Release: Letting Go of Gravity

Letting Go of Gravity
Meg Leder
Published by: Simon Pulse
Publication date: July 17th 2018
Genres: Contemporary, Young Adult

“The anticipation and slow burn of Parker and Finn’s relationship is electric…[an] absorbing novel that will appeal to fans of Rainbow Rowell.” —Booklist

Parker struggles to reconnect with her twin brother, Charlie—who’s recovering from cancer—as she tries to deal with her anxiety about the future in this powerful new novel.

Twins Parker and Charlie are polar opposites. Where Charlie is fearless, Parker is careful. Charlie is confident while Parker aims to please. Charlie is outgoing and outspoken; Parker is introverted and reserved. And of course, there’s the one other major difference: Charlie got cancer. Parker didn’t.

But now that Charlie is officially in remission, life couldn’t be going better for Parker. She’s landed a prestigious summer internship at the hospital and is headed to Harvard in the fall to study pediatric oncology—which is why the anxiety she’s felt since her Harvard acceptance is so unsettling. And it doesn’t help that her relationship with Charlie has been on the rocks since his diagnosis.

Enter Finn, a boy who’s been leaving strange graffiti messages all over town. Parker can’t stop thinking about those messages, or about Finn, who makes her feel free for the first time: free to doubt, free to make mistakes, and free to confront the truth that Parker has been hiding from for a long time.

That she keeps trying to save Charlie, when the person who really needs saving is herself.

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From the Author:

Back in 2000, strange messages started appearing on major overpasses in my hometown of Cincinnati, Ohio, e.g. “TONY DANZA IS MY DAD” and “I PLAY YOGA.” Each time I saw one, I was surprised, confused, and delighted. Later identified as the work of artists Buddy Lembeck and Darius Jones, they were my first introduction to the marvelous world of street art.

In Letting Go of Gravity, my main character Parker goes through a similar experience. When strange messages start appearing on bridges in her town, she wants to know what they’re about. Ultimately they become the first step in her journey of self-discovery.

I was really excited to work street art into a novel, because I love it. For me, it represents a disruption of the everyday, a little bit of the unexpected that asks you to stop and look at the space around you differently. Parker in particular needs that jolt to start thinking about her world in new ways.

If you’re looking for some similar inspiration, here are some artists to check out:

Invader: An anonymous French street artist, Invader places ceramic tile compositions of old video game characters around major cities. You never know when one will appear, which makes finding them all the more exciting. There’s even an app, so you can register the ones you find, like a scavenger hunt!

Tatyana Fazlalizadeh: This artist uses street art to combat harassment, creating posters with images of women and captions about their experiences being harassed. Titled “Stop Telling Women to Smile,” the project is an incredibly powerful statement about the way words are used to control women in public spaces, and how women can take some of the power back.

Os Gemeos: Identical twin brothers from Brazil, Os Gemeos create vibrant murals inspired by folk art, hip hop, and Brazilian culture. Their creations are both dream-like and grounded in the world around you, and their appearance in the world makes you feel like you’ve discovered a little bit of magic.

Steve Powers: Powers used to create street art under the name ESPO. Now a full-time artist, he creates word-based and iconic images under his own name. Bright, blocky letters share messages like “YOUR EVERAFTER IS ALL I’M AFTER” and “LETS ADORE AND ENDURE EACH OTHER.” (Powers’ work majorly inspires the street artist in my book.)

Jenny Holzer: Conceptual artist Jenny Holzer’s work involves using words to deliver brief truisms on billboards and walls and galleries. Each one is strange and wonderful, e.g. “Protect me from what I want” and “In a dream you saw a way to survive and you were full of joy.” Holzer’s work startles you out of the everyday, asking you to question and tease out what she means.

These are only a few of the artists who inspire me. Are there some more that you love?


