Posts Tagged ‘Slump Slayer’

CollapsingEmpire-US-UK

The Collapsing Empire is the first in a new space opera series from well-known sci-fi genius John Scalzi, and I’m happy to say that it was a totally fun “first Scalzi” for me!

Thoughts :

By the time I got to sit down with The Collapsing Empire, I’d read enough reviews to understand the main points of the worldbuilding—but even if I hadn’t, Scalzi manages a certain breezy, entertaining way of explaining the impossible. He thunks readers into the middle of a mutiny and interrupts it with the even more drastic problem that the rest of the universe will have to face during the novel: the collapse of the only known method of space travel. The mutinous crew has to deal with the issue right then, or die.

Blamo! Sufficient explanation for the next several chapters without any painful info dumps.

That easy understanding is important, since the really absorbing puzzle of the book turns out to be tracking character agendas that will involve all this delicious worldbuilding.

Here’s a quick summary of said worldbuilding:

Space-age humanity has discovered a unique means of travel across huge stretches of the universe: the Flow. The Flow is an extra-dimensional field that transports spacecraft across distances that would otherwise be impossible, without fast-than-light space travel; naturally, humanity took advantage, using the Flow to build up an empire known as “The Interdependency”—interdependent because each settlement along the flow relies on each other’s resources to survive. But what happens to the Interdependency when the Flow begins to collapse, isolating each individual and dependent member of the body from each other?

That’s the question Scalzi’s cast is determined to answer. Several of the power players aim to profit from the misfortune and others just want to save lives. The major players all come from rich noble houses, overseen by a powerful “emperox.” (Yes, with the rise of the Interdependency came also the return of a caste system, and we learn later about its origins. It’s pretty disturbing. [Highlight to view SPOILER: Monopolies corrupted the government who anesthetized the common man with bunk religion and accepted the proceeds of $ and power without a blink. These elements seem a common enough in sci-fi backstories, which is understandable. Big companies, big government and organized religion all hold a lot of control over the common man, so when they get in bed, bad things happen…]) We meet the faces of three of these houses: the emperox of the universe from the most powerful House of Wu; the shipping queen of the entrepreneurial House of Lagos; and the three power-grabbing siblings of competitive House of Nohamapetan.

We enter the story just prior to the death of the current emperox—and just following the death of that emperox’s heir. This unfortunate double-dip of death leaves Cardenia, the emperox’s unprepared second child, in charge of the universe. Cardenia’s scenes largely consist of info dumps which, though humorous and easily digestible, usually left me eager to get back to the other two houses.

In contrast, Lady Kiva Lagos kept me in fits of mirth throughout the book; this mercantile heroine always manages to swing a profit despite House Nohamapetan’s threats to her product. I thoroughly enjoyed her clever machinations during this first power drama of the Flow’s collapse.

House Nohamapetan’s representatives—three siblings of differing personalities, but one overarching goal of enriching and empowering their house—prove no less enterprising. I almost found myself respecting these proactive backstabbers. Almost. There’s so competent, they even keep lady Kiva on her toes.

All of the female characters, excepting slightly the emperox, do seem to have shades of the exact same personality, which is slightly uninteresting. (One character quirk that most reviewers mention is Lady Kiva’s singular and somewhat repetitive talent for transposing the f-bomb to every purpose. Complimenting someone by saying “She’s smart as ****” or telling her mother “I ****ing love you” are some of the less clever examples of said habit Lol.) But every character has strong motivations that keep things moving along quite nicely, and their motivations clearly mark them out from one another.

Overall :

I really enjoyed The Collapsing Empire. Despite missing the character connections that would make it more meaningful to a character-driven reader like me, I love the political games and the unique setting and I’m totally game for book II. I can’t wait to see how the conflict plays out!

Recommended To :

Although I’m less familiar with sci-fi as some reviewers, I can confidently say that The Collapsing Empire is a rare example of extremely fast-paced and entertaining sci-fi, so I highly recommend it to readers looking for that sort of ride.

 

Characters: 2.5/5
Plot: 4.5/5
Setting: 4.5/5
Writing: 4/5

****4/5 STARS

The Collapsing Empire is adult sci-fi authored by John Scalzi and published March 21st 2017 by Tor Books. 336 pages. The opinions I share are completely my own and in no way compensated for by publishers or authors.

MoonCalled

“I am a walker. The term is derived from ‘skinwalker,’ a witch of the Southwest Indian tribes who uses a skin to turn into a coyote or some other creature.”

About :

Mercedes “Mercy” Thompson runs a Volksvagen garage in Washington and keeps largely to herself. She’s a “walker,” a magical shapeshifter, and she can slip easily into the form of a coyote. Her brand of shapeshifting remains a secret from almost everyone; only the Fae have revealed themselves to the mundane world, and they bear the brunt of significant persecution. As a result, the werewolves, vampires and other supernatural spooks stay underground—and Mercy prefers to do the same. It’s just easier.

But Mercy’s connections with the local magical presence are finally coming around to “bite” her. When a runaway werewolf appears in her garage asking for a temporary position, Mercy gives him a job and hooks him up with the local werewolf pack leader, Adam, who is also her sexy neighbor. But somebody is looking for the runway—and they don’t mind confronting Mercy or Adam to do it. Walker and werewolf race the clock to find the man behind the mystery before more innocents suffer. Moon Called is Paranormal Romance/Urban Fantasy written by Patricia Briggs and published January 31st 2006 by Ace.

Thoughts :

I picked up the first of the Mercy Thompson series because I’ve been wanting to get a better feel for Urban Fantasy, and Niki over at The Obsessive Bookseller told me it was a great place to start. (Thanks Niki! 🙂 ) I also love reading about Native American cultures, so of course I had to start with this series. It sucked me in immediately with the introduction of the runaway and, no joke, the “inciting incident” made me cry! (I’m totally a crier 😋)

Because the cast of this first installment remains relatively small, readers easily get to know everybody. In Mercy we find both a pleasant person and a decent heroine—hardworking and easy to like, lacking gimmicks to rub readers the wrong way. I do wish she had some chick friends (although I like all her guy friends, too). But I enjoyed hearing about her Native family history and how her father was a Walker.

I listened to Moon Called alongside reading an eARC of Melissa F. Olson’s Midnight Curse, so it was fun to compare the two books as I get to know the genre:

Midnight Curse has a stronger mystery element than Moon Called and I enjoyed guessing at the twists. Midnight Curse’s characters also really got to me, as evidenced in my IMPASSIONED REVIEW, haha. But the romance arc kept me from loving Midnight Curse or wanting to continue that particular series (although I’ll definitely consider trying a future new series by this talented author).

As for Moon Called, I just plain liked everything about it! Although nothing blew me away in this first installment (it is a first installment, after all, and only 288 pgs), nothing repelled me either, and Briggs develops the worldbuilding impressively well for such a short volume. It thoroughly introduces the werewolf world, and I’m looking forward to exploring more. (The second book sounds like it might tackle the vampires.) Although I didn’t follow the mystery as well, that could be in part due to the nature of the audio experience. I prefer a book like this as my intro to a series, I think.

And the thing that topped off Moon Called, for me, is the great narrator, Lorelei King. I’m always amazed when one narrator can pull off a whole cast so well.

Overall :

I enjoyed pretty much everything about this short and sweet audiobook. I actually felt rested after finishing it. Just something nice and fast with a fun world to inhabit for a few hours. I’m definitely planning to continue the series.

Plot: 3 Stars
Characters: 3.5 Stars
Worldbuilding: 4.5 Stars
Audio: 5 Stars

****4/5 STARS

Recommended To :

Anyone looking for a quick start to a new Paranormal Romance/Urban Fantasy series. I would say this tends more towards the “paranormal romance” side of the spectrum, although the romance is largely a background element of this first installment; but the romantic tensions swirl beneath the surface of Mercy’s interactions with the two male werewolves in her life. So if that sounds like fun, I bet you’ll enjoy Moon Called!

shattered-blue

About :

After her older sister is killed in a terrible accident, Noa struggles through her classes in a prestigious California prep school. She relies on her friends to survive; her parents grieve too hard for their lost daughter to give their living daughter the kind of companionship she so suddenly and violently lacks.

Enter Callum Forsythe, the new high school hottie. Noa feels the sparks between them almost immediately. But even as Callum seemingly-reluctantly reciprocates her attentions, he explains why their relationship will be difficult: he is Fae, banished to her world where he must feed off human Light to survive.

And that’s only the beginning of their troubles. Shattered Blue is YA Paranormal/Fantasy/Romance authored by Lauren Bird Horotwitz and published September 15th 2015 by Skyscape. Paperback, 336 pages. It won several awards and honors including 2016 Independent Publishers’ (IPPY) Silver Medal for Young Adult Fiction, as well as Finalist honors in the 2016 USA Book Awards for  Best New Fiction and Best New Fantasy, the 2016 Next Generation Indie Book Awards for Best Young Adult Fiction, and the 2016 International Book Award for Best Fantasy

I KNOW IT SOUNDS LIKE TWILIGHT, but hang on a sec!

If you think you know what happens in Shattered Blue when you read the summary, I guarantee you’ll be surprised. If you’ve ever enjoyed a YA paranormal love story, I recommend checking this one out—and for more reasons than just that GORGEOUS cover.

Thoughts :

After two DNFs, Shattered Blue was the perfect pick-me-up. I kept hearing about it on Socially Awkward Bookworm and The Worn Bookmark , but I hadn’t quite decided to order it for my library until I saw Renegade Red (book #2) pop up on Netgalley—I knew it was a sign! I ordered Shattered Blue immediately and it came in the mail on the very day I DNFed Crossroads of Canopy.

I devoured it.

Horowitz weaves a fully-formed Fae mythology into Shattered Blue. Several orders of Fae live in Faerie and their politics rumble through all the way through the “portal” to the human realm.

‘Use and Let Use,’ he proclaimed. ‘Fae Power without bias.’”

In a such fast-paced YA paranormal, this level of worldbuilding is completely entertaining. I was never bored.

The Fae magic system also personally affects Callum and Noa as they navigate their relationship: whenever Callum touches her, her Light flows into him. This roadblock adds even more tension and intrigue to the human-Fae relationships in the book!

And there’s more good news: Shattered Blue is full of emotional truths, especially regarding grief and love. When Noa’s older sister Isla dies, the whole family grieves in individual ways. Noa has strong, meaningful relationships with her family, especially her little sister, Sasha, but her grief over her Isla’s death sometimes stains even those precious Sasha-moments:

It suddenly struck Noah how awful it would be to lose a sister at Sasha’s age, like Callum had. A different kind of awful from losing someone like Isla, who was a person fully formed.”

The prose is also beautiful and poetic. Throughout the book, we get poems like this first stanza of Noa’s poem “Mermaid Hearts”:

We’re swift in currents.
Down spiny sprays of kelp we dive,
Run hands through leaves to hunt
for snails and sapphires.”

I admit, I have a soft-spot for atmospheric coastal stories (I loved Twilight as a young adult), especially set on the CA coast. Because spoiler alert I live there, haha. But isn’t that beautiful? Horowitz dazzled me with her poetic prose and free form poetry throughout the book.

Shattered Blue is also appealingly plot-driven, delivering regular twists to the romance and other plot arcs. Little mysteries or dramas pop up constantly throughout the story, set against the backdrop of Noa’s school or Noa’s home, and most of them have to do with discovering Faerie.

I slammed the request button for book II as soon as I finished Shattered Blue because *dances* I CAN’T TELL YOU WHY but I CAN’T WAIT to find out more about the Fae realms! And in book II, I have a very good feeling that we will!

Nay-sayers will find a few things to complain about, although I hardly feel like mentioning them after enjoying such an immersive experience!

However: (1) It does have that creepy Edward-watches-and-EVER-PROTECTS-Bella thing going on, and I don’t know if that’s just a ya trope or a paranormal trope or what, but it’s a little weird. (2) The focus never really lands on Noa’s female friendships. In fact, her best friend Olivia is mainly used as a plot device.

Overall:

A genre-perfect read. Gorgeous prose, emotional complexity, speedy plotting and absorbing twists on Fae mythology make this one of the best ya paranormal fantasies I’ve read in a long time.

Recommended To :

I think any fans of ya paranormal, especially of the Fae variety, will love Shattered Blue. If you need a beach read or a book to pull you out of your book slump, I recommend this one. If you liked Twilight, I think you’ll love this.

*****5/5 STARS