Review: Embrace by Jessica Shirvington

I’m trying out a new template for book reviews. Hopefully it won’t mean that I rip my first victim apart too badly….
First Impressions
The pretty cover is what got me. I’m not sure why, because I’m not a huge fan of the angel-themed books that seem to have exploded in the last couple of years. I did get it on sale on amazon, though, so that could have had some influence. $3 often looks a lot prettier than $10.
In a Nutshell
Violet Eden finds out on her 17th birthday that she’s a Grigori, and her destiny involves an age-old battle between the half-human/half-angels and the exiled (who are basically fallen angels) and protecting humans from the exiled. She has to choose whether she wants to accept (“embrace”) that destiny or not. Things get pretty tangled up because she’s angry at her friend/crush Lincoln for not telling her (he’s one, too), she can’t tell her sort-of-bitchy best friend and sort-of-neglectful father, and she’s being sort-of-stalked by a mysterious angel guy, Phoenix. To top it all off, her dad gives her a mysterious letter and jewelry that came from her mother, who died shortly after Violet’s birth. If she doesn’t join the fray, then she risks still being endangered by exiled angels who know what she is (or could have been). If she joins, then she can no longer be a normal girl.
Can I Just Be Blunt?
There were things I liked about this book. There were things that annoyed me about this book. And there were things that were so “meh” about this book that I just didn’t care.
Overall, the “meh” won over.
I read this book in one sitting, but there were several times I almost put it down. It was only sheer force of determination to finish it that kept me from setting it aside–and I can almost guarantee I wouldn’t have come back to it if I had. That said, it wasn’t an awful book. I didn’t want to throw it across the room at any point, nor did I immediately add Ms. Shirvington to my DO NOT READ list. I think I can chalk my ambivalence up to a few key things:
1) I felt like the author was good at the initial tug on my heart strings, but not so good with the follow-through. Just when I’d start to get interested and invested in one of Violet’s challenges, the focus would shift elsewhere. Am I supposed to focus on the mystery of her dead mother’s note? The bad stuff that happened to her at her old school? Her anger at Lincoln? Her confusion about Phoenix? The decision she has to make about embracing? The dead acquaintance? The dead Grigori? There was simply too much going on for each element to get its due, and it did not seem to blend into a seamless story.
2) I don’t think the stakes were high enough or clear enough. Okay, sure, she wants to live a “normal” life, and being half angel might get in the way of that…but Violet doesn’t really have a normal life to start. Her family is well off, her dad is never around and pretty much gives her the run of things, and she’s spending most of her free time either doing artwork or hanging out with her crush, who lives alone in a warehouse flat and is many years older than her (more on that in a bit). So I don’t buy that she’s clinging to normalcy, even with the issues lingering from her past. And as far as what she has to do if and when she turns Grigori, well, they never get much into the specifics beyond some vague ideas that she’ll have to send the exiled back to the angel realm. Considering how much time Lincoln has to spend with her (including not only training, but a couple of parties), I think it’s fair to say that she wouldn’t be leaving behind her life entirely.
A couple of people and a couple of Grigori die, but they’re sort of faceless, and you have no real reason to care beyond Lincoln and Griffin caring. I can imagine why it’s all such a big deal, but I don’t feel like the book showed me why it was.
3) This sort of goes hand-in-hand with #1, but there were a ton of characters and barely any of them got enough screen time to make me care. Even the ones who did get screen time seemed almost excessive. Like Griffin’s partner, whose name I even forget…she had no real function other than not liking Violet.
4) I know I was supposed to like Phoenix, but I just didn’t. Even before I knew who/what he was, what he was doing, why he was like he was, etc., I still didn’t like him. I felt a little sorry for him, and I don’t mind him as a character. In fact, if I were planning to read the sequels, I would want to see more of him–as a character, but not as a love interest. The fact that Violet did like him made me like her less.
Geeks Anonymous
There was some mythology in here, but it didn’t feel particularly special, so it wasn’t really anything for me to dig my geeky little claws into. The characters themselves were certainly not geeks, so no bonus points there. Overall, my geek-dar didn’t register anything special…which is sort of the modus operandi of this book.
Fangirl Factor
Okay, so I will admit it. For all the “meh” of this book, there was one thing the author did particularly right: I was fangirling Lincoln pretty hardcore. He was attractive, self-sufficient, could take care of himself (and Violet), and you could tell he genuinely cared about Violet. He tried to protect her, but he didn’t baby her. He gave her space when she asked for it. He wasn’t perfect, but he tried really hard.
That didn’t always work in the book’s favor, though, because the longer Violet refused to work out her issues with him, the more she annoyed me. I understood the reason for it in the end (because there was a specific reason), but it sort of feel flat. By that time, I had already decided she didn’t deserve him.
And, okay, their age difference did bug me a little. Partly it’s cultural (and legal) preconception, I know, but having her just turn seventeen and having him be in his twenties was bothersome (especially considering they’d been hanging out for two years). Maybe that’s a double standard, considering 200+ year-old Angel to Buffy’s 16…yeah. Big ole double standard. I guess it only mattered because he was mostly human. That changes the rules. Or maybe it just bothered me because her dad was okay with his just-barely-17-year-old potentially dating this guy. Even if the dad is barely there…. Okay. *sigh* I concede. It wouldn’t have bothered me as much if I’d liked the book better.
Closing Arguments
If you adore angel-centric books, then I won’t say you shouldn’t give this a try. It might be your thing…it just wasn’t mine. Which makes me sad, because there are sequels readily available! Why couldn’t  it be another series I was dying to blow through??
3 stars out of 5, because the writing and characters were decent, it wasn’t a cliffhanger, and I didn’t dislike it.
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