Review of Exquisite Captive by Heather Demetrios

Exquisite Captive (Dark Caravan Cycle #1)Exquisite Captive
By: Heather Demetrios
Release Date: October 7th 2014
Publisher: Balzer+Bray
Format: Print ARC
Source: Publisher

A copy of this book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

My Rating:

Forced to obey her master.
Compelled to help her enemy.
Determined to free herself.

Nalia is a jinni of tremendous ancient power, the only survivor of a coup that killed nearly everyone she loved. Stuffed into a bottle and sold by a slave trader, she’s now in hiding on the dark caravan, the lucrative jinni slave trade between Arjinna and Earth, where jinn are forced to grant wishes and obey their human masters’ every command. She’d give almost anything to be free of the golden shackles that bind her to Malek, her handsome, cruel master, and his lavish Hollywood lifestyle.

Enter Raif, the enigmatic leader of Arjinna’s revolution and Nalia’s sworn enemy. He promises to free Nalia from her master so that she can return to her ravaged homeland and free her imprisoned brother—all for an unbearably high price. Nalia’s not sure she can trust him, but Raif’s her only hope of escape. With her enemies on the hunt, Earth has become more perilous than ever for Nalia. There’s just one catch: for Raif’s unbinding magic to work, Nalia must gain possession of her bottle…and convince the dangerously persuasive Malek that she truly loves him. Battling a dark past and harboring a terrible secret, Nalia soon realizes her freedom may come at a price too terrible to pay: but how far is she willing to go for it?

My Thoughts:
I was excited to read Exquisite Captive because I love the new trend of jinn in young adult fiction. I had pretty high expectations for this book and it provided a good read but wasn’t 100% there for me. Something always felt missing, like it was just inches away from being amazing.

The story itself was pretty slow to start focusing a lot of attention telling the reader about the history of the jinn up to this point and Nalia’s personal journey to becoming Malek’s slave. I wish we could have learned more about the jinn world that Nalia had grown up in since for the most part it felt like information given rather than really expressed emotionally. I wanted to feel immersed but did not. I hope that as the series progresses we get to experience more of jinn world because Demetrios has really created compelling jinn mythology.

Nalia’s present story takes place in Hollywood and under Malek’s control. Unfortunately, I never connected very deeply to Nalia. I wanted to be invested in her personal journey but it didn’t happen. I think because of this I was disconnected to a good amount of this book. I could see myself becoming more and more invested in her as the series continues but it fell rather flat for me in this first book. I think the slow beginning had a good amount to do with that.

I thought that Demetrios tried to give Malek a multi-layered personality and history. I wished that the love interest aspect between him and Nalia hadn’t been present or done differently. I think it could have been done successfully and taken away from the love triangle feel. Regardless, Demetrios made it work in the end and built up a history between the two characters that should provide a lot of interesting scenes and interactions in the future.

The other romance, between Nalia and Raif, was incredibly typical for young adult- they meet, bicker and fall in love incredibly fast. I thought that since so much of the emotional appeal of this book relied on the reader feeling the chemistry and love between Nalia and Raif Demetrios should have worked further in giving them scenes together. I felt that their entire relationship was rushed.

Final Thoughts:
Though Exquisite Captive fell short of being an amazing read for me I felt that the building blocks have been put into place for me to enjoy the upcoming books much more. I hope that with the next installment I can connect with the main character.

Review of Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge

Cruel BeautyCruel Beauty
By: Rosamund Hodge
Release Date: January 28th 2014
Publisher: Balzer & Bray

An advanced copy was sent to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review

My Rating:

Based on the classic fairy tale Beauty and the Beast, Cruel Beauty is a dazzling love story about our deepest desires and their power to change our destiny.

Since birth, Nyx has been betrothed to the evil ruler of her kingdom-all because of a foolish bargain struck by her father. And since birth, she has been in training to kill him.

With no choice but to fulfill her duty, Nyx resents her family for never trying to save her and hates herself for wanting to escape her fate. Still, on her seventeenth birthday, Nyx abandons everything she’s ever known to marry the all-powerful, immortal Ignifex. Her plan? Seduce him, destroy his enchanted castle, and break the nine-hundred-year-old curse he put on her people.

But Ignifex is not at all what Nyx expected. The strangely charming lord beguiles her, and his castle-a shifting maze of magical rooms-enthralls her.

As Nyx searches for a way to free her homeland by uncovering Ignifex’s secrets, she finds herself unwillingly drawn to him. Even if she could bring herself to love her sworn enemy, how can she refuse her duty to kill him? With time running out, Nyx must decide what is more important: the future of her kingdom, or the man she was never supposed to love.

The Story:
I’m pretty mixed on my feelings regarding Cruel Beauty. I loved the creativity Hodge brought to her reworking of the classic tale. The main story arc was surprising as well as interesting and I found the idea behind the Beast’s curse to be beautifully done (I can’t reveal much since spoilers). Hodge has a beautiful writing style that is easy to read and flows very well. The pacing was fast for the most part and I was interested in the story immediately.

What I didn’t like was the romance and Nyx’s internal dialog (which I’ll discuss in the character section of my review). I felt like Nyx and Ignifex had very little, if any, chemistry and I think their relationship lacked the slow burn that I look for in any retelling of Beauty and the Beast. To me, the most beautiful aspect of the original story is the journey for the two to get to know one another and see beyond the façade to what makes the other tick. Sadly, I didn’t really get that feeling in Cruel Beauty. The relationship felt disjointed and the love missed the mark for me.

The Characters:
Nyx’s character fought many internal struggles through-out this story. She felt guilt and resentment in equal parts, her constant flip flopping between emotions was understandable but grew to be grating after reading many pages dedicated to it. I did feel that her character developed over the course of the story and I appreciated her strength and determination in her duties.

Ignifex had an interesting back- story though I wished I had a better sense of him than I did. I loved his justifications for why he acted the way he did. I felt he brought some intriguing arguments and really had Nyx contemplating what truly makes one evil. Overall, I liked where Hodge took his story but I felt that I needed just a little more depth and detail to really flesh him out to me.

Another character I have to include is Shade. He is a major player in Nyx and Ignifex’s story though I can’t go into any details without revealing spoilers. I will say that he frustrated me and the ease in which Nyx trusted him was much too fast in my opinion. He really did add some intriguing aspects to the story-arc though and I do think that I might have had the strongest emotions regarding his character and actions.

Final Thoughts:
It’s really hard for me to rate Cruel Beauty. I loved the overall story and felt that it was an original take on the classic. Hodge has a very easy-to-read style and her writing is elegant and flows beautifully. On the other hand, I felt the romance could have used some depth and I wished I had connected more with Nyx.

Cruel Beauty Book Trailer:

Review of Avalon by Mindee Arnett

By: Mindee Arnett
Release Date: January 21st 2014
Publisher: Balzer & Bray
Barnes and Noble

An electronic copy was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

I read Avalon with my reading group, Scott Reads It, Bibliopunkk and On Starships and Dragonwings

My Rating:

A ragtag group of teenage mercenaries who crew the spaceship Avalon stumble upon a conspiracy that could threaten the entire galaxy in this fascinating and fast-paced sci-fi adventure from author Mindee Arnett.

Of the various star systems that make up the Confederation, most lie thousands of light-years from First Earth-and out here, no one is free. The agencies that govern the Confederation are as corrupt as the crime bosses who patrol it, and power is held by anyone with enough greed and ruthlessness to claim it. That power is derived from one thing: metatech, the devices that allow people to travel great distances faster than the speed of light.

Jeth Seagrave and his crew of teenage mercenaries have survived in this world by stealing unsecured metatech, and they’re damn good at it. Jeth doesn’t care about the politics or the law; all he cares about is earning enough money to buy back his parents’ ship, Avalon, from his crime-boss employer and getting himself and his sister, Lizzie, the heck out of Dodge. But when Jeth finds himself in possession of information that both the crime bosses and the government are willing to kill for, he is going to have to ask himself how far he’ll go to get the freedom he’s wanted for so long.

The Story:
Avalon was one of my most anticipated reads and when I was given the advanced reader copy I was beyond thrilled. I’d heard many comparisons to Firefly which off the bat made me very interested. I’ve read Arnett’s paranormal The Nightmare Affair and thought it was a fast and entertaining read adding to my curiosity of how she would fare with science fiction. Honestly, I think this anticipation and high hopes for what I wanted Avalon to be might have marred what it truly was.

My experience reading this book started off wonderfully. I was immediately drawn into the story and looked forward to being swept off my feet.  The pacing was fast and I thought the science fiction aspects were done well and it did mirror the aura of Firefly, especially with the main story arc. Sadly, as I continued to read I was unable to really connect with the characters and never fully grasped the world they lived in.

There was a beautiful addition of some creepy details and I had chills reading. Unfortunately, this aspect puttered out in the last half of the book and things became more predictable. I quickly saw the direction things were headed and felt a small amount of disappointment that not only did the mysterious elements not amount to as much as I liked I was correct in the outcome of why they were occurring.

The Characters:
I found the cast to be likeable enough but I really missed that there wasn’t more internal dialog amongst the crew and bolder personalities. Everyone sort of just melded together in my head (especially weeks after reading). I felt that not one character stood out to me. The main character, Jeth, was supposed to take that spot but I never successfully connected with him. I found Arnett’s male voice to be well done and believable but overall he just lacked something to make me love his character. Sadly, I’m not exactly sure how to pin point it.

The romance in Avalon felt very secondary and really it felt more a means to an end than a focus of the story. For me, the two characters connection stopped after attraction and I never felt any real emotions between them. I personally prefer my science fiction with less romance than more so this didn’t really affect my reading experience.

Final Thoughts:
I enjoyed reading Avalon though I was disappointed in the book overall. I felt that the beginning half was excellent and because of that and my very (possibly unrealistic) expectations I set this book up to fail in some ways. I think that if I had read it without my own hopes of what it would be I could have seen what the author intended and enjoy it more. I will continue with this series and hope that the world is developed more as well as my connection with the characters.