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)

Monday, September 19, 2016

Review: The Female of the Species by Mindy McGinnis

Title: The Female of the Species
Author: Mindy McGinnis
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Release Date: September 20th 2016
Source: I received an advance reader copy of this book from Indigo Books & Music Inc. in exchange for an honest review

My Rating: 4.5/5

Alex Craft knows how to kill someone. And she doesn’t feel bad about it. When her older sister, Anna, was murdered three years ago and the killer walked free, Alex uncaged the language she knows best. The language of violence.

While her crime goes unpunished, Alex knows she can’t be trusted among other people, even in her small hometown. She relegates herself to the shadows, a girl who goes unseen in plain sight, unremarkable in the high school hallways.

But Jack Fisher sees her. He’s the guy all other guys want to be: the star athlete gunning for valedictorian with the prom queen on his arm. Guilt over the role he played the night Anna’s body was discovered hasn’t let him forget Alex over the years, and now her green eyes amid a constellation of freckles have his attention. He doesn’t want to only see Alex Craft; he wants to know her.

So does Peekay, the preacher’s kid, a girl whose identity is entangled with her dad’s job, though that does not stop her from knowing the taste of beer or missing the touch of her ex-boyfriend. When Peekay and Alex start working together at the animal shelter, a friendship forms and Alex’s protective nature extends to more than just the dogs and cats they care for.

Circumstances bring Alex, Jack, and Peekay together as their senior year unfolds. While partying one night, Alex’s darker nature breaks out, setting the teens on a collision course that will change their lives forever. (Summary from Goodreads)

Okay, where do I begin with this one? I feel like my heart has taken a beating and the English major in me is just itching to analyze every element of this story. I've been in a bit of a reading slump recently, but I could not put The Female of the Species down. When I wasn't reading it, I was thinking about it. When I had it in my hands, nothing else mattered. I just wanted to keep going down this twisting spiral to see what awaited me at the end. Nothing about this book was expected. From the characters to the plot to the writing to the premise, I felt like I never knew what was coming for me. This is definitely a stand-out book and I can't wait to start putting it in people's hands.

Alex Craft was unlike any character I've read before. Her movements, speech, life were carefully crafted and calculated. There was a precision in the writing that always left me off-kilter and on edge. She was fascinating in so many ways. Impossible to forget. I love strong female characters. Strong female characters are my jam. Basically all you have to do is tell me there is a kickass female protagonist in the story and I am there. Alex was a different kind of strong protagonist. Yes, she was physically strong. She could (and did) kick was serious ass. But it was her mentality, the way she spoke, thought, looked at the world that compelled me. Alex was gritty. And I adored her for it.

Sometimes in multi-POV novels, its hard to tell the difference between the characters. POV's bleed together and I sometimes can't distinguish the characters. Alex Craft's point of view was so distinct. Every time her chapters began, I felt like I was jolted violently into her world. Although Peekay and Jack had a lot of rough things going on, it's like I could physically feel Alex when I was reading her POV. She dug her way straight into my soul, and demanded I see every part of her. As for the two other central characters, Peekay and Jack made me love them in different ways. These were not stock, cardboard characters but jagged and flawed people that didn't ask for your approval. Just like everything else in this book, they were unexpected and hard to forget. 

To me, The Female of the Species felt like an exploration of violence. There are so many different forms of violence, so many ways for the violence to surface. Violence permeated this novel like an oil slick, infecting everything. Sometimes it was subtle, almost unnoticeable. Other times it was right there for everyone to see. There was an incredibly interesting discussion of enacted and imagined violence between Alex and Peekay during the novel. It's one of the scenes I don't think I'll be forgetting anytime soon, and one that caused me to pause and think. This whole novel had moments like that. Moments where I had to pull back and analyze what was just said. Where I took a look at the very real world I live in and saw so many similarities to this created one. I love novels that allow me a new perspective on the world, and The Female of the Species definitely did that.

Besides being an exploration of violence as a whole, The Female of the Species subtly examined the violence of rape culture. It was the undercurrent of the entire story, surfacing time and again in new and sometimes unexpected ways. It was hard to read at times because it so closely mimicked life. The Female of the Species stripped away the mask and left the raw violence of rape culture exposed. And showed just how complicit people are in it. And how it so deeply effects women.

There's really only one problem I had with this book and it was the animal cruelty aspect. I'm a huge animal lover, and reading about animals in distress really upsets me. I've avoided entire series because of it. Therefore, the opening couple of chapters of Female were difficult to read. I understood the point of them, the role these scenes played, but it was a little too much for me. 

There's literally so much more I could talk about (including Branley's character and how societal expectations on women are so damaging) but this is already a pretty long review. And I barely even talked about the plot itself! This review doesn't do the book justice. Maybe if I could write a ten page essay on the subject, I would be able to accurate capture the beauty of this novel. The Female of the Species was just a treasure: a dark, twisted, brutal treasure. It's a novel I'm going to think about for years to come, and one I can't wait for people to read. Definitely pick up this book. Then pick up another copy for your friend.

- Ciara (Lost at Midnight)

Find This Book: Amazon | Chapters/Indigo | Goodreads | Mindy McGinnis | HarperCollins 

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Waiting On Wednesday (82): As I Descended by Robin Talley

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: As I Descended by Robin Talley
Publisher: HarperTeen
Release Date: September 6th 2016

Maria Lyon and Lily Boiten are their school’s ultimate power couple—even if no one knows it but them.

Only one thing stands between them and their perfect future: campus superstar Delilah Dufrey.

Golden child Delilah is a legend at the exclusive Acheron Academy, and the presumptive winner of the distinguished Cawdor Kingsley Prize. She runs the school, and if she chose, she could blow up Maria and Lily’s whole world with a pointed look, or a carefully placed word.

But what Delilah doesn’t know is that Lily and Maria are willing to do anything—absolutely anything—to make their dreams come true. And the first step is unseating Delilah for the Kingsley Prize. The full scholarship, awarded to Maria, will lock in her attendance at Stanford―and four more years in a shared dorm room with Lily.

Maria and Lily will stop at nothing to ensure their victory—including harnessing the dark power long rumored to be present on the former plantation that houses their school.

But when feuds turn to fatalities, and madness begins to blur the distinction between what’s real and what is imagined, the girls must decide where they draw the line.

From acclaimed author Robin Talley comes a Shakespeare-inspired story of revenge and redemption, where fair is foul, and foul is fair.

GENDER-SWAPPED MACBETH. YOU GUYS. I can't even tell you how excited this book makes me. My favourite Shakespeare play gets gender-swapped. AND it features an LGBT couple! This book has already won me over on description alone and also, hot damn that cover. Seriously, this is one of my most anticipated books of the year and it should be one of yours too.

What are you waiting on this week?

- Ciara (Lost at Midnight) 

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Waiting On Wednesday (81): Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake

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!

Publisher: HarperTeen
Release Date: September 20th, 2016
Fans of acclaimed author Kendare Blake’s Anna Dressed in Blood will devour her latest novel, a dark and inventive fantasy about three sisters who must fight to the death to become queen.

In every generation on the island of Fennbirn, a set of triplets is born: three queens, all equal heirs to the crown and each possessor of a coveted magic. Mirabella is a fierce elemental, able to spark hungry flames or vicious storms at the snap of her fingers. Katharine is a poisoner, one who can ingest the deadliest poisons without so much as a stomachache. Arsinoe, a naturalist, is said to have the ability to bloom the reddest rose and control the fiercest of lions.

But becoming the Queen Crowned isn’t solely a matter of royal birth. Each sister has to fight for it. And it’s not just a game of win or’s life or death. The night the sisters turn sixteen, the battle begins.

The last queen standing gets the crown.

Ugh, I need this book. I adored Kendare Blake's Anna Dressed in Blood duology. The characters, the plot, the writing was all on point. Three Dark Crowns sounds like it could be even better. This is going to be a book I purchase day of and read immediately. I just can't wait.

What are you waiting on this week?

- Ciara (Lost at Midnight)