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The Collapsing Empire by John Scalzi

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The Collapsing Empire by John Scalzi The Collapsing Empire by John Scalzi
Narrator: Wil Wheaton
Series: The Interdependency #1
Published by Audible Studios on March 21, 2017
Source: Purchased
Genres: Science Fiction
Length: 9 hrs 23 mins
Format: Audiobook
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Our universe is ruled by physics and faster than light travel is not possible -- until the discovery of The Flow, an extra-dimensional field we can access at certain points in space-time that transport us to other worlds, around other stars.

Humanity flows away from Earth, into space, and in time forgets our home world and creates a new empire, the Interdependency, whose ethos requires that no one human outpost can survive without the others. It’s a hedge against interstellar war -- and a system of control for the rulers of the empire.

The Flow is eternal -- but it is not static. Just as a river changes course, The Flow changes as well, cutting off worlds from the rest of humanity. When it’s discovered that The Flow is moving, possibly cutting off all human worlds from faster than light travel forever, three individuals -- a scientist, a starship captain and the Empress of the Interdependency -- are in a race against time to discover what, if anything, can be salvaged from an interstellar empire on the brink of collapse.

The Collapsing Empire is my first Scalzi book, but since it’s the first in a new series in a new world that wasn’t a problem.  I have to say I really enjoyed it. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but it was getting good review and I needed an audio for the Sci-Fi Readathon. Now, I’m a little upset that I have to wait for the next in the series, which, at least according to Goodreads, isn’t expected until 2019. 🙁

The Flow has allowed humans to build a far-flung empire, the Interdependency. The Interdependency is set up so that all the colonies must depend on each other, hence the name. The problem is the flow is changing, moving, becoming inaccessible – outposts will be cut-off, unable to send or receive supplies or people. Eventually, it’s going to be a matter of survival, but now it’s a political issue, one that the brand-new Emperox has to handle.

It’s clearly the first in the series. We get to know the world and some of the major characters. I did like the strong, well-developed female characters, including Cardenia Wu-Patrick, the emperox, the cunning and maybe brilliant Lady Nadashe of a merchant family. I will admit that Lady Kiva Lagos annoyed me a little for her constant use of a choice expletive – I found it a lazy way to tell us she’s tough and unafraid of going against convention.

It’s was funny too, which surprised me a bit. I listened to the audio. Wil Wheaton is the narrator, which is honestly part of the reason I picked it up, but I’m not sure I loved him as the narrator. I can’t put my finger on why, and he was fine, I just never really bought into it. He never disappeared into the story for me, if that makes sense. It wasn’t enough to stop me from listening to other things he narrates, but I certainly won’t seek them out.

Mostly The Collapsing Empire was a lead up to the story. It’s just the start of the chaos to come.

About John Scalzi

John Michael Scalzi II (born May 10, 1969) is an American science fiction author and former president of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. He is best known for his Old Man’s War series, three novels of which have been nominated for the Hugo Award, and for his blog Whatever, where he has written on a number of topics since 1998. He won the Hugo Award for Best Fan Writer in 2008 based predominantly on that blog, which he has also used for several charity drives. His novel Redshirts won the 2013 Hugo Award for Best Novel. He has written non-fiction books and columns on diverse topics such as finance, video games, films, astronomy, writing and politics, and served as a creative consultant for the TV series Stargate Universe.

Reading this book contributed to these challenges:

The Girl with Ghost Eyes by M. H. Boroson

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The Girl with Ghost Eyes by M. H. Boroson The Girl with Ghost Eyes by M. H. Boroson
Narrator: Emily Woo Zeller
Series: Xian Li-lin #1
Published by Audible Studios on February 23, 2016
Source: Purchased
Genres: Historical Fantasy
Length: 9 hrs 51 mins
Format: Audiobook
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It’s the end of the nineteenth century in San Francisco’s Chinatown, and ghost hunters from the Maoshan traditions of Daoism keep malevolent spiritual forces at bay. Li-lin, the daughter of a renowned Daoshi exorcist, is a young widow burdened with yin eyes—the unique ability to see the spirit world. Her spiritual visions and the death of her husband bring shame to Li-lin and her father—and shame is not something this immigrant family can afford.

When a sorcerer cripples her father, terrible plans are set in motion, and only Li-lin can stop them. To aid her are her martial arts and a peachwood sword, her burning paper talismans, and a wisecracking spirit in the form of a human eyeball tucked away in her pocket. Navigating the dangerous alleys and backrooms of a male-dominated Chinatown, Li-lin must confront evil spirits, gangsters, and soulstealers before the sorcerer’s ritual summons an ancient evil that could burn Chinatown to the ground.

With a rich and inventive historical setting, nonstop martial arts action, authentic Chinese magic, and bizarre monsters from Asian folklore, The Girl with Ghost Eyes is also the poignant story of a young immigrant searching to find her place beside the long shadow of a demanding father and the stigma of widowhood. In a Chinatown caught between tradition and modernity, one woman may be the key to holding everything together.

The Girl with Ghost Eyes is an enjoyable read, but I felt like it was straddling the line between YA and adult historical fantasy, which threw me off a little. I can’t put my finger on why it felt like that. Li-lin is not a teenager, she’s in her early 20s, I think, and a widow. So, it’s not her age. There isn’t a love triangle. I listened to the audio, and maybe the writing sounded a bit simple at times and there were definitely repetitive sections. I don’t know. Am I the only one who got that feeling? I listened to the audio and was glad that I did. Zeller brings Li-lin to life, but I also like to hear the Chinese words and phrases, not try to struggle with reading them.

Li-lin is a good character. She is tough and strong and a talented martial artist. She’s also a Daoist exorcist who has ghost eyes, meaning she can see all the spirits, ghosts and monsters that others don’t. But being a woman – and a widow, in Chinatown in the late 1890s is not easy. Her father is mean. I’m sorry, I know the it fits for the cultural and time, but he is condescending to her, does not give her the respect she deserves. The whole time I’m thinking maybe he does truly care about her, just isn’t able to show it, but in the end he totally disappointed me. Maybe that’s part of it, the issues with her dad. He treats her as if she is younger and less experienced than she is and she constantly needs to prove herself. She tends to dwell on things too, which gets a little annoying.

Tongs control Chinatown, but there is conflict between the new ways and the old ways. There’s a power struggle shaping up and the magical power that might be unleashed could destroy hundreds of lives. Of course, it’s up to Li-lin to save the day. I will say the author does not make it easy for her. She has helpers, but not many and she’s forced to make deals that may backfire on her. In some ways though, the constant need for action and fight scenes takes away from the story, at least for me.

I haven’t read many (any?)  fantasy novels that use Chinese folklore as their base, and I really liked that aspect of the novel. I loved the descriptions of the creatures and spirits. I think Boroson did a good job building his Chinatown, giving us a good feel for both the Chinese culture and the immigrang experience.

About M. H. Boroson

M. H. Boroson was obsessed with two things as a young man: Buffy the Vampire Slayer and kung fu movies. He has studied Chinese religion at Naropa University and the University of Colorado and now lives in Denver, Colorado, with his wife and three cats.

Reading this book contributed to these challenges:

Rest You Merry by Charlotte MacLeod

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Rest You Merry by Charlotte MacLeod Rest You Merry by Charlotte MacLeod
Narrator: John McLain
Series: Peter Shandy #1
Published by Audible Studios on November 6, 2012
Source: Purchased
Genres: Mystery, Christmas
Length: 7 hrs 42 mins
Format: Audiobook
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For years, Professor Peter Shandy has been badgered by Jemima Ames, Assistant Librarian and Annual Chairperson, to decorate his campus home for the Grand Illumination which is Balaclava Agricultural College's main fund-raising event. Now he can hold out no longer.

Goaded to madness, he buries his small brick house under an avalanche of plastic reindeer, flashing lights, and fake Santa Clauses. Hooks up an amplifier blaring "All I Want for Christmas is My Two Front Teeth," locks the switches at "on", and escapes to sea on a tramp steamer.

Shipwrecked and conscience-stricken, he crawls back to face his irate colleagues, and finds Jemima Ames dead on his living room floor. Police and security guards say it's an accident; Shandy says it's murder. President Thorkjeld Svenson says he'd better find out the truth without wrecking the Illumination... or the next corpse will be Shandy's.

I had never read anything by Charlotte MacLeod until I read her story in Mistletoe Mysteries a couple of weeks ago. When I was looking for a Christmas mystery that I hadn’t read yet, I ran across Rest You Merry. Since her story in the collection had been fine, not one of my favorites but not one I disliked, and this is the first in a series, I decided to give it a listen. I’m glad I did. Peter Shandy is a great character and the way the holiday tied into the mystery was well-done. I don’t want to spoil anything but the way the murder was covered up was very Christmassy.

I loved the beginning. After being begged for years to decorate his house for the annual celebration/fundraiser, Peter finally does, and goes purposely way overboard and tacky –  and then leaves town. Perfect. Of course, he has to come back and face the (too loud) music earlier than he expected. He  finds a murdered woman in his house.

The mystery was okay. I guessed part of the solution early, but I really liked the reason behind the killings. Also, I love that Arsène Lupin was mentioned, since I just discovered his stories earlier this year.

The characters were my favorite part of the book. Peter is smart and funny and his romantic interest is just a little too perfect for him, but that’s okay. The president of the college kinda feels like a Viking, and most people seem to be reasonably afraid of him. The other professors and staff have their own quirks and habits. I’m actually looking forward to spending more time in this college town.

About Charlotte MacLeod

Charlotte MacLeod, born in New Brunswick, Canada, and a naturalized U.S. citizen, was the multi-award-winning author of over thirty acclaimed novels. Her series featuring detective Professor Peter Shandy, America’s homegrown Hercule Poirot, delivers “generous dollops of…warmth, wit, and whimsy” (San Francisco Sunday Examiner and Chronicle). But fully a dozen novels star her popular husband-and-wife team of Sarah Kelling and Max Bittersohn. And her native Canada provides a backdrop for the amusing Grub-and-Stakers cozies written under the pseudonym Alisa Craig and the almost-police procedurals starring Madoc Rhys, RCMP. A cofounder and past president of the American Crime Writers League, she also edited the bestselling anthologies Mistletoe Mysteries and Christmas Stalkings.

Reading this book contributed to these challenges:

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