Monday, January 16, 2012

EMBRACE by Jessica Shirvington

Title:  EMBRACE (The Violet Eden Chapters Book 1)
Author:  Jessica Shirvington
Publisher:  Sourcebooks Fire
Release Date: March 1, 2012
Number of Pages: 367
Source of Book:  ARC from publisher at NCTE Convention
I slowly opened my eyes. The sun speared its first bright rays of golden orange into the sky and I leapt from the cliff, with the sorrowful knowledge that no matter what the outcome, at least part of me would die that day...

Violet Eden is dreading her seventeenth birthday dinner. After all, it’s hard to get too excited about the day that marks the anniversary of your mother’s death. The one bright spot is that Lincoln will be there. Sexy, mature and aloof, he is Violet’s idea of perfection. But why does he seem so reluctant to be anything more than a friend?

After he gives her the world’s most incredible kiss – and then abandons her on her front doorstep – Violet is determined to get some answers. But nothing could have prepared her for Lincoln’s explanation: he is Grigori – part angel and part human – and Violet is his eternal partner.

Without warning, Violet’s world is turned upside down. She never believed in God, let alone angels. But there’s no denying the strange changes in her body ... and her feelings for Lincoln. Suddenly, she can’t stand to be around him. Luckily, Phoenix, an exiled angel, has come into her life. He’s intense and enigmatic, but at least he never lied to her.

As Violet gets caught up in an ancient battle between dark and light, she must choose her path. The wrong choice could cost not only her life, but her eternity...

You know that kind of book...the one when you start reading that book, you're immediately swept into the fantasy world created? The one where you're connecting with the characters - laughing and cringing and reacting with them? The one where you stay up too late reading, no matter what you have going on the next day, because you can't wait to find out where the story is going? The one where you find yourself frantically turning the pages, but then realizing you want to reread sections and slow yourself down so you make sure you actually process the story because you're going to need to understand it later? The one where you finish it, but just want to read it all over again because it was so, so good and you were so engrossed in it? Yeah...all of that was EMBRACE for me. I should have known, when the Sourcebooks rep told Sarah and I at NCTE that this was her favorite book they had there and we would love it, that I really would, but I was still surprised by how much I liked it. I was completely immersed in this all-consuming read.

I've read quite a few angels/fallen angels stories over the last several years, and I've liked some of them more than others, but this one blows all the rest of them away for me. The writing of this debut book is in first person, past tense in a straight-forward style and is engaging as it propels the story forward. It's one of those that's almost hard to explain what it was the grabbed me because I enjoyed it so much. Let's start with the characters though. Violet is a teenager with determination and spunk and sass and heart, I mean, this girl can kick some serious butt! She's a really likeable, believeable character, but she's also a little lost because she's been kind of alone her whole life since her mother died at her birth. Her dad has never really recovered, so she relies on her only best friend (who is a trip), and her "trainer" Lincoln to keep her going. She has strength within herself that she has yet to fully realize, and once she turns seventeen and learns about the world she's destined to be a part of without ever knowing it, everything changes for her. She is a Grigori, but she's different than all the others. Her inner strength and will is what makes her so powerful in the end, but she has to work to get there. She's written in a way that I just really connected with, especially her strength and determination to do things her own way on her own terms.

Then there are the boys. Girls are going to be swooning over these two. We have Lincoln, who Violet's in love with but doesn't show the same interest back at her, and when she find out why, it changes everything between them. Then there's Phoenix, who shows up in her life, and has secrets that he's not willing to reveal, but she is drawn to him and the way that he is there for her and takes care of her. Violet doesn't know it at first, but she's going to need both of these guys on her side to help get her through what's coming next and the decision she has to make of whether to embrace her Grigori side or not. The choice is hers, but she needs the guidance and support from both of these important guys in her life in order to help her make the life-changing decision. And, yes, there are some steamy, heated scenes with both of the guys (but not too graphic), and yes, it's triangle-ish, but not in the overdone, forced way that I sometimes don't like in young adult books - it seems realistic for the situation Violet is in and for the way her feelings are swirling. I have a feeling this will definitely spark a "Team" debate among the masses once they get their hands on this book. However, each of the guys seems more layered than they originally appear, and I can only guess we'll be discovering more and more depth about each of them throughout the rest of the series.

The storyline is fast-paced and full of action and decisions to be made and life or death situations and excitement. The world of the angels and Grigori is well-rounded and fully explained throughout the book, and it's a fresh take on some of the same backstories that we've heard before. I fully enjoyed reading this book and discovering this world that Violet has been destined to be a part of. It's detailed and complicated and we get to know and understand it just as Violet does as we take this journey to realization with her. She's not perfect though, and there are things that happen that we, as readers, will probably think she should have realized, but we aren't living with her demons and secrets and youthful outlook and angst and hope. There is quite a lot going on in this book, but ultimately it's about Violet learning about this world and figuring out how she feels about being a part of it or not and what's most important to her in her life. She has to learn to make decisions based on what she needs and wants and what's right for her, but also how it impacts those around her. It's about Violet's journey to self-realization and it's full of emotion, but also deals with the struggle between light and dark and whether or not it's a clear line between the two. Light wouldn't be needed if there was no dark, but are light and dark so clearly identified? This is the stage for the entire story. Because of this, everything is complicated in this book - there are no clear distinctions on what is the right thing to do, and that makes it all the more intriguing.

I'm sure there are going to be people who don't connect with this book like I did, or who pick apart some things that I overlooked because I was so engaged in it, but that's how it is with every book. Different ones connect with different people, and I was definitely absorbed in this one. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book, and I picked it up at just the right time when I needed to decompress from the last book I had read. I know I'm going to be desperately waiting to get my hands on book 2, ENTICED, and book 3, EMBLAZE, which, thankfully, Sourcebooks will be releasing in six month intervals so we won't have to wait so long to find out what will happen with Violet's journey next! Enjoy this read this spring!

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