The Leaning Pile of Books is a feature where I discuss 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.

This covers books from the last couple of weeks, including three books I bought with a birthday gift card. All of these purchased books appeared on my anticipated 2018 speculative fiction releases list.

Before discussing the latest new arrivals, here’s what was posted last week in case you missed it:

Rosewater by Tade Thompson

Rosewater (The Wormwood Trilogy #1) by Tade Thompson

Rosewater, the African Speculative Fiction Society’s first Nommo Award winner for Best Speculative Fiction Novel and a John W. Campbell Award finalist for Best Science Fiction Novel, will be re-released on September 18 (trade paperback, ebook, audiobook). It will be followed by two more books in the series.


Tade Thompson’s Rosewater is the start of an award-winning, cutting edge trilogy set in Nigeria, by one of science fiction’s most engaging new voices.

Rosewater is a town on the edge. A community formed around the edges of a mysterious alien biodome, its residents comprise the hopeful, the hungry and the helpless – people eager for a glimpse inside the dome or a taste of its rumored healing powers.

Kaaro is a government agent with a criminal past. He has seen inside the biodome, and doesn’t care to again — but when something begins killing off others like himself, Kaaro must defy his masters to search for an answer, facing his dark history and coming to a realization about a horrifying future.

The Heart Forger by Rin Chupeco

The Heart Forger (The Bone Witch #2) by Rin Chupeco

The sequel to the young adult fantasy The Bone Witch was released earlier this year (hardcover, ebook, audiobook). Rin Chupeco’s website has excerpts from both The Bone Witch and The Heart Forger.

I loved Tea, especially the way the alternating timelines fleshed out her character, and have been looking forward to continuing both of her stories in The Heart Forger (my review of The Bone Witch). Rin Chupeco’s Women in SF&F Month 2017 essay on heroines and writing her own in The Bone Witch details much of why I found Tea to be such a compelling character.


In The Bone Witch, Tea mastered resurrection―now she’s after revenge…

No one knows death like Tea. A bone witch who can resurrect the dead, she has the power to take life…and return it. And she is done with her self-imposed exile. Her heart is set on vengeance, and she now possesses all she needs to command the mighty daeva. With the help of these terrifying beasts, she can finally enact revenge against the royals who wronged her―and took the life of her one true love.

But there are those who plot against her, those who would use Tea’s dark power for their own nefarious ends. Because you can’t kill someone who can never die…

War is brewing among the kingdoms, and when dark magic is at play, no one is safe.

The Poppy War by R. F. Kuang

The Poppy War (#1 in a Trilogy) by R. F. Kuang

R. F. Kuang’s debut novel was just released earlier this month (hardcover, ebook, audiobook). I’ve been excited about The Poppy War since I first heard about it, and I also very much enjoyed the first chapter, available on Barnes & Noble’s Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog.

R. F. Kuang touched a little on the women in The Poppy War in her Women in SF&F Month 2018 essay “Be a Bitch, Eat the Peach” about her love for Azula with all her rage and ambition.


A brilliantly imaginative talent makes her exciting debut with this epic historical military fantasy, inspired by the bloody history of China’s twentieth century and filled with treachery and magic, in the tradition of Ken Liu’s Grace of Kings and N.K. Jemisin’s Inheritance Trilogy.

When Rin aced the Keju—the Empire-wide test to find the most talented youth to learn at the Academies—it was a shock to everyone: to the test officials, who couldn’t believe a war orphan from Rooster Province could pass without cheating; to Rin’s guardians, who believed they’d finally be able to marry her off and further their criminal enterprise; and to Rin herself, who realized she was finally free of the servitude and despair that had made up her daily existence. That she got into Sinegard—the most elite military school in Nikan—was even more surprising.

But surprises aren’t always good.

Because being a dark-skinned peasant girl from the south is not an easy thing at Sinegard. Targeted from the outset by rival classmates for her color, poverty, and gender, Rin discovers she possesses a lethal, unearthly power—an aptitude for the nearly-mythical art of shamanism. Exploring the depths of her gift with the help of a seemingly insane teacher and psychoactive substances, Rin learns that gods long thought dead are very much alive—and that mastering control over those powers could mean more than just surviving school.

For while the Nikara Empire is at peace, the Federation of Mugen still lurks across a narrow sea. The militarily advanced Federation occupied Nikan for decades after the First Poppy War, and only barely lost the continent in the Second. And while most of the people are complacent to go about their lives, a few are aware that a Third Poppy War is just a spark away . . .

Rin’s shamanic powers may be the only way to save her people. But as she finds out more about the god that has chosen her, the vengeful Phoenix, she fears that winning the war may cost her humanity . . . and that it may already be too late.

Circe by Madeline Miller

Circe by Madeline Miller

Madeline Miller’s latest novel became a #1 New York Times bestseller after its publication last month (hardcover, ebook, audiobook). Entertainment Weekly has an excerpt from Circe.


In the house of Helios, god of the sun and mightiest of the Titans, a daughter is born. But Circe is a strange child–not powerful, like her father, nor viciously alluring like her mother. Turning to the world of mortals for companionship, she discovers that she does possess power–the power of witchcraft, which can transform rivals into monsters and menace the gods themselves.

Threatened, Zeus banishes her to a deserted island, where she hones her occult craft, tames wild beasts and crosses paths with many of the most famous figures in all of mythology, including the Minotaur, Daedalus and his doomed son Icarus, the murderous Medea, and, of course, wily Odysseus.

But there is danger, too, for a woman who stands alone, and Circe unwittingly draws the wrath of both men and gods, ultimately finding herself pitted against one of the most terrifying and vengeful of the Olympians. To protect what she loves most, Circe must summon all her strength and choose, once and for all, whether she belongs with the gods she is born from, or the mortals she has come to love.

With unforgettably vivid characters, mesmerizing language and page-turning suspense, Circe is a triumph of storytelling, an intoxicating epic of family rivalry, palace intrigue, love and loss, as well as a celebration of indomitable female strength in a man’s world.

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