Thank you to Candlewick Press for sending me a copy in exchange for my honest review.
The spellbinding tale of six queer witches forging their own paths, shrouded in the mist, magic, and secrets of the ancient California redwoods.
Danny didn't know what she was looking for when she and her mother spread out a map of the United States and Danny put her finger down on Tempest, California. What she finds are the Grays: a group of friends who throw around terms like queer and witch like they're ordinary and everyday, though they feel like an earthquake to Danny. But Danny didn't just find the Grays. They cast a spell that calls her halfway across the country, because she has something they need: she can bring back Imogen, the most powerful of the Grays, missing since the summer night she wandered into the woods alone. But before Danny can find Imogen, she finds a dead boy with a redwood branch through his heart. Something is very wrong amid the trees and fog of the Lost Coast, and whatever it is, it can kill. Lush, eerie, and imaginative, Amy Rose Capetta's tale overflows with the perils and power of discovery — and what it means to find your home, yourself, and your way forward.
The Lost Coast was released May 14, so I extend many apologies for my belated review.
This book... you guys, look at that cover! It's so shiny and pretty and once I picked it up, I couldn't put it down. Part romance, part mystery, part celebration of queerness--The Lost Coast has it all. I'm having a hard time putting words together to describe how I felt when I was reading it.
First of all, Capetta absolutely struck the right balance between character and plot. I became so invested in the lives of Danny and the Grays, as well as their quest to save Imogen. The group dynamics drove this story, and I loved seeing Danny and the Grays interact and bond. What was especially interesting to me were the moments when the Grays chose to include or exclude Danny, who was at once an outsider and vital to their quest. She could find Imogen, but only if the Grays trusted and shared with her. I love a good squad forming, and this was perfect. Capetta is a master with words. Her descriptions of each of the Grays distinguishes them so quickly from each other. After only one chapter, I already felt like I knew all about them from their clothing, the way they touched and supported one another, and each of their relationships to Imogen. Seeing them relax and just exist in the woods, casually interacting with magic and the world around them was so heartwarming and freeing. Of course, they are still quintessential teens: they hide things, keep secrets, and take on too much alone. Later, seeing Danny herself interact with Imogen was emotional as well. I loved Danny setting aside everything to help her new friends, girls she felt she belonged with. All of the group scenes were so moving, and I loved the friendships in The Lost Coast. All of the characters were so complex and real.
Danny was a great narrator. Most of the chapters were from her POV, and I loved it. Her thoughts were so organic, and I wanted to get to know her. Watching her discover her magic, exploring her connection to Rush, and balancing her past with the new life she’s leading was all so natural. I especially enjoyed reading Danny’s thoughts about Rush—her temptation was tangible, and I loved how Capetta wrote their romance.
The pacing and plot were just as great as the character development. I liked how the mystery unfolded and connected with the elements of magic in the story. World-building is top-notch as well: I felt at home in the redwoods, and vivid descriptions helped me picture the landscape and feel a part of the scenery was with me as I read. I've been in the redwood forests, and they are absolutely the right setting for the magic in this story. The descriptions of the Grays interacting with the forest are breathtaking. Dense and lush, the atmosphere is quietly energetic and bleeds through the page. This novel is a very beautiful escape. Every sensory aspect is so clear, so even if the reader has never seen a forest, they know exactly how it feels to stare up at branches and leaves and want to climb among the needles. The energy surrounding the whole book makes it so easy to start reading and lose track of time. I liked how multiple POV was used to build the atmosphere and plot. The story is told in patches that are mostly chronological, so there is no info-dumping and I always had context for the events in the present. The redwoods also get a point of view, which adds to the sentiment of the forest as a living entity.
Some important themes of the book resonated with me, particularly about how power and emotion are tied to one’s effect on the universe. Magic is tied to intent as well as ability, and I liked the rule that whatever a witch does returns upon her threefold. Of course, as with all themes, the darker side is interesting as well. Finding the space to be seen and to be yourself is different from wanting attention, or to be noticed.
