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 (often these are unsolicited books from publishers). 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.

Between the holidays and writing my end of the year/beginning of the year posts, there’s a bit of catching up to do! This week, I’m just highlighting books I received for Christmas, and next week I plan to catch up on the rest.

There is one book I left off this list since I’ve already written about it a few times recently: Empire of Sand by Tasha Suri. I loved this book and received a finished copy for Christmas. It was my 2018 Book of the Year, and I also reviewed it here.

There have been a few reviews and articles since the last one of these posts:

  • Review of The Mortal Word (The Invisible Library #5) by Genevieve Cogman — I didn’t think this installment was quite as much fun as the first four books in the series, but I’m still looking forward to the next book.
  • My Favorite Books of 2018 — I shared the eight books I found most memorable in 2018 and why they stood out to me.
  • Anticipated 2019 Speculative Fiction Releases — This is by no means a comprehensive list of the many books coming out this year that sound intriguing, but this is a list of the ones that I think sound the most intriguing of those. It includes books by both authors I’ve read before and new-to-me and debut authors.
  • Review of Star of the Morning (Nine Kingdoms #1) by Lynn Kurland — This is the first part of a fantasy romance trilogy that I found entertaining as a fun, quick read with the secret identity trope, but the fantasy world itself was pretty standard and not particularly compelling. I’m not planning to continue the series since there are approximately 2 billion books I want to read and I thought this one was just slightly better than okay.

Without any further ado, here are the holiday arrivals!

Monstress, Volume 3: Haven by Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda

Monstress, Volume 3: Haven by Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda

Monstress has some of the most gorgeous artwork I’ve ever seen, and I’ve been enjoying this dark graphic novel series a lot.

I have already read this one, and although I found the beginning a bit slow, it wasn’t long before I was immersed in Maika’s story. Now I’m looking forward to volume 4!


Maika has spent most of her life learning how to fight, but how will she fare when the only way to save her life…is to make friends?

Collects issues 13-18 of the Hugo Award and British Fantasy Award series.

Black Wings Beating by Alex London

Black Wings Beating (Skybound #1) by Alex London

I’ve wanted to read this young adult fantasy book ever since I first heard that it featured falconers! Visiting my local bird sanctuary/nature center got me interested in raptors of all kinds, and I was thrilled to hear of this book.

Mashable has more about Black Wings Beating and an excerpt here.


The people of Uztar have long looked to the sky with hope and wonder. Nothing in their worwld is more revered than the birds of prey and no one more honored than the falconers who call them to their fists.

Brysen strives to be a great falconer―while his twin sister, Kylee, rejects her ancient gifts for the sport and wishes to be free of falconry. She’s nearly made it out, too, but a war is rolling toward their home in the Six Villages, and no bird or falconer will be safe.

Together the twins must journey into the treacherous mountains to trap the Ghost Eagle, the greatest of the Uztari birds and a solitary killer. Brysen goes for the boy he loves and the glory he’s long craved, and Kylee to atone for her past and to protect her brother’s future. But both are hunted by those who seek one thing: power.

In this first young-adult fantasy novel in a trilogy, Alex London launches a soaring saga about the memories that haunt us, the histories that hunt us, and the bonds of blood between us.

Sister Emily's Lightship by Jane Yolen

Sister Emily’s Lightship and Other Stories by Jane Yolen

I was excited to get a signed hardcover copy of this collection of Jane Yolen’s stories! Of course, Jane Yolen is a wonderful writer and I love fairy tale reimaginings.

The description below is from the ebook edition since it’s easier to find and had more information on the book.


In these twenty-eight magnificent tales, which include two Nebula Award winners, Jane Yolen puts a provocative spin on familiar storybook worlds and beloved fairy tale characters

One of the most acclaimed and honored authors in science fiction and fantasy, Jane Yolen has been called “the Hans Christian Andersen of America” for her brilliant reimagining of classic fairy tales. In her first collection of short stories written for an adult audience (after Tales of Wonder and Dragonfield), Yolen explores themes of freedom and justice, truth and consequence, and brings new life to our most cherished fables and myths.

Here are storybook realms rendered more contemporary, and cautionary tales made grimmer than Grimm: Snow White is transported to Appalachia to match wits with a snake-handling evil stepmother and Beauty’s meeting with the Beast takes a twisty, O. Henry–esque turn; in Yolen’s Nebula Award–winning “Lost Girls,” a feminist revolt rocks Peter Pan’s Neverland and in the collection’s glorious title story—also a Nebula winner—the poet Emily Dickinson receives some unexpected and otherworldly inspiration. Sometimes dark, sometimes funny, and always enthralling, Sister Emily’s Lightship is proof positive that Yolen is truly a folklorist of our times.

This ebook features a personal history by Jane Yolen including rare images from the author’s personal collection, as well as a note from the author about the making of the book.

The Merry Spinster by Daniel Mallory Ortberg

The Merry Spinster: Tales of Everyday Horror by Daniel Mallory Ortberg

I somehow hadn’t heard of this book before I got it for Christmas, but it sounds fascinating—dark fairy tale retellings “with elements of psychological horror, emotional clarity, and a keen sense of feminist mischief”!

The publisher’s website has an excerpt from The Merry Spinster.


From Mallory Ortberg comes a collection of darkly mischievous stories based on classic fairy tales. Adapted from the beloved “Children’s Stories Made Horrific” series, “The Merry Spinster” takes up the trademark wit that endeared Ortberg to readers of both The Toast and the best-selling debut Texts From Jane Eyre. The feature has become among the most popular on the site, with each entry bringing in tens of thousands of views, as the stories proved a perfect vehicle for Ortberg’s eye for deconstruction and destabilization. Sinister and inviting, familiar and alien all at the same time, The Merry Spinster updates traditional children’s stories and fairy tales with elements of psychological horror, emotional clarity, and a keen sense of feminist mischief.

Readers of The Toast will instantly recognize Ortberg’s boisterous good humor and uber-nerd swagger: those new to Ortberg’s oeuvre will delight in this collection’s unique spin on fiction, where something a bit mischievous and unsettling is always at work just beneath the surface.

Unfalteringly faithful to its beloved source material, The Merry Spinster also illuminates the unsuspected, and frequently, alarming emotional complexities at play in the stories we tell ourselves, and each other, as we tuck ourselves in for the night.

Bed time will never be the same.

Girls of Paper and Fire by Natasha Ngan

Girls of Paper and Fire by Natasha Ngan

I’ve heard that this young adult fantasy is wonderful and have been wanting to read it!

Bustle has an excerpt from Girls of Paper and Fire.


Each year, eight beautiful girls are chosen as Paper Girls to serve the king. It’s the highest honor they could hope for…and the most demeaning. This year, there’s a ninth. And instead of paper, she’s made of fire.

In this richly developed fantasy, Lei is a member of the Paper caste, the lowest and most persecuted class of people in Ikhara. She lives in a remote village with her father, where the decade-old trauma of watching her mother snatched by royal guards for an unknown fate still haunts her. Now, the guards are back and this time it’s Lei they’re after — the girl with the golden eyes whose rumored beauty has piqued the king’s interest.

Over weeks of training in the opulent but oppressive palace, Lei and eight other girls learns the skills and charm that befit a king’s consort. There, she does the unthinkable — she falls in love. Her forbidden romance becomes enmeshed with an explosive plot that threatens her world’s entire way of life. Lei, still the wide-eyed country girl at heart, must decide how far she’s willing to go for justice and revenge.

The Bird and the Blade by Megan Bannen

The Bird and the Blade by Megan Bannen

This young adult historical fantasy is another book I’ve heard is fantastic!

Epic Reads has an excerpt from The Bird and the Blade.


A sweeping and tragic debut novel perfect for fans of The Wrath and the Dawn and Megan Whalen Turner.

The Bird and the Blade is a lush, powerful story of life and death, battles and riddles, lies and secrets from author Megan Bannen.

Enslaved in Kipchak Khanate, Jinghua has lost everything: her home, her family, her freedom . . . until the kingdom is conquered by enemy forces and she finds herself an unlikely conspirator in the escape of Prince Khalaf and his irascible father across the vast Mongol Empire.

On the run, with adversaries on all sides and an endless journey ahead, Jinghua hatches a scheme to use the Kipchaks’ exile to return home, a plan that becomes increasingly fraught as her feelings for Khalaf evolve into an impossible love.

Jinghua’s already dicey prospects take a downward turn when Khalaf seeks to restore his kingdom by forging a marriage alliance with Turandokht, the daughter of the Great Khan. As beautiful as she is cunning, Turandokht requires all potential suitors to solve three impossible riddles to win her hand—and if they fail, they die.

Jinghua has kept her own counsel well, but with Khalaf’s kingdom—and his very life—on the line, she must reconcile the hard truth of her past with her love for a boy who has no idea what she’s capable of . . . even if it means losing him to the girl who’d sooner take his life than his heart.