Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Book Review: Exquisite Captive by Heather Demetrios

Exquisite Captive (Dark Caravan Cycle #1) by Heather Demetrios
Source: eARC via Harper Collins | Edelweiss
My Rating: 4 of 5 stars :star :star :star :star
Publisher:  Balzer + Bray
Date Published: October 7th, 2014

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 Review

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

I've been gunning for more young adult fiction that deals with the Middle East. Anything really, from its vast mythology (which I feel has been left relatively untapped) to just using the setting or having a character(s) speak the languages of Arabic/Farsi. I read The Fire Wish earlier this year and liked it. I was eager to read this one because it seemed to have more mature themes.

Wanna see what Nahlia, Malek, Leilan, and Raif look like?
 Check out my post where I casted the characters.

I finished this book over a week ago and had so many thoughts it was difficult to pound out a review. I did, however, have to get my images from my imagination onto the blog somehow so I did a post where I casted the characters. (see link above). It was a lot of fun, and I got so much positive feedback it gave me energy to write this review. :O

Here's the thing about this book: There are many polarized reviews/opinions out there about this. I feel like I need to write a few points to help you decide (if you were on the fence) about reading this.

The things you need to know or consider when reading this book


It reads more like New Adult - There are adult themes in here. If you're looking for a young YA book and don't care for adult or new adult, just walk away from this. It's not all light and fluffy, it's dark as shit. In fact, I agree with Wendy who mentioned that she thinks this would've done well as a NA book.

There is abuse - There is emotional abuse (and some physical too). The physical isn't what you may think, but stuffing someone into a tiny space for months on end (her bottle), where she could barely breathe definitely constitutes as abuse in my book.

There is NO love triangle - I can address this later, but just...no. Those who think there is either didn't read far enough? or maybe they didn't understand the dynamic of the relationship. Think: Stockholm syndrome.

---

If any of those things are problematic for you, just walk away. It ain't gonna work. If you like darker books, don't mind tortured characters who are struggling with some major shit, then just be prepared. This is a book with A LOT of stuff going for it. I ultimately do think it pulled it off, but that's not saying I didn't have any hangups (because I did).

Although I'm Middle-Eastern, I don't get over-eager when I about about to read a book that contains ME mythology/ideology/setting. *why* ..because I'm almost always disappointed. If the author is from the Middle East, then -maybe- I'll be impressed. Even then, I don't hype myself up. It just doesn't happen. It's a complex and old culture and it varies (seemingly slightly but significantly to us) from country to country. While trying to relate to one group you may inadvertently be pissing another group off.

Thus, don't go into this book thinking this is an amazing retelling of Arabian Nights. Or that it portrays Middle Eastern mythology to the T. It doesn't. I don't even know why they said that on the cover, it's more like a novel with some flavoring from Arabian Nights. That doesn't mean it doesn't do a damn good job giving a feel for the culture, especially the sub-culture that exists in Los Angeles.

I live in Los Angeles. There is a HUGE population of Middle Eastern people here and while reading this I kept thinking "Oh my God!!! I wonder if that place is based on "The Spot"?" (It's a hookah place in Encino, where everyone goes to just dance and "be seen" and appraise each other.) It's definitely a place where if Raif and Nahlia danced--everyone would stare and gossip about it for a long time. It probably isn't based on that, because there are sooo many similar places here. Basically anywhere there is tea, hooka, loud music, and a late closing time (the place I frequent is open until 4am).

Demetrios got a surprising amount of things right in  Exquisite Captive. Surprising to me because  wasn't expecting that. Even on the cover, the writing on the cuff is in Arabic. [She consulted some friends and kind of made up her own phrase which fit the book. (I know because I asked around, googled it, checked her website, and finally had to stalk ask her) lol]

There are a few Arabic words sprinkled throughout too. I don't speak Arabic, But the letters are pretty much the same as Farsi (Arabic has additional letters/versions of certain ones that we don't really use, but have to learn when learning Farsi). I was happy to see Arabic in the lines of a YA book. I wish there were more. There are some awesome words and I think the language she did create was so similar to Arabic/Farsi that it gave the desired effect. I just wonder, is creating a new language for a novel/series easier than learning the language and including it? (future discussion post, anyone?) :P

The characters:

 I really enjoyed the characters in this book. Notice I didn't say "like" haha. I enjoyed the characters and their development. There is a character you will hate, so keep that in mind. He's also a main one, so yeah. Each character has flaws, especially Nahlia, Raif, and Malek. Nahlia is chained to her past and kind of stuck in her present by being Malek's genie.

Which leads me to my hypothesis (with research from my nonexistent doctorate):

Nahlia suffers from PTSD.
Is this stated in the book? No.
Can I substantiate this? Yes. (but this review is long enough so I'm not going to include all the quotes. if you're curious though--email me.)
Is this what the author intended? I have no idea.
(Remember when I stalked asked her? Turns out she has done research/work with PTSD before, So it is def plausible).

It makes sense though. She has constant flashbacks to the past. Nahlia's past was beyond rough, she went through crazy stuff. (Think: Iron Trial in the beginning with all the dead bodies..) If you don't get that ref, just trust me, it's bad. Her flashbacks are why so much of the book goes back and forth into the past. Once I figured assumed that about her, I became a lot more tolerant of her as a character.
I notice many people didn't like this back and forth but if you think about it, your main character is a woman suffering from PTSD (undiagnosed) who is living with (circumstances suggest forever) her "master" who is a sadistic man with multiple personalities. If you read the book you know how this is confirmed. Sometimes he's kind and part of him (one personality) really loves her/ believes he does. :L The other part though, damnnnn. :v

Nahlia has to figure out why she is responding to this type of abuse and behavior. She (obviously) doesn't get that right away. She also has to understand she needs to open up and be honest about herself. She does this, all while figuring out how to save her brother and evade who/whatever is hunting her.

I was quite taken how well Nahlia was portrayed; in the sense that she was a woman who is very old, in a beautiful body, but who was always trained to be stony and that she could never love. It's no wonder then that when she starts to get a conscience she'd feel shame.

Does it sound like I'm making a psychological analysis? :$
I kind of am. But you know what? I had fun doing that with this book. The author, whether she intended to or not, accurately portrayed the mental illnesses that the characters have in this book. The results of war, death, abuse, and slavery are far reaching and don't fade with time. This book illustrates that point in a meaningful way.

Raif, the leader of the revolution, enters Nahlia's world and brings with him a seer for a sister and Nahlia's personality deepens when faced with her past actions. Raif's initial reaction to Nahlia can be explained by his psychological state. Raif was a jerk to her and just plain mean. Then again, when you consider how he grew up and that her people were responsible for the death of his father and friend, it makes sense. OF COURSE he will say to himself and others that he hates her.

The element of mystery and fantasy was not lost on me either. The world that was created lie right on top of our own, and even dealt with human trafficking. The slave trade discussed in the book is actually based on human trafficking in our world today, and was intended to bring awareness to the issue. I love that idea, and even though it may be painful to read or you may want to judge and say "how could so and so do this" you have no idea what it would feel like to be a victim of human trafficking, the constant abuse and rape, etc. Especially for as many years as Nahlia and those around her.


I was pissed about the ending, but I'm over it...I just felt it could have been executed better. I would have liked it to be a little more spaced out--it felt rushed. I felt like one character was just included to keep tensions high. I don't know. That was the only reason I wasn't sure whether to rate it 3 or 4 stars. Ultimately, I think now that I've had time to digest it, the ending didn't ruin the book.

I would recommend this book for older readers of Young Adult and people who enjoy New Adult and even Contemporary [all inside a hugely fantastic and unique mythological world].

-Diamond

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Book Casting: Exquisite Captive by @Heather Demetrios

So I just finished a Exquisite Captive. It's caused SO many different feelings and thoughts that it's taking me a bit to digest how I can review it (and include all my reactions). I really liked it. There were parts though that were very difficult (I'll expand in my review) and while I'm trying to reflect I couldn't help googling pictures to find matching faces for the characters.

-Why-


....Um, because I have no free time and while I should be writing my statement, I'm doing this. Don't judge me. I'm stressed. Hence the pre-review post where I show you all the cool pics I found that remind me of these characters ;) [oh and btw if you click on the image it'll take you to the site where I found it.]

BY: Heather Demetrios
My casting of this book..

Nahlia

 a jinni with powers. a traumatic past and present. 
an emotionally abusive master. Last Ghan Aisouri alive.


-Malek-

Master of Nahlia. Doesn't age. Wealthy and unscrupulous. Always wears a suit.
(He may be handsome, but he's an A$$hole..) 

-Raif-

Free. Leader of jinni Rebellion.
Focused on his goal, but needs something from


Leilan 

Nahlia's only friend. Artist and green-eyed jinni.


I JUST REALIZED I DIDNT CAST RAIF's sister!? Ahh ok Heres the picture I had for her.


----------


Have you read the book? What do you think of my casting? Comment below with your thoughts!

-Diamond

Monday, December 8, 2014

Dust Off Your Classics: Carmilla by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu

Dust Off Your Classics has become an ongoing challenge created by Trish @ Between my Lines and myself. See the home page for details and more reviews of classics.

A note: I grew up watching Hammer Horror films, I saw the movie 'Vampire Lovers' many times. It's based on the story Carmilla! It was a major budget film from the 70s where the vampire was a beautiful woman (Ingrid Pitt, anyone?!) and the victim was a young virgin. :O In fact, there's a great article on Nerdist about it, if you're curious. I took a few of my pictures from that article too, just because I feel the movie really did capture how I pictured the characters to be.



A young woman living at her father's castle is the narrator of this novella. When a mysterious and beautiful stranger is stranded at the castle in odd circumstances and becomes a guest, the heroine quickly forms a close bond with her --but she subsequently discovers that her "friend" has a dark and lethal secret.

My Review

How I finally got Carmilla... A month before Halloween I borrowed Rags & Bones from the library. It's a collection of classic retellings by famous (mostly YA) authors. I didn't read the whole thing, but I did look at the table of contents and saw "Carmilla" written by Holly Black. I read and LOVED it. It made me thirst for the original so badly. Also, I knew I had to read another classic for this challenge. Now determined to get a copy of this book for my shelves, I browsed Barnes & Noble and Amazon and I couldn't get past all the ugly covers because I'm picky. Anyway, I found a GORGEOUS copy at The Book Depository by a little publisher and it even had illustrations! I'm
telling you all this because if you want to get some classic or gothic book that has a gorgeous cover
for a good price maybe you'll remember Pomegranate Press. (I'm not an affiliate or anything, just a fan) ;)


As you may know, I LOVE vampire books. Starting with Anne Rice, I've branched out into futuristic and classical vampire stories. I don't discriminate. I value sparkly and bloody for different things. One of my favorites is the ultimate-- DRACULA by Bram Stoker. Carmilla was written 20 years prior to Dracula. let that sink in for a minute It's a very short, gothic vampire tale with lesbian attraction, love, and horror. So yeah, I knew a bit about Carmilla before going into it And that added to the whole mystique.

Carmilla starts right off with an introduction to the mystery. We know something is up because the start has a little note saying this was all the confession/diary written by the heroine before she died many years after the story ended. Told in the narrative, we never learn the family's name. All we learn is that her father is Austrian and well-off (hence the castle, their home). The heroine is an only child
who is a bit lonely living with her father. After a crazy "accident" happens involving a carriage and a girl and her mother, things get interesting. The mystery woman convinces the father to take in her daughter, Carmilla, until such time as she can return for her.

With the seemingly innocent story set, things get really good. The pace is perfect, the story is short but doesn't feel rushed (although I would've appreciated a longer story because I loved it so much)! Things got creepy fast, with our heroine falling in love with Carmilla and Carmilla returning it but saying odd things and disappearing.... Then the bizarre dreams start and our poor heroine falls ill. It's not the typical loss of blood + bite marks on neck. I loved that. It was incredibly refreshing.

"Certain vague and strange sensations visited me in my sleep. The prevailing one was that of a pleasant, peculiar cold thrill which we feel in bathing, when we move against the current of a river. This was soon accompanied by dreams that seemed interminable, and were so vague that I could never recollect their scenery and persons.... [they] left an awful impression, and a sense of exhaustion, as if I had passed through a long period of great mental exertion and danger." Pg 64

The prose is just downright eery at times, other times reading like a completely accurate account of something that happened to a young girl. I love that at we find two girls in love; which is pretty amazing considering the date of publication. :$

I can't recommend this gothic vampire tale enough. You definitely need to give it a read if you like gothic literature. It was easy to get through, and it has prompted me to add Le Fanu to my TBR classics list (I haven't added to that in awhile) :P


-Diamond



Saturday, December 6, 2014

And the winner is...


I'm here to announce the winner of the recent giveaway for a hardcover copy of:

A Thousand Pieces of You by Claudia Gray

I LOVED this book! It has everything: alternate dimensions, fantasy, and a smart cast of characters with amazing settings

[Click HERE for my review]


CONGRATULATIONS

SIMONET HODGES! :party

Didn't win? 

STAY TUNED FOR UPCOMING GIVEAWAYS :rainbow

NEXT UP: Mid-Winters Eve Giveaway starts December 21st


Any suggestions for what books you'd like me to offer? I have some ideas but 
if you leave a comment I'd love to hear your suggestions!

-Diamond

Monday, December 1, 2014

Dust Off Your Classics: The Picture of Dorian Gray

Dust off your classics is a challenge created by myself and Trish @ Between the Lines
see the sign-up page. Basically the goal is to just read as many or few classics as you feel like during the year. 

----

This will be the 6th book for this challenge. I read this as a buddy read in a Goodreads group. It was definitely a book I'd suggest buddy reading or at least discussing because there are so many things to discuss! 


My Review

Th Picture of Dorian Gray was one of the first books I put on my TBR when I first got on Goodreads back in early 2012. It was on my tbr for many years before that. We all have those books that have been on our TBR forever and sometimes we feel like we won't ever get to them. I'm glad I did finally get to it though. I bought a copy on sale and I started watching and falling in love with this new show on Showtime called Penny Dreadful. It's based on all the classic characters from gothic literature. Dorian Gray, Frankenstein as a young doctor, Professor Van Helsing, and a similar Allen Quarermain, as well as Dracula and more. Plus it stars Eva Green, Josh Hartnett, and Timothy Dalton. :L
As far as I could tell all the characters were extremely loyal to their book counterparts. I highly suggest giving the show a go.
 Below is a gif of the youthful, classically handsome and boyish Mr. Gray as portrayed on the show. But enough of that let me get on with the book :O


This book is one iconic quote after another. It's the type of book I was glad I had a copy of so I could pencil in my thoughts, musings, and mark my favorite quotes. It's rare for me to mark up a book so much, especially fiction. I think thats a testament to how fast Oscar Wilde got my brain to whir and churn with new ideas. I found myself revisiting old ideas too, but adding to them. This is so,etching I really love doing. I mean, c'mon I'm a philosopher at heart. I wonder if Oscar Wilde was friends with any famous philosophers? I need to google that. He definitely is am hilosopher and I loved how the story was enough. I mean, if you want to read a short classic story and thats it-- you got it in this book. If you want to delve a little deeper, you can; there are double meanings and different philosophies are accurately represented as well. So much so that I feel I will definitely need to revisit this for a reread. It's packed with so much that one reading Is not enough to unlock all the secrets within. 

I recommend this book to everyone. It still is relatable today (who doesn't know/have a DORIAN in their lives?) and it's also I incredibly thought provoking. I guess that's why it has stood the test of time. It's not a long and drawn out boring book. It is pretty fast paced, granted there were some slow moments. I think it was hardest for me to read the ending because I knew what happens to Oscar Wilde at the end of his life. 

I have since bought a used copy of his poetry and plan to read that sometime soon. :$






Thursday, November 27, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving! What I'm thankful for..


I wanted to wish you all a Happy Thanksgiving. It may seem like an unusual holiday for my non-American friends, and I get that. Basically, it's a day where you spend time with family / close friends and eat a lot of good comfort food (turkey + mashed potatoes + pumpkin pie = heaven!)  Another important part of the Thankgiving Day tradition is to reflect on all that we have to be thankful for.  
So if you celebrate I hope you enjoy your thanksgiving and hopefully you also have off work! ^_^ If you don't celebrate, I hope you enjoy your day and if you decide to reflect on what you have to be thankful for-- you may be surprised about how uplifting that can be. It always seems to cheer me up
Plus, pie...


I wanna stand up and share a few of the things 

I'm thankful for..

  • My family, friends, and all around awesome support system.
  • My health! (Especially this year, it's the first year I haven't had a lupus flare on thanksgiving!)
  • My little pumpkin pie, aka more commonly referred to as my cat Sasha.
  • Being able to celebrate and spend the day with my mom and my mom's side of the family, and hopefully being able to talk to my brother and other family members that live far away :L
  • Having a full time job I enjoy 
  • I'm able to pursue new goals
  • The opportunity to be able to attend grad school
  • New friends
  • The fact that I'm being more proactive about my health and doing more than the minimum
  • A great year of blogging and forging new relationships via the blogosphere! Seriously...I love you guys! My followers and bookish friends "get" me in a way most people who surround me everyday don't. How fulfilling and awesome is that?! 


As you can see there's a lot I'm thankful for this Thanksgiving. There are some more but this post is long enough and you guys get the picture. I'm a fortunate person.

Thank YOU for reading my post(s), following my blog, and just being awesome. *cheers* 


Love, Diamond 



[ P.S. - Don't forget my giveaway is still going on for a copy of A Thousand Pieces of You (US) :k ]


Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Book Review + Giveaway: A Thousand Pieces of You by Claudia Gray (US)

A Thousand Pieces of You (Firebird #1) by Claudia Gray
Source: Hardcover via HarperTeen
My Rating: 4.5 of 5 stars :star :star :star :star :tup
Published: November 4th, 2014


Marguerite Caine’s physicist parents are known for their radical scientific achievements. Their most astonishing invention: the Firebird, which allows users to jump into parallel universes, some vastly altered from our own. But when Marguerite’s father is murdered, the killer—her parent’s handsome and enigmatic assistant Paul—escapes into another dimension before the law can touch him. Marguerite can’t let the man who destroyed her family go free, and she races after Paul through different universes, where their lives entangle in increasingly familiar ways. With each encounter she begins to question Paul’s guilt—and her own heart. Soon she discovers the truth behind her father’s death is more sinister than she ever could have imagined. A Thousand Pieces of You explores a reality where we witness the countless other lives we might lead in an amazingly intricate multiverse, and ask whether, amid infinite possibilities, one love can endure. 

My Review

*I received a couple of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest opinion.

During a time of my life when I am beyond overwhelmed and have zero time to read, this book lured me away from grad school apps, working full time, and family issues-- just so I could dwell in it's amazing multi-dimensional glory. 

The cover of this book is what initially intrigued me. Immediately I shelved it on my "cover-lust" shelf on Goodreads and then once I read the blurb I felt I NEEDED to read it. The topic of alternate dimensions is one that fascinates me. Although it may be common in the adult sci-fi genre, I feel that within YA it's scarce. This is perhaps because it's such a difficult  thing to pull off. All the inevitable questions that come from creating a world where the MC jumps between dimensions need to be answered without taking away from the story. To be able to address these questions and set up a world where the feasibility of it is less sci-fi, more "advanced tech" is something that Claudia Gray actually pulled off. 

The beginning was the "slowest" part for me. I saw slow only in comparison to the rest of the book. We jump right in to a familial situation at the peak of despair. The main character, Marguerite, is dealing with the sharp grief of losing her father. Sharper still, he seems to have been murdered by a close member of the family (one of their live-in interns). The suspect, Paul Markov, seems to have done the deed and jumped to another dimension to escape. Despite this set up, the book doesn't have the cold and clinical atmosphere that sci-fi often leaves with me. 

Marguerite joins Theo, the other intern that her parents took in years ago to help them with their research. Theo and Paul are like brothers, but Paul's betrayal cuts too deep and leaves Theo with the determination to chase him across dimensions and demand and answer and then-- Paul's death. Marguerite catches him and demands to go with him, her youth showing when she doesn't think to leave a note or explanation to her grief-striken mother or sister, Josie. Although, her mom, a brilliant physicist figures it out pretty quick. ;) Marguerite is the black sheep of the family. She is an artist among physicists; but she is far from ordinary, far from unintelligent.

Each universe was incredible. The detail and atmosphere was conjured up so quickly by Gray that within a single page I already had a picture of what Marguerite was seeing. It was such a wonderful escape to travel to these alternate dimensions with Marguerite. She went from her own dimension (aka our world now) to a society extremely more advanced than our own. I loved the cool tech in this one, and how you could talk and receive messages by pushing a button on your ring and a screen would show up in front of you. My initial concern: what happens to Marguerite of that dimension when our Marguerite jumps into her dimension? Gray explains this fairly easily and believably (at least, I thought so) by saying how that dimensions Marguerite would simply be "asleep" and would wake up when she jumped out. Any action or consequence that occured while she was checked out-- well, Marguerite of that dimension would have to deal with whatever was done.

My favorite parts of the novel occured when Marguerite follows Paul to Tsarist Russia. There she is actually a princess because her mother didn't marry her dad. Instead she married a Russian man and became royalty. Marguerite has completely different siblings, and her life as a princess is ...different. Paul is her guard in that dimension. Paul Markov in the Russian dimension was very dreamy. I felt their romance developed naturally.

I also need to add that I had read some reviews that criticized the book because Marguerite is hunting down her father's killer and hopping dimensions only to fall in love. That the romance somehow took away from the book. I feel I need to respond to this: I am not a big romance reader. More than once I have been known to dislike a book where the romance plays too dominant a role, but only when the plot suffers. I think it's important to say that this is not the case with this novel. The plot is only further enriched by the romance. As for those of you with concerns this is a love triangle book. DO NOT FRET. I can't say anything more, but it's not that type of thang. It makes sense when you read it. Marguerite is a smart young woman who braves the unknown to find out exactly who killed her beloved father and why. Along the way she really does discover what was hiding in her heart.

I can't wait to read the sequel. I have no idea what the premise will be, although I'm betting on the alternate dimensions and that the Firebird will be involved. I recommend this novel to anyone who finds the theory of alternate dimensions fascinating. Those of you who want a brilliant novel that centers around a smart and independent woman, with a historical and also futuristic feel-- you need to read this book.

Giveaway! 

The giveaway is still going on!
US ONLY HARDBACK COPY
PROVIDED BY HARPERTEEN
Shipped by me (Original Post:)


a Rafflecopter giveaway

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