Saturday, December 22, 2012

Happy holidays

All of us at JVNLA are sending you our best wishes for wonderful holidays and a happy New Year!  Here's to a fabulous 2013!

The illustration above is from Iza Trapani's picture book THE BEAR WENT OVER THE MOUNTAIN, published by Sky Pony Press in April 2012. Trapani wrote the above text for us when we asked if we could use her illustration for our holiday card!  Be sure to visit Trapani's website here.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

JVNLA rides the subway!

In order to celebrate the holidays and our books, we at JVNLA decided to go on an adventure through the subway!  After all, what could be a better way to celebrate the end of the year than to stuff rolling backpacks with some of our recently published books and read them en masse in subway cars?

Below, you can see a sampling of the books we brought with us.  They're stacked on top of Mini-JVNLA as she attempts to hold them all!

One of our first books to read is DARK LIE by Nancy Springer (NAL, November 2012).  Below, you can see Jessica, Ariana, and Jennifer with their books out.  On the far left, you'll see a woman who was also interested in the book, who read with us!

Jessica, Ariana, Laura, and Mini-JVNLA read VANISHING ACTS by Phillip Margolin and Ami Margolin Rome (HarperCollins, paperback October 2012).

A kid performing in the subway decided to read VANISHING ACTS, too!  He shows off his skills by simultaneously playing his drum and reading.

Jennifer, Jessica, and Ariana read PASSION BLUE by Victoria Strauss (Amazon Children's Publishing, November 2012).  Jessica looks up from her book to smile at the camera.

Mini-JVNLA and Laura are engrossed in AMBER HOUSE by Kelly Moore, Tucker Reed, and Larkin Reed (Arthur A. Levine Books/ Scholastic, October 2012).

A fellow subway rider was intrigued by AMBER HOUSE, so we gave her a copy to read, too!

Below, Tara and Laura discuss celebrities' favorite New York hotspots while reading MY CITY, MY NEW YORK by Jeryl Brunner (Globe Pequot, October 2011).  Mini-JVNLA is also fascinated by the read.

While we wait for a subway car to arrive, Jessica opens up IF JACK'S IN LOVE by Stephen Wetta (Amy Einhorn Books/ Penguin, paperback August 2012).

Below, Tara is absorbed by her read.  Meanwhile, the guy sitting beside her is trying not to peek at the book, but he knows he wants to.

Jessica, Mini-JVNLA, and Laura all read IF JACK'S IN LOVE on the 6 train.

Jessica, Mini-JVNLA, Jennifer, and Laura are riveted by THE FRIDAY SOCIETY by Adrienne Kress (Dial, December 2012).

Ariana pulls out a copy of EUROPE ON 5 WRONG TURNS A DAY by Doug Mack (Perigee, April 2012) from one of our rolling backpacks.

On the Shuttle, Laura and Tara hang onto the handrails in order to stay focused on their reads.

Jennifer and Jessica read THE LAST NUDE by Ellis Avery (Riverhead, paperback December 2012).

Jessica, Mini-JVNLA, Laura and Tara are all enjoying HOW DOES SLEEP COME? by Jeanne C. Blackmore (Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, September 2012).

And, below, Jennifer reads the picture book to Mini-JVNLA, who proves how this is the perfect bedtime, sleepy-time read.

Laura just can't get enough of ON POLITICS by Alan Ryan (Liveright, October 2012), so she decides to read both volumes at once.

Below, Laura and Jessica think intellectual thoughts while engaged by ON POLITICS.

We hope you enjoyed these photos from our subway adventure!  If you're looking for a good holiday read or a great gift idea, look no further than the books pictured and linked to above (and those featured on the Recent and Upcoming Titles page of our website).  They're all excellent choices!

Thursday, December 13, 2012


Released just last week from Dial, THE FRIDAY SOCIETY by Adrienne Kress is all about steampunk, mystery, and kick-ass heroines. It is centered around three young women: Cora, a lab assistant; Michiko, a combat instruction assistant; and Nellie, a magician's assistant. All three are shown in the breathtaking cover below:

This is a cover you simply have to get your hands on to fully appreciate. It is shiny and metallic, with the title, author's name, and even the three featured characters embossed. Inside, chapter headings are illustrated with gear wheels.

But not only is the cover beautiful, so is the incredible book trailer! gave an exclusive trailer reveal earlier today via its Hollywood Crush site. Now, we bring you the trailer below:

Last week, Kress hosted a Book Launch Party / Steampunk Gala for THE FRIDAY SOCIETY, complete with costumes, steampunk prop and invention displays, and cake. The gala was the site of her own trailer premiere, as well as a reading. She posted a description of the event and many wonderfully fun photos on her blog, which you shouldn't miss; you can view the post here.

THE FRIDAY SOCIETY has received fabulous reviews so far. Below is a sampling:

“Anyone longing for a refreshing, inspiring cast of female heroes will find them in THE FRIDAY SOCIETY...This book is pure fun and adventure, and the author’s casual, irreverent sense of humour is apparent on every page.” --Quill and Quire, starred review

Steampunk meets CHARLIE'S ANGELS...Frothy, sparkly fun.” --Kirkus

“Combines humor and menace in equal proportion...With odd inventions, beautifully described clothing, and skilled heroines, this alternate history offers much to enjoy.” --Publishers Weekly

“Kress does a commendable job of juggling all her plot elements and also in negotiating her story’s tone...An overall sense of frothy fun prevails, bolstered by...three kick-ass females with complementary strengths and distinctive personalities. “ --Horn Book 

“A set of strong female characters and a twisty, surprising and sophisticated plot.” --Romantic Times

“Set in the past but with a modern irreverent flare, this steampunk whodunit introduces three unforgettable and very ladylike—well, relatively ladylikeheroines poised for more dangerous adventures.”

Earnestly, refreshingly different.” --The Book Smugglers Blog

“Basically, THE FRIDAY SOCIETY takes Joss Whedon-esque dialogue, proto-feminism, and superheroes, mixes those things in a blender, then sprinkles them over a murder mystery involving grave robbing, fog, and the destruction of a beloved landmark...It's great fun and these are characters I'd love to hang out with again.” --In Bed with Books Blog

Friday, December 7, 2012

DARK LIE and the writing life of Nancy Springer

Just released last month, DARK LIE by Nancy Springer is a riveting psychological thriller that centers upon Dorrie White, a woman scarred by lupus who is hiding a secret. Seventeen years ago, Dorrie gave up a baby girl for adoption. She has just discovered that her now-teenage daughter is living nearby. When Dorrie witnesses her daughter being kidnapped, she does the only thing she can think to do. She follows the kidnapper.

Springer is a two-time Edgar Award winner who has written numerous novels. DARK LIE is her fifty-fifth. Since the book's release, she has been traversing the blogosphere via guest posts and interviews. We bring you some snapshots below:

Springer's connection to nature cultivated her imagination as she grew up. At Barnes and Noble's Mystery Book Club Blog, Springer lyrically describes her childhood in rural Livingston, NJ, spent “explor[ing] every inch of the fascinating brook that meandered crystalline amid wildflowers and willows to the swamp along the Passaic River.” When she wasn't running around outside, though, she “was still running wild—in the world of words,” reading from her parents' extensive library. Read more about her rich childhood here.

When Springer began writing and publishing, she didn't think of herself as an author at first. As she explains at Long and Short Reviews, it wasn't “until the morning I told my husband that, starting that day, I would put my writing first and housework second” that she thought of herself as official. Even though Springer has published fifty-five books, she's written almost as many unpublished works. “I mention them now,” she writes, “lest anyone think once you're published, you're 'in.' It's not so. Every new novel is as risky as the first.” Read more about Springer's evolution as a writer here.

Springer notes at Sharon's Garden of Book Reviews, “I like to try my wings. I'm willing to attempt almost anything. Starting with mythic fantasy, I segued into magical realism, women's fiction, contemporary literature for middle graders, then horror and fantasy and mystery for young adults.” Next was suspense for young adults, and so suspense for adults “seemed a natural next step.” Read the full post here, in which Springer details what it was like to transition from young adult to adult writing.

The hardest part about being a writer, according to Springer, is the unavoidable side-effect of working at one's writing alone. At Literary Escapism, she describes how difficult that side-effect was in the writing of DARK LIE. Some of the hardest aspects of writing DARK LIE alone included deciding how best to write sympathetic characters, determining how to reveal that Dorrie gave away her child without making her seem like a wimp, and judging how far was too far. Read more about those hard parts here.

Finally, Springer gets to the heart of what it takes to be a novelist in an earlier post over at Long and Short Reviews, where she lists “the Three Inane Question most frequently asked of novelists”: 1. “How long does it take you to write a novel?” 2. “How do you find the time?” 3. “Where do you get your ideas?” In response to the first, Springer answers, “How can I explain how long it takes to write a novel? Your whole life, that's how long. Your childhood, your dreams, your waking time and sleeping time and loving and hurting time all go in.” Read more of her insights here.

DARK LIE has already received several excellent reviews, which we've included below:

“As the author alternates among the points of view of Dorrie and other characters...she makes the far-fetched feel plausible, building the stoic Dorrie into a protagonist of epic proportions...A fine finale...A compulsive page turner that will have readers cheering on the decidedly unglamorous heroine, this thriller gets points for making the suburban mom-type the one who saves the day.” --Kirkus

“[Springer] captures the fear of the women and the sickness of their captor with precision and the resolution of the kidnapping with unforeseen irony.” --RT Book Reviews, 4 1/2 stars, Top Pick

A gripping story that draws the reader in and doesn't let go until the final page.” --Stuff and Nonsense Blog

“A most unusual psychological thriller...If you're looking for something very different and gripping in a noir thriller, you won't go wrong with DARK LIE.”

A fast-paced, edge-of-your-seat thriller that will have you reading late into the night and cheering for the novel's unlikely but steadfast heroine.” --Heather Gudenkauf, author of the New York Times bestselling novels THE WEIGHT OF SILENCE and THESE THINGS HIDDEN

“A darkly riveting read...The pages swiftly fall away, along with layers of secrets and lies, to reveal the pulsing heart of this compelling thriller: the primal bonds between parent and child, between man and woman—and the fine line between love and hate.” --Wendy Corsi Staub, author of HELL TO PAY

"A page-turner of a thriller with a truly unique and fascinating heroine." --Alison Gaylin, national bestselling author of AND SHE WAS

NAL, November 2012

Friday, November 30, 2012

As NaNoWriMo ends, we've got advice: Avoid the 7 deadly sins of bad fiction!

For all of you out there participating in National Novel Writing Month, go go go! You're almost done!  As agents, we are so glad you're writing.  But before you immediately submit your new novel to agents on December 1, we have some suggestions :)  First, once you've made it to the finish line, jump for joy, eat celebratory chocolate, or whatever else floats your boat.  Second, take a good look at that manuscript you've been working on and delve right back into it with revision!

Below are some revision tips put together by our fabulous agent Elizabeth Evans:

Writers often ask me what agents look for in a submission.  How can they get their work through the gates and onto an agent's list?  The short and oft-quoted answer to that question is that agents want to "fall in love."  But what does that mean, really?  Is the writing riveting or suspenseful in a way that makes our pulse race?  Maybe.  Does a character reach out and grab us with a voice that commands attention?  Perhaps.  Or is the prose so achingly beautiful we just can't help but admire it?  Couldn't hurt.

Maybe it's one of these, maybe it's none of them.  The point is, it's hard to define, and it usually leads to other exasperating, oft-quoted agent phrases such as, "I don't know what I'm looking for until I see it."  Well, here's a little secret—we agents hear this from editors as well, and it drives us a little crazy, too. Fact is, it's true.

So it's not a science, and there's no proper equation to get your work through the door.  But to increase the chances of finding representation, what writers can do is avoid common mistakes and agent pet peeves that make it easy for us to turn down submissions.

When I was working as a tutor in my college writing center, the director created a handy sheet for students outlining "The Seven Deadly Sins of Bad Grammar."  The sheet identified such no-no's as Passive Voice and Misplaced Modifiers, and it provided a helpful list students could check their work against before turning in papers to professors.  When I started agenting, I thought there ought to be a list like this for aspiring authors.  Hence, "The Seven Deadly Sins of Bad Fiction."

