The Leaning Pile of Books is a feature in which I highlight books I got over the last week—old or new, bought or received in the mail for review consideration (most of which 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, along with series information and the publisher’s book description. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

There’s a lot of catching up to do after missing the last couple of weekends for various reasons. A lot of books have come in the mail over the last couple of weeks, plus I attended this year’s Neukom Literary Arts Award ceremony since I live in the area—and, of course, purchased some books there (and got this year’s winning novels signed by their authors!). It was a wonderful event, and I very much enjoyed hearing Audrey Schulman and Peng Shepherd discuss their books. (You may recall I reviewed Peng Shepherd’s The Book of M a few months ago and very much enjoyed it!)

The Secret Chapter by Genevieve Cogman - Book Cover

The Secret Chapter (The Invisible Library #6) by Genevieve Cogman

The Secret Chapter, the sixth book in the Invisible Library series, will be released on January 7, 2020, in the US (trade paperback, ebook) and on November 14 in the UK (paperback, ebook, audiobook).

This series, which follows an agent of the Library that exists outside of time and space, is a delight, and I’m rather intrigued by the fact that the next installment features an art heist.

The previous books in the series are as follows:

  1. The Invisible Library (My Review | Excerpt)
  2. The Masked City (My Review | Excerpt)
  3. The Burning Page (My Review | Excerpt)
  4. The Lost Plot (My Review | Excerpt)
  5. The Mortal Word (My Review | Excerpt)

Time-travelling, dimension-jumping, Librarian-spy Irene and dragon-prince Kai will have to team up with an unlikely band of misfits to pull off an amazing art heist—or risk the wrath of a dangerous villain with a secret island lair.

A Librarian’s work is never done, and Irene is summoned to the Library. The world where she grew up is in danger of veering deep into chaos, and she needs to obtain a particular book to stop this from happening. Her only choice is to contact a mysterious Fae information-broker and trader of rare objects: Mr. Nemo.

Irene and Kai make their way to Mr. Nemo’s remote Caribbean island and are invited to dinner, which includes unlikely company. Mr. Nemo has an offer for everyone there: he wants them to steal a specific painting from a specific world. But to get their reward, they will have to form a team, including a dragon techie, a Fae thief, a gambler, a driver, and the muscle. Their goal? The Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna, in an early twenty-first-century world, where their toughest challenge might be each other.

Parable of the Sower/Parable of the Talents by Octavia Butler - Box Set

Parable of the Sower/Parable of the Talents Boxed Set (Earthseed #1–2) by Octavia E. Butler

This hardcover boxed set of Octavia E. Butler’s Parable of the Sower and Parable of the Talents was an early Christmas present from my husband (who was too impatient to wait a couple of months to actually give it to me!). These editions from Seven Stories Press are gorgeous and include introductions by Gloria Steinem (Sower) and Toshi Reagon (Talents).

I’ve read Sower before and thought it was fascinating, but it’s been a while since I read it. I definitely want to reread it before starting Talents.


A beautiful boxed set brings together the great sci-fi writer’s two award-winning Parable books

The perfect gift for fans of Octavia Butler, this boxed set pairs the bestselling Nebula-prize nominee, Parable of the Sower and Parable of the Talents, which together tell the near-future odyssey of Lauren Olamina, a “hyperempathic” young woman who is twice as feeling in a world that has become doubly dehumanized. In Sower, the place is California, where small walled communities protect from hordes of desperate scavengers and roaming bands of people addicts. Lauren sets off on foot along the dangerous coastal highways, moving north into the unknown. The book has an introduction by feminist, journalist, activist, and author Gloria Steinem.

Parable of the Talents celebrates the classic Butlerian themes of alienation and transcendence, violence and spirituality, slavery and freedom, separation and community, to astonishing effect, in the shockingly familiar, broken world of 2032. It is told in the voice of Lauren Olamina’s daughter—from whom she has been separated for most of the girl’s life—with sections in the form of Lauren’s journal. Against a background of a war-torn continent, and with a far-right religious crusader in the office of the U.S. presidency, this is a book about a society whose very fabric has been torn asunder, and where the basic physical and emotional needs of people seem almost impossible to meet. Talents is introduced by singer, musician, composer, producer, and curator Toshi Reagon, who created an opera based on the Parable books.

Sword of Fire by Katharine Kerr - Book Cover

Sword of Fire (The Justice War #1) by Katharine Kerr

This epic fantasy, the first book in a new trilogy set in the Celtic-inspired world of Deverry, will be released on February 18, 2020 (hardcover, ebook).


This first novel of an epic fantasy trilogy reintroduces readers to the beloved and bestselling world of Deverry, blending magic, politics, and adventure in an unforgettable setting.

The bards are the people’s voice—and their sword.

All over the kingdom of Deverry, the common people are demanding reform of the corrupt law courts. In Aberwyn, the situation catches fire when Gwerbret Ladoic, second in authority only to the High King, allows a bard to starve to death rather than hear their grievances.

Guildwoman Alyssa, a student at the local scholars’ collegium, and Lady Dovina, the gwerbret’s own daughter, know that evidence exists to overthrow the so-called traditional legal system, if they can only get it into the right hands. The powerful lords will kill anyone who threatens their privileges.

