Today’s giveaway is three copies of Long Black Curl by Alex Bledsoe! This third novel about the Tufa was just released about a month ago, and each of these three (The Hum and the Shiver, Wisp of a Thing, and of course, this one) focus on a different main character. I haven’t read these yet myself, although one is on my wish list since I’ve heard they’re wonderful! To learn more about the book and author, visit Alex Bledsoe’s website or follow him on Twitter. Giveaway details are below (giveaway is US/Canada only).

Long Black Curl by Alex Bledsoe

ABOUT LONG BLACK CURL (read an excerpt):

Long Black Curl: a brand-new tale in Alex Bledsoe’s acclaimed urban fantasy series, where magic is hidden in plain sight and age-old rivalries simmer just beneath the surface

In all the time the Tufa have existed, only two have ever been exiled: Bo-Kate Wisby and her lover, Jefferson Powell. They were cast out, stripped of their ability to make music, and cursed to never be able to find their way back to Needsville. Their crime? A love that crossed the boundary of the two Tufa tribes, resulting in the death of several people.

Somehow, Bo-Kate has found her way back. She intends to take over both tribes, which means eliminating both Rockhouse Hicks and Mandalay Harris. Bo-Kate has a secret weapon: Byron Harley, a rockabilly singer known as the “Hillbilly Hercules” for his immense size and strength, and who has passed the last sixty years trapped in a bubble of faery time. He’s ready to take revenge on any Tufa he finds.

The only one who can stop Bo-Kate is Jefferson Powell. Released from the curse and summoned back to Cloud County, even he isn’t sure what will happen when they finally meet. Will he fall in love with her again? Will he join her in her quest to unite the Tufa under her rule? Or will he have to sacrifice himself to save the people who once banished him?

Courtesy of Tor Books, I have three copies of Long Black Curl to give away! This giveaway is open to residents of the US and Canada only.

Giveaway Rules: To be entered in the giveaway, fill out the form below OR send an email to kristen AT fantasybookcafe DOT com with the subject “LBC Giveaway.” One entry per household and three winners will be randomly selected. Those from the US or Canada are eligible to win this giveaway. The giveaway will be open until the end of the day on Friday, July 17. Each winner has 24 hours to respond once contacted via email, and if I don’t hear from them by then a new winner will be chosen (who will also have 24 hours to respond until someone gets back to me with a place to send the book).

Please note email addresses will only be used for the purpose of contacting the winners. Once the giveaway is over all the emails will be deleted.

Good luck!

Update: Now that the giveaway has ended, the form has been removed.

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 (often 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.

This week there are more books than usual since I received a few that were sent to an old address, but first, here’s a brief weekly update.

In case you missed it, a review of Tainted Blood by M. L. Brennan went up last week. I enjoyed it very much and I can hardly wait for Dark Ascension—and fortunately, there is not a long wait for the next book since it’s being released next month! It’s the urban fantasy book I’m most looking forward to this year.

There will be a book giveaway tomorrow. The next book reviewed will probably be The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman. It’s one of my favorite books of 2015 so far.

On to the books!

Fool's Quest by Robin Hobb

Fool’s Quest (The Fitz and the Fool Trilogy #2) by Robin Hobb

The second book in Robin Hobb’s new trilogy about FitzChivalry Farseer will be released on August 11 (hardcover, ebook, audiobook). The first 50 pages of Fool’s Assassin, the first book in the trilogy, can be read on Suvudu.

I loved Robin Hobb’s Farseer, Liveship Traders, and Tawny Man trilogies, and I was excited to learn she was writing more about what happened after the last of those three. Assassin’s Apprentice is one of the fantasy books I read when first starting to read the genre, and I’d recommend those new to these books start at the beginning with that one. I’m about halfway through Fool’s Assassin right now and enjoying it very much.

The book description below does contain spoilers for previous books.

 

Ranking alongside George R. R. Martin as a groundbreaking master of fantasy, New York Times bestselling author Robin Hobb delivers the second book in her long-awaited Fitz and the Fool trilogy.

The harrowing adventures of FitzChivalry Farseer and his enigmatic friend the Fool continue in Robin Hobb’s triumphant follow-up to Fool’s Assassin. But Fool’s Quest is more than just a sequel. With the artistry and imagination her fans have come to expect, Hobb builds masterfully on all that has gone before, revealing devastating secrets and shocking conspiracies that cast a dark shadow over the history of Fitz and his world—a shadow that now stretches to darken all future hope.

Long ago, Fitz and the Fool changed the world, bringing back the magic of dragons and securing both the Farseer succession and the stability of the kingdom. Or so they thought. But now the Fool is near death, maimed by mysterious pale-skinned figures whose plans for world domination hinge upon the powers the Fool may share with Fitz’s own daughter.

Distracted by the Fool’s perilous health, and swept up against his will in the intrigues of the royal court, Fitz lets down his guard . . . and in a horrible instant, his world is undone and his beloved daughter stolen away by those who would use her as they had once sought to use the Fool—as a weapon.

But FitzChivalry Farseer is not without weapons of his own. An ancient magic still lives in his veins. And though he may have let his skills as royal assassin diminish over the years, such things, once learned, are not so easily forgotten.

Now enemies and friends alike are about to learn that nothing is more dangerous than a man who has nothing left to lose.

Half a War by Joe Abercrombie

Half a War (Shattered Sea #3) by Joe Abercrombie

The final book in the Shattered Sea trilogy will be released on July 28 (hardcover, ebook, audiobook). An excerpt from Half a War is available on the author’s website—and if you missed the first two books, there are also excerpts from Half a King and Half the World online.

I haven’t yet read the second book, which came out earlier this year, but I really enjoyed Half a King.

 

Words are weapons

Princess Skara has seen all she loved made blood and ashes. She is left with only words. But the right words can be as deadly as any blade. She must conquer her fears and sharpen her wits to a lethal edge if she is to reclaim her birthright.

Only half a war is fought with swords

The deep-cunning Father Yarvi has walked a long road from crippled slave to king’s minister. He has made allies of old foes and stitched together an uneasy peace. But now the ruthless Grandmother Wexen has raised the greatest army since the elves made war on God, and put Bright Yilling at its head – a man who worships no god but Death.

Sometimes one must fight evil with evil

Some – like Thorn Bathu and the sword-bearer Raith – are born to fight, perhaps to die. Others – like Brand the smith and Koll the wood-carver – would rather stand in the light. But when Mother War spreads her iron wings, she may cast the whole Shattered Sea into darkness.

Lightless by C. A. Higgins

Lightless by C. A. Higgins

This debut science fiction novel will be released on September 22 (hardcover, ebook). An excerpt from Lightless is included in the Del Rey and Bantam Books 2015 Sampler. A sequel, Supernova, is scheduled for release next year.

 

The deeply moving human drama of Gravity meets the nail-biting suspense of Alien in this riveting science fiction debut. With bold speculation informed by a degree in astrophysics, C. A. Higgins spins an unforgettable “locked spaceship” mystery guaranteed to catapult readers beyond their expectations—and into brilliantly thrilling new territory.

Serving aboard the Ananke, an experimental military spacecraft launched by the ruthless organization that rules Earth and its solar system, computer scientist Althea has established an intense emotional bond—not with any of her crewmates, but with the ship’s electronic systems, which speak more deeply to her analytical mind than human feelings do. But when a pair of fugitive terrorists gain access to the Ananke, Althea must draw upon her heart and soul for the strength to defend her beloved ship.

While one of the saboteurs remains at large somewhere on board, his captured partner—the enigmatic Ivan—may prove to be more dangerous. The perversely fascinating criminal whose silver tongue is his most effective weapon has long evaded the authorities’ most relentless surveillance—and kept the truth about his methods and motives well hidden.

As the ship’s systems begin to malfunction and the claustrophobic atmosphere is increasingly poisoned by distrust and suspicion, it falls to Althea to penetrate the prisoner’s layers of intrigue and deception before all is lost. But when the true nature of Ivan’s mission is exposed, it will change Althea forever—if it doesn’t kill her first.

Fable: Blood of Heroes by Jim C. Hines

Fable: Blood of Heroes by Jim C. Hines

Fable: Blood of Heroes will be released on August 4 (paperback, ebook). An excerpt is available on the publisher’s website (click “Look Inside” underneath the cover image).

 

The official companion novel to the videogame Fable® Legends

Deep in Albion’s darkest age, long before once upon a time . . . Heroes are thought to be gone from the land. So why have the bards begun singing of them once more? For Fable newcomers and dedicated fans alike, Blood of Heroes delves into a never-before-glimpsed era, telling the tale of a band of adventurers who come together to defend a kingdom in desperate need.