An epic conclusion drives home the importance of finding yourself and standing in the place where you belong. The Lost Coast is about embracing otherness and making people feel seen, as well. I felt that the story wraps up perfectly, and I am delighted that I don’t have any lingering questions. Overall, I give The Lost Coast 5/5 stars for its beauty. It is a powerful addition to Capetta's body of work, and I hope it earns a place on your shelf.
Teenage girls are awesome. That's the first thing I thought after "WOW," when I found out that 14 year old Nyah Nichol has won a Canada-wide writing contest, The Uncommon Quest, founded by Toronto-based publisher Common Deer Press. This September, Common Deer is hosting a Kickstarted to raise funds for The Uncommon Quest. They will use the funds for printing, publishing, and promoting the winning novels, as well as expanding the scope of the contest from Canada-only to worldwide entries.
I wholeheartedly support The Uncommon Quest, and urge you to donate to their Kickstarter, which opens on September 3rd. I will include a link here once that page goes live. The Uncommon Quest and Common Deer Press are putting books into the hands of readers and bringing authors' stories to life. Help foster imagination and love of reading by supporting The Uncommon Quest!
Lastly, I have an exclusive interview for you readers! I had the chance to ask Erin Silver a few questions. She is the Bronze winner of the 2019 Uncommon Quest, and her book, Just Watch Me, will be published in Fall 2020.
Common Deer Press Website
What is The Uncommon Quest?
Support The Uncommon Quest
Exclusive Interview with Erin Silver
Shreya P.: What’s your favorite part about the writing process?
Erin Silver: That’s a great question. I love writing—it’s all I’ve ever wanted to do. The process is fun and creative but it can also be painful. It takes months, if not years, to write and then rewrite a manuscript. It can feel daunting—like you’ll never get it right or finish. But there’s nothing better than when it all comes together at the end. I will never forget the emotional high I experienced when reading this one particular chapter of my middle grade novel, Just Watch Me, to my critique group. It was a really funny scene and we laughed until tears streamed down our faces. Seeing my writing teacher wipe his eyes is a moment I’ll never forget!
SP: How many people do you let read early versions of your work?
ES: I’m not afraid to share my work early on—the more feedback I get the better. You develop a thick skin over the years and come to understand that sometimes the harshest critiques help you the most. I share everything with my mom, husband, best friend and my critique group. Each person who reads my work offers ideas, suggestions, solutions to make the next version that much better. It’s a truly collaborative effort.
SP: Where do you go to seek inspiration?
ES: My kids are a great inspiration. I love hearing about their day—they always have an interesting perspective or make me laugh. Plus they aren’t exactly the best behaved kids and tend to end up in situations I can write about. I also listen to people’s stories. When I hear something funny/special/unique, the lightbulb goes off in my head and I know I have to write about it or incorporate an aspect of it into whatever I’m working on.
SP: What’s your favorite under-appreciated novel?
ES: I loved Judy Blume’s novel It’s Not the End of the World. I was a divorced single mom for several years and kids’ books about divorce are special to me. This one, in particular, reflected my kids’ reality in a relatable, meaningful way. I want them to be able to read about a kid whose parents are splitting up and know they aren’t alone. It’s Not the End of the World isn’t one of the books like Fudge and Are You There God? that really stand out when you think of Judy Blume, but I think it’s important that kids read books reflect their reality, and she does it in a masterful way.
SP: What did you learn from writing this book, or from your characters?
ES: I learned that as much as you can like a character, bad things need to happen. You have to make things worse and worse and raise the stakes higher and higher until readers care so much about your main character that they root for a good outcome. Kids are also really smart. You need to offer enough unexpected twists and turns and the character needs to grow, change and develop along the way for the ending to be satisfying. You can’t have adults solving the problems, you can’t offer up a moral message on a silver platter or preach to them. It has to be done subtly and in an entertaining way for young readers to appreciate the book.
SP: Which writing habit would you recommend every writer try?
ES: Just sit down and write. Everyone has potential to be a writer, everyone has great ideas, but forcing yourself to sit there when you aren’t inspired or are doubting whether you’ll ever be published—that’s the toughest part. If you can sit long enough to get the first draft done, you’re most of the way there. I also highly recommend finding a critique group and sticking with it. Everyone who reads your work does so in a thoughtful, helpful way—it’s the best way to grow and develop as a writer.
SP: What is your dream writing achievement?
ES: My dream writing achievement is to be a published author. All I wanted was one single book on a store shelf. A single book that made someone laugh or meant something to someone. I have received so much rejection over the years—tons of agents, editors and publishers who said “thanks, but no thanks.” I doubted myself. I felt like a failure. I wanted to give up, but I never did because this was my dream. I was persistent when it was hard and somehow it’s paying off. I met Kirsten from Common Deer Press when she spoke as a guest at my critique group and learned about her Uncommon Quest Contest. I entered and ended up with a publishing contract a few months later. I am completely beside myself.
SP: What’s one line you would include in a theoretical Nobel Prize in Literature acceptance speech?
ES: Oh gosh—I don’t think I’ll ever need to write that speech. I would probably thank my mom, my husband, my best friend, my kids, my Brian Henry writing group and my publisher for all their encouragement and feedback—and for the chance to bring a book into the world. Writing a book is truly a group effort and I could never have done it alone.
I would also mention how thankful I am to have won a publishing contract through The Uncommon Quest, a writing competition launched by my publisher, Common Deer Press. They have just launched a Kickstarter campaign to help fundraise for future contests. I’d thank everyone who donates because it gives new and emerging writers the shot at a publishing contract.
Thank you, Erin Silver, for answering these questions! Don't forget to keep an eye out for her book, Just Watch Me, which will be published in Fall 2020!
Hi all! I’ve just spent a very relaxing weekend at home, which also happens to be my last free weekend before I go back to school! Agh! I can’t believe summer flew by so fast, but with school comes fall, my favorite season. I’m pretty satisfied with my summer—I’ve worked a lot on this blog, dabbled in painting, bullet journaled, watched a lot of Netflix, and I just finished my summer job. In the interest of privacy, I’m not going to tell you exactly what that was, but I will share that it had nothing to do with books, surprisingly.
This is past weekend I spent time with friends and family. I attended a party for one of my friends, celebrated another birthday, and had coffee with a friend who’s moving away from my area. I’m definitely not losing touch with her, though, because I’m really into letter writing! Now that all of our communications are instant (ex.: you can read this post one second after 12:00 am EST when I share it), there’s a certain joy in receiving physical mail. The opening of the envelope, the blotting of the ink, the creasing of the paper. It’s a beautiful little ritual, and I love to continue it in this digital world. With that, I wish you all a Happy Tuesday!
AAHHH!!! I'm so excited to tell you that I'm participating in the blog tour for All the Bad Apples by Moïra Fowley-Doyle, whose first book Spellbook of the Lost and Found remains one of my favorite reads. Today I have for you a review as well as my favorite quotes from the book. FFBC Tours is also offering a giveaway! You have the chance to win one of three copies of All the Bad Apples, from August 22 to September 5.
The Book and its Author
On Deena's seventeenth birthday, the day she finally comes out to her family, her wild and mysterious sister Mandy is seen leaping from a cliff. The family is heartbroken, but not surprised. The women of the Rys family have always been troubled - 'bad apples', their father calls them - and Mandy is the baddest of them all.
But then Deena starts to receive the letters. Letters from Mandy, claiming that their family's blighted history is not just bad luck or bad decisions, but a curse, handed down to the Rys women through the generations. Mandy has gone in search of the curse's roots, and now Deena must begin a desperate cross-country hunt for her sister, guided only by the letters that mysteriously appear in each new place. What Deena finds will heal their family's rotten past - or rip it apart forever.
