I don’t usually do this, but since it’s for a good cause and features some great authors I’m passing along a press release about the upcoming book Unfettered II. This anthology is being published by Grim Oak Press, with all proceeds going to medical debt relief and cancer research. Contributors include:

  • Bradley Beaulieu (Song of Shattered Sands)
  • Terry Brooks
  • Jim Butcher (Dresden Files)
  • Rachel Caine
  • Sarah Beth Durst (The Queens of Renthia)
  • David Farland
  • Charlaine Harris
  • Mark Lawrence (Gunlaw)
  • Erin Lindsey (Bloodbound)
  • Seanan McGuire
  • Aidan Moher
  • Naomi Novik
  • Peter Orullian (Vault of Heaven)
  • A. Pitts
  • Anthony Ryan (Raven’s Shadow)
  • Brandon Sanderson
  • Scott Sigler
  • Shawn Speakman (Annwn Cycle)
  • Michael J. Sullivan (The Legends of the First Empire)
  • Django Wexler
  • Janny Wurts
  • Todd Lockwood (Cover Artist)
  • Don Maitz (Interior Illustrator)


Proceeds going to cancer research and author medical debt

SEATTLE, WASH., July 19, 2016—Grim Oak Press, the small press that published the bestselling anthology Unfettered, will publish Unfettered II in November 2016.

Without health insurance and diagnosed with cancer in 2011, Grim Oak Press owner Shawn Speakman accrued massive medical debt while treating the disease. Rather than declare medical bankruptcy, he reached out to fellow authors and received donated short stories in return—many from New York Times bestselling writers. The stories were collected and became Unfettered, the proceeds from the sci-fi/fantasy anthology eliminating his debt burden.

To pay forward the aid he received—and to memorialize his mother who passed away earlier this year from Stage 4 stomach cancer—Speakman has again collaborated with celebrated scifi/fantasy authors to publish Unfettered II. “My mother first put books into my life as a child. Later she helped me survive two different cancers,” said Speakman. “Having lost her to cancer, I will focus my sorrow in a way that will make a difference. Unfettered II is the beginning of that.”

All proceeds from Unfettered II will go toward ending medical debt for other authors as well as be donated in partnership to the Cancer Research Institute in New York, NY.

Such notable New York Times bestselling authors as Terry Brooks (“The Shannara Chronicles”), Charlaine Harris (“True Blood,” “Midnight, Texas”), Brandon Sanderson (“Wheel of Time,” “Stormlight Archive”), Jim Butcher (“Dresden Files”), and Naomi Novik (“Temeraire,” Uprooted) are contributing short stories to Unfettered II.

Cover art will be supplied by renowned artist Todd Lockwood, who contributed the artwork for Unfettered. Interior art duties will be handled by Hugo Award-winning illustrator Don Maitz.

Unfettered II will be available for pre-order on July 19, 2016 at the Grim Oak Press website.

The Leaning Pile of Books is a feature where I talk about books I got over the last week–old or new, bought or received for review consideration (usually unsolicited). Since I hope you will find new books you’re interested in reading in these posts, I try to be as informative as possible. If I can find them, links to excerpts, author’s websites, and places where you can find more information on the book are included.

Before this week’s books, a few brief updates:

  • A couple of days ago, I announced the July Patreon book: The Empress Game by Rhonda Mason.
  • I’m currently working on a review of The Lyre Thief by Jennifer Fallon, which I liked a LOT. It’s one of my favorite 2016 releases I’ve read, and I now very much want to read more by Jennifer Fallon!

On to the latest books!

Supernova by C. A. Higgins

Supernova (Lightless #2) by C. A. Higgins

Supernova will be released on July 26 (hardcover, ebook, audiobook). Entertainment Weekly has excerpts from both Supernova and the previous book, Lightless.


C. A. Higgins’s acclaimed novel Lightless fused suspenseful storytelling, high-caliber scientific speculation, and richly developed characters into a stunning science fiction epic. Now the dazzling Supernova heightens the thrills and deepens the haunting exploration of technology and humanity—and the consequences that await when the two intersect.

Once Ananke was an experimental military spacecraft. But a rogue computer virus transformed it—her—into something much more: a fully sentient artificial intelligence, with all the power of a god—and all the unstable emotions of a teenager.

Althea, the ship’s engineer and the last living human aboard, nearly gave her life to save Ananke from dangerous saboteurs, forging a bond as powerful as that between mother and daughter. Now she devotes herself completely to Ananke’s care. But teaching a thinking, feeling machine—perhaps the most dangerous force in the galaxy—to be human proves a monumental challenge. When Ananke decides to seek out Matthew Gale, the terrorist she regards as her father, Althea learns that some bonds are stronger than mortal minds can understand—or control.

Drawn back toward Earth by the quest, Althea and Ananke will find themselves in the thick of a violent revolution led by Matthew’s sister, the charismatic leader Constance, who will stop at nothing to bring down a tyrannical surveillance state. As the currents of past decisions and present desires come into stark collision, a new and fiery future is about to be born.

Additional Books:


The July Patreon book poll theme was science fiction and fantasy books involving competitions or tournaments. The choices were as follows:

The July book selection is…

The Empress Game by Rhonda Mason

The Empress Game by Rhonda Mason

One seat on the intergalactic Sakien Empire’s supreme ruling body, the Council of Seven, remains unfilled, that of the Empress Apparent. The seat isn’t won by votes or marriage. It’s won in a tournament of ritualized combat in the ancient tradition. Now that tournament, the Empress Game, has been called and the females of the empire will stop at nothing to secure political domination for their homeworlds. Kayla Reinumon, a supreme fighter, is called by a mysterious stranger to battle it out in the arena.

The battle for political power isn’t contained by the tournament’s ring, however. The empire’s elite gather to forge, strengthen or betray alliances in a dance that will determine the fate of the empire for a generation. With the empire wracked by a rising nanovirus plague and stretched thin by an ill-advised planet-wide occupation of Ordoch in enemy territory, everything rests on the woman who rises to the top.

I bought a copy of this a little while ago after hearing great things about it and am looking forward to reading it!

The Leaning Pile of Books is a feature where I talk about books I got over the last week–old or new, bought or received for review consideration (usually unsolicited). Since I hope you will find new books you’re interested in reading in these posts, I try to be as informative as possible. If I can find them, links to excerpts, author’s websites, and places where you can find more information on the book are included.

After getting caught up last weekend, I’m back on track so this just covers books from the last week.

In case you missed it, I posted two reviews discussing four books last week:

Now, the latest books!

Once Broken Faith by Seanan McGuire

Once Broken Faith (October Daye #10) by Seanan McGuire

The tenth book in the October Daye series will be released on September 6 (mass market paperback, ebook). It also includes a new novella about Arden Windermere, “Dreams and Slumbers.”

October Daye is one of my favorite urban fantasy series, and I especially love books 4-6. The books in the series are as follows:

  1. Rosemary and Rue (my review)
  2. A Local Habitation (my review)
  3. An Artificial Night (my review)
  4. Late Eclipses (my review)
  5. One Salt Sea (my review)
  6. Ashes of Honor (my review)
  7. Chimes at Midnight (my review)
  8. The Winter Long (my review)
  9. A Red-Rose Chain

Politics have never been October “Toby” Daye’s strong suit. When she traveled to the Kingdom of Silences to prevent them from going to war with her home, the Kingdom of the Mists, she wasn’t expecting to return with a cure for elf-shot and a whole new set of political headaches.

Now the events she unwittingly set in motion could change the balance of modern Faerie forever, and she has been ordered to appear before a historic convocation of monarchs, hosted by Queen Windermere in the Mists and overseen by the High King and Queen themselves.

Naturally, things have barely gotten underway when the first dead body shows up. As the only changeling in attendance, Toby is already the target of suspicion and hostility. Now she needs to find a killer before they can strike again—and with the doors locked to keep the guilty from escaping, no one is safe.

As danger draws ever closer to her allies and the people she loves best, Toby will have to race against time to prevent the total political destabilization of the West Coast and to get the convocation back on track…and if she fails, the cure for elf-shot may be buried forever, along with the victims she was too slow to save.

Because there are worse fates than sleeping for a hundred years.

Urban Allies edited by Joseph Nassise

Urban Allies edited by Joseph Nassise

This urban fantasy anthology containing ten stories will be released on July 26 (trade paperback, ebook). Two authors collaborated on each story, featuring characters from both authors’ books. For example, “Tailed” by Seanan McGuire and Kelley Armstrong is about both Verity Price from InCryptid and Elena Michaels from Otherworld.


In this impressive anthology, 20 of today’s hottest urban fantasy writers—including Charlaine Harris, Jonathan Maberry, Kelley Armstrong, Larry Correia, and C. E. Murphy—are paired together in ten original stories featuring their favorite series characters.

Urban Allies brings together beloved characters from two different urban fantasy series—Peter Octavian and Dahlia Lynley-Chivers, Joanne Walker and Harper Blaine, Joe Ledger and Agent Franks, Sabina Kane and Ava—in ten electrifying stories. Combining fictional worlds in one dual adventure, each of these stories melds the talents of two high-profile authors, many working together for the first time—giving readers a chance to see their favorite characters in an imaginative and fresh way.

Edited by acclaimed bestselling author Joseph Nassise—who is also a contributor—this outstanding collection showcases the brilliant storytelling talents of some of the most acclaimed fantasy writers working today, among them seven New York Times bestselling authors, two USA Today bestselling authors, and multiple Bram Stoker Award winners.

Contributors include:
Charlaine Harris and Christopher Golden • Carrie Vaughn and Diana Rowland • Jonathan Maberry and Larry Correia • Kelley Armstrong and Seanan McGuire • Joe Nassise and Sam Witt • Steven Savile and Craig Schaefer • David Wellington and Weston Ochse • Stephen Blackmoore and Jeff Somers • Catie Murphy and Kat Richardson • Jaye Wells and Caitlin Kittredge

Additional Book(s):

Book Description:

Steampunk meets Kaiju in this original fantasy epic for mature readers, as young Maika risks everything to control her psychic link with a monster of tremendous power, placing her in the center of a devastating war between human and otherworldly forces.

Monstress #1 is bleak, violent, and absolutely gorgeous. Sana Takeda’s artwork is a visual feast with beautiful color palettes and exquisite details, and the illustrations were my favorite part (except for the gorier ones since I am incredibly squeamish!). The story is intriguing, too, but it is difficult to assess at this point since it is an introduction that leaves a lot of unanswered questions about the world and Maika herself. I don’t read a lot of graphic novels, and when I do, it’s normally a volume containing multiple issues and even this triple issue seemed very short to me. However, it definitely piqued my interest about Maika’s past and her connection to the monster, and I do very much want to read the first volume containing issues one through six that is being released later this month.

My Rating: 8/10

Where I got my reading copy: Finished copy from a publicist.

Book Description:

The eagerly awaited new fantasy from the multiple award-winning “storytelling sorceress” – Peter S. Beagle.

Hidden away from the world by his mother, the powerful sorceress Heloise Oliver, Pierce has grown up working in her restaurant in Desolation Point. One day, Heloise tells her son the truth about his father, a knight in King Arden’s court; about an older brother he never knew existed; about his father’s destructive love for King Arden’s queen; and, Heloise’s decision to raise her younger son alone.

As Pierce journeys to Severluna, he learns that things are changing in that kingdom. Ancient magic is on the rise. The immensely powerful artifact of an ancient god has come to light, and the king is gathering his knights to quest for this profound mystery, which may restore the kingdom to legendary glory—or destroy it.

Although enjoyable, Kingfisher is my least favorite of Patricia McKillip’s books I’ve read. It’s inspired by Arthurian legends but it’s a unique story rather than being a straightforward retelling like the other books based on these tales that I’ve read. The world is a meld of the fantastic and contemporary, as it seems very much like a secondary world fantasy complete with magic and knights, but those knights ride around in limos and talk on cell phones. There’s much that I admired about Kingfisher—there is some beautiful writing, a great sense of humor runs through it even though it’s not a comedy, and it has a great ending—but I never really came to care about any of the characters and found it rather meandering since it did focus on several different peoples’ stories, some of which were more interesting than others.