 

A former bookseller and teacher, Meg Leder currently works as a book editor in New York City. Her role models are Harriet the Spy and Anne Shirley. She is the co-author of The Happy Book, and spends her free time reading, looking for street art, and people-watching. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.

Author Website / Goodreads / Facebook / Twitter

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Spotlight & Excerpt: Into the Woods

Into the Woods is the title and theme for this assortment of short stories, poems, essays, music, and one walking meditation. Each piece is unique in tone and genre and the result is that the collection captures the fascinating, frightening, fun, healing, and fantastical wonder of time spent in the woods.

The twenty-six contributors who attend Mindful Writers Retreats in the mountains of Ligonier, Pennsylvania, are donating one hundred percent of the proceeds to support the research and work of The Children’s Heart Foundation.

 

Available at….

 



Excerpt: Short Story

TRAIN WRECK
by Kathleen Shoop

Ellie Trumbull squinted out the window of the Uber, gripping the door handle. The car swerved and bounced up the long driveway leading to the retreat center where the courts had sent Ellie for punishment. She grabbed her stomach to stave off nausea, but when it began to launch itself she smacked the driver’s arm. He slowed and stopped. Ellie pulled the handle, and tumbled out of the door onto all fours, heaving.
She gasped for breath, dizzied. Voices sounded as she struggled to stand. She focused on the group heading toward her: two women, a man, and several children who simply bolted past her, their squealing laughter filling the air.
A graceful woman with gray, bunned hair and dark skin approached. She took Ellie’s arm and pulled her close, leading her into a building. “Welcome. I’m Vera.”
“I’m Alice.” A stout woman with platinum spiked hair followed along.
A lanky man with hair so perfect it looked plastic picked up Ellie’s duffel bag. “I’m Brandon. Your husband’ll send the rest of your luggage shortly.”
Ellie grunted. They led her upstairs. Brandon rushed ahead to open a door. Ellie shuffled inside.
“Your room,” he said. “I’ll set your bag here.”
Ellie looked over her shoulder to see him smiling, as he’d been doing since she arrived. “Thanks, Guy Smiley.”
“What?”
She ignored his question, held onto one of the top bunks and surveyed the space. Three large windows at the end of the room and three sets of bunks with plastic mattresses belted the perimeter.
Ellie collapsed onto a bed.
“Plastic makes it easy to clean,” Vera said.
“Shut those.” Ellie shook her hand at the windows.
The woman sighed, closed the curtains and lowered the blind that covered the center pane. She lifted Ellie’s feet off the floor and swung them onto the bed. “Housekeeping’ll make up the bed in a little bit.”
“Fine,” Ellie groaned.
Vera loosened Ellie’s shoelaces.
Ellie snatched her feet away. “I’m fine.”
Vera backed away, her large hands flailing for a moment before she tucked them against her belly. “Our healing circle begins in an hour.”
Ellie turned away and balled up. Leave me alone.
And a few seconds later the door clicked shut.
***
Giggling children and the sound of feet running down the hallway outside Room 2 woke Ellie. Her mouth was desert dry, so she headed downstairs to the great room where she saw a kitchen area. With the kids gone, the silence felt good.
Ellie startled at the sight of Alice, Vera, and Guy Smiley sitting around an island. Guy Smiley poured coffee. Healing circle.
“Ellie,” he said. “Welcome.”
Vera sliced banana bread. The scent threatened Ellie’s stoic facade. A smile tugged her lips, but she tucked away the fleeting happy sensation, hid it where it wouldn’t remind her how Maggie’s face would light up when she bit into her favorite treat.
Alice clomped her feet onto the coffee table. Vera batted them away and pushed the banana bread toward Ellie.
She looked away.
“I’ll take hers,” said Alice.
“I’d like to begin,” Vera said, her voice gentle and melodic. “The healing circle guides us into continued acceptance and strengthens our endurance as we grow through the pain that comes with losing a child. Each of us understands the daily shock of waking and realizing our lives will never be the same. So how do we go on?”
Guy Smiley sipped coffee. “Feels good to be with everyone.”
“Each time we meet I do better back home,” Vera said.
“Same,” Alice said.
“We hope you’ll find our group helpful, Ellie,” Vera said.
When Ellie didn’t respond the others went around describing how they lost their child. Ellie blocked out every word, rubbing her temples. Her own pain was enough. She wasn’t about to invite theirs inside. Her gaze strayed to the kids outside, the game of tag that left them breathless, rolling down the hill and out of sight. How lucky they were.
“Ellie?” Alice asked. Ellie turned her gaze back to see Alice glaring.
“It’ll help,” sweet Vera said. “To share.”
Guy Smiley slid forward in his seat, fingers steepled. “Change brings…blah, blah … comfort, healing…” He droned on and on and finally Ellie’s mind snapped back to what he first said.
Change?” Ellie said.
He nodded. They all did.
Ellie’s anger surged. She wiped spittle from her lip. “I don’twantchange. I feel Maggie more now than I ever did… before she died I couldn’t wait to get to work, or girls’ night out or go away with my husband. My daughter… difficult from the day she was born… is dead. I’ll never sit with you people thinking about change and eating stinking banana bread.”
She stood and stomped away.
“She don’t want help,” Alice said.
“But her husband…” Brandon said.
Ellie got farther away, unable to hear what they said. Her husband? He was finished with her. She jogged to her room and crashed onto the mattress that housekeeping hadn’t yet returned to make. She covered her face and held back tears. With balled fists she tried to resist.
But she couldn’t.
Up off the bed, Ellie dug through her duffel and found it. Vodka. Cap unscrewed, she gulped, washing away the scent of banana bread, the thought that she’d never again see Maggie’s smile when she took a bite of it.

