Genre: Science Fiction

Incarnate by Jodi Meadows (Book Review)

Posted January 19, 2012 by Jana in Book Review, Young Adult Fiction / 9 Comments

Incarnate by Jodi Meadows (Book Review)Incarnate by Jodi Meadows
Series: Newsoul #1
Published by Katherine Tegen Books on January 31, 2012
Genres: Dystopia, Romance, Science Fiction
Pages: 374
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher (Netgalley)
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5 Stars

NEWSOUL
Ana is new. For thousands of years in Range, a million souls have been reincarnated over and over, keeping their memories and experiences from previous lifetimes. When Ana was born, another soul vanished, and no one knows why.

NOSOUL
Even Ana's own mother thinks she's a nosoul, an omen of worse things to come, and has kept her away from society. To escape her seclusion and learn whether she'll be reincarnated, Ana travels to the city of Heart, but its citizens are afraid of what her presence means. When dragons and sylph attack the city, is Ana to blame?

HEART
Sam believes Ana's new soul is good and worthwhile. When he stands up for her, their relationship blooms. But can he love someone who may live only once, and will Ana's enemies—human and creature alike—let them be together? Ana needs to uncover the mistake that gave her someone else's life, but will her quest threaten the peace of Heart and destroy the promise of reincarnation for all?

Do you ever read a book that leaves you thinking, “Ok, how on Earth am I supposed to go about reviewing that?” Don’t get me wrong. I loved this book. Sometimes, though, I come across a book I love so much, that it leaves me wordless. Haha. This was one of them. I’m not sure exactly what it was that made me love it so much. Perhaps it was the sweeping, yet believable non-insta-love romance, the unique take on a utopian world, or the writing that I totally got. You know how sometimes your brain and an author’s writing style just mesh, and you’re writing in your mind the exact same story you’re reading? Jodi just did everything right. She and I were on the same wavelength, and I totally got her. I’m not saying the book was predictable, because it totally wasn’t. I’m saying that everything she wrote was exactly what I wanted. I got my romance, my mystery, my alternate world, my suspense, my excitement. Let’s see if I can break this down for you in a way that makes sense. Haha. I’m really into putting my thoughts into numbered lists right now, so that’s what I’m going to do. It works for me.

1. I really loved reading about Ana’s journey to Heart. The very beginning of the book just sucked me in, and I was sold. It was suspenseful, and adventurous. It was also a great way to be introduced into this world. We’re introduced to the sylph, which are vicious invisible fire breathers that burn anything in their path. Whoa.

2. And then we meet Sam. I LOVE SAM. He might just be one of my favorite YA male characters. Because he’s been reincarnated so many times, he’s extremely smart, talented, and mature. He’s unbelievably caring and considerate. People in this world hate Ana because in order for her to be born, a person had to die and never be reincarnated again. Her birth was a complete mistake, and people resent her not only because she “stole” a life, but because they are worried that more people like her will be born in the future. Sam’s totally not on board with their train of thought, though. He adores her and helps her figure out that she’s worth so much more than her birth mother has been telling her her whole life. And he’s musical. He made me melt a little.

3. I really enjoyed learning about Heart. The walls have a heartbeat. There’s a mysterious temple with no doors that is so tall, you can’t see the top of it. It’s so huge that almost the entire human race lives there. Plus, it’s been there since the beginning of time. The inhabitants of this place said they just stumbled upon it after being born the first time. They think it was given to them by their God, Janan (which is so close to my name. woot!), to protect them from the dangerous beasts of the world.

4. The Masquerade Ball is flat-out one of the most beautiful scenes in the book. The ball is held for two souls who have pledged their undying love for one another across all their incarnations, even if sometimes one of them happens to be 80 and the other one 5. Or… if they both happen to come back as members of the same gender. It’s their souls that matter, not their bodies or age. So they celebrate this ceremony with a masquerade ball, where nobody knows who anyone is dressed as. The goal is for this couple to find each other anyway. What a beautiful underlying message of eternal love knowing no bounds. It’s a breathtaking thought. And wow, this ball was sexy. I’ll leave it at that!

5. The action and suspense! Dragons, Sylph, people out to kill Ana and Sam… SO exciting! I was flipping pages faster than I could read, and had to press the back button on my Kindle to go back. (Anyone else ever do that? Haha.)

6. Music was a HUGE part of this book. Sam’s an amazing musician, and Ana connects with music on the same level I do. Music has always been one of the main elements of my life. It brings out such strong emotions and feelings in me. I connect with it on so many levels, just like she mentions throughout this story. I identified with her so much for this reason.

