Her Story: Ladies In Literature with Shannon M. Parker

Her Story: Ladies In Literature is a special, month-long series on Pop! Goes The Reader in which we celebrate the literary female role models whose stories have inspired and empowered us since time immemorial. From Harriet M. Welsch to Anne Shirley, Becky Bloomwood to Hermione Granger, Her Story: Ladies In Literature is a series created for women, by women as thirty-three authors answer the question: “Who’s your heroine?” You can find a complete list of the participants and their scheduled guest post dates Here!

About Shannon M. Parker

Shannon M. Parker has spent the last twenty years growing non-profit programs that serve our country’s most vulnerable citizens (and non-citizens): teaching adults how to read; increasing educational access for first-generation college students; protecting after-school offerings; teaching English as a second (or third or fourth) language, and helping marginalized teens earn a non-traditional high school diploma. She has opened her home—and heart—to several children in foster care and believes that small kindnesses can change the world.

Author Links: WebsiteTwitterInstagramGoodreads

Growing up in a home without books set down a hunger in me for life.

I’d known actual hunger as a child, the way she could sink her sharp nails into my midsection and twist. I was aware of that fragile edge my mother teetered on daily, trying to keep her children fed. Out of necessity, my mother created a small farm on which we raised pigs, lambs, chickens. Looking back now, I think my mother must have been overwhelmed by her decision because who was she to run a farm? She was a city girl raised by nuns and the restrictions of her faith. And yet, she used the land to sustain us. What she lacked in money, she made up for in determination. She raised animals in sets of four, charging the cost of feed, care, upkeep and slaughter to three families — an early version of today’s now-trendy farming co-op system. The fourth animal was ours. Food for her children. Throughout my childhood years, and possibly even still today, I don’t believe my mother saw her own strength. She did what she did to survive as a single mother; but she has ever been able to see how her decisions allowed her children to thrive.

Books were not part of our day-to-day; they were exotic and seemed unattainable. Until I started seeking dog-eared paperbacks at garage sales. I was twelve reading The Canterbury Tales on the beach because I didn’t know that there were genres or books written for intended audiences and ages. I first embraced my twisted, warring inner self-love/self-hate as “normal” when I devoured Margaret Atwood’s Cat’s Eye. I stumbled across authors like Alice Walker, Alice Hoffman, Ursula Le Guin. When I was older, I’d seek these authors out. Reading Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s Herland, about a society consisting solely of women, was the first time a book confirmed my personal understanding of how much inner strength women had — and how much social power they were denied — and it changed my life. Teen Me tried to share these novels with my mother but she dismissed the stories with some self-deprecating version of “I’m not smart enough to understand those books.” I remember feeling sad that my mother couldn’t see herself the way I saw her — a resilient, intelligent, independent woman asserting what little control she had in order to protect her family. Like all of us, she had her own specific demons, and hers caused her to devalue her inner voice and made her seek the words and advice of men, often tossed at her with arrogance and assumptions.

I’ve never stopped searching for strong women in books.

A few months ago, I met sixteen-year-old Sorrow in Kali Wallace’s The Memory Trees. Hell, I met the trees in The Memory Trees as Wallace paints all elements of nature as living, breathing, giving characters. Wallace’s novel is sumptuous and spoke to me as a girl, a woman, a mother. In The Memory Trees, generations of strong, independent women have guarded the acres of a small Vermont orchard, made sacred and magical by the sweat and blood of Sorrow’s female ancestors.

This book woke the little girl in me. The one who saw her mother’s earth-caked hands and wanted her to see her strength too. The girl who saw the fear in her mother’s eyes and wanted to tell her that she was enough — more than enough.

The female characters in The Memory Trees are so strong yet often can’t see their emotional or physical strength. Sometimes they can’t find their voice to tell each other how their interconnected love swells their hearts and the soil. Secrets are born and buried on the orchard and they pulse with darkness. They are rich and unforgiving. They are heartbreaking and timeless.

The Memory Trees is one of the most beautiful pieces of literature I have ever savored. It is a generational tale of flawed and enduring women. There are almost no men in the history of Sorrow’s orchard. They existed, of course, but they weren’t the point. Here, within these beautiful pages, men didn’t have a voice and that felt right to me in the way that Gilman or Atwood always made the persistent power of women feel right. The strength of the women in The Memory Trees is as enduring as trees. It is rooted and selfless, strong and unwavering despite storms. Solid. Dependable.

