This is a little late this week due to the holidays and all the end of the year posts I wrote instead. I got a lot of books off my wishlist this this year and there’s also one review copy. After this, hopefully I can get back to writing reviews since I need to review a lot of books – Cold Fire by Kate Elliott, The Whitefire Crossing by Courtney Schafer, The Exiled Queen by Cinda Williams Chima, Heroes Adfrift by Moira J. Moore, The Shadow Reader by Sandy Williams, and Dark of the Moon by Tracy Barrett. (Eek! I was going to start with Cold Fire but I might start elsewhere to try to catch up faster since that’s going to be one of those books that’s difficult to write about without just going “So Goooood!” over and over again.)

I was surprised to notice quite a few of these are stand alone books. As usual, I’ve included some excerpts and I did actually come across one of these books for free on the author’s site!

Waking Beauty by Paul WitcoverWaking Beauty by Paul Witcover

This is the second time my husband has tried to get this book for me. It’s out of print and can be very expensive, but he finally found me a copy that wasn’t at an unreasonable price. It’s even in hardcover! It sounds very intriguing and I’m really curious about it – dark fantasy that’s supposed to be something different than the usual. There is an excerpt available online.

The road to revenge is a long one. For the Galingales, it reaches far into the past, to the bitter day the Intricatas robbed them of their place at the Court of the Serpent Crown. And far into the future, when they will at last reenter the crystal city, Quoz, in triumph. The journey itself has its pleasures: Cyrus Galingale is about to wed a rare beauty, Rose, who will conceive a son whose destiny will span all the Stations of the Wheel from glittering Quoz to dismal Arpagee. And the journey has its danger: for Cy, like all men, is tempted by the forbidden scents of the Maw, luring him nightly from the Hierarchate to the dark forest of Herwood. Fortunately the wedding that will avenge his family will also keep him safely bound, and therefore free. But unknown to Cy, Quoz is not to be his only destiny, nor Rose his only love. For he was once secretly betrothed to another, a girl thought lost to the indescribable ecstasies of the Maw, a green-eyed beauty called Rumer…

The Highest Frontier by Joan SlonczewskiThe Highest Frontier by Joan Slonczewski

I saw this science fiction novel in Tor’s fall catalog last year at BEA and have wanted to read it ever since. The reviews for it were pretty good and just made me more interested in reading it. Maybe it will be the book to get me out of my SF reading funk!

One of the most respected writers of hard SF, it has been more than ten years since Joan Slonczewski’s last novel. Now she returns with a spectacular tour de force of the college of the future, in orbit. Jennifer Ramos Kennedy, a girl from a rich and politically influential family (a distant relation descended from the famous Kennedy clan), whose twin brother has died in an accident and left her bereft, is about to enter her freshman year at Frontera College.

Frontera is an exciting school built with media money, and a bit from tribal casinos too, dedicated to educating the best and brightest of this future world. We accompany Jenny as she proceeds through her early days at school, encountering surprises and wonders and some unpleasant problems. The Earth is altered by global warming, and an invasive alien species called ultraphytes threatens the surviving ecosystem. Jenny is being raised for great things, but while she’s in school she just wants to do her homework, go on a few dates, and get by. The world that Jenny is living in is one of the most fascinating and creative in contemporary SF, and the problems Jenny faces will involve every reader, young and old.

Dark of the Moon by Tracy BarrettDark of the Moon by Tracy Barrett

I’ve actually already read this one, which was my first book read in 2012! I will be reviewing it in more detail later, but I thought it was rather good. It’s a retelling of the myth of the Minotaur the way it could have been were it a (nearly) plausible tale that grew in the telling. It alternates between the perspective of Ariadne and Theseus. Despite the hints in the blurb, it doesn’t really become a tale of romance, which I thought was a refreshing change of pace. An excerpt is available online.

Ariadne is destined to become a goddess of the moon. She leads a lonely life, filled with hours of rigorous training by stern priestesses. Her former friends no longer dare to look at her, much less speak to her. All that she has left are her mother and her beloved, misshapen brother Asterion, who must be held captive below the palace for his own safety.

So when a ship arrives one spring day, bearing a tribute of slaves from Athens, Ariadne sneaks out to meet it. These newcomers don’t know the ways of Krete; perhaps they won’t be afraid of a girl who will someday be a powerful goddess. And indeed she meets Theseus, the son of the king of Athens. Ariadne finds herself drawn to the newcomer, and soon they form a friendship—one that could perhaps become something more.

Yet Theseus is doomed to die as an offering to the Minotaur, that monster beneath the palace—unless he can kill the beast first. And that “monster” is Ariadne’s brother . . .

Waking the Moon by Elizabeth HandWaking the Moon by Elizabeth Hand

This is another author I’ve wanted to read for a while, and I thought this particular book by her sounded very interesting to me. My husband also found me this one in hardcover and signed as well. It’s another out of print book I’ve had on my wishlist for awhile!

It begins in a strange place in the heart of Washington, D.C. – the University of the Archangels and St. John the Divine, with its brooding shrines, its gleaming towers, and its imposing halls guarded by androgynous stone angels. Until Katherine Sweeney makes the wrong discovery. One evening, opening a door in one of the Divine’s ancient towers, Sweeney learns what she was never supposed to know – that the university is controlled by a clandestine order, the Benandanti, which secretly manipulates every government, every church, every institution in the world, and has done so since long before the Fall of Rome.

The Chains That You Refuse by Elizabeth BearThe Chains That You Refuse by Elizabeth Bear

I’m not normally a big fan of short stories, but Elizabeth Bear is one of those authors whose books I just want to read. I don’t care what it is – if her name is on the cover, I want to read it! Her writing is beautiful and I’m curious to read some of her shorter fiction. I have a feeling I’ll find her short fiction more to my liking than most just because I do love her prose style so much.

A new collection by one of the most popular and prolific authors of the last few years covers a wide range of material, from time travel to cyberpunk to contemporary fantasy. Twenty stories and two poems, originally published in high profile places like and Asimov’s.

The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae CarsonThe Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson

It’s another book I’ve wanted to read the more I’ve seen it reviewed. It’s the start to a trilogy and the next two books will be coming out in fall 2012 and fall 2013. And I also just saw that Megan Whalen Turner and Cinda Williams Chima both are quoted on the authors website saying good things about this book. Oh, and one of the other authors compared it to both Kristin Cashore and Megan Whalen Turner! Now I’m even more eager to read it!

An excerpt is available.

Once a century, one person is chosen for greatness.

Elisa is the chosen one.

But she is also the younger of two princesses, the one who has never done anything remarkable. She can’t see how she ever will.

Now, on her sixteenth birthday, she has become the secret wife of a handsome and worldly king—a king whose country is in turmoil. A king who needs the chosen one, not a failure of a princess.

And he’s not the only one who seeks her. Savage enemies seething with dark magic are hunting her. A daring, determined revolutionary thinks she could be his people’s savior. And he looks at her in a way that no man has ever looked at her before. Soon it is not just her life, but her very heart that is at stake.

Elisa could be everything to those who need her most. If the prophecy is fulfilled. If she finds the power deep within herself. If she doesn’t die young.

Most of the chosen do.

The Night Circus by Erin MorgensternThe Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

I kept hearing this was THE book to get at BEA, but I missed it because I went to see some authors talk instead. Since then, I’ve just been hearing more and more good things about this book.

An excerpt is available.

The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. It is called Le Cirque des Rêves, and it is only open at night.

But behind the scenes, a fierce competition is underway—a duel between two young magicians, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood expressly for this purpose by their mercurial instructors. Unbeknownst to them, this is a game in which only one can be left standing, and the circus is but the stage for a remarkable battle of imagination and will. Despite themselves, however, Celia and Marco tumble headfirst into love—a deep, magical love that makes the lights flicker and the room grow warm whenever they so much as brush hands.

True love or not, the game must play out, and the fates of everyone involved, from the cast of extraordinary circus per­formers to the patrons, hang in the balance, suspended as precariously as the daring acrobats overhead.

