Embrace (The Violet Eden Chapters, #1) – Jessica Shirvington

Embrace

“I walked right into the tornado to meet my lion and I knew then that my virtue was never letting weakness rule me.”

Source: Bought and Signed Personally By Author
Title: Embrace
Author: Jessica Shirvington
Published: October 1st 2010
Pages: 382
Genre: YA, Paranormal Romance, Urban Fantasy, Angelic Folklore
First Line: “Birthdays aren’t my thing.”

Synopsis: 

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…

I originally bought this book at the start of the year, along with Disruption by the same author at my school’s literature festival. After sitting in at one of the author’s sessions and hearing her speak about writing, it’s safe to say that a healthy level of intrigue had been acquired. Shortly after, I had them signed and they were then shelved among the hundreds of other books piling in my bedroom. However, recently after binging on the classic genre I thought that it would be nice to return to the sweet comfort of the YA realm for a bit and thus, I picked up Embrace. 

Many of my friends absolutely love this book series, and as it was an angel novel how could I not? However, in this case it was one of those times where you turn the last page of the book, put it down and sigh disappointedly.

Now don’t get me wrong – the book wasn’t the worst book that I’ve ever read, nor was it among my blacklist of books. But considering all the praise I had heard of the book I was left feeling very underwhelmed. Nevertheless though, it had its strengths and it had its faults, which I shall discuss now. 

I had quite the bittersweet relationship with the characterisation featured within this novel – I loved some characters, I liked aspects to others and the remainder I felt just ‘meh’ about. The protagonist, Violet, was a perfect example of this love/hate relationships – sometimes I was like “Yeah, this girl is cool! She sure has her head screwed on the right way!” and other times I was more like “Okay, please stop speaking because you’re literally hurting my brain.” I really enjoyed how headstrong and determined she was, and she was by no means a weak character at all – but her thoughts and actions sometimes just had me shaking the book in frustration. She obviously had some flair for the dramatics, especially when approaching the topic of the love triangle – boy, did she add more drama to that situation than need be. Oh, he kept something from me to protect me! Oh, the betrayal! Oh, he didn’t tell me something big about himself because it was a touchy issue for himself and perhaps there’s more to the story! Oh, I shall never talk to him again (or bother to hear his side of the story)! I particularly felt annoyance within me grow in terms of her preoccupation with Lincoln, one of the love interests and don’t even get me started on how I felt when she constantly used Phoenix just for her own gain, without regard for his feelings.
This leads me into my next topic – Lincoln and Phoenix, the love interests. Usually I’d look at them separately, however in this case I think together is the way they need to be addressed. The development and building of their characters confused the heck out of me. I personally really loved Phoenix – he was hot, snarky (but not quite an A-grade asshole) and BOY, talk about the sexual tension. But he still had a sweet and protective side (well, the protective side was a bit more bad boy-esque) and I really enjoyed the way he interacted with the other characters, especially Violet. It was entertaining to watch him manipulate their emotions. Some had it coming, anyway. He was pretty much the main reason why I kept reading the book. Lincoln’s cool too, but I just didn’t really care for him – there wasn’t as much depth to his character as there was to Phoenix’s, in my opinion. But the main issue I had with the characterisation was the feeling that I got while reading that the author hadn’t categorised them properly as characters. Which of the two was the dangerous, more bad boy type? Which was the safer option? At first, I felt that Phoenix was definitely the bad boy and I really enjoyed that – it suited him much more – but then towards the middle portion it felt as though Lincoln and Phoenix had swapped characters – Phoenix was saying this that Lincoln would’ve usually and had become the ‘safe option’, and Lincoln acted as though he were some big ‘mystery’ (he wasn’t). Violet’s constant obsessing over Lincoln didn’t help either and when, at the end, they swapped back it just made everything melt even more into a pool of confusion. Sometimes it’s refreshing when authors twist book character stereotypes, but only when it’s executed right – and this didn’t quite hit the nail on the head. It didn’t feel solid and most of the time I found myself uncertain of who or what kind of characters Lincoln and Phoenix were – which really hindered the overall characterisation of the book. 

The plot was intriguing though, and I could tell that the author had certainly taken a lot of time in her research of angelic mythology – which I always appreciate. I found myself very much interested in what was going to happen, and the ending was successful in keeping me enthralled into what would come next. The plot twists lacked strength however, with many not being surprises at all (in fact, from the beginning of the novel I just assumed that that knowledge was part of the storyline already). 

The writing was where the main downfall was unfortunately. Like I always say, the writing style and characterisation are the most important elements of a novel for me, and this was just…well, mediocre at best. The language felt very elementary – “I felt angry. I fell like wind. He looked shocked.” It really was a pitfall to the book, having no ability to take your breath away at the wonder of a phrase or sentence. It was just like…well, like anyone on the street could have written it. Much of the information was served through information dumping, particularly through the dialogue from characters. In general, the dialogue was very clunky and unrealistic. It also felt as though the author was trying to illustrate Violet as being the best protagonist ever – characters were always complimenting her, blatantly pointing out her strengths as though to remind readers if they’d forgotten – “you’d never give in to weakness”, “you’d never hurt anyone unless you had to”. It occurred far too often and made the book feel tedious and repetitive. 

Overall, the book certainly had its faults but still maintained a level of entertainment. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend this novel unless you were desperately at lost for something to read, or if you personally think that you would enjoy it. Nevertheless though, the storyline still captivated me and I am looking to continue on with the series as I am very much interested in finding out what will happen next. 

Rating: 3/5 

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The Unbecoming Of Mara Dyer & The Evolution Of Mara Dyer – Michelle Hodkin

The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer, The Evolution of Mara Dyer

 

Michelle Hodkin’s trilogy, The Mara Dyer Trilogy, is off to an absolutely fantastic, compelling start. Dark, intoxicating and haunting, these first two books will have you glued to each page, hanging on the curve of each word. The story follows the life of Mara Dyer, a young 17-year-old girl who has relatively recently survived through a freak accident that killed off two of her best friends and her boyfriend. Her family relocated to Florida to give her a fresh, new start – but that isn’t the only new thing in Mara’s life. While attending her new school, Croyden Academy, she meets and befriends Jamie Roth, a hilariously pessimistic ‘delinquent’, as viewed by the rest of the school, and starts at trying to build a life for herself. That is, until she meets Noah Shaw. Incredibly handsome, arrogant, and with a killer British accent, she finds herself both attracted and infuriated by him. But she soon discovers that she has bigger problems in her hands, after she fleetingly wishes the deaths of two undesirable characters – and it happens.

The plotline was unbelievably original, unlike any story that I personally have ever read before. Written in dream-like haze, the story is dark, nightmarish and almost psychotic – yet utterly compelling and intoxicating. The storyline evolves gradually yet at a clean, consistent pace – at the beginning of The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer, it’s focused on Mara’s past struggles and moving past them to start a new life, however by the end of The Evolution of Mara Dyer, it warps into something completely new – something unknown, something dark, something terrifying. It leaves the reader unsure of what is real and what is not, questioning the borders of dreams and reality. Climaxes in the story comes at strange, unexpected intervals, which cause you to jump out of your seat in both terror and exhilaration, making the overall read climatic, ambiguous and thrilling. 
In The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer, the good first portion of the story evolves around her relocation and fitting in to the new town – however, do not feel discouraged by this. During this portion all the characters, especially the main, are established as well as the setting and style of writing. It also focuses heavily on the relationship between Mara and Noah – and you will constantly find yourself amused by their light-hearted yet competitive banter. In between this seemingly mundane situation, however, dark flashbacks, nightmares, strange thoughts and happenings are splashed between the lines. Mara begins to question if she really is going insane, but as the first book begins to draw to a close, she discovers things about both herself and Noah – powers – that aren’t normal, yet seem to link them in a way that not even fate could determine. 
In The Evolution of Mara Dyer, things definitely take a turn down the dark end. After the extreme climatic cliff-hanger left by the first book, events start to evolve into one big heap of shadows, secrecy and insanity. Mara and Noah desperately search for the answers to what has been happening to them, seeking out medical help, spiritual advice and even help including drinking chicken blood. This journey to discovery is mostly unsuccessful – however, do unlock a new series of events and memories for Mara that shouldn’t even be hers – memories from a different person, from a different time. Mara and Noah now are completely unsure of what is happening, and it doesn’t help when she is locked up into a mental institution 87% of the time. Events flurry in a whirlwind of mystery as they are thrown into a pool of history that seem to have a link to the present day, and Mara is thrown into a life of terror as she finds herself being watched, stalked and taunted by someone, someone that she thought was dead but now knows certainly isn’t.   

The characterisation was certainly one of the strongest points of these novels – especially in terms of the protagonist, Mara. Written in a first-person tense, readers could clearly see an established sense of character. Mara, being strong-willed, bluntly honest and not afraid to admit that sometimes she gets terrified made for the perfect protagonist and love interest. She was able to, no matter how afraid she was, bite her tongue and pull through all the terrible ordeals, proving her incredible strength of will and mind. She had a profound sense of street-smarts, and knew when and what to say, which made her smart and an incredibly realistic character. As readers looked at things from her perspective you could really understand her, her emotions and her reasoning behind her actions. When you read, you weren’t reading from Mara – you were Mara. 
“You’re the girl who called me an asshole the first time we spoke. The girl who tried to pay for lunch even after you learned I have more money than God. You’re the girl who risked her ass to save a dying dog, who makes my chest ache whether you’re wearing green silk or ripped jeans.”
And then there was Noah. Beautiful, arrogant, indescribably loyal Noah, with his lilting British accent and always messily attractive dark hair. His humour, recklessness and cockiness mixed in with his infinite devotion, loyalty, and his hidden compassionate heart made him for the perfect love interest for Mara, and a swoon-worthy character for readers. Never doubting Mara, he gives her all his trust when they discover their mysterious, paranormal connection, and provides her with the much-needed firm foundation for her to lean against. 
“Noah – sarcastic, distant, untouchable Noah – cared. And that made him real.”

The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer and The Evolution of Mara Dyer are both absolutely superb reads, leaving you in a dream-like trance and clinging to each word. The unique, dark, almost psychotic storyline leaves you gripping each page tightly and utterly intoxicated with the story and the characters, shadowy nightmares, flashbacks and taunts written in blood will keep you up all night with no regard for the time, drunk on each word and pining for more. Michelle Hodkin has truly written the work of a genius, and I, for one, am holding on to the edge of my seat in wait for the next release.
The Retribution of Mara Dyer is scheduled to be released on June 10th, 2014. 

The Infernal Devices (Clockwork Angel, Clockwork Prince & Clockwork Princess) – Cassandra Clare

 

The Infernal Devices

“we live and breathe words. it was books that kept me from taking my own life after I thought I could never love anyone, be loved again. it was books that made me feel that perhaps I was not completely alone.” – will herondale

Source: Bought
Title: Clockwork Angel, Clockwork Prince & Clockwork Princess (The Infernal Devices Trilogy)
Author: Cassandra Clare
Published: August 31st 2010, December 6th 2011, September 5th 2013
Pages: 479, 502, 565
Genre: YA, Fantasy, Paranormal, Romance, Historical (Steampunk), Urban Fantasy
First Line (of the first novel): “The demon exploded in a shower of ichor and guts.”

Synopsis (of the first novel):

In a time when Shadowhunters are barely winning the fight against the forces of darkness, one battle will change the course of history forever. Welcome to the Infernal Devices trilogy, a stunning and dangerous prequel to the New York Times bestselling Mortal Instruments series. 

The year is 1878. Tessa Gray descends into London’s dark supernatural underworld in search of her missing brother. She soon discovers that her only allies are the demon-slaying Shadowhunters – including Will and Jem, the mysterious boys she is attracted to. Soon they find themselves up against the Pandemonium Club, a secret organisation of vampires, demons, warlocks and humans. Equipped with a magical army of unstoppable clockwork creatures, the Club is out to rule to British Empire, and only Tessa and her allies can stop them…

Cassandra Clare’s The Infernal Devices trilogy, is beautifully written, heart-wrenching and promises to have you up all night gripping the pages and sobbing madly. The prequel series to Clare’s bestselling debut series, The Mortal Instruments, the story takes place in Victorian England, from the perspective of a young orphaned 16-year-old girl named Tessa Gray who travels to London, England in search for her older brother. Shortly after disembarking, she finds herself captured, tortured, and after a desperate attempt to flee, is saved by a handsome young man who goes by the name of Will Herondale. She quickly learns the hidden truth about London, and is sucked into a world of demons and Shadowhunters; half-angel, half-human warriors who fight a never-ending battle against evil. Still desperate to find her brother, she bands with these Shadowhunters to fight their common enemy. Meanwhile, she also finds herself caught between Will and Jem – two Shadowhunter best friends with a sacred bond closer than blood.

The plotline was very original and elaborate, with the interesting concepts of non-living creatures (automatons) entering a battle between angels and demons, avenging family deaths, dark underground societies and spiteful blood feuds. The setting of the story was breathtaking, putting you right into the era and created a magical atmosphere and aura. The story incorporated intense elements of revenge, betrayal and hatred that thickened the storyline, especially in terms of relationships characters had with one another. The story, while having a gripping action-narrative, mainly focused on these relationships between characters. The incorporation of literature and poetry in the storyline was simply beautiful, particularly with the quotes both spoken by characters and featured at the beginning of each chapter. The mutual love and passion for novels shared between Tessa and Will very strongly shaped their relationship with each other, especially in terms of comparing the characters from their favourite novels (A Tale of Two Cities) to themselves and also beautifully built upon their trust in each other. The love triangle was cleverly mastered, with two young men falling for the same down to earth, stubborn and straight-forward girl. The twist was, though, that one of the men was broken, hesitant to love (the heart-breaking cause revealed in the second book), and the other man was dying.

The characterisation, as with the case for most of Clare’s literacy wonders, was most certainly the strong point. The protagonist, Tessa, was strong-willed and straight to the point, yet had an optimistic and loving heart. Her ability to see things in an always truthful light led her to become both a realistic love interest and an admirable character.
“‘One must always be careful of books,’ said Tessa, ‘and what is inside them, for words have the power to change us.'”
However, the two main male characters, Will Herondale and Jem Carstairs, and their hugely contrasting personalities were the real highlights of the series. Will, with his sharp wit, beautiful exterior and renowned prowess in combat, was unwilling and hesitant to love, resulting in his reckless behaviour, quick temper and self-destructive actions. Although unbearably guarded, his broken and hidden heart of gold was flooded with despair and tragedy and the cause for his unwillingness to love or be loved is truly heartbreaking.
He was Will, in all his perfect imperfection; Will, whose heart was as easy to break as it was carefully guarded; Will, who loved not wisely but entirely and with everything he had.
Jem, on the other hand, with his love for classical music and always-forgiving nature balanced the pair out like fire and water. His soft words of comfort and ever-present understanding only added to the agonizing fact that he was dying, and forced to take a drug that was killing him slowly, but would kill him immediately if he stopped use.
“His beauty did not blaze like Will’s did in fierce colours and repressed fire, but it had its own muted perfection, the loveliness of snow falling against a silver gray sky.” 
The real heart-breaking aspect of the storyline, though, is not the relationship they had with Tessa (although that was a tear-jerker), but their relationship with one another. Bound by a sacred Shadowhunter oath, the two had a bond closer than blood, better than brothers. The very fact that Jem was dying was tragic, and really put into perspective their connection, how close they were with each other and how far they’d both be willing to go for the other person. Tying it in with their mutual love for the same girl, and you have yourself a story which pages are founded in tears.
“Our souls are knit. We are one person, Jem.” 

The Infernal Devices truly is a phenomenal read, with the rare ability to make you both cry and laugh simultaneously. The intricate and compelling action-packed storyline keeps you on the edge of your seat and the characters and their delicately woven relationships with one another will keep you up until the dawning hours of the morning, huddled under bedsheets and praying to make the pain in your heart go away. Clare has yet again moved, twisted and broken our hearts with her enchanting crafting of words and, to put it in the words of Tessa Gray, changed us.

Ratings: 
Clockwork Angel: 4.5/5
Clockwork Prince: 5/5
Clockwork Princess: 5/5