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.

I didn’t get one of these posts up last weekend so this covers the last two weeks, but the last couple of weeks brought some books that sound rather compelling!

I’m working on a review of Octavia Butler’s Kindred that I’m hoping to get up next week, though I’m not sure if I’ll be able to finish it with the baking and cooking I’ll be doing for Thanksgiving (plus I need to start a review of Biting the Sun by Tanith Lee, the November Patreon selection, soon!).

On to the new arrivals!

Pantomime by Laura Lam

Pantomime (Micah Grey #1) by Laura Lam

Laura Lam’s debut novel—winner of the 2014 Bisexual Book Award for Speculative Fiction and a finalist for various other awards including the Cybils and 2014 British Fantasy Society Best Newcomer Award—was just re-released in paperback in the UK last week. It will also be coming to the US in February. The Tor UK website has an excerpt from Pantomime.

The other two books in the series, Shadowplay and Masquerade, are being released with stylistically matching covers. (I really like the new covers!)

There is a UK-only Goodreads giveaway of the new edition of Pantomime ending December 15.


In a land of lost wonders, the past is stirring once more . . .

Gene’s life resembles a debutante’s dream. Yet she hides a secret that would see her shunned by the nobility. Gene is both male and female. Then she displays unwanted magical abilities – last seen in mysterious beings from an almost-forgotten age. Matters escalate further when her parents plan a devastating betrayal, so she flees home, dressed as a boy.

The city beyond contains glowing glass relics from a lost civilization. They call to her, but she wants freedom not mysteries. So, reinvented as ‘Micah Grey’, Gene joins the circus. As an aerialist, she discovers the joy of flight – but the circus has a dark side. She’s also plagued by visions foretelling danger. A storm is howling in from the past, but will she heed its roar?

The Found and the Lost: The Collected Novellas of Ursula K. Le Guin

The Found and the Lost: The Collected Novellas of Ursula K. Le Guin by Ursula K. Le Guin

This large collection containing thirteen novellas by acclaimed author Ursula K. Le Guin was released last month (hardcover, ebook, audiobook). The publisher’s website has an excerpt from The Found and the Lost.


Every novella by Ursula K. Le Guin, an icon in American literature, collected for the first time—and introduced by the legendary author—in one breathtaking volume.

Ursula K. Le Guin has won multiple prizes and accolades from the Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters to the Newbery Honor, the Nebula, Hugo, World Fantasy, and PEN/Malamud Awards. She has had her work collected over the years, but never as a complete retrospective of her longer works as represented in the wonderful The Found and the Lost.

This collection is a literary treasure chest that belongs in every home library.

The Unreal and the Real: The Selected Short Stories of Ursula K. Le Guin

The Unreal and the Real: The Selected Short Stories of Ursula K. Le Guin by Ursula K. Le Guin

This thick collection of thirty-nine short stories selected by Ursula K. Le Guin—some of which have won awards, including the Nebula, Hugo, World Fantasy, and James Tiptree Jr. Awards—is available now (hardcover, ebook).

The publisher’s website has an excerpt from The Unreal and the Real.


A collection of short stories by the legendary and iconic Ursula K. Le Guin—selected by the author, and combined in one volume for the first time.

The Unreal and the Real is a collection of some of Ursula K. Le Guin’s best short stories. She has won multiple prizes and accolades from the Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters to the Newbery Honor, the Nebula, Hugo, World Fantasy, and PEN/Malamud Awards. She has had her work collected over the years, but this is the first short story volume combining a full range of her work.

Six Wakes by Mur Lafferty

Six Wakes by Mur Lafferty

Six Wakes will be released on January 31, 2017 (trade paperback, ebook).


A space adventure set on a lone ship where the clones of a murdered crew must find their murderer — before they kill again.

It was not common to awaken in a cloning vat streaked with drying blood.

At least, Maria Arena had never experienced it. She had no memory of how she died. That was also new; before, when she had awakened as a new clone, her first memory was of how she died.

Maria’s vat was in the front of six vats, each one holding the clone of a crew member of the starship Dormire, each clone waiting for its previous incarnation to die so it could awaken. And Maria wasn’t the only one to die recently…

Additional Book(s):

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.

This week’s post covers the last 2 weeks of books in the mail. Here’s what happened since the last time this feature was posted in case you missed any of it:

On to the latest books in the mail!

Arcanum Unbounded: The Cosmere Collection by Brandon Sanderson

Arcanum Unbounded: The Cosmere Collection by Brandon Sanderson

This collection of stories set in the Cosmere universe will be released on November 22 (hardcover, ebook, audiobook). It contains the Hugo Award-winning novella “The Emperor’s Soul,” as well as stories related to Elantris and Mistborn—and a brand new novella set after Words of Radiance. There’s a preface, a little bit about each setting, and a postscript after each story, and the title page for each story related to the novels clearly states whether or not there are spoilers, which books will be spoiled (if any), and whether or not any spoilers are major or minor.

