Mystic City

First of all, I have been SLACKING on my blogging. I’ve read Life of Pi by Yann Martel, in preparation for the movie, which I give 4 stars – the first 100 pages were a little rough to get through and I found myself thinking “Isn’t there supposed to be some sort of shipwreck at some point?” And then it happens. And suddenly you’re thrust into the middle of the ocean with a boy and a tiger in a lifeboat. And from that point forward I couldn’t have put the book down if I wanted to. Highly recommend!

I’ve also read Juliet by Anne Fortier. Also 4 stars. The only reason this book didn’t get 5 stars is because I didn’t like it as much as I wanted to like it before I read it. The ending seemed a little convenient and honestly the main character was a little hard to love. But the story was interesting enough and had everything I normally look for in a historical(ish) novel – flashbacks between past and present, an ancient yet lingering curse, deep dark secrets hidden within deep dark tunnels… it was all very Indiana Jones. I would definitely recommend it, but I wouldn’t put it on a pedestal.

LUCKILY I’ve read some really good books recently because Mystic City was a bit of a flop. Here’s why.

Mystic City by Theo Lawrence StarStarStar

The premise of this book is actually very interesting; it’s set in the not-so-distant future where global warming has increased to the point that all of Manhattan is under water and it’s residents have taken to the skies. Literally. The elites live in the Aerials, tall skyscrapers that tower above the city, and they never leave. The poor and impoverished live in the Depths where they’ve constructed rickety walkways above the ever rising water. For the most part these are normal people and, despite their futuristic setting, their technology hasn’t really increased too much (granted they get everywhere and pay for everything with a swipe of their finger but, big whoop, my dad has a finger swipe on his laptop). However, there are Mystics in the city – people with magical powers who are forced to live in the Depths, in what used to be Central Park. The “mayor” has demanded that all Mystics register with the city and be drained of their powers twice a year… enter Aria.

Aria is the main character, she is a member of the richest family in Manhattan. Aria is also naïve and a liiiiittle bit slow (in my opinion). Aria is told that she overdosed on Stic, a drug made from drained Mystic energy. She is told that her overdose caused her to lose part of her memory. She is told that she is in love with Thomas (a member of the opposing political family) and that they will be married right after the big election in which Thomas’s brother will become mayor and the two families will unite to rule with an iron fist. And, against her better judgment, she believes them (even though the truth is right in front of her). Enter Hunter.

Hunter is a rebel Mystic; he has never registered with the city, he has never been drained, he still has magic powers… which he uses to save Aria’s life several times as well as appear mysteriously on her balcony. Something about Hunter seems so incredibly familiar to Aria… but she just can’t place it. While everything about Thomas feels so wrong, everything about Hunter feels so damn right. She spends basically the ENTIRE book trying to figure out this mind-bending mystery. *rolls eyes*

Throughout the entire book I found myself getting increasingly more angry at all the characters for being so dang stupid. Hunter uses his magic powers to get out of a jam ONE TIME. Which would be great if he wasn’t getting himself into a jam in every other chapter. “Come on!” I would think. “Use your powers! You could escape so easily!” But no. In the meantime, while Aria is trying to figure out where her memories went, she is ignoring the obvious solution. In fact she waits until all hell breaks loose (which is partly, if not MOSTLY, her fault) to finally do the right thing. The thing she should have been doing all along.

However, I realize that easiest solution does not make for a good story. Despite my frustration and resentment towards the characters, there were some interesting and thrilling plot twists. As with every other teen book Mystic City promises to become a series. Perhaps, now that Aria has her head back on her shoulders, the second book will be more action packed and less… irritating. Go ahead and read it, even if only to prepare for what I hope will be a better sequel.


I just finished reading this book literally 5 minutes ago and I immediately had to blog about it. I don’t even know how to begin describing this book or what it’s about… all I know is that it took me less than 2 days to read it and I never wanted it to end. I was so completely wrapped up in the world of Harbinger that reality seems all too plain to me now. *sigh*

Fun Fact: I read the Author’s Note and discovered that Sara Wilson Etienne actually got the idea for this novel when she heard about a group of ancient people off the coast of Maine who disappeared suddenly and without a trace. This is her fantastical theory of their disappearance.

