Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Book Rave: NOT A DROP TO DRINK by Mindy McGinnis

Regret was for people with nothing to defend, people who had no water. 

Lynn knows every threat to her pond: drought, a snowless winter, coyotes, and, most importantly, people looking for a drink. She makes sure anyone who comes near the pond leaves thirsty, or doesn't leave at all.

Confident in her own abilities, Lynn has no use for the world beyond the nearby fields and forest. Having a life means dedicating it to survival, and the constant work of gathering wood and water. Having a pond requires the fortitude to protect it, something Mother taught her well during their quiet hours on the rooftop, rifles in hand.

But wisps of smoke on the horizon mean one thing: strangers. The mysterious footprints by the pond, nighttime threats, and gunshots make it all too clear Lynn has exactly what they want, and they won’t stop until they get it….

The good news?  This book is so far my favorite book of 2013, hands down.  As soon as I got my eager hands on Not a Drop to Drink, I started reading it.  I read it while I ate breakfast, I read it at the stoplight in front of the kids' preschool, I read it at the reference desk, and I read it in the shower (which isn't unusual, I always read in the shower, which is why my friends won't lend me books anymore.)  I already knew from the jacket copy that I was hooked on the premise, but what I didn't expect was how thoroughly McGinnis's tense storytelling ability would draw me into Lynn's stark world.  McGinnis writes in almost Hemingway-like prose, the clipped sentences of our heroine echoing the harsh landscape around her, allowing the raw emotions and fears to shine through the text.  The freshwater crisis feels real and vibrant without being over-explained, and everything from the vicious coyotes to the drudgery of purifying water feels gritty and harsh.

Of course, no novel stays in the status quo, and Not a Drop moves swiftly, introducing new characters and new crises, and most importantly, a chance for Lynn to grow outside of the isolated and paranoid life her mother has raised her with.  Her emotional growth, helped along by a band of three-dimensional and compelling characters, was more fascinating to me than all of her survival skills put together.  This is a fantastic read for boys and girls, adults and teens alike, and will especially appeal to fans of The Hunger Games.

Time for the bad news.  Are you ready?  

Not a Drop doesn't hit the shelves until September 24.  

I know, guys.  I know.

The librarian in me can't leave you hanging, so here's some titles to keep you occupied until the fall:

Tomorrow, When the War Began by John Marsden
When a group of teenagers go camping in the bush, they return home to find their country overrun by a vicious enemy.  They are forced to survive in the country as they think of a plan to rescue their families--and to give the invaders hell while they're at it.

Life as We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer
After an asteroid hits the moon, natural disasters ravage the globe, and Miranda must learn to survive in a world where heat and food and comfort no longer come easily and each day is a struggle.

After the Snow by S. D. Crockett
A new ice age is ushered in, and Willo survives by trapping animals and selling their furs.  When his family vanishes, he must travel to find them, and on his way, he meets a lost girl named Mary, whom he decides to help.  A definite read for fans of The Knife of Never Letting Go.

Now away with you to the library or the bookstore!

Friday, April 26, 2013

Cupid's Arrow: Haikus for Little Debbie

This one goes out to PaulaCohen-Martin, who asked the Valentines to profess our love of Little Debbie through Haiku.

Well, Paula, you came to the right place, because I could wax poetic about Little Debbie cakes for hours.  In fact...

When I was little
I tried to peel the snack cakes
before I would eat.

I still do this now,
getting the thin chocolate
layer off to start.

No one understands
that Swiss Cake Rolls were meant to
be eaten this way.

Zebra Cakes, a rare
treat, are always delicious,
more than remembered.

More rare than those are
the Christmas trees; once a year
is never enough.

But, oh, the sublime,
soft, sweetness of the special
oatmeal pies; divine!

My favorite treat
would appear in my lunch box
just often enough

To spark my wishes
and make me yearn for the sweet,
oh-so delicious

Cakes.  Swiss Rolls, Trees, or
Oatmeal pies, doesn’t matter,
Little Debbie rocks!