Fowley-Doyle says: “All the Bad Apples is a book built of equal parts hope and fury – it’s about feminism and history, family and identity, and what happens when hidden truths are told. I wrote it as Ireland reeled from the findings of the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes, as grassroots feminist activists rallied to repeal the 8th amendment, and the rage felt by most of this country infused into a story about a teenage girl retracing her family tree and finding herself in its branches.”
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Amazon || Waterstones || Google Books
iTunes || Book Depository || Kobo
Moïra is half-French, half-Irish and lives in Dublin. Her first novel, The Accident Season, was shortlisted for the Waterstones Children's Book Prize and received widespread critical acclaim. Her second, Spellbook of the Lost and Found, was shortlisted for an Irish Book Award.
I stayed up until 3am reading. I lost track of time from the minute I started. All the Bad Apples is a magical book full of family, feminism, and history. I learned so much as I fell in love with Deena and her family. Fowley-Doyle has, once again, healed my heart. If you asked me to pick a favorite thing about this book, I wouldn’t be able to choose. I loved everything. All the Bad Apples is all I expected and more.
It only took a couple of pages for me to understand Deena’s relationship to her family. Fowley-Doyle’s writing is crisp, every sentence has meaning, and there is no purple prose. Deena is a great narrator, and I enjoyed reading from her perspective because of the emotion she brings to the story. Her passion—and her love for Mandy—are infectious. I couldn’t help but lose myself in Deena’s world, and with every page that passed I became all the more invested in her journey. Usually when a character goes on a quest without telling anyone, I want to scream, but in All the Bad Apples, that feeling disappeared. Deena’s motivations are perfectly laid out, so I could understand her choices. In fact, given the situation, I might have done the same!
Deena is an amazing character, but that’s not to say the others aren’t as well! I’d like to give a shoutout to Finn, for being a good and supportive best friend, but honestly, all of Deena’s friends deserve a medal. I’m particularly in awe of how they just sort of accept the adventure she embarks on, and understand that Deena needs to grieve for Mandy by following the letters she’s left. I also love Cale and Deena! I appreciate the inclusion of a light romance, but I like that it didn’t upstage the story of Deena’s quest.
My favorite dynamic, however, is between Deena, Rachel, and Mandy. The sister love is strong in this book, and I love how Rachel and Mandy counterbalance each other’s influences on Deena. They genuinely care about one another, and wish for each others’ well-beings, even through family turmoil. I will never tire of the “sibling raising sibling” story, and this book warmed my heart from that aspect alone.
On the subject of family: one of the most intriguing aspects of All the Bad Apples was the Rys family curse. I was immediately attracted to the flashbacks in the story, and found them to be extremely well-written and developed. The characterization of Deena’s ancestors is so clear, and I admire that this secondary plot line is given equal weight in the narrative to Deena’s own journey. In a way, the novel walks a line between contemporary and magical realism that I love, tiptoeing into the most interesting parts of both genres.
All the Bad Apples documents the history of women in Ireland in such a compelling way. The book is filled with raw honesty about the abuse of women, persecution of queer people, and other horrors that young women went through from the late 1800’s to modern day. I was shocked by some of what I learned, but I think that’s the point. All the Bad Apples is about speaking out, solidarity, and shedding silence. For this reason, I found the conclusion very fitting. 5/5 stars for this stunner of a novel. All the Bad Apples needs to be your next read. #WeAreAllBadApples.
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Andria’s twin sister, Iris, had adoring friends, a cool boyfriend, a wicked car, and a shelf full of soccer trophies. She had everything, in fact—including a drug problem. Six months after Iris’s death, Andria is trying to keep her grades, her friends, and her family from falling apart. But stargazing and books aren’t enough to ward off her guilt that she—the freak with the scary illness and all-black wardrobe—is still here when Iris isn’t. And then there’s Alex Hammond. The boy Andria blames for Iris’s death. The boy she’s unwittingly started swapping lines of poetry and secrets with, even as she tries to keep hating him.
