Thursday, September 30, 2010

Review: Ascendant by Diana Peterfreund

Ascendant (Killer Unicorns #2) by Diana Peterfreund

Now a fully trained unicorn hunter, Astrid Llewelyn is learning that she can’t solve all her problems with a bow and arrow. Her boyfriend has left Rome, the Cloisters is in dire financial straits, her best friend’s powers are mysteriously disintegrating, and her hope of becoming a scientist seems to be nothing but an impossible dream.

So when she’s given the opportunity to leave the Cloisters and use her skills as part of a scientific quest to discover the Remedy, Astrid leaps at the chance. Finally, she can have exactly what she wants—or can she? At Gordian headquarters deep in France, Astrid begins to question everything she had believed: her love for Giovanni, her loyalty to the Cloisters, and—most of all—her duty as a hunter. Should Astrid be saving the world from killer unicorns or saving unicorns from the world?


After reading and loving Rampant, I was beyond excited to have a chance to read this one early. Luckily, it was just as exciting and original as it's prequel.

Astrid was back and better than ever. She was the same kick butt main character I remembered from the first book. From the beginning, Astrid always stood up for what she believed in. As a unicorn hunter, she was brave and strong, and even ruthless at times. In Ascendant she is finally starting to wonder if unicorn hunting is really what she's meant to be doing. She never sees her mother or friends back home, and she has no time for an education. When she runs into her ex-boyfriend in Paris, she is offered a whole new chance at life. Working at Gordian Pharmaceuticals.

The new twist involving Gordian was interesting and made me rethink a lot of my opinions of them from Rampant. Isabeau was a sweet and caring woman who actually wanted the best for Astrid, even if her actions were questionable. Isabeau was determined to discover the Remedy no matter what, and I really didn't agree with her cruel testing on unicorns and her other dubious activities that are revealed in the end. A lot of the characters change in this novel, and you learn a lot more about Astrid's family history.

Ascendant went in a completely different direction than I was expecting, but I was glued to the pages every minute I could spare. I loved watching Astrid's relationship with the Gordian einhorns grow stronger and at times I even cried at how horribly they were treated. The last few chapters will have you on the edge of your seat, gripping the pages, it was so intense and revealing.

Astrid faces a lot of new challenges and her relationship with Giovanni is tested. This is hard to review because so much happens that I don't want to spoil, but all I can say is this is one exciting and gripping novel and Astrid is forced to change a lot by the end. I am dying for a third Killer Unicorns book- this series never ceases to draw me in and keep me glued to the pages. If you haven't already, definitely read Rampant before Ascendant, you'll be completely lost otherwise!

Overall: 4.5 out of 5 stars

September 28, 2010/HarperTeen/382 Pages/Young Adult/Book Two

Source: Borrowed from Susan
Other books in this series: Rampant (Killer Unicorns #1)

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Introducing 2011: Karen Mahoney

Karen Mahoney gave up on her dreams of being Wonder Woman a long time ago, but has instead settled for being a writer of contemporary or “urban” fantasy. Karen – or Kaz, as many of her friends call her – has been published alongside some of her favourite authors, in anthologies like THE ETERNAL KISS and the forthcoming KISS ME DEADLY (both by Running Press). She is still in complete shock about this. Her debut YA novel, THE IRON WITCH, will be published in the US by Flux and in the UK & Australia by Random House Children’s books, February 2011.


Kaz's debut novel, THE IRON WITCH, will be published by Flux in February 2011!

1) What was the inspiration behind THE IRON WITCH?

First of all, thank for having me!

Three things combined to provide the initial spark of inspiration for THE IRON WITCH: an article called 'The Armless Maiden and the Hero's Journey' by Midori Snyder (, about the mythic tradition of the 'Armless Maiden' or 'Handless Maiden' folktales; my interest in alchemy; and... yes... a dream. Two dreams, actually. One was dark and confused, and all I could remember afterwards was a broken boy who'd suffered terrible injuries; and the other dream was of a girl being chased by screaming monsters as she ran through a forest. These two came together in the book and recognized something of themselves in the other.

Pretty heavy stuff, right? ;)

2) Did you have to do any research on fey or alchemy before writing?

Yes, lots! Well, I'd already done a lot of research on alchemy because it's something I was interested in before. But I dug deeper - much deeper - and even read the journals of famous 16th century alchemists. I wanted to imagine what it would be like for a seventeen-year-old girl in today's world, if she'd been brought up amid the claustraphobic environment of a group of alchemists who protect all kinds of secrets. The fey research didn't need to be as in-depth, simply because it's something I've read so much about over the years. I think it's in my bones. My university dissertation (many years ago!) was on folklore, and it's something that always inspires me. Still, I did research different myths and legends about elves from around the world - and then I threw it all out the window and created my own version! My elves are nothing like Orlando Bloom in The Lord of the Rings movies (sadly), but are dark and twisted and born of wood and earth. I had great fun coming up with them.

3) You've been published before in short story collections, what's different about writing a novel?

Oooh... good question. It's so very different, and so much harder - at least, it is for me. Although my first published story ('Falling to Ash' in THE ETERNAL KISS) got some great reviews, I am very much aware of its shortcomings. When you're writing something around 10,000 words, as opposed to a novel of nearer 70,000 words (as all mine seem to be), there is the obvious lack of space. You can't develop sub-plots and it's important to find the heart of your story as soon as possible - otherwise you can waste a lot of time writing stuff that needs to be cut. I'm speaking from experience! But there is also something satisfying in the challenge of writing a shorter piece and, even though I went way over my word limit in my latest effort (it's closer to a novella), I think I was more successful.

4) In what ways do you relate to your main character, Donna?

I wish I could say I'm as strong as Donna. She is filled with an inner strength that she really has to dig into during the events of THE IRON WITCH. But I think she gets her sense of justice from me; if there's something I hate more than anything, it's injustice. And bullies. Donna deals with both of these issues - and a lot more! - in the book. I also relate to her in an 'actual' way in that I loosely based her best friend, Navin Sharma, on my own best friend. My friend loves this, and is more than happy to find a prominent Indian character in my debut novel. :)

5) What's next for you writing wise?

I'm really busy right now - crazy how things seem to happen all at once. I'm currently working on the sequel, THE WOOD QUEEN. It picks up just a couple of weeks after the first book, although there isn't a cliffhanger in THE IRON WITCH. I wrapped up the major plot points, but it was definitely open for lots more adventures - some huge discoveries to look forward to for Donna! My second 'short' story came out a couple of months ago in KISS ME DEADLY (the follow-up to last year's THE ETERNAL KISS), and my story/novella - 'The Spirit Jar' - is another tale of Moth the teenage vampire. I've written a novel about Moth, BEAUTIFUL GHOSTS, that my agent and I are hoping to sell soon - watch this space! I also have an essay published in the forthcoming SmartPop anthology dedicated to The Vampire Diaries TV show. The book is called A VISTOR'S GUIDE TO MYSTIC FALLS ( and is due to be published in October - it was genuinely an honour to be invited to write something for it.

Thanks so much, Kaz!

Click here to visit her website!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Review: Freefall by Mindi Scott

Freefall by Mindi Scott

Release date: October 5, 2010
Publisher: Simon Pulse/ 315 Pages/ Young Adult
Source: Author/Publisher (ARC)

How do you come back from the point of no return?

Seth McCoy was the last person to see his best friend Isaac alive, and the first to find him dead. It was just another night, just another party, just another time where Isaac drank too much and passed out on the lawn. Only this time, Isaac didn’t wake up.

Convinced that his own actions led to his friend’s death, Seth is torn between turning his life around . . . or losing himself completely.

Then he meets Rosetta: so beautiful and so different from everything and everyone he's ever known. But Rosetta has secrets of her own, and Seth will soon realize he isn’t the only one who needs saving . . .


What a debut! Freefall pulled me in from the first page and wouldn't let me go until the very last word. Not only was the plot engaging and original, but Mindi Scott is a fantastic writer. Freefall is definitely going to appeal to a variety of readers and will keep them engaged throughout.

Seth was an original and unique main character who wasn't always relatable to me, but I always could understand his actions. He had been through a lot, especially recently. Seth blamed himself for his best friend Isaac's death and was still coming to grips with it even when it seemed so many others had already forgotten it. I felt for him and could understand his grief and pain. Mindi Scott really knows how to get into a teenager's head. Seth was so realistic and well developed. Mindi didn't hold back when describing scenes where Seth is partying and drinking and she definitely proved that there is much more to people than meets the eye.

Other than Seth there were a lot of other great characters. His family was small, but you could tell they cared for each other. Especially his mother. His friends, while sometimes not the nicest people, were interesting characters and I liked watching how Seth grew and changed and finally stood up for himself and what he believed in. His stage fright is a real fear many teenagers have today, and I could relate to his paranoia of going on stage and performing.

A lot was going on in Freefall and I wouldn't have changed a thing. The plot was artfully woven and perfectly written. I especially loved the romance aspect.

Rosetta was sweet, nice, and so understanding of Seth. I loved watching their relationship grow and change until the very last page. The reader really got to know Rosetta and understand her secrets and fears. At first, Seth and Rosetta may not appear similar at all. But in reality, they have much more in common than anyone could ever realize.

The drama, intrigue, and romance was all realistically portrayed and I applaud Mindi Scott for tacking so many issues shied away from in YA lit today. I definitely recommend reading Freefall come October. It's an emotional and fantastic debut that will tug the heart strings of every reader.

Overall: 5 out of 5 stars

Monday, September 27, 2010

Nightshade Review

Nightshade by Andrea Cremer
Publisher: Philomel
Release date: October 19, 2010
Source: Publisher

Calla Tor has always known her destiny: After graduating from the Mountain School, she'll be the mate of sexy alpha wolf Ren Laroche and fight with him, side by side, ruling their pack and guarding sacred sites for the Keepers. But when she violates her masters' laws by saving a beautiful human boy out for a hike, Calla begins to question her fate, her existence, and the very essence of the world she has known. By following her heart, she might lose everything--including her own life. Is forbidden love worth the ultimate sacrifice?


From the first page I was drawn into the awesomeness that is Nightshade. Andrea is a phenomenal writer and combined with a love triangle, a kick butt main character, and an intense plot line it makes for one terrific read.

To start off, Calla Tor is one of my favorite paranormal heroines. She was brave, determined, but kind at the same time. When things get tough Calla always knows the right decision to make to protect her pack and as alpha she never backs down from a challenge. I loved seeing things through Calla's eyes and understanding how hard things were for her. The other characters were all great. I loved her best friend, Bryn, and her brother Ansel. All of the characters were well developed and original.

I think my favorite part of this novel was the romance. I adore love triangles. Even though they are really overdone I just can't get enough of them. Especially in Nightshade. Andrea Cremer constructed a love triangle that just has the reader hooked. Calla is supposed to mate with sexy playboy Ren and they will man a new pack together and Calla is ready to take this huge step until Shay arrives. Mysterious, hot, and intriguing Shay, Calla is attracted to him from their first meeting. The only problem is he's human...and she's already promised to Ren. From there things get crazy and Calla's loyalties, and heart, are tested.

The plot line was also fabulous. It was original, exciting, and kept me glued to the pages right away. Andrea's writing and creative plot twists kept me reading and I never knew what was going to happen next. The ending especially was such a cliffhanger. I'm dying for the second book!

Soaked in history and intrigue, Nightshade wasn't just your average werewolf story. Keepers, Guardians, Searchers... Andrea really made Nightshade her own.

Overall Nightshade was an intoxicating and beautifully written debut novel filled with romance and plot twists that will keep you glued to the pages. Calla was an awesome main character and I love Shay and Ren. Emotions run strong throughout and by the last few chapters you won't be able to stop reading. I can't recommend this enough!

Overall: 5 out of 5 stars

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Blog Tour: Andrea Cremer Interview & Giveaway!

1. How did the title Nightshade come to be? Was it ever titled something else?

Nightshade was always one of the wolf pack names, but my manuscript was originally titled GUARDIAN. My editor and I decided we wanted a title that was more evocative and Nightshade was the winner!

2. In what ways do you relate to Calla?

We both have a younger brother, we’re addicted to black coffee, and we have the same favorite book (Watership Down). The similarities end there though. I’m a dreamer and idealist where as Calla is pragmatic and cautious.

3. Your characters have very unique names: Calla, Ren, Shay- how did you come up with them?

I’ve always been fascinated by names, particularly their origin and meanings. I spend a lot of time thinking of character names. Calla’s name evokes her physical persona – white blond hair and golden eyes as well as her struggle for independence. She wants to be a warrior and not the delicate flower she’s name for. Renier and Seamus are tied into their heritage (French and Irish) as well as the meaning of the names themselves.

4. What’s next for you writing wise?

Nightshade is a trilogy with book 2, Wolfsbane, coming out next July and book 3, Bloodrose, in spring 2012. In fall 2012 a companion novel to Nightshade will be published. I’ve also started a steampunk series about a group of refugees on the outskirts of 19th century New York. In this world the American Revolution failed and the Western World is dominated by the powerful Machineworks of the ever-expanding British Empire. I love this series and I hope to see it on the shelf someday, but for now Nightshade is keeping me very busy. Good thing I love it!

5. If you could befriend Calla with any other YA character who would it be and why?

I’d want her to be friends with Katniss Everdeen from Hunger Games. They’d both understand what it’s like to fight for the people you love and why you take risks and break the rules when those people are in danger. They’re also both good in the outdoors and they’re survivors.


Thanks so much, Andrea!

Click here to visit Andrea's website.

Thanks to The Teen {Book} Scene for sponsoring the tour!



I have one ARC of Nightshade to giveaway to a lucky winner!


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Saturday, September 25, 2010

Review:The Absolute Value of -1 by Steve Brezenoff

The Absolute Value of -1 by Steve Brezenoff
The absolute value of any number, positive or negative, is its distance from zero: |-1| = 1

Noah, Lily, and Simon have been a trio forever. But as they enter high school, their relationships shift and their world starts to fall apart. Privately, each is dealing with a family crisis—divorce, abuse, and a parent's illness. Yet as they try to escape the pain and reach out for the connections they once counted on, they slip—like soap in a shower. Noah’s got it bad for Lily, but he knows too well Lily sees only Simon. Simon is indifferent, suddenly inscrutable to his friends. All stand alone in their heartache and grief.


The Absolute Value of -1 was an original and unique young adult debut novel that was very different than anything I’ve read before.

For starters, it was told in four different perspectives: Suzanne, Noah, Lily, and Simon. I enjoyed getting to know each of these characters and to learn about their opinions on each other and their different experiences. Simon had the biggest section and, by the end, I felt I knew his character the most. He had been through a tough time and his life was by no means perfect. Noah, Lily, and Simon were basically caught in a love triangle. Noah liked Lily who liked Simon who liked someone completely different. I felt the strong emotions between the different characters and all of them were dealing with a lot. Noah, Lily, and Simon were all outcasts who banded together and became best friends by sharing cigarettes and cutting class.

Steve truly made each of his characters so believable. While I couldn’t really relate to any of them I felt a connection to each and every one of them by the end. It was an emotional read and my heart went out to Noah, Lily, and Simon.

The plot was fast paced and something new was happening on every page. There were a variety of plot twists and I was always on the edge of my seat wanting to know how things would work out for each of the characters. The ending was a little abrupt and I really want to know more about what happened to Noah, Lily, Simon, and Suzanne.

