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 in the mail for review consideration (usually unsolicited). Since I hope you will find new books you’re interested in reading in these posts, I try to be as informative as possible. If I can find them, links to excerpts, author’s websites, and places where you can find more information on the book are included.

Last week brought a couple of books that look quite interesting—one new book and one I already featured here over the summer—but first…

In case you missed it, there’s been one new review since the last one of these posts covering Snowspelled (The Harwood Spellbook #1) by Stephanie Burgis, a delightful fantasy novella set in an alternate matriarchal version of England in which politics is traditionally the domain of women and magic is traditionally the domain of men.

And now, on to the latest books!

Starlings by Jo Walton

Starlings by Jo Walton

Hugo, Nebula, and World Fantasy Award–winning author Jo Walton’s first short story collection will be released on January 30, 2018 (trade paperback, ebook). Starlings also contains an introduction by the author, a brief afterword after each story, a play, and poetry.

The publisher’s website lists the table of contents.


An intimate first flight of short fiction from award-winning novelist Jo Walton (Among OthersThe King’s Peace).

A strange Eritrean coin travels from lovers to thieves, gathering stories before meeting its match. Google becomes sentient and proceeds toward an existential crisis. An idealistic dancer on a generation ship makes an impassioned plea for creativity and survival. Three Irish siblings embark on an unlikely quest, stealing enchanted items via bad poetry, trickery, and an assist from the Queen of Cats.

With these captivating initial glimpses into her storytelling psyche, Jo Walton shines through subtle myths and wholly reinvented realities. Through eclectic stories, subtle vignettes, inspired poetry, and more, Walton soars with humans, machines, and magic—rising from the everyday into the universe itself.

Additional Books:


Stephanie Burgis’ recent novella Snowspelled, the first installment in The Harwood Spellbook series, is a delightful romantic fantasy book set in an alternate version of nineteenth-century England with magic. In this world, Celtic Queen Boudicca’s rebellion against the Romans succeeded, and since then, the country of Angland has been a matriarchy ruled by a group known as the Boudiccate. Though it is always women who handle political issues such as maintaining the peace between their nation and the elves with whom they once warred, the more creative pursuit of magic has traditionally been the domain of men. However, Cassandra Harwood always had her heart set on being a magician, and she became the first woman to enter this male-dominated sphere—until an incident left her unable to cast a single spell without risking her life.

Four months after Cassandra’s magical accident, she and the rest of her family—her brother Jonathan and his wife Amy—brave a snowstorm to attend a week-long house party. Cassandra had no inclination whatsoever to accept the invitation, especially since her ex-fiancé Wrexham would be present, but her sister-in-law believed that to be exactly the reason she must go and needled her into attending.

They arrive in the midst of a great commotion: their hostess’ cousin and her traveling companions are believed to be lost in the snowstorm. Cassandra joins the search party, but instead of wandering into the missing guests, she wanders atop what appears to be a snow-covered hill—but is in fact a snow-covered troll.

Without her magic, Cassandra doesn’t see a way to escape when the troll awakens from his long slumber, but she attempts to speak with him in an old language and is pleased to discover he seems to understand her. She promises that if the troll lets her (and Wrexham, who had been sent to catch up with her) safely down, she’ll make sure no one else will bother him, knowing that if she makes it known that a troll is on this land, efforts will be taken to avoid disturbing him.

To Cassandra’s delight, her plan works, but she doesn’t get to exult in her success for long. The troll’s master, a devious elf-lord, overheard her vow and claims that it binds her to discover who caused the unnatural snowstorm that agitated his pet. She has seven days to figure out the culprit, and failure would make her subject to the elf-lord’s punishment—and refusal to play by his rules would put the already-tenuous peace treaty between Angland and the elves at stake…

Snowspelled is an entertaining, lighthearted tale that I found rather easy to breeze through. Though Cassandra’s first person narrative is straightforward with quite a bit of telling as the setting and characters are introduced, it moves at a good pace that is further enhanced by the fun dialogue and romantic subplot. The plot is neat and fairly predictable and the characters do not have much complexity (although Cassandra’s personal journey is satisfying), but it’s an engaging story nonetheless. It’s particularly impressive that it manages to include some rather serious subject matter—such as the challenges of strict gender roles in society and Cassandra’s great loss—while remaining light and optimistic overall.

The main way it achieves this is by focusing on themes related to progress and moving forward, both as a society and an individual. It’s clear that Cassandra was devastated by her inability to continue practicing magic: her identity and sense of purpose were strongly tied to being a magician, a lifelong goal she’d fought tooth and nail to make into reality. This novella picks up four months after this disaster and two months after Cassandra broke off her engagement because she thought that would be best for Wrexham, and at this time, she’s beginning to put the pieces of her life back together. Snowspelled is largely about Cassandra’s acceptance of her situation and realization that she is more—and has more—than her innate magical ability.

This is probably at least partially due to time, but the fact that Cassandra has a wonderful support system is probably also responsible. She and her brother Jonathan, a historian, have always been close; the two siblings both had career aspirations considered unsuitable for their respective sexes since they were young (and both entered their respective desired fields). Though Cassandra seems to have very little in common with her sister-in-law Amy, a politician, the two get along well with Amy’s perception and kindness being a great help to Cassandra.

Of course, there’s also Wrexham, a fellow magician with whom she competed for the top spot in school, and their romance was one of the highlights of the novel. Wrexham obviously still wants to be with Cassandra (and both Amy and their hostess seem to be trying to put them in each other’s paths), but he pursues her without being overly aggressive, jealous, or the type of man who won’t take ‘no’ for an answer. Their interactions are quite amusing, and though their problems seem as though they could have been easily resolved had they just talked to one another, I found it believable that they did not under the circumstances. Cassandra has a pattern of deciding that those close to her would be better off if they did not become involved in her problems, and because of that, she doesn’t fill them in and allow them the opportunity to make their own choices about whether or not to help her.

This tendency to go it alone is one obstacle that Cassandra faces, and in general, I found her an imperfect but sympathetic and (mostly) realistic character. The way she lost her magic was her own fault and did seem rather foolish, but I also felt that it worked given her desperation, stubbornness, and pride. There was one case of her missing the obvious that I didn’t find convincing: although it was explained as being overlooked due to her lack of interest in all matters related to politics, I didn’t find that reasoning entirely plausible since I’d already assumed what she failed to realize from just a few chapters of her first person narrative. It was not at all a complex concept, and although I could understand how never having considered this fit with her personality, I ultimately couldn’t quite swallow that she’d never have thought of it.

The handling of the society’s strict adherence to gender roles is also forward-looking instead of making the story heavy. Both men and women face challenges because of the belief that only women are pragmatic enough for politics and only men are imaginative enough for magic, but it’s about the beginning of breaking down these barriers. Cassandra may have been the first woman to have the persistence, privilege, and support necessary to actually become a magician, but she’s not the first woman to have this capability—nor will she be the last and only woman to become a magician.

Snowspelled is an enchanting, well-done novella that remains light even when dealing with some serious situations. Though it didn’t have enough complexity to be a standout book for me personally, I enjoyed it and admire Stephanie Burgis’ skill in writing a hopeful, well-paced story founded on palpable real-world issues. It’s the perfect match when one is in the mood for a fairly short, diverting story with a sense of optimism, and I am definitely interested in finding out what happens to Cassandra in Thornbound (scheduled for release in 2018).

My Rating: 7/10

Where I got my reading copy: Ebook ARC from the author.

Related Links:

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 in the mail for review consideration (usually unsolicited). Since I hope you will find new books you’re interested in reading in these posts, I try to be as informative as possible. If I can find them, links to excerpts, author’s websites, and places where you can find more information on the book are included.

