Friday, July 26, 2013

It's the "Writerly Habitats" Contest!

Today we’ll be exploring the deepest, darkest jungles of the Internet! 

Yes, we shall hack our way through overgrown thickets with machetes to observe the secret writing lair of one of the YA Valentines.

Now, I can’t tell you which Valentine this lair belongs to. You’ll have to guess. And if you guess correctly—and even if you don’t—you'll be entered to win a very cool prize.

So put on your wash-and-wear, wrinkle-free travel pants, dial your binoculars to “stalker,” and then have a look at the picture below:

Who do you think sits at this desk everyday and creates literary stardust? Hmm?

Now about that prize I mentioned. It’s a good prize. Maybe not as good as winning a miniature Vietnamese pot-bellied pig—that would be an AWESOME prize—but this is a close second.

Here it is:

I know, right? It’s a very cool t-shirt. And I know you need it. Weren't you just saying the other day that your t-shirt collection is getting kind of lame and that you needed to stop wearing that Hilary Duff concert shirt because it’s starting to date you a bit?

OH! And one more thing!

Simply because I like the look of your lovely face, Imma tell you this: The prize itself is a hint about who the owner of this desk is.

Do you know your Valentines well enough to figure it out?

All you have to do to enter is leave a comment with your guess. I’ll choose a winner at random and announce next Friday, August 2.

So get to it: Go! Guess! Win (maybe)! Sorry it can’t be a cute little pig!

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

BOOK RAVE: Flashback to Summertime Fun!

If you're anything like me, the warm days and long nights of summertime bring back some great childhood memories. Like after dinner bike rides to DQ for Dilly Bars, and soaping up the picnic table bench 'cause it made the perfect slide for the backyard kiddie pool--once you got over the whole splinter-in-your-bum factor. But one of my favorite childhood memories was the reading program at the local library. 

Despite my love of books now, I wasn't a big reader as a child. (Who wants to read when there are trees to be climbed?!) But something about the reading program got me fired up, and every summer I actually enjoyed reading. Maybe it was being forced inside by the unforgiving Denver sun without cable TV to entertain me, or perhaps it was the enviable prize pack if I met my goal (who doesn't want a free scoop of ice cream and an eraser shaped like a light bulb?!), but whatever the reason, during the summer I loved to read.

So, for today's Book Rave, I thought I'd break standard Valentine protocol and rave about a book that you won't find on the new release wall. Today I'm going to rave about my all-time favorite childhood book, BREAD AND JAM FOR FRANCES, by Russell Hoban. 

Like many of my favorite childhood stories, this book is about an animal who does peopleish things (It's a word!), but what makes this little badger different than other children's book characters, is her authenticity. Frances is not sweet all the time, she doesn't share when she's supposed to, and she certainly doesn't want to eat a poached egg for breakfast. Frances learns things the hard way and throws a fit while doing so--just like most of us, which, I suppose, is what makes her so darn likeable.

If you're looking for a sweet, funny read (with adorable illustrations!), pick up a copy of BREAD AND JAM FOR FRANCES, or any of the other delightful books in the Frances series. And if you have time, take a trip down memory lane and tell us about your favorite childhood book or summertime read.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Passion! Inspiration! Implosions!

Well, this is just all kinds of awkward.

For me, I mean.

It feels strange to talk about what inspired me to write my novel, Tabula Rasa. Strange because to explain why I so desperately wanted to write this particular story, I have to talk about love. And talking about love makes me feel all … oogey. Then I get embarrassed and say “um” and “you know,” and I have trouble making eye contact. Oh, and I instantly go red as a radish. (I have a theory that this is the real reason the color red is associated with passion and love. Because it’s the color you turn when you talk about it.)

Yet I myself enjoy hearing authors tell the “story behind the story,” so I pushed through and put this video together. Needless to say, there are loads of “ums” and “you knows” in here.



You know.

Here it is.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Sweet Six Interview with Megan Shepherd - Author of The Madman's Daughter & Her Dark Curiosity

I'm so excited to have author, Megan Shepherd, on the blog with us today. I get to name drop and say I knew Megan way back when. Sort of. Because even though we did take a writing workshop together, before she was agented, with an early version of The Madman's Daughter, we ALL knew Megan was going places with her writing. And it wasn't too terribly long after that when she won the SCBWI-Carolinas writing contest and scored her big-time agent, Josh Adams. Within weeks she had a trilogy deal for her gothic inspired books.

When I finally got to read The Madman's Daughter in its entirety, it was as good to the end as I knew it would be, and I can honestly say it's been one of my favorite reads of 2014. Now, there's the second book in the series to look forward to, Her Dark Curiosity. Can we all say heck yeah!

And here's Megan to answer our Sweet Six questions!
photo by Kristi Hedberg

1) Tell us about your book!

The Madman's Daughter is the first in a historical thriller trilogy inspired by various Gothic classics, including The Island of Doctor Moreau, Jekyll & Hyde, and Frankenstein. The first book follows sixteen year old Juliet Moreau as she travels from London to a mysterious tropical island where her father is rumored to be working on dangerous and experimental science. She gets swept up in mysteries, murder, and romance while she learns the truth about her father.

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

There's a scene where Juliet goes a little crazy, like her father, and smashes a lot of specimen jars and gets covered in gross chemicals and bits of rotting specimens. Disgusting, I know. But I like how that scene shows how she's slipping into madness.

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

I adore Cassel from Holly Black's Curseworker series, starting with White Cat. He's no saint, but he's a good guy at heart, and his family is insane.

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

For whatever reason (dating the wrong guys I guess) I never got flowers before I married my husband. He gave me flowers our first Valentine's Day and it meant so much to me. Now he gets them for me all the time. (I picked the right guy!)

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

SWEET MADNESS. Because love is better when there's a little craziness.

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

Ha! Well, after question #4, I guess I have to say flowers, though I do love chocolate in all its forms.

Sweet madness, indeed! Thanks so much for joining us today, Megan, and don't forget! Today's the last day to enter the contest to win swag from the Reader Skit post which Megan participated in. Prizes are a signed copy of The Madman's Daughter, a signed copy of Denise Jaden's Losing Faith, swag from Jen McConnel, Jeanne Ryan, Denise Jaden, and Megan Shepherd. Enter below!

Friday, July 12, 2013

Book Rave: FML by Shaun David Hutchinson

This spring marked the 15-year anniversary of two beloved films from my teen years: SLIDING DOORS and CAN'T HARDLY WAIT.

The former starred Gwyneth Paltrow before we all hated her as a young Brit (remember when we all thought she was actually British?) whose life splits into two scenarios -- one where she catches the train and then catches her boyfriend cheating and becomes empowered and dyes her hair, and the other where she misses the train and is stuck with her mousy brunette bangs (They were seriously depressing to look at). CAN'T HARDLY WAIT starred a bunch of up-and-comers and never-quite-got-theres and included many X-FILES references. It revolved around a wild high school party on graduation night, where kind soul Preston Meyers is determined to confess his true feelings via text email snapchat hand-written letter to most popular girl Amanda "Amanduhhh" Beckett. Complications and Third Eye Blind songs ensue.

If you loved those movies, then you will love their novelized offspring: FML by Shaun David Hutchinson. The pitch, from Goodreads:

Tonight’s the night: Simon’s big chance to finally get with Cassie. Cassie, who he’s loved for ages. Cassie, who is newly boyfriend-free. Cassie, who just happens to be throwing the biggest party of the year. Simon’s plan is simple: He’ll go to the party, she’ll fall in love with him, they’ll make out like crazy, and the night will be a complete success.

But things don’t ever go as planned…especially when it comes to Cassie.

In two alternating plotlines, Simon goes after the girl of his dreams and stumbles toward his destiny. It’s one night, one party, and a thousand ways for things to go wrong…but a million ways for them to go right.

I was instantly hooked by the premise, and FML did not disappoint. It's entertaining, funny, and just a little raunchy. Fun, male-POV young adult contemporaries are lacking in the market (IMHO, though correct me if that's way offbase), and FML felt like a fresh alternative. The characters all come off as genuine. I loved how he encapsulates the weird nostalgia you feel as a senior. Whether you like it or not, you have history with your classmates, and while you can't wait to leave them, you know you'll always be tied to them. It's filled with witty banter between Simon and his two best buds, who are dating each other. They're gay, but come off as fleshed-out characters whose sexuality is secondary but not nonexistent.