Steve Brezenoff is definitely an author to watch. He knows how to write a complex and emotional story that will draw readers in from the first page. While the plot may have been a little rushed, his characters were extremely memorable. I can’t wait to see what he writes next!

Overall: 4 out of 5 stars

September 1, 2010/Carolrhoda/264 Pages/Young Adult

Source: Author

Friday, September 24, 2010

Blog Tour: Steve Brezenoff & Giveaway

1. If Noah, Lily, and Simon could each spend the day with a celebrity (living or dead)- who would they choose and why?

Lily: She’s got a thing for Orlando Bloom. She’d probably go with that. But I bet the real answer is Einstein.

Noah: He’d probably say Tara Reid or Megan Fox. And you know what? I think the real answer is probably Tara Reid or Megan Fox.

Simon: He’d probably say Hemingway or Salinger. But you know what? I think the real answer is probably Tara Reid or Megan Fox.

2. What are three songs you think really suit The Absolute Value of -1?

Easiest question ever! Each of the characters actually has their own theme song, and I listened to them a LOT when I wrote, to get into the right mood for each narrator.

Lily: Kittie “Paper Doll”

Noah: Pharcyde “Passin’ Me By”

Simon: Helmet “He Feels Bad”

These probably aren’t songs your readers are familiar with, but they all come from the 90s—the decade I finished high school—so they mean a lot to me, of course. They’re definitely not for everybody, but hopefully someone will dig ‘em.

3. What has been the hardest part of transitioning from writing for younger readers (The Field Trip Mysteries) to young adults (The Absolute Value of -1)?

Oddly enough, I always thought I’d be a middle-grade writer. I have a couple of finished or almost-finished manuscripts “in the drawer” that are middle-grade. I’ll probably get around to finishing them . . . eventually. What I’m saying, though, is that I started writing |-1| ages ago, and I rarely worked on it. I never intended to write YA at all. I’m not sure I even knew |-1| was YA when I started, nor even when I’d written all of Simon’s section. (I wrote his first, and didn’t add Lily and Noah’s parts till there some editorial interest.) I just wrote it because I wanted to . . . or had to, maybe. I never thought I’d publish it, or even try to publish it.

Meanwhile, in my career as a writer, I have written WAAAAAAY more for middle-grade, like the Field Trip Mysteries, and dozens of chapter books under other names, than I have for YA. So the transition wasn’t anything I worried about, I guess. It turns out I am compelled to write YA. I enjoy writing for younger children too, but it’s not a compulsion. It’s more like a really great day job.

4. What’s next for you writing wise?

I’ve sold my second YA novel, TWO SUMMERS AROUND THE FIRE, and it is slated for Fall 2011 or Spring 2012. It will be coming out from Carolrhoda Lab, the same publisher who just put out |-1|. My editor recently called it a young adult A MOVEABLE FEAST set in Brooklyn, and I can definitely be okay with that.

5. Stranded on a desert island, what five books would you want with you?

1. The Catcher in the Rye: Since 7th grade, I’ve read this book at least once per year.

2. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe: This book (and the whole series) has a lot of issues, like sexism and racism for starters. But it’s still my go-to middle-grade fantasy and I can’t help getting caught up in it, even as I get annoyed that girls are told they can’t do what boys can.

3. Riverside Shakespeare: His complete works. I could really catch up on the ones I’ve forgotten . . . and the ones I only pretended to read the first time through!

4. The Life of Pi: I happen to love this book, first of all, but mainly it would offer hope that I’d eventually reach civilization again.

5. SAS Survival Handbook: How to Survive in the Wild, in Any Climate, on Land or at Sea: This speaks for itself. I have a lot of Shakespeare to read, so starving to death really just wouldn’t do, would it?


Thanks so much Steve!

Click here to visit his website!

Thanks to The Teen {Book} Scene for sponsoring this tour!



I have some awesome The Absolute Value of -1 bookmarks to send to one lucky commenter!


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