Brandon Sanderson is doing an Arcanum Unbounded tour starting November 22 and will be visiting the following cities:

  • Provo, Utah (November 22)
  • Fort Collins, Colorado (November 29)
  • San Francisco, California (November 30)
  • Seattle, Washington (December 1)
  • Hoboken, New Jersey (December 3)
  • Chicago, Illinois (December 6)

For details on the tour locations and times, visit


An all-new 40,000-word Stormlight Archive novella, “Edgedancer,” will be the crown jewel of Arcanum Unbounded: The Cosmere Collection, the first book of short fiction by #1 New York Times bestselling author Brandon Sanderson. A must read for fans of the series.

The collection will include nine works in all. The first eight are:

“The Hope of Elantris” (Elantris)
“The Eleventh Metal” (Mistborn)
“The Emperor’s Soul” (Elantris)
“Allomancer Jak and the Pits of Eltania, Episodes 28 through 30” (Mistborn)
“White Sand” (excerpt; Taldain)
“Shadows for Silence in the Forests of Hell” (Threnody)
“Sixth of Dusk” (First of the Sun)
“Mistborn: Secret History” (Mistborn)

These wonderful works, originally published on and elsewhere individually, convey the expanse of the Cosmere and tell exciting tales of adventure Sanderson fans have come to expect, including the Hugo Award-winning novella, “The Emperor’s Soul” and an excerpt from the graphic novel “White Sand.”

Arcanum Unbounded will also contain the Stormlight Archive novella “Edgedancer,” which will appear in this book for the first time anywhere.

Finally, this collection includes essays and illustrations for the various planetary systems in which the stories are set.

Additional Books:

This is the fourth year Rinn Reads has hosted Sci-Fi Month, a celebration of all things science fiction that anyone can join at any time throughout the month. Like last year, it is co-hosted by Lisa of Over the Effing Rainbow.

This is my fourth year participating, and it’s great fun (although I am a little sad since I’ve reviewed one of Karin Lowachee’s phenomenal Warchild books during each previous Sci-Fi Month and am now out of books in that series to read and review!). I have a review in the works, and this month’s Patreon poll theme is, of course, science fiction in honor of Sci-Fi Month.

The choices were as follows:

The November book is…

Biting the Sun by Tanith Lee
Biting the Sun by Tanith Lee

Published for the first time in a single volume, this duet of novels [Don’t Bite the Sun and Drinking Sapphire Wine] is set in a hedonistic Utopia where no pleasure is off-limits. Ravenous for true adventures of the mind and body, desperate to find some meaning, one restless spirit finally bucks the system and strikes at the very heart of a soulless society.

I’ve been wanting to read more by Tanith Lee, and this one sounds great! Martha Wells discussed it when she recommended some books during a previous Sci-Fi Month, and her post made me want to read it even more!

Leigh Bardugo’s Six of Crows is the first half of a young adult fantasy duology set in the same world as her Grisha Trilogy (Shadow and Bone, Siege and Storm, Ruin and Rising), although I did not find it at all difficult to follow without having read any of the other books. The second half of this story focusing on a ragtag team of rogues, Crooked Kingdom, was recently released, and I have already purchased it—Six of Crows wasn’t quite as wonderful as I’d hoped, but I did enjoy it and wanted to find out what happened next, especially since some characters were left in precarious situations!


Kaz Brekker didn’t need a reason. Those were the words whispered on the streets of Ketterdam, in the taverns and coffeehouses, in the dark and bleeding alleys of the pleasure district known as the Barrel. The boy they called Dirtyhands didn’t need a reason any more than he needed permission—to break a leg, sever an alliance, or change a man’s fortunes with the turn of a card.

Of course they were wrong, Inej considered…Every act of violence was deliberate, and every favor came with enough strings attached to stage a puppet show. Kaz always had his reasons. Inej could just never be sure they were good ones.
— pp. 14

Kaz Brekker is known to be dangerous and ruthless even though he’s managed to slip past authorities for the last three years. His penchant for not getting caught brings him to the attention of a wealthy merchant who has a job for someone with this particular skill.

A foreign scientist has developed a drug enhancing the powers of the Grisha to an extraordinary degree, making them capable of feats thought to be inconceivable: turning lead to gold, walking through walls, and even mind control. Fearing his government’s plans for his creation, the inventor contacted the Kerch Merchant Council requesting asylum. His request was granted but he was captured on his way to the meeting place and imprisoned in the Ice Court, a fortress that has always proven impenetrable—and the Council needs someone to break in and get him out.

