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Gilded Wings #1


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Haven Terra is a brainy, shy high school outcast. But everything changes when she is awarded a prestigious internship at a posh Chicago hotel under the watchful eyes of a group of gorgeous the 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 the evil agenda of Aurelia and 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?

534 pages, Kindle Edition

First published March 6, 2012

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About the author

Aimee Agresti

10 books545 followers
Aimee Agresti is a novelist and entertainment journalist. A former staff writer for Us Weekly, she penned the magazine's coffee-table book Inside Hollywood. Her work has also appeared in People, Premiere, DC magazine, Capitol File, the Washington Post, Washingtonian, the Washington City Paper, Boston magazine, Women’s Health and the New York Observer. Aimee has made countless TV and radio appearances, dishing about celebrities on the likes of Access Hollywood, Entertainment Tonight, E!, The Insider, Extra, VH1, MSNBC, Fox News Channel and HLN. The author of The Gilded Wings trilogy for young adults, she graduated from Northwestern University with a degree in journalism and lives with her husband and two sons in the Washington, DC, area.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 682 reviews
Profile Image for Giselle.
990 reviews6,365 followers
March 4, 2012
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 by the intimidating ambiance Aimee has given it. 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 bit hard to relate to. 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, but 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.

For more of my reviews, visit my blog at Xpresso Reads
Profile Image for Heather Booth.
Author 2 books15 followers
February 13, 2012
If this book had been edited down to a shade less than half its size it might have held my interest. It took so long to set up the plot that by the time the big dramatic revelations occurred, I had lost my patience and was ready to move on. Beautiful cover, first in a promised series, author with lots of entertainment connections, I'm sure you'll see it all over the place, but with so much supernatural romance/action out there now, there are many titles that will offer a more compelling reading experience.
Profile Image for Alyson.
202 reviews16 followers
February 16, 2013
Weirdly addicting page-turner, but I spent probably 60% of the time like this:

Jennifer Lawrence Sarcastic OK Thumbs Up

because many of the plot points involved, though with something of actual purpose overall, read like something from an insane fanfiction written by a 15 year old.

Dante is Haven's sassy gay trope of a best friend. He's fashionable! He's a hairstylist! He's a brilliant cook! He's a stereotype! He is, however, thankfully not overwhelming as he's not in a good portion of the story.

This needed some editing to cut it down. It just goes onnnnnn forever, and the pacing at the beginning's a bit slow.
Profile Image for Chelsea.
678 reviews209 followers
October 19, 2011
Let's be honest, here: I will never finish this book. As much as I enjoyed saying mean things about it for, like, 100 pages, I really don't see us forming a lasting relationship.

Summary: this book is terrible, please don't allow impressionable teenage girls to buy it. We will not have this one in store.

Caveat: this book had the misfortune of showing up at the same time as Grave Mercy, which kept me up unil 2:30 one morning trying to finish it. Because, when you have to choose between medieval nun assassins vs. cheesy maybe angels, it's not really a choice, is it?
Profile Image for Mimi.
265 reviews358 followers
September 24, 2013
Rating: 4.5 stars

Three words to describe this book: Beautiful, original, and absolutely MAGICAL!

It wasn't just the story that was magical, but the romance and setting too! I honestly didn't know what to expect when I started reading this book, but Illuminate surprised me with how enchanting it all was. Kind of like a fairytale spell.

I'm pretty picky with my angel books (although I didn't even know this was an angel book until I read it!), but I adored Aimee Agresti's interpretation! Just like the storyline, it was completely original with a sort of mystical feel to it that only added to the intrigue.

But my favourite thing had to be the characters. Sweet, intelligent, and passionate about photography, Haven was so easy to connect with. And her romance with Lance was honestly one of the sweetest I've ever read! It was refreshing and realistic (no insta-love here!), and he just had to be one of the most adorable boys in YA!

Both mysterious and mystifying, Illuminate was a debut that swept me off my feet! The only thing is that some parts seemed a little long, but otherwise I had no complaints. Aimee Agresti is definitely an author to watch out for! :)

BUY or BORROW?: With its gorgeous cover and magical storyline, this is a book that every angel-fan should have on their shelf!

(Original review at Mimi Valentine's YA Review Blog)
Profile Image for Cassi aka Snow White Haggard.
459 reviews155 followers
February 19, 2012
For the record I really don't like not liking a book. It's awkward for both of us, kinda like a bad first date (this is implying that I have much more dating experience than I do). It keeps talking and talking. I keep searching for something, anything redeemable, that'll make me want to give this book a second chance.

Me and this book just aren't meant to be.

The biggest issue for me is that it just moves so slowly. Half this book is spent running errands or on training montages. Maybe other people are more interested in what it's like to be a personal assistant to someone rich and glamorous, but that's not me. There's life threatening danger, mystery and evil looming. Instead of action, we get the two main characters delivering chocolate or uploading photos.

Almost everything is revealed by eavesdropping through conveniently placed secret passageways (that the owners somehow don't realize lead right to Haven's room) and almost all the plot is conversationally driven. 500 pages of errands, training montages, eavesdropping leading up to 30 pages of action just doesn't work.

To make matters worse they listen to a bossy book written by a mysterious force (and don't expect to know who that is by the end of the book). The messages in the book are cryptic, vague, sometimes contradictory, and creepily similar to those weird motivation posters they put up in offices and schools.