The city of Brightlodge is awash with Heroes from every corner of Albion, all eager for their next quest. When someone tries to burn down the Cock and Bard inn, four Heroes find themselves hastily thrown together, chasing outlaws through sewers, storming a riverboat full of smugglers, and placing their trust in a most unlikely ally. As the beginnings of a deadly plot are revealed, it becomes clear that Heroes have truly arrived—and so have villains.

What connects the recent events in Brightlodge to rumors about a malicious ghost and a spate of unsolved deaths in the nearby mining town of Grayrock? Unless Albion’s bravest Heroes can find the answer, the dawn of a new age could be extinguished before it even begins.

Dark Disciple: Star Wars by Christie Golden

Dark Disciple: Star Wars by Christie Golden

Dark Disciple will be released on July 7 (hardcover, ebook, audiobook). The first 50 pages can be read on Suvudu.

 

Based on unproduced episodes of Star Wars: The Clone Wars, this new novel features Asajj Ventress, former Sith apprentice turned bounty hunter and one of the great antiheroes in the Star Wars galaxy.

The only way to bring down the Sith’s most dangerous warrior may be to join forces with the dark side.

In the war for control of the galaxy between the armies of the dark side and the Republic, former Jedi Master turned ruthless Sith Lord Count Dooku has grown ever more brutal in his tactics. Despite the powers of the Jedi and the military prowess of their clone army, the sheer number of fatalities is taking a terrible toll. And when Dooku orders the massacre of a flotilla of helpless refugees, the Jedi Council feels it has no choice but to take drastic action: targeting the man responsible for so many war atrocities, Count Dooku himself.

But the ever-elusive Dooku is dangerous prey for even the most skilled hunter. So the Council makes the bold decision to bring both sides of the Force’s power to bear—pairing brash Jedi Knight Quinlan Vos with infamous one-time Sith acolyte Asajj Ventress. Though Jedi distrust for the cunning killer who once served at Dooku’s side still runs deep, Ventress’s hatred for her former master runs deeper. She’s more than willing to lend her copious talents as a bounty hunter—and assassin—to Vos’s quest.

Together, Ventress and Vos are the best hope for eliminating Dooku—as long as the emerging feelings between them don’t compromise their mission. But Ventress is determined to have her retribution and at last let go of her dark Sith past. Balancing the complicated emotions she feels for Vos with the fury of her warrior’s spirit, she resolves to claim victory on all fronts—a vow that will be mercilessly tested by her deadly enemy . . . and her own doubt.

The War Against the Assholes by Sam Munson

The War Against the Assholes by Sam Munson

This novel became available last month (hardcover, ebook, audiobook). An excerpt from The War Against the Assholes is available on the publisher’s website.

 

Contemporary fantasy meets true crime when schools of ancient sorcery go up against the art of the long con in this stunningly entertaining debut fantasy novel.

Mike Wood is satisfied just being a guy with broad shoulders at a decidedly unprestigious Catholic school in Manhattan. But on the dirty streets of New York City he’s an everyman with a moral code who is unafraid of violence. And when Mike is unwittingly recruited into a secret cell of magicians by a fellow student, Mike’s role as a steadfast soldier begins. These magicians don’t use ritualized rote to work their magic, they use willpower in their clandestine war with the establishment: The Assholes.

The Young World by Chris Weitz

The Young World (The Young World #1) by Chris Weitz

The Young World was released in paperback last month and is also available in hardcover, ebook, and audiobook. USA Today has an excerpt from it.

 

Welcome to New York, a city ruled by teens.

After a mysterious Sickness wipes out the rest of the population, the young survivors assemble into tightly run tribes. Jefferson, the reluctant leader of the Washington Square tribe, and Donna, the girl he’s secretly in love with, have carved out a precarious existence among the chaos.

But when a fellow tribe member discovers a clue that may hold the cure for the Sickness, five teens set out on a life-altering road trip, exchanging gunfire with enemy gangs, escaping cults and militias, braving the wilds of the subway – all in order to save humankind.

The New Order by Chris Weitz

The New Order (The Young World #2) by Chris Weitz

The New Order, the second book in The Young World series, will be released on July 21 (hardcover, ebook, audiobook). A free preview of the first 73 pages is available online, and it’s also possible to get it for the Kindle or the Nook.

 

They thought they were the only ones left. They were wrong.

After the unexpected revelation at the end of the first book, Donna and Jefferson are separated. Jefferson returns to NYC and tries to bring a cure to the Sickness back to the Washington Square tribe, while Donna finds herself in England, facing an unimaginable new world. Can the two reunite and prevent an even greater disaster than the Sickness?

This second book in The Young World trilogy will keep you at the edge of your seat.

Tainted Blood is the third book in M. L. Brennan’s Generation V series. The first book, Generation V, was one of the best (if not the best) first books in an urban fantasy series I’ve read, and I was quite surprised by just how fond of the characters I’d become by the time I finished reading it. Iron Night, the second book, was even better, and despite a slower start than the others, Tainted Blood was also quite entertaining. I’m very much looking forward to Dark Ascension, which releases in August.

With his brother Chivalry temporarily unavailable, Fort continues to manage their mother’s territory in his place. This mostly includes tasks like checking in with the secretary, reading files, and denying a rusalka’s request for permission to murder annoying jet skiers (but offering to try to move her to a quieter lake instead). However, Fort feels like he’s in over his head when a call comes in on the emergency line with the news that the leader of the nearby metsän kunigas has been murdered—and, of course, he is expected to deal with the situation.

Fortunately, Suzume is available to lend her expertise and accompany him on his trip to the crime scene (and even seems to understand she should not refer to the metsän kunigas as “werebears” by the time they arrive). Unfortunately, Fort does not feel any less like he’s in over his head as the day progresses. The dead leader’s family is obviously dismayed to find him in charge of the murder investigation instead of his sister, and one of them resents vampires in general and Fort’s lack of knowledge about the local metsän kunigas family tree in particular. After questioning them, Fort discusses the situation with his own family, who tell him it’s imperative he find the killer—or at least, someone to blame and punish for the murder to appease the bears.

The more books I read in this series, the more I’m certain that I’ve found a new favorite urban fantasy series to join the ranks of Kate Daniels by Ilona Andrews, Mercy Thompson by Patricia Briggs, and October Daye by Seanan McGuire. Collectively, I actually prefer the first three books in this series to the first three in any of those longer-running favorites (although I don’t quite like any of these three individually as much as the third Kate Daniels book!). There’s a lot to love about the Generation V series—the humorous narrative voice, fun characters that become more complex with each book, unique vampire lore that unravels more with each book, and riveting character dynamics.

Tainted Blood did take a little longer to hook me than the previous books in the series since it took some time to show the current situations with Fort’s family, roommate, jobs, and friend-he’d-like-to-become-a-girlfriend before diving in to the main plot. Once Fort begins investigating the murder of the head bear, it gets much more interesting especially as it begins to set up (I’m assuming) the next book with Fort’s realization that Madeline’s health is declining—and his discovery that others realize this too and are preparing for upcoming changes in leadership.

It’s more than just a setup book, though, and I love that it continues to expand both the world and characters. Fort is still young and not yet a full-fledged vampire, and he continues to struggle with wanting to be human—especially after Prudence demonstrates the vampire feeding process to him in a deliciously creepy scene (sorry, couldn’t resist!). He learns more about what survival will mean for him and is terrified by this new knowledge, especially when he realizes how badly he wants to continue to exist. I love that his character wants to do the right thing, but that he has a darker side by virtue of what he is and who his family is.

There is a theme in this book of family, even when one’s family contains monsters, and my favorite part of it was the increasing complexity of Fort’s relationships with his siblings, especially his sister. While both Prudence and Chivalry are far more cold-blooded (sorry) than their younger brother, Fort has always gotten along better with his brother. Chivalry looks out for him and has a tendency to come to his aid in family arguments; however, in this book, Prudence is the one who does the most to help him out. Despite being vocal about feeling that both her brothers are foolish in completely different ways, she is there for both of them in this book. When Fort goes through one of the awful experiences that is part of transitioning to vampire, Prudence is very empathetic and helpful to the point where Fort asks her why she’s being so nice:

 

“You are my brother,” she said simply. “Whether I hate or love you, that fact will never change, and what ties us together can be broken only by death.” [pp. 199]

Prudence may not have much respect for human or most supernatural life and she may complain constantly about both her brothers, but she seems to care for them both in her own way. I think much of her ruthlessness may be driven by family duty and ensuring she does what she thinks is necessary for the family empire, and this book did a great job with adding more dimension to her.