Harbinger by Sara Wilson Etienne StarStarStarStar

First and foremost; that is a b-e-a-utiful cover. I work at a bookstore, I see a lot of book covers and this one immediately caught my eye. After reading the book the cover takes on a whole new meaning and, if possible, I appreciate it even more. Secondly, great title. There are all too many teen books with witches and vampires, ghosts and goblins, psychics and immortals – what’s a harbinger?

Sixteen-year-old Faye is betrayed by her own parents and abandoned at Holbrook Academy – a boarding school for loonies and problem children. The teachers at Holbrook have some unconventional punishment methods and a headmistress that makes Dolores Umbridge seem saintly. The world outside Holbrook Academy has gone to hell (to put it lightly). There is no food and power is scarce, global warming has ravished the planet and society is falling apart. Life inside Holbrook is not much improved, though the forest still grows around the school it is protected by a tall fenced topped with razor wire – an effort to preserve the trees from society’s destruction… but more likely an effort to keep the students imprisoned.

Everyone has their own secrets, the reason they found themselves at Holbrook. Faye’s happens to be a little darker than her peers. Since she was very young she suffered from night terrors that eventually became daytime hallucinations. At times she can’t tell her illusions from reality. And she can see people’s darkest secrets, just by making eye contact. For that reason Faye has spent most of her life as a total outcast, a freak, a terror. Despite her complete contempt towards Holbrook she actually starts to feel at home, for the first time Faye has friends. Then she and her friends begin to suffer from the same mysterious visions and they wake up each morning to find their hands stained red. Faye begins to unravel a mystery that begins and ends with her, a mystery that has tied her to Holbrook Academy from the very start.

This book was not only well developed and original, it was actually extremely well written. Never once did I stumble over a strange word or awkward phrase. The author writes in a way that is both beautiful and terrifying, my brain had to work harder to conjure up the images she was describing. She writes from Faye’s perspective, a perspective that slips in and out of reality and stumbles through the emotions of a teenage girl with an incredible gift and an incredible curse. The story isn’t scary but just creepy enough that I had to flip another light on when I read it at night. The setting and characters felt so real that I had to stop reading every now and then to look around and let reality sink in before I continued. Overall a really great psychological thriller.

The ending was fast paced and unexpected but the psychological thrill ride ends before you get there. The author takes the book in an entirely outlandish direction that I did not see coming. The last few chapters reminded me of Wall-E; a not-so-subliminal message about going green and saving the Earth before everything and everyone dies out.

A truly great book that I would recommend. However, it left me feeling like I need a serious reality check so I’m going to refrain from reading anymore fantasy for a week or two.

The Maze Runner

Yes, another teen book. This one didn’t even have a pretty cover or swirly font… it did have a really interesting premise and a compelling synopsis on the back flap. For some reason I will almost always buy/read a book if it has to do with a maze, labyrinth, or obstacle course… arena… type thing. For example, my favorite Harry Potter book: Goblet of Fire (actually this book and that book have a lot in common – mainly an ever-changing maze filled with dangerous other-worldly creatures… that’s about it).

Also, The Hunger Games. It took me years of convincing to read that book and once I did, I loved it (not because it’s so well written, it’s not, but it is damn entrancing). I would say the same thing about The Maze Runner; not extremely well written, but damn entrancing. It’s been while since I read The Hunger Games, and when I did I read it so fast I hardly had time to sit and contemplate the writing style, but I do remember that it was filled with sentence fragments and a complete overuse of periods. However, I think it worked for the story – short, choppy, fast paced. At some point it becomes more the character’s voice than it does the author’s writing style and we as readers not only accept it, we expect it. The Maze Runner is similar; there’s not a lot of detail or description, the writing isn’t exceptional, and there’s not a flowery sentence to be found but somehow it all works for the feel of the story.

*Other notable titles; Labyrinth by Kate Mosse and The Rose Labyrinth by Titania Hardie. 

The Maze Runner by James Dashner StarStarStarStar

Thomas wakes up in a dark elevator with no memory of how he got there or of his life before the elevator ride. When the doors finally open he finds himself in a grassy glade full of teenage b0ys surrounded by a giant, deadly maze. None of the boys remember their lives before the glade but they’re determined to solve the puzzle and get back to the homes they’re sure they’ve been taken from. For two years the group has been organizing and following a strict daily routine – Thomas’s arrival (and the subsequent arrival of a beautiful and unfortunately comatose girl) changes everything. Thomas, like the rest of the gladers, want’s to escape, but he knows something they don’t know… if only he could remember what it was.