Just like books.

And womanhood.

Title The Rattled Bones
Author Shannon M. Parker
Pages 304 Pages
Intended Target Audience Young Adult
Genre & Keywords
To Be Published August 22nd, 2017 by Simon Pulse
Find It On GoodreadsAmazon.comChaptersThe Book Depository

Pitched as the YA Stephen King’s Bag Of Bones, S. M. Parker’s The Rattled Bones is a feminist ghost story that examines grief, cultural erasure, and the family ties that bind.

Maine-bred, independent Rilla Brae is no stranger to the deep. She knows the rhythms of hard work and harder seas. But when she experiences the sudden death of her father, the veil between the living and the dead blurs and she begins to be haunted by a girl on a nearby, uninhabited island. The girl floats a song over the waves, and it is as beautiful as it is terrifying. Familiar and distant.

Then Rilla meets Sam, a University of Southern Maine archeology student tasked with excavating the very island where the ghostly girl has appeared. Sam sifts the earth looking for the cultural remains of an island people who were forcibly evicted by the state nearly a hundred years ago. Sam tells Rilla the island has a history no locals talk about – if they know about it at all – due to the shame the events brought to the working waterfront community. All Rilla knows for sure is that the island has always been there – an eerie presence anchored in the stormy sea. Now Sam’s work and the ghostly girl’s song lure Rilla to the island’s shores.

As Rilla helps Sam to unearth the island’s many secrets, Rilla’s visions grow – until the two discover a tragedy kept silent for years. And it’s a tragedy that has everything to do with Rilla’s past.

Cover Reveal: Here So Far Away by Hadley Dyer

It’s a very exciting week here on Pop! Goes The Reader as I have the pleasure of hosting two cover reveals in three days! Today, I’ve partnered with Harper Collins Canada and am honoured to host the exclusive cover reveal for author, Hadley Dyer, and her forthcoming YA contemporary novel, Here So Far Away! Coming to a bookstore and library near you March 20th, 2018 from Harper Collins, Here So Far Away follows the story of George Warren whose senior year is turned upside down when an intense, clandestine relationship leads her down an unexpected path. The cover of Here So Far Away was designed by Heather Daugherty. Please read on to learn more about this poignant young adult release, including the exclusive cover reveal as well as an opportunity to win one of three advance reader copies of Here So Far Away!

About Hadley Dyer

Hadley Dyer is the award-winning author of Johnny Kellock Died Today, as well as various other non-fiction titles for children and young adults. She has worked in the children’s book industry for more than twenty years.

Author Links: WebsiteTwitterGoodreads

Title Here So Far Away
Author Hadley Dyer
Pages 288 Pages
Intended Target Audience Young Adult
To Be Published March 20th, 2018 by HarperCollins
Find It On GoodreadsAmazon.comChapters

For tough girl George Warren (real name: Frances, but nobody calls her that), senior year was supposed to be about partying with her tight-knit group of friends and piecing together scholarships and financial aid so she can move away from her stifling small town.

Unfortunately, life’s a bad writer, and her senior year is anything but what she imagined. It’s the year an injury puts George’s father out of work, causing the family to fall on hard times. It’s the year a huge fight with her best friend causes an irreparable rift in George’s social circle. It’s the year George realizes her dreams of going away to college might now be out of reach.

But it’s also the year that George meets Francis, an older guy who shares her name, talent for sarcastic bantering, and interest in poetry. In him, George — the queen of catch-and-release — finally finds someone she wants to hold onto. She tells no one and falls hard and recklessly in love. And in doing so, George nearly loses everything — herself included — in secret, and completely alone.

As an extra, exciting bonus, Harper Collins has been kind enough to offer readers the opportunity to win advance reader copies of Here So Far Away! This contest is open to residents of Canada and the prizes will be distributed once ARCs become available. Please fill out the Rafflecopter form below to enter!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Her Story: Ladies In Literature with Tracey Neithercott

Her Story: Ladies In Literature is a special, month-long series on Pop! Goes The Reader in which we celebrate the literary female role models whose stories have inspired and empowered us since time immemorial. From Harriet M. Welsch to Anne Shirley, Becky Bloomwood to Hermione Granger, Her Story: Ladies In Literature is a series created for women, by women as thirty-three authors answer the question: “Who’s your heroine?” You can find a complete list of the participants and their scheduled guest post dates Here!

