Earlier this year, I attended Book Expo America and the first Book Blogger Convention in New York City.  It was a lot of fun getting to meet a lot of people who also love to read and learning about new and forthcoming books.

Recently, I was invited to be a panelist on the Practical Challenges of Blogging session at next year’s Book Blogger Convention.  It’s now official that I’ll be attending Book Expo America and The Book Blogger Convention and joining the panel in 2011.  I’m looking forward to going back!

This week’s post will be short, I’m afraid. I’ve been sick all weekend and haven’t really felt up to doing much until just a couple of hours ago.  The good news is that means I’ve gotten some reading done – I finished Midsummer Night by Freda Warrington (and loved it) and started The Folding Knife by K. J. Parker (which is awesome so far).

This week brought three review copies.  My husband also gave me a copy of a book we already had and have both read already since he searched for signed copies on Alibris, but it turned out it wasn’t signed when he got it. It’s a pretty popular book that I imagine most of you know about and I’m hurrying to get this up since I should go to bed soon so I won’t post a description, but it is a hardcover copy of Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman.  He was all disappointed about not getting the right book so he just gave it to me after he got it (since he looked up the signed copies after that and couldn’t find any that were not too expensive).

Secrets of the SandsSecrets of the Sands by Leona Wisoker

This is the first book in the Children of the Desert series.  It’s not a book I’ve heard a lot about, but after looking it up I saw it the reviews seemed to be very positive so I’m excited about reading it.

Read Chapter One

A thief chooses the wrong victim.

A desert lord abandons his lands.

A young woman accepts a stewardship.

They all find their destinies on the sands.

Idisio cuts the wrong purse and finds himself bound to serve a desert lord who just gave up his wealth, his lands, and his name to wander. His new master is the lone survivor of a massacred family and might be insane, but serving him is better than life on the streets.

Lady Alyea accepts the king’s mission to assume stewardship of the desert lord’s abandoned fortress. But the southern desert is a harsh world of violence, suspicion, and politically tangled family clans who worship the old gods. All her courtly manners are useless as she struggles to gain status in a deadly race for a prize she doesn’t fully understand.

Out on the sands, the harsh glare of the sun reveals more about the world–and themselves–than they ever wanted to know.

Guardians of the DesertGuardians of the Desert by Leona Wisoker

This is the second book in the Children of the Desert series so I’ll have it around for after I finish Secrets of the Sands.  This novel will be available in March 2011.

Read Chapter One

Lord Alyea of Peysimun grows into her strength
Deiq of Stass confronts his greatest weakness
Lord Eredion of Sessin tries to live with his compromises

Meanwhile, someone plots a brutal retaliation…

Not long ago, Alyea Peysimun was a shallow young noblewoman maneuvering for personal power. Her first attempt at politics proved far more dangerous than she dreamed possible, and nearly ended her life. Now she is a desert lord, one of the powerful, little-understood southern elite. But power changes everything–including who to call friend and

Deiq of Stass has long hidden his dual heritage by passing himself off as a mysterious quasi-noble. He has a facility for lying and a strange sense of ethics; but he’ll honor his promise to guide Alyea into her new life. To uphold that commitment, he must navigate more obstacles than even he could imagine–not least those within himself.

Eredion Sessin is the only desert lord who stayed in Bright Bay during King Ninnic’s reign. He endured the worst of the insane king’s excesses and helped to remove Ninnic from the throne; his guilt over the people he couldn’t save is almost as deep as his self-loathing. He has come to hate all the ha’reye represent. And yet something deeper than loyalty binds him to Deiq, who he knows better than to trust.

As the truth of the ancient, mysterious ha’reye begins to emerge and those who oppose their ways marshal new strategies, the repercussions of Scratha’s desperate gambit threaten to destroy a precarious balance that has held since the Split. And this time, there’s no turning back.

The Shadow of the SunThe Shadow of the Sun by Barbara Friend Ish

This is a debut novel by an author with a lot of editing experience.  It’s the first book in the Way of the Gods series and will be available in February 2011.  The second book, War-Lord of the Gods, will be published in Spring 2012.

Fantasy involving gods tends to intrigue me so I’m pretty curious about this one, too.

Read Chapter One

A Man Cannot Deny the Gods

Ten years ago, Ellion violated a sacred rule of magic and brought tragedy on his family. Forced to abandon his throne, exiled from the holy Aballo Order of wizards, and severed from his patron goddess, he swore never to work magic again. He retreated into music and a bard’s footlose existence: living in other men’s kingdoms, singing of other men’s victories.

A Man Cannot Escape Destiny

But then the ard-righ, the king of kings, is murdered in an act of insurrection by a rogue wizard who follows the old gods. As the human nations teeter on the verge of chaos and civil war, Ellion tries to slip even farther away to the Tanaan realms, only to discover that they are threatened by the same enemy.

A Man Cannot Hide from the Shadow of the Sun

Now Ellion finds himself the protector of Letitia: a Tanaan princess, daughter of one of the greatest Tanaan heroines, and unwitting key to a great arcane mystery. Pursued by the rogue wizard’s minions, enticed by gods he was taught to forswear, challenged by his former mentor, and tempted by the most enchanting woman he has ever encountered, Ellion must battle his faith, his vows, and the darkness his soul yearns to tap as he races to unravel the secret of the rogue’s power: the Shadow of the Sun.

It seems like interesting book-related news keeps coming in droves…  I was thrilled to see two authors whose books I really enjoy mention they had some new book deals, plus I’ve seen some giveaways that look pretty good recently too.

N. K. Jemisin, author of The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms and The Broken Kingdoms, has sold her Dreamblood duology to Orbit (who is also publishing the books in her Inheritance trilogy).  I’m very intrigued – partially because I loved the two books that are now out in the Inheritance trilogy and because of what N. K. Jemisin said about them in her announcement:


The setting was born from my longtime fascination with ancient Egypt, and the magic system from my longtime fascination with Freudian dream theory and Jung’s ideas about the collective unconscious.

Egypt, Freudian dream theory, and Jung’s ideas about the collective unconscious? Sounds fascinating!

You know how Seanan McGuire just sold a new series?  Well, she has also sold two more books in her October Daye series!  That is now a total of seven books in the series that are going to be released.  Books six and seven are called Ashes of Honor and The Chimes at Midnight.  (I just love her books’ titles – they are beautiful!)

On to some of the giveaways I’ve seen:

Writer Unboxed has a short interview with Juliet Marillier and they are giving away two hardcover copies of Seer of Sevenwaters.  It is open internationally but I don’t see anything saying when exactly the deadline is.

Tor is giving away two mystery boxes.  I’m assuming it’s full of books, but I’m kind of hoping for another dimension containing a mansion with a huge library, a room full of treasure, and a vault full of cash…  It’s quite tantalizing, not knowing exactly what’s in it.  (Open to the US only.)

Orbit is giving away the Griffin Mage trilogy by Rachel Neumeier (Lord of the Changing Winds, Land of the Burning Sands, and Law of the Broken Earth).  This is not open everywhere, but it is open to more than just the US: US, Canada, UK, Australia, and New Zealand.  The first book in this series is one I’ve been wanting to pick up but just haven’t gotten to yet.

The Habitation of the Blessed
by Catherynne M. Valente
269pp (Trade Paperback)
My Rating: 8/10
Amazon Rating: 5/5
LibraryThing Rating: 4/5
Goodreads Rating: 4.64/5

The Habitation of the Blessed by Catherynne M. Valente is the first volume in A Dirge for Prester John.   The books in this trilogy will be coming out about a year apart with the second volume, The Folded World, available in November 2011 and the third volume, The Spindle of Necessity, available in November 2012.  This trilogy is based on the legends about Prester John, a priest rumored to rule over a paradise in India containing wonders such as a Fountain of Youth.  A fake document supposedly written by Prester John was discovered in the twelfth century, and these novels explore what it may have been like if this letter was actually a real account of a place that in fact existed.

In the year 1699, Hiob von Luzern and a group of other priests traveled to India in search of Prester John, the great king who had riches and immortality.  It’s a rough journey and many die, but it would all seem worthwhile to Hiob for a chance to meet Prester John and see his kingdom.  However, once he arrives in a village and inquires about where to find him, he is simply told by the lady that the one whom he seeks is gone.

After a meal at the lady’s house, she takes Hiob alone to a wondrous tree that grows books instead of fruit. In his excitement, Hiob snatches a book and begins reading it only to find a worm got there first and ate part of the book.  He is then allowed to select three books from the tree, which he chooses carefully by looking for the ones without wormholes and missing parts.  Immediately, he begins reading the first of these volumes and is pleased to find it is written by John himself, although he is dismayed to see that the first few lines say the book was copied by the priest’s wife, Hagia.  Regardless, he eagerly begins reading the story, which is an account of a journey made by John in which he found himself in an unusual land populated by intelligent creatures who are not human.  The other two volumes he selected are accounts by Hagia and Imtithal, who are both residents of the unusual land John wandered into.

Unfortunately, as amazing as books that grow on trees are (I so wanted a book tree!), they do have one major disadvantage – just like fruit, they begin to rot once plucked from the tree.  In an effort to get as much information as possible from these three books before they become unreadable, Hiob alternates copying from each of them as he discovers the truth about Prester John.

While the stories are completely different, the narrative structure and writing of The Habitation of the Blessed are very similar to The Orphan’s Tales: In the Night Garden.  Like Valente’s earlier novel, the structure is not linear although the storyline is much less convoluted than In the Night Garden, which was tales within tales within more tales to the point where it was difficult to keep track of the connections between all of them.  The Habitation of the Blessed contains three stories about Prester John and the inhabitants of the place he stumbles upon.  These stories are threaded throughout another story, which is the search for the priest and his fabled paradise that lead to the discovery of the books containing these other tales.  While these three stories overlap, they are separated and easier to follow since they are mainly told by progressing through the timeline instead of jumping back and forth a lot.

Also like In the Night Garden, The Habitation of the Blessed tells an imaginative story brimming with beautiful imagery.  Due to the abundance of description, it does seem to move rather slowly at times, especially toward the beginning of John’s story.  This may have also been because I found John the least interesting to read about.  Out of the three who told tales of the kingdom, he is the only human but mostly his story didn’t draw me in as much because he’s kind of an ass.  Here he is in a completely unusual world that challenges everything he ever thought he knew and all he can think about is converting the inhabitants.  He doesn’t really listen to them – his way is right and what he’s always believed is unshakable.  It completely makes sense with his character since some people are like that, but he’s not always enjoyable to read about.  His parts did get easier to read toward the end, mainly due to the fact that a lot more started to happen.

In contrast, the priest Hiob who copied the stories was far less obnoxious, largely because he held beliefs that conflicted with his discovery but wasn’t going to just ignore his findings and carry on regardless.  It was clear that he was upset by his discoveries and how they challenged his pre-existing notions about the world, but he was also more adaptable.  From the opening lines, it’s apparent he’s suffered some great disappointment in his search for his tale:


I am a very bad historian.  But I am a very good miserable old man. I sit at the end of the world, close enough to see my shriveled old legs hang over the bony ridge of it. I came so far for gold and light and a story the size of the sky. But I have managed to gather for myself only a basket of ash and a kind of empty sorrow, that the world is not how I wished it to be. The death of faith is tasteless, like dust. [pp. 5]

Yet he also has an admirable dedication to the truth and is not willing to compromise, even if what he has learned deeply disturbs him:


I could sell my soul to the demons of historiography and change this tale to suit my dreams. I could do it and no one would think less of me. It has been done before, after all. But before my Lord I lay the pain and anguish of the truth, and ask only to be done with it all. [pp. 6]

Hiob’s love of knowledge leads him to learn all he can from the books on the tree and his devotion to learning leads to an obsession with these stories – and makes him a far more sympathetic character than Prester John.

Of the four perspectives in the novel, my favorite was easily that of Imtithal, who told of her time as a caretaker to the royal family.  Imtithal’s story had the most warmth and humor as she relates quibbles involving the children, particularly the antics of the contrary Houd.  She had so much compassion for these children, and she sacrificed her inclination to be a listener to become a storyteller.  Even so, she is an observer by nature and shares some insightful reflections based on her job as a nanny:


Children wish to know where they come from. It is a burning, terrible question for them, and they will phrase it a hundred ways: Why is the grass green? (Why am I not green?) Why does the wind blow? (Why do I blow and blow and make no storms or snap flowers from the stem?) Why do we live in a city? (Why am I myself and not some other child?) [pp. 67]

After Imtithal, Hagia’s writings were the most fascinating.  Hagia’s book is the main source of information on the customs of the land found by Prester John.  It’s from Hagia that we learn about the Fountain of the Youth and the rituals young people undertook in going there as she details her own childhood experience.  She tells us of boredom as a side effect of immortality and the arrangements made for compensating.  It’s not all about the culture, though, since we are also told of her relationships and how she is both attracted to and repelled by Prester John.

While it is a gorgeous, introspective book, I didn’t find it quite as compelling as The Orphan’s Tales: In the Night Garden partially because of Prester John’s parts and the slow buildup.  After the next book, I may change my mind, though, since it feels like it’s getting to the heart of the story for the last half of the novel.  The ending, the beautiful writing, the legends, and the characters of Hagia and Imtithal have me eager to read volume 2.

My Rating: 8/10

Where I got my reading copy: Review copy from the publisher.

Read the first three chapters

Other Reviews:

The King of Attolia is the third book in the Queen’s Thief series by Megan Whalen Turner.  The first two books in this YA fantasy series are The Thief and The Queen of Attolia, respectively.  A Conspiracy of Kings, the fourth book, came out in hardcover earlier this year.  According to Goodreads, a fifth book is planned but it has no title listed and I haven’t been able to find any further details on it.

Since it’s better to know less about the plot when reading these books, I’m going to skip the usual plot description and just move right on to thoughts on this book and how it compares to the rest of the books in the series.  This review is going to be at least a little vague to try to avoid spoilers.

The King of Attolia picks up shortly after the end of the second book.  I’d recommend reading the books in order even though the second and third books in the Queen’s Thief series are far more mature and better crafted than the first.  Reading the second or third book first would completely spoil the first book, which is a good story although it takes reading to the end to fully appreciate it.  The Thief, which won the Newbery Honor Award in 1997, seems like a straightforward quest fantasy until the twist ending and is the simplest of the three books.  The next book, The Queen of Attolia, has more complexity as it deals with both nations and individuals while leaving so much open to interpretation until the end.  It remains my favorite in the series since it had the most emotional resonance with me, and so much of the wording was just perfect – the way it could have double meanings and kept me guessing about which one was correct.  The King of Attolia is smaller scale and mostly focused on individuals and political scheming.  While I very much enjoyed it and wanted the next book after finishing it, it didn’t have me rereading and savoring every word the same way as The Queen of Attolia did – but like the previous book it did leave me very impressed with Megan Whalen Turner’s storytelling ability.

The prose is not beautifully written, more to the point than flashy, but Turner excels at weaving a story that is simply told yet elaborate.  Much of the story’s power is in what she chooses to reveal and when, giving parts of the story ambiguity until the conclusion.  Readers of the previous books will have a better idea of what is going on in The King of Attolia since they know what to expect unlike the main narrator, who begins with no knowledge of Eugenides’ character and only observes what he sees in this book.  Although he does suspect pretty close to the beginning that Eugenides may not be quite as dense as rumors say, he still does not know the full extent of his capabilities.  Even with several clues that more is going on behind the scenes than we are shown, the significance of some scenes and how it will play out remains mysterious for quite some time.  With this technique, Turner takes a story that is mostly political and character-oriented without a lot of action and makes it suspenseful.