Like I said, this book was not extremely well written. First of all, the characters were shallow and pretty much devoid of emotion. I didn’t feel sympathetic for any of them despite the horrible situation they found themselves in. The main character, Thomas, annoyed me. He spent the whole book thinking to himself “what’s going on?” and never getting an answer. From anyone. Very frustrating. The one flicker of sadness I felt while reading this book was towards the very end and had to do with a side character. Secondly, it seemed like Dashner was constantly taking the easy way out (I guess that’s the beauty of dystopian fiction – can’t figure out how to save your characters from imminent death? Create a magical futuristic device that saves the day!). The end seemed rushed and the “solution” was a little too convenient. Thirdly, a girl shows up, in a plot full of boys. She’s beautiful and mysterious and Thomas finds himself uncontrollably attracted to her – like they’re connected somehow… blah, blah, blah. I just described the romance plot of every teen novel ever written. Gimme a break.

Anyway, this book did have good points, I did give it 4/5 stars after all. Despite Dashner’s lack of description, he imagined up a ridiculously compelling mystery. Every single chapter ended in a cliff hanger that kept me reading late into the night. I absolutely had to know what was going on in that maze and how they were going to solve it. I had to know who the creators were and why the boys were trapped in their experiment like lab rats. I had to know what the world outside the maze had come to.

The ending was just the right amount of satisfying and suspenseful; the solution to the maze only opened the doors to an even bigger problem and I was surprised at the turn it took (*ahem* zombies). I spent the last chapter debating on whether or not I would read the sequel – the epilogue convinced me. I can’t tell what’s real or who to trust and I’m dying to know more.

Under the Never Sky

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I’m a sucker for a colorful cover and swirly font. That being said I usually pick up a lot of teen titles… and I’m usually disappointed, or mad. Often just plain annoyed. I read them because I know they’ll be fast and easy (not a good excuse for someone who studied classic literature in college) and because their covers are so dang pretty. You can’t walk down the teen aisle of a bookstore without being bombarded with vampires, fairies, and princesses. However, once you crack them open you’re bombarded with teen angst, unrequited high school love, and undead boyfriends. I recently read Abandon by Meg Cabot and I think I rolled my eyes the entire time. Anyway.

Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi StarStarStarStarStar

Yes, I gave this book 5 stars. Yes, it’s a teen book. No, there were no princesses or fairies or undead boyfriends. One of the best dystopian novels I’ve read so far. The only thing that makes this a “teen book” is the fact that the main characters are in their teens.

The story is told from the perspective of Aria, a dweller, and Perry, a savage. Aria was born (and by born I mean genetically engineered) and raised in a dome, an enclosed civilization designed to protect it’s inhabitants from the Aether – a vicious Aurora Borealis (from what I could gather). Everything in real life is grey, dull, and man-made. The people in the domes entertain themselves by spending all their time in the realms – basically the internet (ha!). In the realms they can be and do anything they want. They enter the realms using their iPhones (okay, not really. But it’s a sort of iPhone device that literally sits over their eye and allows them to communicate, play games… whatever). Aria happens to capture a bit of incriminating video on her smarteye and is expelled from the pod, left for dead in the desert – if the cannibals don’t get her, the electrical storms caused by the Aether will. Luckily she meets Perry, an outsider who needs her to get to his nephew who was taken hostage by the dwellers. The outsiders live in tribes compromised of wooden huts and ruled by a blood lord. Many of them have developed superhuman senses (Perry’s happens to be night vision and an extreme sense of smell).

At first Aria and Perry hate each other, she thinks of him as a inhuman savage (probably due to his wolfey tendencies) and he thinks of her as an emotionless, irrational, inhuman robot. But this is a teen book we’re talking about, of course they’re going to fall for each other. You knew that. I knew that.

I can’t explain why I liked this book so much, I liked the main characters – they didn’t make me roll my eyes once. I liked that the story was just as character driven as it was plot driven, most teen novelists don’t bother to develop their characters or give them any emotional depth or allow them to grow, Rossi does. The plot was complex and compelling, it didn’t focus on Aria and Perry’s romantic relationship. There were several points in the book when I thought to myself “Where can they possibly go from here? How can they possibly get out of this one?” But they do. And I loved the ending. I had to reread the last few sentences a few times before I was willing to shut the book on them. I want to read the sequel (and I probably will) but I don’t want to ruin the magic of that last page.