ARC Review: “Infatuate” by Aimee Agresti

InfatuateInfatuate (Gilded Wings #2) by Aimee Agresti

Goodreads | Amazon

Haven Terra is still recovering from an internship that brought her literally to the brink of hell when a trip to New Orleans leads to more trouble. Graduating early from high school leaves the spring semester free, so Haven and her friends Dante and Lance head to the Big Easy to volunteer with community service projects. But their true mission becomes clear when they run across an enclave of devils known as the Krewe. New Orleans is a free-for-all for these shape-shifting devils, who are more reckless and vicious than any Haven, Lance, and Dante have encountered. And they soon discover their French Quarter housemates are also angels-in-training, and together they must face off with the Krewe in their quest for wings. But Haven’s resolve is tested when Lucian, the repentant devil with whom she was infatuated, resurfaces and asks her for help escaping the underworld. Can he be trusted? Or will aiding him cost Haven her angel wings—and her life? Thrilling, romantic, and full of surprises, this gripping sequel to Illuminate takes the battle of good and evil to the next level.

3 stars

Thank you to Harcourt Children’s Books for this ARC! This title is now available.

Note: This review WILL contain spoilers for the first book in this series, Illuminate. Read my review of that one HERE.

I did it again. I don’t know why I did it again, but I did. I got really bored in the middle of Illuminate, but I had such high hopes for this one that I just had to try it out. I basically just got more of the same.

The book starts out with Haven, Lance and Dante graduating early. They decide that instead of just hanging around til college starts, they’re going to go on this volunteer thing to New Orleans. A change of setting is just what they need after everything that happened in Illuminate. Clearly, they don’t understand that these guys just shouldn’t do internships.

The book takes a really long time to get to something we already know: everyone else on the trip is an angel-in-training. Until that point, they moseying around New Orleans, being good Samaritans and meeting creepy people. I couldn’t really see anything different between the demons the trio fought in Illuminate and the new troupe of demons, except for the fact that these guys were shape-shifters. That isn’t really a big deal, plot wise. From there, the plot continued to follow suspiciously closely to the first book. Haven realizes something’s wrong, she and Lance and Dante investigate, they save the day. Less fire in this one, though.

Another big problem I had with the first book is that little all knowing voice that would pop up and tell Haven exactly what was going on. In this one, Haven has TWO of those sources: the angel trainer, who’s gotten with the technology age and gone to a cell phone text, and Lucian, who can’t leave this one house because that’s where he can appear in ghost form, who’s always leaving her letters explaining just what’s going down in the underworld.

Haven and Lance also have these cliché middle book relationship problems that seem just disjointed. In the end, it just seemed like a plot device so Haven would actually go hang around Lucian a little bit longer. I didn’t buy it. On the other hand, Dante gets a real romance and it’s ADORABLE.

I left this rating at 3 stars, though, because this book DOES have a lot more action in it then Illuminate. There are a lot more magical powers (though Haven loses her original powers because her powers are growing, what?) and action in general. It made a serious attempt to move faster than the first book, which I can appreciate. In places, it was actually a really fun ride. The characterization still continuously falls flat, however, and the deus ex machina really needs to quit. If you enjoyed Illuminate, give this one a go, but don’t go out of your way to get into this series.

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Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Books That Were Totally Deceiving

Top Ten Tuesday is a feature hosted by the folks over at The Broke and the Bookish. 

“Totally Deceiving,” i.e., the covers or titles that don’t fit the book, books that were totally different from the summary, or books you thought were going to be fluff that turned out to be more serious etc etc

1. The Gathering Storm by Robin Bridges

I would like to first direct you to the cover. This book has EVERYTHING in it – vampires, fey, necromancy, zombies, you name it – but the cover has a girl in a snow storm. Yes, Katerina is the main character and all, but that’s all they could come up with? Also, I don’t feel like the blurb – either click the title for Goodreads or here for my review – covers the book at all.

2. Illuminate by Aimee Agresti

To be fair, the cover gives you more of a hint to what’s going on in this book than the book ever does for like 300 pages. However, I actually called out the blurb in my review because it promised us a fast paced, exhilarating ride that never, ever came until the last 30 pages. Of a 500-something page book.

3. Shattered Souls by Mary Lindsey

For the sake of everyone’s ears, I’ll try not to say too much about this book. I have already ranted so loudly about this book that someone linked to the post on their blog. But basically? Beautiful cover with a horrible, awful, toxic set of relationships in between.

4. The Help by Kathryn Stockett

I know, I know, this isn’t a YA novel! But I’m legitametly confused about this cover. Clearly it has deeper meaning that I don’t understand, but it’s so VERY bright yellow with … birds. Sure, this book screams HI HERE I AM on bookshelves in the bookstore, but otherwise leaves me befuddled. Also, on a purely design standpoint, I have never thought that yellow and purple should go next to each other like that. 😛 (In case anyone was curious, yes, I adored this book and yes, I adored the movie.)

5. Chain Reaction by Simone Elkeles

This cover really doesn’t cover this book. This IS a scene in the book, but it’s the epilogue and it doesn’t mean anything except for give you a closing scene. At least Perfect Chemistry tried to portray the book’s overall sweetness and Rules of Attraction used the biggest scene of the book. Chain Reaction? Not so much. Of all three of them, I also believe Chain Reaction was the least steamy, which the cover begs you to think isn’t true. I reviewed this book ages ago, so the minute details are slippery, but for certain this wasn’t the right cover for this book.

6. When It Happens by Susane Colasanti

Now, I understand that as a rule straight YA romance usually has cheesy covers, but I really didn’t get this one. There were several pivotal scenes in the book that could have captured the real message of this book that weren’t … this. It looks like an optical illusion picture gone wrong. Sure, it’s cute, but considering that the book tried to be real instead of cutesy, a cutesy cover image wasn’t the way to go.

7. City of Bones by Cassandra Clare

I am putting this one on here solely for the sake of a friend of mine, who won’t go near these books because there is a bare-chested man on the front. This is NOT a penny romance, person whose name I’m trying not to say. Every single one of Clare’s books are strictly PG-13 and most of that is for language. Plus, they’re as funny as all get out. Nevermind the bare-chested man!

8. Spell Bound by Rachel Hawkins

This one is basically here for kicks and giggles, because I need someone to answer a question for me: WHY is there a CAT on the cover? Did I miss this cat? Because I swear I don’t remember that cat, but it’s ON THE COVER. Anybody?

9. The entire reprint of The Song of the Lioness that was just released

As a Pierce megafan, these covers make me legitimately angry. These covers are just so wrong, especially The Woman Who Rides Like a Man. THAT’S A TWILIGHT MOVIE POSTER, not a cover for a Tamora Pierce book. Even Tamora doesn’t like them. 😛 Speaking of which…

10. Every Twilight book cover ever.

I’m not even going to put the pictures in – you know what they look like. There’s an apple and a ribbon and a chess set and a feather and none of it makes any sense. I understand that it’s supposed to have a deeper meaning, but not to me! I also didn’t like those books, so also that.

Review: Illuminate by Aimee Agresti

Illuminate by Aimee Agresti (click for Goodreads)

3 stars

“Who lives in a hotel? Only rock stars and celebrities and maybe these messed up starlets who, like, divorce their parents…”

…and now, straight-A suburban high school student Haven Terra. She moves into Chicago’s swanky Lexington Hotel for a prestigious internship shadowing the powerful, alluring, and startlingly young owner, Aurelia Brown. Here, Haven has her first taste of decadence as she meets the city’s A-listers, works alongside Aurelia’s stunning minions known as the Outfit, and frequents the hotel’s exclusive nightclub.

In her old life, Haven was ordinary. But at the Lexington, she’s being transformed–and being pursued by Lucian Grove, the guy of her dreams and Aurelia’s second-in-command. As Haven begins falling for Lucian, she discovers that the beautiful people on the Lexington’s staff are not quite what they seem–and that they have a horrifying plan in store for the hotel’s unsuspecting guests. Aurelia and company are in the business of buying souls. Will they succeed in wooing Haven to join them, or will she rise up and fight back in time to save her classmates on prom night at the hotel?