About Tracey Neithercott

Tracey Neithercott’s first book was written by hand and illustrated with some really fancy colored pencils. It was highly acclaimed by her mother. Now, she writes YA stories of friendship, love, murder, and magic. (None of which she illustrates — you’re welcome.) She lives in Massachusetts with her husband, who suggests improving her novels by adding Star Wars characters. She’s the author of Gray Wolf Island, a YA novel about the truth, a treasure, and five teens searching for both. Coming fall 2017 from Knopf/Random House.

Author Links: WebsiteTwitterFacebookInstagramTumblrGoodreads

When I was eighteen, I turned eighty. It was noisy getting so old so quickly, and even now I can remember the sounds of that summer: cracking, popping knees; the shhh of my foot as my bad leg dragged; and the steady beat of crutches against the ground.

By twenty-eight, I was at least a century old. Almost overnight, my body wasn’t my own. I’d go to bed with feet on fire and wake up to second-degree burns. On bad days, I’d stand outside, watching the snow turn to water beneath my feet. On good days, I’d sit in front of the fan and pretend I was somewhere not here.

I met Sophie Hatter not long after I was diagnosed with a rare chronic pain condition. It was one of those endless days where time seems to stop for an hour each hour, and I’d spent all of it with flame-red feet that burned furiously. I’d been looking for escape when I picked up Howl’s Moving Castle, and a book about a whiny, vain boy and his magical traveling castle seemed as good a pick as any.

But it wasn’t really about a whiny, vain boy and his magical traveling castle.

I didn’t realize this at first. I was stubbornly suffering, more of a Howl than a Sophie. I’d spent that never-ending day huddled in my room producing so much slime it’d begun to drip down the walls. (I am, of course, speaking metaphorically. Thankfully I don’t have Howl’s magical angst.)

I wasn’t a Sophie, not then. But I wanted to be.

In Sophie I saw me: a girl who’d arrived, so suddenly, at old age. A girl whose body was no longer familiar.

In Sophie, I saw a better me: a me who accepts her body because it’s the only way to move on with her life. A me who begins an adventure despite aches and pain.

At the time, I’d read countless books with strong female characters, those steel-toed girls who save the world and make boys bleed. This was the first time since my diagnosis that I saw such overwhelming strength in something other than physical power.

Despite her limitations, small, frail Sophie is a complete and total badass. She whips a narcissistic, cowardly wizard into shape; tames a fire demon (the analogy with my own life was, believe it or not, lost on me until this very moment); and takes on the feared Witch of the Waste. She’s hilariously snarky, but despite her annoyance with Howl, she does very little complaining about her situation in life.

Sophie grows into herself in her old body, becoming someone stronger than the young girl we met at the start of the story. She carves a life out for herself. I thought about that a lot when I was first diagnosed.

And I thought about writing. Back then, my novel was nothing but a gossamer daydream. But I channeled Sophie and carved out a new place for my old body. I began my own adventures in worlds unknown and unreal. And somehow, in some way, it brought me back to myself.

Title Gray Wolf Island
Author Tracey Neithercott
Pages 336 Pages
Intended Target Audience Young Adult
Genre & Keywords Mystery
To Be Published October 10th, 2017 by Knopf Books for Young Readers
Find It On GoodreadsAmazon.comChaptersThe Book Depository

Right before Sadie died, she begged her sister, Ruby, to do the one thing she could never do herself: Find the treasure on Gray Wolf Island.

With just a mysterious treasure map as a guide, Ruby reluctantly allows some friends to join her on the hunt, each of whom is touched by magic: a boy allegedly born to a virgin, a girl who never sleeps, a boy who can foresee his own death, and a boy with deep ties to the island. Each of them is also keeping a secret — something they’ll have to reveal in order to reach the treasure.

As the secrets come to light, Ruby will have to decide: Can she make peace with her friends’ troubled pasts and continue to trust them? Can she forgive herself for doing the unspeakable? Deep in the wilderness of Gray Wolf Island, Ruby’s choices will determine if they make it out with the treasure — or merely with their lives.

Cover Reveal: Open If You Dare by Dana Middleton

Happy Monday, everyone! I can think of no better or more exciting way to welcome the beginning of a new week brimming with possibilities than with a cover reveal! Today, I have the immense pleasure of hosting the exclusive cover reveal for author, Dana Middleton, and her forthcoming middle grade sophomore release, Open If You Dare! Coming to a bookstore and library near you October 17th, 2017 from Feiwel & Friends, Open If You Dare is a thrilling mystery in which the past and present collide as three friends try to uncover the truth about a box buried years before inscribed simply with the foreboding phase, “Open if you dare.” The cover of Open If You Dare was designed by Liz Dresner. Please read on to learn more about this exciting middle grade release, including the exclusive cover reveal and a personal note from the author about the novel’s origins and inspiration, as well as an opportunity for one lucky reader to win an advance reader copy of Open If You Dare!

I got to write my first book, The Infinity Year Of Avalon James, on my own time and terms because I didn’t yet have an agent or a publisher waiting for it. Open If You Dare was different. I was writing it on a deadline. My editor was expecting it on a certain date. And even though she wasn’t literally looking over my shoulder, it was scary.

I started with a different idea altogether which wasn’t quite working so I ditched that and went back to my old dependable: childhood. I set the book in the Atlanta neighborhood where I grew up, back when kids were still free to run wild and free during the summer. There’s definitely some of that in Open If You Dare, when three best friends find a box buried by a dead girl in the 1970s and set out to solve her mystery. I enjoyed mixing their modern childhoods with my not-so-modern one. Writing this novel was in parts overcoming fear, falling in love and traveling in time. I ended up loving it.

After writing the book, I went back and visited my childhood neighborhood where Open If You Dare is set. It was different than I remembered. The streets weren’t as steep, the creek wasn’t as raging, and my house wasn’t even there anymore – torn down to make way for the flood plain. Very strange. It was a physical reminder that childhood memories make things grander and more permanent than they really are.

I’m discovering that writing for kids is a very therapeutic thing to do as an adult. It reveals what you thought was important as a child. It makes you face those fears and heartbreaks again. It shines light on things long forgotten. It lets you play pretend again. And these are just some of the things that make it so magical.

About Dana Middleton

Dana Middleton grew up in Georgia before moving to Los Angeles to work in film, television and theatre. She was a producer of an Academy Award-nominated short film, and is also a recipient of a Los Angeles Theatre Ovation Award. Her debut children’s book, The Infinity Year Of Avalon James, was published last year, and her new novel, Open If You Dare, is out this October. She lives in Hollywood with her British husband, author and screenwriter, Peter Atkins.

Author Links: WebsiteTwitterFacebookInstagramGoodreads

Title Open If You Dare
Author Dana Middleton
Pages 288 Pages
Intended Target Audience Middle Grade
To Be Published October 17th, 2017 by Feiwel & Friends
Find It On GoodreadsAmazon.comChaptersThe Book Depository

Like Birdie Adams didn’t have enough problems this summer. But Birdie’s Birdie. And if a long-buried box has “Open If You Dare” written on its lid, then Birdie and her best friends, Ally and Rose, are going to open it.

And now, along with everything else that’s going on – Ally’s pitching slump, Rose’s banishment to Britain, and Birdie’s annoying younger sister being, you know, annoying – the best friends are caught up in solving a mystery planted by a dead girl forty years ago.

As an extra, exciting bonus, Amanda has been kind enough to offer one lucky reader the opportunity to win an advance reader copy of Open If You Dare! This contest is open to residents of the US and the prize will be distributed once ARCs become available. Please fill out the Rafflecopter form below to enter!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Her Story: Ladies In Literature with Katie Bayerl

Her Story: Ladies In Literature is a special, month-long series on Pop! Goes The Reader in which we celebrate the literary female role models whose stories have inspired and empowered us since time immemorial. From Harriet M. Welsch to Anne Shirley, Becky Bloomwood to Hermione Granger, Her Story: Ladies In Literature is a series created for women, by women as thirty-three authors answer the question: “Who’s your heroine?” You can find a complete list of the participants and their scheduled guest post dates Here!

About Katie Bayerl

When Katie Bayerl isn’t penning stories, she coaches teens and nonprofits to tell theirs. She holds an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts and has taught creative writing in schools and a variety of community settings. She currently leads the VCFA Young Writers Network and teaches classes for teens at GrubStreet. Katie has an incurable obsession with saints, bittersweet ballads, and murder. A Psalm For Lost Girls (spring 2017, Putnam) is her first novel.

Author Links: WebsiteTwitterFacebookInstagramGoodreads

I was 17, book smart, and painfully insecure, a fish out of water at a posh private school where I found room to stretch my mind and exercise my activist aspirations even as I struggled to hide the wounds left by middle school.

