Author Archives: DEBtastic Reads!

About DEBtastic Reads!

Writer, reader, traveler, dog- and duck-lover, mom and wife. Author of two nonfiction children's books.

And The Winner Is…


Thank you to everyone who stopped by to help shine the spotlight on debut YA author Jennifer Wolf Kam and her book:


Devin Rhodes Is Dead by Jennifer Wolf Kam (Mackinac Island Press/2014)

If you missed the interview, check it out here.

I used a random number generator to pick the winner of a copy of this thrilling debut novel. The winning number is…

(drum roll)

commenter number ONE! Congratulations drluper! WOOHOO! Please contact me at just kid ink at yahoo dot com (no spaces) with your mailing address and I will be sure to get your copy in the mail ASAP!

Thank you to everyone for stopping by. Stayed tuned for more book buzz, giveaways, and spotlight interviews!

Happy reading!

Welcome to the Spotlight Jennifer Wolf Kam and Devin Rhodes Is Dead!


I’m throwing confetti, welcoming talented friend, Jennifer Wolf Kam to the spotlight, in celebration of her debut YA novel! Stay tuned below for a chance to win a copy of this!

9781934133590_p0_v1_s260x420Devin Rhodes Is Dead by Jennifer Wolf Kam (Mackinac Island Press/2014)

Not only is this novel a stunning and outstanding debut, but it is the recipient of the Children’s Book of the Year award presented by the National Association of Elementary School Principals.

Fifteen-year-old Devin Rhodes is found dead at the bottom of the ravine, and best friend Cass is wracked by guilt that overshadows the loss and grief she feels over the last moments she shared with Devin. Cass struggles with her feelings over how used and small she felt when she was around Devin and the forever friendship they’d shared. When she believes that Devin’s ghost is haunting her, Cass wants nothing more than to forget, even as everyone around her prods her to remember, especially the detective that comes to question her. Told in alternating before and after chapters, this suspenseful story about friendship is a true page-turner with an ending that doesn’t disappoint. Outstanding page-turning story!

Spotlight on Jennifer Wolf Kam:

Please tell us your journey with this story – what was the spark of inspiration and how did you feel when you knew this story was to become a book?

When you lose someone important in your life, whether through death, separation or growing distance, it leaves an open wound. I was curious about what happens to a person when they lose someone close, but there is no closure, no sense of finality–when there are unresolved issues. I think we all long for more time and second chances with those we love.

Cass’s friendship with Devin is so layered, like many long-term friendships. Devin sometimes takes advantage of the power she holds and Cass sometimes allows it. What were the particular challenges of writing about a friendship like this?

I think many of us have relationships in our lives that are difficult, relationships that cause others to wonder why we have them in the first place. Friendships are complicated, some more than others. My biggest challenge in portraying the relationship between Cass and Devin was demonstrating both how and why, despite Devin’s treatment of Cass, Cass still holds onto their friendship.

The mystery aspect is so suspenseful! How did you discover the truth behind how Devin died (no spoilers!)? Did you start off knowing what happened? What was your process?

I love the thrill of a good mystery! When I started writing DEVIN RHODES IS DEAD, I deliberately avoided thinking about the ending. I felt as though, prolonging the mystery for me, helped me to more effectively build and develop suspense for my readers. Plus–I enjoyed giving myself a good case of the shivers! But, of course, at some point a writer needs to figure out the story’s ending, otherwise, it’s quite easy to fall into a plotless abyss.

As for my process, while the book is written in alternating past/present chapters, it’s still told linearly. There were weeks when I only worked on the “Before” chapters and weeks where I only wrote “After” chapters. It was important that the story presented itself as whole in both time sequences. That said, I don’t typically write linearly. I often write scenes that I have in my head, even when I’m not really up to that scene in the book.

Cass and Devin share best friend charms. Did you ever have something special to symbolize a special friendship you had? What was it?

I never had a best friend charm with my best friend, but I knew people who did. I always found them fascinating–such statements of solidarity and permanence in a confusing and capricious tween/teen world.