7. The lyrical writing was gorgeous, but not over the top or flowery. Like I said, I just got it. I don’t want to give away too many details, because it’s something you’ve got to experience on your own.

8. There were no hidden agendas in this book. There were points where the people seem to be very religious and devoted to their God, but this was not preachy at all. I didn’t feel like anything was being shoved down my throat. There were also a few moments that could almost be identified as anti-religious, but again I didn’t feel like the author was trying to sway me one way or another. Remember in my review of Halo when I said that a good author can write a religion without preaching it? This book, unlike Halo, was a good example of an author who handles it without trying to force someone to have an opinion. I really appreciated that.

9. The idea of reincarnation was handled in a very interesting way. These people live, they die. Then they are reincarnated into a new body (male or female) and come back as a grown human in a baby’s body. They come out smart, and with all the memories of their previous lives. It’s a very cool idea, and opens the door for many interesting and well-rounded characters. I loved it.

10. And… I just have to mention the cover. It’s gorgeous. And unlike some book covers, this cover tells so much about the story itself. I’m not going to elaborate on this because I don’t want to spoil anything, but I might just have to buy a hard copy of this book so I can own the cover. I’m a graphic designer, and I really appreciate art that is done for a better reason that to “just look pretty”. This is one of the best examples I’ve seen of a cover that very subtly opens a window to the story. You’ll understand what I mean once you read it.

All in all, read this book! It’s new, it’s fresh, it’s romantic, and it’s pretty much awesome. I can’t wait for the next one!

5 Stars

Cinder by Marissa Meyer (Book Review)

Posted January 3, 2012 by Jana in Book Review, Young Adult Fiction / 51 Comments

Cinder by Marissa Meyer (Book Review)Cinder by Marissa Meyer
Series: The Lunar Chronicles #1
Published by Feiwel and Friends on January 3, 2012
Genres: Dystopia, Retelling, Science Fiction, Steampunk
Pages: 387
Source: Publisher (Netgalley)
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5 Stars

Humans and androids crowd the raucous streets of New Beijing. A deadly plague ravages the population. From space, a ruthless lunar people watch, waiting to make their move. No one knows that Earth’s fate hinges on one girl.

Cinder, a gifted mechanic, is a cyborg. She’s a second-class citizen with a mysterious past, reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister’s illness. But when her life becomes intertwined with the handsome Prince Kai’s, she suddenly finds herself at the center of an intergalactic struggle, and a forbidden attraction. Caught between duty and freedom, loyalty and betrayal, she must uncover secrets about her past in order to protect her world’s future.

Reviews of Cinder are storming the blogosphere right now, in anticipation of today’s release date! They are everywhere! I’m jumping on the “Cinder-lovers” bandwagon and seriously have no idea how to approach this review. Haha! My thoughts feel so unorganized and are conflicting with one another. What can I say that will make my review different? So many people have already covered everything. Oh well! Here goes!

Last year with my first grade class (I taught reading and phonics to a 1st grade class while their other teacher did small group tutoring), we had a fairy tale week and I spent the week reading them different Cinderella picture books. We had a zombie Cinderella, and an Indian Cinderella… and a very modern spin on the story. The kids LOVED it. At the end of the week, we wrote and illustrated our very own Cinderella story called, “Mrs. Bellarella and Miss Janarella.” (I’m Miss Jana, obviously. Mrs. Bell was their other teacher.) The story was absolutely hilarious. Needless to say, I’m pretty familiar with Cinderella, and I was pretty excited to hear about a more “grown-up” retelling. I thought that cyborgs and androids were pushing the envelope a little too far, though. I was SO wrong! I loved how Cinder tied in all the elements of the original story, but put a modern sci-fi spin on it! And even though we’re talking about a dystopian society with cyborgs and aliens, Cinder was still a completely magical fairy tale. :)

I loved Marissa Meyer’s writing style, and very creative imagination! The world she created left me with no questions. The detailed descriptions of the scenery, futuristic mechanics and medicine, people, etc. were captivating to read. I got totally lost. I loved Cinder’s character. She’s a tom-boy mechanic, and has grease stains all over her ALL the time. Her idea of getting dressed up is putting on a shiny new foot, not a glass slipper. She’s spunky, and realistic. She sticks up for herself when it counts, and is not afraid of anything! I pretty much adore the fact that she’s always got her head on straight. Perhaps her internal programming is what keeps her grounded, but she just gets it. She knows what needs to be done, no matter what, and she does it! She lets nothing cloud her judgement. You go, girl! Her quirky android friend/assistant, Iko, is hilarious. She’s a machine, but there’s some kind of glitch in her that makes her more human than most androids. I was enthralled by their story, and really loved reading about their latest projects and schemes.

Prince/Emperor Kai is a little… eh right now. Don’t get me wrong, I like him. It’s just that as the male lead in the story, we don’t know much about him. His conversations with Cinder are mostly small talk, with a few intimate details shared every once in a while. Perhaps he’ll become more rounded in the next three books. I do appreciate that there’s no insta-love. They both know that there’s a connection, but they’re not going crazy about it. Meyer is giving them time to develop their relationship, which we will hopefully be able to see in the next books.

My favorite parts were the hidden Cinderella details, and the awesome futuristic settings and technology. Oh, and the ending is pretty breathtaking as well. Twists and turns keep you guessing until the last sentence. I would have enjoyed seeing a little more character development in Kai. Right now, I’m not seeing what Cinder sees in him. Also, the story takes place in New Beijing, but I never would have known if it had not been continually mentioned. I would have liked more Chinese cultural elements, even futuristic ones. Finally, the ending was a bit too rushed for me, and then I fell off a cliff all of a sudden. I’m hanging by a thread here, wondering how the ending snuck up on me so fast!

Regardless of my tidbits of constructive criticism, I can’t deny how much I loved the story. Sometimes we have to make allowances and just enjoy the ride, forgetting what we would have preferred. Plus, I’m trying to remember that there’s 3 more books in the series! Marissa has plenty of time to turn Emperor Kai into Prince Charming. She has plenty of time to explain more details to me. I kind of like the mystery I’ve been left with. If we were given too much with this book, the others would end up being fluff. I’m sad I have to wait so long for Scarlet (Book #2). I guess that’s the downside of getting ARCs: more time to wait for the next one! Haha!

Oh, and for your pure reading enjoyment, here is the story my class and I wrote together. We illustrated it and had it published, so the kids could order hardback copies if they wanted to. Everyone wanted a special part in the story, so please excuse the MANY names. :) I ran into one of my kids at the grocery store a few weeks ago, and his mom told me that this is his bedtime story every night. Presh! I melted a bit.

Mrs. Bellerella and Miss Janarella

“Once upon a time there was a girl named Mrs. Bellerella, and she really wanted to go to the ball. She had two evil stepsisters named Emily and Lesly and an evil stepmother named Tamaraleen. They were very mean to her. All day long she cleaned up their messes and cooked for them. She spent her free time looking out the windows at the Castle.

Her mouse friends named Alyssa, Morgan, Pamela, Ninel, Paul, Joel, Nathan, Andrew H., and Andrew V. locked up her evil family members so that Mrs. Bellerella could escape to visit her fairy Godmother named Taylee. The fairy Godmother said, “Give this flower to the one you love, and he will love you too! Here’s an extra one, just incase you lose it or want to give one to a friend.” Mrs. Bellerella said, “Thank you! Can you help me make a dress?” The fairy Godmother, Taylee, said, “Yes. We’ll make it out of red and blue roses. Let’s get started!” Her dress was huge and puffy. It was covered with red and blue roses. She had gloves and make-up on and she looked so pretty.

Mrs. Bellerella called her sister, Miss Janarella to go to the castle ball with her. A limo came to pick up Mrs. Bellerella, and then they got Miss Janarella. Miss Janarella’s dress was yellow with yellow roses all over it. On the way to the ball, the limo ran out of gas!! The knights named Ayden, Hunter, Oli, and Gates came and took Mrs. Bellerella and Miss Janarella to the castle on their horses. They got to the ball and danced with princes and lots of boys. They danced with their favorite princes. Mrs. Bellerella danced with Prince Matthew and Miss Janarella danced with Prince Alexander. The princes liked Mrs. Bellerella and Miss Janarella so much that they wanted them to meet their parents, King Leo and Queen Hayley.

Mrs. Bellerella’s evil family broke out of their home and went to the castle to break the spell and steal the magic flowers. Meanwhile, the knights were back at the castle practicing their sword fighting and had to stop and rush to capture the evil stepmother Tamaraleen and the evil stepsisters Lesly and Emily. They saved Mrs. Bellerella and Miss Janarella! The magic flowers were destroyed, but the princes loved Mrs. Bellerella and Miss Janarella anyway. They got married in the front of the castle. They kissed. And they lived happily ever after. Oh, and by the way, they each had two kids who were cousins and liked to play together. The End!!”

5 Stars