Like the previous week, there’s only one new book to add to the pile, but it sounds like fun!

Last week didn’t leave me with a lot of spare time so there have not been any new posts since last weekend, but I’m hoping I’ll soon have time to work on a review of Stephanie Burgis’ fun new book Snowspelled.

A Spoonful of Magic by Irene Radford

A Spoonful of Magic by Irene Radford

This urban fantasy by Irene Radford, whose previous books include the Dragon Nimbus and Merlin’s Descendants series, will be released on November 7 (mass market paperback, ebook).


A delightful new urban fantasy about a kitchen witch and her magical family

Daphne “Daffy” Rose Wallace Deschants has an ideal suburban life—three wonderful and talented children; a coffee shop and bakery, owned and run with her best friend; a nearly perfect husband, Gabriel, or “G” to his friends and family. Life could hardly be better.

But G’s perfection hides dangerous secrets. When Daffy uncovers evidence of his infidelity, her perfect life seems to be in ruins. On their wedding anniversary, Daffy prepares to confront him, only to be stopped in her tracks when he foils a mugging attempt using wizard-level magic.

Suddenly, Daphne is part of a world she never imagined—where her husband is not a traveling troubleshooter for a software company, but the sheriff of the International Guild of Wizards, and her brilliant children are also budding magicians. Even she herself is not just a great baker and barista—she’s actually a kitchen witch. And her discovery of her powers is only just beginning.

But even the midst of her chaotic new life, another problem is brewing. G’s ex-wife, a dangerous witch, has escaped from her magical prison. Revenge-bent and blind, she needs the eyes of her son to restore her sight—the son Daffy has raised as her own since he was a year old. Now Daphne must find a way to harness her new powers and protect her family—or risk losing everything she holds dear.


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 in the mail for review consideration (usually unsolicited). Since I hope you will find new books you’re interested in reading in these posts, I try to be as informative as possible. If I can find them, links to excerpts, author’s websites, and places where you can find more information on the book are included.

There’s only one book to add to the leaning pile this week, but it sounds like a rather interesting one!

There’s also one new post since last weekend, my review of Yangsze Choo’s novel The Ghost Bride. I very much enjoyed it, especially both the historical and fantastical settings.

And now, the latest book arrival is…

The Silver Ship and the Sea by Brenda Cooper

The Silver Ship and the Sea (Fremont’s Children #1) by Brenda Cooper

The tenth anniversary edition of Brenda Cooper’s first solo novel, The Silver Ship and the Sea, was recently re-released (trade paperback, ebook). Though the author’s preferred version of this Endeavour Award–winning book tells the same story as the edition published in 2007, the writing has been edited to make it more polished. Both of the sequels will also be re-published, and a new fourth book will follow.

It’s possible to read a sample from The Silver Ship and the Sea on Amazon.


Winner of the Endeavour Award

Prisoners of a war they barely remember, Fremont’s Children must find a way to survive in a world that abhors their very nature. Or they must discover a way to leave it…

Brenda Cooper’s Fremont’s Children series launches with her award-winning novel The Silver Ship and the Sea. Cooper explores what it means to be so different that others feel they must oppress you.

Six genetically enhanced children are stranded on the colony planet Fremont in a war between genetic purists and those that would tinker with the code. Orphaned, the children have few remnants of their heritage other than an old woman who was left for abandoned at the end of the war, and a mysterious silver ship that appears to have no doors.

To keep themselves alive, the children must leave the safety of the insular community and brave the beautiful but dangerous wilds of Fremont. Is it an echo of their own natures, or a proving ground of their genetic worth?

In this battle of wills and principles, what does the future hold for Fremont’s Children?

The Ghost Bride
by Yangsze Choo
384pp (Trade Paperback)
My Rating: 7.5/10
Amazon Rating: 4.1/5
LibraryThing Rating: 3.78/5
Goodreads Rating: 3.73/5

Yangsze Choo’s debut novel, The Ghost Bride, garnered much acclaim after its 2013 release: it was a finalist for several awards including the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Adult Literature, Shirley Jackson Award for Novel, Goodreads Choice Award for Fantasy, and CILIP Carnegie Medal, plus it was a New York Times bestseller and an Book of the Week. The Ghost Bride is indeed a wonderful novel, especially impressive as a first novel, and it particularly excels at bringing to life both the historical setting of Malaya in 1893 and the Chinese afterlife.

As Pan Li Lan’s eighteenth birthday approaches, her father receives her first marriage offer. The Lim family, one of the most prosperous households in the town of Malacca, would like her to marry their only son, Lim Tian Ching, but there’s a rather large drawback to this arrangement: the proposed bridegroom died a few months ago.

Ghost marriage is a rare occurrence, especially in a case such as this one—Li Lan does not even remember so much as seeing Lim Tian Ching during his short life, though she probably attended the same festivals as he a couple of times—and her father only mentions this option to her because she’d be well provided for if she joined the Lim family. Though once wealthy themselves, the Pan’s fortune has steadily dwindled since Li Lan’s father became a recluse following the death of her mother when Li Lan was just a small child. Despite their financial circumstances, Li Lan is not at all interested in accepting this proposal, yet the Lim family does invite her to their estate where she meets and is drawn to the new family heir, a nephew named Tian Bai.

Shortly after Li Lan begins visiting the Lim family, Lim Tian Ching appears to her in a dream. Unknown to her, he saw Li Lan at a festival before his death and has wanted to marry her ever since—and now he claims he has come to court her. After this, he continues to haunt her dreams insisting that she will marry him, and when she refuses, he states she has no choice in the matter for she was to be his reward from officials in the afterlife. Lim Tian Ching becomes especially incensed after seeing Li Lan with Tian Bai, asserting that his cousin had him murdered.

This persistent intrusion into her dreams leads Li Lan to seek help from a medium, who gives her a powder to take before sleeping. When it fails to keep Lim Tian Ching away, she takes too much and wakes up the next morning as a spirit, watching her own unconscious form while her household puzzles over what could be wrong. Though Li Lan tries, she can’t rejoin her spirit and body and ends up undertaking a journey to the Plains of the Dead on a mission to discover the truth about Lim Tian Ching’s mysterious dealings in the afterlife—and in the process, learns more about both the Lim family and her own.

The Ghost Bride is a fantastic story, and its setting particularly shines, as well as the writing that brings it alive so vividly. Though there is quite a bit of telling and exposition interspersed throughout Li Lan’s first person narrative, it didn’t bother me as much it often does for a couple of reasons: it was interesting and pertinent information about Malacca in the 1890s and the afterlife, especially considering the setting was the highlight of the novel, and it was usually kept fairly brief before continuing the story. The prose is quite evocative of both the living world with its descriptions of buildings, food, and people and the spirit world with its ghosts and demons (and a dragon makes an appearance!).

The pacing could be a little slow at times, but I didn’t find this to be a huge problem. Despite being a slower book, it was suspenseful since there were a lot of mysteries to resolve as Li Lan traversed the town as a spirit and learned more about the world of the dead. Families, politics, and vendettas from life carried over into the afterlife, allowing Li Lan to learn more about her own family’s past and their connection to the Lim family. I quite enjoyed discovering these along with her, and there were plenty of questions to keep one curious about what would happen: Would Li Lan manage to reconnect her spirit and body, and if so, could she ever be free of Lim Tian Ching’s obsession? Was Lim Tian Ching in fact murdered, and if so, was his cousin the one who killed him? And what were these mysterious dealings Lim Tian Ching was involved with after his death, and how did this tie in to his being promised Li Lan as a reward?

Although the setting and story are wonderful, character is not one of The Ghost Bride‘s strengths. None of the characters are particularly complex and seem to have basic qualities that characterize them: for example, Lim Tian Ching is spoiled, believing himself entitled to anything he wants; Li Lan’s amah is superstitious; and Li Lan’s father is scholarly and dismissive of superstition. Other characters tend to be easily placed into categories such as manipulative, kindly, or evil, and the few that do have more traits are the most intriguing characters.

For the most part, the characters do at least seem consistent and believable with the exception of Li Lan herself. Since she hasn’t had much opportunity to live her life until she becomes a spirit, it’s definitely realistic that she’d have a certain amount of naivete. After all, she’s been especially isolated from a young age since her father hasn’t maintained relationships that would allow her to get to know other people outside their household. However, there are times when she goes beyond naive, jumping to conclusions and completely missing what should have been obvious to her in particular—making her appear far less clever than the book and other characters seemed to believe her to be. By the end of the story, she does undergo some development, having changed due to her experiences, but I also would have liked to see a bit more of how her adventures impacted her as a character (although this is a book that seemed to be focused more on world and mysteries than in-depth characterization).

Since character development is my favorite aspect of reading, I ended up being pleasantly surprised by just how much I enjoyed The Ghost Bride. It’s a fascinating meld of history and fantasy with some mysteries, lovely writing, and a nice touch of romance, and I also appreciated that parts of the story didn’t quite go in the direction I’d expected toward the beginning. Although I did want a little more from the characterization and felt that the dialogue was also one of its weaker aspects, I also found it engaging and look forward to Yangsze Choo’s second novel (The Night Tiger).

My Rating: 7.5/10

Where I got my reading copy: I purchased it.

This book is August’s selection from a poll on Patreon.

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

There’s a lot of catching up to do this week since I’ve been away and super busy. I left for a trip to Montreal one weekend, came back the following weekend, and then had an unusually filled week that led to spending much of that weekend working. This post includes all the books that have come in the mail since then, plus one I purchased during my trip, but first here’s what you may have missed since the last one of these features:

And now, all the books!

Jade City by Fonda Lee

Jade City (Green Bone Saga #1) by Fonda Lee

Though Fonda Lee has authored a couple of young adult science fiction novels, including Andre Norton Award finalist and Oregon Spirit Book Award winner Zeroboxer, this upcoming fantasy book is her first adult novel. Orbit Books has an excerpt from Jade City, which will be released on November 7 (hardcover, ebook).



Jade is the lifeblood of the island of Kekon. It has been mined, traded, stolen, and killed for — and for centuries, honorable Green Bone warriors like the Kaul family have used it to enhance their magical abilities and defend the island from foreign invasion.

Now, the war is over and a new generation of Kauls vies for control of Kekon’s bustling capital city. They care about nothing but protecting their own, cornering the jade market, and defending the districts under their protection. Ancient tradition has little place in this rapidly changing nation.

When a powerful new drug emerges that lets anyone—even foreigners—wield jade, the simmering tension between the Kauls and the rival Ayt family erupts into open violence. The outcome of this clan war will determine the fate of all Green Bones—from their grandest patriarch to the lowliest motorcycle runner on the streets—and of Kekon itself.

Jade City begins an epic tale of family, honor, and those who live and die by the ancient laws of jade and blood.

Iraq + 100 edited by Hassan Blasim

Iraq + 100: The First Anthology of Science Fiction to Have Emerged from Iraq edited by Hassan Blasim

This anthology contains ten stories revolving around the theme of imagining what Iraq may look like in the year 2103, all written by Iraqi authors. Iraq + 100 was published in the UK last year, and it will also be available in the US on September 12 (trade paperback, ebook). has an excerpt from Iraq + 100, the introduction written by the editor, award-winning author Hassan Blasim (whose story “The Gardens of Babylon” is included in the anthology), and translated by Jonathan Wright.