My best friend and I created a time capsule in 7th grade. We filled it with funny poems and lists of what was important to us at the time. We opened it up every 6 months and added to it, dating all the new materials. I think we continued it into college until, eventually, it was lost to time. Then again, it might actually be somewhere in my closet. =)

Jennifer Wolf Kam began writing stories as soon as she could hold a crayon. Today she holds an MFA in writing for children and young adults from the Vermont College of Fine Arts. DEVIN RHODES IS DEAD is her first novel and the winner of the National Association of Elementary School Principals National Children’s Book of the Year Award. Jennifer lives in a suburb of New York City, with her husband, two sons, and a love for chocolate.

For more about Jennifer and her books, check out her web site, follow her on Twitter, friend her on Facebook, and follow her on Tumblr.

For a chance to win a copy of Devin Rhodes Is Dead, just follow these instructions:

1.  Comment below.

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

3. Enter by Friday, October 17th midnight EST. Winner will be chosen at random and announced here on Tuesday the 21st.

Good luck and happy reading!

Book Buzz! Cooper & Packrat Are Back!



Cooper & Packrat: Mystery of the Eagle’s Nest by Tamra Wight, illustrated by Carl DiRocco

Islandport Press, 2014

Cooper and Packrat are back in another Wilder Campground adventure. This time after they discover one of their campgroup geocache boxes filled with illegal eagle parts, two goons chase them down. Cooper and Packrat are determined to discover the mystery of these illegal activities, while trying to evade the thugs. When they find out that the campground eaglets may be in danger, they enlist the help of their friend Roy and try to protect the eagles. Will they save the baby eagles? Will they find out the mystery behind the stolen eagle parts? And will Cooper get grounded by his parents for sleuthing? An adventurous story with fascinating eagle facts.

This book is perfect for young readers who love adventure, mystery, and nature. I already look forward to the next installment. I hope there’s a next book!

For more about Tamra and her books, see my spotlight interview with her here.

Happy reading!


Highlights Foundation – A Writer’s Retreat


I’m going to digress a bit from my reading raves to talk about my fantastic few days at The Highlights Foundation where I took a Revision Workshop with Harold Underdown and Eileen Robinson. It was in a word -blissful!

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I didn’t take photos of the most important part – the actual workshops – because I was too busy listening to what Harold and Eileen had to share about revision techniques. Okay, I lie – that wasn’t the most important part, even though it was a key element. Everything about this retreat was important!

If you’ve ever considered taking a Highlights Foundation workshop or going for their Unworkshop days (where you go just to work on your own), I highly recommend it! I don’t know that I’ve ever worked so well, so focused over a 4 day period away from home. The lodgings are extremely comfortable and the atmosphere is conducive to writing. It’s quiet and peaceful and there are plenty of places to sit and write, including your room. Meals and snacks are provided – and the food was absolutely delicious. (Confession: I asked for seconds of dessert one night.)

The revision retreat itself was perfect for me – I’m diving into a tough revision of a YA novel. The sessions in the mornings were informative and interesting, and gave us opportunities to put some new techniques into practice. Having the afternoons free for writing (or critique group) time was outstanding. I didn’t know how much real work I would get done in the afternoons (I’m typically a morning writer), but when I sat down to write, the hours flew by! Going on hikes in the gorgeous hills before dinner helped me settle my mind and regroup. Evenings were on our own and varied. The first night, I read and relaxed in my comfy and quiet room. The second night, I wrote. I admit that I hadn’t planned to, but my neighbors all said they would be writing that evening, so peer pressure pushed me to write as well. The third night, a group of us got together to read one another’s work and offer feedback. And the last night (sigh) we had a bonfire and roasted marshmallows and talked about the market. There were 13 of us, plus Harold and Eileen, and our group really connected. I miss everyone!

The days went by too quickly, but the good news is that I carried all the positive energy home with me and worked hard all week. I feel like I’ve gained new insight into revision and am excited to dive into this next draft. Thank you to everyone at the Highlights Foundation, to Harold and Eileen, and my new friends, Kristy, Theresa, Marie, Carole, Nathalie, Betsy, Marie, Taunya, Linda, Raj, Eric, Jennifer, and Catherine! It was a honor and a pleasure!

Check out Kathryn Erskine’s post about this wonderful place. It was when I read her post that I knew I was going to have an amazing time there. For another retreater’s take on this workshop, check out Kristy Boyce’s blog post.

Happy reading and writing!

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!