Heartwrenching, smart, and bold, Dreaming of Antigone is a story about the jagged pieces that lie beneath the surface of the most seemingly perfect life…and how they can fit together to make something wholly unexpected.
I have some complicated thoughts about this book, so I’m going to start with what I found most engaging, and then talk about the hard things. I liked the astronomy connection—it’s an awesome hobby for Andria to have, and is really interesting to read about. I liked the exploration of how epilepsy affects Andria’s life: her seizures standing in the way of her driver’s license, and ability to make friends through sports like Iris did. Speaking of friends, Andria’s were awesome. Natalie was super-cute especially (her mom’s baked goods sound so delicious, too!). I loved that Trista and Natalie never made Andria feel like an outsider even though they were more Iris’ friends. Their supportiveness really spoke to me. Andria, in return, became a good friend and always reassured them and made an effort to hang out and socialize, which I liked.
Even though we didn’t meet her, I LOVE Iris! I wish she was in more scenes, but from the way Andria talks about her I really liked her character. The “flashback” moments to their conversations were adorable. She was so complicated, and a great character. As much as Dreaming of Antigone is about friendship, romance, or astronomy, it is more about sisters. I truly felt for Andria when she learned more about Iris’ life and how she found out all of the secrets that Iris had kept.
All of that being said, there were a number of things about the story that truly didn’t sit well with me. Firstly, I was blown away that Andria thought it appropriate to date her dead sister’s boyfriend, especially because of how Alex and Iris got involved with drugs together. I think the romance was out of character for Andria, but also odd in the context of the novel and it didn’t sit well with me.
I didn’t love how the book talked about addiction. I think the mentality of being able to love someone out of their addiction (“his demons could fight mine” and “I could save her”) is truly harmful. Addiction is a real illness that needs to be treated by professionals and can’t be healed by a couple of dates.
Andria’s attitude towards everyone in her life seemed to change in every scene, especially her parents. She could be fighting with Mom then hugging her, calling Craig a good step-dad then calling him a dork/insulting him in the narration. Her opinions seemed to reset often, and overall I disliked the lack of narrative consistency.
There were so many storylines packed into the book. I think it would be easier to form emotional connections with the characters and story if it had just one or two central themes/plot lines: addiction, family/sisters, romance, sexual predators, and Andria’s epilepsy, to name a few. Because Dreaming of Antigone tackled all of these issues, I could see twists coming from a mile away and I wasn’t very shocked when I read some of the big reveals.
Overall, although I liked some aspects of Dreaming of Antigone, I give it 3/5 stars because I couldn’t get past some of the faults I found. That being said, maybe you will find a new favorite in this book! Give it a try!
I've had a pretty great weekend, and a good start to my week! On Saturday, I drove down to Connecticut to visit family, which is always fun. On the way there I caught up on my reading via audiobook. I'm currently listening to Catwoman: Soulstealer by Sarah J. Maas on Libby through my local library. Until recently I didn't like audiobooks, because I always fell asleep while listening, or ended up focusing too much on another task, but I've discovered the secret to my attention. My other task has to walk a fine line between mindlessly engaging and complicated. Knitting is great, bullet journaling... not so much. Car rides are perfect.
I'm enjoying Catwoman much more than I thought I would. One surprising factor is Selina's relationship with her sister Maggie, which I definitely want to see more of. They watch musicals together, and Selina does her best to get medicine and medical help for Maggie (who has cystic fibrosis) on a thin budget. The first couple of chapters were super sweet, with Selina's tough gang-member exterior slipping away when she goes home to Maggie. I have high hopes for the rest of the book as well, and will likely write a review when I am finished.
I also want to give you all a heads up to check back on my blog on SATURDAY the 24th to see my blog tour post for All the Bad Apples by Moïra Fowley-Doyle. I love love love everything she writes, and this book is no exception. My review will go up on Saturday, as well as graphics for my favorite quotes.
Hey, I'm Shreya! I love to read, write, travel, and drink coffee.