You will learn inner strength--to a degree far greater than you have ever known--and physical strength. None of this will be easy; all of it will be necessary

I'm not the type of person to blindly follow a bossy book. Haven is supposed to be smart, but as it becomes more and more obvious that the hotel is dangerous the stupider she seems to become. At no point does she ever think "Let's just leave," but just keeps on running errands for her demon-boss even after the book tells her she's probably going to die.

There were some believability issues with Haven for me. She's supposed to be a tomboy who doesn't care about fashion, but whenever it comes to describing clothes it reads like a magazine. Turns out the author is actually also a celebrity magazine writer. I have problems when author's interject their voice into a character when it doesn't make sense. Logically Haven, head more likely found studying math than in a magazine, shouldn't be able to describe clothes that vividly.

Overall this book just didn't work for me. I hope other people, maybe those who like magazines or celebrities more, will find this book more appealing.

Thanks to Southern Book Bloggers for letting me participate in this ARC tour. Check them out here: http://southernbookbloggers.blogspot....
Profile Image for Tynga.
341 reviews115 followers
February 27, 2012
Haven Terra is a very serious student aiming really high for her future career. She wants to be a doctor and with that plan in mind she is volunteering at the local hospital, where her adoptive mother works, and applies to tons of programs to earn those extra credit that might help her get into an esteemed school. There’s one program she didn’t apply to though, the Department of Education’s Vocational Illinois Leaders internship program. With two of her fellow student, she has been chosen to leave school to work in a prestigious hotel, but none of them are quite ready for what awaits them there.

I find this review really hard to write because I honestly didn’t like this book, but I can see its potential and how someone else might enjoy it. So I’ll try my best to show you both sides of the coin in this review. I’ll be honest with you, after a hundred pages I was ready to give up on this book, but I hang on because I requested it for review, and I was really hoping I would like it.

The first thing I didn’t like about this book is the entrée en matière. There is a very prominent high-class, snobbish, elitist atmosphere to this novel, and it’s a set-up I personally don’t like. From the get go, Illuminate reminded me a lot of the Blue Bloods series by Melissa de la Cruz, a series I don’t like, because of its worldly ambience. I know there are a lot of fans of that series out there, so I’m sure this particular aspect won’t be an issue of many of you.

The cast was also problematic for me. The staff at the hotel is called the Outfit and they are essentially a bunch of zombies. You eventually understand that they sold their souls, but does it have to turn them into mindless beautiful creatures? I could overlook this problem, but the main characters also had some major flaws, namely Dante, was the worst. He is so overly stereotyped it’s painful to watch. The kid is gay, so far so good, but did he really need to be a gossip hungry, shopaholic, who’s an extremely good cook, likes to play dress-up and can whip-up an haircut in a blink of an eye? It was just too much to be believable, or even comfortable. Haven was ok, but nothing more. I have to admit I had a soft spot for Lucian, one of Haven’s boss, but I felt like he could’ve been so much more, so I was slightly disappointed. The star of this book though, hands down, is Lance. This guy was definitely made of awesome. He came into the game with an underdog tattoo on his forehead and left with a superstar one. I even had an “Atta boy!” moment at the very end when a tidbit about him was revealed, I’m sure you’ll know what I’m talking about if you’ve read the book.

The main problem with Illuminate though, is that it’s way. too. long. The novel has 530ish pages and pretty much nothing happens in the first 300 pages or so. Agresti took way too much time to set the table and by the time something was actually reveled, the reader was bored, at least I was. See the thing is, I think a lot of the previously mentioned flaws could’ve been overlooked if we didn’t have so much time on our hands to think about it all. Illuminate isn’t a bad book, but it needed a lot more cuts during the editing process, in my opinion.

If you put the plot on fast-forward, it’s not bad. Aimee added her own touch to the old-as-dirt battle between Heaven and Hell and I particularly liked the original way a good guy was to defeat the bad guys. On the other hand, even after 530ish pages, we only have a vague idea of what the main character’s powers are and one would assumed one was entitled to get some answers after sticking around for so long. I’m confident, or at least hopeful, that the second book will move faster now that the truth is out in the open.

On a positive note, I found the end was exciting. There was finally some action, an heart-breaking decision was made and Lance provided us a “squee” moment =)

I would recommend this book to fans of the Blue Bloods series because of the worldly set-up, but beware that this book is twice as long as a typical Blue Bloods novel, so you need not-to-be bothered by lengthy introductions.
Profile Image for Mitch.
355 reviews605 followers
March 20, 2012
Angsty angel books usually go into my burn before reading pile, but the blurb on this one promised at least some action so I decided to give it a go, needless to say I was pleasantly surprised.

First off - a warning, this book is about 20% too long and I feel a lot in the first third could and should of been edited out for spacing/pacing, starting at the hotel and a quick recap for instance would've saved about 2 chapters of slog, which is why I have to say it's only a really like and not an amazing. But the villain, Aurelia, is who really sells this story; it's rare in a YA book to have an antagonist so fully fleshed out, most of the time they're caricatures or just plain 'bad people', but she has weaknesses, flaws, moments of strength, something that's missing from typical YA fare. That's not to say heroine Haven is a lightweight either, she holds her own and the conflict between the two is well done. Add in some chilling and dark ritual scenes and a (literally) explosive conclusion, this book is pretty good.
Profile Image for Lili.
452 reviews49 followers
February 18, 2013
I had really high hopes for this one, so it kills me to say that it didn't live up to my expectations, though it was still a decent story. Instead of being amazing like I was hoping, it was just okay.

Overall, I thought that the concept of this book was amazing. A group of people that were all incredibly gorgeous are in league with the Underworld and they're pretty much trafficking souls. It was very creative. And by the cover of the novel and the name of the series, you can easily tell that Haven is one of the few good people fighting against the monstrously huge population of the evil, even if she doesn't know it yet. While I very much enjoyed the plot and how Agresti managed to get the kids to the hotel via perfect grades (something I wish would happen to me!) I was not always happy with the delivery. So I want to spend this review explaining what, I believe, hindered this awesome-sounding novel from reaching its full potential.

First of all, the characterization. Haven was an incredibly smart girl that took pride in that. She's not all that physically attractive and she's ashamed of scars over her heart and on her back. She'll do anything to keep them covered up. Found in a ditch on the side of the road as a baby, she was adopted by a nurse named Joan that raised her the way children in young adult novels should be raised--seriously and studiously. She was no absentee parent, which I enjoyed. However, my one pet peeve with Haven is that as smart as she claimed to be, she was very naive to obvious negativity around her and she was very gullible. She had no common sense and lacked the ability to put two and two together, especially when a handsome boy that normally would not pay attention to her decided to realize she actually existed. It was frustrating to see this girl who brags about being independent and intelligent turn into a pile of oblivious putty under Lucian's watchful gaze. Aside from that, I have to admit she's a very strong and intriguing character, I just wish she wasn't so easily taken advantage of. Another example is when Aurelia was in her office talking about something that is going to happen between Dante and Etan. She heard literally what they were planning and didn't put two and two together that Dante was in trouble until chapters later. Instances like this had me rolling my eyes. A lot.

Then there's Dante and Lance. Dante is Haven's best friend. He is a homosexual and was stereotyped in the sense that he knows everything about fashion, tends to be very loud, feminine, and exaggereted with his speech, he's colorful in both the way he dresses and acts, and at some point in the novel he pulls the "you can't understand what I'm going through because I'm gay" card and suddenly turns evil. Now, do I think there's anything wrong with this? Not at all! I have many homosexual friends, but it frustrates me to see homosexuals stereotyped in young adult literature. Do I think it was on purpose? Not really, his character is unique and his certain feminine qualities come in to save Haven's day many times because she knows nothing about fashion and make-up and how to be a girl, but I wish he wasn't feeding into a stereo-type. Lance is the strong, silent type. Also intelligent, he's incredibly tall and lanky with huge glasses. He and Haven quickly become friends when Dante becomes overly enraptured and obsessed with his boss, Chef Etan. Lance, like Haven, has scars he is ashamed of, like one right below his eye. Watching their friendship blossom was very fascinating. He's the type of guy that you realize is super attractive the more you get to know him--the way that young adult love interests should be.

And lastly, there's Aurelia, Lucian, and The Outfit. I don't think I have many positive things to say about any of them. The first thing Haven notices when meeting Aurelia is that she looks nearly Haven's age--not old enough to run a huge hotel based off of Capone's reign in Chicago. The age thing can be found in Lucian, too. Again, he's supposed to be a superior of Haven's, but they're so similar in physical appearance. It bugged me out that there was no proper mention of age until nearly the end of this 500+ page novel. Aside from that, Aurelia and Lucian both need better qualities. While Aurelia first comes off as a savvy business mogul, she quickly begins to show her impulsive, evil, true colors. The switch almost came overnight and was slightly frustrating. And Lucian, half the time he wants Haven and the other half he is standing her up. He's a good guy and his heart is in the right place, but his evil, jealous boss is ruining him as a person--making him a selfish, undesirable, nearly-controlling date. The Outfit is full of glamazons, as the synopsis explain, that can only be compared to evil zombies. That's pretty much it.

Next, I mentioned last paragraph that this book is over 500 pages long and it feels every bit that way. I'm all for detail, I love it, but there's a difference between boring thoughts and essential detail to paint vivid imagery. It took me a solid 50% of this novel to get over the hurdle from the beginning of the book. It was full of so much useless detail. Haven's thoughts didn't drag me in the way they should have and they only truly captured my attention once she began scheming. It took me two weeks to read this one because I just didn't want to get over the first half of the book due to all of the unnecessary information that was slowing it down, but once I was 50% of the way in I finished the book in one sitting. However, if book two is anything like the second half, than I am really excited! I think, in part, that the first half of the book dragged because, in my opinion, there was way too much talk of sinning and the concept of souls. While not religious, it almost seemed religious because some characters spoke of crossing over to the dark side religiously and with such reverence. Souls were brought up in really weird ways. On page 248 of my ARC, Lucian even mentioned how he picked out specific food for his date with Haven to "nourish her soul." Things could have been approached differently. Face it, bosses would never encourage their protegee interns to do bad things and instead would applaud their clearly good nature. The intrigue and attempted luring of Haven could have been better thought out and enacted.

And my last questionable aspect of this novel was the diary. One day near the beginning of Haven's stay at the hotel, a blank black book shows up for Haven and as days go by, entries are suddenly scribbled in it, dictating to her what she needs to do to survive in a world full of evil. As freaked out as she is, she follows the rules the diary gives her because it's all so weird. But I got a very Tom Riddle-esque vibe from this. Magic book suddenly shows up, tells you what to do, slowly takes over your life. Sure, this one wasn't evil, but you catch my drift. In all honesty, I had something similar occurr in a story that I wrote when I was eleven years old. Yes, eleven years old. I feel as if this was a childish solution to slowly help Haven discover who she was that could have been constructed in a better way as well. It's something out of a young middle-grade, not a young adult novel. And the fact that this book was so important to her understanding of things yet we didn't meet who was behind it just yet was frustrating. Again, I sincerely hope that we learn who was behind it in book two or I may not be able to deal with it.

So, all in all, you can see I had a lot of problems with the execution of this one, not the characters and the plot, but how Agresti chose to go about things. It wasn't very believable and, more often than not, childish. However, since I think this book still deserves three stars, the amazing plot concept was enough to keep me reading and overshadow a lot of the negativity until I began reflecting on all of my notes for this review. So, I plan on picking up book two, though I'm going in with more realistic expectations than I did its predecessor. If it is anything like the second half of ILLUMINATE, Agresti will show immense growth that'll excite me and keep me reading. My fingers are crossed.

I recommend this book to those who enjoy good vs. evil stories. Then again, I also think this is more appropriate for younger level readers that like big books. I don't know about others my age, but I think all of my pet peeves are more appealing to younger children. Thank you to Jennifer at ARCycling for giving me the chance to review this book off of my wishlist!
Profile Image for Audrey.
39 reviews
September 15, 2013
I really did love this book. Boring at first, but you know, to those people who are upset it took long for it to get interesting, next time you pick up a book, be patient. While you're being patient, I suggest you devour chocolate. It really does help.
Okay, so, is the girl on the cover her daughter? The author and the model on the cover look related, and really alike.
Anyways, the thing where she found out she was an angel at the end was wonderful. If only this could happen to me. Be walking around in an amazing hotel, then defeat some demon things, and then BAM! I'm an angel! It would be the best day.
Again, another short review. But hey, it was a good book. Short reviews for good books. I'm not going to do a review on Harry Potter, because absolutely no reviews on AMAZING books. Just rating.
I'm getting off topic. I tend to do this a lot. The book, Illuminate was a fabulous story. The details about the hotel were fantastically formed, so I could picture it exactly how I wanted it in my own little head, in my own little world of fairytales.
Profile Image for Grüffeline.
1,073 reviews102 followers
January 13, 2018
Tja, schade. Das Buch braucht ca 300 Seiten, bevor überhaupt etwas passiert und auch dann entwickelt sich alles nur sehr langsam. Fahrt kommt erst ein paar Seiten vor Ende auf und das hält dann auch nicht lange, weil das Buch dann auch zu Ende ist. Im großen und ganzen hat die Geschichte Potenzial, Haven ist toll, Lance ist toll... Aber an der Umsetzung hapert es leider ein wenig.
Profile Image for Ashlyn.
809 reviews36 followers
December 3, 2022
2.5 stars

I want to say this book just wasn't for me. I love the cover. I liked the writing style. But I wasn't invested into the story at all. It was a 500 page book that lost my interest. I wanted it to be so much shorter than what it was, and maybe I would have liked it more. Then again, I just don't think the story was for me. This one has been sitting on my shelf for years, and I was actually so excited to read it, but it was definitely a disappointment.
Profile Image for All Things Urban Fantasy.
1,921 reviews613 followers
February 26, 2012
Review courtesy of All Things Urban Fantasy

Angel books tend to be hit or miss for me. More often than not I find them to be on the hellish than heavenly side and especially prone to unoriginality. As much as I was hoping ILLUMINATE by Aimee Agresti would be a bright exception, it wasn’t.

The writing is decent, especially in the vivid description passages of the Lexington Hotel and the exquisite architecture and art that defined Chicago in the 1920’s. I also liked the overt nods to THE PICTURE OF DORIAN GRAY, but I had an issue with the opening premise that unfortunately set the tone for the rest of the book. Haven and two other brilliant academics from her high school get chosen to participate in an internship living and working at the famous Lexington Hotel. Poof, all three are excused from the rest of the school year and shipped off. It’s a job. They get paid. There are no classes. None of the adults in the story have any problem with these three teenagers essentially dropping out of school for the rest of the year to do this. What? If it was during the summer, that’s one thing, but this was in the middle of the school year. Worse still, all three are assigned semi random jobs that apart from Haven’s photography, they have little to no experience with. Like having to paint a master level mural after visiting a museum for a few hours. It made no sense.

It didn’t help that Haven was saddled with a superficial and annoying best friend named Dante who ran around squeeing about all the hot guys he saw and dressing up Haven like she was his personal Barbie doll. The other characters, with one exception, were also stereotypes that reoccur in every other paranormal book out there. And wow was it long. Plus there are these frustratingly cryptic messages that Haven gets full of meaningless platitudes and insipid lines about trusting herself and being prepared for anything. Super helpful.

ILLUMINATE is not the heavenly read it wanted to be. Clichéd characters, recycled plotlines, and a bloated narrative made for a tedious and uninspired read. If you’re looking for demons and angels in YA try the Hush, Hush series by Becca Fitzpatrick, the Unearthly series by Cynthia Hand, or THE SPACE BETWEEN by Brenna Yovanoff. This one was a dud.

