3 Rated Books Book Reviews

Book Review: Embrace by Jessica Shirvington

Title: Embrace

Author: Jessica Shirvington

Genre: Urban Fantasy, Paranormal Romance, Young Adult

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire (US) / Hachette Australia (Aus)
Publication Date: March 2012 / October 2010
Hardcover: 367 pages

It starts with a whisper: “It’s time for you to know who you are…”

Violet Eden dreads her seventeenth birthday. After all, it’s hard to get too excited about the day that marks the anniversary of your mother’s death. As if that wasn’t enough, disturbing dreams haunt her sleep and leave her with very real injuries. There’s a dark tattoo weaving its way up her arms that wasn’t there before.

Violet is determined to get some answers, but nothing could have prepared her for the truth. The guy she thought she could fall in love with has been keeping his identity a secret: he’s only half-human—oh, and same goes for her.

A centuries-old battle between fallen angels and the protectors of humanity has chosen its new warrior. It’s a fight Violet doesn’t want, but she lives her life by two rules: don’t run and don’t quit. When angels seek vengeance and humans are the warriors, you could do a lot worse than betting on Violet Eden…

Stand alone or series: Book 1 in the Violet Eden Chapters (a trilogy)

How did I get this book: ARC from the Publisher

Why did I read this book: I was initially skeptical about this book based on the blurb – I love paranormal YA when it’s done well, but I’m sad to say that most of my recent forays into this jungle of vampires, werewolves, and fallen angel spinoffs have been…not good. Ok, they’ve been disastrous. The blurb for Embrace suggested many overdone paranormal YA tropes lay waiting in the book, so, like Ana, I was fine to take a pass on this title. But then, the positive reviews started to roll in – a starred review from Kirkus, glowing praise from Publishers Weekly and Entertainment Weekly, as well as positive feedback from the blogosphere and via goodreads. I decided that I HAD to give this book a try.

And that, my friends, was a mistake. But more on that below.

Review:

Violet Eden (yep, that’s her name, because it’s a story about ANGELS, get it?! EDEN!) hates her birthday, because it’s also the grim reminder of the day that her mother died in childbirth. It’s no surprise, then, that Violet is not looking forward to her seventeenth birthday party, even though she’ll be with the people she cares most about in the world – her workaholic and emotionally distant father, perky best friend Stephanie, and her crush/mentor Lincoln. The day Violet turns seventeen, though, strange things start to happen. First, there are the crazy veins darkening on her forearms. Then, there’s the strange way Lincoln is behaving, kissing Violet then pushing her away. Finally, there’s a hot new dude (with sparkly purple and silver hair – more on that in a bit) that shows up, following Violet’s every move.

Violet learns that these events are all related, and that she is, in fact, an angel-human hybrid and destined to become a Grigori – a protector of mankind against fallen exiled angels that want to enslave humanity and live out their twisted hedonistic dreams on Earth. See, Grigori come of age when the human-angel turns seventeen, and then have to make the choice to “embrace” their responsibilities and powers thus becoming a full Grigori, or turn their back on duty and live forever alone and in fear that exiled angels will hunt them down. Complicating matters is the fact that Violet and her crush Lincoln are actually meant to be Grigori partners (which means for some reason that is never adequately explained in the book that they can NEVER be together), and the presence of the mysterious hot exile angel Phoenix, who has his gloriously styled purple-silver locks of love catching Violet’s eye.

Added to the mix is some half-baked conflict in which exiled angels of dark and angels of light are teaming together to kill all Grigori so that they can exact their unimpeded control on Earth.

If Violet is going to survive, she has to choose her destiny. She has to embrace her fate (see what I did there?!?!).

Ahh, Embrace. I went against my doubts and decided to read you, all the way to the bitter end. Where do I start? How do I begin to articulate my thoughts about this novel? I suppose I’ll start with the positive – the fact that I was able to finish the book speaks volumes. The writing itself and voice for Violet are consistent and competent, and I had no problems with the actual prose and readability of the novel. I also like the basic premise and idea of Grigori and exiled angels duking it out on Earth…but that’s were things all start to fall apart. The characters are lackluster; the plot is mind-numbingly familiar and predictable (down to the insipid love triangle between Good Grigori Lincoln and Bad Exile Phoneix). The entire story is a lukewarm rehash of any number of paranormal YA books on the market, from Twilight (but not nearly as fun) to Hush Hush.

