Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Review: The Collapsing Empire by John Scalzi

30078567Title: The Collapsing Empire
Author: John Scalzi
Series: The Interdependency #1 
Source/Format: Borrowed from the Library; Hardcover
More Details: Science Fiction 
Publisher/Publication Date: Tor Books; March 21, 2017

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Synopsis from Goodreads...

The first novel of a new space-opera sequence set in an all-new universe by the Hugo Award-winning, New York Times-bestselling author of Redshirts and Old Man's War...

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.
Going into The Collapsing Empire, I expected to like it based on what I already knew about Scalzi’s ability to tell a compelling story with interesting characters and even more interesting in-book universes. Even with that in mind, I was still surprised by The Collapsing Empire. And I mean that in a good way. It was a relatively quick read and a good story with a number of interesting components. One such detail was the quirky names of the ships. For example: Tell Me Another One and Yes, Sir, That’s My Baby, among others. I'm not kidding, and more than once I found myself thinking that the names sounded like the punchline to a joke when spoken aloud.

There’s a definite difference between Old Man’s War and The Collapsing Empire. The former had more military elements, while the latter focuses heavily on politics, and as the title suggests a collapsing empire. Even so, there was a substantial amount of action and nefarious plotting throughout the book, as well as political maneuvering done by the main characters and those around them.

This book is told from a couple of different perspectives. Each one had something to offer to the plot, which I appreciated. Having the alternating perspectives in different places around the Interdependency contributed to how expansive the story felt. The distances between the characters were sometimes vast, and it drove home the fact that the story took place in an “interstellar empire”. I expected nothing less.

So, the Flow is a thing. It’s integral to the way the Interdependency functions, and is the sole source of travel between the different systems. Yet, there wasn’t much of an explanation for the origins of the Flow, only how it was being used by the Interdependency. However, the mysterious and formerly static nature of the Flow kind of worked, especially when put into context with the events that took place in The Collapsing Empire.

All in all, this was a very good beginning to a new series. I recommend it to fans of space-opera and those who are already familiar with or want to read a book by Scalzi.

Monday, April 23, 2018

Music Monday (42): Tinashe & Kimbra

  • Music Monday is a weekly meme hosted by Lauren Stoolfire at Always Me that asks you to share one or two songs that you've recently enjoyed. For the rules, visit the page HERE 
Breana: Recently, there have been a lot of new albums coming out, and what I’ve been listening to basically consists of almost everything I mentioned in my last music related post. My first pick is Joyride by Tinashe. This is one of my favorite songs from the album and it’s second only to No Drama...

Kimbra’s new album came out last Friday and I’ve been listening to it off and on since. One of my favorite songs is Human. I love the sound of it....

Of course, there are other songs from Primal Heart that I really loved like Top of the World, Like They Do On the TV, and Recovery. With that said, I recommend checking out the whole album particularly if you’re already a fan of Kimbra’s music or are looking for a good place to start…

What are you listening to this week?

Friday, April 20, 2018

The Friday 56 (130) & Book Beginnings: How To Break Up With Your Phone by Catherine Price

The Friday 56 is a weekly meme hosted by Freda's Voice where every Friday you pick a book and turn to page 56 or 56%, and select a sentence or a few, as long as it's not a spoiler. For the full rules, visit the the page HERE
Book Beginnings is a weekly meme hosted by Rose City Reader that asks you to share the first sentence (or so) of the book you're reading.
35209767Synopsis from Goodreads...

Packed with tested strategies and practical tips, this book is the essential, life-changing guide for everyone who owns a smartphone...

Is your phone the first thing you reach for in the morning and the last thing you touch before bed? Do you frequently pick it up "just to check," only to look up forty-five minutes later wondering where the time has gone? Do you say you want to spend less time on your phone--but have no idea how to do so without giving it up completely? If so, this book is your solution. Award-winning journalist Catherine Price presents a practical, hands-on plan to break up--and then make up--with your phone. The goal? A long-term relationship that actually feels good. You'll discover how phones and apps are designed to be addictive, and learn how the time we spend on them damages our abilities to focus, think deeply, and form new memories. You'll then make customized changes to your settings, apps, environment, and mindset that will ultimately enable you to take back control of your life...
Beginning: "It's tempting to think of smartphones as just one more technology in a long list of technologies that have freaked people out. Telegraphs, telephones, radios, movies, television, video games, even books--all caused panic when they were first introduced, and all have turned out to be less harmful than people feared."

56: "Unsurprisingly, ignoring distractions is tiring work, and the less we practice it, the worse at it we become."
Comments: I received How To Break Up With Your Phone by Catherine Price for review, and I have to say that I absolutely loved this book. It was a surprisingly engrossing read that I highly recommend to anyone looking for a book covering the topic of phone use. My beginning comes from chapter 1 instead of the introduction. What are you reading this week?

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

I Watched Jupiter Ascending Again...

Recently, I watched Jupiter Ascending again, and I had some thoughts once the credits started rolling. I just have to mention how awesome those end credits still are, but I digress. Back to those thoughts I mentioned. So, yes, I watched Jupiter Ascending and evaluated my initial perception of the movie, comparing it to when I first saw it in 2015 to how I view it now in 2018. It’s surprising how much of a difference almost 3 years can make. Let me tell you, my opinion is on a whole different spectrum. So it comes down to a very simple question: why is it that I consume and enjoy Jupiter Ascending's specific brand of media? What's the quality about it that brings me back again and again?

The first time I watched Jupiter Ascending, I didn’t really like the movie. There were things about it that I found interesting, and the visuals were stunning to watch on screen. But, it wasn’t my favorite movie and some parts of the dialogue left me scratching my head and wondering why it was a thing. The way the movie is structured had an almost video game quality and the bad guys’ sort of stepped on screen, were dismissed, and never seen again. At the time, I thought it was a little unsatisfying to never have gotten those concrete answers as to what ultimately happened to the antagonists. I also mentioned that the movie would have been better suited in a longer format—or at least given a sequel—to allow more time to develop those interesting story kernels and flesh-out the character backstories into something awesome. Sadly, to date there's no sequel.

Since this is a post about watching Jupiter Ascending again, rewatch it I have. I watched Jupiter Ascending again when it came on TV, went out and bought the DVD, and have watched it twice more since then. Why? Because the movie has not only grown on me, but I’ve also come to appreciate it.

I thought about it for a while while trying to come up with a good analogy to compare it to. I came up with one: comfort food. I realized that Jupiter Ascending is kind of like comfort food, and it's something that I find myself going back to again and again, especially if I need to relax. It’s not a movie with a deep, literary, metaphorical meaning that will positively make me question everything I know about, well, everything. But it doesn’t have to be. And yeah, it’s a little silly but it’s also entertaining. For example, if I’m stressed out the odds of me watching Blade Runner, or Logan’s Run, or something that’s bound to make me cry or add to that stress are next to none. No, if I’m stressed/angry/upset, I want space-werewolf-angels flying around on hover skates, and space DMVs and robot lawyers. I also want beautiful visuals and spaceships that are so extra that parts of them are probably made of gold and marble. In other words: Jupiter Ascending.

That brings me to that aha moment that led to the original thought behind this post: Jupiter Ascending is a specific kind of entertaining fluff. And I like it. There’s something about it that’s highly watchable, and that element has brought me back for a second, third, and even fifth viewing. And I'm sure that I’ll end up eventually watching the movie again. Because, the more I look critically at the types of media I consume regularly, the more I see a pattern to what I watch and when I watch it.

My stance on Jupiter Ascending just proves that opinions can change. I now see the movie from a perspective I never thought I would have. But now that I have it, I don't want to go back. What about you? Has your opinion about something ever changed after any extended length of time?

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

That Post Titled: a.k.a. Everything Is being Released in March and April...

Today, I'm here to talk about music.  Since my last music oriented post (not Music Monday), I've sporadically worked on a new list of recent releases and upcoming albums that I wanted to talk about. This is also going to be a bit of a review/reaction type post, because the excellence is everywhere with these new releases.…

Invasion of Privacy (Cardi B)—I mentioned this one last time, but since this an update post and there has been news, I have to include Cardi B again. I happened to catch part of the iheart music awards when Cardi B announced that the release date for her album. Invasion of Privacy was released on April 6, 2018. And I like it. It met all my expectations for what I was hoping Cardi B's studio album would be. There are a lot of catchy songs on the album and some familiar tracks, i.e. Bodak Yellow and Bartier Cardi. Some of the other songs required a second listen for me to really appreciate the sound and lyrics, but overall, Invasion of Privacy was a strong studio album debut.

Expectations (Hayley Kiyoko)—I did not realize that Hayley Kiyoko was about to release a new album. She is. And there’s no wait because Expectations was released on March 30, 2018. I haven't gone through the whole album yet, but I liked the songs I've already listened to.

Joyride (Tinashe)—Joyride also had an April release date. Out of all the music/albums I'm mentioning today, I was most excited for Joyride. Tinashe has been an artists I've followed off and on over the last couple of years. Then No Drama happened, and my excitment for the album was rampped up by at least ten fold. I don't know what I was expecting, but oh my goodness, the entire album not only met but exceeded my expectations. From the simple intro Keep Your Eyes On The Road, to the sharp and catchy sound of the album's titular song,  to the melodic finish with Fires and Flames, it's a joyride . To date, Joyride is my favorite album by Tinashe.

The Kids Are Alright (Chloe x Halle)—I almost forgot about Chloe x Halle’s debut studio album, The Kids Are Alright. Their song Warrior for A Wrinkle in Time (2018) reminded me about it. The Kids Are Alright was released on March 23, 2018 and it’s worth the listen.  I love the vibe and sound of the entire album. Chloe and Halle's vocal capabilities shined through on tracks like Galaxy, Hi Lo, and all others. I caught their performance during the Coachella livestream over the weekend, and I continue to be impressed by how well they've honed their singing capabilities.

Primal Heart (Kimbra)—Admittedly, I haven’t listened to much music by Kimbra in a while. However, that has changed since I learned that she’s coming out with a new album, Primal Heart, which is set to be released on April 20, 2018. She already released a couple of songs from Primal Heart including: Top of the World, Everybody Knows, Human, and Version of Me. So far, I really dig the sound of those songs and am looking forward to the rest of the album.

Bittersweet Vol. 1 (OSHUN)—Bittersweet was released on April 6, 2018. Adri was the one who introduced me to OSHUN's music, and I discovered that I like their style a lot. So I was pretty excited when I first learned that they were gearing up to release new music. Well, Bittersweet Vol. 1 is out. And I love it. OSHUN's ability to create unique and catchy songs shines through.

Pray For the Wicked (Panic! At The Disco)I admit that I haven't kept up with a lot of Panic! At The Disco's newer music. However, I recently went on a binge-listen where I systematically went through all of their music. Suffice it to say, the hype I feel for Pray For the Wicked is real. The expected release date is June 22, 2018.
So, that's about it for today. I know I’ll do another post like this sooner or later. And I have to say that I’m incredibly excited for the rest of April because there are a couple more albums I'm waiting for. But until then, I have music by Chloe x Halle, Cardi B, Tinashe, and OSHUN to listen to. What music albums are you looking forward to? Or, what new music have you been listening to?

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