Summer Reads


Summer is a busy time for me with a bit of travel and a lot of writing and reading. Plus, as many of you know, I now have ducks!


Long story, but meet Darcy (the white Pekin) and Lizzy (the black Indian Runner). I’ve had them since they were ducklings and they are now a little over four months old. I’m completely smitten by my ducks and fortunately they seem to adore me right back. Ducks are kind of like dogs – they follow simple commands (come, stay, go home, etc.) and are great company. I spend almost every afternoon sitting in the fenced-in backyard with them. They forage, run around, take a dip in the kiddie pool, and act cute, and I read. *


I’ve been reading some fantastic books! Here are some I recommend if you’re looking for great summer reads!


Since You’ve Been Gone by Morgan Matson (YA)


Landline by Rainbow Rowell (adult fiction)


Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins (YA)

If you pre-order you get some really cool swag!


To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han (YA)


One Plus One by Jojo Moyes (adult fiction)

Plus don’t forget the great books I’ve highlighted in my Spotlight interviews!

If you have book recs for me, feel free to share in the comments! I have a huge towering TBR pile but I’m always willing to buy more books!

Happy summer and happy reading!

*For anyone concerned about the well-being of my ducks, I have a long history of working with animals of all kinds and a degree in Zoology.


And The Winner Is…


Thanks to everyone for stopping by to shine the spotlight on Justina Ireland and her awesome YA novel


Promise of Shadows (Simon & Schuster/2014)

If you missed it, be sure to check out my interview with Justina: click here.

Using a random number generator and numbering the comments in order of appearance, the winner of a copy of Promise of Shadows is: number 3. Who is that? Why it’s Catey! WOOHOO! Please email me at just kid ink at yahoo dot com (no spaces) with your mailing address and I’ll be sure to get you your copy ASAP!

Thanks for stopping by! Come back soon for more book buzz and give-aways.

Happy reading!


Welcome To The Spotlight Justina Ireland and Promise of Shadows!


I’m super thrilled to shine the spotlight on YA author Justina Ireland and her fabulous novel Promise of Shadows! I met Justina at the Vermont College Novel Writing Retreat earlier this year and found her to be hilarious and talented. I could not put this book down! Stay tuned below to enter for a chance to win a copy of this suspenseful, action-filled, thrilling book.


Promise of Shadows by Justina Ireland (Simon & Schuster/2014)

The story opens on Zephyr who is stuck in Tartarus’ worst section – the Pits – as punishment for killing one of Hera’s guards. Zeph is a Harpy but a failed one, and is scared when she shouldn’t be. Fortunately, she has found a protector in Cass. When her childhood friend (and crush) Tallon comes to the rescue to release her from the Underworld, she and Cass join Tallon, his dragon brother Blue and Zeph’s childhood nemesis Alora in a quest to keep Hera from taking over the mortal world. Zeph, a very reluctant heroine with a dark power, has growing feelings for Tallon which complicates matters. Exciting and original and full of adventure and tension!

Spotlight on Justina Ireland:

Please share with us how you came up with this amazing story. What was the writing process like for you?

Zephyr had actually been kicking around in my mind for a little while.  I’d tried her in a couple of different stories, but things never really clicked.  Mostly that’s because I don’t outline.  I’m a pretty disorganized writer.  I start with the opening and the ending, but all that story in the middle I have to discover during the writing process.  So that was a lot of different things throughout the drafts, but it eventually clicked.  And then when my editor came back with notes it clicked even more.

Zephyr is a “failed” Harpy who is afraid of things any proper Harpy should not be. She struggles with this as she mourns the loss of her family. When she learns she is they prophesied Nyx and is destined to battle Hera, she is not quite thrilled. Zeph is a layered character who felt very real to me. How do you get to know and develop your characters, in particular, Zeph?

Zeph was hard for me, because I desperately wanted her to be a badass.  And she isn’t.  At heart, she’s a coward and lazy, and I like to think that if I were the Nyx I’d embrace it wholeheartedly and start kicking ass on day one.

But that isn’t Zephyr, so I really had to put aside my personal feelings and think what would someone who has zero self-confidence do.  I ended up rewriting most of the book because each revision I’d think “No way would she do that, she’s not there yet.”  It was a definite process.

I’ve long been fascinated by Greek mythology. What brought about your interest in using Greek mythology and these characters? Did you have to do a lot of research?

I’ve loved Greek mythology since I was a kid.  I’m actually a big fan of all kinds of mythology, and I use several mythologies in Promise of Shadows (Greek just tends to be the most prevalent).

I do a ton of research before writing anything.  For my Greek mythology my go to resource is the Rutledge Greek mythology book, which is about a thousand pages long.  But I usually take whatever the established story is and change it to suit my whims.  Harpies are a great example.  In the established mythology they’re these monstrous birdlike creatures.  In my story, they’re mercenaries.  But I use enough of the established details so the people can feel the details are familiar and fresh at the same time.

Who is your favorite Greek god/goddess and why?

I’m a big fan of Ares, although I also dig Hades.  My favorite Greek gods/goddesses tend to be the ones that don’t have such a great reputation, because I like to imagine that maybe they aren’t really as bad as people say.  I love a tragic backstory.

Justina Ireland lives in a house made of books. At least that’s the excuse she gives when people trip over one. When she isn’t accidentally killing house guests with her TBR pile she writes books. She enjoys eating, sleeping, and watching Judge Judy on her DVR. You can usually find her on Twitter.

For more about Justina and her books, check out her web site, follow her on Tumblr, or follow her on Twitter.

For a chance to win a copy of Promise of Shadows, just follow these instructions:

1.  Comment below and for fun tell me your who your favorite Greek god/goddess is. Mine is Athena, mostly because I just recently visited Athens and learned a ton about her. I also like that she’s the goddess of wisdom and the arts.

2. You must have a US or Canada mailing address to win.

3. Enter by Friday, July 11th midnight EST. Winner will be chosen at random and announced here on Tuesday, July 15th.

Good luck and happy reading!


And The Winner Is…


Thanks to everyone who stopped by to help shine the spotlight on Jim Averbeck and his debut MG novel


A Hitch At The Fairmont 

If you missed it, click here to read all about Jim and his adventure mystery novel set in San Francisco.

Using a random number generator, the winning number is 1! Counting from the first comment, this makes Carl Scott the lucky winner! Congratulations! Please email me at just kid ink at yahoo dot com (no spaces) and provide me with your mailing address. I’ll make sure your prize is in the mail to you ASAP!

Stayed tuned for more book buzz and give-aways! Thanks for stopping by and happy reading!

Welcome To The Spotlight Jim Averbeck and A Hitch At The Fairmont!


Happy book birthday to Jim Averbeck for his debut middle grade novel! Stayed tuned below to enter for a chance to win a copy of this awesome mystery-adventure book.


A Hitch At The Fairmont by Jim Averbeck with illustrations by Nick Bertozzi

Atheneum Books for Young Readers/2014

When 11-year-old Jack Fair’s mother dies mysteriously, he is forced to live with his mean aunt at the Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco. Jack reluctantly does his aunt’s bidding, fearful of being sent to an orphanage. When his aunt disappears, it’s up to Jack to try to find her before youth services discovers Jack’s predicament. He feels like he’s in over his head until he befriends none other than Alfred Hitchcock, the famous movie director in the room next door. They piece together clues while evading kidnappers and possible murderers, discovering a very tangled web of lies and deceit.

I’m a huge fan of Jim’s picture books. See my previous interview with him about his picture book Oh No, Little Dragon! It’s a real pleasure to talk to him about his first novel:

This book has it all – action, mystery, adventure, and danger! A page-turner, for sure. I know you are a fan of Alfred Hitchcock’s work and that you live in San Francisco. What was the journey of this story – from inspiration to publication?

I’ve spoken of the inspiration elsewhere, so let’s focus on the journey. For me, this was a journey through time, an attempt to turn back the clock to a day when childhood was quite a different thing. I’m a boomer, as is the child protagonist in this story. I think my generation was less supervised than kids today. We were basically turned out of the house in the morning and didn’t come home until it was time to eat. And if it was summer, we went right back out again. It seemed to us that every day was filled with all those things you mention- action, mystery, adventure, and even danger. And if there wasn’t enough of any of those things around, we manufactured some ourselves!

While you have written/illustrated several pictures books (I adore them all), this is your first novel. What are the major differences for you/your writing process when it came to writing a novel instead of picture books?

I can hold the whole story of a picture book in my head. I cannot do the same with a novel, particularly a mystery. So this novel required a ton of charts, outlines, and maps to make sure I had the big picture in mind, whenever I was working on a smaller piece of it.

Jack, an artist, has a photographic memory for images. Do you? How are you like Jack?

I do not have a photographic image memory. Like most artists, I have a vision in my head of what I want to capture on paper. But, also like most artists, that vision is in reality incomplete. My brain tricks myself into thinking I see it all, but when I go to capture it on paper, the holes are revealed. It’s remarkable that Jack can see and capture images in the way he does.

Like Jack I strive to see behind the image, to delve deeper than the apparent surface meaning of what I observe. Indeed, that is a major theme in this book. Jack often uses words like “look” and “see” and Hitchcock expounds on how what we think we are looking at may, in fact, be quite deceptive. The whole mystery hinges on the fact that what you see is not always what you get.

What is your favorite Hitchcock movie and why?

There’s something to like about nearly every one. But the one I could watch over and over is REAR WINDOW. Like many writers, there is a bit of a voyeur in me, I guess. I’m not a Peeping Tom, but when you walk around a city at night, you can’t help but catch glimpses of  the lives of your fellow urbanites. You may remember in REAR WINDOW that there are half a dozen or more little stories unfolding in the windows across the courtyard from Jimmy Stewart’s apartment. I love that aspect of the film

Jim Averbeck is the author of the Charlotte Zolotow Honor Book, In a Blue Room (Harcourt, 2008) and the author and illustrator of except if(Atheneum, 2011) Oh No, Little Dragon (Atheneum, 2012) and The Market Bowl (Charlesbridge, 2012.)  He studied writing and illustrating for children at UC Berkeley. He was the Regional Advisor for the San Francisco chapter of The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.

For more about Jim Averbeck and his books, check out his web site.

For a chance to win a copy of this adventure-filled mystery, just follow these rules (you know the drill):

1. Comment below and for fun, tell me your favorite Hitchcock movie (or if you haven’t seen any, which you’d like to see). I have seen only two Hitchcock movies: The Birds and Psycho. I saw both as an adult and both freaked me out. I can’t really say either were favorites only because I don’t like movies that freak me out. ;) Though, I can appreciate the genius behind both. That being said, Jim makes me want to watch Rear Window.

2. Entrants must have a U.S. or Canada mailing address (yes, I’m opening this one up to include Canada).

3. Comment by Friday, June 27th midnight EST. One winner will be drawn at random and announced here on Tuesday, July 1st.

Good luck and happy reading!





And The Winner Is…


Thank you to everyone who stopped by to help shine the spotlight on Kelly Fiore and her delicious YA novel:


Taste Test 

If you missed this fascinating interview, just click here to read it.

Be sure to look for her upcoming release 9781619633544_p0_v3_s260x420

This one looks like another goodie and I, for one, will definitely be buying and reading it!

The real reason you’re here, of course, is to find out who won a copy of Taste Test! Using a random number generator, the winning number is:

number 4! Counting from first comment to last, that makes the winner:

Lynn Bauer! Congratulations! Please contact me and give me your mailing address and I’ll make sure your prize gets in the mail ASAP!

Stayed tuned for more book buzz, interviews, and give-aways! Happy reading!

Welcome to the Spotlight Kelly Fiore and Taste Test!


I’m absolutely thrilled to shine the spotlight on YA author Kelly Fiore. I met Kelly this past winter at the Vermont College Novel Writing Retreat and when she told me about her book, Taste Test, I knew I had to read it. I read it and loved it! I’m now a fan of Kelly’s! Stay tuned below to enter for a chance to win her delicious novel!


Taste Test by Kelly Fiore (Bloomsbury/2013)

When Nora Henderson secures a spot on the popular TV cooking competition for high school seniors, she is excited for a chance to achieve her dream of leaving small town Weston, NC and having a career in the culinary arts. She does feel a little guilty for leaving behind her dad and the BBQ joint they’ve been running for most of her life. When she arrives on the set and meets the other contestants, she immediately loathes the arrogant son of a famous chef, Christian. The two become fierce competitors. Fortunately, she makes quick friends with two other contestants. During the course of the show, it seems someone is sabotaging the competition, seriously injuring some of the contestants. Nora is determined to solve the mystery. In the meantime, she fights her growing attraction to Christian. Delicious story flavored with a spicy romance! (And bonus, there are recipes!)

Spotlight on Kelly:

Thanks so much for having me, Debbi!

Thank you, Kelly, for being here! Please share the journey of this book – the inspiration, the writing process, and the road to publication.

I’ve always been a “foodie,” even before the word “foodie” was a common phrase. When the show, Top Chef, became popular, I was hooked. I loved how there was so much drama and stress in a kitchen – a true kitchen “arena.” The only thing I really thought was missing was the romantic chemistry and tension. If the show were a book or a movie, it would absolutely have that.

At about the same time, the class, Commercial Foods, became overwhelmingly popular at the school where I was teaching. It was essentially the cooking part of home economics. The kids loved making things and getting to serve them to others and there was a lot of pride and ownership of that food. Kids who ordinarily wouldn’t excel at art or other creative elective courses loved their cooking class.

So, in the Fall of 2010, I was talking to my agent about the manuscript that was currently on sub (and not going anywhere) and mentioned this “Top Chef for teens” idea. She was enthusiastic and, over the course of about four months, I wrote the first draft. I think it took another 2-3 months to clean it up and get it submission-ready. We went out with it in January and it sold in June to Walker Books for Young Readers.

I’m a sucker for a good (hot) romance. Nora and Christian totally sizzle! Taste Test has it all – romance, food, competition, sabotage, intrigue. Whew! I couldn’t stop turning pages! How did Nora and Christian come about? What are the challenges to writing great romantic tension?

When it comes to YA, I’m always trying to write and re-write one relationship – Pacey Witter and Joey Potter from Dawson’s Creek. I feel like any good romance, particularly for teens, needs to have two people with more than just chemistry – there needs to be a little spice. A little stress. It shouldn’t be an immediate attraction that, thereby, becomes a romance.

Pacey and Joey epitomized that kind of relationship for me. Their friendship and romance was a constant banter, alternately unrequited, then heated, then explosive. A big (read – huge) part of me will always want to be Joey and a big (read – enormous) part of me will always love Pacey.

So, in Taste Test, Nora is my Joey Potter – she’s feisty, but she’s cautious. She works harder than anyone else and feels like she has something to prove. Despite her strength, she’s painfully insecure. She trusts her best friend, Billy, implicitly, but there isn’t a lot of room for more than that in her carefully constructed, safe world.

Christian is my Pacey Witter – he’s cocky, but slightly damaged. His bravado is both a mask and a shield. As the son of a famous chef, he feels driven to prove himself and yet always unable to measure up. I think it’s safe to say that I gravitate toward that kind of male character – the kind that is both irritating and handsome, both frustrating and somehow sweet and heroic.

I think writing a good, desirable, swoon-worthy romance is HARD. Authors who primarily write romance do not get nearly enough respect for how hard it is to write one of the most universal experiences – falling in love – in a way that is both relatable and completely new. I like to think back on a fantastic piece of advice from Jennifer Jacobson – “Things that feel like they happen fast should be written slow, and things that feel like they happen slowly should be written fast.” Okay, she was WAY more eloquent about it than that – but that quote has stuck with me, especially when writing romantic scenes. It’s important not to rush the details. People want to fall in love with your characters and they want to be a part of that evolution. Your readers deserve the time and care a good romance takes.

Okay, I admit it, I love food. I wasn’t introduced to North Carolina barbecue until I met my in-laws for the first time over 16 years ago. But, yum! Do you like to cook? What is your favorite comfort food (or foods)?

Do I like to cook?


That’s like the understatement of the century. Cooking and baking are my “go-to” activities, apart from writing and reading. I use cooking to relax, to clear my head, to stimulate ideas. I ADORE food preparation in just about every form. I also have a son with food allergies, so I find myself cooking more often than not. Somehow, I never get tired of it.

I think my mom’s recipes are my biggest comfort foods. Some of them are in the book – well, variations of them. The macaroni and cheese recipe Nora makes for her first challenge is my mom’s recipe, but with my own spicy twists. But I will make beef stew or chicken noodle soup or chocolate cake from my mom’s classic recipes if I need that warm and cozy comfort feeling. I’m also lucky enough to have married into an amazing Italian family. My husband’s grandmother – who I call Grandma, too – has shared some of the Fiore family recipes with me and I’ve tried my hand at a few of the classics that my husband loves.

For me, food (like love) is a universal experience. It doesn’t really surprise me, in the end, that I wrote my first book about food. They always say you should write what you know and I definitely know food!

Kelly Fiore has a BA in English from Salisbury University and an MFA in Poetry from West Virginia University. She received an Individual Artist Award from the Maryland State Arts Council in 2005 and 2009. Kelly’s poetry has appeared in Small Spiral Notebook, Samzidada, Mid Atlantic Review, Connotation Press, and the Grolier Annual Review. Her first young adult novel, Taste Test, was released in August 2013 from Bloomsbury USA. Forthcoming books include Just Like the Movies, again from Bloomsbury, in 2014 and The People Vs. Cecelia Price from HarperTeen in 2015.

Kelly teaches college composition in Maryland, where she lives with her husband and son. 


For more about Kelly, check out her web site, follow her on Twitter, or friend her on Facebook!

By the way, I’m totally looking forward to her next novel, Just Like The Movies, due out on July 22! What’s it about? Two girls. Eight Movies. One Happily Ever After. I can’t wait!

But you won’t have to wait to read Taste Test! One lucky person will win a copy! As always, follow these instructions:

1. Comment below and for fun tell me your favorite comfort food. My comfort meal is roast chicken, Japanese rice, and gravy. It brings back memories of home. That and Mom’s potato salad. And pie. Any kind of pie, but I’m partial to key lime. It’s really hard to pick one!

2. Please have a U.S. mailing address. I take care of both the copy of the book and mailing, so this just helps me keep costs down. Thank you for understanding.

3. Enter by Friday, June 13th (lucky lucky!) by midnight EST. Winner will be drawn at random and posted here on Tuesday, June 17th.

Good luck and happy reading!