Monday, March 05, 2012

Review: Illuminate by Aimee Agresti

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Aimee Agresti
Series: Gilded Wings, #1
Release date: March 6th, 2012
by Harcourt Children’s Books

Goodreads / Purchase

Haven Terra is a brainy, shy high school outcast. But everything begins to change when she turns sixteen. Along with her best friend Dante and their quiet and brilliant classmate Lance, she is awarded a prestigious internship in the big city— Chicago—and is sent to live and work at a swanky and stylish hotel under the watchful eyes of a group of gorgeous and shockingly young-looking strangers: powerful and alluring hotel owner Aurelia Brown; her second-in-command, the dashing Lucian Grove; and their stunning but aloof staff of glamazons called The Outfit.

As Haven begins falling for Lucian, she discovers that these beautiful people are not quite what they seem. With the help of a mysterious book, she uncovers a network of secret passageways from the hotel’s jazz-age past that leads her to the heart of the evil agenda of Aurelia and company: they’re in the business of buying souls. Will they succeed in wooing Haven to join them in their recruitment efforts, or will she be able to thwart this devilish set’s plans to take the souls of her classmates on prom night at the hotel?

*A copy was provided by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for review purposes*
Illuminate, with its enchanting cover and alluring premise, gives us a tale full of beauty, mystery and deception. Although it failed to wow me, I was left enthralled by the mystery, and fascinated by the glamor.

Haven and two class-mates, one of them being her best friend, are chosen for an internship at an over the top luxurious hotel. Soon after they arrive, however, Haven starts to notice things are a bit… off. We begin with exploring this majestic hotel: The elegant decor, the perfect employees, the vibrant night club – it’s all described wonderfully with enough details to make you visualize all of this beauty. Even the somber passages become alive with its intimidating ambiance. As the plot takes a very long time to move along, we get well acquainted with this hotel through Haven, who is instructed to learn all that she can about the inner workings. I was so enraptured by the extraordinary perfection, in addition to the unusual happenings, that the slow pace took a while to catch up to me, but eventually it did. A bit past the half way mark I started to become less fascinated by it all, and simply wanted to move on to some action. The secrets are divulged in such a slow, steady way that I never felt the excitement of apprehension, I merely strolled through, nodding my head, while everything leisurely fell into place. It was still interesting, but not so exciting.

We’ve got some enjoyable characters that help make the slow pace a bit more satisfactory. Haven herself is a tad hard to relate to, though. Nerdy, bookish, keeping to herself, but suddenly acquiring great fashion and social abilities; I had a hard time placing her personality. Dante is also very cliché being the gay character who likes to gossip, cook and fix hair. I did, however, love Lucian and Lance. Lucian has a certain mystique that makes him a particularly intriguing character, and Lance, the most in-depth character in my opinion, went from shy loner boy to star of the show by the end of this book. I loved his personality; how he always stood by Haven and gave her someone to truly trust.

Although I did quite like the plot overall, as I mentioned it was a tad long-winded, but also had a few sketchy details. Haven’s bizarre childhood – abandoned in a ditch – is only vaguely referenced. We don’t find out a whole lot about her supposed powers or purpose either. Then, we’ve got this cryptic book giving her vague messages that she barely questions before trusting it completely. I wonder why she didn’t just pack up and leave – I know that’s what I would have done. But I’m a wuss so.. *shrugs*

With excellent writing and breathtaking scenery – illuminate is a satisfying debut that, even though I wasn’t enamored by it, I enjoyed it enough to recommend it, and will definitely be continuing the series.  

3 Hot Espressos
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Canadian blogger, wife, mother, coffee lover, and sarcastic at heart! She has had a love for all things bookish since before Amazon and eReaders existed *le gasp*. You can also find her organizing tours and other fun things at Xpresso Book Tours.

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35 Responses to “Review: Illuminate by Aimee Agresti”

  1. Celine

    The cover of Illuminate is absolutely gorgeous! And I’ve been hearing great things about it although apparently this book is really long, like 500 pages? I am really intrigued by the summary and ooo, I didn’t know this was a 2012 debut!

    Awesome review, Giselle! So glad you enjoyed it. Can’t wait to get my hands on this book and read it! ♥

    Celine @ Forget-me-not

  2. Maja

    I’m so sorry that the slow pacing ruined such excellent worlbuilding. I’ll probably still read this at some point, but I’ll have to lower my expectations just a tiny bit.
    Also, I have it when the main character is left incomplete.
    Lance, Lucian… do I smell a love triangle.

    This is such a great and detailed review, Giselle. Thanks!

  3. Natalia Belikov @ Dazzling Reads

    Even though it didnt WOW you, I am still super excited about this one! Im glad it still hooked you and you want to continue the series! aaah!! I love long books btw! I get like more engage with the story even more. Maybe bcs I spend more time on it XD LOL.

    take care my sweet!! great review! Im glad how you highligh what’s great about it and what was okay. Have a lovely day! =) muah!!!!! muah!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! ^.^

  4. Amy

    I have heard a lot of mixed things about this book. I love the cover!! Even though you weren’t totally into it, it still sounds good. I may give it a shot. Thanks for the fabulous review!!

  5. Nerd Girls

    I feel almost the same way reading this book. (I finished it last night)

    It was slow and the scenes were too long, but right around page 260 it picked up (finally).

    I think what disappointed me the most was between the cover and the synopsis I had already laid out what would happen and I hate when that happens.

    Jenny at Books to the Sky

  6. Shellie

    I’ve seen how big that book is. Bummer you didn’t like it as well as the others but I LOVE your honesty. I’m glad that you liked it enough to finish the series though =)

  7. K R Weinert

    Great review, it’s always so difficult to write about book that you neither hate nor love! Glad it was worth the read, and I do love a little glamour

  8. Andrea @The Bookish Babes

    I felt pretty much the same way you did about Illuminate, except I did not like Lucian. Ugh. It was hard for me b/c Agresti is clearly a great writer, but it was so long and much of it was unnecessary. I probably won’t continue the series, but glad you liked it well enough to keep going.

  9. Mary @ BookSwarm

    This one is sitting on my shelf, just waiting! Love the cover and the idea. I’m not so sure about the sketchy details of Haven’s abandonment or powers. I think that might frustrate me.

  10. Sam

    Sounds pretty good but it;s a shame it wasn’t better! Still, I’m really looking forward to starting this soon. I got it for review ages ago but haven’t had time to read it it. Hopefully I will enjoy it too. 🙂 Great review, Giselle!

  11. Crystal Grant

    Great review! I’ve heard mixed opinions concerning this book. I’ve seen reviews like yours where the book seems a bit long but then I’ve seen review where the blogger just raves about it. I’m torn. I pre-ordered it, I have it and I hope that I really enjoy it. Thanks for sharing your awesome review 🙂

    Crystal @ Elegantly Bound Books

  12. Danny

    I really like the sound of this one and I agree the synopsis and the cover is are alluring!! I really like the idea of a magic hotel?! Definitely going to read it at some point! :)) And you loved it enough to continue the series – that tells me enough:))

  13. Giselle

    Thanks for dropping by ladies! <3

    And yes Ari, 3-stars is still good. 🙂 I know some rate 3-stars and say they didn’t like it – but mine means I liked it.

  14. Jessi (Geo)

    Great review! I love this cover…I’ve been looking forward to reading this one, I hope I’m not disappointed!
    I tagged you, I’m sure you’ve got a lot on your plate but check it out if you get the chance, if you decide to answer let me know 🙂

  15. roro

    Great review! I love this cover…I’ve been looking forward to reading this one, I hope I’m not disappointed!

  16. Lexie

    Ugh, if it has the staple gay character, I’m afraid I’m going to be side-eyeing this one whenever I pick it up. :/ I strongly dislike that stereotype, particularly considering how inaccurate it often is. But the setting and writing sound lovely enough for me to try this, despite the stereotypes. (And I also really really want that cover on my shelf. >_>)

    Very awesome review. 🙂

  17. A. Knight

    Ah, that sucks that it wasn’t so exciting! I need more action if a book is book is going to be – GEEZUS SPICE – 500 + pages!?! That’s far too long to endure a very slow-paced plot. I don’t know, I think I need more than a 3-cup reference to get me interested enough to want to take on that daunting length.


  18. Lei

    I love the cover! This book seems interesting, too. Good review. 🙂


    P.S. I’m hosting a book tour on my blog. You may want to join the giveaways. 🙂 Amazon gift cards and a Kindle Fire are up for grabs. 🙂 It’s over here. 🙂

  19. ❤ Vivian

    I was waiting for this review ever since I saw that beautiful cover! Your review was really nice and fair, though, I liked reading it and I think they were accurate assessments (though I still haven’t read it myself) Too bad not all the characters worked out as well.

    Vivian @ Vivaciously, Vivian

  20. Giselle

    @A. Knight: BAHA <3 you Asher!! It wasn't bad though you may still like it!

    @Lexie: Yeah it’s very stereotypical gay friend. But we don’t see a whole lot of him though so you might not be bothered with it.

    @❤ Vivian: Thank you Vivian! I’ve read other reviews and some really loved all the characters so you never know. I hope you love it! And it’s so pretty even if you don’t it will look awesome on your shelf! 🙂

  21. Asheley (@BookwormAsheley)

    I tend to agree with you about this one. My thoughts on this one are going up tomorrow. I had such a hard time writing that post because I had a hard time making sense of what I was feeling about the book. There was just so much – the length, the character development, stuff like that. I felt like it had GREAT potential but it fell a little flat. I am hoping for great things with book two when it is released but when I closed book one, I just – I don’t know – didn’t feel that hug-a-book feeling that I WANTED to feel, ya know?

  22. Candace

    Ive been curious about this one and think I might give it a try but wont rush to buy it or anything. Maybe one I’ll get from the library.

  23. A Canadian Girl

    Hmm, I’m still not sure whether I’d like this one. The setting sounds well-done but a whole lot of nothing going on would bore me pretty fast. And how does a nerdy introverted girl become a fashionista and outgoing person so fast?

  24. The Princess of Storyland

    I’m a little sad that this didn’t get more than 3 cups. I think I was hoping it’d get 5 to match the epicness of the cover! hehe I’m actually reading this one right now. I started yesterday and am about 100 pages in. Since its 544 pages long my fear has been that it will be way too long (obviously!) and slow. So far I’m really liking the story, but considering the lengthiness of the book I totally understand how it can be slow moving. Thanks for the great review!

  25. Mimi Valentine

    Wasn’t this book so magical?? I think that’s my favourite part of it all — the beautiful decor, the gorgeous hotel setting, and how everything was not as it seemed! And I loved Lance too! He’s the kind of boy that makes me wish that kind of sweetness exists in real life LOL! x) I have to agree that it was a little long-winded, but I still ADORED it and I’m glad you did too!

    Amazing honest review, Giselle! I love how you pointed out the good and bad without being downright insulting — you’re such a great reviewer! 🙂 <3

  26. Rubita

    I received this in the mail last week and, though I started it, I haven’t gone back to it. While I liked the concept–recreating gangster era Chicago in a posh hotel–the execution didn’t really work for me. Maybe I should give it another try–but I’m not sure. I’m with you on Dante. I think he put me off a lot.

  27. Rebecca (Kindle Fever)

    I’m glad you enjoyed this one! I’ve been curious about it ever since it started showing up in mailboxes all over, but I haven’t actually read a review before for some reason! I’m glad it was a satisfying debut, even though it wasn’t really mind-blowing! I’ll keep it on the to-read pile, though I probably won’t rush to it for a while. Great review:)