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 bought a couple of books since I had to get one of my must-read books of this year. Three finished copies and two ARCs (early not-yet-quite-finished copies) showed up in the mail.

Gunmetal Magic by Ilona Andrews

Gunmetal Magic (Kate Daniels #5.5) by Ilona Andrews

This is set in the world of Kate Daniels but it’s not a book with Kate as the main character even though it does include a novella about her entitled “Magic Gifts.” This particular book is about her best friend, Andrea, and is supposed to take place between Kate Daniels #5 (Magic Slays) and Kate Daniels #6 (forthcoming next year). Gunmetal Magic was just released this past week and is available in mass market paperback, ebook, and audiobook. An excerpt from Gunmetal Magic is available.

Kate Daniels is my very favorite urban fantasy series. Magic Strikes (#3) is my favorite urban fantasy book of all time with Magic Bleeds (#4) close behind it. These books just have everything – action, character development, a great sense of humor, mythology, and this amazing mystery around the main character that goes deeper as the series continues. While I am a tad disappointed not to be continuing Kate’s story, I’ve been hearing Andrea’s book is very good as well and am very much looking forward to reading it.

The novels in the Kate Daniels series are:

  1. Magic Bites (Read Excerpt)
  2. Magic Burns (Read Excerpt)
  3. Magic Strikes (Read Excerpt)
  4. Magic Bleeds (Read Excerpt)
  5. Magic Slays (Read Excerpt)

This is a series that gets better as it goes along, and I was told that I had to get to book 3 to really appreciate it. This turned out to be true since it was really book 3 that turned me into a rabid fangirl fan of this series.

Some people have everything figured out — Andrea Nash is not one of those people. After being kicked out of the Order of Knights of Merciful Aid, Andrea’s whole existence is in shambles. All she can do is try to put herself back together, something made easier by working for Cutting Edge, a small investigative firm owned by her best friend, Kate Daniels.

When several shapeshifters working for Raphael Medrano — the male alpha of Clan Bouda and Andrea’s former lover — die unexpectedly at a dig site, Andrea is assigned to investigate … and must work with Raphael. As her search for the killer leads her into the secret underbelly of supernatural Atlanta, Andrea knows that dealing with her feelings for Raphael might have to take a backseat to saving the world …

The Secrets of Jin-Shei by Alma Alexander

The Secrets of Jin-shei by Alma Alexander

This was my other purchase made when I ordered Gunmetal Magic. It sounds like the type of character-driven fantasy I like to read and it is on sale on Amazon right now.

The Secrets of Jin-shei is available in paperback and ebook. The only working excerpt I could find was the one on Amazon.

Updated to add: There is a sequel, The Embers of Heaven.

Enter an ancient world of courtly elegance and intrigue, where sages are also sorcerers, and the daughter of a lowly seamstress can become a companion to an empress. In this magical land there is a secret language — a language that women have passed down from mother to daughter for countless generations — a language that signals a bond like no other… the bond of jin-shei.

Set in a mythical Chinese kingdom, The Secrets of Jin-shei is a timeless story of what sustains friendship — and what tears it apart. Accepting all the joys and responsibilities of jin-shei, eight girls pledge lifelong loyalty to each other: the poet, Tai, whose promise to a dying girl changes the history of an empire; the warrior, Xaforn, an orphan who will protect her chosen family no matter what the cost; Khailin, the scholar, whose thirst for knowledge leads her into a world of dark secrets and alchemy; sage Nhia, the only person with the power to save Khailin; Tammary, the gypsy girl, whose secret lineage could ruin a royal house; Qiaan, daughter of a captain in the Imperial Guard, with family secrets of her own; the healer, Yuet, confidante to the empress; and the empress herself, Liudan, whose search for family and ultimate quest for immortality holds the power to destroy them all.

Summer and Bird by Katherine Catmull

Summer and Bird by Katherine Catmull

This middle grade novel will be available in October (ebook and hardcover). An excerpt is available online.

An enchanting–and twisted–tale of two sisters’ quest to find their parents

When their parents disappear in the middle of the night, young sisters Summer and Bird set off on a quest to find them. A cryptic picture message from their mother leads them to a familiar gate in the woods, but comfortable sights quickly give way to a new world entirely–Down–one inhabited by talking birds and the evil Puppeteer queen. Summer and Bird are quickly separated, and their divided hearts lead them each in a very different direction in the quest to find their parents, vanquish the Puppeteer, lead the birds back to their Green Home, and discover the identity of the true bird queen.