I also loved the relationship between Fort and Suzume, and that there wasn’t much angst even though Suzume hasn’t made up her mind yet about whether or not she wants to date him. The two still get along well together both in friendship and their working relationship and behave like mature adults (well, as mature as can be expected considering Suzume’s idea of fun is adding googly eyes to Fort’s possessions when he’s not looking). Fort obviously really wants to be with her, but he also is not one of those characters who spends the book being emo about it.

Other than the slow start, my major issue with Tainted Blood had nothing to do with the writing: it seemed like it could have been more thoroughly copyedited. There was the occasional typo, but I’ve seen finished copies of books containing more typos. It mostly annoyed me that one scene specified that someone had personalized ringtones for everyone and could tell who was calling before she picked up the phone—only to have her then mention this person had not called from their own number after hanging up. It’s a fairly minor quibble, but I’m a detail-oriented person so I ended up rereading it a couple of times to make sure I really hadn’t misread something before moving on.

Despite a few minor nitpicks, Tainted Blood is another wonderful installment in the Generation V series. I highly recommend these books and enjoy their unique vampire mythology, inclusion of mythical beings uncommon in fantasy, three dimensional characters, and fun interactions between these characters. It’s also quite impressive that the humor in the narrative voice blends in quite naturally most of the time since I think that’s quite rare in books that do this. M. L. Brennan is a superb new author, and I can hardly wait to read her next book.

My Rating: 8/10

Where I got my reading copy: It was a Christmas gift (selected from books on my wish list).

Read an Excerpt (Click “Read an Excerpt” underneath the cover image)

Other Reviews:

Reviews of Previous Books in the Generation V Series:

  1. Generation V
  2. Iron Night

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 (often 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.

This week brought a few books in the mail, including a few I ordered. Two of the books that showed up were already discussed in the same post so I’ll just refer to that if you’re interested in reading more about either: Aurora by Kim Stanley Robinson (July 7) and Artemis Invaded by Jane Lindskold (June 30).

In case you missed it, I reviewed Shadow Scale by Rachel Hartman last week. Next up is probably Tainted Blood by M. L. Brennan, which I very much enjoyed.

On to the books! The first three are the ones I purchased.

The Birthgrave by Tanith Lee

The Birthgrave by Tanith Lee

The 40th anniversary edition of World Fantasy Award-winning author Tanith Lee’s Nebula-nominated debut novel was released earlier this month, about a week after the sad news of her death.

I’ve heard that The Birthgrave is excellent, and I’ve wanted to read it for quite awhile so I was glad to see it was re-released in both paperback and ebook. The other two books in the trilogy are also being reprinted with Shadowfire scheduled for release in September 2015 and Hunting the White Witch in February 2016.

An excerpt from The Birthgrave is available on the publisher’s website (click “Read an Excerpt” under the book cover to view  it).

 

A mysterious woman awakens in the heart of a dormant volcano. She comes forth into a brutal ancient world transformed by genocidal pestilence, fierce beauty, and cultural devastation. She has no memory of herself, and she could be anyone—mortal woman, demoness lover, last living heir to a long-gone race, or a goddess of destruction. Compelled by the terrifying Karrakaz to search for the mysterious Jade that is the answer to her secret self, she embarks on a journey of timeless wonder.

Rediscover this realm of brilliant cruel beauty and seductive immortal ruins, of savage war and grand conquest, of falling stars and silver gods.

This 40th anniversary edition of legendary fantastist Tanith Lee’s debut novel includes its original introduction by Marion Zimmer Bradley.

The Just City by Jo Walton

The Just City (Thessaly #1) by Jo Walton

I wanted to read this based on the premise alone—speculative fiction with not just mythology but also philosophy—but I want to read it even more after hearing many times that it’s a wonderful book! The Just City was released in hardcover and ebook earlier this year, and a sequel, The Philosopher Kings, will be released in the same formats next week. A third book, Necessity, is in progress.

An excerpt from The Just City is available on Tor.com. If you’ve read that one and want to read the beginning of the next book, an excerpt from The Philosopher Kings is on Tor.com as well.

 

“Here in the Just City you will become your best selves. You will learn and grow and strive to be excellent.”

Created as an experiment by the time-traveling goddess Pallas Athene, the Just City is a planned community, populated by over ten thousand children and a few hundred adult teachers from all eras of history, along with some handy robots from the far human future—all set down together on a Mediterranean island in the distant past.