Iraq + 100 poses a question to contemporary Iraqi writers: what might your home city look like in the year 2103 – exactly 100 years after the disastrous American and British-led invasion of Iraq? How might that war reach across a century of repair and rebirth, and affect the state of the country – its politics, its religion, its language, its culture – and how might Iraq have finally escaped its chaos, and found its own peace, a hundred years down the line? As well as being an exercise in escaping the politics of the present, this anthology is also an opportunity for a hotbed of contemporary Arabic writers to offer its own spin on science fiction and fantasy.

The Bloodprint by Ausma Zehanat Khan

The Bloodprint (The Khorasan Archives #1) by Ausma Zehanat Khan

The Bloodprint, the first book in a quartet, is mystery writer and former Muslim Girl magazine editor-in-chief Ausma Zehanat Khan’s fantasy literature debut. It will be released on October 3 (trade paperback, ebook, audiobook).


The author of the acclaimed mystery The Unquiet Dead delivers her first fantasy novel—the opening installment in a thrilling quartet—a tale of religion, oppression, and political intrigue that radiates with heroism, wonder, and hope.

A dark power called the Talisman, born of ignorance and persecution, has risen in the land. Led by a man known only as the One-Eyed Preacher, it is a cruel and terrifying movement bent on world domination—a superstitious patriarchy that suppresses knowledge and subjugates women. And it is growing.

But there are those who fight the Talisman’s spread, including the Companions of Hira, a diverse group of influential women whose power derives from the Claim—the magic inherent in the words of a sacred scripture. Foremost among them is Arian and her fellow warrior, Sinnia, skilled fighters who are knowledgeable in the Claim. This daring pair have long stalked Talisman slave-chains, searching for clues and weapons to help them battle their enemy’s oppressive ways. Now they may have discovered a miraculous symbol of hope that can destroy the One-Eyed Preacher and his fervid followers: the Bloodprint, a dangerous text the Talisman has tried to erase from the world.

Finding the Bloodprint promises to be their most perilous undertaking yet, an arduous journey that will lead them deep into Talisman territory. Though they will be helped by allies—a loyal boy they freed from slavery and a man that used to be both Arian’s confidant and sword master—Arian and Sinnia know that this mission may well be their last.

Call of Fire by Beth Cato

Call of Fire (Blood of Earth #2) by Beth Cato

The sequel to Locus, RT Reviewers’ Choice, and Nebula Award–nominated author Beth Cato’s Breath of Earth was just released on August 15 (trade paperback, ebook). Harper Collins has a sample from Call of Fire, plus an excerpt from Breath of Earth.


A resourceful young heroine must protect the world from her enemies—and her own power—in this thrilling sequel to the acclaimed Breath of Earth, an imaginative blend of alternative history, fantasy, science, magic, and adventure.

When an earthquake devastates San Francisco in an alternate 1906, the influx of geomantic energy nearly consumes Ingrid Carmichael. Bruised but alive, the young geomancer flees the city with her friends, Cy, Lee, and Fenris. She is desperate to escape Ambassador Blum, the cunning and dangerous bureaucrat who wants to use Ingrid’s formidable powers to help the Unified Pacific—the confederation of the United States and Japan—achieve world domination. To stop them, Ingrid must learn more about the god-like magic she inherited from her estranged father—the man who set off the quake that obliterated San Francisco.

When Lee and Fenris are kidnapped in Portland, Ingrid and Cy are forced to ally themselves with another ambassador from the Unified Pacific: the powerful and mysterious Theodore Roosevelt. But even TR’s influence may not be enough to save them when they reach Seattle, where the magnificent peak of Mount Rainier looms. Discovering more about herself and her abilities, Ingrid is all too aware that she may prove to be the fuse to light the long-dormant volcano . . . and a war that will sweep the world.

Reincarnation Blues by Michael Poore

Reincarnation Blues by Michael Poore

Up Jumps the Devil author Michael Poore’s second novel was just released last week (hardcover, ebook, audiobook). Penguin Random House has an excerpt from Reincarnation Blues.


A wildly imaginative novel about a man who is reincarnated over ten thousand lifetimes to be with his one true love: Death herself.

