Range of Ghosts is the first book in Eternal Sky, an epic fantasy trilogy by Elizabeth Bear. It was just released a couple of months ago in both hardcover and ebook. The next book, Shattered Pillars, is scheduled for release in March 2013.

After the death of the ruling Khagan, a bloody battle for succession has been reduced to two main contenders: the former Khagan’s brother Qori Buqa and Temur, a nephew who inherited his claim to the throne when Qori Buqa killed his brother. Following a battle he barely survives, Temur is woken by a horse he names Bansh and rides south to hide among clans where he will be safer from his uncle’s assassins. Though he manages to blend in with the clans, he and his uncle both know that the other survives since their moons still show in the Eternal Sky, so the hunt continues. Eventually, Temur’s camp is attacked and a young woman he has befriended, Edene, is captured.  Temur determines to get her back and leaves the very next day to try to find her.

In the meantime, the Once-Princess Samarkar of Rasan is undergoing the arduous process of becoming a wizard. In order to even have a chance of gaining magic, she had her ability to have children surgically removed. It is a dangerous procedure for a woman, and there is no guarantee that there will be results even if she manages to survive it. Regardless, even if it is unsuccessful, she will join the wizard caste and leave her life as a princess behind forever. While this lowers her chance of getting involved in the kind of succession battle that threatens Temur’s life, it significantly raises the chance of nasty encounters with undead cults.

Range of Ghosts was one of my most anticipated books of 2012. For one, Elizabeth Bear is one of my favorite authors because of her lovely writing and intelligently crafted stories full of myth and wonder. Also, the way she described it in an interview I did with her in 2011 made me desperately want to read it. It did not disappoint, and I actually think Range of Ghosts is even a little better than my previous favorite book by Elizabeth Bear, The Sea Thy Mistress.

Range of Ghosts is an immersive fantasy book, one that so vividly portrays the world and characters that they come to life. I love that life here is not sugar-coated and shows the harsh reality of those vying for and trying to preserve power. From the opening scene with Temur struggling to keep himself going after the battle in which his brother was killed, Bear’s characters learn that glory is not as common as mud and blood. Similarly, Samarkar’s first appearance evoked the same sort of emotions as it showed the lengths she went to for even the chance to gain magic. The risks she took, both in body and in the life she will now have to live, are heartbreaking:

 

She had chosen to trade barrenness and the risk of death for the chance of strength. Real strength, her own. Not the mirror-caught power her father, his widow, her half brothers, or her dead husband might have happened to shine her way.

It seemed but a small sacrifice. [pp. 38]

Range of Ghosts is set in a world packed with myth and history, but unlike many doorstopper fantasy books Bear’s skill allows her to create this world in a short, beautifully written tale. I loved how Samarkar and Temur both came from distinct cultures with palpably different histories, yet their stories still manage to mirror each other and create interesting parallels. Rasan’s princesses were not helpless but sturdy and determined, doing what they have to do to survive without complaining. They were not spoiled royalty, and Temur’s history has taught him to respect such powerful individuals.

The princesses, like many of the people in this story, had prescribed roles within their culture. But one thing that I consistently see in Bear’s books is that the characters are not defined only by those roles. Nor are they are defined by a single overriding characteristic, but it is clear that they all have a purpose and will that goes beyond the lot they are handed. Samarkar is shown with a bit of a ruthless streak, and Temur is filled with grief, but neither of them are limited to those qualities as they are drawn as fully three dimensional people.  And Bansh was the best horse ever.

Magic in this world was given an intriguing twist as well. Rather than being the ultimate weapon that unbalances every battle, most wizards never attain any kind of great power and even tiny amounts require huge sacrifice.  Some wizards never gain any magic at all, which just makes them more interesting.  They are not viewed as failures and sent away, but instead become scholars or teachers and continue on in the order.  Many people on the outside never even know which wizards have true magic and which do not.  It is a practical, real-world tool for solving problems, and advanced knowledge can often be used to solve problems just as much as mystical arts.  Wizards are not the only users of magic in this world, though, and when other forms of it show up they can be properly epic in scope.

Range of Ghosts has a well-developed setting that makes you feel like you’re there with all the little touches filled with details you can sink your teeth into. It also has realistic and well-developed characters and beautiful prose. It may seem to move a little slowly on occasion largely because it seems to be setting up the rest of the trilogy, but it is a fantastic book and I’m looking forward to the next one.

My Rating: 9/10

Where I got my reading copy: Review copy from the publisher. (I also received an e-ARC from the author, but I read the finished copy when it showed up in the mail.)

Read an Excerpt

Other Reviews:

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.

Sorry it’s been so quiet here lately. I had no Internet at home for a couple of days and I was sick for about a week and a half and only really started feeling normal again Friday. This weekend I’ve been working on a review of Range of Ghosts by Elizabeth Bear so I’m hoping to (finally!) get that up sometime over this next week. Since I have 4 more books to write about after that, I’m reading a very long book while I try to get caught up!

This week brought 1 ARC and 2 review copies, and I also bought one book the week before that I didn’t end up writing about with being really sick last weekend.

House of Shadows by Rachel Neumeier

House of Shadows by Rachel Neumeier

Although its official release date is July 10th, this already seems to be available in some places. House of Shadows can be read as an ebook or trade paperback. The only excerpt I could find is the preview on Amazon.

While Rachel Neumeier has written some young adult fantasy, this one is not considered YA. It is a stand alone, although the author does say on her website that she has an idea for a sequel.

Right now, there is a chance for US residents to win a copy on Goodreads.

I have been interested in reading one of Rachel Neumeier’s books for a long time and I really like the sound of this one. Of course, that means when the author contacted me about participating in her blog tour, I eagerly accepted. You can expect a review of this one in August or September as part of the blog tour.

Orphaned, two sisters are left to find their own fortunes.

Sweet and proper, Karah’s future seems secure at a glamorous Flower House. She could be pampered for the rest of her life… if she agrees to play their game.