With breathtaking language and deliciously inventive details, Katherine Catmull has created a world unlike any other, skillfully blurring the lines between magic and reality and bringing to life a completely authentic cast of characters and creatures.

In a Glass Grimmly by Adam Gidwitz

In a Glass Grimmly by Adam Gidwitz

This middle grade book and companion to A Tale Dark & Grimm will be released in September (hardcover and ebook). An excerpt is available.

More Grimm tales await in the harrowing, hilarious companion to a beloved new classic

Take caution ahead—
Oversize plant life, eerie amphibious royalty, and fear-inducing creatures abound.

Lest you enter with dread.
Follow Jack and Jill as they enter startling new landscapes that may (or may not) be scary, bloody, terrifying, and altogether true.

Step lively, dear reader . . .
Happily ever after isn’t cutting it anymore.

In this companion novel to Adam Gidwitz’s widely acclaimed, award-winning debut, A Tale Dark & Grimm, Jack and Jill explore a new set of tales from the Brothers Grimm and others, including Jack and the Beanstalk and The Frog Prince.

Sharps by K. J. Parker

Sharps by K. J. Parker

This is a finished copy of a book I already read and reviewed last month when participating in a week of interviews with K. J. Parker.

An excerpt is available on the publisher’s website. Sharps is available in trade paperback and ebook.

For the first time in nearly forty years, an uneasy truce has been called between two neighbouring kingdoms. The war has been long and brutal, fought over the usual things: resources, land, money…

Now, there is a chance for peace. Diplomatic talks have begun and with them, the games. Two teams of fencers represent their nations at this pivotal moment.

When the future of the world lies balanced on the point of a rapier, one misstep could mean ruin for all. Human nature being what it is, does peace really have a chance?

Fable: Edge of the World by Christie Golden

Fable: Edge of the World by Christie Golden

This prequel to the Xbox 360 game Fable: The Journey will be released in ebook and trade paperback on August 21. An excerpt is available on the publisher’s website.

The official prequel novel to the Xbox 360 videogame, Fable:™ The Journey

It’s been almost a decade since the events of Fable 3, when the Hero vanquished the threat across the sea and claimed his throne. As king he led Albion to an era of unprecedented peace and prosperity. But on the night of his wedding to his new queen, ominous word arrives: The darkness has returned.

Beyond a harrowing mountain pass, the exotic desert country Samarkand has been overrun by shadowy forces. Within the walls of its capital city, a mysterious usurper known only as the Empress has seized control. To protect his realm, the king must lead his most trusted allies into a strange land unknown to outsiders. As they forge ahead along Samarkand’s ancient Great Road, populated by undead terrors and fantastic creatures once believed to be the stuff of legend, the king is drawn ever closer to his greatest challenge yet.

But soon Albion is engulfed in a war of its own. As the darkness spreads, town by town, a treacherous force has infiltrated the queen’s circle. Now the fate of all that is good rests with a faint flicker of hope . . . that somewhere, somehow, heroes still do exist.

(c) 2012 Microsoft Corporation. All Rights Reserved. Microsoft, Fable, Lionhead, the Lionhead logo, Xbox, and the Xbox logo are trademarks of the Microsoft group of companies.

Trucker Ghost Stories edited by Annie Wilder

Trucker Ghost Stories edited by Annie Wilder

This book is exactly what it sounds like from the title – a collection of ghost stories concerning highways and roads. It will be released in ebook, trade paperback, and audiobook on August 7. There is an excerpt on the publisher’s website.

In a uniquely entertaining book by a rising star, here are uncanny true tales of haunted highways, weird encounters, and legends of the road.

It may have happened to you; it’s happened to almost everyone who’s ever driven down a highway at night, or in the fog, or snow. Something suddenly appears: a flash of movement, a shadow…what was it? It could be, as the true stories in this book attest, a ghost.

These are true stories from the highways and byways of America. These firsthand accounts are as varied as the storytellers themselves—some are detailed and filled with the terror and suspense that made people feel they had to share what happened to them with others; others are brief and straightforward retellings of truly chilling events.

Here is a chupacabra attack on the desert highway between L.A. and Las Vegas; ghost trains and soldiers; UFOs; the prom girl ghost of Alabama; a demon in Texas, and other accounts of the creepy, scary things that truckers and other drivers and passengers told to editor Annie Wilder.

With so many different stories, Trucker Ghost Stories moves beyond the usual haunted house to offer stories to entice any ghost story reader…and anyone who’s ever wondered….