At first, Kaz declines to be involved in what he considers to be a suicide mission, but the merchant is desperate and willing to pay a price Kaz finds too tempting to refuse. In the end, he agrees to the deal and pulls together a team he believes may be capable of the impossible…

It was with great excitement that I cracked open Six of Crows: a fantasy about a band of scoundrels coming together to attempt to pull off an improbable heist sounded right up my alley. However, I found the first quarter difficult to get through even though there were some fun lines of dialogue and a couple of characters I found intriguing, Kaz and Inej. It wasn’t until the entire crew was assembled and starting on their mission that it started to engage me, and even then, it didn’t wow me even though it was entertaining.

The story is primarily told through the viewpoints of five of the six members of the gang Kaz puts together:

  • Kaz himself, who always seems to be two steps ahead of everyone else
  • Inej, a spy so silent and sneaky she’s earned the nickname “The Wraith”
  • Jesper, a sharpshooter with a gambling problem
  • Nina, a Heartrender (Grisha with power to control the body but an affinity for hurting rather than healing)
  • Matthias, a former Grisha hunter who has a history with Nina
  • Wylan, a runaway with demolitions experience (and the only character without a viewpoint)

From the very beginning, the two I found most appealing were Kaz and Inej. Kaz is exactly the sort of character I tend to really like—the competent, ruthless leader who always has a backup plan—and though I did indeed like him, Inej was my favorite overall. She gathers and guards Kaz’s secrets and is the only person he trusts to any extent at all, and she’s tough, determined, loyal to her team, and no-nonsense. By the end, I was almost as fond of Nina as these two: she’s brash, outspoken, and brave, and the camaraderie between her and Inej was great. These three are also the ones who get the most backstory since Mathias’ is only told in detail when it intersects with Nina’s.

While I found the characters likable, there weren’t any I felt had a lot of depth since even with backstories they seemed like rather stock character types. The relationships between characters can be formulaic as well, especially Nina and Matthias—the two enemies who are attracted to each other. In fact, the whole book seemed a little too carefully choreographed between this and the way the characters hide key information during their own chapters until the time is right. The characters’ backgrounds, though interesting, are revealed through infodumps, and as delightful as the dialogue can be, the characters do tend to sound much the same. The book is very obviously structured and due to this it doesn’t live and breathe with a naturally flowing narrative.

There is more focus on the characters and their devious ways than the fantasy elements. The main speculative aspects are that it’s set in a different world and some of the people, like Nina, have powers. The world didn’t seem particularly fleshed out, although I’ve not read the Grisha Trilogy so it’s possible that more of that was handled in those books. The somewhat generic world didn’t especially bother me since I primarily read for characters anyway, but more extensive worldbuilding could perhaps have taken it to another level since the characters were decent but not extraordinary.

Six of Crows was a solid book once it got going, but I merely liked it instead of loving it. Though there are likable protagonists and some gems in the dialogue, it seemed methodically composed to create a certain effect and it didn’t impress me as much as my favorite books centered on thieves. However, it was strong enough to make me want to read the next book and find out how it all turns out!

My Rating: 7/10

Where I got my reading copy: I purchased it.

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

Book Description:

Science fiction icon Connie Willis brilliantly mixes a speculative plot, the wit of Nora Ephron, and the comedic flair of P. G. Wodehouse in Crosstalk a genre-bending novel that pushes social media, smartphone technology, and twenty-four-hour availability to hilarious and chilling extremes as one young woman abruptly finds herself with way more connectivity than she ever desired.

In the not-too-distant future, a simple outpatient procedure to increase empathy between romantic partners has become all the rage. And Briddey Flannigan is delighted when her boyfriend, Trent, suggests undergoing the operation prior to a marriage proposal to enjoy better emotional connection and a perfect relationship with complete communication and understanding. But things don’t quite work out as planned, and Briddey finds herself connected to someone else entirely in a way far beyond what she signed up for.

It is almost more than she can handle especially when the stress of managing her all-too-eager-to-communicate-at-all-times family is already burdening her brain. But that’s only the beginning. As things go from bad to worse, she begins to see the dark side of too much information, and to realize that love and communication are far more complicated than she ever imagined.

Crosstalk, the latest novel by seven-time Nebula winner and eleven-time Hugo winner Connie Willis, is a romantic comedy/near future science fiction novel focused on communication and telepathy. It’s also a novel I’ve been struggling to review since my feelings about it are…complicated.

On the one hand, I absolutely loved reading it and quite literally had difficulty putting it down even though I read it during a time when I usually struggle to focus on reading. On the other hand, there’s a part of me that’s giving that other part the side-eye and wondering how due to its many problems. The “It was so much fun!” side was winning while I was reading it and shortly after I finished it, but now that more time has passed, the “But…it had issues!” side is carrying more weight than it did.