Photo by Duncan, 2012 http://www.flickr.com/photos/duncan/7312841804/

Remember, shoot us a Cupid’s Arrow for your chance to be entered into one of our great monthly drawings.  Keep the fun coming...I'm off to find a snack cake!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Book Rave: WICKED GIRLS by Stephanie Hemphill

A fictionalized account, told in verse, of the Salem witch trials, told from the perspective of three young women living in Salem in 1692-- Mercy Lewis, Margaret Walcott, and Ann Putnam, Jr.

I was lucky enough to get a copy of WICKED GIRLS from the fab team at B+B. When I first received it, I immediately got a little thrill of excitement, because, dude: the Salem Witch Trials as told from the POVs of the girls themselves. The psychological implications of that and that alone are INTENSE. 


Let me begin this book rave by saying that I read this book in one day. I had never, in my entire bookish-life, read a whole book in a single day before this one. I swear there's some kind of witchcraft going on with WICKED GIRLS (ha, witchcraft. Get it?), because once you start in on it, it does NOT let you go. 

Hemphill immerses you in the stark, threatening world that is Salem circa 1692. How bleak and small the world is to girls especially, and how these girls encountered the same kinds of teenage problems girls of every generation tackle (boy troubles, future concerns, friend drama, and, most interestingly, peer pressure). By presenting the entirety of these girls' involvement in the witch trials as all-too-relatable peer-pressure, it makes it real in a way I've never seen with the Salem Witch Trials. Hemphill takes an era that is usually seen as vastly different from ours and makes it not only relatable, but so understandable that most of the time I forgot the year was more than three centuries ago.

To top it all off, the verse style of WICKED GIRLS adds a level of GORGEOUS that is the delectable dash of sprinkles on the already delicious cake that is this book. Some of the verses were so heartbreakingly pretty that I had to read them a few times to let the beauty of Hemphill's words really sink in. That's the true wonder of this book -- how Hemphill managed to create a book that makes you want to both savor it and fly through it. 

Witchcraft, indeed :)

Friday, April 19, 2013

Cupid's Arrow: A Writer's Ode to Chocolate

When I saw that Brooklyn Gibbs wanted an author to profess their love for chocolate via poetry, I was all over it. Like most writers, I love my chocolate and have self-medicated with it on many a long night of revisions. However, I am also a total introvert who is allergic to being filmed, so this was more challenging for me than one would think. Enjoy, then go forth and eat chocolate! P.S. I need to send out a huge thanks to my hubby for helping my technology-challenged self figure out the world of YouTube.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Our Sweet Six: An Interview with Cori McCarthy, Author of THE COLOR OF RAIN

Spaceships, Heartache and Prostitutes...OH MY!

GUYS! Guys, guys, guys!!  I am so excited to introduce you to Cori McCarthy. She's a super cool, incredibly talented debut author who just happens to have written the most intense and exciting book I've read in ages!! Here's the Goodreads blurb:   

If there is one thing that seventeen-year-old Rain knows and knows well, it is survival. Caring for her little brother, Walker, who is "Touched," and losing the rest of her family to the same disease, Rain has long had to fend for herself on the bleak, dangerous streets of Earth City. When she looks to the stars, Rain sees escape and the only possible cure for Walker. And when a darkly handsome and mysterious captain named Johnny offers her passage to the Edge, Rain immediately boards his spaceship. Her only price: her "willingness."

The Void cloaks many secrets, and Rain quickly discovers that Johnny's ship serves as host for an underground slave trade for the Touched . . . and a prostitution ring for Johnny's girls. With hair as red as the bracelet that indicates her status on the ship, the feeling of being a marked target is not helpful in Rain's quest to escape. Even worse, Rain is unsure if she will be able to pay the costs of love, family, hope, and self-preservation.

With intergalactic twists and turns, Cori M. McCarthy's debut space thriller exists in an orbit of its own.