Since there are so many possible talking points for this review, I’ll just stick to my main problems with Embrace, which are threefold: 1. Violet and the Plausibility Gap; 2. The Hilarity/Ridiculousness Factor; 3. The Worldbuilding That Makes Me Feel RAGE.

Let’s start with Violet.

1. Violet and the Plausibility Gap

Violet Eden is our heroine, who is damaged, shyly withdrawn, but of course is both rich and effortlessly beautiful, drawing the eye of many a supernaturally powered suitor:

“If you want him , you have to, you know…make a move. You need to let him know what he’s missing out on. Use your…assets.”

She meant my boobs. Steph was always telling me that I had it, so I should flaunt it. But I preferred to focus on other things, like my high cheekbones, full lips, and creamy complexion. And, of course, my long hair, which I could hide behind when I needed refuge.

Ahh, effortlessly gorgeous, yet shyly withdrawn heroine. Bella Swan, what hast thou wrought? This is a minor complaint, however, in much larger picture. My main gripes with Violet (and the cast of characters at large, really) concern how easily she accepts the news that she is a half-angel without real argument or question. In this pivotal scene, Violet learns how Grigori are born (which touches on my issues with worldbuilding, but more on that below):

“How do you know I’m one of these ‘Grig’ whatever, anyway?”

“Grigori. It happened when you were born and your mother died. If a parent dies within twelve days of their child’s birth, the combination of new life coinciding with new death creates a gateway for an angel to impart a piece of its essence.”

Of course, not even a full page after our heroine learns she is an ANGEL HYBRID she completely eats it up because:

I stoppped in front of him, staring daggers. “Am I what he says?”

Griffin looked straight at me, holding my gaze easily. “We are ALL what he says.”

I don’t know how or why, but looking into his eyes, I suddenly knew it was true. It was as if he had penetrated the deepest layers of my guards and unearthed a truth buried deep within me.

And that is IT. No questions asked. No denial. Just because OMG HE LOOKED INTO HER EYES AND IT WAS TRUE, she accepts this explanation – without seeing any demonstration of angel powers, or exiles, or whatever.

But that’s not all! Because it turns out that Violet is not only effortlessly beautiful and a future Grigori angel-in-training, but she’s also Powerful Beyond Compare! Most fledgling Grigori can perceive of only two angelic senses (smelling apples or flowers being the main sense) – but powerful Violet can experience all five. She’s also so powerful that her aura looks like a rainbow (get it?!? VIOLET EDEN, Rainbow Angel!), and attracts exiles of both light and dark. Of course. How incredibly boring, predictable, and lazy.

Moving on.

2. The Hilarity/Ridiculousness Factor

There are several things about Embrace that are hilariously silly (which is probably one of the reasons I kept reading the book). There’s a bizarre preoccupation with hair in this book – particularly, with bad boy exiled angel Phoenix’s sparkly hair. One could make a drinking out of mentions of Phoenix’s hair. Observe:

I was struck by his hair, of all things – at first look it appeared black, but then I saw other colors rippling through it, shades of purple and silver. It reminded me of a rough opal. I wondered how a hairdresser could have managed such a complex blend of streaks. It was beautiful and…vain.

Phoenix stood up and started pacing the room. He kept playing with the buttons on the cuffs, undoing them and doing them up again. He was wearing a navy shirt that highlighted his hair, and every time he walked under the downlights it shimmered.

Phoenix looked hot dressed entirely in black. No tie or jacket, but he still managed a cool elegance. The outfit acentuated his hair and made it look incredible – the deepest plum, almost black, with splices of dazzling silver.

And my personal favorite:

I turned to look at him. Glimmers of purple floated through the black base of his hair and as the sun caught different angles, a few strands sparkled silver.

“Your hair is…amazing.”