Nemienne, neither sweet nor proper, has fewer choices. Left with no alternative, she accepts a mysterious mage’s offer of an apprenticeship. Agreeing means a home and survival, but can Nemienne trust the mage?

With the arrival of a foreign bard into the quiet city, dangerous secrets are unearthed, and both sisters find themselves at the center of a plot that threatens not only to upset their newly found lives, but also to destroy their kingdom.

For Darkness Shows the Stars by Diana Peterfreund

For Darkness Shows the Stars by Diana Peterfreund

I missed this one at BEA because N. K. Jemisin’s signing was at the same time, but I bought a copy. A science fiction retelling of Jane Austen’s Persuasion sounded pretty intriguing, and I have been hearing over and over again how good it is.

This young adult novel was recently released in hardcover and ebook. An excerpt from For Darkness Shows the Stars is available on the publisher’s website. A prequel entitled “Among the Nameless Stars” can be read online for free. It’s about Kai and takes place 4 years before the novel.

It’s been several generations since a genetic experiment gone wrong caused the Reduction, decimating humanity and giving rise to a Luddite nobility who outlawed most technology.

Elliot North has always known her place in this world. Four years ago Elliot refused to run away with her childhood sweetheart, the servant Kai, choosing duty to her family’s estate over love. Since then the world has changed: a new class of Post-Reductionists is jumpstarting the wheel of progress, and Elliot’s estate is foundering, forcing her to rent land to the mysterious Cloud Fleet, a group of shipbuilders that includes renowned explorer Captain Malakai Wentforth–an almost unrecognizable Kai. And while Elliot wonders if this could be their second chance, Kai seems determined to show Elliot exactly what she gave up when she let him go.

But Elliot soon discovers her old friend carries a secret–one that could change their society . . . or bring it to its knees. And again, she’s faced with a choice: cling to what she’s been raised to believe, or cast her lot with the only boy she’s ever loved, even if she’s lost him forever.

Inspired by Jane Austen’s “Persuasion”, “For Darkness Shows the Stars” is a breathtaking romance about opening your mind to the future and your heart to the one person you know can break it.

Fate by L. R. Fredericks

Fate by L. R. Fredericks

Fate will be released in the UK on July 5 in hardcover and ebook. The prologue and first chapter are on the author’s website.

I actually hadn’t heard of this book or author before it showed up the other day, but it sounds like it could be interesting. This is the second book in the Time and Light series following Farundell. Fate is supposed to stand alone and only be loosely related to the first book, though. Neither of these books appear to be available in the US.

FATE is the story of Lord Francis Damory’s quest for the elixir of immortality. Set against the magnificent background of the eighteenth century where science and magic, death and beauty meet in the gilded salons of the decadent nobility and the brothels and debtors’ prisons of London, Francis tells of his many love affairs and his deadly duels, his encounters with courtesans and castrati, alchemists and anatomists, Rosicrucians, visionaries, monsters, charlatans, spies and assassins. His travels take him through France, across the Alpine passes to Venice and the pirate-infested Mediterranean Sea to Egypt, Cyprus and distant, exotic Constantinople on the trail of his mysterious ancestor Tobias who might - just possibly - still be alive.

Fathomless by Jackson Pearce

Fathomless by Jackson Pearce

This stand alone companion novel to Sisters Red and Sweetly will be released in September (hardcover and ebook). According to the press release I received with the book, it is “a dark, modern reimagining of Hans Christian Andersen’s ‘The Little Mermaid.’” I love fairy tale retellings, especially if they keep the darkness from the original so I’m a bit curious about this young adult book. After reading the first couple of pages, I’m not sure if the writing style with so many sentence fragments will work for me. I should probably try to give it more of a chance than 2 pages, though!

Celia Reynolds is the youngest in a set of triplets and the one with the least valuable power. Anne can see the future, and Jane can see the present, but all Celia can see is the past. And the past seems so insignificant — until Celia meets Lo.

Lo doesn’t know who she is. Or who she was. Once a human, she is now almost entirely a creature of the sea — a nymph, an ocean girl, a mermaid — all terms too pretty for the soulless monster she knows she’s becoming. Lo clings to shreds of her former self, fighting to remember her past, even as she’s tempted to embrace her dark immortality.

When a handsome boy named Jude falls off a pier and into the ocean, Celia and Lo work together to rescue him from the waves. The two form a friendship, but soon they find themselves competing for Jude’s affection. Lo wants more than that, though. According to the ocean girls, there’s only one way for Lo to earn back her humanity. She must persuade a mortal to love her . . . and steal his soul.

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 I’m catching up since I missed a couple of these due to BEA. There are two books I bought at my local bookstore, two ARCs, and one review copy here. Only one of these books is actually one that came in over the last week, but next week should be back on schedule. (And now that I’m caught up on BEA posts, I’m hoping to write about some of the books I’ve read piling up next to me.)

The Golden Key by Melanie Rawn, Jennifer Roberson, and Kate Elliott

The Golden Key by Kate Elliott, Melanie Rawn, and Jennifer Roberson

The Golden Key was a World Fantasy Award finalist in 1996, and after reading the Spirit Walker books I now want to read every book with Kate Elliott’s name on it. A large part of the reason I picked this up now was because it had been on my out of print book wish list, but it appears that this was a recent reprint to go with the recent release of The Diviner, a prequel written by Melanie Rawn. (According to my copy of this book, it’s a sequel, but Rawn’s site and reviews both indicate The Diviner is a prequel so I’m going with that.)

The Golden Key is available in mass market paperback and some ebook formats (I found an ePub version but not a Kindle one).

It sounds like it was a lot of fun for the authors to write, and I’m particularly intrigued by this description on what appears to be Kate Elliott’s old website:

 

We decided early on the focus would be on painting, and on a particularly gifted artist’s peculiar journey from apprentice to master to . . . sociopath.

Goodreads has a link to Google Preview below the book cover that allows you to read some of the book from the beginning.

In Tira Virte, art is prized for its beauty and as a binding legal record of everything from marriages to treaties. Yet not even the Grand Duke knows how extraordinary the Grijalva family’s art is, for certain Grijalva males are born with the ability to alter events and influence people in the real world through that they paint. Always, their power has been used for Tira Virte. But now Sario Grijalva has learned to use his Gift in a whole new way. And when he begins to work his magic both the Grijalvas and Tira Virte may pay the price.

Ariel by Steven R. Boyett

Ariel (Change #1) by Steven R. Boyett

I came across Ariel when browsing the bookstore and couldn’t resist getting it after reading about it in N. K. Jemisin’s contribution to the Women in SF&F event. Unfortunately, the more recent edition no longer has a cover that defies gender expectations but has a sort of typical cover depicting a boy with a sword and a burning city in the background. No unicorn is in sight even though her name is the title of the book. There is an author’s note and an afterword in this new edition.

Even though Ariel was released almost 30 years ago, a sequel titled Elegy Beach was released just 3 years ago. Ariel is available in mass market paperback, ebook, and audiobook. You can both read samples online and listen to samples online.

It’s been five years since the lights went out, cars stopped in the streets, and magical creatures began roaming Earth.

Pete Garey survived the Change, trusting no one but himself until the day he met Ariel, a unicorn who brought new meaning and adventure to his life.

America Pacifica by Anna North

America Pacifica by Anna North

This is the paperback release of a debut dystopian/post-apocalyptic novel from last year. I somehow missed this book until it showed up in my mailbox (probably because I don’t read a lot of these types of novels). After adding to Goodreads I saw some of my friends on that site really liked it and I started to get curious about it. Here are a couple of reviews:

I was also intrigued by this article about it, “Feminism and Science Fiction Meet in Anna North’s America Pacifica.”

America Pacifica is available in hardcover, trade paperback, and ebook. An excerpt from chapter two can be read on io9.com.

Eighteen-year-old Darcy lives on the island of America Pacifica–one of the last places on earth that is still habitable, after North America has succumbed to a second ice age. Education, food, and basic means of survival are the province of a chosen few, while the majority of the island residents must struggle to stay alive. The rich live in “Manhattanville” mansions made from the last pieces of wood and stone, while the poor cower in the shantytown slums of “Hell City” and “Little Los Angeles,” places built out of heaped up trash that is slowly crumbling into the sea. The island is ruled by a mysterious dictator named Tyson, whose regime is plagued by charges of corruption and conspiracy.

But to Darcy, America Pacifica is simply home–the only one she’s ever known. In spite of their poverty she lives contentedly with her mother, who works as a pearl diver. It’s only when her mother doesn’t come home one night that Darcy begins to learn about her past as a former “Mainlander,” and her mother’s role in the flight from frozen California to America Pacifica. Darcy embarks on a quest to find her mother, navigating the dark underbelly of the island, learning along the way the disturbing truth of Pacifica’s early history, the far-reaching influence of its egomaniacal leader, and the possible plot to murder some of the island’s first inhabitants–including her mother.

Rift by Andrea Cremer

Rift by Andrea Cremer

This prequel to the Nightshade trilogy will be released in August in hardcover and ebook formats. I haven’t read the Nightshade trilogy so I don’t know much about it other than that it and the prequel are young adult. More information about both Rift and the Nightshade series, including some excerpts, can be found on nightshadebook.com.

Chronicling the rise of the Keepers, this is the stunning prequel to Andrea Cremer’s internationally bestselling Nightshade trilogy!

Sixteen-year-old Ember Morrow is promised to a group called Conatus after one of their healers saves her mother’s life. Once she arrives, Ember finds joy in wielding swords, learning magic, and fighting the encroaching darkness loose in the world. She also finds herself falling in love with her mentor, the dashing, brooding, and powerful Barrow Hess. When the knights realize Eira, one of their leaders, is dabbling in dark magic, Ember and Barrow must choose whether to follow Eira into the nether realm or to pledge their lives to destroying her and her kind.

With action, adventure, magic, and tantalizing sensuality, this book is as fast-paced and breathtaking as the Nightshade novels.

Black Bottle by Anthony Huso

Black Bottle by Anthony Huso

This sequel to The Last Page will be released in hardcover and ebook in August. A lot of people loved The Last Page, but I couldn’t even finish it.

An excerpt from Black Bottle is available on Tor.com.

Tabloids sold in the Duchy of Stonehold claim that the High King, Caliph Howl, has been raised from the dead. His consort, Sena Iilool, both blamed and celebrated for this act, finds that a macabre cult has sprung up around her.

As this news spreads, Stonehold—long considered unimportant—comes to the attention of the emperors in the southern countries. They have learned that the seed of Sena’s immense power lies in an occult book, and they are eager to claim it for their own.

Desparate to protect his people from the southern threat, Caliph is drawn into a summit of the world’s leaders despite the knowledge that it is a trap. As Sena’s bizarre actions threaten to unravel the summit, Caliph watches her slip through his fingers into madness.

But is it really madness? Sena is playing a dangerous game of strategy and deceit as she attempts to outwit a force that has spent millennia preparing for this day. Caliph is the only connection left to her former life, but it’s his blood that Sena needs to see her plans through to their explosive finish.

Dark and rich, epic in scope, Anthony Huso has crafted a fantasy like no other, teeming with unthinkable horrors and stylish wonders.

This year was my third year attending Book Expo America, which I think of as a bibliophile’s paradise. There are books everywhere! And people who love books and want to talk about books! The best part is it’s become a place where a lot of book bloggers gather every year, and it’s a great opportunity to meet these online friends in person and gush about books. My favorite part of this event is by far getting to chat with these people. After all, I can always buy the books I hear about later, but who knows when I’ll see a lot of the people there again! I had the best time at BEA this year even though there were fewer books I was interested in reading just because I spent more time having great conversations. I also had a lot of fun with my roommate for the trip, Jessica from Read React Review, and went to my first author breakfast, a breakfast at Random House, and an amazing event at the New York Public Library.

Since I already wrote about the books I picked up, I’ll skip over all the parts about which lines I stood in other than to say: I met N. K. Jemisin briefly at her signing for The Killing Moon! And she is so incredibly nice! Meeting her even if only for a few minutes was definitely one of my highlights of this year’s BEA.

Ok, moving on to the event highlights from BEA.

The Adult Author Breakfast

This year’s BEA started for me with the Adult Author Breakfast at 8 AM. (Ridiculously early mornings were a theme at this year’s BEA with my 6 AM flight on Monday, the author breakfast on Tuesday, and the Random House breakfast on Wednesday, but it was well worth it. It’s not often I say that about early mornings.) The speakers at the breakfast were:

  • Stephen Colbert, Master of Ceremonies, author of America Again: Re-becoming the Greatness We Never Weren’t (available in October), and TV host of some show or another
  • Junot Diaz, author of This Is How You Lose Her (available in September)
  • Barbara Kingsolver, author of Flight Behavior (available in November)
  • Jo Nesbo, author of Phantom (available in October)

As usual, Stephen Colbert was hilarious. He mentioned that his next book would be available in 3-D like the successful movie Avengers. Sure enough, the booklet with samples we got at the breakfast includes 3-D glasses. Colbert also talked some about the interesting placement of his recent book on some of the bestseller lists. One of them is non-fiction from which he drew the conclusion that non-fiction must now be books without vampires. The popular 50 Shades of Gray also came up, giving a whole new meaning to the “adult” in Adult Author Breakfast. (Sorry, couldn’t resist saying that. It’s really just called that to differentiate it from the Children’s Author Breakfast.) Since “hardcore porn” was now a bestseller, Colbert threw out terms for penises that sounded like the type of thing one would read in badly-written sex scenes.

The authors were all incredibly wonderful speakers. Junot Diaz gave a very heartfelt talk about his love of reading, his gratitude toward booksellers, and the power books have to transform readers. He also talked a bit about his own work and how he likes to write about men and boys with vulnerabilities. He’s particularly interested in the amount of energy that goes into being male and the sort of performance many men put on in order to display that they are manly. I really enjoyed his speech, both because of his passion for reading and the glimpse into his writing.

Barbara Kingsolver was a captivating speaker and was both funny and interesting. I really liked what she said about fiction being unique in that it allows readers to know what it is like to be in someone else’s brain. She discussed how the nature of story has not changed while formats have as well as the history of book formats and how there may have been resistance to change in the past. She pointed out that changes are made to make more books accessible to more readers. Before she was a writer, Kingsolver was a scientist. (She said she’d tell us more about that long story if they got Jon Stewart out there!) Her upcoming book is about climate change, but she also explores the concept of how different people can look at the same facts and come to different conclusions.

When it was Jo Nesbo’s turn to speak, Stephen Colbert had to note that his main character had a name that sounded like it was from 50 Shades of Gray, Harry Hole. This made for humorous moments whenever Jo Nesbo mentioned his main character and then glanced at Stephen Colbert. Jo Nesbo also talked about his early love of reading and his teachers’ concerns when no one came back alive in his essays as a child. He discussed balancing being in a band with writing and how seeing his books in English teaches him new words since English is not his first language (he is Norwegian). I really enjoyed his stories and his sense of humor.

I actually knew very little about any of these authors before the breakfast and mostly went to see Stephen Colbert. (Yeah, I kind of feel like a horrible reader admitting this.) But they were all fantastic, and I was really interested in what each of them had to say.

As for the “breakfast” part of it, I discovered I mostly paid the extra money to be closer than those who did not get breakfast. Breakfast was just a muffin or bagel, coffee, and orange juice. Sitting closer and the coffee itself was probably worth the extra money, though. (I didn’t do the most expensive option with the really close seating but the middle one.)

Science Fiction and Mainstream – Crossing Over Author Stage

This was a half-hour long panel discussion at BEA. It was moderated by Ryan Britt from TOR.com. The speakers were all signing books with TOR, and I made it to all of their signings but one (I would have gone to the other if not for being stuck in a long line!). Here are the panelists and their books, all of which are currently available:

  • Ann and Jeff VanderMeer (editors of The Weird)
  • John Scalzi (author of Redshirts)
  • Walter Mosley (author of The Gift of Fire/On the Head of a Pin: Two Short Novels from Crosstown to Oblivion)

This was a great panel and I was glad I went to it. It’s been covered in detail on both TOR.com and Publishers Weekly. There’s also an interesting discussion about it on The King of Elfland’s Second Cousin looking at BEA and speculative fiction that also discusses this panel.

Random House Power Reader Breakfast

I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect from this event, but I ended up very impressed and thought was handled much better than the BEA Blogger Conference. It seemed as though the folks at Random House put a lot of effort into it with the decorations, amazing espresso bar, and the delicious food. I had an iced vanilla latte, a chocolate filled pastry, and some fresh fruit. It was glorious, especially compared to the food at both the BEA Blogger Conference and the author breakfast (and it was the only one of those events that was free!). Plus Random House is just a really nice building with a great view from the room we were in.

This was mostly a mix and mingle event, but they did briefly talk about the importance of book bloggers to the success of books before introducing a couple of authors who also told us a little about their books. Nate Berkus talked about The Things That Matter and Charles Duhigg discussed The Power of Habit. I have to admit that after the BEA Bloggers Conference, I was thinking, “Oh no, not again!” when they introduced some authors but I was pleasantly surprised. The talks were short and to the point and had more substance than “Buy my book!” so I didn’t mind this.

Photos of the breakfast can be found on Pinterest and Facebook if you’re curious.

BEA New York Book Week: Science Fiction/Fantasy Event

When I saw the author lineup for this, I knew it was not to be missed. Three of my favorite authors were going to be there as well as another author I haven’t read yet but have heard great things about. Plus Lev Grossman was the host, and I really enjoyed The Magicians and The Magician King (and met him briefly at BEA last year for the signing for the latter – he was extraordinarily nice even after signing books for over an hour).

Four authors did readings, and each reading was set to a piece of music specific to that work performed by Brian Slattery and a few other musicians. I thought the music worked very well with each reading.

Kristin Cashore read the creepy prologue from Bitterblue, her recently released young adult fantasy novel. (It’s a direct sequel to Graceling and a companion to Fire.)

N. K. Jemisin read from The Shadowed Sun, the second Dreamblood book that was just released this past week. I liked the sound of this very much, and I loved the first Dreamblood book so I was so excited to hear her read from this.

Naomi Novik read from the first of her Temeraire books, His Majesty’s Dragon. She’s the only one of these authors whose work I haven’t read, but I have heard great things about her historical fantasy series!

Catherynne M. Valente read from her upcoming Fairyland book, The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There. This sequel to The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland In a Ship of Her Own Making sounds AMAZING. It will be available in October.

I want to note that I thought it was great that half of these books were for younger readers. Fairyland is middle grade and Bitterblue is YA. Since I have seen books for younger readers treated like they are not “real” SFF at times, I was glad to see them represented at this event. (As well as female authors!)

It was also interesting that only half the authors read from paper books. N. K. Jemisin was tired of lugging around books at BEA and read from her laptop instead, and Naomi Novik read from her phone.

After the event, there was a brief Q&A where the authors were asked about everything from how it was working with the band to the gender question: what they thought about the claims that men like science fiction and women like fantasy. Catherynne Valente gave a great answer that basically came down to that’s crap and genre is not gendered.

This event was definitely one of the highlights of BEA this year, and I am amazed that not many people showed up for it at all! There were such fantastic authors there, and the vast majority of the seats in this room were empty. I know there was a lot going on with BEA that week, but I’m still shocked by this.

Some photos from this event can be viewed at Janicu’s Book Blog.

Those were the major events of BEA in a nutshell. At some point, I’d also like to cover some of the books from fall catalogs I picked up. I didn’t find all the ones I was looking for, but I did pick up the Orbit catalog and got the 47North catalog (Amazon Publishing SFF imprint) when I went to talk with their publicist about some of their books. There are some books that look really interesting in both of them!

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.

With my BEA trip this week, I didn’t end up writing one of these last week even though I bought a couple of books and had a couple of review copies. This week is dedicated to BEA books, but next week I will be back on schedule and will get caught up with the few I missed.

Compared to other BEAs, I didn’t get a lot of books, but I didn’t miss too many of the ones I really wanted to get. There were a couple I wanted to get but didn’t get to in time or missed because of other signings (like The Turning by Francine Prose, Adaptation by Malinda Lo, and For Darkness Shows the Stars by Diana Peterfreund). But I had the best time I’ve ever had at BEA this year and I think that’s because I ended up just talking with people quite a bit instead of just wandering around looking for books. After all, I can always buy the book later if I really want it, but I don’t know when I’ll get the opportunity to talk to some of the people who are at BEA again.

Anyway, on to the books, and I’ll write more about BEA itself later.

The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There by Catherynne M. Valente

The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There (Fairyland #2) by Catherynne M. Valente

This sequel to The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making will be released in hardcover and audiobook on October 2. I haven’t read the first book yet so normally I wouldn’t have picked up the second one, but since Catherynne M. Valente is an author whose work I already love this was one of my must-get books of BEA. The first book is supposed to be amazing, and I love what Catherynne Valente had to say about the criticism that these middle grade books are “too smart for kids.” She also wrote a great article on Tor.com about the second Fairyland book and how writing it differed from the first one, a serialized novel she put up online.

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making is a New York Times Children’s Bestseller, the winner of the Andre Norton Award, and a Publishers Weekly Best Book of 2011.

I’ll be talking about this more later in a post about BEA, but I went to one of the New York Book Week events and had the opportunity to hear Catherynne M. Valente read a section from The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There. I really liked what she read, and I’m now even more excited about reading the two Fairyland books! (As an aside, I cannot believe how few people showed up for this event, which also had N. K. Jemisin, Kristin Cashore, and Naomi Novik.)

September returns to Fairyland to reunite with A-Through-L, Saturday, and Gleam, and to confront her shadow-self, who has become the queen of Fairyland-Below, the upside-down world beneath the Fairyland of the first novel, filled with creatures of water and shadow, tales of ancient Fairyland before the human world was born, and not a few hungry buffins, blind birds of ice and moonlight. The yearly revels of Fairyland-Below climax in a mysterious rite September must avert or else lose her shadow forever.

No Peace for the Damned by Megan Powell

No Peace for the Damned (Damned #1) by Megan Powell

This debut dark urban fantasy novel is coming from 47North (Amazon’s relatively new science fiction, fantasy, and horror imprint) on July 10. It will be available in trade paperback, ebook, and audiobook. A second book, No Rest for the Damned, will be released in winter 2012.

I like dark books so I was very interested in this, particularly given that I like to read some new-to-me authors (which I haven’t been doing enough of lately since so many authors I love have had new books out).

To find out more, I suggest reading this article Megan Powell wrote on The Qwillery entitled “If I Can’t Be a Magical, Undercover, Secret Agent, At Least My Heroine Can.”

Magnolia Kelch is no stranger to pain. Beautiful and powerful, she’s spent her entire life at the mercy of her sadistic father and the rest of the Kelch clan, who have tortured her and tested the limits of her powers. After one particularly heinous night that leaves Magnolia nearly dead, she finally sees her chance for escape…

But this first taste of freedom is short-lived when she collides with Thirteen, head of the Network—a secret organization dedicated to fighting supernatural criminals—who recruits her into the group. Even as she’s coming to grips with this new life and the horrific memories that still haunt her, she’s conflicted by her growing attraction to fellow team member Theo and the emergence of new, untested abilities. After months of grueling training, her loyalty to the team is tested when she learns her target is the Network’s most wanted: the Kelch family.

Revenge may course through her veins, but so does the blood of the Kelches. And opposing her family may cost her the thing she treasures most. After all, Magnolia is still a Kelch. And the Kelch are damned.

Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas

Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas

There is quite a bit of buzz surrounding this title, which is being compared to Game of Thrones and The Hunger Games (yeah, I know).  I got to this signing 25 minutes early and still waited in line for over an hour.

Throne of Glass will be released in hardcover and ebook formats on August 7. I saw on Twitter that Sarah J. Maas is working on book 2 and is hoping the series will be longer than a trilogy. There are 4 Throne of Glass novellas being released as ebooks before publication. According to the page about the novellas, they “form the arc of how Celaena Sardothien, the heroine of ToG, went from the world’s most feared assassin to being thrown into the Salt Mines of Endovier.” The first three novellas (The Assassin and the Pirate Lord, The Assassin and the Desert, The Assassin and the Underworld) can be downloaded from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or Kobo for 99 cents each. The Assassin and the Empire, the final novella, must be coming out fairly soon since the book will be out in less than 2 months, but it doesn’t have a date.

I was really intrigued to see in “The Story Behind the Story” section on this page that this book started as a Cinderella retelling. Maas describes the premise as “What if Cinderella was an assassin, and went to the ball not to dance with the prince, but to kill him?” She says it has since moved away from being a Cinderella story, although the influence can still be found in a few places.

The first couple of chapters from Throne of Glass can be read at Page-Turner.

After serving out a year of hard labor in the salt mines of Endovier for her crimes, 18-year-old assassin Celaena Sardothien is dragged before the Crown Prince. Prince Dorian offers her her freedom on one condition: she must act as his champion in a competition to find a new royal assassin.

Her opponents are men—thieves and assassins and warriors from across the empire, each sponsored by a member of the kings council. If she beats her opponents in a series of eliminations, she’ll serve the kingdom for three years and then be granted her freedom.

Celaena finds her training sessions with the captain of the guard, Westfall, challenging and exhilirating. But she’s bored stiff by court life. Things get a little more interesting when the prince starts to show interest in her… but it’s the gruff Captain Westfall who seems to understand her best.

Then one of the other contestants turns up dead… quickly followed by another. Can Celaena figure out who the killer is before she becomes a victim? As the young assassin investigates, her search leads her to discover a greater destiny than she could possibly have imagined.

Breed by Chase Novak

Breed by Chase Novak

This horror novel will be released in hardcover, ebook, and audiobook in September. An excerpt from Breed is available online. (By the way, Chase Novak is the pen name of Scott Spencer, author of Endless Love and A Ship Made of Paper.)

I thought this sounded interesting and creepy, but the headline on the Kirkus review has me wondering if I should read it:

 

A cautionary tale about the perils of fertility treatments turns into a gore fest for the strong of stomach.

Um, yeah, I’m not exactly strong of stomach when it comes to gory descriptions. So we’ll see about this one…

Alex and Leslie Twisden lead charmed lives-fabulous jobs, a luxurious town house on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, a passionate marriage. What they don’t have is a child, and as they try one infertility treatment after the next, yearning turns into obsession. As a last-ditch attempt to make their dream of parenthood come true, Alex and Leslie travel deep into Slovenia, where they submit to a painful and terrifying procedure that finally gives them what they so fervently desire . . . but with awful consequences.

Ten years later, cosseted and adored but living in a house of secrets, the twins Adam and Alice find themselves locked into their rooms every night, with sounds coming from their parents’ bedroom getting progressively louder, more violent, and more disturbing.

Driven to a desperate search for answers, Adam and Alice set out on a quest to learn the true nature of the man and woman who raised them. Their discovery will upend everything they thought they knew about their parents and will reveal a threat so horrible that it must be escaped, at any cost.

The City's Son by Tom Pollock

The City’s Son (The Skyscraper Throne #1) by Tom Pollock

This young adult urban fantasy will be released in August in the UK and September in the US (hardcover). It seems to be too early for excerpts, but I really like the last line of the book description on the author’s page for the book:

 

The City’s Son is the first book of The Skyscraper Throne: a story about family,friends and monsters, and how you can’t always tell which is which.

Running from her traitorous best friend and her estranged father, graffiti artist Beth Bradley is looking for sanctuary. What she finds is Urchin, the ragged and cocky crown prince of London’s mystical underworld. Urchin opens Beth’s eyes to the city she’s never truly seen-where vast spiders crawl telephone wires seeking voices to steal, railwraiths escape their tethers, and statues conceal an ancient priesthood robed in bronze.

But it all teeters on the brink of destruction. Amid rumors that Urchin’s goddess mother will soon return from her 15-year exile, Reach, a malign god of urban decay, wants the young prince dead. Helping Urchin raise an alleyway army to reclaim his skyscraper throne, Beth soon forgets her old life. But when her best friend is captured, Beth must choose between this wondrous existence and the life she left behind.

The Gift of Fire/On the Head of a Pin by Walter Mosley

The Gift of Fire/On the Head of a Pin: Two Short Novels from Crosstown to Oblivion by Walter Mosley

This sounded like an interesting book, and I was especially curious after hearing what Walter Mosley had to say in the Science Fiction in the Mainstream panel at BEA. It just came out last month and is available in hardcover, ebook, and audiobook.

The hardcover is a neat book. It’s two books in one with a cover for each book. If you flip it over, you can start reading the second book, and the author signed the title page for each at the signing. An excerpt from each can be read on Tor.com.

New York Times bestselling author Walter Mosley delivers two speculative tales, in one volume, of everyday people exposed to life-altering truths.

The Gift of Fire
In ancient mythology, the Titan Prometheus was punished by the gods for bringing man the gift of fire—an event that set humankind on its course of knowledge. As punishment for making man as powerful as gods, Prometheus was bound to a rock; every day his immortal body was devoured by a giant eagle. But in The Gift of Fire, those chains cease to be, and the great champion of man walks from that immortal prison into present-day South Central Los Angeles.

On the Head of a Pin
Joshua Winterland and Ana Fried are working at Jennings-Tremont Enterprises when they make the most important discovery in the history of this world—or possibly the next. JTE is developing advanced animatronics editing techniques to create high-end movies indistinguishable from live-action. Long dead stars can now share the screen with today’s A-list. But one night Joshua and Ana discover something lingering in the rendered footage…an entity that will lead them into a new age beyond the reality they have come to know.

The Weird edited by Ann and Jeff VanderMeer

The Weird Edited by Ann and Jeff VanderMeer

This sounds amazing, and Ann and Jeff VanderMeer were also at the aforementioned Science Fiction in the Mainstream panel at BEA (along with John Scalzi whose book I missed due to waiting in a long line). The Weird just came out last month and is available in hardcover, paperback, and ebook.

The Weird is a massive book containing over 1000 pages of stories,  plus a “foreweird” by Michael Moorcock and an “afterweird” by China Mieville. The earliest stories go as far back as the early 1900s and span the years through 2010. Authors include Lord Dunsany, Ray Bradbury, H. P. Lovecraft, Daphne du Maurier, Joanna Russ, James Tiptree, Jr., George R. R. Martin, Neil Gaiman, and Tanith Lee. That’s a very small sampling of the authors included since there are a lot!

Unfortunately, I got caught in the rain after I got this one and my signed copy got some water damage. Oh well, it’s at least not so bad that I can’t read it.

A landmark, eclectic, leviathan-sized anthology of fiction’s wilder, stranger, darker shores. From Lovecraft to Borges to Gaiman, a century of intrepid literary experimentation has created a corpus of dark and strange stories that transcend all known genre boundaries. Together these stories form The Weird and amongst its practitioners number some of the greatest names in twentieth and twenty-first century literature.

Exotic and esoteric, The Weird plunges you into dark domains and brings you face to face with surreal monstrosities; you won’t find any elves or wizards here… but you will find the boldest and downright most peculiar stories from the last hundred years bound together in the biggest Weird collection ever assembled.

The Weird features an all star cast of authors, from classics to international bestsellers to Booker prize winners. Here are Ben Okri and George R.R. Martin, Angela Carter and Kelly Link, Franz Kafka and China Miéville, Clive Barker and Haruki Murakami, M.R. James and Neil Gaiman, Mervyn Peake and Michael Chabon, Stephen King and Daphne Du Maurier.

The Killing Moon by N. K. Jemisin

The Killing Moon (The Dreamblood #1) by N. K. Jemisin

As you may know, this is my favorite book I have read so far this year so I was thrilled for the chance to get a signed copy and meet the author (who was so very nice). This is going to be one of those books I treasure forever. Unfortunately, it’s another one of the books that got some of the worst of the water damage when I got stuck in the rain. I’ll probably never dare read this copy since the corner near the binding is yellowed and fraying and looks like it may fall apart, but at least seeing the signature will remind me of the great time I had meeting the author! That was definitely one of my highlights of BEA.

The Killing Moon is available now in paperback, ebook, and audiobook. The sequel, The Shadowed Sun, will be released next week. (I do want to note that there is no cliffhanger ending and the sequel has a different main character.) I haven’t read the sequel yet, but N. K. Jemisin read from it at the New York Public Library event I went to and it sounds fantastic.

The city burned beneath the Dreaming Moon.

In the city-state of Gujaareh, peace is the only law. Along its ancient stone streets, where time is marked by the river’s floods, there is no crime or violence. Within the city’s colored shadows, priests of the dream-goddess harvest the wild power of the sleeping mind as magic, using it to heal, soothe… and kill.

But when corruption blooms at the heart of Gujaareh’s great temple, Ehiru—most famous of the city’s Gatherers—cannot defeat it alone. With the aid of his cold-eyed apprentice and a beautiful foreign spy, he must thwart a conspiracy whose roots lie in his own past. And to prevent the unleashing of deadly forbidden magic, he must somehow defeat a Gatherer’s most terrifying nemesis: the Reaper.

Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver

Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver

Flight Behavior will be released in hardcover, audiobook, and ebook in November.

This book was given out at the adult author breakfast I attended. Stephen Colbert was the Master of Ceremonies, and Barbara Kingsolver was one of the authors who spoke along with Jo Nesbo and Junot Diaz. All the authors were great speakers, and I was very intrigued by what Barbara Kingsolver had to say. She was a scientist before she was a writer and this book is about climate change. According to the back of the ARC I have, it “explores the complexities that lead us to believe in our chosen truths.” In her speech, Barbara Kingsolver discussed how the same people can look at the same facts but come to completely different conclusions. This fascinates me as well, so even though this isn’t the type of book I’d normally pick up, I am a bit curious.

Set in a small town in Tennessee, about a young woman who happens upon a forested valley filled with silent red fire, and whose attempt to share the wonder and find an explanation throws her into a spiraling confrontation with her family, her church, her town, her continent, and finally the world at large.

This week has been pretty quiet since I was away for 3 days at the BEA Bloggers Conference and Book Expo America. It was a very busy time since I had a 6 AM flight Monday morning and then a 10 PM flight Wednesday night, and in that time I still managed to spend 1 day at BEA Bloggers Conference, spend 2 days at Book Expo, go to 1 author breakfast, go to the Strand, got to a breakfast event at Random House, and go to the SFF Event at the New York Public Library. Thursday I was capable of sitting on the couch and monitoring Twitter and not much else! (I tried reading at one point and failed miserably.)

BEA Bloggers

Since so many people have already covered the event and panels in addition to their thoughts, I’d rather talk about the overall experience than repeat that part of the coverage. If you want to know exactly what I did, I’d suggest reading Jessica’s post at Read React Review since we traveled to the conference together (Hooray! Fun!) and attended all the same panels (and were both part of the group that ate lunch on the floor in the hall rather than be pitched to by authors and both left the same panel). My own experience can be summed up pretty well by reading her post since we went to the same events and I had similar thoughts about what I saw.

For more detailed descriptions on what was covered during the conference, check out:

This was my third time at the book blogger conference, but this was the first one that has been held since it was bought by Book Expo America. I did not enjoy it as much as either of the previous conferences, which I was mostly glad I attended for the opportunity to meet other book bloggers. There has been very little about topics surrounding blogging that I’ve felt is new to me at any of the conferences. However, in previous years there has been enough of interest that I was glad I went, especially since I have had so much fun meeting and talking to other book bloggers. That is not the case this year and it comes down to a lot of what has already been said by the other bloggers I just linked to: bloggers were not the focus of this conference supposedly about book blogging.

This was not completely unexpected since there had been some concerns about the conference being bought by BEA this year. Confusion started early this year as for quite a while, there was no information on what this meant or what would happen at the conference (unlike past years). Some bloggers couldn’t register, or registered and then were rejected, or were told they had to pay more than was listed. Once the schedule was finally announced, it seemed strange that there were so few book bloggers on some of the panels (notably, the one about the blogger/publisher relationship only had one book blogger).

And then…there was the video. I can’t describe everything that was wrong with the video, so I’ll link to it even though it feels wrong to do so. Titled “Get Your Swag Bag On!”, it mostly consists of repeating a few of the names of authors that will be there and “Get your swag bag on.” Because free stuff is what we’re all going for. *sigh* (For the record, I didn’t take any of the free stuff this year or last simply because none of the books were ones I would read or review.)

Each year the conference has seemed to be moving a little more away from being about book bloggers and being more about bloggers working with publishers and authors, which has always concerned me a bit. I understand that this is at BEA and there is a huge industry presence, but some bloggers really aren’t interested in getting books from publishers and prefer to read books they bought themselves or borrowed from their local library. If a blogger decides to do that, I think it’s great. I completely understand the appeal of that, especially since I find myself reading fewer and fewer older books as I get more from publishers (and I don’t even get that many ARCs/review copies compared to a lot of bloggers).

But I’m always a little worried that those bloggers will feel unwelcome or left out when there is always some focus on being part of this industry. Having no relationship with publishers and publicists does NOT make one less of a book blogger. A book blogger is anyone who blogs about books, and all the talk about what bloggers “owe” to the industry we provide free publicity for is offputting (to put it mildly). Maybe this fear is unfounded since the panel that focused more on the publisher/blogger relationship was up against one on community engagement so there’s another option to go to, but I’d be really curious to see what someone who has chosen never to receive review copies thought of the event.

It is tough to have an event like this that works for everyone because all book bloggers are different. They blog for different reasons, have different goals, and are each drawn to different books. Unfortunately, I haven’t seen anyone who really seemed at all happy with this event since it was more about promoting books than book blogging. I go to the conference to meet and talk to other book bloggers. I go to learn more about book blogging from the panels and the speeches. I do not go to be constantly bombarded with someone trying to get me to read their book, which is what happened here. You can read more about it at the links above, but the ratio of marketing to genuinely interesting discussion was just depressing. Even the keynotes, which were entertaining, had very little to do with book blogging and both were by someone with a book to promote. (Although I will say I did not get a vibe from Jennifer Lawson of The Bloggess that she was really aggressively trying to promote herself and her book, unlike Jennifer Weiner.)

The book blogger and book creator relationship should not be all about what we book bloggers can do for publishers. It should be mutual. Bloggers review publisher’s books when they have books we are interested in reading and providing coverage for. We get lots of email from people trying to get us interested in a book for review, and most of us have day jobs and a very limited amount of time for reading and reviewing. A lot of us have to choose the books we review very carefully, and having someone shout their book at us is not the way to get our attention. Quite the opposite, in fact.

Maybe there’s some confusion about what book bloggers do. I can’t speak for everyone since I don’t think you can or should lump all book bloggers into one category, but a couple of the reasons I blog are:

1. The book blogging community. It is a great place full of people passionate about books. It is a great place to go for recommendations or just to talk about books. There are many in this community I consider friends, some of which I have met at BEA/Book Blogger Con and some I have never met. I like to meet some of these people at Book Blogger Con and hear what they have to say on some of the panels. Unfortunately, very few actual book bloggers were on panels this year and not one was moderated by a book blogger. (Correction: There was actually a panel moderated by a book blogger as pointed out in the comments.)

2. I love supporting authors who have written books I’ve enjoyed by talking about their writing. I have no problem with authors coming to a book blogger conference if they want to chat with bloggers and listen to the panels – but not if they are constantly going to be pushing their books and starting every conversation with a spiel about their book. (I do want to note that there were some authors present who did the former so I’m certainly not saying I think all authors should be kept away.)

I do not blog for all the review copies. I’d be a liar if I said there were not certain ARCs or review copies I enjoyed getting, but regardless, I blogged for a long time without getting review copies. More often than not, the books I am offered or sent unsolicited are not ones I am even interested in reading. There is a line between telling me about a new book I may not have heard of and shoving said book down my throat. Crossing that line is only going to waste an author’s or publisher’s time and make me even less interested in reviewing the work. Particularly after I’ve spent money to travel to a conference where I want to talk about blogging as a process, not find new books – that is what BEA itself is for (among other things), not the Blogger Con. I’d much rather spend money on books that are interesting to me than have free copies of books I’ll never read tossed into my bag. Those things get heavy, you know.

In any case, I felt that this year’s blogger conference was not worth the time and money and it definitely didn’t aid my main goal for attending: meeting and learning from other book bloggers. If I hadn’t abandoned the planned lunch to sit in the hall, there would have been almost no time at all to actually talk to the bloggers I really came to talk to. While I hope they listen to the actual book bloggers who would like something different and improve next year, I am not sure I will be attending. I definitely will not be if they show no signs of improvement, especially if some bloggers choose to organize the Book Blog UNCON again next year. It sounds like they had a fantastic time.

More posts on the BEA Bloggers Conference (not already linked to above):