 

Spotlight and Excerpt: According to Audrey

According to Audrey
Happy LaShelle
April 30, 2018
Clean Teen Publishing

Cautious and introverted, seventeen-year-old Dove spends most of her free time pursuing her one true passion: painting. The twinkling lights of Balboa Island, the ferryboat to the peninsula, the fire pits on Big Corona Beach…these have long been the subjects of her canvases as she daydreams about finding an Audrey Hepburn-film kind of romance.

A hotshot jock is exactly not the type of guy she’s been looking for—but when Leo Donovan drops his cool act to show his vulnerable side, Dove begins to question everything. But first she’ll have to navigate her way through claim-staking mean girls and disapproving parents—and still keep her focus on attending the art school of her dreams.

Being in love turns out to be more complex than the average silver-screen classic. Can Dove follow her heart (and Audrey’s cues) to create her own perfect Hollywood ending?

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Excerpt from According to Audrey

Leo gently took the bag from my nose and wrapped the ice in the washcloth. “This will be more comfortable,” he said, eyeing my nose like an expert. “It doesn’t look swollen at all, that’s good.” He put the ice into my hand and helped guide it back to my face.

It was not possible to feel any more un-pretty than at this moment. Pain and embarrassment had now mingled into one big uncomfortable feeling. But another feeling was creeping up. I stole another glance at him. He looked like a Hollywood film star from the 1950s—chiseled, with a squinty stare.

I summoned the nerve to look into his eyes and finally spoke. “Thanks, I think I’m okay.” My attraction clashed with my desire to hide. Suddenly I wanted him to go away and stay all at the same time.

His brown eyes locked onto mine, and his mouth turned up at the corners. Was he enjoying my embarrassment? I had no choice but to laugh. “What?” I asked, pulling the ice away from my face.

He grinned and sat down next to me. “Dove, you need to keep the ice on it,” he said, placing it back onto my nose.

The gentle way he said my name made my heart race faster and I searched his face, drinking in its sincerity: his deep gaze—somehow it made me feel safe, and his lips seemed to be just waiting to… kiss me.

All at once, my enamored thoughts screeched to an abrupt stop.

No way.

My stomach twisted into a painful knot. How could I have fallen for the sensitive, caring act? Was I really lame enough to get all dreamy-eyed over a few sweet words and a pack of ice? There was no way I was going to end up as one of his conquests. With the ice still held to my nose, I stood with as much dignity as possible.

“Thanks, I’m fine now.” I lowered the ice and looked straight into his dark, concern-filled eyes, shooting him a glare. “I have to go.”


About the Author

Happy LaShelle is a writer, mom of three, and wife to a Basque baker who brings home loaves of crusty sourdough everyday. She lives near the mission bells in sunny Santa Barbara, but loves the cold, rainy banks of London’s Thames River just as much as the sandy shores of her Newport Beach hometown. She studied History at UCLA and enjoys taking pictures of old stuff, because everything has a story.

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Review: Amsterdam Exposed: An American’s Journey into the Red Light District

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David Wienir. De Wallen Press, $13, 264p. ISBN 9780999355909.

Almost twenty years in the making is Amsterdam Exposed before author David Wienir finally presents his story of the renowned Red Light District, where tourists “come for the weed, stay for the hookers.” Nonetheless, Wienir makes it easy to be drawn into turn-of-the-millenium Amsterdam, as he spends his Thursdays studying international law at Vrije University and his six-day weekends trying to get window girls to talk to him. Amsterdam Exposed is an alluring memoir giving a glimpse down the streets illuminated by red lanterns, as well as into the man who teaches respect for the women who work there.

Wienir opens his memoir having just arrived in Holland for a fall semester studying international law abroad. Wienir brings with him an ulterior motive to write a book about the Red Light District, inspired by a prostitute in Reno who told him that “people forget we’re human,” a year and a half prior. Over the next four months, Wienir sets off to find prostitutes willing to help him with his book, and keeps a code for himself: never pay a prostitute to talk, and never sleep with one. He’s turned down by every woman he encounters except for two, only one of whom actually comes to help Wienir.

Emma is a twenty-five-year-old prostitute from Estonia. She lives two lives in that she does not allow her work life and her personal life to overlap. When Wienir meets Emma in the District, Emma is interested in befriending him, but does not readily talk to Wienir about her work. Wienir devotes time to building Emma’s trust in himself, and eventually reaches Emma while unknowingly invoking change in Emma’s personal outlook.

Wienir actively writes in a voice that weaves the then-current state of Amsterdam with his own story of his time spent. He creates rich and descriptive settings that shine on Wienir’s professional background, effortlessly leading the reader to think of Wienir’s voice as a lawyer in the future casually telling his story over the wining-and-dining of his own law associates. Amsterdam Exposed confidently takes a risqué topic out of a captivating environment and places it in one that is approachable, adventurous, and thought-provoking.


Excerpt from Amsterdam Exposed

On a brisk September morning, I put on a pair of blue jeans and a white T-shirt and
boarded a plane to Amsterdam. I traveled light. If necessary, I could do some shopping
in town.

Money was an issue, and the cheapest flight I could find was on Iceland Air. This
allowed for a three-day layover in Reykjavik. I had always dreamed of visiting Iceland
and decided to spend a few days there. With a copy of Let’s Go Europe serving as my
bible, I found a bed in the Salvation Army Guesthouse. Back then, there were two travel
guides in play, Let’s Go Europe and the Lonely Planet. Let’s Go Europe was the guide
of choice for students, effectively funneling everyone into the same hostels, restaurants,
landmarks, and clubs. Within minutes, I connected with a group of international
students. We spent the next three days touring waterfalls, enjoying the local cuisine,
and bonding.

On our final day, we visited the waters of the Blue Lagoon. There were six of us, from
six different countries. Submerged to our shoulders, we floated in silence, looking into
each other’s eyes and carving out the moment. After a night partying in Reykjavik, we
said our goodbyes, knowing we would never see each other again. That was OK. This
was just a layover. I continued on my journey refreshed, feeling as if I had visited the moon.