I cannot wait to use this line in real life. There’s also the generous heaping of cheese regarding the romantic entanglements of the plot. Observe one character’s heartened plea to Violet:

It’s not fair that I know how great we would be together, except that we can’t. It’s not fair that, even though I know I’ll never have you, I planned everything – the candles, the lilies – replayed the words I wanted to say a million times when you and I finally made love.

And so on and so forth.

While these are more nitpicky, amusing things – the next problem is the real dealbreaker.

3. The Worldbuilding That Makes Me Feel RAGE

The entire premise of Embrace is that there are exiled angels living amongst humans, who have chosen to fall because they want to experience human sensation (original, right?). The Grigori are apparently created when a parent dies within twelve days of their child’s birth, because this opens a gateway that allows angels to give a bit of its essence to the newborn child. Ooookaaaaaay. This is all the explanation we receive, and like Violet, we are meant to eat it up without question. Why twelve days? Why only a parent’s death? Who knows! That’s just how angels roll.

Accepting this premise, and that the Grigori are created to keep exiles in check feels lazy, but doable. When we finally learn about the origins of angels in the context of a familiar creation myth, however, this is where things start to get ugly.

“Many, many years ago this earth and man were created. There are many opinions as to who created them, but that is not today’s story. Man – we can call him Adam, if you like – was given a garden in which to frolic. For a time it was perfect […] I’m sure you understand that if man were to have free will, then he must have the presence of choice and opposition. Angels, being entrusted with this responsibility, used their powers to create one of their own – a rare angel, for it was a woman. In all ways the opposite to Adam, except that they were both immortal […] Well, Lilith was created to bring balance to this unbalanced world. You see, she represented everything opposite to the untainted man, and brought with her all of my favorite things: temptation, lust, seduction, deceit, anger, fear, persuasion, you get the drift. Anyway, Adam was enraged with Lilith when, after a while, she refused to lie beneath him.”

Violet doesn’t question any of this and accepts it at face value. Charming, right? Nothing like reinforcement of good old fashioned religious misogyny to perk up a story!

Even more charming is the revelation that Eve is apparently Adam’s second wife, who was created as angelic PR/cleanup following Lilith’s leaving Adam (that evil temptress hussy!).

I don’t think I have the energy to express the range of emotions this type of premise evokes. There’s shock, followed by disbelief, topped off with a nice generous dose of RAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAGE.

On a related subject, there’s also a scene thrown in early in the book, in which Violet relates a traumatic, life-altering experience when a teacher attempted to rape her in the classroom. When she opens up and tells Lincoln this very personal story, it’s a big deal…but then it’s all mysteriously forgotten shortly afterwards. This experience never again surfaces, nor does it factor into Violet’s mind or decisions (even when she decides to open up and have sex with someone else). This bothers me. It bothers me a LOT because a serious matter like a sexual attack felt thrown in as an early character arc point, then pushed aside and easily forgotten once completed.

There are many other things I could say about Embrace, but ultimately, why bother? I gave it a shot and simply put: this book did not work for me. Your mileage my vary, but for me? I’m steering clear of Violet Eden and any future adventures.

Review Note: All quotes have been taken from an ARC and have not been checked against the final book.

Notable Quotes/Parts: From Chapter One:

Birthdays aren’t my thing.

It’s hard to get too excited about the day that marks the anniversary of your mother’s death. It’s not that I blame myself for her not being here. No one could have known she wouldn’t survive childbirth. It’s not that I miss her either. I mean, I never knew her in the first place. But it is the one day each year that at some point I’ll be forced to ask myself, Was it worth it? Was my life worth taking hers?

I stared out the bus window, avoiding. Steph was blabbering on, something about the perfect dress, completely absorbed in what she was saying. She was relentless when it came to the science of shopping. I could feel her watching me, disappointed with my cheer level. Buildings flashed past through the frame of the smudged glass and I couldn’t help but wish my seventeenth birthday tomorrow would slide by in the same hazy blur.

“Violet Eden!” Steph said sternly, sucking me out of my trance. “We have your dad’s Amex, a green light, and no specified limit.” Her mock rebuke morphed into a devious grin. “What more could a girl want as a birthday present?”

Technically, it was my Amex. My name, my signature. It just happened to be connected to Dad’s account. A by-product of being the only person at home who actually bothered to pay any bills.

I knew Steph wouldn’t understand if I told her I wasn’t in the mood, so I lied. “I can’t go shopping today. I…um…I have a training session.”

She raised her eyebrows at me. For a moment I thought she was going to call me out on my fake alibi. But then she segued onto a topic we seemed to be discussing more and more often as of late.

“With Lincoln?”

I shrugged, trying not to let on how much just the mention of Lincoln affected me. Although the training part wasn’t true, I did have plans to see him later on and was already doing my best not to keep a minute-­by-­minute countdown.

You can read the full excerpt online, and check out a bunch of extra content, via the official US website: Embrace the Series.

Rating: 3 – Very, Very Bad

Reading Next: A Posse of Princesses by Sherwood Smith

Buy the Book:


Ebook available for kindle US, kindle UK, nook, google, kobo & sony

31 Comments

  • Pam
    March 9, 2012 at 10:48 am

    I got fifty pages in and was raging so hard. Not only is the book ridiculous in the myriad of ways you pointed out, but its a rip off of themes from several books that in my humble opinion did it better.

  • Ana
    March 9, 2012 at 10:52 am

    😯

    I am just HAPPY that I gave a pass on this and didn’t submit myself to the RAGE. SO happy.

  • KB/KT Grant
    March 9, 2012 at 10:53 am

    Sourcebooks is hoping Embrace is their big breakout hit with a 100,00 first print run. I wonder if it will sell out that print run at all in the first 6 months?

  • Ana
    March 9, 2012 at 10:54 am

    KB – I would not be surprised if it did. 😐 Hush Hush is also a bestseller and this is just like it. And have you seen the amount of 4-5 stars reviews?

  • KB/KT Grant
    March 9, 2012 at 10:56 am

    Ana: You know how much I hate Hush, Hush. Ugh. I have Embrace to read also. I wonder if I will feel the same way as I did toward Hush, Hush?

  • Angel
    March 9, 2012 at 11:00 am

    I agree wholeheartedly with your review, but I do want to point out that the religious mythology that considers Eve as Adam’s second wife is a real belief in Aggadic midrashim mysticism. I don’t think it’s fair to say that that idea is just religious misogyny that Shirvington threw in–I’ve studied the Lilith myth and if anything, Embrace was actually pretty well-researched, even if the writing/plot didn’t show it.

  • Christa @ Hooked on Books
    March 9, 2012 at 11:02 am

    Though I didn’t find it a great book I did enjoy reading it. That being said I love your review! It was a lot of fun to read and I loved the detail and thought you put into it. I’m totally with you on the constant references to the boy’s hair. I would love to see exactly what this black-purple-silver hair looks like.

    I do have to comment on your third point however. The idea that Grigori are protectors and the story of Lilith are actual stories from the Christian and Jewish faiths. I’m not saying that makes them ok or believable or anything like that but I don’t think we can criticize Jessica Shirvington of being lazy or misogynistic when those are the actual stories. I think that is one of the most difficult things about angel books. The mythology is just so limited there is only so much authors seem to be able to do with it.

  • KMont
    March 9, 2012 at 11:03 am

    “crazy veins”

    I dunno why that description made me laugh, but it did. I think I need more sleep.

    On the whole this book sounds, unfortunately, like a lazy attempt. Sorry it didn’t work out for you. 🙁

  • Etta
    March 9, 2012 at 11:07 am

    I am so glad you quoted the “what it would have been like if I had been the one to take your virginity” speech. I laughed so hard when I read that bit. I also expected the attempted rape to actually have some point in the plot and was annoyed when it was just dropped. I should really learn to stay away from YA love triangles (particularly the ones where two supernatural beings fight over an dull heroine) since they just end up irritating the hell out of me.

  • Celine
    March 9, 2012 at 11:23 am

    “I was struck by his hair, of all things – at first look it appeared black, but then I saw other colors rippling through it, shades of purple and silver.”

    Is he a Pokemon? OMG! Let him be a pokemeon! The world needs some kind of awesome Pokemon/Fallen Angel crossover story!

  • Ana
    March 9, 2012 at 11:37 am

    @Angel and @Christa, I hope it’s ok to reply to both of you at once since your points are similar. And I don’t mean to be disrespectful to any religion.

    But this story is a myth of creation and as such it has been constructed by men following social and culture mores of the time (which were quite misogynist) . The fact that the author researched them doesn’t really mean all that much when the fact is that she used what are myths of creation as though they are REAL FACTS in her worldbuilding without apparently questioning any of it. And to me, it’s really problematic.

  • Hélène Louise
    March 9, 2012 at 11:56 am

    Firt of all I want to thank Ana and Thea for their reviews in which I’ve found plenty of really good books (a bit to much if you see what I mean…).
    And then thanks again Thea for the delicious reading about Violet Eden, I laughed a lot, it rang a lot of bells !
    Happy books to all of you !

  • Ashleigh
    March 9, 2012 at 12:35 pm

    Ugh, this book. Just this book. I felt the same way you did, though I disliked it more. Violet mentioning the attack by her teacher and then NEVER BRINGING IT UP AGAIN really got to me too. Really, what a way to marginalize the experiences of women who went through the same thing.

    I wish I could have enjoyed the cheesy, hilarious bits, but I was feeling too ragey.

    Okay, now I’m rambling. Sorry about that. It happens occasionally. Your review is fantastic and I hope you read something better soon. Wash the taste of it from your mouth with something great.

  • Estara
    March 9, 2012 at 12:40 pm

    The premise sounds a bit like bits from Meljean Brook’s Guardian series (which is the great sort of cracktastic) were thrown together and rearranged into YA angst – so maybe read that? ^^

  • Angie
    March 9, 2012 at 1:29 pm

    Let’s leave the rest of this all alone except to say OF COURSE LADIES ARE HERE TO TEMPT YOU, IT’S WHAT SLUTZ DO BEST is a great message for teens and then ask …

    Your parent dying means you’re an angel, eh? Man, I can’t wait to read the sequel where there’s a FUCKTON of angels in Sierra Leone, Afghanistan, Malawi, Angola … oh, yeah, maternal mortality rate finally paying off!! (http://www.who.int/topics/maternal_health/en/)

    Oh, what’s that you say? Maternal mortality rates are a real problem in the world and shouldn’t be used in your stupid YA romance? SHUT UP YOU GUYS, HAVING A DEAD MOM IS SO EMO AND TRAGIC!!111

  • Karen
    March 9, 2012 at 4:37 pm

    Thanks for this review. The ads have been all over the place so I thought I was missing out on something. As soon as I read the description I knew it wasn’t for me since I hated Hush Hush, Angel Burn and A Beautiful Dark. Your review just lets me know I made the right decision by avoiding this one.

  • Megan no h
    March 9, 2012 at 5:03 pm

    OMG the quote with the candles and lilies!!! If someone ACTUALLY said that to me…in ALL SERIOUSNESS, I honestly don’t know if I could continue living. I would be so embarrassed/humiliated that someone thought those things (and about me) that I would maybe die on the spot.

    That might sound like hyperbole, but years ago I had a dude say something creepy to me that I’m sure he thought was super meaningful in a tragic way and my soul is still not over it, HA!

  • AnimeJune
    March 9, 2012 at 9:26 pm

    OMG, Lilith again. Man was just so perfect and fine and dandy until dem evil womens arrived.

    And Sourcebooks? Honestly? I’ve been on their reviewing list a while and there has only been ONE book of theirs that I haven’t HATED, and that was Laura Kinsale.

  • John
    March 9, 2012 at 9:44 pm

    Sourcebooks is very hit/miss with its titles, and I’m tempted to get this just to see if I fall on the love or loathe side of the WTF Crazah.

    However – I would love to see either of you (hell, both of you) read and review The Mephisto Covenant. I devour YA paranormal and I felt that it was so, so, so not good. You’d have a field day trying to explain it.

  • de Pizan
    March 10, 2012 at 1:20 am

    I’m so confused–the ability to smell apples is an angelic sense?

  • Amy @ Turn the Page
    March 10, 2012 at 6:03 am

    Great review as always. I haven’t been remotely tempted to pick this up just from a quick glance at the cover and synopsis. Now I know I definitely won’t be.

    Angels are created simple because a mother dies within 12 days of their birth? O_o That makes no sense.

    I wont even get into the Adam quote.

  • Deirdre
    March 10, 2012 at 8:03 pm

    Wow, that worldbuilding does sound so…arbitrary. As for the Adam/Lillith thing, I have to side with Thea on this. Though it’s mythologically accurate, I hear enough about sexist religious/cultural/historical coventions and traditions in real life, enough not to want to have them reinforced in something I read for pleasure.

  • Shannon (Giraffe Days)
    March 22, 2012 at 1:04 pm

    I just saw this book in the bookshop today and thought I’d look it up – this is exactly the kind of review I needed! I’ve been burnt time and again by YA over the last few years and it makes me wary of trying a new one.

    Plus, I got halfway through Halo and gave up on it. I don’t care for angel stories at all, especially ones that dull.

    Thanks too for the quotes – that is an unbelievable amount of cheese! (and I like to think I have a high tolerance – I loved Twilight, after all!)

  • bram
    September 17, 2012 at 5:18 pm

    Now it’s gonna be a CW Drama. LOL

  • Hannah
    December 27, 2013 at 12:00 am

    This is an adequate review given the first book. But I like to compare it to the Strange Angels series…if you’d keep reading the series, everything gets cleared up and Embrace itself has so much more meaning. It’s a good (and my favorite) series. Just keep reading.

  • Izzy
    February 11, 2014 at 5:51 pm

    Personally I loved the book. I have no idea why you take other peoples advice. try it if u don’t like it quit reading it’s that simple. It teaches you to never give up and to face your problems not run away from them.http://www.thebooksmugglers.com/wp-includes/images/smilies/icon_mrgreen.gif

  • Emma
    March 10, 2015 at 3:36 am

    Can I just say that this series is my personal favourite out of everything I have ever read and I have read a lot. I love the characters and the plot. All of the characters develop in leaps and bounds over the 5 books (Its not a trilogy by the way). Everything is explained in detail. Violet accepts everything she is told because Griffin’s power is to tell the truth in a way that makes people believe him, so it makes perfect sense that Violet doesn’t question it. I have read embrace at least 10 times and love it more each time I read the book. But that’s just my opinion.

  • Screw you all
    May 20, 2015 at 2:10 pm

    I LOVE THIS BOOK, WHAT’S YOUR PROBLEM? ALL OF YOU DO THE WORLD A FAVOR, AND STICK YOUR HEADS IN BLENDERS. 😈

  • Ana A
    November 17, 2015 at 12:02 am

    I thought this book was going to be better. I’ve really had so much trouble on reading it, but I didn’t want to leave it in the middle and give up on this one because I had so much trouble getting my hands on it (I had to buy it online because it was not available in my country, and I hate when that happens), and because this would be like the 4th book of the year that I leave at the middle (or less). I haven’t finished it yet, I’m still at page 249, but I honestly can’t wait to finish it and start with another book (maybe a book about cats, I adore them). I absolutely know I’m not gonna finish the series, even if I really want to know if Lincoln and Violet ever get really together… and I know they probably won’t because they are Grigori partners and so on. So, yeah, that’s all I wanted to say.

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  • rachel
    February 16, 2018 at 4:14 pm

    I read the reviews and was dumbfounded. First, Jessica was awesome how she wrote this. The one thing I see the negative critics speak of is the spiritual connection. I felt some of the same things. I felt a Catholic tone to her development of divine spirituality. This may be because most gothic and demonism is associated to the Catholic church. I am not catholic but went to catholic H.S.. And I get it. But Jessica created a very important truth. One man for one woman. If you are the social media hook up crowd you will never get it. I am trying to write a book based upon things of my spirituality and I constantly think of Jessica’s books. She beet me to the obvious conclusions. I am dealing with light as a power, plus using the conflict of angels. There is no way to get around the similarities that Jessica wrote. This is a top 5 read for me (the series). She cut through the prose I struggle with, divided detailed characters and kept the goal of the conflict in view while creating the most amazing personal conflict. I am on this site looking for writing help. rachel.cobal60@gmail.com

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