Captivating, romantic, and suspenseful, Illuminate is an exciting saga of a teen’s realization of her extraordinary destiny.

Okay, I just want to call this book out RIGHT HERE. Note the words in the last line of the blurb “suspenseful” and “exciting.” This book is 534 pages that it doesn’t need to be because it is NOT suspenseful or exciting in a lot of places.

Jumping right into the criticism, I just have to let you know this important thing. I picked up this book because I want “YES, BIG BOOK” since I read really fast and always like books I can read for more than a day. The problem is, this book is WAY TOO BIG. Seriously. The pacing in this book is really wacked out, and the editing also strange. If Illuminate had been half the size (or smaller!) it could have been a really awesome read for me, a higher starred one to boot. But this book GOES. SO. SLOW. I literally started skimming.

The fact that I finished this book is actually a fluke, because usually I wouldn’t have. I’ll admit that there was something compulsively keeping me reading. The prose was rather purple-y and overdone–further slowing down the already slow plot–but in some places it really did click and work and be awesome. Flashes of action would crop up and also be awesome, but that’s all they were, flashes. Flashes of action is not actual action, people. Now, this point of discussion would naturally lead me to my feelings about the ENDING of this book, but I am getting ahead of myself. I want to pick apart a few things first.

WARNING! MILD SPOILERS BELOW!

Haven: Our main character is supposed to be a protagonist. You know, like PROactive, PROgressive, stuff like that. But the problem is, she isn’t. The entirety of the plot–when it does move forward–seems to be happening around her. The reason she starts doing ANYTHING besides falling for Lucian, sleeping and taking photos is because she finds this notebook that tells her everything to do. It’s kind of aggravating, especially when Aurelia and everybody start freaking out because Haven’s powers are growing and she’s effecting the photos but HAVEN ISN’T DOING ANYTHING. She isn’t any different, she isn’t even trying to be magical. It just … happens. Kinda like everything else in the plot.

What in the world is going on in this book? I’m not kidding! The blurb tells you that Aurelia and crew are stealing souls, but what is Haven’s role? What’s her job? What kind of lore are we dealing with? I was asking these questions–these IMPORTANT questions–all the way up until about halfway through the book! You don’t even find out what the deal is with Haven until later than that. I understand that since this is the first person and Haven is clueless she can’t exactly TELL us, but geez. It was quite distracting.

And then when things actually happen… It doesn’t seem to FIT. For instance, when Haven finally figures out Lucian, I wanted to shout NO, REALLY? Because this, I had guessed. From about page one. And then when things start rolling and some plot points are explained I went, WAIT WHAT? Because they happened too fast for me to get a handle on them.

However, however, I do admit, I adored a few things…

The character of Dante was awesome. I was upset we got to see him so little in the middle of the book. The Lance/Haven thing was also cute, because they took time to get to know each other, trust each other and THEN fall in love with each other. Major plus in my book. I spent so long on criticism I feel bad I don’t want to prattle on too much here, but yeah. Those were two major points for me!

Now … the ending. THERE WILL BE NO SPOILERS HERE, even if it kills me. That would be silly. However, I must saying, things REALLY got rolling here. I actually started laughing out loud for a little bit. It was like, after 500 pages of blah blah blah all of a sudden it went EVERYTHING is GOING TO HAPPEN, THE END. I truly did enjoy the ending, though it ended pretty abruptly after what I was used to.

In a nutshell, this book was … something. It was really slow for ages, then really fast for about 20 pages and then you were at the end. If you are the kind of person who reads books were something NEEDS TO HAPPEN then I would avoid this one. However, if you don’t mind slower reading and a slower reveal of plot points then you might find this one enjoyable. Though I did finish this, it really wasn’t quite the right fit for me–a fast reader with a short attention span.