Like a lot of authors-to-be, I was most at home in books. I found solace in smart, outspoken misfits like Anne Shirley and Elizabeth Bennett. During my senior year, I discovered a bold heroine who broke me open in a whole new way: Minerva Mirabal.

I was taking a special seminar with Mr. Bardo, a Birkenstock-sporting teacher who said “groovy” unironically and let the f-bombs fly. He taught an entire course about literary characters who stood up against political injustice and oppression.

I know. I was a lucky girl. Very.

I wish I remembered everything we read — or better yet, could take the course again. The one book that stuck with me most was In The Time Of The Butterflies by Julia Alvarez.

Alvarez (who, incidentally, attended the same posh high school and I liked to imagine felt as out of place as me) wrote about a novel about four real sisters from the Dominican Republic, heroines of the resistance against infamous dictator Rafael Trujillo. Minerva was the third sister, a daddy’s girl (like me!). She was smart, outspoken, passionate, and principled (like me!). She wore pants, sassed her mom about religion (again: me!), and definitely didn’t fit into any of the accepted feminine molds like her sisters. Her underground name was Mariposa, butterfly. She risked everything for the resistance, pulling two of her sister into the movement. They were jailed, then murdered, and went on to become international symbols of feminism and social justice.

All of this happened in the 1950s/60s in Santo Domingo. Here I was, a white American girl enjoying incredible privilege in 1990s Massachusetts. Why did Minerva speak to me so deeply? Maybe because, despite our outward differences, Minerva was everything I knew myself to be: strong of mind and bold of heart. Maybe because she stuck to what she knew to be right under the most dangerous circumstances. Maybe because I saw that she felt scared sometimes too.

I loved Minerva Mirabal. I loved her author too.

Alvarez was a gateway author for me, leading me to other Caribbean authors, including Esmeralda Santiago, Paula Marshall, Jamaica Kincaid, and Edwidge Danticat. From there, I branched out to women telling stories of resistance across Latin America and Africa. For the next two decades, these women filled my life with beautiful sentences, sharp social commentary, and characters who spoke to my heart. They transformed me.

I realize this is an unusual experience for a white American woman. I hope that won’t always be true.

Of course, when I first encountered Minerva Mirabal, I had no idea that she’d lead me on this path, or that I’d spend an important chunk of my life in her country, or that I’d visit the home she shared with her sisters.

I certainly never guessed that one day I’d live under a “president” with traits scarily similar to the one she resisted. Here’s the thing: While I admired Minerva deeply, I never envied her that fight. From where I stood, it seemed there was plenty of work to do — plenty of injustice to combat without worrying about profoundly racist, deeply delusional narcissist taking over my homeland.


The good news and the bad? In The Time Of The Butterflies is still a beautiful book and every bit as relevant today as it was when it changed my life.

¡Viva la Mariposa!

Title A Psalm For Lost Girls
Author Katie Bayerl
Pages 363 Pages
Intended Target Audience Young Adult
Genre & Keywords Contemporary, Mystery
Published March 14th, 2017 by G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers
Find It On GoodreadsAmazon.comChaptersThe Book Depository

I’ll Give You The Sun meets True Detective in this brilliant YA debut about saints, sisters, and learning to let go.

Tess da Costa is a saint — a hand-to-god, miracle-producing saint. At least that’s what the people in her hometown of New Avon, Massachusetts, seem to believe. And when Tess suddenly and tragically passes away, her small city begins feverishly petitioning the Pope to make Tess’s sainthood official. Tess’s mother is ecstatic over the fervor, while her sister Callie, the one who knew Tess best, is disgusted—overcome with the feeling that her sister is being stolen from her all over again.

The fervor for Tess’s sainthood only grows when Ana Langone, a local girl who’s been missing for six months, is found alive at the foot of one of Tess’s shrines. It’s the final straw for Callie. With the help of Tess’s secret boyfriend Danny, Callie’s determined to prove that Tess was something far more important than a saint; she was her sister, her best friend and a girl in love with a boy. But Callie’s investigation uncovers much more than she bargained for — a hidden diary, old family secrets, and even the disturbing truth behind Ana’s kidnapping. Told in alternating perspectives, A Psalm For Lost Girls is at once funny, creepy and soulful — an impressive debut from a rising literary star.