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About the Author 

David Wienir is a business affairs executive at United Talent Agency and entertainment law instructor at UCLA Extension. Before UTA, he practiced law at two of the top entertainment law firms where he represented clients such as Steven Spielberg and Madonna. His previous books include Last Time: Labour’s Lessons from the Sixties (co-authored with a Member of Parliament at the age of 23), The Diversity Hoax: Law Students Report from Berkeley (afterword by Dennis Prager), and Making It on Broadway: Actors’ Tales of Climbing to the Top (foreword by Jason Alexander).

Educated at Columbia, Oxford, The London School of Economics, Berkeley Law, and the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, David is married to Dr. Dina (to whom the book is dedicated), a pioneer of the cannabis movement who has been named “Queen of Medical Marijuana in LA” by Rolling Stone Magazine and is the inspiration for the Nancy Botwin character in the show Weeds.

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Spotlight: Notes of Magic

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Notes of Magic 
(The Bohemians #1)

Jessica Bucher
CreateSpace IPP, February 2018

Enchanted city. Old magic. New threat.

Taq, a young fiddler, comes to Prague with dreams of joining the Bohemians, a band of immortal, magic-wielding street performers. He has a mission to right past wrongs, but things don’t go as planned when he meets the beautiful performer, Katia. Now, he must decide if revealing his secret is worth losing her heart.

Katia has spent one hundred years chained to Prague, broken-hearted and silent, waiting for her chance to be free. But with a mysterious newcomer, and an impending threat on Bohemia itself, peace is starting to seem further away than ever. Now, Katia must decide if she should trust Taq, or put her faith in the one who broke her heart – the tyrannical Magistrate of Bohemia.

Curses can be broken, but at what cost?

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Jessica Bucher

About the author

Jessica Bucher is long-time lover of stories about young love and characters who are larger-than-life. It’s why she was swept off her feet by a soldier who stole her away to travel the world. Thirteen years later, they have two (almost three) children and more stamps in their passports than they can count. Seeing the world has inspired many stories and novels, with The Hereafter as Bucher’s debut. She is a Creative Writing graduate, blogger, yoga teacher, music lover and member of the Ansbach Writers Group.

Website | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads


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Review: From Little Houses to Little Women

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From Little Houses to Little Women: Revisiting a Literary Childhood is arguably the most “bookish” book that has been recently published. Stemming from a childhood spent near the Ingalls’ family home in Kansas and a decision to visit places that inspired books like On the Banks of Plum Creek and By the Shores of Silver Lake, author Nancy McCabe presents a memoir reflecting on the impact that classic childhood novels have had on her.

Over her years of reading children’s classics, McCabe personalizes the actions or habits of the heroines that she reads about. As an adult, McCabe sees the sum total of who she has become, and writes each chapter of From Little Houses with commentary based on a book. As a child, McCabe remembers trying to imagine dialogue between the dandelions and tulips in her back yard, like Anne of Anne of Avonlea imagined dialogue between “the asters and the sweet peas and the wild canaries in the lilac bush and the guardian spirit of the garden.” As a preteen, McCabe wears her hair long because of how the protagonist of Plain Girl embraces her common, plain clothes and looks. These are just a few examples of how deeply literature seeped into McCabe’s character.

Truly conversational, From Little Houses is like sitting at a table with an old friend while she recounts her travels. But, not only are travels recollected; McCabe also expands on detail from the classics that she’s read to offer literary criticism and analysis. Though there would be a seeming prerequisite of having read the novels that McCabe discusses, it is not difficult to fully appreciate the strong relationship that McCabe has developed with the stories that she’s read and re-read, either as a child, as an adult, or as a mother to her daughter.

Part term paper, part travelogue, From Little Houses to Little Women: Revisiting a Literary Childhood is a slice of literary pie with promise to satisfy any true, devoted book worm who is willing to eat with the fork.


About the book

Nancy McCabe grew up in Kansas just a few hours from the Little House on the Prairie Ingalls family home. McCabe read Little House on the Prairie during her childhood and always felt a connection with Laura Ingalls Wilder. When McCabe was thirteen, she visited Wilder sites around the Midwest with her aunt, but didn’t again revisit the books that had so influenced her childhood until she was an adult. It was this decision that ultimately sparked her desire to visit the places that inspired many of her childhood book favorites, taking her on a journey through the Missouri of Laura Ingalls Wilder, the Minnesota of Maud Hart Lovelace, the Massachusetts of Louisa May Alcott, and even the Canada of Lucy Maud Montgomery.

From Little Houses to Little Women reveals McCabe’s powerful connection to the characters and authors who inspired many generations of readers. While traveling with McCabe as she rediscovers the books that shaped her and ultimately helped her to forge her own path, readers will enjoy revisiting their own childhood favorites as well.

About the Author

Nancy McCabe is the author of four memoirs about travel, books, parenting, and adoption, as well as a novel entitled Following Disasters. Her work has appeared in Newsweek, the Los Angeles Review of Books, Prairie Schooner, Fourth Genre, and many other magazines and anthologies, including In Fact Books’ Oh Baby! True Stories about Conception, Adoption, Surrogacy, Pregnancy, Labor, and Love, and McPherson and Company’s Every Father’s Daughter: Twenty-Four Women Writers Remember their Fathers. Her work has received a Pushcart Prize, and she has been recognized on Notable Lists in Best American anthologies six times.

Author Contact Links:  Website | Facebook | Blog | Goodreads

 
Purchase Links:  
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Release: The Summer of Broken Things

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The Summer of Broken Things

The Summer of Broken Things
Margaret Peterson Haddix
April 10, 2018
Simon & Schuster

Fourteen-year-old Avery Armisted is athletic, rich, and pretty. Sixteen-year-old Kayla Butts is known as “butt-girl” at school. The two girls were friends as little kids, but that’s ancient history now. So it’s a huge surprise when Avery’s father offers to bring Kayla along on a summer trip to Spain. Avery is horrified that her father thinks he can choose her friends—and make her miss soccer camp. Kayla struggles just to imagine leaving the confines of her small town.

But in Spain, the two uncover a secret their families had hidden from both of them their entire lives. Maybe the girls can put aside their differences and work through it together. Or maybe the lies and betrayal will only push them—and their families—farther apart.

Margaret Peterson Haddix weaves together two completely separate lives in this engaging novel that explores what it really means to be a family—and what to do when it’s all falling apart.

From New York Times bestselling author Margaret Peterson Haddix comes a haunting novel about friendship and what it really means to be a family in the face of lies and betrayal.

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Margaret Peterson Haddix
About the author

Margaret Peterson Haddix grew up on a farm near Washington Court House, Ohio. She graduated from Miami University (of Ohio) with degrees in English/journalism, English/creative writing and history. Before her first book was published, she worked as a newspaper copy editor in Fort Wayne, Indiana; a newspaper reporter in Indianapolis; and a community college instructor and freelance writer in Danville, Illinois.

She has since written more than 40 books for kids and teens, including Running Out of Time; Double Identity; Uprising; The Always War; the Shadow Children series; the Missing series; the Children of Exile series; the Under Their Skin duology; and The Palace Chronicles. She also wrote Into the Gauntlet, the tenth book in the 39 Clues series. Her books have been honored with New York Times bestseller status, the International Reading Association’s Children’s Book Award; American Library Association Best Book and Quick Pick for Reluctant Young Adult Readers notations; and numerous state reader’s choice awards. They have also been translated into more than twenty different languages.

Haddix and her husband, Doug, now live in Columbus, Ohio. They are the parents of two grown kids.


Enter the giveaway for a free copy!

Review: Antipodes

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Michele Bacon. Sky Horse Press, $18, 384p. ISBN 9781510723610.

Entry: antipodes. Noun. “Exact opposites.”

Such are Erin’s beginning and resulting understandings of happiness after leaving her A-list social status in her suburban Chicago high school to spend a semester in Christchurch, New Zealand. Mirroring her own New Zealand self-discoveries in her latest protagonist is author Michele Bacon, presenting Antipodes as her second novel.

As a very determined Ivy League medical school hopeful, Erin has every step for her next fifteen years mapped out: “Great school, great job, great life.” When Erin loses her position as captain of her high school swimming team, loses her boyfriend, and embarrasses herself at a party, she and her mother attempt to repair Erin’s perfect college application with a semester spent studying abroad.

Upon arrival in Christchurch, however, Erin is disheartened to find that she’s signed up for five months of having to get around town without a car, attending a school that doesn’t allow makeup or jewelry, sharing a small bedroom with the daughter in her host family, and being on a completely different time schedule than her best friend. As the months pass, Erin makes new friends and learns the value of family, sets a national swimming record, sees other beautiful parts of New Zealand, and picks back up a forgotten instrument, all while slowly realizing that she’s prioritized the wrong things in her attempt to find happiness.

Within her writing, Bacon consciously draws parallels between Erin’s physical journey and her personal journey. For example, Bacon uses Erin’s interests in astronomy to name the Moon as a constant, clearly reflecting opposite points of view from Erin’s Northern Hemisphere home in Chicago compared to the view from Southern Hemisphere Christchurch. Also, Bacon demonstrates a uniquely creative writing skill by using an interesting variation of divergent thematic patterning in her narrative. With every few forward-moving chapters proceeding from Erin’s flight to Christchurch, there is a backstepping, flashed-back chapter from before Erin’s flight to Christchurch. As Erin experiences New Zealand and ultimately begins to reflect on who she is and what her passions are, we see a glimpse of the seeming antipode of the current point in time.

Through fresh use of literary device with strong character development and vivid descriptions of setting, Antipodes is a masterfully written novel that shows that even when meaning and direction seems lost, it’s not such a long journey back to true purpose.


 

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About the Author

I was born in Trumbull County, the only square county in Ohio, where books were my favorite means of escaping an unhappy childhood. Writing was my transparent attempt to create the things I craved: big happy families, international adventures and unconditional friendship. From a young age, I was drawn to people’s stories, and I still want to know how you met your best friend or fell in love with your partner.

In high school, I embraced my inner geek and wrote my first novel. In college, there were short stories and still more novels. I graduated from The Ohio State University with a B.A. in English, with concentrations in critical theory and creative writing.

Full-time work sapped my creative brain for several years, but my professional life was one of reinvention. In state government, business management consulting, and nonprofit fundraising, I adapted easily and absorbed the languages of different professions. My last paying job was as an independent fundraising consultant for nonprofit organizations. That was seven years ago.

Since then, I have been writing and traveling (and, let’s be honest, chasing down small people who don’t like to wear clothes). I’ve traveled to all 50 states and dozens of other countries, always collecting pieces of characters and ideas for stories. I recently spent a year on sabbatical in Christchurch, New Zealand, where I may have left my heart at Ilam School. Now that we’ve settled back in the States, I’m writing for adults and young adults, exploring the Pacific Northwest, and baking like a fiend. (You’d thinking baking would be the same everywhere, but it’s not. Something is different about kiwi butter.)

When an idea strikes, I scrawl sweeping plot outlines, character idiosyncrasies, and ideas for scenes on the nearest blank spot of paper. My current manuscript was born of those torn slips of paper, used envelopes, lollipop wrappers, fuel receipts and–once–that little paper bit that keeps a nursing pad sticky until it’s time to use it. My manuscripts are better than the quality of papers where they began. Promise.

Outside of writing, I am a tabletop game enthusiast, passionate skier, and lover of prime numbers. I also am a mentor at the Moving Words Writing Clinic, and a freelance copyeditor.

I live in Seattle with my husband and three growing children.

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Review: Educated

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Tara Westover. Random House, $28, 352p. ISBN 9780399590504.

When hearing a book described as a memoir, the thought that follows usually includes some semblance of “a personal reflection of a life over time.” Tara Westover, at a mere 31 years old, makes her book debut with a quite superlative memoir. Educated follows Westover’s upbringing as part of a survivalist family, through her questioning and outgrowth of her fundamentalist origin, and to her breakaway to self-confidence through higher learning.

Tara Westover was raised as one of seven siblings in a tiny Idaho town at the base of a mountain. Her father was paranoid about crossing paths with the government, and actively prepared for the “Days of Abomination” believing that the world would end at the turn of the century. Westover’s mother was a midwife and herbalist who was raised in a “normally functioning” home, but now largely supported her husband in silence for the best of her children. Westover received no formal education as a child, was never vaccinated, and to this day, doesn’t know her exact birth date – she wasn’t issued a birth certificate until she was nine years old.

As Westover grew up, she and her family saw head injuries, falls from the tops of mechanical equipment, motorcycle accidents and burns from explosions, and perceived all as God’s will. Westover had strained relationships with her parents and with one of her older brothers because of tempers, pride, and even mental sickness; it’s her broken family system with which Westover eventually struggles to reconcile. When Westover begins to see the possibility of a different life from her upbringing, she takes it upon herself to self-teach, and gains acceptance to Brigham Young University. Ten years later, she completes her doctorate in history at Cambridge University.

In addition to expertly writing a clear and fluid narrative, Westover effectively crafts noticeably strong chapter beginnings and endings. At a chapter’s end, the reader is continuously compelled to read into the next chapter, if even just a few lines of the first paragraph, before closing the book until the next opportunity to sit and read. Westover fully immerses her readers with vivid descriptions of not only her physical environment, but also her emotional environment.

Through Educated, Tara Westover communicates an important truth that is allowance for self-accomplishment through selfhood. “You could call this selfhood many things. Transformation. Metamorphosis. Falsity. Betrayal. I call it an education.”

Review: Laura & Emma

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Kate Greathead. Simon & Schuster, $25, 352p. ISBN 9781501156601

A fifteen-year window into the life of an NYC woman who is the outlier of her wealthy and privileged family is Laura & Emma. Author Kate Greathead presents her first novel, a story of a mother and daughter that explores family relationships, social standards, and the sacrifices that come with choosing motherhood.

It’s easy to completely relate to Laura. She is a woman who mostly keeps to herself, doesn’t fall in with social standards of the upper class, has a favorite neighborhood grocery store, and doesn’t exactly love the idea of all-the-time sex. Laura is embarrassed by the word “wealthy,” and she tries to independently make a living without her family’s money. She adheres to her own particular fashion habit of rarely buying new clothes with a “’Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without’” mentality. She is quite content to be living a solitary and simplistic life.

Then, in the summer of 1981, Laura has her first and only sexual experience that leaves her pregnant. Laura schedules an abortion – her “greatest gift to the planet” – but changes her mind on the morning of her scheduled abortion. With the arrival of her daughter, Emma, Laura’s quiet life evolves into a life of pediatricians, private school admission applications, game nights, and beach vacations. Emma grows to be curious, energetic, and strong-willed; though Laura and Emma are close while Emma is young, they inevitably grow apart as Emma gets older, until Emma goes off to boarding school and Laura resumes her solitary life.

Greathead expertly weaves her novel through interlaying nods to the history of New York City in the 1980s and 1990s. With each abrupt introduction of a new scene, Greathead gives just enough information on what must have happened in the lost time to encourage her audience to continue on. Reading more like a narrated journaling that is built from a chronological collection of aperçus, Laura & Emma is a strong debut novel that gives so many more questions to ask than are answered.