Monday, September 15, 2014

Tour: Review: Divinity by Michelle L. Johnson

Divinity by Michelle L. Johnson
Publisher: Spence City
Release Date: September 23rd, 2014
When Julia climbs into a flaming car to save a trapped child, she's left wondering why either of them survived. Then she learns that her father is the Archangel Gabriel, and that she is half human, half Archangel. With guidance from Michael, the most powerful Archangel, Julia sets out to discover her own history and explore her angelic powers. But her journey is cut short when an evil force, invisible to human and angel alike, tears her world apart. Now Julia must fight through her despair, harness her newfound gifts, and risk her very soul to stop the A'nwel and protect the family she never knew she had. What she doesn't know is that Archangels have secrets too.
Disclaimer: I received an copy for review from the publisher. This did not affect my review, nor am I being compensated for this review.

Divinity has such an interesting concept, and that's really what drew me in to the book in the first place. For the most part, I would say it followed through with that. While I know many exist, I haven't read many books about angels, and I don't think I've read any books with angels such as the ones in this book. I really enjoy the interactions between Julia, humans, and angels. It's a really interesting mix of ideas, lifestyles, purposes, and more. I think Julia's perspective was even more interesting as she was able to see both sides, yet she is not completely one or the other.

The world-building is fairly well-done. The concepts are distinct enough, and I fairly good sense of what was going on in both sides. I'm glad there were different picture markers to differentiate between the points of views (angels vs. Julia). While a lot of the immediate surroundings were more difficult to grasp, I think the author's point was for readers to get a sense of the world beyond the every day setting, which is why it isn't explored as much.

However, I do think that some aspects and questions took too long to be answered. Yes, some part of that is the fact that Julia isn't learning the information quickly, but I think it leaves the reader in this in-between state for quite some time, and it got really frustrating towards the middle/end. Of course, it all came together in the end, but argg! Also, I'm not really a fan of how long it took the angels to figure out the "stuff" about the A'nwel, and then, when we started to learn more, it was as if they were putting together the pieces way too quickly. It just didn't work for me because the pacing felt so off. It was slow in the beginning, and then it just seemed like Johnson was trying to make up for it by pushing most of the story/action into the last half of the book.

Similarly, while there were plenty of twists in the novel, particularly in the last half, it seemed that a lot of it had very little foundation. There wasn't a lot of foreshadowing that would lead to those twists (most of which weren't that big, but anyway).

My other problem with the angels is that since they can see above and beyond what humans can, many times, they would discuss an event that was going to occur, making it less surprising and impactful as it could be. Additionally, I was confused by the fact that they would talk to each other out loud, though they can hear one another's thoughts and can speak in that way (and much more quickly). I'm not sure if it's a matter of privacy or something (as is semi-explained), but it just seems strange to me.

Another one of my other problems with the book is that I don't think it handled Julia's past/trauma well enough. We are repeatedly told that she tried to commit suicide and that she came from an abusive adoptive family. And while there's a certain extent to which she has healed, particularly because of Alex, I feel that a year wouldn't realistically be enough. That being said, I've never been in her situation, and I can only imagine what it's like. But I feel that a trauma so great (both the suicide attempt and her past) would have much more far-reaching effects. I don't mean that these need to be the center of the story, but I feel that it should be addressed and represented. At the very least, it should come up when Julia is trying to get Charlie to leave her abusive boyfriend.

Lastly for this section (for now), the writing sometimes felt...choppy or just off to me. I can't pinpoint what it is, but a lot of the dialogue felt unnatural, and there was just something about the writing that wasn't always smooth reading for me.

At the same time, there's a lot that was done well in the book. One particular aspect was the relationships throughout the novel, as well as the exploration of what family means. Of course, the first is Alex and Julia's relationship. I love their relationship so much because it's clear they both understand and love one another. It's real, and he loves her for who she is, despite her tough past. I think part of what I love about their relationship is that it gives me hope for something similar. Then there's Julia and Charlie's friendship. I love how they meet online and have grown into such great friends. People often dismiss online friendships, but they fail to realize how special and amazing they can be. As someone who has many online friendships, it makes me happy to see this (healthily) represented. (It also makes me sad that I'm not nearly as close to my online friends as the two of them are.) Additionally, I'm really glad the book explores Julia's attempts to get Charlie out of her bad relationship and Charlie's refusal to do so. It's impactful and completely disheartening.

Of course, there's also Julia's relationship to Gabriel and to the other angels. It's a really interesting dynamic, in which the angels are humanized by Julia, yet they are still above humans in many ways. And then Julia becomes more and more aware of her angel side. They're both really interesting progressions.

Then there's the exploration of family and what it means. Julia comes to see how Alex and Isabel, Alex's mother, are her new family. She also realizes that just because someone adopts you into their family doesn't mean you have to consider them your family. She lived a horrible childhood that left her scarred, and she was adopted, never knowing her parents other than the fact that she knew her mother was supposedly crazy. But for the longest time, she always said that she doesn't have a family, and she realizes that she does. Family is more than your blood. I just love the focus on this aspect.

Overall, this book was enjoyable once I got past the slow beginning. The plot was fairly interesting and held my attention, if not because of the action but because of the deeper topics explored in the novel. But there was a lot of the book that bothered me or continue to keep me hesitant towards the book. It's not bad by any means, but I would only recommend it to a handful of people that I personally think would enjoy the book. And while that ending leaves a compelling, interesting cliffhanger, I don't know that I would read the next book.

(Thanks to Spence City for having me on the tour for Divinity!)

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