Sexual Content:
Profile Image for Hayal Perest.
383 reviews37 followers
January 8, 2015
Kitap son bölümlere kadar sıkıcıydı. Olayların akışı çok yavaş ilerliyordu ve bu beni sıktı. İki gün ara verdikten sonra bugün bitirmeye karar verdim ve sonunda bitirebildim. Son sayfalarda beni şaşırtmayı başarsa da bu kitabı kurtarmaya yetmedi. Aksiyon sahnelerinin daha çok ve hareketli geçmesini isterdim. Kitap monotondu. O yüzden puanım 3.
340 reviews111 followers
Shelved as 'did-not-finish'
October 28, 2016
I'm getting a headache due to too many eyerolls.
Dear book, I loved your cover but to the DNF shelf you go.
June 29, 2022
nie wiem, co tu się wydarzyło
• styl pisania taki meh, czuć debiutem, mimo że debiut to nie jest rzecz zła z natury (KŁAMSTWA LOCKE'A LAMORY TO BYŁ DEBIUT WHAT THE HELL)
• bohaterka "inna niż wszystkie
• żadnej chemii między postaciami, zresztą postacie też takie raczej kartonowe
• prawie nie byłam w stanie doczytać finału, bo tak mi się nie chciało
w sumie
nic by się nie zmieniło
oby to się szybko nie powtórzyło, amen
Profile Image for Rhiannon Ryder.
298 reviews21 followers
August 5, 2012
I'm a bit torn by this book. There were parts I enjoyed, and parts Agresti just couldn't sell to me. I really wanted to like it, but I felt like she kept throwing in scenes I couldn't believe her characters would go along with. Since it's her debut effort, a healthy length and part one of a series I'm leaning towards forgiving her this once and seeing what happens in part two. But another part of me screams "WHAT ABOUT THAT KISS SCENE!!" every time I think I'll give her another chance and it gives me pause.

So lets start with the basics. Lance, Dante and Haven are supposed to be the three brightest, hardest working students at their high school. So hard working, in fact, that all three of them have sacrificed all the fun of being a teenager for the rewards of being a super student when it comes to their future dream careers. Now here's the not so believable part: they're offered a "prestigious" internship at a new hotel, and are pulled from school to go live/work there. Months of classes missed, that they're presumably exempted from, no assignments or check ins with the high school, because apparently being a glorified hotel worker is a great experience for your college applications? Seriously? These kids are so neurotic everything is a math problem to them, but downloading photos, and delivering chocolates, or organising the library are adequate experiences to impress a college?

As characters I found Lance and Dante appealing, Haven was a bit less so, but I didn't dislike her, I just didn't love her. Oddly, Lucian is one of my favorites (with Lance a close second), even though he's supposed to be the bad guy for the majority of the book. I'm not sure I should have liked one of the bad guys more than the main, but alas!

The next issue for me is the whole book/mentor set up. It was just a bit too weird to have a book telling Haven what to do, and even weirder when she listens (even if begrudgingly). I feel like the book should have been a real person, even some random homeless person Haven bumps into on one of her outings, rather than a book with writing that appears only when she needs it, and handily disappears whenever someone shows up at her room. It felt like a cop-out to me. Agresti needed a way to direct Haven, and the book really feels like her not being able to come up with a better, more plausible way. Hey, I'm cool with all sorts of tools when it comes to paranormal or fantasy stories, but they still need to be plausible, and/or believable.

Finally, and I warn you this is ever so slightly spoilery-ish, the @##%%!! kiss scene. I'd ploughed my way through 511 pages, I'd decided to turn a blind eye to the book/mentor and the total lack of education and just enjoy the ride when Agresti threw the strangest last minute curve ball I've ever read. In the early days of Lucian's perusal of Haven, there's a kiss. It's a momentous scene, in the dark, and really the big impassioned moment of the book. Except for one small comment about how a later kiss from Lucian isn't as earth shattering, there is no indication anything was not as it seemed. Until page 507, when she's suddenly kissed by someone else and announces "it was you...".
I was completely confused, it was who?
What did he do?
Until I read the rest of the explanation of how it wasn't Lucian who had kissed her in the dark at the moment. That instead someone else had been stalking them, and although he hates Lucian and is trying to warn Haven off of him, chooses that moment of darkness to sweep in and passionately kiss her. Knowing full well she wouldn't know it was him, and likely think it was Lucian.
I won't even begin to go into how out of character this whole act would be for this person you've been blithely following for 511 pages. Or how his later actions don't even slightly hint that he's had this impassioned moment with Haven. I was so staggered by this strange turn of events that it's literally all I could think about, whenever I thought about the book, for days after. And it was irritated thinking, not misty eyed romantic thinking.

So my final word is this. Illuminate has some intriguing moments, some decent characters and a premise I can see wanting to read more of, but be prepared for some story elements that don't fit and might actually aggravate you. I can cut a debut some slack, she engrossed me enough that I didn't ditch the book, and it was lengthy, however, I'll be expecting a slightly better showing come book 2. Give it a try, if for no other reason then so you can come back and dish with me over that totally weird kiss twist.
Profile Image for Tabitha Olson.
199 reviews11 followers
February 1, 2012
Overall, I really enjoyed this story. It started out kind of slow and bumpy, not really feeling different from other YA stories out there. But, as the story progressed, my interest level cranked up notch after notch after notch. Especially with all the references to Capone and Chicago’s history.

I’m a Chicagoan, so I’m a sucker for any book set in this city. Some disappoint, but others, like this one, get it (more or less) right. The story takes place in The Lexington Hotel which, in reality, was torn down in the eighties. But, in Haven’s world, it’s been restored and reopened under new management. The hotel’s nightclub is called The Vault, named after the actual vault in the basement that supposedly belonged to Capone. The Outfit refers to the Capone’s gang, which grew after his incarceration and spread across the country. And, there is a private dining room called Alcatraz, where Capone served some of his time, complete with a jail cell and everything. I found all of this fascinating, and even did some more reading on the history of my own city. :)

Anyway, back to Haven… I wasn’t all that taken with her in the beginning of the story. She didn’t seem unique, and the gay-best-friend-thing has been done to death. But she grew on me. The more I got to know her, the more I liked her: her work ethic, desire to help others, sweetness, nervousness, desire to please, her driving need to be the best she can be. These are all wonderful traits and I really connected with her through them. The more I read about her, the more I wanted to read about her. Note: she is kind of a goody-two-shoes, so if that’s not your thing then you might not like her as much. But I found her personality to be refreshing.

I absolutely loved the romance. I can’t stand instalove, or love triangles, and this book has neither. She is swept off her feet by the charming, swoon-worthy hot guy, but then she gets to know him and her feelings change. Then, she grows to care for the nice guy. Yay! There aren’t many YA books that do this, and I commend the author for it. It’s not hot and steamy, but it is realistic. And awesome. Oh, and there’s no contrived tension because one person kept some information from the other person, or because one person misunderstood the other and then stomped off before an explanation is given. Fantastic!

There’s just one piece of information we get at the end that seems completely out of character for Lance, but, given the fabulousness of everything else between them, I could overlook it.

There were a couple things, though, that I wish had been better. The first was that Haven didn’t visit Joan very much. They live too close for this. I actually would have found it more believable if Haven would have moved to Chicago from another city, and then she’d have been trapped at the hotel because she wouldn’t know anyone or anything else. But Joan is only an hour away, so I can’t see her not going to visit.

In that same vein, the passage of time felt clunky during parts of the story. This, in turn, made the pacing feel off—but this was mostly toward the beginning. As we get closer to the end, things pick up and there are fewer clunky passages. The ending was fast and fun, but it was also predictable because we figured out what Haven was about halfway through the book, but it seemed to take her a lot longer. I would have liked to see higher stakes toward the end, involving both Haven and her loved ones, and then no one would have been able to tear the book from my white-knuckled fingers. :)

Even with the flaws, though, I still enjoyed this book immensely and I’m looking forward to the next one.
Profile Image for Jessica.
165 reviews127 followers
March 22, 2012
I have seen mixed reviews of this novel. They range from “I abandoned this book” to “OMG! I LOVED IT!” There’s no accounting for taste, and what are book reviews but our own glorified opinions? (P.S. Thank you for reading my opinions!) Anyway, back to Illuminate by Aimee Agresti… I liked this book, a lot.

Let me start with the strengths: I think that the male characters in Illuminate are so well developed that I wish we could have some bonus scenes (hint, hint) from their point of view. In fact, the entire cast of secondary characters were so fully realized that I would cringe with their actions and insults. My favorite character in the whole novel was probably Lance, and I think it is because he snuck up on me. When he is first mentioned in the first few chapters, he doesn’t have much of a strong presence and I thought he was going to be the random third kid thrown in this magnificent internship and that would be it. However, he was much more important to the narrative and to the main character, Haven.

Speaking of Haven, she might not be the most strong female character that I have read lately, but I think that makes her that much more relatable and believable. She is skeptical of everything surrounding her, and strives for perfection and acceptance (much like all of us did when we were in high school). I don’t think the story would have been the same had it been told from another characters point of view, or even from third person, because Haven’s perspective is so imperative to the development of the plot.

About the plot: I agree with some reviewers when they speculate that a sudden internship at a illustrious hotel for three seemingly random chosen students in the middle of a school semester is a tad farfetched. Okay, a lot farfetched, but it provided an explanation as to why our heroine and her sidekicks were removed from their families and living in a hotel. Other than that, I really didn’t take much issue with the plot. It flowed well, and I really enjoyed the development of Haven’s realization of her familial origins (Lance’s too! Dante’s wasn’t really explored.)

I also really liked how Agresti managed to make this story about more than just a love story (in fact, the love story really wasn’t that important at all after we discover Lucian’s true motives). Although I really do love Lucian and the other character that becomes romantically important. The real main dramatic question was about the peculiar happenings at the hotel and how will Haven and her friends survive it and possibly stop it.

The only thing that really bothered me about this text was the length. Illuminate is extremely long for a debut novel, and there were definitely some scenes that seemed superfluous that could have been edited out. In addition, there were some elements at play in this novel that seem to run rampant through YA fiction lately: the girl who is pretty who doesn’t think she’s pretty, etc.

Overall, I really enjoyed reading Agresti’s novel and figuring out Haven’s story as it developed. 4 Stars.
Profile Image for Lexie.
2,073 reviews297 followers
December 6, 2014
It wouldn't be fair to say that I disliked this book, because I didn't. The characters are what got to me more often then not. Agresti's writing shone when describing, in vivid detail, the historical past of the Lexington hotel and the gorgeous outfits the 'Glamazons' wore or the pretty trifles Dante would dress Haven up in. Her attention to detail and ability to invoke a response is undisputed by me.

Her ability to conjure complex or even likeable characters fell flat.

For instance Haven's friend Dante never really breaks out of the mold of 'the gay best friend'--he's not effeminate so much as just very...girly. He likes dressing Haven up and dishing about gossip and looking at the pretty people. Hidden layers he does not have. Don't get me wrong, I've known guys like that--gay or straight for that matter, but Agresti doesn't given him any hidden depths or flaws. Almost a Stepford Wife honestly--he could do hair, clean, go shopping and still have time to chat with his friends at the local shop before going home to make a perfect three course meal.

It got annoying.

Then there's Haven herself. Honestly the predominant need of 'shy, brainy' girls who just need to unleash their hidden beauty is getting tiring. Shy has become the new name for girls (or guys) who are merely not 'socially sophisticated' enough. 'Brainy' is the by word for anyone who has high grades and an interest in something artsy (like photography). And every single girl who is shy and brainy is undoubtedly a diamond in the rough just panting for the chance to be beautiful and noticed. Sorry that isn't how 'shy' works. You don't become insta-prom queen and suddenly get over the fact you dislike crowds, or can't stand obnoxious people or god forbid lose all your common sense.

The other characters are kind of..uber-creepy. Even given the explanation for the uber-creepiness (lost their souls blah blah) they still managed to be a cut above normal creepy. This book also manages to take adult negligence, parental absenteeism and 'grown-ups are bad' tropes to a whole new level.

And lest you think otherwise this is another paranormal Angel book. Though Agresti at least doesn't ram it down our throats as liberally as Jessica Shirvington did in EMBRACE.

In the end I kept reading this book mainly for the lush detail work Agresti put into Haven's photography and the grand past of the hotel and very little else.
Profile Image for Krys.
736 reviews170 followers
March 27, 2015

I've been reading Illuminate by Aimee Agresti for a week...and I've only made it 315 pages. That is never a good sign. This 2012 debut novel is set to wow a lot of readers. I, however, did not love it. I wavered the whole way through, I hemmed and hawed, and then I just hit my wall. I can't do it. It's too religious in tone for me.

The premise is interesting. Haven Terra is one of select few to win a privileged internship at the up and coming Lexington Hotel in Chicago. The salary is good and the opportunity is promising and Haven snatches it up. Dante and Lance are the other new interns and the three of them are soon caught up in a whirlwind of excitement in the posh world within the Lexington. But there is a secret; a secret between Aurelia (the owner) and Lucian (her right hand man) and the powers that keep the hotel running.

I so wanted to love this. It's part Dorian Gray, part The Shining, and part Devil Wears Prada. I really wanted to adore this. However, it has a big strike against it from the get go. It's a good vs. evil book and the "good" are represented as angels and the "bad" are demons. It has a Christian heavy mythos that doesn't work for me. It's also very predictable. I called the love interests, called the ending (which I skimmed), called the reason behind it all...yeah. There was a brief point where I absolutely had to know where it went but I failed to keep with it. Christian angel stories do not work for me. Demonized utter baddies do not either. It's so black and white and only services to highlight one belief in one type of God. These kind of religious agendas turn me off in a heartbeat. So, I'm declaring a moratorium on them as of now. No more angel books. I can't do them any more. They are too much everything that I don't believe in and I can't give any more time to them.

If you are looking for a neat setting and a couple of good characters and an interesting plot...and don't mind the preachy underlying canonical dogma...this will work for you. However, it does not work for me. I don't see anything redemptive about the message Agresti is trying to send.

1 out of 5 stars.

- review courtesy of www.bibliopunkkreads.com
Profile Image for Raveena.
2 reviews
March 14, 2012
Aimee Agresti’s Illuminate is about a nerdy, ambitious girl (Haven Terra) and her friends working at a hotel as interns. I have to say I can’t say how the book ends because I couldn’t finish it. The believability of the book was ridiculous. A school lets 3 kids miss 6 months of school to intern at a hotel that hasn’t opened and no one has any real information about it. What kind of a school would do that? I got past that, but then the romance part of the novel, which is always my favorite part, was just creepy. Haven has feelings for her boss, Lucian. The way the author describes the chemistry is like a high school student falling in love with a man twice her age. In the book they are about 5 years apart, but they make him sound so old and Haven so naive. On top of that there is some sketchy romance going on between Lucian and the hotel owner, Aurelia Brown. I got past the sketchy romance and tried to continue.
A coming of age book character is a gay best friend to the main character. I love how authors express their support towards broader ways of thinking, but Dante (Haven’s friend) is a stereotypical gay kid that is made fun off in movies. He is a shopaholic, loves gossip, likes to play dress-up, a wonderful cook, and can create hairstyles better than seen in magazines. That is exactly how a person who had never met a gay person may describe them. I couldn’t believe the author portrayed the character like that. Yes, Dante was funny and cute at times, but the 3 best friends got annoying after awhile with their cluelessness. Half the time they had no idea what they were doing. The author stretched on about the tedious tasks of paints, photographing, and whatever else the trio was assigned to do.
I was only able to get to page 200 and with much difficulty. I am sure there are people who enjoyed the novel and hats off to you. I felt the over 500 page novel was too long. I may have stopped too early, but I wasn’t hooked. So this book probably won’t be the next Hunger Games or Twilight, but there is talent and passion in the author’s writing. Agresti is an amazing writer, but this may not be the plotline for her.
Profile Image for Laura.
3,700 reviews95 followers
January 27, 2012
I'm vacillating between "it was ok" and "I liked it", but decided to be generous.

Haven Terra (yes, the name has import) was abandoned as a child - found bruised, bleeding and alone at the side of the road when she was five, with no memory of her past. Taken in and raised by Joan, she's one of the top students in her class and firmly focused on the future. One day she and her BFF, Dante (and why is it that the male BFF is always gay? seriously, it's bugging me that we can't show boys and girls just being friends without one having a same-sex orientation) learn that they've been chosen to participate in an exciting internship, assisting with the opening and running of a new luxe hotel in Chicago.

Once there she feels outclassed by the gorgeous, glamorous members of The Outfit (named after Al Capone's gang) but is made to feel like a critical member of the team by Aurelia, the owner and her mentor. Her assignment seems normal at first, but slowly she realizes that something is not quite right - and her friendship with Dante is starting to loosen. Luckily, there's Lucian to romance her, and Lance to pick up where Dante's friendship has left off. There's also a mysterious book blank book that gives her instructions and orders via writing that appears.

Sounds familiar? Yep, I thought so, too. Without going into spoilers, let's just say that this is paranormal romance/suspense and there's nothing really surprising here. At times the writing was a little florid and a good editing would have helped. Yes, there's a huge Capone component (the hotel is where the Valentine's Day Massacre took place, and there's even a minor mention of Geraldo's ill-fated opening of the hidden vault) but the history is glossed over - it's there for atmosphere and nothing more.

ARC provided by publisher.
Profile Image for Melissa.
300 reviews15 followers
December 5, 2011
This book is a new spin on Angels and Demons, good and bad! This book started out a little slow for me, I don't know why but once I got going I could not put it down. This book has an amazing world where the people are being manipulated, love, lust, the hot bad boy, the cute good boy and TONS of drama and betrayal. The whole book makes you feel as if you were there watching on the sidelines and wanting to be like WATCH OUT! But you know they would not hear you if it came to that!

Haven, she is a wonderful character any of us could relate to at one point in time. She is the girl nobody notices only to make fun of her, she has a crush on the most popular boy who doesn't notice her and she has only one friend Dante who is hilarious but not his type. Then she gets this wonderful offer with of course Dante and another student Lance. They are thrown into this world of rich and beautiful people! There is of course the bad boy Lucian who I instantly fell in love with and so does Haven, she can help but wonder why her, she finds some answers and her heart breaks a little but she becomes strong and kind of falling for Lance who again is a hottie without even knowing it. And throughout her journey she realizes she's being played to a point as the story goes on she is finding things out about herself and her friends. She is getting more self esteem and confidence and you just watch her grow and believe she is someone truly beautiful and pure.

This story will suck you in and make you fall in love with Haven, Lance, Dante and even Lucian. The story is spellbinding and i loved it! I recommend to you all to get this when it comes out in March 2012 :)
Profile Image for Mai is a Happy Bibliophile.
206 reviews73 followers
January 4, 2013

Hmm.. Illuminate is a story that involves a bunch of people ( note here: Marilyn Manson fans, the Illuminati and a bunch of vain personas.) who stars in a reality TV show alike True Beauty, the Apprentice and Supernatural.

The glamorous life within the walls of the Lexington hotel is what made the story line fascinating. The description of the grandeur is enough to make your imagination go wild. Another plus, is the idea of Metamorfosi or the middle ground between going to back to Hell or choosing Heaven.

This is a fresh idea using the concept of angels and I'm glad that the angel characters in here are likable. I especially like Lance for Haven since I can't figure Lucian out no matter how hot he is. Haven being a "soul-illuminator' added another twist besides being an angel and I am quite excited to find out more about it. I also anticipate the story behind the history of Haven and Lance having MIA parents.

It is a good story about choosing sides and what is essentially right though not easy. Also, the fact that all can be given their utmost desires but for a very heavy price, one that does not involve Heavenly redemption.

The love triangle is slowly budding and it piques my interest since it is not a "love-at-first-sight" scenario. It is realistic.

The pace is a bit slow but the story is good enough.

4.5 out of 5 stars.
Profile Image for Imani.
497 reviews49 followers
April 24, 2015
I thoroughly enjoyed this book! At first I was iffy about where it was going but the author added so much mystery and intrigue that I couldn't stop reading! Because I hadn't bothered to check out more than the little blurb/plot summary for this, I was shocked to find out this was an angels and demons genre of YA! It was a pleasant surprise though; I don't like knowing everything when I get into a new book. XD

Haven was a great character but it wasn't very realistic how she turned into such a socially adept girl when she had supposedly been an awkward nerd. But hey, I'm nitpicking. Lance was a cute Clark Kent for sure and Dante was the supportive and sassy gay best friend. Lucian was the alluring crush and Aurelia (the boss) was pretty evil.

There's still some questions that have to be answered though about Haven & who's been sending them mysterious messages. They must be heaven sent!! (har har har).

It's about how Haven and her friends are chosen to work in this luxurious hotel only to find there are darker motives. The staff is literally from hell and are looking to get souls. Can Haven stop the massacre that the staff is planning? You gotta read it to find out! ;D

(AND BTW, her high school had ONE POSH PROM. Sheesh! In a posh hotel with virgin drinks that are lit on FIRE with canapés served and access to the hotel's dance club?!) wuuut?? I don't think I've ever had a canapé either LOL
Profile Image for Mikky.
36 reviews
May 19, 2013

I'll start by saying DAMN! what a long boring read, and that's because I stopped at around 40% of the book. I kept going back to it again and again but every time I kept getting more and more tired and annoyed with the characters and the plot in it's self that totally felt like it wasn't moving!

After I took time to reflect about the book, I decided that I wasn't going to torture myself with the story ever again. To tell you the truth, I don't even remember the main characters, which is saying a lot because if I like a book I usually keep thinking about the ending for at least a week.

When the heroine started making progress I just wasn't into the book which only made it worse because then she would go on and on and reflect on what happened, what might happen and what's supposed to happen and to put it simply I got LOST A LOT.

The story just wasn't that good to keep my attention and add that to the length of the book and the annoying plot line, it didn't really help things along. I believe that when a book is good that even if you still have 200 pages to go, you get scared that it's gonna end, which, by far, didn't happen in this book.

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