Written in rich, seductive prose, this spell-casting novel is a feast for the senses and the heart.

The Element of Fire by Martha WellsThe Element of Fire by Martha Wells

The great thing about discovering The Cloud Roads by Martha Wells is that she has a lot of older books that I can now go back and read! I’ve heard this one is pretty good so I’m excited to read both this and the copy of Wheel of the Infinite I got recently. It’s a stand alone book although it is set in the Ile-Rien world like The Death of the Necromancer and The Fall of Ile-Rien series.

Martha Wells has excerpts from all her books on her site, but I just found this entire book is actually available to read for free on her website!

The kingdom of Ile-Rein lies in peril, menaced by sorcerous threats and devious court intrigues. As the weak King Roland, flattered and misled by treacherous companions, rules the country, only his ruthless mother, the Dowager Queen Ravenna, guards the safety of the realm. But now rumors arise that Urbain Grandier, the dark master of scientific sorcery, has arrived to plot against the throne. And Kade, bastard sister of King Roland, appears unexpectedly at court. The illegitimate daughter of the old king and the Queen of Air and Darkness herself, Kade’s true desires are cloaked in mystery. Is she in league with the wizard Grandier? Or is she laying claim to the throne?

It falls to Thomas Boniface, Captain of the Queen’s Guard and Ravenna’s former lover, to sort out who is friend, who is foe in a deadly game to keep the Dowager Queen and the kingdom she loves from harm. But is one man’s steel enough to counter all the magic of fayre?

Dreams of the Compass Rose by Vera NazarianDreams of the Compass Rose by Vera Nazarian

This is another book I’ve wanted to read for a while after enjoying Lords of Rainbow by the same author. It sounds like my type of book to me.

The Compass Rose universe-an ancient milieu where places have no names, cities spring forth like bouquets in the desert, gods and dreams walk the scorching sands in the South, ice floats like mirror shards upon the Northern sea, islands that do not exist are found in the East, death chases a thief on the rooftops of a Western city, immortal love spans time, and directions are intertwined into one road we all travel….

You come to this place when you wonder, and sometimes, only when you dream.

What is the nature of evil?

When a young warrior of a dark race finds himself bound in servitude to a beautiful cruel princess, his loyalty becomes entwined with something more horrifying and mysterious than endless night falling over the ancient desert.

When a courageous young servant reveals her hidden wisdom to the madman conqueror of the world, her fate is joined to a nightmare suspended beyond death and outside the universe.

Two souls from different times-their destinies connected through hundreds of other lives and generations, through soft whispers of the wind, through ancient truths that lie buried in an island between worlds.

Both souls enslaved through dream and desire in an endless conflict between truth and illusion.

They can only be set free by the wonder of the Compass Rose.

Jaran by Kate ElliottJaran by Kate Elliott

Discovering Kate Elliott’s new series this year has the same bonus as the discovery of Martha Wells’ new book – she also has a rather large backlist of books! I wasn’t sure where to start but I remember hearing Jaran was good so I decided to start there. The way Kate Elliott describes them on her site makes me think I made the right choice – Genghis Khan meets Jane Austen. I can deal with that.

There are 4 books in this series: Jaran, An Earthly Crown, His Conquering Sword, and The Law of Becoming.

The first book in Kate Elliott’s acclaimed Jaran series-the groundbreaking story of a young woman coming of age on an alien planet…and her effect on the human race’s survival.

The Shadow Reader by Sandy WilliamsThe Shadow Reader by Sandy Williams

This is a debut and the first book in a new urban fantasy series, McKenzie Lewis.  The next book, The Shattered Dark, will be out next November. I’d been hearing good things about it and was also curious since it was a series about the fae, my favorite group that tends to appear in urban fantasy. Then I saw the cover quote by Seanan McGuire and was completely sold on reading it now. It’s another book I’ve already read and hope to review soon. As a quick preview, it was a very fast-paced entertaining read so I can see why people are talking about it. But, personally, I had a few reservations that kept me from being super excited about it even if I did find it very readable. I’m undecided on whether or not I’ll read the next. It is a fun book that did some things very well (like how it portrayed both sides of the fae war) and since it is a first novel I may give the series another chance.