Avoiding these common pitfalls will eliminate pesky mistakes that can distract agents from the story at hand.  By taking heed of them, your writing might shine just a bit more brightly and bring you one step closer to publication.

“The Seven Deadly Sins of Bad Fiction” is available as a convenient, downloadable pdf file.  Click here to access it.  And to whet your appetite, below is a quick list of what the seven deadly sins are.  Download the pdf for explanations!

1. General Sloppiness

2. Ignoring the Setting

3. Wordiness

4. Bloated Diction

 5. Passive Voice/Overuse of "To Be"

6. Too Much Telling. Too Much Showing.

7. Pedestrian Narrative Eye

In his memoir Speak, Memory, Vladimir Nabokov said, “I have rewritten—often several times—every word I have ever written.  My pencils outlast their erasers.” Now, don't get stressed out by this statement, like the guy below.

Image courtesy of imagerymajestic at

Do, however, take the time to rewrite and revise, because doing so will not only make your novel more polished and attractive to all the publishing people out there, it will also, most importantly, make your novel more rewarding for your readers and yourself.

Friday, November 16, 2012

PASSION BLUE and the secrets of Renaissance Italy

PASSION BLUE, a YA historical novel by author Victoria Strauss, has just been released. Set in fifteenth-century Italy during the Renaissance, the book has garnered a number of wonderful reviews already, particularly regarding the richness of the setting and the strength of the female heroine, Giulia.

When seventeen-year-old Giulia Borromeo is sentenced to a life behind convent walls, she is afraid her lifelong dream of true love will die there. But then she discovers that the convent is home to a painters workshop of nuns, all busy making stunning creations in vibrant colors. Giulia joins the workshop and begins learning their techniques, but when she meets a visiting craftsman and falls for him, she realizes she may have to choose between art and love.

In her author's note to PASSION BLUE, Strauss explains that the painter nuns her book revolves around were inspired by Suor Plautilla Nelli, a nun who had charge of her own painting workshop in the Dominican convent of Santa Catarina di Siena in Florence in the mid-sixteenth century.

Strauss conducted extensive historical research in order to accurately portray convent life and period painting techniques in PASSION BLUE. One of her research discoveries concerned the stealth some Renaissance painters would employ in order to protect their techniques. The namesake of Strauss's book comes from a paint color described in the novel, a rich blue hue that was unlike any others in Renaissance times: passion blue. And in the book, the nuns create passion blue from a secret formula recorded only in code and guarded under lock and key.

In a recent interview from a blog online at Kirkus Reviews, Strauss describes just how important--and potentially dangerous--paint colors as unique as passion blue could be: “These paint recipes really were like industrial secrets today," she says. "They were incredibly closely guarded. There was espionage, and people did steal them."

In the same interview, Strauss discusses astrology, which also plays a prominent role in PASSION BLUE. Contrary to today, astrology was “an important and influential profession and very scientific for the time,” Strauss asserts. It only became discredited much later, in the eighteenth century. According to Strauss, even archbishops went to astrologers for birth charts or for readings to determine the most favorable times for important events to take place.

Read more of the insightful Kirkus interview here, which includes Strauss's explanation of the paintings she saw as a child that inspired her to write about art and history.

Below are some of the excellent reviews received in thus far for PASSION BLUE, which highlight why this book is as unique as the paint color it features. Be sure to scroll down further to find the book's cover, showcasing that alluring, passion blue hue. And, for the latest information about PASSION BLUE and Strauss's virtual book tours, plus an exciting giveaway (it ends in four days from now!), visit Strauss's website here.

"Fantasy elements and a historical setting rich with sensuous detail are satisfying, but it’s Giulia’s achingly real search for her heart’s desire that resonates most today, when millions of girls still have limited choices...A rare, rewarding, sumptuous exploration of artistic passion." --Kirkus, starred review, Editor's Pick for Fall 2012

"Vividly set during the fifteenth-century Italian Renaissance, Strauss’s novel has a strong and thoroughly likable heroine who is only one of many well-developed female characters.” --School Library Journal

"Strauss takes great care to illustrate Giulia's complicated world fully, including the limited choices available to women during the Renaissance, convent life and painting techniques of the time. Giulia's path may not surprise readers, but her unusual story is sure to capture their attention.” --Publishers Weekly

"An intriguing historical novel inspired by accounts of women artists in the Italian Renaissance.” --Booklist

"An elegant retelling of that old crucial story of finding one's place in the world, set against a vivid evocation of the Italian Renaissance.” --Robin McKinley, author of THE HERO AND THE CROWN, winner of the Newbery Medal

"PASSION BLUE is a lush, vibrant read that is utterly transporting. Full of heart and heady imagery, it is a luminous tale that swept me back to another time and place and into the life of a brave girl struggling to find her true destiny. Strauss paints beautiful pictures with her words." --Lesley Livingston, author of the WONDROUS STRANGE series and STARLING

"From its opening chapter to its final harrowing unfolding, Giulia's tale holds the reader riveted. PASSION BLUE is both a soul-felt journey and a triumphant, transcendent work of art.” --Meredith Ann Pierce, author of THE DARKANGEL TRILOGY

"I didn’t just like this book, I LOVED it...It has adventure, arguments, soul-searching, several villains, romance, hair-breadth escapes, dastardly betrayals, and girl power. I simply galloped through it.” --Jane Yolen, author of THE DEVIL'S ARITHMETIC

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

ON POLITICS: A timely read as well as a classic in the making

The end of last month saw the release of Alan Ryan's ON POLITICS, a fitting volume to be published during these highly political times, with the election just over.

One of the best descriptions of ON POLITICS came in the form of a cartoon accompanying the book's six-page write-up in The New Yorker.  In the image, the cartoon-ified Alan Ryan sits at a table attempting to write on his laptop while men in togas, cravats, and berets crowd around him, ready to break into one giant fistfight.  These rowdy table guests are the major political thinkers of Western history, including Plato, Hegel, Machiavelli, Marx, St. Augustine, and Hobbes.  They are the subjects of Ryan's ON POLITICS: A History of Political Thought: From Herodotus to Present. You can find The New Yorker article here.

As a review in The Los Angeles Times notes, "At the heart of the project [of ON POLITICS] is a belief that this stuff matters, that the thinkers it revolves around...remain relevant and fresh."  The New Yorker cartoon certainly seems to argue for the freshness of these thinkers.  And The Los Angeles Times review concludes, too, that "this stuff" does seem to have a great deal of relevancy: "There's something in [Ryan's] lines we recognize, something that speaks to what's at stake in this election." 

Alan Ryan recently wrote a piece for Reuters about how Alexis de Tocqueville might have seen our 2012 presidential election. Tocqueville was a French political thinker who wrote DEMOCRACY IN AMERICA after his visit to the young country in 1831. While it's amusing to consider who Tocqueville might have voted for, Ryan remarks that he would be hard pressed to hazard a guess, given that Tocqueville simply would have been astounded "to see a Supreme Court with not a single Protestant member, and Catholics in a 7-to-2 majority," as well as "a black president running for re-election."  Ryan does make some guesses about which of our candidates' ideas Tocqueville might have backed, though, which you can read about here.

Yet Ryan also thinks Tocqueville may have had something to teach us if he had been here to view our election season.  In DEMOCRACY IN AMERICA, Tocqueville attempted to answer why the American Revolution led so quickly to a successful government whereas the French Revolution was far more chaotic.  Part of his conclusion was that there was an exceptionalism to the American experiment of democracy that lent the country such a favorable outcome.  However, if Tocqueville were to see how often we Americans have since used his idea of exceptionalism to justify our actions, Ryan thinks he might consider revoking the classification. 

Ryan writes elegantly upon this, as follows:
[Tocqueville] bequeathed to us the belief in American "exceptionalism" that neither Obama nor Romney nor Biden nor Ryan, nor any of the hundreds of candidates for the House and Senate dare challenge. A hundred and eighty years ago, America was more classless, socially mobile, economically innovative and imaginative than any European country, let alone Russia or China. Today, the United States is a mature industrial society, with the social and political problems--education, public health, infrastructural renovation--of every other such society. Because Tocqueville was so eloquent about the unique blessings of the United States, it has become almost impossible for politicians to suggest that we have anything to learn from anyone else.
Perhaps, Ryan suggests, now might be the time to look more closely at the examples of others and learn from them.

In his Reuters article and throughout the entirety of ON POLITICS, Ryan makes it abundantly clear that the political thinkers of our past are essential for understanding, analyzing, and critiquing the politics of today.  To not examine the political foundations we are built upon would be a folly.  The New Yorker review echoes this, noting that "ON POLITICS, like the great works of philosophy it examines, constitutes a powerful brief against the unexamined life."  As Congress begins meeting again and the president returns to his job, now is the time to reexamine how we've approached our politics in the past so that we can move forward to deal with the unique challenges of our times. 

Below is additional praise for ON POLITICS.  To view our previous post about the book and other rave reviews the book has received, click here.

"[ON POLITICS] seeks to take a (very) long view, framing its subjects less as individuals than as the components of a continuum of which we are still a part....The book is the distillation of [Ryan's] thinking, both intellectual and practical, and although it can be daunting, the triumph is how, as Ryan takes us through the material, he makes it so much more." --Los Angeles Times

"Magisterial...A book of the scope of ON POLITICS can't be reduced to a single theme. In more than a thousand pages, Alan Ryan, a longtime Oxford professor who now teaches at Princeton, undertakes to introduce the reader to most of the major political thinkers in Western history, from Thucydides and Plato to John Dewey and John Rawls." --The New Yorker

 Liveright/W.W. Norton, October 2012

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Endless rave reviews for AMBER HOUSE!

Since AMBER HOUSE's release in October, the YA gothic novel has received rave after rave review!  AMBER HOUSE is the first in a trilogy written by mother-daughters team Kelly Moore, Tucker Reed, and Larkin Reed and published by Arthur A. Levine Books/Scholastic.  Below are some of the incredible reviews that have come in so far.  (For more info on the book, view our sneak peek from July here.) 

"Lush descriptions and an intricate plot drive this intense tale, which straddles the lines between magical realism, fantasy, ghost stories, and horror, with a touch of romance and classic glamour. The result is something rich, strange, and utterly fascinating.” --Publishers Weekly, starred review

"Swift plotting combines with vivid, cinematic prose to make this gothic tale compulsively readable, and an unexpected ending elevates the story beyond the genre. Fans of ghost stories will appreciate the classic elements here, from the disembodied voices to the ancestral home with a sordid past, but they will also be pleasantly surprised by the time-bending element that comes into play in the latter half...Complex, elegant, and haunting, this is a book that deserves to be read in one sitting.” --The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, starred review

"A deliciously creepy beginning to a projected trilogy...What is truly novel is the spin that the [authors] give the direction of the romance, setting this apart from many of the cardboard triangles found in the genre. Those who think that this is a straightforward ghost story will be sorely mistaken: This is a complex, layered tale that bends time and imagination, demanding to be read with all the lights on. Move over Bella Swan: Sarah is a strong, admirable character who’d rather speak her mind than sulk and sigh over some hot guy. Richly woven, with depth and swift plotting that will leave readers clamoring for the sequels.” --Kirkus

"The highly descriptive, lush prose and Sarah’s strong, first-person point of view lends an atmospheric, gothic feel to this first book in a planned trilogy, which stands alone quite well...Deft handling of family dynamics, believable characterization, and twist on the now ubiquitous love triangle will leave readers eager for more.” --Booklist

"If you’re a fan of gothic novels, AMBER HOUSE is like a double fudge brownie a la mode. It has all the troubled history and spookiness your heart could desire, along with...secret passages, and it’s so much fun to read. Fans of ghost stories and time-travel stories should also pick this one up.” --Fantasy Literature Blog

"All the right horror fundamentals...So vividly detailed that the scenes were seamlessly imaginable. This is a story of a broken family, severed by many things: infidelity, running away, alcoholism, lack of communication, mental disability, death, and the unceasing consequence of grief and guilt held for far too long... A good and satisfying read.” --The Midnight Garden Blog 

"Engrossing, riveting—the very definition of a page-turner!...I was so totally absorbed, and can’t put it out of my mind...I cannot recommend this book highly enough!” --Mallory Heart Reviews Blog

"A gothic tale stirring up feelings reminiscent of Bronte’s windy moors and King’s Room 237...For those of you looking for a good 'autumn read,' I highly suggest you pick up AMBER HOUSE. It contains all of the amazing horror elements to keep you looking over your shoulder while also molding in intricate relationships and a deliciously vibrant plot.” --Books Take You Places Blog

"Some scenes literally gave me goose bumps...Rich descriptions...This is an ingenious mind-bending plot.” --The Readers Den Blog 

"A unique and captivating debut...I was hooked from the beginning, and the ending simply left me wanting more.” --Fall Into Books Blog 

"Delightfully dark and gothic." --Misbehavin' Librarian Blog

"Brilliantly touches on family strife and love, issues of mental health, coping with grief, and first love. This mother-daughter trio has a deft touch for tackling the very real, human emotions at the heart of their uber-creepy ghost story.” --Novel Novice Blog

"Authors Kelly Moore, Tucker Reed, and Larkin Reed have crafted a spine-tingling story about family history, loss, scandal, secrets, and the hope that history does not have to repeat itself. Combining the paranormal with a dash of sci-fi, AMBER HOUSE is many things: romantic, genteel, and above all, scary.” --Once Upon a Prologue Blog

To close, we're leaving you with some snapshots of AMBER HOUSE we've spied in bookstores across the nation!  You can buy the print book, e-book, or audio edition (narrated by co-author Tucker Reed) via this link

Co-author Tucker Reed, with AMBER HOUSE shown as a top teen pick
AMBER HOUSE featured on bookstore shelves

Friday, October 26, 2012

Celebrating IF JACK'S IN LOVE at the New York Yacht Club

This past Monday, Stephen Wetta and his novel IF JACK'S IN LOVE were honored at a ceremony and reception at the New York Yacht Club. The occasion for the celebration was Stephen's receipt of the 2011 Willie Morris Award for Southern Fiction, a yearly prize given by Reba White Williams and Dave Williams for a novel of exceptional quality set in the South. (You can read more about the award and IF JACK'S IN LOVE in our previous posts here.) Stephen attended the ceremony in his signature fedora; he is pictured below with Reba White Williams and Dave Williams.

The evening was a lively affair involving wine, hors d'oeuvres, and many model yachts on display, given the location. The New York Yacht Club is simply gorgeous, and the five of us from the agency who attended thought the location fitting as the place of honor for such a gorgeously written book as IF JACK'S IN LOVE.

Early in the evening, Stephen read from chapter eight of IF JACK'S IN LOVE, in which the main character, Jack Witcher, reveals much of his father's background and obsession with blues music. IF JACK'S IN LOVE is a novel about a family of outcasts, and the chapter allowed the audience to catch a glimpse of who this family was.

Afterward, Stephen answered questions from the audience. One audience member asked what it was like to write a novel in the voice of a twelve-year-old. Stephen's response drew upon the structure of his novel. He explained that Jack narrates the story as an adult, looking back on his life as a twelve-year-old. While the reader experiences the events that happen to twelve-year-old Jack firsthand, the language used to describe the events is that of the adult Jack.

Another audience member asked where Stephen saw Jack now, as an adult. With his hands resting on the podium, his eyes on the audience, Stephen answered matter-of-factly, “Well, I see him standing at a podium, looking out at an audience...”

The statement was followed by much laughter. Stephen continued, saying that he imagined Jack in a place far from where he'd grown up, doing well, perhaps at Harvard. But despite Jack's later success in life, Stephen knew that Jack had been hardened by the events that had occurred in his youth, the events that are the subject of IF JACK'S IN LOVE.

Wetta signed copies of IF JACK'S IN LOVE after the questions ended, and everyone clamored around his signing table for the chance to receive a copy.

Before we knew it, the evening had come to a close. When we exited the Yacht Club and returned to the crowded city streets, we felt as though we had left a hidden enclave in New York, a place where the windows were shaped like portholes on a ship and we had been allowed to sail grandly through the world of literature and into the life of twelve-year-old Jack Witcher for an all too fleeting instant.

Read Stephen's own impressions of the award, ceremony, and reception at his blog, and don't forget to find yourself a copy of his book.

 Amy Einhorn Books, August 2012

Friday, October 19, 2012

The secret world of rights at the Frankfurt Book Fair

Come October, when others are contemplating pumpkins, scarecrows, and costumes, the publishing rights world is packing its bags with business clothes, practical but fab shoes, and materials to let the world know about its amazing books.

The Frankfurt Book Fair is the largest and longest-running book fair in the world. It began soon after Guttenberg invented the printing press as a printer's convention. Now it spans numerous halls and floors that can take days to see. Publishers from every country come to set up a stand and display their wares or recently published books in the hopes of selling them for translation into other countries. Editors from around the world get their exercise running from meeting to meeting to find their next imported gems to translate and make into a success in their language as well.

As agents, we have our special section at the fair – Hall 6.0 – otherwise known as the Literary Agents and Scouts Center. For me, my home for three days was table 12-O, a nondescript white table with four chairs and an electrical cord hanging down from the rafters. On the table, I laid out my lists of our wonderful fiction, nonfiction, and kids' books, business cards, and various notes to help me navigate the next 75 meetings. Yes, I did say 75 meetings!!!!! These meetings actually start two days before the fair in hotel lounges and coffee shops and continue each day after hours, during dinner and over drinks (I have learned the joys of Apfelwein!).

Every 30 minutes, a different editor finds my table and sits down to hear me talk about our books. I listen to their likes and dislikes, ferret out what is working in their country, and then steer them towards the books that would be the perfect fit. Invariably they leave with lists of titles to read, consider, and hopefully purchase for translation.

It is true that, at times, I feel like a wind-up doll, unwound until the butt hits the seat opposite me. I then animate and become a storyteller, trying to convey to my audience the specific elements that make a particular book wonderful and special in its own way. Luckily I am blessed to be in an agency where our agents have excellent and varied taste. I get to read and discuss kick-ass action, beautiful prose, and illuminating facts.

I also get a snapshot of how the world is doing, admittedly through the prism of books. Spain is in dire straights with one publisher telling me business is down 40% from last year. In Greece, our co-agent loves to come to Frankfurt just to escape the sad faces he is constantly seeing in his own country. Russia has recently lost their major bookstore chain and their biggest publisher is being investigated by the tax authorities, BUT this has opened up opportunities for the smaller publishers to expand their lists. Poland is obsessed with stories centered around the two World Wars. Historicals don't sell for love or money in Holland, but they are just what many of the Eastern European countries are looking for. Everyone has recently found, or is frantically looking for, their erotica novel, even though no one has any idea if it will perform.

In kids' books, realistic fiction is on the rise, picture books are more challenging to acquire with the recession hitting hard on the high cost of books, Korean manga is big worldwide, and many people want to find a funny middle grade. In genre publishing, romance is huge, science fiction is dead, crime is locked up by Scandinavian authors, and horror depends on the publisher. As long as publishers don't have an expert in their country to draw upon, prescriptive nonfiction has a chance – especially about sex and relationships. Great narrative or very serious nonfiction will make the right editor's eyes shine. And, as always, amazing reviews and/or sales can trump everything!

At the end of the week, the left-over papers and many notes get packed away, and we all grab our flights with sore throats and bleary eyes - satisfied that we have spread the word about our wonderful authors. Next stop: to the cobbler to resole our fab shoes in readiness to do it all again next year!

Favorite quote of the fair from an Italian editor about erotica novels – “We do it, we don't read it.”

The essentials: JVNLA rights lists, fab shoes,
a map of Frankfurt, and a backpack to carry it all!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Saving the Ocean with Carl Safina: A new PBS series

Carl Safina is the host of a new PBS series, Saving the Ocean, which not only illuminates the dire straits our ocean is in today, but also highlights the people and communities who are working to save the ocean before it's too late.  The series will premiere on PBS this Thursday, October 11th!

As the series' website makes clear, "Saving the Ocean is not just another doom-and-gloom TV show; it's about people solving problems. The news is grim: overfishing, pollution, coral reef troubles, and on and on. These problems are spread all over the two-thirds of the globe that is ocean. But a far-flung group of unsung heroes--scientists, conservationists, local communities--are hard at work inventing, advocating, and implementing solutions."

The show will premiere on PBS on October 11th, but viewing on local stations will vary. To find out when Saving the Ocean will appear on your local station, check the schedule here:

(Keep in mind that your local station may not show the series until some weeks after its premiere.  PBS only announces shows on its schedule board two weeks in advance, so be sure to check back later if you don't see the show listed immediately.)

Saving the Ocean takes viewers on an ocean expedition around the world, where you can see everything from the cutest baby turtles to the world's friendliest whales. Learn which animals and which destinations will be featured by viewing the upcoming season programming on the Saving the Ocean website here. Plus, be sure to watch the series trailer below:

Two pilot episodes for Saving the Ocean previously aired in April 2011. The full episodes can be viewed online at, but below are preview trailers for both! (Please note that the second trailer from the April episode is no longer online, and we have replaced it with the trailer for a different episode that is viewable online, as of December 2012.)

Shark Reef: Learn about the creative efforts that have been implemented to keep sharks safe from the shark fin trade.  View the trailer below, and the full episode here.

Watch Shark Reef | Preview Trailer on PBS. See more from Saving the Ocean.

Swordfish!:  Learn about the most sustainable fishery around and how swordfish won the contest for the best "big fish" comeback story. View the trailer below, and the full episode here.

Watch Swordfish! - Preview on PBS. See more from Saving the Ocean.

Carl Safina is the author, most recently, of THE VIEW FROM LAZY POINT and A SEA IN FLAMES.  Read more of our blog posts on Safina via this link, and don't forget to tune in for Saving the Ocean!

Friday, October 5, 2012

Dazzling new poetry collection from Nancy Willard

Nancy Willard's dazzling new poetry collection came out this week: THE SEA AT TRURO, published by Knopf!  Willard was nominated for the National Book Critics Circle Award for the collection WATER WALKER.  She is also a prolific children's book author and a Newbery Medal winner for A VISIT TO WILLIAM BLAKE'S INN (which also received the Caldecott Honor for illustrations by Alice and Martin Provensen).

In this collection, her eleventh, Willard presents another stunning display of her talents.  As Knopf's jacket copy notes, THE SEA AT TRURO is about "the magic hiding in the ordinary days of our past and present," as well as "the natural world that witnesses these revelations, and the myriad, often surprising ways in which it intersects with our own human lot."

Willard's poem Grave is a testament to just this:


Last year four men planted you under a stone.
Today I plant the dumpy heart of a narcissus.

Sharing your bed, it will wake up singing.

Don't miss out on this beautiful collection from a talented author!  Below is a sample of several of the excellent reviews Willard's poetry has received over time:

"Her imagery is both elemental and ethereal, her characteristic forms the litany, elegy, and ballad. While she doesn't shy away from singularly painful subjects, her overriding impulse is to celebrate the ordinary." --Gardner McFall, The New York Times Book Review

"This poet possesses wit and skill in abundance, and she has a highly individual way of seeing and telling. If Willard writes with lyric grace, she also achieves tautness in poems wrested from pain and anxiety. She has a feeling for the grotesque and earthy, for the fanciful and surreal in so-called reality. Her vision, irradiated by a sense of humor, affirms both life and the art of poetry." --Robert Hayden, poet

"One of our most consistently original imaginations, Willard is a true magician generous and wise...A superb selection that should serve to remind readers of her high level of accomplishment over many years." --Field

"A magician of the simile and the stunning metaphor. Nearly every poem includes striking images...For [Willard], all cosmic matter is magically configured, even angel-struck, not least of all everyday objects, animals, flowers, vegetables, and fruit...An original approach...At once utopian, enchanted, and thoroughly concrete." --John Taylor, Poetry

"The poems are at once down-to-earth and magical, innocent and wise. Nancy Willard is a true original. Her book is enchanting in the real sense of the word." --Linda Pastan, poet

Knopf, October 2012

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Wondering what to eat? Try lionfish!

