Cheri Reviews The Collapsing Empire by John Scalzi

This is my third Scalzi book and he is now solidly my favorite science fiction author. Of course, I’ve not read a load of sci-fi books but, wow, this guy’s style and voice pull me in and won’t let me go.

The Collapsing Empire is the first in a new series that is filled with political intrigue, cool science stuff, personal conflicts, and plenty of bad-ass powerful women. Also very queer-friendly in a matter of fact way.

Here’s the blurb:

Our universe is ruled by physics. Faster than light travel is impossible—until the discovery of The Flow, an extradimensional field available at certain points in space-time, which can take us to other planets around other stars.

Riding The Flow, humanity spreads to innumerable other worlds. Earth is forgotten. A new empire arises, the Interdependency, based on the doctrine that no one human outpost can survive without the others. It’s a hedge against interstellar war—and, for the empire’s rulers, a system of control.

The Flow is eternal—but it’s not static. Just as a river changes course, The Flow changes as well. In rare cases, entire worlds have been cut off from the rest of humanity. When it’s discovered that the entire Flow is moving, possibly separating all human worlds from one another forever, three individuals—a scientist, a starship captain, and the emperox of the Interdependency—must race against time to discover what, if anything, can be salvaged from an interstellar empire on the brink of collapse.

From the prologue straight through to the last word, I was completely engrossed in the story. And Wil Wheaton’s narration is an added bonus. He did a stellar job. I wasn’t even halfway through the book when I already regretted knowing it would end and would be at least another 18 months until the next in the series is due to be released. I console myself with knowing that I’ll have to reread this one before diving into the sequel.

If you’re a science fiction fan, I highly recommend The Collapsing Empire. And if you’ve never really wanted to give the genre a shot, this might be a great launching off point.

You can download a sample or purchase a copy of The Collapsing Empire by clicking here.

Cheri Reviews Edenland by Wallace King


I’m definitely one who enjoys historical fiction. When I saw Edenland listed on NetGalley, I decided to take a chance. Here’s the blurb from Amazon, if you’re interested:

Born a slave, Bledsoe had never left Our Joy plantation, and a daring escape offers his only chance for liberty. On the run he encounters Alice, an Irish indentured servant, committing what appears to be an act of murder as she burns down a shack in the Great Dismal Swamp of North Carolina.

Faced with the threat of capture, Bledsoe and Alice become reluctant allies. An epic tale unfolds as their quest for freedom pulls them from swamp to city, from North Carolina to Virginia. Somewhere between injustice and loss, they discover a hidden place that seems an Eden, where their bond and love are forged.

But the Confederate army is on the march and soon tramples their tenuous freedom. Separated, they are cast into fates they never imagined. Through it all, the hope of deliverance drives them onward and the memory of their Edenland remains, burning bright against the darkness of slavery and the American Civil War.

I had pretty high hopes for this book but they didn’t pan out. I feel like I dredged through each of the 466 pages as if moving through molasses. There were a few entertaining sections, usually having to do with Alice being completely inappropriate or bumbling, but beyond that, the characters moved from place to place, encounter people, conflict ensues, and they’re off again – sometimes together, sometimes apart.

Besides the slowness of the telling, I never felt the chemistry or connection between Bledsoe and Alice. I don’t recall them ever genuinely liking each other or getting along and then, boom, they’re in love. Or maybe just Alice was in love since Bledsoe seemed fairly unfazed by their separation. Regardless, it didn’t feel legitimate to me at all. Neither did the many coincidences that happened throughout.

If you’re looking for a sweeping adventure or action-packed journey through the south during the civil war, this isn’t it. It was interesting to experience what life was like for various types of people during the era but it was a slog for me.

Thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for the opportunity to read and review this one.

If you’re still interested, you can pick it up on Amazon through the Kindle Unlimited program which includes the audible version. The narrator does a good job except I increased the speed because he reads incredibly slowly. Which, of course, didn’t help the slow-moving story…

Corey, Kitty, and Sequella Review Catalyst by Fletcher DeLancey


Sequella: Wow, another sequel in the Chronicles of Alsea already. Amazing! Unfortunately it is still sitting untouched on my eReader.

Corey: What’s wrong with you? I’ve already read Catalyst, re-read Vellmar the Blade, and re-read Catalyst again. Or at least my favorite bits.

Sequella: Show-off! Real life is happening.

Kitty: And some nice alien bits there be. Also, Corey, you sound like a judgmental speed reader.

Corey: But… This is it! The novel that fills in all the adventures of Captain Ekatya Serrado and Dr. Lhyn Rivers out in the Universe while Lancer Tal and Bondlancer Salomen Opah were finding each other in the Without a Front books. And the framing is perfect: The first three days of the Alsean version of a honeymoon (“Alsean bonding break”) for Tal and Salomen in which family share stories –

Kitty: – and everyone avoids explaining to little brother Jaros why Tal’s neck looks like a treecat attacked her.

Sequella: So we get Tal and Salomen time? That makes me want to chuck real life out of the window and start reading immediately!

Corey: Right. Okay. So on one hand, all the shifting relationships amongst Ekatya, Tal, Lhyn, Lead Templar Lanaril Satran, and Lead Guard Vellmar are explored in the moment. On the other hand, Ekatya and Lhyn each share a wrenching story about their lives after the Voloth war described in the first Alsean book The Caphenon. A very early scene in which Ekatya helps Lhyn survive a PTSD-like episode lets us know she experienced something traumatic. And yes, it turns out to be VERY traumatic. Whew.

Sequella: How Sci-Fi is the book. Do we get new races? Societies?

Corey: Some of the tech aspects of FTL travel are explained (and felt), and you definitely get a dose of Space Opera political shenanigans and a military-style raid on a planet. Not so much world-building. I enjoyed the action, but my re-reads were all about the aftermath. So emotionally intense.

Sequella: Is this a book mainly about Ekatya and Lhyn, or is a new couple introduced, like it happens so often in Lesfic?

Kitty: Ahem. Dr. Wells.

Corey: Oh stop it, Kitty. You are so homosexist. Who knows who the ship’s chief surgeon is into? And there’s so much to learn about Ekatya, Lhyn, Tal. Salomen, Lanaril, and Vellmar… who needs new couples? One of my favorite moments is when Salomen points out to Tal that the Lancer doesn’t get to decide how to handle the connection between herself and Ekatya… That is something that involves all four women, including Lhyn. And the tensions between Ekatya and Lanaril are nasty intense. So awkward when your wife’s best friend makes you uncomfortable. Frankly, these books are developing into the ultimate friends-and-lovers-and-tyrees emotional mash-up. I adore it all.

Sequella: What about other kick-ass female characters?

Kitty: Dr. Wells…

Corey: Yes, Dr. Wells. But also so much more Lhyn, who is a warrior in her own way. I craved even more Lhyn. We finally get her perspective, but during such unusual and harrowing circumstances. Really, I wish I knew Ekatya and Lhyn as well as I feel I know Tal and Salomen.

Sequella: So Kitty and Corey, who of you liked the book better? Kitty, how many bookmarks did you place?

Corey: Oh, don’t get her started. Me, I highlighted 20 quotes that just made me squee and bookmarked 6 scenes for their (non-sexual) intensity. Basically, they make me cry or clutch my heart. The first time I read the book, the action sequences carried me along but I came back to re-read the emotions.

Kitty: I bookmarked two make-out scenes.

Corey: Sigh. Is that a spoiler? Bottom line, Sequella, is that life may be happening but you need to pause and go visit Alsea RIGHT NOW.

You can download a sample or purchase Catalyst by clicking here.

Cheri Reviews God of the Internet by Lynn Lipinski


I don’t normally read books about terrorism but one about cyber-terrorism sounded like something I could sink my teeth into. Here’s a copy of the blurb from Amazon, if you want to read it:

When a hacker known as G0d_of_Internet hijacks millions of computers to do the bidding of an Islamic jihadist group, their first act is to disrupt the water treatment systems in Boston, Dallas and Los Angeles. Next, the power grids go down. Is this the start of a digital world war?

The only thing standing between the terrorists and their goal to weaponize the internet is a small band of white hat hackers, including cybersecurity guru Mahaz Al-Dossari and his wife Juliana.

The search is on for a couple hundred lines of code and a global hacker network before they can make good on their ultimate threat to divert money from the world’s banks. But G0d_of_Internet has been tracking their every move. And it’s Juliana, a PR manager lacking in technical skills, who may hold the key to unmasking the hacker.

I just re-read that for the first time since I started the book and I have to say it’s sort of misleading. Particularly who was involved with the white hat hackers and that anyone but the black hat hackers knew what the threats actually were before they happened.

It’s going to be hard to give a complete review of this book without giving spoilers so I’ll have to stick to impressions instead of specifics.

I was pretty involved and happy with the first several chapters. The story was compelling and the characters kept me interested. I made my first prediction as to who G0d_of_Internet was at the 25% mark but figured it was too obvious and looked forward to getting more clues. I thought I’d change my guess a few more times before the real bad guy was revealed. At 52% I was really hoping that my first guess was a drawn out red herring because no other suspects were being brought forth. By 96%, I was thoroughly disgusted by how easy everything fell into place and by the fact that so much had to have been going on for so long and the people closest to the bad guy never had any clue. There is so much I want to say about this but I don’t want to give away anything more. I checked a few minutes ago and this book is getting really good ratings and reviews so maybe it’s just me.

I thought the book had a lot of promise but the overwhelming number of things that didn’t make sense or that were just too easy made me happy to be done with it. I think if someone’s looking for a quick, easy read, this would be fine but anyone looking for a complex plot and characters with depth will be disappointed.

I received God of the Internet from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

You can download a sample or purchase God of the Internet by clicking here.

Sequella, Corey, and Kitty Review Without a Front: The Warrior’s Challenge by Fletcher DeLancey


Kitty: It’s a three-way!

Corey: A review, Kitty. A three-way review.

Sequella: A sequel! Finally! About time after that damn cliffhanger.

Corey: Do we even need to do a synopsis? I cannot imagine anyone jumping into this book without first reading Without a Front: The Producer’s Challenge. But let the record show I sobbed with both happiness and angst almost immediately after tapping open Chapter 1.

Kitty: Oh please let me provide the synopsis! I bookmarked exactly —

Corey: Kitty! You will not give away the number of sexy times in the book. Let the readers discover that on their own.

Sequella: I think Kitty is still sitting in the co-pilot seat waiting for the Lancer.

Kitty: But… neck ridges… and… other ridges…

Corey: Just hush your mouth. Sequella, thoughts on the end to the cliffhanger?

Sequella: Just for the record, cliffhangers should be outlawed and it would have been no problem to end The Producer’s Challenge two or three chapters before it. However, the cliffhanger was a great way to shove the happy couple and me off cloud nine and start kicking some ass. (Them, not me. I was just cheering from the sidelines).

Corey: We’ll be of that generation that says “Remember when we had to wait an entire month for the sequel? Young readers these days get instant gratification, the spoiled brats.” Even then, it was only a download away from our e-readers once released. Did you go through a few recovery steps, Sequella, trying to deal with your reading addiction?

Sequella: Are you asking me how much time I spent on the Chronicles of Alsea website looking for updates or how often I googled Lancer Tal only to come up empty handed?

Corey: Ha! I just kept re-reading the completed books and cursing in Alsean. Anyway, The Caphenon was action-oriented, and Without a Front: The Producer’s Challenge got down to both politics and romance. Without a Front: The Warrior’s Challenge seemed to bring back the action in a fierce way.

Sequella: The sword fighting was awesome!

Corey: Yes! And so much more intimate than the Voloth attacking the entire planet in The Caphenon. I really personalized my hatred of the bad guys in this book.

Kitty: Not ALL of the action centered around hate and swords.

Corey: Yes, Kitty. Now, let’s get down to other important questions. In an earlier review, I declared my caste to be scholar. Sequella, I am guessing you are a crafter?

Sequella: Of course. The caste system is something I like very much about Alsea. I like guessing castes for all people that are never directly mentioned but also part of Alsea. What about the Lancer’s cook or the people flying the public transports?

Kitty: I would be a religious scholar, because I love hearing all those women scream “Oh Fahla” when —

Corey: — when they pray. Ahem. Speaking of which… You know I love me some Lead Templar Lanaril. Who are you most eager for DeLancey to feature in future Alsean books?

Sequella: Ahhh…my favorite question, because that means MORE sequels. Lanaril is definitely someone deserving another story. Also, there is already a hint of another Lhyn and Ekatya story happening between the end of The Caphenon and the end of The Warrior’s Challenge. And the one I am most anxiously waiting for is Vellmar! She is a sword throwing Xena lookalike in my head.

Kitty: Colonel Razine. Someone with such perfect mental control who’s done such dark things for the right reasons, makes me shiver. So much promise for more intrigue with that one, and can you imagine if she ever did let herself give up some control… in the right situation, away from the job… Purr.

Sequella: What did you think about the end of the book? Too shiny and overdone?

Corey: Nope. In fact, I appreciated the time spent with Jaros in the aftermath, as well as with the rest of the Hol-Opah family/community. And Micah’s revelations, too. I was loving the eight whole chapters of reading in the final section; the opposite of a cliffhanger. Very satisfying, particularly because I am expecting many more Chronicles to come.

Sequella: Absolutely! So we agree we all liked it? I got the “stop-reading-rest-your-eyes” warning from my reading app five times. That’s how hard is was for me to put the book down and participate in real life.

Corey: Oh yes! I read so steadily that I had to stop and charge my e-reader even though it advertises “A single charge can last up to six weeks (based on a half hour of reading per day)…” You do the math on how much I read in one day. Kitty, what did you think? Kitty?

Kitty: Leave me alone. I’m checking out my bookmarks.

Sequella: And, last but not least, some survival tips for the looong wait until the next sequel:
1. Reread, starting with The Caphenon. There will be smaller things that you didn’t discover on your first hasty OMG-it’s-so-good read.
2. Check the Ylva site for any announcements about upcoming sequels or maybe a short story in one of their anthologies. You never know, there might be something for your inner Kitty McSaucerton in the next Slippery Folds anthology.
3. Make sure at least one of your friends also read the Alsea books. It’s nice to have someone with whom to discuss your addiction.
4. Read Fletcher’s Star Trek: Voyager fanfiction. It’s perfectly fine to never have watched the TV show. And I can promise you, Lancer Tal is in there waiting to be discovered. She is different from the improved version in the published books, but it’s still nice to visit with her.
5. Are you a writer yourself? Write Alsea fanfiction! This will help you AND us! Make sure you include some nipple clamps for Kitty’s enjoyment.

Corey: Okay, you went there. I’m just going to sit over here, blushing.

Kitty: Purrrrrrrrrr.

You can download a sample or purchase a copy of Without a Front: The Warrior’s Challenge by clicking here.

Corey Reviews Without a Front: The Producer’s Challenge by Fletcher DeLancey


“Corey, are you avoiding posting this book review until after the sequel is published?”

“Maybe?”

“Coward.”

That, folks, is an actual conversation inside my head, because Fletcher DeLancey’s Without a Front: The Producer’s Challenge is both a great novel and a horror of a cliff-hanger. You absolutely should read this novel RIGHT NOW, but please no threats of bodily harm if you finish it before Without a Front: The Warrior’s Challenge is published in late November 2015.

Without a Front: The Producer’s Challenge continues the Chronicles of Alsea that began with the series’ first novel The Caphenon. And yes, you should also read The Caphenon first. Not only is it excellent science-fiction and world-building, but you’ll also want to get to know the main characters and plot lines developing up to Without a Front: The Producer’s Challenge.

Oh I love this book.

Lancer Andira Tal and the people of Alsea are recovering from the psychological and physical damage from fighting off the Voloth, as well as grappling with the profound changes new technologies such as matter printers bring to their society. Lancer Tal faces intrigue within the High Council and hidden pain within her own heart now that Captain Ekatya Serrado and Lhyn Rivers are far across the universe.

I appreciated the return of secondary characters such as Lead Templar Lanaril Satran. As Lanaril reveals more about her beliefs and her intellect and compassion, she’s becoming lodged in my heart. I really hope the author has plans for her by, oh say, book 7 in the series or sooner.

When Salomen Opah of the Producer Caste challenges Lancer Tal to live and work at Hol-Opah in order to better understand the impact of rapid societal changes on ways of life outside the cities, the novel builds a relationship worthy of two very strong and very different women. Of course you will root for them to overcome obstacles, but I must salute the author for creating a real dilemma to their joining.

Nothing annoys me more than silly, flimsy misunderstandings between lead characters… the kind that make you throw up your hands and yell at the page, “Will the two of you just TALK to each other? Geez.” In this novel, the two women’s dilemma is legit. And also the basis of some scrumptious, teasing physical interactions. But still… legit. Oh, just go read the darn book and find out for yourself.

Without a Front: The Producer’s Challenge is not just about the romance, however. A political intrigue plot builds chapter-by-chapter and leads to that cracking great ending. Folks, IT IS WORTH IT. Please, no one hurt Fletcher DeLancey… We want her healthy enough to finish editing the next book in the series. So no reader violence, please, and just enjoy the sexy alien neck ridges. Mmmmm.

You can download a sample or purchase a copy of Without a Front: The Producer’s Challenge by clicking here.