I know, right?! Sleep now, because the moment you get your hands on this bad boy you won't be able to put it down. THE COLOR OF RAIN will be released May 14, 2013, by Running Press Kids. *nods to the best pub in town*  

Now, let's get to know more about Cori. Here are the Sweet Six...

1) Tell us about your book!

My story is a YA space thriller about a girl who goes too far for someone she loves, trading her body to a darkly sexy space captain for a chance to cross the Void and save her brother’s life. 
I sometimes also say its “teen prostitutes in space,” but that’s just for a giggle. (interviewer side note: I LOVE recommending this book to people. It's so fun to say "it's about teen prostitutes in space.")

2) What scene in your book do you LOVE the most?
My favorite scene is when Rain and Ben are at the quarry lake in the violet velvet before dawn, swimming and kissing and feeling free. I wrote this book about six times before it found its true plot, but that scene stayed in every version!

3) If you had to pick a character you LOVE (and not your own!), who would you pick and why?
I love Mr. Rochester. I can’t help it! I know he’s mean and nasty and old, but every time I read JANE EYRE, I get all swoony for him.

4) What's the craziest/most memorable valentine you've ever received?
Just this year, my husband gave me the gift of Star Wars footed, hoodie, zip-up pajamas. Seriously, this product exists! I’d say this is hard to beat on both the memorable/crazy scale.

5) If you were a Brach's Heart, what phrase would be written on you?
“Resist much, obey little.” –Whitman 

6) The all-important choice: flowers or candy?
Hmm, I do not have a sweet tooth, and I get a little sad when flowers die a few days later…but I do have a big soft spot for potted plants.

Thanks so much for swinging by, Cori. The Valentines wish you all the best with your exciting debut!
You can follow Cori on her blog or over on Twitter. 

Friday, April 12, 2013

Twinkies R.I.P.

As y’all may have heard, Hostess—the maker of Twinkies—filed for bankruptcy last year, and the fate of the iconic yellow snack cake has been in flux ever since. Panic-buying, hoarding, and black market Twinkies ran wild--it's been total snack food chaos.  News suggests Twinkies may be back on the shelves sooner rather than later, but nothing is guaranteed.

So with their fate still unknown, I face Emily Rachelle's arrow: writing a poem grieving Twinkies death. Let's begin with a moment of silence.

(Psst...while we're not talking, here's a visual aid for those of you unfamiliar with the Twinkie:

See the waving-creepy-smiley Twinkie dude? Is he SURFING on the Twinkie? What does that even mean? And who wants snack food with a face?! So many questions...)

Moving on.

I have a confession: I’ve never eaten a Twinkie. *wince* I know, it’s probably un-American considering Twinkies have been around since 1930.

But when I signed up for this arrow, I knew that had to change. Yet now that I’d waited, Twinkies had one foot in the snack food grave, and they weren’t easy to find.

Enter BuyTwinkies.com. For 9.99, a single Twinkie could be mine, and for 499.99 (yup, you read that right $499.99) I could nab an entire fifty-count box! (Btw, the fifty-count package was aptly named the “Get Crazy Party Pack”, no doubt highlighting the insanity of anyone willing to shell out five-hundred dollars for processed snack food with sketchy ingredients and an undetermined shelf life. But I’m getting ahead here).

So I pulled the trigger and ordered a single Twinkie. And then I waited.

And waited.


Glaciers shifted faster than UPS with my Twinkie. This was me, waiting (if I had gorgeous brown hair and lucious lashes):

And then I waited some more. Soon I felt like this:

Give me my Twinkie!

I WANTED my Twinkie. I NEEDED my Twinkie.

But it never came. As of yesterday, my Twinkie was still MIA, which ruined all my pre-poem planning. Gah! My plans to share the endangered-processed-goodness with my Twinkie Team (my boys, ages 13, 11, 7, and 5) was FOILED.

So I did some research on what Twinkies are made of, who likes them, and what-not. Without further ado, here we go.

Twinkies R.I.P.

Packed in plastic and golden yellow
insides slick as half-done jello
Twinkies aren't for the faint of heart
the creamy filling is where I'll start.

Processed cream a hidden treasure
dairy-free by any measure
Not a drop of "cream" in sight
It's shortening, baby. Ick, that's right.

37 parts make up each cake*
Makes me wonder . . . are they even baked?!
5 ingredients come from rocks
I'm not kidding--check the box.

The processed goodness doesn't end there
Twinkie's ingredients are broadly share(d)
Think sheet rock, shampoo, and rocket fuel
Oh c'mon Hostess, that's just cruel.

Snack cake secrets...seriously, who knew?
Twinkies "cream" is contained by glue,
plus cellulose gum and calcium sulfate
Yup, it's all in that Twinkie you ate.

Even tough guy John McClane
(you know the dude--think Die Hard fame)
downed an old  Twinkie and nearly hurled
Twinkies are dicey in every world.

So maybe it's best that Twinkies died
(dear Lord I read some are deep-fried!)
But Twinkie lovers are not easily swayed
protests were lodged; complaints have been made.

Hollywood celebs took to the streets
mourning Twinkies' death in heaps of Tweets
Mario Lopez . . . Rob Lowe too
The death of this snack food simply won't do.

Word is the Twinkie will be resurrected
like a vampire rising undetected
This iconic snack food just got a reprieve
turns out we don't have to grieve.

37 ingredients I never tasted
Perhaps my $9.99 was fully wasted
On the other hand, perhaps fate was kind (to me)
Because Twinkie guts are just plain sketch-y.

The End

There you have it! A poem grieving Twinkies possibly-premature death. Emily, I really hope you enjoyed it, and thank you so much for shooting us a Cupid's Arrow. :)

Author's Note and Twinkie Tracking Update:

My Twinkie is still (I hope? I dread?) on its way to me. However, I no longer want to feel I can keep all this epic processed-food-goodness to myself. :) So I'm giving it away. You, you heard me: my missing Twinkie is up for grabs. (note the lovely golden sponge cake color:D)

I'll tweet status updates daily with the hashtag #TwinkieTrack. Once I get it, I've tweet #TakeMyTwinkie and the first to reply with that hashtag, wins the coveted snack cake.** Imma also throwing in a fun YA release, title of which will remain a mystery (kind-of like the make-up of a Twinkie)...but it contains a YA character with hair the color of a golden sponge cake. :)

Good luck and happy Friday!

*Sources: The Twinkie, Deconstructed and more.  And in case you were curious, here is Hostess's response to the deconstruction:

Deconstructing the Twinkie is like trying to deconstruct the universe. We think the millions of people … would agree that Twinkies just taste great.—David Leavitt, Vice President Snack Marketing at Hostess. 

I leave you with that deep thought: "Deconstructing the Twinkie is like trying to deconstruct the universe."

**The #TakeMyTwinkie contest is open to North American residents only. Truthfully, I'm not sure that Twinkies should be spread abroad...will ponder that another day.:)

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Our Sweet Six: An Interview with Laura Resau, author of The Queen of Water

When I finished reading Laura Resau's gorgeous novel, THE QUEEN OF WATER, I knew I wanted to interview her for our Sweet Six Interviews. This is a book that embodies the heart. Here's a bit more about it, but for the whole story, including interviews with Maria Virginia, visit Laura's website.

Co-written with Maria Virginia Farinango, this novel based on a true story begins in an impoverished Andean village where seven-year-old Virginia is taken from her indigenous family to be an unpaid servant in a mestizo household. For the next eight years, she struggles to hold on to her spirit. After escaping as a teenager, she must build a life for herself and reclaim her identity.
"* [A] riveting tale... by turns heartbreaking, infuriating and ultimately inspiring." - Kirkus, STARRED
"A richly described coming-of-age story set in a culture both foreign and familiar... by turns shocking and funny." -- VOYA

With a background in cultural anthropology and ESL-teaching, award-winning author Laura Resau has lived and traveled in Latin America and Europe. Her experiences inspired her novels for young people-- What the Moon Saw,Red GlassThe Indigo NotebookThe Ruby NotebookThe Jade NotebookStar in the Forest, and The Queen of Water. She lives with her family in Colorado.

1) Tell us about your book!

The Queen of Water, which I co-authored with my good friend Maria Virginia Farinango, is the true story of her life as an indigenous girl in the Ecuadorian Andes.  At about age seven, Virginia was taken from her impoverished home to become an unpaid servant (essentially a slave) for a wealthier family.  For the next eight years, she struggled to hold on to her spunk and spirit, and eventually made a dramatic escape as a teen.  Then, feeling caught between cultures, she had to figure out who she was and how to realize her dreams.  I find her story eye-opening, inspiring, triumphant, and surprisingly funny.

2) What scene in your book do you LOVE the most?

There are so many! The cool thing about writing a true story is that the material is often wildly surprising— real-life stuff my mind wouldn’t have dreamt up on its own. I love the scenes that involve Virginia’s romantic crushes—one of whom was the  TV star MacGyver, whose secret agent adventures inspired her own antics.  Her other crush was her first love, a boy named Felix.  It was really heart-warming to write about her falling head-over-heels in love, especially after the abuse and betrayals she’d experienced. During our interview stage, when Maria Virginia was telling me about these crushes, she became cute and girly and giddy, describing how her heart fluttered and whatnot.  It was so sweet!

3) If you had to pick a character you LOVE (and not your own!), who would you pick and why?

Jerry Spinelli’s Stargirl is magnificent!  I love how exuberantly non-conformist she is, with her ukelele and beloved pet rat, with her sense of wonder and humor and beauty. 

4) What's the craziest/most memorable valentine you've ever received?

My mom always told me that Valentine’s day is a holiday invented by Hallmark to make money.  Needless to say, it wasn’t a big holiday in our  home.  Now that I’m married and in my own home, my husband knows I’d be a little… put out… if he didn’t give me at least some flowers or chocolate.  There’s been nothing memorable, unfortunately.  And before him, I guess most of my boyfriends were slackers-- I can’t think of a single memorable Valentine! Thankfully, my husband has decades ahead to address this… 

5) If you were a Brach's Heart, what phrase would be written on you?

Crazy 4 u!  Or something involving craziness! Writing stories is all about channeling your craziness, I’ve realized-- using it to your advantage in a socially acceptable way.  The last talk I did ended with me concluding, “Well, that’s it, guys!  Hope you don’t think I’m completely nuts!”  (Note to self: end next speech with more of a punch.)

6) The all-important choice: flowers or candy?

Funny you should ask.  In my novel-in-progress, there are LOTS of flowers and LOTS of chocolate… but instead of Valentine’s associations, the connection is more with ancient Mayan culture and mythology. But back to your question.  My preference is seasonal. I’ve been drinking copious quantities of hot chocolate lately—both for “book research” and because it’s wintertime.  In the summer, I’m sure I’ll be sticking vases of fresh-cut flowers all over our house.  For Valentine’s Day, I’ll take whatever comes my way…

Thanks for a fun interview!

Thank you, Laura! I was thrilled you agreed to share with us! ~ Jaye

And don't forget to stop by our Cupid's Arrow page (tab above!) and shoot us a dare for love! It's the only way to win our monthly giveaway of books, treats, and more!! And see us humiliate ourselves.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Cupid's Arrow: Richard Armitage!

I'm totally freaking out that I'm actually posting this online. For anyone to see. *cringes* This week's Cupid's Arrow came from Leigh Smith, and I was asked to sing a "super sappy love song" to Richard Armitage.

I love Richard. Like, a lot. I might be semi-obsessed with North & South. (In case you don't believe me, see this post where I gush about it effusively after watching it the first time.) And I can sing. So I figured, piece of cake, right? 

And then I actually tried to record it. In between my kids coming up and banging on the piano, or the music falling off, or forgetting the words I'd made up, or totally messing up, or the awesome sound set-up (my sister's point-and-shoot camera [yes, I was totally prepared]), it might have been a TAD more stressful than I thought it would be. We barely eeked out one take that didn't have a major disaster of some sort in it and had to call it good. So, what I'm saying is, let's not judge my singing voice by this video, shall we? Please? Pretty, pretty please? (And if my old Madrigal's teachers or members are watching this, try not to laugh TOO hard, okay?)

But I do need to thank my awesome bro-in-law Spencer for not only recording it, but also editing and basically doing all the hard work on this video. YOU ROCK! Thank you SO much!

So without further attempts to disclaim, here it is!

Wow, right? I should totally send it in to American Idol, like, immediately. Ah, the things we do for love.

Thanks for the Cupid's Arrow Leigh, and I hope you enjoyed it!

Lyrics (in case you couldn't quite tell what they were, despite the awesome acoustics and sound quality): 

Every night in my dreams, I see him, I feel him,
That is how I keep my obsession alive.
Far across the distance, and spaces between us, 
He will come to woo me at night.

Tall, short, whatever height he is, 
Yes, I believe Richard is my soulmate...
Once more I watch North & South, and he's there on my TV, 
and my dreaming will go on and on....

Richard's there! There's nothing I fear!
Except YouTube breaking so I can't watch that kiss again
and again
and again.....
[the best part of this video, which would be THE KISS]
We'll stay forever this way, 
He is safe in my heart, and my heart will go on and on....

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Our Sweet Six: An Interview with Agent Tracey Adams and the Winner of our March Giveaway!

Congratulations to Kathryn P., winner of our March giveaway! We will be in touch soon about your fabulous prize!

Folks, don't forget to keep shooting those Cupid's Arrows because every month we will be giving away something amazing! To be eligible, you have to shoot an arrow at us. Drawings are held once a month, and winners are picked by a random number generator. Congrats again to Kathryn P.!

Our Sweet Six: An Interview with Literary Agent Tracey Adams

Today, we're thrilled to hang out with literary agent Tracey Adams. In 2004, Tracey and her husband Josh founded Adams Literary, a full-service boutique agency exclusively dedicated to children's authors and illustrators. Prior to starting Adams Literary, Tracey spent nearly a decade with agencies Writers House and McIntosh & Otis, and also worked in the editorial and marketing departments of Greenwillow Books and Margaret K. McElderry Books.

Currently, Adams Literary is accepting submissions, and they're open to any age and genre of children's literature, from picture books up to young adult. Interested writers and illustrators should check out submission guidelines on the agency's website.

Want to learn more about Tracey? We though so! Without further do, here is...


1) What's your favorite YA character?

I have to go with Ponyboy because THE OUTSIDERS was probably the first YA I read.

2) What was your favorite non-client read of the last year?

I loved the highly addictive quality of GONE GIRL. Still not sure I loved the ending though.

 3) What do you love MOST about being an agent?

I firmly believe that words have power, change lives, and can make the world a better place -- and I love being part of the community that makes books happen.

4) What's the craziest/most memorable valentine you ever received?

This is easy-peasy. I have to go with "memorable", and that would be Josh's Valentine proposal. I'm a Valentine baby, and this was my 25th birthday. I got roses, an amazing speech, a beautiful engagement ring, and the greatest guy ever. (Say it with us people -- awww....)

5) If you were a Brach's heart, what phrase would be written on you?

P.S. We had Brach's hearts at our September wedding. We had to, right?

6) The all-important choice: flowers or candy?

Can I be difficult and choose dark chocolate-covered strawberries?

Of course you can, Tracey! Thanks so much for stopping by and sharing the YA book love! *Throwing confetti and dark chocolate-covered strawberries in Tracey's honor* Writers and illustrators looking for representation, remember to check out Adams Literary. Happy Tuesday everyone!