanging on her every word, intrigued to see behind her mask. I liked pulling on the strings of the mystery, waiting to see what would come next. There were small details and lines that lit up light bulbs in my brain. Even though I knew the plot and that lessened the suspense, I was definitely intrigued to see how it would all unravel.

I adore E. Lockhart. My disappointment in this book is not going to stop me reading her books. She is a smart, talented writer. She often explores gender dynamics, which is why I was sad I didn’t see it more in this book. And, I wouldn’t say to skip Genuine Fraud. It wasn’t a book for me, in the end, but it was captivating at points. I know lots of people are going to enjoy it. I, unfortunately, just didn’t end up being one of them.

 P.S. If you haven’t read The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks yet, honestly get on that it is twenty shades of brilliant.

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 ado...here's Vikki VanSickle!
 
RUNNING

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.
LINKS


- 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!