Best of all, Hutchinson does a great job balancing the dual-POV of Simon's two realities. They intertwine in clever ways without ever repeating themselves, and there's one twist that genuinely took me by surprise (cough, Natalie, cough). 

FML is perfect for a fun, light summer read. And while nobody dyes their hair or meets an angel stripper, you will still have a good time reading it. 

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Our Sweet Six: an interview with Elizabeth Richards, author of BLACK CITY and PHOENIX

Hey guys, Paula here to share with you one of my favorite authors, Elizabeth Richards. Her debut novel, BLACK CITY, was one of my top reads in 2012. It was dark and gothic and sexy and forbidden and did I mention sexy? If you're a fan of forbidden love, action, and mystery set against a dystopian backdrop, the Black City Chronicles are for you! PHOENIX, the second book, released in June and I am already clamoring for the final installment, due out next summer. Bonus factor--Elizabeth has the prettiest covers of any series I've ever seen. Look, I made it extra-giant for you to enjoy :)

1. Tell us about your book.
 Here's PHOENIX’s official blurb, as I think it explains it the best!

Engaged to be married, Ash and Natalie are just starting to build a life together when things in the United Sentry States go from bad to worse. Ash and Natalie find themselves at the center of turmoil when dictator Purian Rose threatens Natalie’s life unless Ash votes in favor of Rose’s Law—a law that will send Darklings and other dissenters to a deadly concentration camp known as the Tenth.

When Ash can’t bring himself to trade Natalie’s life for those of millions of Darklings, her fate is sealed. Enter Elijah Theroux, the handsome Bastet boy Natalie once saved from her mother’s labs, where he’d been experimented on and tortured. It was his venom the Sentry used to create the lethal Golden Haze, the heart of the government conspiracy that led to Black City’s uprising and Ash’s rebirth as the Phoenix, the face of the rebellion. Elijah is back and Ash doesn’t like him; it’s clear he’s taken with Natalie, and Ash fears she may have feelings for him as well.

But Elijah also may have the answer to taking down Purian Rose for good—a powerful weapon called the Ora. Ash, Natalie and Elijah just have to escape Black City undetected to find it. But fleeing the city and finding this weapon (if it even exists) are easier said than done, and the quest could tear Ash and Natalie apart, even pushing them into the arms of others.

This enthralling sequel to Black City is just as absorbing, delicious and steamy as the first book, leaving readers hungry for the series conclusion.

2. What scene in your book do you LOVE the most?
 Hee hee, that's easy. The scene in the Barren Lands where Elijah's in the water with his shirt off...mmmmm.

3. If you had to pick a YA character you LOVE (and not your own!) who would you pick and why?'s so hard to choose just one character, as I have so many book boyfriends (I'm a book boyfriend slut). I think I'd pick Four from Divergent. He's tough, handsome and brave, but he's also vulnerable too. The perfect combination!

4. What's the craziest/most memorable Valentine you've ever received?
 I haven't received any crazy Valentine messages, however one Valentine my husband surprised me with a trip to Barcelona! I thought we were going up to London for a wedding reception, and when we got to London he whisked me off to the airport. It wasn't until we were there that he told me where we were going. It was an AMAZING Valentines, and one I'll never forget. My hubs is the best.

5. If you were a Brach's candy heart, what phrase would be written on you?
 Blood Mates!

6. And finally, the all-important choice: flowers or candy?
 Flowers! My husband always gets the best bouquets for me, with really unusual and gothic flowers, like black tulips with thistles and fiddlehead ferns, and I love them. He knows me so well! Of course, if they come WITH a box of chocolates, then that's even better...

YAY! Those sound like the most epic flowers ever and I might even decide to like flowers too if I ever got any that cool. I mean, they still would never top candy, but you're right, why choose when you can demand both? Thanks for stopping by the YA Valentines blog, Elizabeth!

Elizabeth Richards is an award-winning journalist, who spent her early career reviewing videogames before making the bold (or crazy) move into travel writing, despite suffering from terrible travel sickness.

In her spare time, she ran a successful lifestyle website aimed at teenage girls, where she got to interview many of her favourite bands, go to gigs and basically blag loads of free swag all in the name of ‘research’.

Elizabeth lives in Buckinghamshire, England, with her husband. 

Website        Twitter        Facebook        Goodreads

BREAKING NEWS!! I have just been informed that the winner of the BURN OUT cover reveal contest is Alyssa Susanna!! Alyssa you have just won DEFY THE DARK and a YA book of your choice! Congratulations. Kristi Helvig will be contacting you :)

Friday, July 5, 2013

Happy 4th!

We here at the Valentines would like to wish everyone in the US of A a happy 4th of July! We'll be back up as normal next week, but until then, check out our FABULOUS contests that are still running:

Krist Helvig's giveaway in honor of the cover reveal for BURN OUT!
Jen McConnel's giveaway in honor of the cover reveal for DAUGHTER OF CHAOS!

May your weekend be filled with sparklers and cupcakes!

Tuesday, July 2, 2013


And the insane cover revealage for Team Valentines continues for yet another week...

What's up, blog-reader-people? Paula here. Today I am privileged to reveal the cover for Jen McConnel's DAUGHTER OF CHAOS. Here's more about the book from Goodreads:

Witches must choose the path they will follow, and Darlena Agara is no exception. She’s been putting it off long enough, and in her case, ignoring it has not made it go away. In a moment of frustration, Darlena chooses to follow Red Magic, figuring she had outsmarted the powers that be, since there’s no such thing as Red Magic. But alas, Darlena’s wrong (again) and she becomes a newly declared Red Witch.

Her friends are shocked and her parents horrified by the choice Darlena has made. As a Red Witch, she now governs one third of the world’s chaos. She is the walking personification of pandemonium, turmoil, and bedlam, just as the patrons of Red Magic would have it to be.

But Darlena believes there must be more to Red Magic than chaos and destruction, and she sets out on a journey to achieve balance. Only doing so puts her at odds with the dark goddess Hecate, who simply will not allow Darlena to quit. She encourages Darlena to embrace who and what she is and to leave good magic to the good witches. If only Darlena could, life would be simple, and she would not be the Daughter of Chaos.

DAUGHTER OF CHAOS is the first in a YA paranormal trilogy.

Awesome title, and synopsis, right? You know, if you saw my workspace you might think that I am also the walking personification of pandemonium, turmoil, and bedlam. Sadly, I do not have any cool powers. Even more sadly, I have not read this book yet. But after awesome cover reveals comes awesome ARCs, so maybe someday soon I will get to pet it and tell it how pretty it is.

Just how pretty is it, you ask?




Yeah, this girl is hot and she looks like she means business. Also of note: look how HUGE Jen Mcconnel's name is on this book. It's like her publisher has already decided she's going to be a major literary rock star. GO JEN!

Jen McConnel first began writing poetry as a child. Since then, her words have appeared in a variety of magazines and journals, including Sagewoman, PanGaia, and The Storyteller (where she won the people’s choice 3rd place award for her poem, “Luna”).

She is also a former reviewer for Voices of Youth Advocates (VOYA), and proud member of SCBWI, NCWN, and SCWW.

A Michigander by birth, she now lives and writes in the beautiful state of North Carolina. When she isn't crafting worlds of fiction, she teaches writing composition at a community college. Once upon a time, she was a middle school teacher, a librarian, and a bookseller, but those are stories for another time.

Get more Jen and more DAUGHTER OF CHAOS:

GIVEAWAY!! In honor of her cover reveal, Jen is giving away Embrace by Jessica Shirvington and Half-Blood by Jennifer L Armentrout. She sent me a document full of strange symbols that looked like her computer barfed up a hairball, but she swears if I post them right here they will make a Rafflecopter. Hold your breath, peeps:

a Rafflecopter giveaway (Embrace by Jessica Shirvington and Half-Blood by Jennifer L. Armentrout)

OMG, I think it worked! Ah, you never forget your first Rafflecopter, do you? :) Good luck in the contest and sound off below about exactly how awesome this cover is!!