To retrieve the proof, Alyssa must make a dangerous journey that will either change her life forever—or end it.

Theory of Bastards by Audrey Schulman - Book Cover

Theory of Bastards by Audrey Schulman

This science fiction novel won the Philip K. Dick Award and Dartmouth’s Neukom Literary Arts Award for Speculative Fiction and is out now (trade paperback, ebook, audiobook).

I’ve had my eye on book for a while, and listening to Audrey Schulman talk about it just made me even more excited to read it!


WINNER 2019 Philip K. Dick Award for BEST Science Fiction

WINNER 2019 Neukom Institute Literary Arts Award for Speculative Fiction

One of The Washington Post‘s 50 Notable Works of fiction in 2018

“Stage four. Surgery. Recovering.” While those are the simple words that once described Dr. Francine Burk’s situation, the reality is much more complex. Her new reality is bacon rinds for breakfast and feeling unduly thrilled by her increasing ability to walk across a room without assistance. And it’s being offered a placement at a prestigious research institute where she can put to good use her recent award money. With the Foundation’s advanced technological resources and a group of fascinating primates, Francine can begin to verify her subversive scientific discovery, which has challenged the foundations of history―her Theory of Bastards.

Frankie finds that the bonobos she’s studying are as complex as the humans she’s working alongside. Their personalities are strong and distinct, and reigning over it all is Mama, the commanding matriarchal leader of the group. Frankie comes to know the bonobos and to further develop her groundbreaking theory with the help of her research partner, a man with a complicated past and perhaps a place in her future. And then something changes everything, and the lines that divide them―between subject and scientist, between colleague and companion―begin to blur.

With deft skill and heartbreaking honesty, Audrey Schulman delves into the very nature of her characters. Her newest novel explores the nuances of communication, the implications of unquestioned technological advancement, and the enduring power of love in a way that is essential and urgent in today’s world. This thrilling literary novel will resonate, long after the final page is turned.

Blackfish City by Sam J. Miller - Book Cover

Blackfish City by Sam J. Miller

Blackfish City won the John W. Campbell Memorial Award for Best Science Fiction and was a finalist for several other awards, including the Nebula Awards for Best Novel, the Locus Award for Best Science Fiction Novel, and the Neukom Literary Arts Award for Speculative Fiction. (It was another book I purchased after the Neukom Awards ceremony.) It’s available in hardcover, trade paperback, ebook, and audiobook.

The Harper Collins website has an excerpt from Blackfish City.


A Best Book of the Month in

Entertainment Weekly

The Washington Post

B&N Sci-Fi Fantasy Blog


After the climate wars, a floating city is constructed in the Arctic Circle, a remarkable feat of mechanical and social engineering, complete with geothermal heating and sustainable energy. The city’s denizens have become accustomed to a roughshod new way of living, however, the city is starting to fray along the edges—crime and corruption have set in, the contradictions of incredible wealth alongside direst poverty are spawning unrest, and a new disease called “the breaks” is ravaging the population.

When a strange new visitor arrives—a woman riding an orca, with a polar bear at her side—the city is entranced. The “orcamancer,” as she’s known, very subtly brings together four people—each living on the periphery—to stage unprecedented acts of resistance. By banding together to save their city before it crumbles under the weight of its own decay, they will learn shocking truths about themselves.

Blackfish City is a remarkably urgent—and ultimately very hopeful—novel about political corruption, organized crime, technology run amok, the consequences of climate change, gender identity, and the unifying power of human connection.

Infomocracy by Malka Older - Book Cover

Infomocracy (The Centenal Cycle #1) by Malka Older

Infomocracy, the first book in a completed trilogy, is available in hardcover, trade paperback, audiobook, and ebook. It was a finalist for the Locus Award for Best First Novel and the Neukom Literary Arts Award for Debut Speculative Fiction (and was another book I’ve had my eye on for a while that I purchased after the awards ceremony). has the first five chapters from Infomocracy.


Read Infomocracy, the first book in Campbell Award finalist Malka Older’s groundbreaking cyberpunk political thriller series The Centenal Cycle, a finalist for the Hugo Award for Best Series, and the novel NPR called “Kinetic and gripping.”

• A Locus Award Finalist for Best First Novel
• The book The Huffington Post called “one of the greatest literary debuts in recent history”
• One of Kirkus‘ “Best Fiction of 2016”
• One of The Washington Post‘s “Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of 2016”
• One of Book Riot’s “Best Books of 2016 So Far”

It’s been twenty years and two election cycles since Information, a powerful search engine monopoly, pioneered the switch from warring nation-states to global micro-democracy. The corporate coalition party Heritage has won the last two elections. With another election on the horizon, the Supermajority is in tight contention, and everything’s on the line.

With power comes corruption. For Ken, this is his chance to do right by the idealistic Policy1st party and get a steady job in the big leagues. For Domaine, the election represents another staging ground in his ongoing struggle against the pax democratica. For Mishima, a dangerous Information operative, the whole situation is a puzzle: how do you keep the wheels running on the biggest political experiment of all time, when so many have so much to gain?

Infomocracy is Malka Older’s debut novel.

Book 1: Infomocracy
Book 2: Null States
Book 3: State Tectonics

Additional Books: