Dash and Lily's Book of Dares by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan


Posted by Cobalt | Posted in , | Posted on 6:29 AM

Rating: 3.5 / 5 stars

What happens when two hipsters fall in love? Over the holidays, no less?

Well, they probably get an awesome soundtrack.

This book was described by one reviewer as "a light, frothy, hot-chocolate read," and I agree on all points: warming, almost cloyingly sweet, and very little nutritional content.

But also fun, if you are in the mood to be pleased. And I was. However, if you are tipping towards the cynical side of life, you should probably steer clear. When I started reading, I had a moment of doubt: will I want to kill these characters within a few chapters? And I can see where word-nerd Dash and the improbably-upbeat Lily could drive you to violence. But the alternating POV's helped, and so did the fact that I was reading in small doses (Note: Do not chug the hot chocolate).

So, the premise: Dash is prowling the stacks in the Strand, that holy temple of bibliophiles, when he comes across a mysterious red Moleskin notebook tucked among his beloved Salinger novels.*

The notebook has a secret message that requires a word hunt through the Strand**; once he's decoded the message, Dash has a decision to make. Does he want to accept the mysterious Lily's invitation to play? Does he want to up the ante with a set of dares himself?

Of course he does.

Hijinks ensue in the grand city of New York, and it's best to sit back and enjoy the madcap zaniness that you've signed up for. Just don't think too hard!

*This is where I became Gravely Concerned.
**This is where I decided to keep reading, because I am a sucker for wordplay.

Raised by Wolves by Jennifer Lynn Barnes


Posted by Cobalt | Posted in | Posted on 5:41 AM

Rating: 4.5 / 5 stars

Quick clarification: Bryn was actually raised by werewolves. This causes no small amount of confusion in her life, since it's a bit easier to tell yourself apart from your wolfish siblings when you are the only one minus fangs and fur. But when your best werewolf friend and pack brother Devon has better fashion sense than you, it's trickier to draw the line between human and wolf.

Not to mention the Pack bond, a sort of psychic Twitter feed of werewolf emotion, which Bryn has done her very best to shut down since she was four years old.

Ever since the Rabid murdered her family, and she was adopted into the Stone River Pack.

So thanks to her upbringing, Bryn tends to growl a bit more than normal girls. Her social life at school is somewhat lacking. But she has plenty of Pack drama to make up for it. Not least is sparring with Callum, the Alpha who saved her. Think your home life is tough? Try dealing with a dominant male wolf who's upset about your algebra grades and wants you home every night before dusk.

This is just a fun, fast read overall. Bryn is delightfully pragmatic, so even when she's rushing off to Do Stupid Things, she knows that they are ill-advised and there will be consequences. And then she deals with the consequences, foreseen and otherwise.

But mostly, this book is about Pack. Which also means family. Because what lots of werewolf stories ignore is the wolf aspect -- wolves are naturally pack animals. The lone wolf is not a happy puppy, because wolves are drawn to each other, as mates and friends and rivals. Just like humans.

There is even Romance! Well done, with a side of mysterious, and yes, Chase is fascinating in his own right. He doesn't turn all Dominant Male in the relationship (of course, Bryn won't let him) and I'd be happy to see another novel from his perspective.

The only regret you may have from this book is that there isn't another one immediately to follow up. But don't let that stop you - Raised by Wolves is too good to miss.

Magic Under Glass


Posted by Cobalt | Posted in , , | Posted on 6:44 AM

Rating: 3.5 / 5 stars

Nimira grew up in a world of lush gardens, court intrigue, and the luxury of the palace. But after her mother's death and her father's debts, she finds herself on a dingy stage, singing the ballads of her homeland to a rabble of commoners who see her as an exotic sideshow. A trousergirl.

Not exactly what she had dreamed of, growing up.

However, Nim is resilient and determined, and she keeps her eyes fixed on her goal. Even if she could never compare to her own mother's brilliant performances, Nim wants to make a name for herself. She wants to earn true respect for her art, and make her audience recognize her as more than just a novelty.

Trouble is, Nim's career seems to have stalled. Until a Mysterious Gentleman appears in her audience and offers her a new job: singing accompaniment to a fairy-made automaton, to an audience of Lorinar's upper set.

There are a few problems with this scenario. For one, Nim isn't all sure that she wants to put herself in the hands of a stranger, having so little legal and financial protection herself, to become basically another set-piece to an exotic show -- the Machine and the Heathen. For another, Mr. Parry is said to have a tragic past, including a dead wife.

For a third thing, the automaton is said to be haunted.

Nim says yes anyway, and then things get complicated.

I enjoyed this book, especially for how Nim managed to maintain her autonomy and Get Things Done -- not by rebelling against her limited position and smashing things up, but by working within her constraints. This showed control and strength of character far more impressive than a "can't hold me down" tantrum ever would (not to mention: far more effective).

It was a bit sparse on supporting character details, and the world-building is not done, but I expect that shall be covered in later installments. There must, of course, be later installments. I'd have liked more solid character building and setting work, but you can't help but love and admire Nim.

So, I may be tepid on the overall book, but I am Team Nim all the way.
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