First we live. Then we die. And then . . . we get another try?

Ten thousand tries, to be exact. Ten thousand lives to “get it right.” Answer all the Big Questions. Achieve Wisdom. And Become One with Everything.

Milo has had 9,995 chances so far and has just five more lives to earn a place in the cosmic soul. If he doesn’t make the cut, oblivion awaits. But all Milo really wants is to fall forever into the arms of Death. Or Suzie, as he calls her.

More than just Milo’s lover throughout his countless layovers in the Afterlife, Suzie is literally his reason for living—as he dives into one new existence after another, praying for the day he’ll never have to leave her side again.

But Reincarnation Blues is more than a great love story: Every journey from cradle to grave offers Milo more pieces of the great cosmic puzzle—if only he can piece them together in time to finally understand what it means to be part of something bigger than infinity. As darkly enchanting as the works of Neil Gaiman and as wisely hilarious as Kurt Vonnegut’s, Michael Poore’s Reincarnation Blues is the story of everything that makes life profound, beautiful, absurd, and heartbreaking.

Because it’s more than Milo and Suzie’s story. It’s your story, too.

A Lot Like Christmas: Stories by Connie Willis

A Lot Like Christmas: Stories by Connie Willis

Nebula and Hugo Award–winning author Connie Willis’ upcoming short story collection is an updated edition of Miracle and Other Christmas Stories featuring five brand new stories (plus seven more!), an introduction by the author, an afterword, and the author’s favorite Christmas movies, stories, TV episodes, and poems. A Lot Like Christmas will be released on October 10 (trade paperback, ebook).


This new, expanded edition of Miracle and Other Christmas Stories features twelve brilliantly reimagined holiday tales, five of which are collected here for the first time.

Christmas comes but once a year, yet the stories in this dazzling collection are fun to read anytime. They put a speculative spin on the holiday, giving fans of acclaimed author Connie Willis a welcome gift and a dozen reasons to be of good cheer.

Brimming with Willis’s trademark insights and imagination, these heartwarming tales are full of humor, absurdity, human foibles, tragedy, joy, and hope. They both embrace and send up many of the best Christmas traditions, including the holiday newsletter, Secret Santas, office parties, holiday pageants, and Christmas dinners (both elaborate and spare). There are Rockettes, the best and worst Christmas movies, modern-day Magi, Ghosts of Christmases Past, Present, and Yet to Come—and the triumph of generosity over greed. Like all the timeless classics we return to year after year, these stories affirm our faith in love, magic, and the wonder of the season.

The Lions of Al-Rassan by Guy Gavriel Kay

The Lions of Al-Rassan by Guy Gavriel Kay

This was my one book purchase made while in Montreal. I visited a few bookstores while there and especially had fun browsing the huge fantasy and science fiction sections at Indigo. They had so much that it was hard for me to refrain from buying a lot so I decided to just buy an edition of a book I couldn’t find in the US. The Canadian edition of The Lions of Al-Rassan seemed fitting, especially since the book I purchased last time I was in Montreal was The Fionavar Tapestry omnibus.


Hauntingly evocative of medieval Spain, The Lions of Al-Rassan, a bestselling classic of Canadian literature, is the exhilarating story of love, divided loyalties, and what happens to men and women when passionate beliefs conspire to remake—or destroy—a world.

Home to three very different cultures, Al-Rassan is a land of seductive beauty and violent history where peace among the people is a precarious thing. Despite their differences, three extraordinary individuals of different faiths are drawn together by a series of unforeseen events. Jehane bet Ishak is a brilliant physician who by saving the life of prominent merchant puts her life in peril. Rodrigo Belmonte is a powerful, charismatic military leader who finds himself exiled by his own king. Ammar ibn Khairan is a renowned poet, courtier, and deadly whose life is changed by a brutal massacre orchestrated by his king. These three find their lives interwoven as fate leads Al-Rassan to the brink of war.

Additional Books: