Instead of writing one huge post of all the books I’m looking forward to in 2012 with info on them, I had decided to highlight some of these books in their own posts throughout the rest of 2011. I’ve decided to carry this feature forward into this year as I discover new books coming out this year that sound interesting and continue with books of 2013 as it gets closer to the end of the year.

Days of Blood and Starlight by Laini Taylor

I discovered Laini Taylor’s writing in 2009 when I was contacted about reviewing her Dreamdark books by the publisher. They’re middle grade, which I didn’t realize at the time – and I’m glad I didn’t since I quite possibly would have thought they were too young for me to enjoy and passed up the opportunity to read a couple of wonderful books. Blackbringer, the first of these, was quite good, but it was the second book, Silksinger, that convinced me I must read anything I could get a hold of written by Laini Taylor. Later that year, Lips Touch: Three Times was released, and I purchased a copy soon after it was available even though it was a collection of 3 stories and I don’t tend to have great luck with shorter fiction. I loved it, especially the dark story “Hatchling” (which remains my favorite of her stories, including her novel length stories).

Naturally, I was thrilled when Daughter of Smoke & Bone was one of the ARCs available at last year’s BEA and was second in line for the author signing. I started reading it on the long bus ride home even though it was the end of May and the book wasn’t out until the fall (I don’t usually read my early copies that early and try to wait until closer to release date). Once again, I found a book I loved for the gorgeous writing, the dialogue, the characters, and the mythology. But what continues to stand out to me the most about Laini Taylor’s books is the writing – no one writes quite like she does. Her writing isn’t dense, but she has such a way with words and can do everything from write a beautiful passage to humorous dialogue to a description of emotion that cuts right to the heart of how it feels.

When Laini Taylor posted a picture of her author copy on her blog the other day, it reminded me that the wait is almost over! On November 6, Days of Blood & Starlight will be released in hardcover, ebook, and audiobook. The aforementioned blog post mentions it’s Laini Taylor’s longest book yet and is 100 pages longer than the first book in the trilogy. It also has a link to read the first seven chapters of the book. If you haven’t read the first book, don’t read that one since there will be major spoilers! You can read this excerpt from Daughter of Smoke & Bone instead.

I haven’t read the excerpt from Days of Blood & Starlight since I prefer just to read the whole book at once, but from the sounds of the comments it does end on a huge cliffhanger – so if that’s going to bother you, beware!

Also, there are spoilers for book 1 in the description of book 2 below. I’m not quite sure just how spoilery they’d be to someone reading it who knew nothing about the first book, but those who haven’t read the first book may want to skip it just in case.

About Days of Blood & Starlight:

Once upon a time, an angel and a devil fell in love and dared to imagine a world free of bloodshed and war.

This is not that world.

Ar student and monster’s apprentice Karou finally has the answers she has always sought. She knows who she is–and what she is. But with this knowledge comes another truth she would give anything to undo: She loved the enemy and he betrayed her, and a world suffered for it.

In this stunning sequel to the highly acclaimed Daughter of Smoke & Bone, Karou must decide how far she’ll go to avenge her people. Filled with heartbreak and beauty, secrets and impossible choices, Days of Blood & Starlight finds Karou and Akiva on opposing sides as an age-old war stirs back to life.

While Karou and her allies build a monstrous army in a land of dust and starlight, Akiva wages a different sort of battle: a battle for redemption. For hope.

But can any hope be salvaged from the ashes of their broken dream?

Other Books of 2012:

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. 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 four surprise books – two ARCs and two finished copies of books that showed up as ARCs earlier. One of these ARCs has me very excited!

Since I already talked about the two finished copies, I’m not going to go over them in detail again. If you’re curious about either of them, here are the links to read more:

Three Parts Dead by Max Gladstone (Release Date: October 2)

Tomorrow the Killing by Daniel Polansky (UK Release Date: October 11)

On to the new books!

Wonders of the Invisible World by Patricia A. McKillip

Wonders of the Invisible World by Patricia A. McKillip

This is a short story collection of previously published stories by World Fantasy Award winner Patricia A. McKillip. It also contains an introduction by Charles de Lint and “What Inspires Me” (Patricia McKillip’s Guest of Honor speech from Wiscon 2004). My ARC says it will be available in trade paperback in November, but you may be able to get it earlier. Amazon says it will be available on October 1 and Barnes and Noble seems to have it now. The table of contents and a sample can be read on Amazon.

When this showed up, I was curious since I’ve been interested in reading the work of Patricia McKillip, but I didn’t really think I’d end up reading it since short story collections often don’t manage to hold my interest for very long. On Friday night, I picked it up to see what the beginning looked like. Charles de Lint’s introduction was so heartfelt it made me want to read everything Patricia McKillip had ever written. Still, it was short stories, which often sound good to me in theory but don’t manage to keep me reading. I’d probably end up starting with a novel since she’s written quite a few of them, but I would read a page or two just to see what her writing style was like.

I read a little bit of the first short story.. and then the whole thing… and then the next story… I’ve now read about 100 pages in this book and just LOVE her writing. This is one short story collection I’ll be reading in its entirety, and I’ve also been adding more of her books to my wishlist. Any suggestions for which book should be my second experience with her writing?

Stylistically rooted in fairy tale and mythology, imperceptible landscapes are explored in these opulent stories from a beloved fantasy icon. There are princesses dancing with dead suitors, a knight in love with an official of exotic lineage, and fortune’s fool stealing into the present instead of the future. In one mesmerizing tale, a time-traveling angel is forbidden to intervene in Cotton Mather’s religious ravings, while another narrative finds a wizard seduced in his youth by the Faerie Queen and returning the treasure that is rightfully hers. Bewitching, bittersweet, and deeply intoxicating, this collection draws elements from the fables of history and re-creates them in startlingly magical ways.

Luck of the Draw by Piers Anthony

Luck of the Draw (Xanth #36) by Piers Anthony

The latest book in the long-running Xanth series will be released in hardcover and ebook on December 24. (I haven’t read any of the books in the series so I don’t have much to add, especially since it’s a bit early for excerpts to be out there.)

Bryce is summoned to Xanth as part of a wager between the Demons Earth and Xanth. To his surprise, he has left behind his home and family and eighty-year-old body forever, in exchange for youth and magic….and a quest. He must court and marry Princess Harmony, who is anything but willing to be courted!

Luck of the Draw is Anthony’s thirty-sixth pun-filled adventure in the magical land of Xanth.

I just realized I never announced the winner of the signed copy of House of Shadows by Rachel Neumeier! (The winner has been contacted and knows the book is on its way, but I like to try to mention winners so other people who were hoping to win don’t wonder if the winner was actually ever drawn, like I used to when I entered giveaways for books I was DYING to win.) The winner is:

Jennifer from Scotland

Congratulations, and I hope you love the book as much as I did! (I admit I am a bit envious of the signed copy.)

Clean is the first book in the Mindspace Investigations series by debut author Alex Hughes. The second book in the series, Sharp, will be released in April 2013. The month before that a novella titled Payoff will be released.

First of all, I apologize if the following plot description for this novel is awkwardly phrased. The name of the first person narrator in this book is not revealed until the very end so I am going to avoid using his name and refer to him as “MP” (short for “Main Protagonist”).

As a powerful telepath with precognitive skills, MP used his Ability to work for the Telepaths’ Guild until he developed a drug habit that got in the way of his duties. Now he works for the police department, where he is their most successful interrogator and a consultant on matters related to telepathy and the Guild. In this latter task, MP must walk the fine line between revealing enough information to help the cops he is working with without revealing so much that the Guild decides he’s a problem. Furthermore, every day is a struggle to remain clean with his need for the drug Satin permeating his life.

When a string of people are murdered and the Homicide Department has no leads, Detective Isabella Cherabino decides to bring MP to the scene of the latest murder and see if he can glean any information about what happened with his Ability. The deeper MP gets into the investigation, the more convinced he is that the person behind the murders is a very dangerous person with at least one Ability of his or her own. The stakes are even higher when he has a vision in which he is being killed by the murderer while Cherabino is nearby and has obviously been abused. Can he change the future for both of them – and more importantly, can he stay clean long enough to even have the chance to try?

Clean is described as a dystopian thriller on the author’s website. While there are some elements of speculative fiction, it’s more of a crime novel than a science fiction novel that explores the society it’s set in. Because it is does have a standard mystery plot and only a little world-building, I did find it fairly forgettable once I finished reading it. That’s not to say I didn’t have some fun with it while I was reading it because the last 150 pages or so kept me entertained and on the very edge of my seat with suspense. Yet it took awhile for it to get to the point where I really wanted to keep reading, and there wasn’t anything about the book that made it stand out from many others I’ve read in the end. The world, plot twists, writing and dialogue, and characters all faded into the background once the book was done and out of sight, and if not for writing this review (and doing some rereading in preparation) they probably would have stayed there.

The setting in Clean is an altered future caused by a major event, the Tech Wars. Computer technology was used to wreak havoc on the world, and as a result, it’s illegal to own most types of computer technology. It also lead to the Guild gaining prominence since they were instrumental in ending the wars. However, they used terrifying means to do so and are also feared for their power. This is only mentioned briefly, and the details of what they did are not explained though it is also mentioned that people with a certain level of Ability are required to join whether they like it or not. Despite the fact that the main character has some wariness about them, I don’t think there’s enough specific information about the Guild to really get a sense of how terrifying they are. Between the restrictions on technology and the power the Guild has, there’s potential for the series to lean more toward a dystopia, but I didn’t think the effects of the society were shown enough in this book for it to seem particularly dystopian. It remains part of the background for now, and this installment was focused more on the case of the serial murders.

The murder mystery/investigation was spiced up a bit by the main character’s use of telepathy and Mindspace to gather information about the killers, but there was still a lot of the standard questioning that comes with police dramas. Some extra suspense was added with the main character’s vision of himself and Cherabino in the grasp of the killer and the question of whether or not the future could be changed. The conclusion was a page-turner, but at the same time the way it was wrapped up was a bit of a letdown. Certain parts of the resolution were very coincidentally tied to the past of one of the characters, and this seemed rather random and like a contrived way to make the situation more personal.

Most of the characters were not particularly developed, and the only two who had any significant time dedicated to their characters were Cherabino and the narrator. I did think Hughes struck a good balance with the main protagonist when it came to his drug addiction. It is shown that his addiction impacts every part of his life, but he was kept busy enough with the investigation that he didn’t gripe about wanting Satin so much that it became too much to bear. Most of Cherabino’s character exploration is just learning about her past, but the narrator’s character does actually develop over the course of the book. By the end, he’s come to a realization and made an important decision, and I liked that he at least didn’t remain static throughout the entire book.

Clean wasn’t a bad book, and the fast-paced second half did make up for some earlier setup and slowness. However, there’s not much about the book that stands out as above average once it is finished, and there are parts that seem too convenient. The occurrence that drives events at the end seems too random to be natural. All in all, Clean offers some entertainment value but there’s not much to linger on once it is completed.

My Rating: 5.5/10 – Mostly ok but there were some entertaining moments.

Where I got my reading copy: I was contacted about reviewing the book by the author and received a copy of the book from the publisher.

Read a Guest Post by Alex Hughes: A Quick Guide to the World of Clean

Read an Excerpt from Clean

Other Reviews of Clean:

Today I’m happy to have a guest post by debut author Alex Hughes to share with you! Alex’s novel Clean, the first book in the Mindspace Investigations series, was released earlier this month, and this post gives some background on the world it is set in. Hope you enjoy reading about it!

Clean by Alex Hughes

A Quick Guide to the World of Clean
By Alex Hughes

  1. Tech Wars
    Sixty years ago, the world was broken when a madman and his followers turned technology against the people. Cars turned against them, phones publicized all financial data, and the smart houses turned into prisons. People died in deliberate car wrecks, went penniless overnight, companies imploded, and your neighbors literally rotted in their homes. Even now, decades later, the people can’t forget. Any computer technology bigger than the chip that powers your oven timer is strictly forbidden. Of course, that doesn’t mean the power to make it doesn’t exist…
  2. Fusion-Powered Flying Cars
    Turns out you can modulate a small-scale fusion engine with a very tiny chip on the scale of that oven timer. And fusion is stable, relatively clean, and powers cars (and anti-gravity fields) very well. We’ve run out of fossil fuels, sure, but really, who needs them anyway?
  3. Telepathy, etc. etc.
    A small but significant portion of the population now has mental Ability. Sure, that means a lot of telepaths of various strengths, but it also means precognition, telekinesis, teleportation, and pyrokinetics. But that’s the fun part.
  4. The Guild & Jurisdiction
    After the Guild stepped up to save the world at the end of the Tech Wars, they’d earned themselves both fear and respect. They also won the Koshna Accords, where they get total jurisdiction over their members… and where membership gets compulsory at a certain strength of telepath. Born with Level Seven Telepathy? Welcome to the Guild, your new home/prison/family/collective. Mind the rules – they’re enforced swiftly and strongly.
  5. Internet & Privacy Laws
    Remember those cameras in public places? Gone. Electronic banking? Gone for the likes of us. The little Internet is still full of superviruses and scary things, and even email takes three days to go through Quarantine. It’s okay though. For the first time, this country finally has the privacy laws it’s always needed so desperately.
  6. Pollution
    Yes, the rain is carcinogenic, but with advances in medical science, they can take care of most of the cancers in an afternoon. Plus produce artificial organs if yours wear out. So the horrific pollution really isn’t so bad…
  7. Lingering Technology
    If you see Tech left over in your local reclaimed buildings, please report it promptly to the Tech Control Organization. We rely on citizens like you to help us keep these dangers off the street. Remember, a safe world is a Tech free world. Thank you.

About Clean:

A RUTHLESS KILLER—
OUT OF SIGHT, OUT OF MIND

I used to work for the Telepath’s Guild before they kicked me out for a drug habit that wasn’t entirely my fault. Now I work for the cops, helping Homicide Detective Isabella Cherabino put killers behind bars.

My ability to get inside the twisted minds of suspects makes me the best interrogator in the department. But the normals keep me on a short leash. When the Tech Wars ripped the world apart, the Guild stepped up to save it. But they had to get scary to do it—real scary.

Now the cops don’t trust the telepaths, the Guild doesn’t trust me, a serial killer is stalking the city—and I’m aching for a fix. But I need to solve this case. Fast. I’ve just had a vision of the future: I’m the next to die.

About Alex Hughes:
Alex has written since early childhood, and loves great stories in any form including scifi, fantasy, and mystery. Over the years, Alex has lived in many neighborhoods of the sprawling metro Atlanta area. Decatur, the neighborhood on which Clean is centered, was Alex’s college home.

On any given week you can find Alex in the kitchen cooking gourmet Italian food, watching hours of police procedural dramas, and typing madly.

Website | Facebook | Twitter

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. 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’s post is a short one since the only book that came in this week was a book I won from a Goodreads giveaway.

First, just a brief update about reviews and guests coming up. Alex Hughes, author of Clean, is going to share a guide to the world in the Mindspace Investigation series next week. I finished reading Clean last weekend, and I’m going to start on my review today so that can go up next week as well. A review of The City’s Son by Tom Pollock is in progress, and my next review after that will be the book I’m reading right now, The Tainted City by Courtney Schafer (which I am enjoying so far!).

The Warded Man by Peter V. Brett

The Warded Man (Demon Cycle #1) by Peter V. Brett

I remember hearing a lot about this book a couple of years ago, and most of my Goodreads friends really liked this one. One of the cover quotes mentions it’s dark fantasy and the reviews also mention it being character-driven so it sounds like something I might like!

In the UK and Australia, the title of this book is The Painted Man. The Warded Man is available in mass market paperback and ebook and as an Audible audiobook (and you may be able to find a hardcover, although that doesn’t seem to be as easy to find now as the other formats). The second book in the series, The Desert Spear, is also available. The Daylight War, the third book, is scheduled for release in February 2013.

An excerpt from The Warded Man can be read on the publisher’s website.

As darkness falls after sunset, the corelings rise—demons who possess supernatural powers and burn with a consuming hatred of humanity. For hundreds of years the demons have terrorized the night, slowly culling the human herd that shelters behind magical wards—symbols of power whose origins are lost in myth and whose protection is terrifyingly fragile. It was not always this way. Once, men and women battled the corelings on equal terms, but those days are gone. Night by night the demons grow stronger, while human numbers dwindle under their relentless assault. Now, with hope for the future fading, three young survivors of vicious demon attacks will dare the impossible, stepping beyond the crumbling safety of the wards to risk everything in a desperate quest to regain the secrets of the past. Together, they will stand against the night.