Title: Black City by Elizabeth RichardsMy feelings are very complicated when it comes to Black City. While the setting was compelling from the start, I found I couldn't connect to the characters or the overall story. (I did in fact start to like them in the last three quarters of the book, but we'll get to that later.) The main characters, Ash and Natalie, felt very bland, and two-dimensional, and to top it off, their love story, moved so fast, it could compete for gold at the 'insta love' Olympics. For the first half of the book, there was a lot of eye rolling, and instances where I threw down the book, and went, 'seriously?"! After a while, I wasn't sure if I should even bother with it anymore. However, it was around that time, that the Richards kind of pulled the rug out from under me, and made me look at the story a bit differently. Because, yes, there is a twist, and there's an actual reason why Ash and Natalie fell in love faster than a speeding bullet.
Published on: November 13th, 2012
Page count: 384 (hardcover)
Rating: 3.5/5 Crystal Balls
Summary: A dark and tender post-apocalyptic love story set in the aftermath of a bloody war. In a city where humans and Darklings are now separated by a high wall and tensions between the two races still simmer after a terrible war, sixteen-year-olds Ash Fisher, a half-blood Darkling, and Natalie Buchanan, a human and the daughter of the Emissary, meet and do the unthinkable—they fall in love. Bonded by a mysterious connection that causes Ash’s long-dormant heart to beat, Ash and Natalie first deny and then struggle to fight their forbidden feelings for each other, knowing if they’re caught, they’ll be executed—but their feelings are too strong. When Ash and Natalie then find themselves at the center of a deadly conspiracy that threatens to pull the humans and Darklings back into war, they must make hard choices that could result in both their deaths.
Now, this is where my feelings get really complicated. On one hand, this twist impressed me a lot. I had written this book off, and then something clever happened that I never saw coming. On the other hand, while it was a well-played move, I felt like the twist, could have been executed better. It made the book a hundred times more interesting, yet, at the same time, the way in which it was handled, made the book more cliché and melodramatic. Ultimately, though I was satisfied with the way it inevitably played out. The last three quarters really saved this book for me, and made me really excited for the rest of the series. Things just get really compelling, and the characters of Ash and Natalie came alive for me, in a way, where they felt like real, separate characters, and I actually cared what happened to them. The ending sets up some really compelling stuff, and kind of gives a indication of the potential the series has to offer.
Title: Mystic City by Theo LawrenceFirst of all, doesn't Mystic City have one of the most gorgeous covers!? I was immediately drawn to it, and the premise, which is pitched as "X-men meets Romeo&Juliet", sealed the deal for me. From the start, Mystic City is brimming with political intrigue. Not only in regards to the two rival families, but between the Non-mystics vs. the Mystics. You can easily sense a war of some kind is in the making, and it makes for a really tense (enjoyably so), atmosphere. Immediately, what jumped out to me, was how incredible the world-building was. The world leaps off the page and right into your imagination. Not once, did I feel like I was being told. I was being shown. While I wouldn't want to live in their world, the setting just makes you want to immerse yourself in all the sights and sounds. Aria, our heroine, was a character I could sympathize with from the first page, and I desperately wanted her to get to the truth of what happened to her. She might not know karate skills or handle a weapon like some skilled expert, but through her actions, I found her to be an incredibly strong, determined character. However, I did feel like it was hard to buy a couple aspects of this story in regards to the love story and how it impacted Aria's character. It's pretty obvious (in my opinion) what direction it was heading in, and I felt like Aria would have realized it sooner, but because the plot, she had to be kept 'ignorant' for longer than she should have. Therefore, this kind of made the love story not as emotionally satisfying as it should have been, but it was still very sweet and rewarding in other ways, especially as the book plays out. However, those are my only nitpicks, and even those didn't dim my love for Mystic City. Where the story leads to by the end is downright exciting. There is tons of action, and twists and turns galore. Just when I thought I figured something out, it went in another direction. There is just so much happening, and where the story leaves off, you'll want the next instalment immediately. In many ways, this book feels like a giant (albeit extremely interesting) set-up to what the true story is really going to be about, and I absolutely cannot wait for it. This is a brutal world. But one full of colors, bursts of magic, light and hope. Mystic City, in the end, is about two people and the fight to get their city back.
Published on: October 9th, 2012
Page count: 416 (hardcover)
Rating: 4.5/5 Crystal Balls
Summary: Aria Rose, youngest scion of one of Mystic City's two ruling rival families, finds herself betrothed to Thomas Foster, the son of her parents' sworn enemies. The union of the two will end the generations-long political feud—and unite all those living in the Aeries, the privileged upper reaches of the city, against the banished mystics who dwell below in the Depths. But Aria doesn't remember falling in love with Thomas; in fact, she wakes one day with huge gaps in her memory. And she can't conceive why her parents would have agreed to unite with the Fosters in the first place. Only when Aria meets Hunter, a gorgeous rebel mystic from the Depths, does she start to have glimmers of recollection—and to understand that he holds the key to unlocking her past. The choices she makes can save or doom the city—including herself.
Title: Glitch by Heather Anastasiu
Published on: August 7th, 2012
Page count: 308 (paperback)
Rating: 1/5 Crystal Balls
Summary: In the Community, there is no more pain or war. Implanted computer chips have wiped humanity clean of destructive emotions, and thoughts are replaced by a feed from the Link network. When Zoe starts to malfunction (or “glitch”), she suddenly begins having her own thoughts, feelings, and identity. Any anomalies must be immediately reported and repaired, but Zoe has a secret so dark it will mean certain deactivation if she is caught: her glitches have given her uncontrollable telekinetic powers. As Zoe struggles to control her abilities and stay hidden, she meets other glitchers including Max, who can disguise his appearance, and Adrien, who has visions of the future. Both boys introduce Zoe to feelings that are entirely new. Together, this growing band of glitchers must find a way to free themselves from the controlling hands of the Community before they’re caught and deactivated, or worse.
I tried, but I found nothing redeeming about Glitch. As a matter of fact, I found some aspects of this book downright offensive. Glitch is filled with cardboard characters, insta love, info-dumps, mediocre world-building, major plot holes, and ridiculous/out of place slang words like 'crackin' and 'godlam'd'. What bothered me the most about Glitch, and what pushed this down to a one star book more than anything else, was the character of Max and the disturbing storyline between him and our main character Zoe. Now, I have absolutely no problem reading about disturbing things if they are indeed portrayed as such. It's important to read about certain issues and bring them to light. However, this was not the case in Glitch. Max was an abusive creep, and in turn, stomped all over the main character's self-respect and agency Zoe was Max's victim, and she was the one left feeling like she done something wrong. She was the one who had to feel guilt and shame for not wanting him back, and no matter what he did, she wouldn't see him as the monster he was. Ultimately, I could not see the reason for this storyline to play out like it did, and I found it extremely unnecessary. It could have been used as an interesting way to explore someone experiencing emotions for the first time and not knowing the proper way to behave, but it should have not been at the expense of the main character's integrity. All in all, I cannot recommend Glitch.