Mystery also adds to the allure of the central figure in the books, Eugenides.  He’s not completely unknown by the end (or to those who have read the other books), but in spite of being the person the entire story revolves around, we never really get to know a lot of what he’s thinking about.  Most of the story is told from the perspective of a member of the Queen’s Guard, Costis, and he tells us what he thinks of Eugenides.  There are even scenes in which we see what some of the other characters think of Eugenides, such as Relius the Secretary of the Guard.  Even though there is occasionally a part that involves Eugenides without showing him from the viewpoint of a different character, it just relates conversations and actions.  There’s a certain amount of separation between the reader and Eugenides, and like these other viewpoint characters, we observe Eugenides but never really know what’s going on inside his head. This was even largely true in The Thief, which was told from the perspective of Eugenides, since he wasn’t exactly a reliable narrator and omitted a lot of important details.  He’s not exactly known for truthfulness:


She released a sigh of frustration and asked reluctantly for the truth. “Were you lying?”

“I never lie,” he said piously.  “About what?”

“The sand, the snake.”

For a young man who never lied, he seemed surprisingly unoffended by the question. [Attolia and Eugenides, pp. 24]

In spite of the fact that I don’t feel that I know Eugenides as well as I’d like to, I think it really works in these books as it adds some to his mystique.  He’s one of those manipulative, larger than life characters who seems too good at everything to be true, and leaving him a little mysterious makes it easier to see him on that pedestal.  Since we don’t know a lot about him, it makes it appear more likely that maybe there is something he doesn’t do right – but because we don’t get his unadulterated perspective, perhaps we just don’t get to see those parts.  Yet in this book he’s also easy to sympathize with because he still clearly has problems – recurring nightmares, homesickness, and the side effect that getting what he desired also forced him into a role he doesn’t want.  There’s a theme of inability to escape fate that makes him much easier to empathize with.

Fantasy readers may want to be aware that this is light on the fantasy – the main fantastic elements in all three books involves somewhat brief appearances by gods.  The setting is a pseudo-Greece with a similar but entirely different pantheon of gods and goddesses, and there is at least one story told in each book involving a tale involving deities or the world mythology.

While The Queen of Attolia remains my personal favorite in this series, The King of Attolia is nearly as good with a fun storyline, suspense, scheming, and great characters.  It’s a very clever book with some great dialogue, and I finished it with a combination of satisfaction and sadness – satisfaction because it was so engaging and sadness because there’s only one book left in the series to read.

My Rating: 8/10

Where I got my reading copy: I bought it.

Reviews of other books in this series:

  1. The Thief
  2. The Queen of Attolia

Other reviews of The King of Attolia:


For the second week in a row, there are no new books for the Sunday post so I’m hoping to get a review up instead.  In the meantime, here are some various bits of news or other interesting links I’ve seen lately.

Every year from December to early January, The Book Smugglers hold their annual Smugglivus celebration. This includes guest posts from bloggers and authors in addition to their own end of the year discussions on favorite books.  It started this week and there have been some excellent posts so far including but not limited to the following: Jessica of Read React Review wrote about the similarities between Hanukkah and popular fiction, Harry of Temple Library Reviews discussed some of his favorite books read this year, and a guest post by author Catherynne M. Valente. has an excerpt from The Habitation of the Blessed by Catherynne M. Valente, which is a great book with beautiful imagery and a fascinating world mythology.  (It’s one of the books I’m working on reviewing now.)

Seanan McGuire has sold the first two books in another urban fantasy series, InCryptid, about a family of cryptozoologists simultaneously working to protect the cryptids and humanity from each other.  The titles of these books are Discount Armageddon and Midnight Blue-Light Special.

Chachic’s Book Nook is giving away signed copies of The Thief, The Queen of Attolia, and The King of Attolia by Megan Whalen Turner.  The contest is open internationally, and the winner is just asked to post a review of the books somewhere in return.  These are some very good young adult books – I love how Turner leaves out all the details of what is happening until the very end and the second and third books in particular are superb. asks if Joan Vinge’s The Snow Queen the girl power equivalent of Star Wars.  I love The Snow Queen – it was my favorite book read in 2009 and one of my favorites ever.