The Verdict: Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares

Lily has left a red notebook full of challenges on a favorite bookstore shelf, waiting for just the right guy to come along and accept its dares. But is Dash that right guy? Or are Dash and Lily only destined to trade dares, dreams, and desires in the notebook they pass back and forth at locations across New York?Excerpt & Image from GoodReads7741325

I was a little, tiny bit disappointed about Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares. That’s not to say that I didn’t enjoy it, I did, but it just didn’t live up to the standards of Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist. Once again Rachel Cohn & David Levithan collaborated on this with Rachel writing Lily’s chapters and David writing Dash’s. I wonder if they’ve ever thought about doing it the other way round??

Dash’s is 100% Levithan – Cute, geeky and sensitive in a hot way, and pretty metrosexual. I haven’t read any other Rachel Cohn so I can only compare Lily to Norah…I was expecting a similar character- quirky, insecure and feisty- but she was just a bit of a let down. I’m glad she was different, don’t get me wrong, she’s not supposed to be Norah but I think the main reason I didn’t LOVE this book is because me and Lily just wouldn’t get on. She wears her school uniform in the Christmas Holidays (who does that?). She is just SO nice it’s sickening. She doesn’t even approve of swearing. I don’t think we could be friends. And I don’t think she’s a good match for Dash.

Lily does love Christmas though, as do I, so you’d think that would endear me to her. But no.

I love Christmas. I love everything about it: the lights, the cheer the big family gatherings, the cookies, the presents piled high around the tree. The goodwill to all. I know it’s technically goodwill to all men, but in my mind I drop the men because that seems segregationist/elitist/sexist generally bad ist. Goodwill shouldn’t be just for men. It should also apply to women and children, and all animals, even the yucky ones like subway rats. I’d even extend the goodwill not just to living creatures but to the dearly departed, and if we include them we might as well include the undead, those supposedly mythic beings like vampires, and if they’re in, then so are elves, fairies and gnomes.

She is so different to Norah that I couldn’t even picture her as Kat Dennings whom I’m a bit obsessed with so that was disappointing too. She just didn’t fit.

There are definitely flashes of brilliance though. One of the first things I didn’t like about the story is that Lily is basically a fraud. Dash has found the notebook and is traipsing all over New York during the holidays to fulfill these dares, and here he is thinking he’s met this quirky, clever, slightly insane, out-spoken girl (he’s clearly picturing Kat Dennings too) when really the whole thing was her brother’s idea and she’s just sort of going along with it. But then, I guess that’s what it’s like when when you’re just getting to know someone. You find out one thing about them and it defines who they are to you. If you ask me, first impressions are worthless.

I mean like most guys, you carry around this girl in your head, who is exactly how you want her to be. The person you think you will love the most. And every girl you are with gets measured against this girl in your head. So this girl with the red notebook- it makes sense. If you never meet her, she never has to get measured. She can be the girl in your head.

I think Dash would agree with me.

I wanted to write it down. I wanted to share it with Lily, even if Lily was really just the idea I’d created of Lily, the concept of Lily. . . I sat back and let my thoughts flow out. Not directed at her this time. Not directed at all. It would be just like water, or blood. It would go wherever it was meant to go.

Overall Dash & Lily is a really enjoyable read, just don’t expect it to be as poignant (I really hate that word but there’s no better in this case) or as beautiful as Nick & Norah.

I give Dash & Lily's Book of Dares 3 unicorns (out of 5 unicorns). It would be 3.5 unicorns but I can't cut a unicorn in half, that would be devastating.

This edition was published by Mira Ink, Oct 2012 and belongs to Dora. Thanks Dora 🙂

The Verdict: Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore

Click to view on GoodReads.
Click to view on GoodReads.

There are just many things to be said about Bitterblue but let’s start with the basics. It’s the third book in the Graceling Realm Trilogy by Kristin Cashore and it looks beautiful.

In Graceling, we entered a world of seven kingdoms where some people are born graced with any number of unique skills or abilities and where we first meet Katsa, seemingly graced with the skill of killing and under the command of King Randa. Katsa becomes increasingly frustrated and depressed about being used in such a cruel way and when Prince Po comes along their journey together slowly reveals just how corrupt the seven kingdoms really are. In Fire, we’re transported to The Dells, a kingdom of ‘rainbow coloured monsters and underground labyrinths’ where Fire, the last human monster is both hated and obsessed over, constantly assaulted for being so irresistible and who refuses to use her mind control to steal people’s memories and secrets.

By the time we come to Bitterblue, it is several years after King Leck’s tyrannous and torturous reign in Graceling and we follow the young Queen Bitterblue as she attempts to rebuild her kingdom; a kingdom that is still deeply affected by her father’s spell over them. But how can you rebuild something that is based on lies and secrets and despicable acts? Especially when the people who were most under Leck’s spell are the ones closest to Bitterblue?

There are so many things I love about this book. I enjoyed Fire, but as soon I opened this it felt like I was coming back home. I was eager to meet up with Katsa and Po again and it didn’t disappoint despite the fact that they weave in and out of the narritive. I think Cashore could easy have ridden the wave of their romance and made that the main strand of this book but I think this portrays a much more realistic and exciting relationship. It’s certainly refreshing to see these characters living their own lives, putting the important things first and not just glaring at each other with puppy-dog eyes. They are definitely not the puppy-dog eyes types!

I love how this story slowly builds momentum. We find the clues as Bitterblue finds them -one by one- linking what really happened during Leck’s time to just how many secrets and lies are being maintained within the city walls. I found myself even more confused than Bitterblue as to who to trust and who to investigate. However, I did feel like there was a lull in the middle where the pace could have been picked up and I just wanted to grab Bitterblue and shake her yelling ‘haven’t you learnt by now you can’t trust anyone, get on with it!’

I enjoyed the mix of the old and new here too. Whenever I think of Kings, Queens and castles, whether it’s in this universe or a fictional one I think of times gone by, but Cashore’s world is full of modern themes making no fuss over boys and girls fighting each other, same-sex relationships, sex before marriage, birth control, or a Queen who wears trousers and slips out of the castle at night to smooch with a thief. And is it just me or is it completely devoid of religion? Hallelujah!

Cashore has created an in-depth world of strong, kick-ass girls, epic sword-fights, passion, and intriguing mystery. Essentially, Bitterblue and those before it are about the abuse of control and power, facing up to horrible truths and having the strength to overcome the impossible.

Bitterblue is published by Gollancz and I received a copy in exchange for a review as part of their Gollancz Geeks Blog.

The Verdict: Soulless – Gail Carriger

Cheap clothing is no excuse for killing a man! Click to view on Goodreads
Cheap clothing is no excuse for killing a man!
Click to view on Goodreads

Synopsis: First, she has no soul. Second, she’s a spinster whose father is both Italian and dead. Third, she was rudely attacked by a vampire, breaking all standards of social etiquette.

Where to go from there? From bad to worse apparently, for Alexia accidentally kills the vampire – and then the appalling Lord Maccon (loud, messy, gorgeous, and werewolf) is sent by Queen Victoria to investigate.

With unexpected vampires appearing and expected vampires disappearing, everyone seems to believe Alexia responsible. Can she figure out what is actually happening to London’s high society? Will her soulless ability to negate supernatural powers prove useful or just plain embarrassing? Finally, who is the real enemy, and do they have treacle tart?

As I mentioned before, I don’t really know anything about Steampunk. Other than the fact that it’s everywhere at the moment, I like the clothes but would never be able to pull it off and that there seems to be a whole lot of what I can only describe as gold binocular type goggles and mechanical Blimps, or Glassicles and Dirigibles as I now know them to be (see, learning). That being said, I actually really enjoyed that element of the story. It brought a new dimension to your average ‘Paranormal Romance’ genre.

Soulless is basically a sort of Victorian mystery-cum-paranormal-romance in which Miss Alexia ‘I’m the one with no soul’ Tarabotti accidentally kills a feral, unregistered vampire with her parasol. Oh, how very uncouth! This results in her spending more time with Lord Maccon of BUR – The Bureau of Unnatural Registration – whose job it is to investigate such improper occurrences. Chaos and an unlikely romance ensues. Obviously.

After the initial LOLs from the almost farcical “Victorian” language Carriger uses,(can you image a vampire saying ‘she is trying to make a funny’? No, me neither) there’s actually a lot to like in this book. Lord Maccon for one. Hot, Scottish (‘of all barbaric places’) Werewolf type who I like to picture as Simon from Biffy Clyro:

Simon 'Sexy Jesus' Neil AKA Lord Maccon.
Simon ‘Sexy Jesus’ Neil AKA Lord Maccon.

AND we later come across a character named Biffy! Coincidence? I think not!

The fact that pale girls with some flesh on their bones are the desirable ones is also a confidence booster, good work Victorians. And well , it’s all pretty funny really. I’m still not entirely sure if I was laughing at it, or with it. Probably a bit of both, but either way it brought a smile to my face.

I made some really in-depth review notes for your perusal:

Don't call him your mistress!!!
Don’t call him your mistress!!!
Excellent Vocab!
Excellent Vocab!
Angry-sticking-up-for-his-but-not-his-woman-hot-Werewolf-action!
Angry-sticking-up-for-his-but-not-his-woman-hot-Werewolf-action!

I’ll definitely have a go on the next in the series! I give it 4 Unicorns. (Out of 5 Unicorns, BTW)

Soulless is published by Orbit.