The student Simmea, born an Egyptian farmer’s daughter sometime between 500 and 1000 A.D, is a brilliant child, eager for knowledge, ready to strive to be her best self. The teacher Maia was once Ethel, a young Victorian lady of much learning and few prospects, who prayed to Pallas Athene in an unguarded moment during a trip to Rome—and, in an instant, found herself in the Just City with grey-eyed Athene standing unmistakably before her.

Meanwhile, Apollo—stunned by the realization that there are things mortals understand better than he does—has arranged to live a human life, and has come to the City as one of the children. He knows his true identity, and conceals it from his peers. For this lifetime, he is prone to all the troubles of being human.

Then, a few years in, Sokrates arrives—the same Sokrates recorded by Plato himself—to ask all the troublesome questions you would expect. What happens next is a tale only the brilliant Jo Walton could tell.

Hidden Huntress by Danielle L. Jensen

Hidden Huntress (The Malediction Trilogy #2) by Danielle Jensen

Stolen Songbird was one of my favorite books read last year so of course I had to get the sequel! Hidden Huntress was released in paperback and ebook last month, and the audiobook recently became available as well. Chapters 1-3 can be read on Fantasy Faction.

The final book in the trilogy, Warrior Witch, is scheduled for release on May 3, 2016.

 

Sometimes, one must accomplish the impossible.

Beneath the mountain, the king’s reign of tyranny is absolute; the one troll with the capacity to challenge him is imprisoned for treason. Cécile has escaped the darkness of Trollus, but she learns all too quickly that she is not beyond the reach of the king’s power. Or his manipulation.

Recovered from her injuries, she now lives with her mother in Trianon and graces the opera stage every night. But by day she searches for the witch who has eluded the trolls for five hundred years. Whether she succeeds or fails, the costs to those she cares about will be high.

To find Anushka, she must delve into magic that is both dark and deadly. But the witch is a clever creature. And Cécile might not just be the hunter. She might also be the hunted…

The Clockwork Crown by Beth Cato

The Clockwork Crown (Clockwork Dagger Duology #2) by Beth Cato

The second half of the story begun in The Clockwork Dagger was released in paperback and ebook earlier this month. An excerpt from The Clockwork Crown can be read on USA Today. If you’d rather start with a sample from the first book, there is an excerpt from The Clockwork Dagger on Tor.com.

A prequel short story, “The Deepest Poison,” is also available as an ebook.

 

Rich in atmosphere, imagination, and fun, the action-packed, magic-filled sequel to The Clockwork Dagger is an enchanting steampunk fantasy, evocative of the works of Trudi Canavan and Gail Carriger.

Narrowly surviving assassination and capture, Octavia Leander, a powerful magical healer, is on the run with handsome Alonzo Garrett, the Clockwork Dagger who forfeited his career with the Queen’s secret society of spies and killers—and possibly his life—to save her. Now, they are on a dangerous quest to find safety and answers: Why is Octavia so powerful? Why does she seem to be undergoing a transformation unlike any witnessed for hundreds of years?

The truth may rest with the source of her mysterious healing power—the Lady’s Tree. But the tree lies somewhere in a rough, inhospitable territory known as the Waste. Eons ago, this land was made barren and uninhabitable by an evil spell, until a few hardy souls dared to return over the last century. For years, the Waste has waged a bloody battle against the royal court to win its independence—and they need Octavia’s powers to succeed.

Joined by unlikely allies, including a menagerie of gremlin companions, she must evade killers and Clockwork Daggers on a dangerous journey through a world on the brink of deadly civil war.

Vampires of Manhattan by Melissa de la Cruz

Vampires of Manhattan (The New Blue Bloods Coven #1) by Melissa de la Cruz

Vampires of Manhattan by New York Times bestselling author Melissa de la Cruz was released in hardcover, ebook, and audiobook formats last year. The paperback edition will be released on July 7. USA Today has an excerpt from Vampires of Manhattan.

 

The Vampires of Manhattan is “hipster horror”–the memorable characters from her Blue Bloods series are older and cooler than before, trying to build “Millennial” lives in the bustle of Manhattan while battling forces of evil and, of course, each other.

Hero of this sexy, paranormal action tale is Oliver Hazard-Perry, former human conduit, and Manhattan’s only human-turned-vampire, now the head of the Blue Bloods Coven. When his all-too-human lover is found murdered on the eve of the coven’s annual Four Hundred Ball–a celebration meant to usher in a new era in vampire society, and to mark the re-unification of the Coven after decades of unrest and decay–Oliver is devastated.

Now, not only is he trying to create a new world order for the immortal elite, he’s the prime suspect and is stalked by the newly installed head of the vampire secret police. Because according to the new rules, vampires who take human life can now be executed. Burned.

How can an immortal sentenced to die fight back? He has to find the killer–and the answers lie deep in vampire lore.

Book Description from Goodreads:

Seraphina took the literary world by storm with 8 starred reviews and numerous “Best of” lists. At last, her eagerly awaited sequel has arrived—and with it comes an epic battle between humans and dragons.

The kingdom of Goredd: a world where humans and dragons share life with an uneasy balance, and those few who are both human and dragon must hide the truth. Seraphina is one of these, part girl, part dragon, who is reluctantly drawn into the politics of her world. When war breaks out between the dragons and humans, she must travel the lands to find those like herself—for she has an inexplicable connection to all of them, and together they will be able to fight the dragons in powerful, magical ways.

As Seraphina gathers this motley crew, she is pursued by humans who want to stop her. But the most terrifying is another half dragon, who can creep into people’s minds and take them over. Until now, Seraphina has kept her mind safe from intruders, but that also means she’s held back her own gift. It is time to make a choice: Cling to the safety of her old life, or embrace a powerful new destiny?

Rachel Hartman’s Seraphina, a New York Times bestselling YA fantasy, was my favorite debut novel of 2012. It hooked me with one of the more gripping prologues I’ve read, and it continued to be both well written and compulsively readable. Furthermore, the world and characters had depth, and Seraphina herself was a wonderful, compelling character. This long-awaited sequel, Shadow Scale, was one of my highly anticipated 2015 releases. However, I found it disappointing when compared to Seraphina, though I did enjoy it with some reservations.

On the surface, Shadow Scale seemed like it should have appealed to me more than Seraphina. It’s a darker novel and not everything ends up being 100% happy in the end, plus it features a fantastic villain. The sequel also expands on the world introduced in the first book, both through exploration of its cultures and the abilities and history of the half dragons. While the writing wasn’t as beautifully phrased as in the previous novel, it’s still a well-written book with some occasional humor and a few great scenes. Yet it never charmed me as much as the first book and its more intimate story of Seraphina and her struggles as a half dragon—mainly because Seraphina herself was not as compelling. She is more of an observer and messenger than a living, breathing character in her own story in Shadow Scale.

I’ve been struggling with how to articulate my thoughts on Seraphina’s character since I wouldn’t call her passive. She’s still courageous and has no qualms about going out and doing what she thinks needs to be done. When she wants to find the other half dragons both for herself and the good of the kingdom, she goes to find them. When someone close to her is in need of rescue, she joins the rescue mission. Seraphina is certainly a character who acts; however, her main role in the story seems to be observing and gathering knowledge. While her decisions have potential to change the course of the story, they largely fail to have any impact and seem to serve more as a way of introducing other characters, showing more of this vast world, or putting her in the right place at the right time to learn what she needs to know. While I appreciate that this is often realistic since plans do not always unfold exactly as hoped, I also felt like it meant reading a lot of pages with very little payoff—and that the story was not really about Seraphina even though she’s the main character. It’s more about the other half dragons and the war, and Seraphina’s own story seems secondary to the rest.

Seraphina does have her own struggles that need to be resolved, particularly unlocking her own half dragon abilities, but this is an outward problem rather than an inward one that causes personal growth. This issue is very quickly resolved toward the end of the book with no time to explore what it truly means to her instead of simply what happened to her. I like sequels to show more character development and build on the characters from the first book, and I didn’t think this one did that in a satisfying way with Seraphina or the other major characters. Kiggs and Glisselda, the more memorable characters from the first book, were not in this book as much. The romantic tension between Seraphina and Kiggs is carried forward, but I felt they had more spark when they were in the getting-to-know-you phase of their relationship (which is not unrealistic but is also not as fun to read). Glisselda had one of the standout scenes in this book—but it was also very frustrating because what happened was dropped and never came up again. This could have been addressed so easily, and it was very frustrating that there wasn’t just one more scene or even a little examination of one vague line that was a complete cop-out since it was one of the first person narrator’s thoughts. Even aside from this one particular instance, I would have liked Glisselda to have been a bigger part of the book since I was pleasantly surprised by her development by the end of Seraphina.

Although I was disappointed that more wasn’t done with some of the characters I’d come to know in the previous book, there was one very intriguing new character—Jannoula, the villain. She’s a competent, intelligent strategist and a master manipulator, both due to her mind powers and her ability to accurately assess people. Jannoula doesn’t have a single shred of kindness or compassion, but it’s difficult not to feel at least a little sorry for her. She’s been treated terribly from the moment she was born, and it makes sense that she became the person she did. Learning about her past with Seraphina was one of my favorite parts of the book.

While Shadow Scale was somewhat enjoyable due to its fascinating villain and revelations about half dragons, it was not as captivating as Seraphina largely because she and the other familiar characters were not as memorable as in the previous book. While I appreciated the wider scope in Shadow Scale, the books I love most have characters that come alive—and this book fell short in that area.

My Rating: 6/10

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

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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 (often 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.

This week brought two books in the mail, but first here are some review updates.

In case you missed them last week, two new book reviews were posted, Uprooted by Naomi Novik (LOVED it!) and Stories of the Raksura: Volume One by Martha Wells (enjoyed it, especially “The Tale of Indigo and Cloud”). I’m currently working on a review of Shadow Scale by Rachel Hartman.

On to this week’s books!

The Best of Nancy Kress

The Best of Nancy Kress by Nancy Kress

A limited edition will be available on September 30. There will be 1,000 signed numbered copies of The Best of Nancy Kress.

I’ve enjoyed everything I’ve read by Nancy Kress especially her Sleepless novels, beginning with Beggars in Spain; After the Fall, Before the Fall, During the Fall; and Yesterday’s Kin, which recently won the Nebula Award for Best Novella. This collection contains the novella Beggars in Spain among other works of shorter-than-novel-length fiction, each followed by an afterword by the author.

 

Nancy Kress, winner of multiple awards for her science fiction and fantasy, ranges through space and time in this stunning collection. Anne Boleyn is snatched from her time stream–with unexpected consequences for two worlds. A far-future spaceship brings religion to a planet that already harbors shocking natives. People genetically engineered to never need to sleep clash with those who do. A scientific expedition to the center of the galaxy discovers more than anyone bargained for. A woman finds that ”people like us” does not mean what she thinks it does.

Praised for both her hard SF and her complex characters, Nancy Kress brings a unique viewpoint to twenty-one stories, the best of a long and varied career that has won her five Nebulas, two Hugos, a Sturgeon, and the John W. Campbell Memorial Award.

Table of Contents:

Introduction
And Wild For to Hold
Out of All Them Bright Stars
Pathways
Dancing on Air
Unto the Daughters
Laws of Survival
Someone To Watch Over Me
Flowers of Aulit Prison
Price of Oranges
By Fools Like Me
Casey’s Empire
Shiva in Shadow
Grant Us This Day
Kindness of Strangers
End Game
My Mother, Dancing
Trinity
People Like Us
Evolution
Margin of Error
Beggars in Spain

The Unnoticeables by Robert Brockway

The Unnoticeables by Robert Brockway

The Unnoticeables will be released on July 7 (hardcover, ebook, audiobook). An excerpt is available on Tor.com.

 

From Robert Brockway, Sr. Editor and Columnist of Cracked.com comes The Unnoticeables, a funny and frightening urban fantasy.

There are angels, and they are not beneficent or loving. But they do watch over us. They watch our lives unfold, analyzing us for repeating patterns and redundancies. When they find them, the angels simplify those patterns and remove the redundancies, and the problem that is “you” gets solved.

Carey doesn’t much like that idea. As a punk living in New York City, 1977, Carey is sick and tired of watching strange kids with unnoticeable faces abduct his friends. He doesn’t care about the rumors of tar-monsters in the sewers or unkillable psychopaths invading the punk scene–all he wants is to drink cheap beer and dispense ass-kickings.

Kaitlyn isn’t sure what she’s doing with her life. She came to Hollywood in 2013 to be a stunt woman, but last night a former teen heartthrob tried to eat her, her best friend has just gone missing, and there’s an angel outside her apartment. Whatever she plans on doing with her life, it should probably happen in the few remaining minutes she has left.

There are angels. There are demons. They are the same thing. It’s up to Carey and Kaitlyn to stop them. The survival of the human race is in their hands.

We are, all of us, well and truly screwed.