Carl Safina, author of THE VIEW FROM LAZY POINT and A SEA IN FLAMES, has released a series of guests posts on food columnist Mark Bittman's blog on The Opinion Pages of The New York Times.  Safina is a marine biologist, the founder of the Blue Ocean Institute at Stony Brook University, and a recipient of the MacArthur "Genius" Grant. His series, entitled "Scourge of the Lionfish," focuses on the red lionfish, a beautiful, quilled fish native to the west Pacific, the Indian Ocean, and the Red Sea that has become dangerously invasive along Atlantic coastlines stretching from Venezuela to Rhode Island.  

As Safina writes, "In a world where the main concern about fishing is overfishing, and the main demand on fish is to feed an increasingly hungry human-dominated world, it may seem odd to complain about abundance. But theirs [the lionfish's] is an abundance that produces widespread scarcity. That's because invaders from afar often crowd out or gobble a wide array of desirable natives. And as an invading saltwater fish--the lion is king."

With venomous spines and a deceptive seaweed-like disguise when on the hunt, the lionfish is virtually untouchable. Lionfish prey upon many juvenile fish, including (among others) parrotfish, which are important for keeping coral reefs alive and thriving. As Safina argues, the ocean simply cannot afford to experience a scarcity of parrotfish or any other native fish.

And so, the solution proposed to restore marine habitats and prevent the invasive lionfish from destroying the underdogs is just as unorthodox as the complaint: hunt down the lionfish and eat them.

Red lionfish and Carl Safina. Photo by Safina.

While Safina and a crew of cameramen were filming for Safina's upcoming PBS series Saving the Ocean, they traveled to the Bahamas, Florida, and Mexico to investigate the lionfish.  Below are links to each of the fascinating articles in Safina's series:

Part 1: Why the lionfish began appearing in the Atlantic in the first place and why they are such superb--and direly threatening--predators.

Part 2: How contestants in a lionfish derby launched their own attack against these invasive predators, by spearfishing them and frying them up.

Part 3: How fishermen are trying to commercialize the lionfish by catching them in bulk and convincing restaurants in the States and elsewhere to put lionfish on their menus. Fortunately the lionfish are, in Safina's words, "really delicious."

Part 4: Safina's thoughts on how human overfishing in general may have led to the domination of the lionfish.

As Safina concludes, "It's a sad commentary about how we're changing the world that killing and eating one of the world's most beautiful fish--as long as they're from the Caribbean or Atlantic Ocean--actually helps."

Safina's PBS series Saving the Ocean will premiere in mid-October.  Expect more from us soon as we near the release date!  In the meantime, you can learn more about the TV series at PBS or the Saving the Ocean website.  Once the premiere date is nearer, be sure to find out when Saving the Ocean will appear on your local station at this link

Monday, September 17, 2012

Jeanne C. Blackmore, granddaughter of celebrated illustrator Roger Duvoisin, makes a splash in the children's book world

Jeanne C. Blackmore makes her children's book debut with a beautiful and lyrical bed-time book HOW DOES SLEEP COME?, just published as a lead title from Sourcebooks Jabberwocky.  The book, which was inspired by the curiosity of Blackmore's then-two-year-old son and his question about where sleep came from, has received excellent reviews so far.

Though the book is Blackmore's debut, she is no stranger to the world of children's books.  Blackmore is the granddaughter of the acclaimed children's illustrator Roger Duvoisin, who illustrated over 100 children's books between 1936 and 1980.  He received a Caldecott Medal Award in 1948 for WHITE SNOW, BRIGHT SNOW (text by Alvin Tresselt) and a Caldecott Honor Award in 1966 for HIDE AND SEEK FOG (text also by Alvin Tresselt).  

Publishers Weekly recently interviewed Blackmore about the process of getting her book published and what it was like to grow up with Duvoisin as her grandfather.  We've included a few tidbits below, but be sure to read the full article here.

There were several bonuses to having an illustrator for a grandfather.  As Blackmore remarks in her interview with Publishers Weekly, "All of our birthday cards were filled with his artwork, and he created posters for our bedrooms...He'd write us funny letters with illustrations.  We were always surrounded by his artwork, and I loved it."

She goes on to say, "I knew him through two lenses...On one hand, my teachers in school were always calling me out, and librarians would approach me, which was embarrassing.  I didn't really understand how famous he was.  On the other side, I knew him as a wonderful man living with my grandmother on an idyllic farm in New Jersey.  They were both artists and it was a magical place to visit."

Below are several of the reviews in so far for HOW DOES SLEEP COME?:

"A distinctive piece of work; Blackmore has carefully polished her prose's rolling, soothing rhythm, beginning with adverbs that describe how sleep comes and finishing by knitting them into one long, hypnotic final sentence... Blackmore... assembles the softest, most comforting elements she can find...If that's not a recipe for sweet dreams, what is?" --Publishers Weekly

"What a beautiful story.  The analogies Blackmore makes to sleep will make any child or adult relax and settle into a comfy sleep mode...I believe you will find this book a special one to share with your young child." --Dad of Divas Reviews Blog

"This book was so very cute.  It is a wonderful book to read to your little ones before they go to bed." --Crossroads and Crossroad Tours Blog

Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, September 2012

Monday, September 10, 2012

A trailer and an audio recording for STARLING

Don't miss the trailer for Lesley Livingston's STARLING, the first in her newest trilogy, complete with sword fighting, a steamy kiss, and even a naked guy!  Of course the trailer is just a preview to the danger, romance, and endless adventure in the book itself.  After you view the trailer, don't forget to buy the book!  STARLING was just released from HarperTeen last week (we posted about it before the release here).

Livingston has a background in acting, and so when it came time to record the audio version of STARLING, she knew she wanted to be the one to put voice to her narrative.  In the video below, Livingston explains what it's like to record her book, including all the side-effects of speaking into a microphone all day. Who knew that audio recording could cause muscle twinges and pain in your toes? 

As Livingston says, she's not trying to sound exactly like the male, female, young, and old characters in her audio rendition of the book.  Instead, she is conveying "an impression of, or an idea of what they sound like in my head."  So if you've ever wondered how a book sounds to the author who is writing it, look no further than this video.

In the video, Livingston narrates an excerpt from the same sword fighting scene depicted in the above trailer.  See if you can spot the similarities!

The audio edition of STARLING is available through

HarperTeen, August 2012, August 2012

Monday, August 27, 2012

Sneak peek of ON POLITICS by Alan Ryan

Since Alan Ryan's ON POLITICS began making the rounds for pre-publication reviews, it has collected an abundance of non-stop praise!  The book will not be published until October by Liveright/W. W. Norton, yet it has already received two starred reviews and endorsements from (among others) bestselling author and National Book Award-winner Stephen Greenblatt and bestselling author Harold Bloom. 

ON POLITICS is an enormous two-volume compilation covering two and a half thousand years of Western political thought.  The first volume, spanning 399 pages, starts with ancient Greek historian Herodotus and ends with Renaissance thinker Machiavelli. The second, spanning 711 pages, begins with English political philosopher Thomas Hobbes and continues into the present.  And yet, despite the intimidating size, the work has been consistently praised as "highly readable" (Publishers Weekly), as well as "lucid, precise, and accessible" (Steven Lukes, author of Power: A Radical View).

The publisher has packaged the two volumes into a beautiful, hardcover boxed set (see below).  Splashed across the box and the book spines is an image of a mosaic depicting philosophers from the School of Athens deep in discussion; the mosaic itself can be found in Pompeii, Italy.  Eye-catching and elegant, the cover packaging clearly and immediately sets the book apart as a treatise that is bound to become a classic.  Cleverly, the packaging creates a mosaic in and of itself, given that the image only becomes whole when all sides of the box are viewed together and the two volumes are neatly fit into the box opening, side-by-side.

Liveright has been promoting ON POLITICS with the tagline, "Three decades in the making, one of the most ambitious and comprehensive histories of political philosophy in nearly a century."  Indeed, the book did take Ryan, a professor at Oxford and Princeton Universities, thirty years to write--which is only understandable, given the breadth Ryan covers in his book.  Clearly the effort was worth it!  Below are several of the rave pre-publication reviews:

"An ambitious survey...Provocative, illuminating, and entertaining--an exemplary work of philosophy and history whose author's deep learning is lightly worn." --Kirkus, starred review

"Remarkably detailed yet highly readable...[An] absorbing and edifying read, [Ryan] regularly reminds us of what modern citizens might gain from a deeper understanding of the roots of today's political ideals and loyalties...These two volumes constitute a remarkable achievement, one that will be immensely valuable to both students and readers for years to come." --Publishers Weekly, starred review

"In a work of astonishing scope and ambition, Ryan, surveying the whole vast field, concisely charts the welter of conflicting positions and tracks the sometimes thrilling, sometimes catastrophic consequences of political thought." --Stephen Greenblatt, Harvard University, author of The Swerve: How the World Became Modern

"Ryan has created a vision of the entire surge of Western political thought which is equal to the heroic venture of George Sabine...Ryan demonstrates throughout vivacity and a tenacious grasp of the human meaning of everything that has transpired in political speculation from the ancients on through the threshold of our own dark age.  I commend particularly his terse eloquence, his capacious erudition, and the verve and judicious intensity with which he somehow allows his whole being to inform his vast scope and deep concern of our human limitations." --Harold Bloom, Yale University, author of The Western Canon

"With an unmatched magisterial command, Ryan powerfully reminds and teaches us how the leading thinkers since classic times can and must inform our debates over how to envision the better world we must build." --Anthony Marx, President, New York Public Library

"Ryan has taken a vast range of challenging material written over twenty-five centuries in the West and engaged with it in prose of stunning clarity.  He displays the intrinsic interest of reflection on writers from Herodotus to yesterday, while showing how it can be a powerful resource for dealing with politics today.  It is an amazing achievement to combine so much learning with such lucidity." --Anthony Appiah, Princeton University, author of The Honor Code

"In lucid, precise, and accessible prose, Ryan has written an unparalleled guide for our times to the Western tradition of political thought.  From Herodotus through the Christian world and the rise of modernity to our own time, readers will be stimulated to reflect on historical, contemporary, and perennial questions." --Steven Lukes, Princeton University, author of Power: A Radical View

 Liveright/W. W. Norton, October 2012

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Have you experienced a case of the wednesdays?

Last week, THE WEDNESDAYS by Julie Bourbeau was released by Knopf Books for Young Readers!  THE WEDNESDAYS is Bourbeau's highly imaginative, oftentimes hilarious, and sometimes creepy middle grade debut.

Max V. Bernard lives in a village that is perfectly normal...except on Wednesdays.  The very worst that can happen does when a villager or visitor is caught outdoors on this most inauspicious of days.  To protect themselves, the villagers lock themselves indoors and shutter up their windows in an attempt to evade the otherwise unavoidable and peculiar happenings, like one's hair catching on fire or one's cat getting stuck up a vacuum cleaner.  No one wants to catch "a case of the wednesdays."  But, this Wednesday, Max refuses to stay home.  When he ventures into the great (and deserted) outdoors, he runs into the wednesdays themselves, the silver-eyed, impish creatures causing all the weekly mayhem.  What will Max do when the wednesdays want him to become the next member of their legion?

Bourbeau has undertaken a number of fascinating blog interviews to celebrate her book's release. 

Over at Random Acts of Reading, she revealed a bit about what inspired her to make the wednesdays actual beings: "My son was literally growing up with the book as I wrote, and as a toddler he was quite the little imp.  (He still is, in fact.)  He was responsible for quite a few wednesday-like mishaps--colorful marks on walls, even more colorful spills, remote controls gone missing, and so on."  You can read the full interview here.

On another blog, So I'm Fifty, Bourbeau offered advice for others who are writing books for children: "Read you book out loud to a child who isn't afraid to play critic.  It's amazing how quickly you'll stumble over awkward phrases or boring lulls in the action when you have a precocious seven-year-old rolling her eyes or yawning while you read to her!"  Don't miss the full interview here.

THE WEDNESDAYS will be honored as an Indie Next List title for Autumn 2012.  Below are several of the excellent reviews the book has received thus far:

"Lighthearted and entertaining....Bourbeau's story is filled with slapstick humor...[A] gentle sense of magic and mayhem." --Publishers Weekly

"I wanted more of everything...Max is hilarious...I want to be best friends with [Max]...Recommended for: People who have ever wondered how powerful their mind actually is." --Wear the Old Coat Blog