I would recommend those new to Patricia McKillip’s work start elsewhere, perhaps with her excellent, fairly short book The Changeling Sea (my favorite book I’ve read so far this year).

My Rating: 7/10

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

Book Description:

With shades of The Hunger Games, Ender’s Game, and Game of Thrones, debut author Pierce Brown’s genre-defying epic Red Rising hit the ground running and wasted no time becoming a sensation.

Golden Son continues the stunning saga of Darrow, a rebel forged by tragedy, battling to lead his oppressed people to freedom from the overlords of a brutal elitist future built on lies. Now fully embedded among the Gold ruling class, Darrow continues his work to bring down Society from within.

A life-or-death tale of vengeance with an unforgettable hero at its heart, Golden Son guarantees Pierce Brown’s continuing status as one of fiction’s most exciting new voices.

Since I had some reservations about Red Rising, I was surprised by just how much I enjoyed Golden Son. Like its predecessor it does require some suspension of disbelief and the writing is sometimes rather dramatically overwrought, but I didn’t find myself caring as much when reading this one since it’s an intensely exciting book—dark and suspenseful, a page-turner that kept me wanting to learn what would happen next and what various characters’ true motivations were. It’s a stellar middle book that’s far superior to the first, and I loved every twist and turn. Though it has some flaws and it’s not my favorite book I’ve read this year, it is the most thrilling book I’ve read this year as well as one of the most thoroughly engaging.

My Rating: 9/10

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

Book Description:

Her name is Binti, and she is the first of the Himba people ever to be offered a place at Oomza University, the finest institution of higher learning in the galaxy. But to accept the offer will mean giving up her place in her family to travel between the stars among strangers who do not share her ways or respect her customs.

Knowledge comes at a cost, one that Binti is willing to pay, but her journey will not be easy. The world she seeks to enter has long warred with the Meduse, an alien race that has become the stuff of nightmares. Oomza University has wronged the Meduse, and Binti’s stellar travel will bring her within their deadly reach.

If Binti hopes to survive the legacy of a war not of her making, she will need both the gifts of her people and the wisdom enshrined within the University, itself – but first she has to make it there, alive.

Nnedi Okorafor’s Nebula Award-winning novella Binti hooked me immediately from its opening pages, in which Binti is leaving not only her people but her home planet after being accepted at a prestigious university. I admired her bravery in doing so and the determination that drove her to follow her dream of pursuing knowledge even when everyone around her disapproved. Binti herself was easily my favorite part of the book, as she showed over and over again the vast depths of her bravery and tenacity.

However, I found earlier parts of the story more engaging than later parts of the story. It introduced a lot of fascinating elements, but I didn’t feel they were explored as much as they could have been and would have liked more detail on them than the length of this novella allowed. For one, I would have liked to have had a better understanding of Binti’s abilities as a master harmonizer and how she worked with her people. Since she has already left at the beginning of the story, it doesn’t show her with them (although there will be two more novellas about Binti, including one in which she goes home!). I loved the little touches that were mentioned, such as Binti learning to braid a family code into her hair, and I really wanted to know more about where she came from and what exactly her leaving meant for her people.

It also seemed as though I was told Binti was exceptionally clever more than I was shown she was exceptionally clever. Amazing events transpire because of her, and it’s mentioned that she had an impact due to her gifts as a master harmonizer, but I thought it came across as her stumbling into things and it all working out in her favor rather than her skills having an influence. Although her heart and heroic spirit shine through the entire story, I wanted more clarity about the role of her abilities in what unfolded.

All quibbles aside, I am glad I read Binti even though my initial enthusiasm for it waned after reading about half the book. I enjoyed reading about the main character more than I actually liked the story, but since I did love Binti and want to know more about her, I would definitely be interested in reading other stories focused on her.

My Rating: 6.5/10

Where I got my reading copy: I received it for my birthday.

Read an Excerpt