An excerpt is available on the author’s site.

There can only be one allegiance.
It’s her time to choose.

Some humans can see the fae. McKenzie Lewis can track them, reading the shadows they leave behind. But some shadows lead to danger. Others lead to lies.

A Houston college student trying to finish her degree, McKenzie has been working for the fae king for years, tracking vicious rebels who would claim the Realm. Her job isn’t her only secret. For just as long, she’s been in love with Kyol, the king’s sword-master—and relationships between humans and fae are forbidden.

But any hope for a normal life is shattered when she’s captured by Aren, the fierce and uncompromising rebel leader. He teaches her the forbidden fae language and tells her dark truths about the Court, all to persuade her to turn against the king. Time is running out, and as the fight starts to claim human lives, McKenzie has no choice but to decide once and for all whom to trust and where she ultimately stands in the face of a cataclysmic civil war.

Heroes At Risk by Moira J. MooreHeroes at Risk by Moira J. Moore

This is the fourth book in the Lee and Taro series (or Source and Shield or Heroes or whatever it’s called since I’ve seen it called many names – I’m sticking to what the author’s site says though). The third one is on the “to-review” list since I read it a while ago when I just needed a light, fun book to read. It’s a fun series.

Shield Lee Mallorough and her Source Shintaro Karish have returned to High Scape. It’s bad enough the townspeople are robbing tombs for ashes to use in ritualistic magic. It gets worse when they start to murder the living for their remains.

Heroes Return by Moira J. MooreHeroes Return by Moira J. Moore

This is book 5 in the Lee and Taro series. I was so sad to hear these are going to be discontinued by their publisher recently. I blame the cheesy covers.

Being a hero is a recession-proof job-from the author of Heroes at Risk.

The Emperor has personally selected Shield Lee Mallorough and Source Shintaro Karish to protect the duchy of Westsea-Taro’s ancestral lands. But Westsea is suffering from deadly earthquakes that resist Lee and Taro’s magic and political unrest that is stoked by their arrival.

Heroes At Odds by Moira J. MooreHeroes at Odds by Moira J. Moore

This is book 6 in the Lee and Taro series so now I have the whole series. Well, the whole series that is out now. Moira J. Moore will be finishing the series and making it available on her website.

Shield Lee Mallorough and Source Shintaro Karish are steadfast in their commitment to protect Westsea no matter what disaster-natural or man- made-may befall it. But before our heroes can discern why so many people are suddenly interested in gaining control of Westsea, Lee’s family arrives with some startling news. Long before she was trained as a Shield, she was betrothed as part of an alliance with another merchant clan-and her “fiancé” is determined to see Lee fulfill her contract…

Dark Victory by Michele LangDark Victory by Michele Lang

On to the review copy… This is the second book in the Lady Lazarus trilogy, following Lady Lazarus. It will be available on January 17.

I was a little surprised to see this one show up since I did read and review Lady Lazarus, which wasn’t really my type of book. I really liked the idea of a historical fantasy based on Jewish Book of Raziel and the author’s family’s history as Holocaust survivors. As I read more I just grew tired of it, though, and this is one where I thought the premise was much better than the actual book.

Magda Lazarus was a reluctant witch until the dire threat of Nazi Germany convinced her to assume the mantle of her family’s ancient powers. But though this young, beautiful Jewish woman has fought off Hitler’s SS werewolves and the demon who would rule through the Führer, she has been unable to prevent the outbreak of World War II.

As long as Magda can summon spirits, there is still a chance to save people from the dire threat of the Holocaust. Her family’s guardian angel, Raziel, stands beside her in the battle against the human and supernatural forces of evil arrayed against her people and all of Europe.

In Michele Lang’s Dark Victory, as the Nazis prepare to invade Poland, Magda and her beloved Raziel marshal their own army, a supernatural force that will battle Hitler’s minions to the death…or beyond.