Crosstalk kept me reading because of the dialogue and chemistry between some of the characters—and because I wanted to see how they got out of the predicaments they ended up in! Almost all the characters are lying to the others and hiding secrets, and much of it is revolves around Briddey trying to keep the truth about what happened after her operation (an EED) from her boyfriend Trent and family (the latter of whom she didn’t even want to know that she had the EED in the first place since they tried to talk her out of it). The only person she really talks to about what’s happening is her coworker C. B., a tech geek who mainly keeps to himself and hides in the company basement, and he has secrets of his own.

Briddey’s conversations with C. B. and her precocious niece Maeve were often delightful, but the characterization is actually quite poor. Most of the characters have one primary trait that makes them rather one note—the helicopter mom, the dating-obsessed sister, the eccentric aunt, and so forth—and Briddey herself has the least personality of all. Until closer to the end, she mainly runs around reacting to situations and I didn’t get a very firm idea of her character at all other than that she was kindhearted.

It especially bothered me that I was repeatedly told that Briddey was smart but rarely shown that she was smart. She kept completely missing the obvious (or being very slow to figure out the obvious). In some cases, this could have been attributed to other factors such as still being affected by anesthesia or being bombarded with so much at once that she didn’t have time to think straight, but when it kept happening over and over again she just came across as not at all bright. I don’t think this was supposed to be the case—I believe Briddey was actually supposed to be as intelligent as the other characters seemed to think she was—but it actually started to seem condescending when C. B. would comment on how of course she was so smart to figure that out because it would have been hard for her not to put two and two together.

Like the characters, the speculative aspects of the novel seemed underdeveloped. The impact of EEDs on society was glossed over, and the problems with telepathy were standard and predictable. These aspects of the book were mainly relevant as vehicles for creating amusing situations, and logic and characterization came second to getting Briddey into deep water.

I’m completely torn about Crosstalk and had the most difficult time putting together some thoughts on it for that reason. Since I primarily read fiction for entertainment, I don’t want to discount the fact that I did have a wonderful time reading it and can even see myself rereading it when I want a diverting book, but I also think that there are many improvements that could have made it a much stronger novel.

My Rating: 6/10 – A compromise between the “It was fun side!” (which would be much higher) and the “It had issues!” side (which would be much lower)

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

Read an Excerpt (Click the link below the cover image)

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.

Last week brought two books I’m very excited about since I’ve been wanting to read the first one in this series.

It’s been kind of quiet here lately since I seem to be going through a reading slump and have also been having difficulty concentrating on writing reviews, but I’m hoping to finish the review I’m working on this week. Then it’s time to start on the review of this month’s Patreon selection, Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo (which is fun)!

The Grace of Kings by Ken Liu

The Grace of Kings (Dandelion Dynasty #1) by Ken Liu

The Grace of Kings, the first novel by Hugo, Nebula, and World Fantasy Award-winning writer Ken Liu, was released last year. It received the Locus Award for Best First Novel and was nominated for the 2015 Nebula Award. has an excerpt from The Grace of Kings.


Two men rebel together against tyranny—and then become rivals—in this first sweeping book of an epic fantasy series from Ken Liu, recipient of Hugo, Nebula, and World Fantasy awards.

Wily, charming Kuni Garu, a bandit, and stern, fearless Mata Zyndu, the son of a deposed duke, seem like polar opposites. Yet, in the uprising against the emperor, the two quickly become the best of friends after a series of adventures fighting against vast conscripted armies, silk-draped airships, and shapeshifting gods. Once the emperor has been overthrown, however, they each find themselves the leader of separate factions—two sides with very different ideas about how the world should be run and the meaning of justice.

Fans of intrigue, intimate plots, and action will find a new series to embrace in the Dandelion Dynasty.

The Wall of Storms by Ken Liu

The Wall of Storms (Dandelion Dynasty #2) by Ken Liu

The second Dandelion Dynasty novel was released earlier this month (hardcover, audiobook, ebook).

io9 has a brief interview with the author and an excerpt from The Wall of Storms.


In the much-anticipated sequel to the “magnificent fantasy epic” (NPR) Grace of Kings, Emperor Kuni Garu is faced with the invasion of an invincible army in his kingdom and must quickly find a way to defeat the intruders.

Kuni Garu, now known as Emperor Ragin, runs the archipelago kingdom of Dara, but struggles to maintain progress while serving the demands of the people and his vision. Then an unexpected invading force from the Lyucu empire in the far distant west comes to the shores of Dara—and chaos results.

But Emperor Kuni cannot go and lead his kingdom against the threat himself with his recently healed empire fraying at the seams, so he sends the only people he trusts to be Dara’s savvy and cunning hopes against the invincible invaders: his children, now grown and ready to make their mark on history.

Additional Books: