Tuesday, June 30, 2015

The Wrath and the Dawn (The Wrath and the Dawn #1) by Renee Ahdieh

Published: May 12th 2015
Publisher: G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers
Purchase: Amazon / Barnes&Noble / Book Depository
Goodreads: Every dawn brings horror to a different family in a land ruled by a killer. Khalid, the eighteen-year-old Caliph of Khorasan, takes a new bride each night only to have her executed at sunrise. So it is a suspicious surprise when sixteen-year-old Shahrzad volunteers to marry Khalid. But she does so with a clever plan to stay alive and exact revenge on the Caliph for the murder of her best friend and countless other girls. Shazi's wit and will, indeed, get her through to the dawn that no others have seen, but with a catch . . . she’s falling in love with the very boy who killed her dearest friend.

She discovers that the murderous boy-king is not all that he seems and neither are the deaths of so many girls. Shazi is determined to uncover the reason for the murders and to break the cycle once and for all.

I have, once again, been ensnared by one of those books. Yes, the ones that have been hyped up to an incredible degree to the point that you start to become disbelieving of the numerous accounts of being slayed to death single-handedly by this book. The Wrath and the Dawn is a mesmerizing read from the first page to the last, full of lyrical descriptions and vibrant characters, creating a story just as magical as the Arabian tales that this book was rooted in. Rather brilliant and magical, this book didn't just break me, it destroyed my soul. Gorgeous prose and intriguing premise, and I adored it.

Shahrzad and Khalid are my new favorite pair, and I loved every interaction between them and the slow-burn and anticipation between these two characters.
"If you are just one girl, I am just a boy."
We start the story with Shahrzad, a girl determined to take down her enemy, the man she is about to marry. The boy-king who rules her land, the one who kills each bride he has the next dawn. After her dearest friend dies, she steps up to take her place.

When she meets Khalid, the king, she is fueled with hatred and propelled by revenge. Their initial interactions are intense and fraught with unspoken meaning, something I greatly enjoyed. They are enemies in that he is intent on killing her, while she only wants to destroy him, but through that there is something more.
"Promise me you won't kill me,"she breathed back. "I can't do that." "Then there's nothing more to say." 
Their relationship is one that is slow but sure, small moments building up into love, one that is like breathing air. It is intense and passionate, the kind of rarity that I don't often find myself carried away to gush on about, but this one does.
Even if he was her air. Even if she loved him beyond words.
The supporting characters were not without their own charms, and I must say Despina and Jalal hold rather special meaning to me in particular. They help build the relationship between Khalid and Shahrzad, and I could not help but smile at some of their lines.

Besides this, there's the overarching plot of why Khalid must kill these women each day, tragically ending the lives of these young women. While I must say this part wasn't as difficult to decode from the careful scenes that crafted this book, the rest of the plot was engrossing. The various characters and their roles that lead to the climax I adored, and the shifts of players was interesting to say the least.

The ending of this book blew me away with how heartwrenching it was and time is flowing by all too slowly for me because I want the sequel pronto or as soon as possible. This book is beautiful and definitely worth the read, and I can only hope that there are more gems such as this book to come in the future.

A mini edition of the things I didn't like:

One of the things that detracted from my enjoyment of this book was the multiple changes in point-of-view. This is a pet peeve of mine and it made my head spin a little in the beginning because I could not keep track of some of the minor characters.

I also was a little disappointed at how little Shahrzad's storytelling skills played into this story. While I did love the way the plot unfolded, the synopsis promised more of the magical stories that A Thousand and One Nights is so well known for and that was a small letdown for me.

My Rating: ★★★★ (4 stars)

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Exquisite Captive (Dark Caravan Cycle #1) by Heather Demetrios

Published: October 7th 2014
Publisher: Balzer+Bray
Purchase: Amazon / Barnes&Noble / Book Depository
Goodreads: 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?

I was expecting to like this book, but it ended up being one of my favorite fantasy reads this year. Exquisite Captive is a book that is as exquisite as its cover. This book follows the tale of a jinn with a haunted past, the cruel shackles that tie her to her ruthless master, and a revolutionary leader who is the last person she should trust.

Nalia is a survivor and a character who struggles constantly between the reality she lives in and the past she can never forget. Bound to obey Malek, the only thing that keeps her together is the thought of her brother. Powerful and enchanting, she is the last of a truly great line of jinn, but longs for freedom more than anything else.
She was the roar and the whisper and the stillness. She was nothing. She was everything.
I connected strongly with Nalia, particularly to her devotion to her younger brother and I admired her tenacity in the face of her captive state. Despite her awe-inspiring power, she is tormented by her past and the struggle of submitting to her fate. Raif gives her a chance to gain everything she has ever wanted and it was hard not to get caught up in the mind games she must play to reach her goal. 

This is where we get to the part I enjoyed the most in this book. While the romance in this book was sweet and touching, the highlight for me was not this, but the convoluted relationship between Nalia and her master Malek.

The premise alludes to the terrible way that Malek has treated Nalia and the complex nature of the bond that these two characters have, but reading it, there is also another side to this relationship, one that is dangerous in nature for the vulnerable Nalia. And Demetrios does an excellent job at showing the dangers of an abusive relationship and the confusion that comes with it, without glamorizing or romanticizing the scenario. It is compelling to read about Malek and his contradictory treatment of Nalia, and how he truly seems to believe that there is room for a romantic bond to blossom between the two of them. It's twisted and toxic, yet when you are blurring the lines, how far can you go before you go pretend and reality are indistinguishable?
She had to find her way out before she got lost in it forever.  
On the other hand, the romance in this book was one that I did find myself rooting for, even if it didn't quite capture my interest as strongly as Malek's role did. Nalia and Raif are both lovely characters, both driven by their passion and ideals. It was swoon-worthy, and It's heartbreaking and hopeful, the way they connect, and I hope to see more of it in the next book.
It was an apology written as a love letter, sealed with fierce hope.
One thing to note though, since this book is written in third person, we do alternate between Nalia and Raif, although it is mostly Nalia's POV that we see. And there are chapters in between that which deal with the villain's POV, which could get a bit tedious after a while, though the beautiful writing did make it mostly worth my while.

My Rating: ★★★★★

Friday, June 12, 2015

Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge

Published: January 28th 2014
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Purchase: Amazon / Barnes&Noble / Book Depository
Goodreads: 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.

I had mixed reviews about this book, so I was a bit wary about reading this, but I ended up enjoying it very much. It's a retelling of Beauty & the Beast, but darker, with more moral ambiguity.

Nyx, our main character, is a girl filled with surprising bitterness. Which could be expected, since her father essentially sacrificed her for the greater good, and pretending that it is fine, that they are a happy family, has taken a toll on her, poison seeping into her heart. She's not quite the girl with kindness overflowing out of her like the Disney version of the tale, but it makes her a much more intriguing and well-developed character. Her thoughts can be quite venomous, more suiting of an antagonist than a protagonist, but there is something tenacious and brutally honest about her that I really liked.
All my life I had bitten back cruel words and swallowed down hatred.
Forced to marry a monster, Nyx is more than surprised when she meets Ignifex, our villian with a charming tongue, who is definitely not the kind of person you would expect. He has a wicked edge to him, but there is something almost disarming about him that lures Nyx in, making her intrigued. Reminiscent of Bluebeard, he has had wives in the past, all deceased now of course, but  Nyx is determined to win, to kill and defeat him so that their town will be free of the demons that haunt them.
"Nyx Triskelion, do you want to guess my name?"
"What's there to guess? I already know you're a monster." 

While the overarching plot of this book was a bit slow, the build-up between the characters made the book was marvelous, and it made the other plodding parts of it worth my while. This book may have been a bit romance-heavy, but oh my it was a beautiful one. I inhaled every bit of it, and I absolutely adored the banter and clever, sharp words between Nyx and Ignifex. I tend to enjoy the pairings that begin with more hate than love, and the tangled up emotions between these two characters was enjoyable.
He opened his eyes and stared up at me as if I were the door out of Arcadia and back to the true sky. "That's what makes you my favorite." He reached up and wiped a tear off my cheek with his thumb. "Every wicked bit of you." 

There are quite a few twists in this book and while I did see some of them around the corner, there were a few that I did not expect at all and made the path that Nyx followed to be quite twisted and convoluted. There is one thing that I have purposely not mentioned in this review, since it would be revealing tad too much, but had me partly worried since it is a trope I dislike immensely, although thankfully it was not what it seemed.

Besides the romance itself, what I liked the most about this tale was that no one was perfect, no character exempt from the various shades of morality and "good" vs. "evil" is not black and white. It is all too easy for your judgement to be clouded by your own intentions and thoughts, and I thought this showed all too well with Nyx and her perceptions of other characters.

Overall, this book was intriguing and lovely, with eloquent writing and complex characters that more than made up for the sometimes tedious plot.

My Rating: ★★★★

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Top Ten Most Anticipated Releases For the Rest of 2015

*Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.

Since the year is half over, I admit many of my highly anticipated books have already been released, as it has been a wonderful year in reading for me, but there are a few more *possible* gems to come. So, here are my top ten most anticipated releases for the rest of 2015:

1. Long Way Down by Krista and Becca Ritchie

The next book in the wonderful Addicted Series universe, and the final installment, I am very much looking forward to this book. The Ritchie sisters have never disappointed me since I have started this series, and I cannot wait to read this one!

2. Every Word by Ellie Marney

This one isn't exactly a "new" release since it's been released in Australia for about a year, but is being released in the US by Tundra books this year. I read the first book recently, but I really enjoyed this adaptation of Sherlock Holmes. For those who like mysteries and chemistry (not the science-y kind), I definitely recommend this series. 

3. Winter by Marissa Meyer

While it took me a while to start this series, it has been a delight and I am very excited to see how Marissa is going to conclude this series. Her twists on the classic fairy tales are refreshing, and seeing them meld into the sci-fi world of the Lunar Chronicles is wonderful. 

4. Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

I have only read Shadow and Bone by this author, but this book immediately piqued my interest with its comparison to Ocean's Eleven, one of my favorite movies. I have a fondness for heist storylines, thus I was quite pleased to see this one on Goodreads, and cannot wait to get this book.

5. Velvet Undercover by Teri Brown

I adore spy books. A friend of mine recommended this book to me, and it seems just up my alley, so hopefully it delivers on the tantalizing synopsis. History and spies are always a great combination, in my humble opinion. :)

6. Legacy of Kings by Eleanor Herman

The blurb for this book is fascinating, and after reading that the author is a historian, I am eager to see her take on the infamous Alexander the Great. Also, this time period is one that hasn't been explored enough, particularly in the YA genre, so I can't wait to see what this book will offer. 

7. A Madness So Discreet by Mindy McGinnis

The synopsis and its intriguing cover piqued my interest with its thriller-esque traits and mystery. Also the blurb that this book "explores the fine line between sanity and insanity, good and evil—and the madness that exists in all of us" promises an interesting read.