Tag Archives: scholastic canada

Guest Post – The Winnowing by Vikki VanSickle

If you’ve been around the Canadian middle grade and YA blog tour circuit, you’ve likely encountered Vikki VanSickle along your travels. Easily one of the most passionate people I’ve ever met in my book blogging travels, she’s become not only an amazing source for up and coming middle grade and teen titles, but she’s also a caring individual whom when I see her in public, I love spending time with. Vikki is creative, confident, caring and kind.

Hilariously, her latest book The Winnowing is none of those things. But I still love her and this book any ways. On this leg of The Winnowing blog tour, Vikki shares with us one of her key resources that helped in the process of writing The Winnowing.  This book is unlike anything I’ve seen from Vikki before, and wow is it a roller-coaster!


MYSTERIES OF THE UNEXPLAINED, A Guest Post from Vikki VanSickle

I have always loved a mystery. A dedicated Nancy Drew fan, I graduated from mysteries about lost lockets and broken clocks to UFOs and ancient prophecies. The Mysteries of the Unexplained is an encyclopedia of unsolved mysteries and unexplained phenomena compiled by Readers’ Digest in 1982 (my birth year! Coincidence or conspiracy?!) All the usual suspects (ghosts, aliens, Nessie, Bigfoot) are here, but I also learned about spontaneous human combustion, famous prophecies, lost civilizations, and much, much more.

The book was a flea market discovery that I spent hours reading and re-reading. Arranged in categories with tantalizing titles such as “Beyond the Walls of Time,” “Unearthly Fates” and “In the Realm of Miracles,” it inspired countless stories and fuelled a life-long interest in the bizarre and the otherworldly. When you’re a kid it feels like adults know and control everything. How intoxicating to realize there are great mysteries that may never be solved. It changes the power dynamic and frees you up to think big and dream even bigger.

I still have my original copy and I find myself consulting it if I get stuck in a logic snarl or need a little bit of inspiration. More often than not what ends up happening is I will get lost in these incredible stories and look up an hour later having done no writing, but stoking my imagination all the same.


About the Author

Vikki VanSickle is the author of the acclaimed Clarissa books, including Words that Start with B, Love Is a Four-Letter Word and Days that End in Y. Vikki’s most recent middle grade novel, Summer Days, Starry Nights, has been called “summer reading at its best” and was a finalist for the Red Maple Award. 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. Currently Vikki balances writing with her duties as the Marketing and Publicity Manager for Young Readers at Penguin Canada. Vikki lives with a cat named Barb who would prefer not to have to share the house with a sasquatch. — Bio supplied by publisher.

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ARC Review – The Winnowing by Vikki VanSickle

Title: The Winnowing

Author: Vikki VanSickle

Rating: ★★★★

Synopsis: 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. 

Huge thank you to Scholastic Canada for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

I want to preface this review by saying a couple of truths: I am a wuss who is easily spooked. I love things that can’t entirely be explained.The Winnowing is such a departure from VanSickle’s previous, more contemporary novels. This is her foray into science fiction, and her love letter to the strange and whimsy.

I will not lie, I was hesitant to read this book even after talking with Vikki at a conference we were both attending. I love her contemporary middle grade novels, I read If I Had a Gyphon during my storytimes, but this book was different. Vastly different. Thankfully, I had prepared myself for this book by watching Stranger Things earlier this year andThe Winnowing is an interesting middle grade novel to say the least.

This is a book about a world where children can be born with powers. If unwinnowed, these powers can manifest into something much more dangerous. To be winnowed is a rite of adolescent passage, it’s an attempt at normalizing. The problem is that the world Marivic and Saren live in, is one that is anything but. Marivic in particular also holds the key to a larger mystery in the story in regards to her family, the town of Darby and the school her mother worked at which was obliterated. The blurb on the back of the book gives you just enough information, but it’s definitely a book that is good going blind into.

What I loved about this book is how unexpected some of the twists and turns were. Some were a little obvious, but I found myself buying into so much of what was happening to these characters,
I was so invested in the atmosphere of the story — it is creepy and uncomfortable. Marivic and her friends felt very believable, their flaws felt real, and I truly felt for them on this journey. My favourite character in the story was Gumps, Marivic’s grandfather. He’s everything I love in a curmudgeon-y old man. A grump who is secretly loving and a little overprotective.

With the circumstances that occur in this novel, you see incredible growth in these characters. Every single one of them. The children in this story are all forced to grow up very quickly given the situation regarding the world and the process of the winnowing. In a lot of ways, these kids are robbed of their childhood and that was so heartbreaking. Marivic in particular shoulders a lot of burden in this story and she’s forced in a lot of ways to think and act more mature than someone normally her age. This is written very well because you can see she’s wrestling with both her circumstances and her actual age and what kids her age should be doing.

There’s a lot of weird and strange in The Winnowing. It’s the kind of book for people who love the X-Files, Stranger Things, Are You Afraid of the Dark?. While two of the references I’ve mention date me, I think they are accurate to what one can expect when reading this book. It’s weird, mysterious, atmospheric and wondrous. I love seeing authors jump out of their comfort zones with genre, because sometimes an experiment can blossom into something extraordinary.

Late to the Party ARC Review – All Fall Down (Embassy Row #1) by Ally Carter

22571275Title:  All Fall Down (Embassy Row #1)

Author: Ally Carter

Rating:  ★★★★

Synopsis:  Grace Blakely is absolutely certain of three things:

1. She is not crazy.
2. Her mother was murdered.
3. Someday she is going to find the killer and make him pay.

As certain as Grace is about these facts, nobody else believes her — so there’s no one she can completely trust. Not her grandfather, a powerful ambassador. Not her new friends, who all live on Embassy Row. Not Alexei, the Russian boy next door, who is keeping his eye on Grace for reasons she neither likes nor understands.

Everybody wants Grace to put on a pretty dress and a pretty smile, blocking out all her unpretty thoughts. But they can’t control Grace — no more than Grace can control what she knows or what she needs to do. Her past has come back to hunt her . . . and if she doesn’t stop it, Grace isn’t the only one who will get hurt. Because on Embassy Row, the countries of the world stand like dominoes, and one wrong move can make them all fall down.

Huge thank you to Scholastic Canada for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

When I was at OLA back in January, I remember being handed an ARC for All Fall Down by a Scholastic Canada representative. I have never read an Ally Carter book, but many of my bookish and blogger friends all say she’s a fun read, and great for getting out of reading flunks. Considering this was my first book by her, I can say it likely won’t be my last because this book was a ton of fun.

Sometimes you just want a read a book that sweeps you through the story in a fast-paced way. It’s crazy, ridiculous, stuff is constantly happening, and this book is exactly that. The plot is constantly moving, you don’t get a breather, but you don’t mind because the story is just that engaging. In a lot of ways, readingAll Fall Down reminded me a lot of the television showsRevenge and Homeland. It’s the story of a young girl desperate to find the person who murdered her mother, but it still has all the elements of being a political charged story. Carter keeps the narrative moving at lightning speeds, and it helps considering how the events within the novel are laid out. Everything felt very well-plotted, carefully laid out, but with a ton of action and intrigue. I’m aware that Carter has written a lot of spy novels, and she definitely has a knack for it.

The one thing that drove me a bit crazy with this story was Grace, our heroine. At times she felt a little too one-note, because she basically spends a lot of the novel obsessing over a man she is convinced killed her mother. Grace is completely fixated, focused and obsessed, but she comes across lacking in other personality traits, which is odd given the rest of the characters in the story. I adored Rosie, Megan and Noah, and felt like in terms of characters, they contributed so much more than Grace did. Also Alexei was quite interesting, given his political position against Grace, even he had more personality than Grace did.

It was also weird to read a YA novel that didn’t have a romance. I mean, you get a sense that Grace is likely going to hook up with either Noah or Alexei at some point in the series, but I appreciate how much of this novel felt like “strictly business” and I was happy to see that no romance had been shoehorned in, because after completing it, it just would have came too out of left-field in my opinion. Sometimes it’s just nice to not have a romance in a story, especially when there’s nothing developing towards it.

I loved what a quick read this book was, and I do have Heist Society in my collection that I think I may now need to bump up in the ranks. Ally Carter is just such a fun writer and I totally understand why my friends like to read her books when they are in a funk — they are just crazy, and ridiculous, but you don’t mind because the ride is just so engaging. I’ll definitely be checking out book two when it releases next January.

ARC Review – Echo by Pam Muñoz Ryan

22749539Title: Echo

Author: Pam Muñoz Ryan

Rating: ★★★★ 1/2

Synopsis: Lost and alone in a forbidden forest, Otto meets three mysterious sisters and suddenly finds himself entwined in a puzzling quest involving a prophecy, a promise, and a harmonica.

Decades later, Friedrich in Germany, Mike in Pennsylvania, and Ivy in California each, in turn, become interwoven when the very same harmonica lands in their lives. All the children face daunting challenges: rescuing a father, protecting a brother, holding a family together. And ultimately, pulled by the invisible thread of destiny, their suspenseful solo stories converge in an orchestral crescendo. 

Huge thank you to Scholastic Canada for this ARC!

Sam’s Review: 

This is my first Pam Munoz Ryan novel. I had been meaning to get to some of her more popular books, but when this was handed to me at OLA a few weeks ago by a Scholastic Representative, I knew the time had come.

Seriously, the writing in this book is gorgeous. It’s lyrical, hitting note after note, and it simply dances about as you read on. This novel hosts three different stores, each centring around family and a harmonica. For such a chunker of a novel, I was surprised how fast I read it. But I found myself very invested in each one of the stories. My favourite was easily Friedrich, if only because he loses his sister to the Hitler Youth Movement, and no matter how much he tried to bring her around, he never entirely succeeded. He loses so much in his life, and so quickly, yet he tries to preserver and do ultimately what he thinks his right.

Reading through Friedrich, Mike and Ivy’s stories, you get this sense of passion and zest for life. Regardless of their hardships, they are children who are attempting to make sense of the world around them in the early 1940s. They are all at curious ages, coping with worldly changes that will affect their lives in the long run. The characters in this book were beautiful, and they accompanied by very fantastic and thoughtful adult characters who didn’t treat them less than simply because they were children.

The only thing I wasn’t huge on was the ending. It was a bit of a non-ending in some ways. You get this sense of everything coming together, the characters coming together and then it just stops. I’m not really big on those, but I don’t think it should deter someone from enjoying this novel. The writing and characters alone make this novel quite the pleasure to read.

Reading Echo gave me a lot of different feelings, and transported me to a time that felt familiar. It certainly has it’s moments where it can make a reader uncomfortable, but it’s shown with the right reasons in mind. This story is beautiful, poetic, and it solidifies why people adore Pam Munoz Ryan’s works. Echo really was a joy to read.