The Leaning Pile of Books is a feature in which I highlight books I got over the last week that sound like they may be interesting—old or new, bought or received in the mail for review consideration. 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. Cover images are affiliate links to Bookshop, and I earn from qualifying purchases.

It has been a while since I did one of these features between the holidays and working on blog posts about highlights of the previous year and upcoming books of the new year. I have the best time putting together these lists, but they also take a lot of time to do!

Here are the links to everything I’ve posted since the last Leaning Pile of Books, in case you missed them:

Since it would take me forever to cover every single book I bought or received as gifts over the holidays in this post, I limited this to 4 books: 2 ARCs that came in the mail and 2 books that I got for Christmas.

Servant Mage by Kate Elliott - Book Cover

Servant Mage by Kate Elliott

Kate Elliott’s latest, a standalone fantasy novella, was just released last week (hardcover, ebook).

If you’d like to take a look at a sample, has an excerpt from Servant Mage.


In Kate Elliott’s Servant Mage, a lowly fire mage finds herself entangled in an empire-spanning conspiracy on her way to discovering her true power.

They choose their laws to secure their power.

Fellian is a Lamplighter, able to provide illumination through magic. A group of rebel Monarchists free her from indentured servitude and take her on a journey to rescue trapped compatriots from an underground complex of mines.

Along the way they get caught up in a conspiracy to kill the latest royal child and wipe out the Monarchist movement for good.

But Fellian has more than just her Lamplighting skills up her sleeve…

The Magnolia Sword by Sherry Thomas - Book Cover

The Magnolia Sword: A Ballad of Mulan by Sherry Thomas

This YA retelling of “The Ballad of Mulan” is one of the books I received for Christmas, and it is available in several formats (hardcover, paperback, ebook, and audiobook).

Sherry Thomas’ website has an excerpt from The Magnolia Sword with an author’s note about how this novel came to be.


CHINA, 484 A.D.

A Warrior in Disguise

All her life, Mulan has trained for one purpose: to win the duel that every generation in her family must fight. If she prevails, she can reunite a pair of priceless heirloom swords separated decades earlier, and avenge her father, who was paralyzed in his own duel.

Then a messenger from the Emperor arrives, demanding that all families send one soldier to fight the Rouran invaders in the north. Mulan’s father cannot go. Her brother is just a child. So she ties up her hair, takes up her sword, and joins the army as a man.

A War for a Dynasty

Thanks to her martial arts skills, Mulan is chosen for an elite team under the command of the princeling—the royal duke’s son, who is also the handsomest man she’s ever seen. But the princeling has secrets of his own, which explode into Mulan’s life and shake up everything she knows. As they cross the Great Wall to face the enemy beyond, Mulan and the princeling must find a way to unwind their past, unmask a traitor, and uncover the plans for the Rouran invasion . . . before it’s too late.

Inspired by wuxia martial-arts dramas as well as the centuries-old ballad of Mulan, The Magnolia Sword is perfect for fans of Renee Ahdieh, Marie Lu, or Kristin Cashore—a thrilling, romantic, and sharp-edged novel that lives up to its beloved heroine.

Boys, Beasts & Men by Sam J. Miller - Book Cover

Boys, Beasts & Men by Sam J. Miller

Sam J. Miller’s short story collection will be released on May 10 (trade paperback, ebook). This volume contains an introduction by Amal El-Mohtar and 14 stories, including Nebula Award finalists “When Your Child Strays from God” and “Things with Beards” and a new story.

The author’s website has more information, including the table of contents.


In Nebula Award-winning author Sam J. Miller’s devastating debut short-fiction collection, featuring an introduction by Amal El-Mohtar, queer infatuation, inevitable heartbreak, and brutal revenge seamlessly intertwine. Whether innocent, guilty, or not even human, the boys, beasts, and men roaming through Miller’s gorgeously crafted worlds can destroy readers, yet leave them wanting more.

Despite his ability to control the ambient digital cloud, a foster teen falls for a clever con-man. Luring bullies to a quarry, a boy takes clearly enumerated revenge through unnatural powers of suggestion. In the aftermath of a shapeshifting alien invasion, a survivor fears that he brought something out of the Arctic to infect the rest of the world. A rebellious group of queer artists create a new identity that transcends even the anonymity of death.

Sam J. Miller (Blackfish CityThe Art of Starving) shows his savage wit, unrelenting candor, and lush imagery in this essential career retrospective collection, taking his place alongside legends of the short-fiction form such as Carmen Maria Machado, Carson McCullers, and Jeff VanderMeer.

The Annotated Arabian Nights - Book Cover

The Annotated Arabian Nights: Tales from 1001 Nights edited by Paulo Lemos Horta and translated by Yasmine Seale

This gorgeous hardcover illustrated edition of the Arabian Nights was another Christmas present. I’ve been wanting to read a version of this, and I added this one to my wish list after seeing S. A. Chakraborty recommend it.


A magnificent and richly illustrated volume—with a groundbreaking translation framed by new commentary and hundreds of images—of the most famous story collection of all time.

A cornerstone of world literature and a monument to the power of storytelling, the Arabian Nights has inspired countless authors, from Charles Dickens and Edgar Allan Poe to Naguib Mahfouz, Clarice Lispector, and Angela Carter. Now, in this lavishly designed and illustrated edition of The Annotated Arabian Nights, the acclaimed literary historian Paulo Lemos Horta and the brilliant poet and translator Yasmine Seale present a splendid new selection of tales from the Nights, featuring treasured original stories as well as later additions including “Aladdin and the Wonderful Lamp” and “Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves,” and definitively bringing the Nights out of Victorian antiquarianism and into the twenty-first century.

For centuries, readers have been haunted by the homicidal King Shahriyar, thrilled by gripping tales of Sinbad’s seafaring adventures, and held utterly, exquisitely captive by Shahrazad’s stories of passionate romances and otherworldly escapades. Yet for too long, the English-speaking world has relied on dated translations by Richard Burton, Edward Lane, and other nineteenth-century adventurers. Seale’s distinctly contemporary and lyrical translations break decisively with this masculine dynasty, finally stripping away the deliberate exoticism of Orientalist renderings while reclaiming the vitality and delight of the stories, as she works with equal skill in both Arabic and French.

Included within are famous tales, from “The Story of Sinbad the Sailor” to “The Story of the Fisherman and the Jinni,” as well as lesser-known stories such as “The Story of Dalila the Crafty,” in which the cunning heroine takes readers into the everyday life of merchants and shopkeepers in a crowded metropolis, and “The Story of the Merchant and the Jinni,” an example of a ransom frame tale in which stories are exchanged to save a life. Grounded in the latest scholarship, The Annotated Arabian Nights also incorporates the Hanna Diyab stories, for centuries seen as French forgeries but now acknowledged, largely as a result of Horta’s pathbreaking research, as being firmly rooted in the Arabic narrative tradition. Horta not only takes us into the astonishing twists and turns of the stories’ evolution. He also offers comprehensive notes on just about everything readers need to know to appreciate the tales in context, and guides us through the origins of ghouls, jinn, and other supernatural elements that have always drawn in and delighted readers.

Beautifully illustrated throughout with art from Europe and the Arab and Persian world, the latter often ignored in English-language editions, The Annotated Arabian Nights expands the visual dimensions of the stories, revealing how the Nights have always been—and still are—in dialogue with fine artists. With a poignant autobiographical foreword from best-selling novelist Omar El Akkad and an illuminating afterword on the Middle Eastern roots of Hanna Diyab’s tales from noted scholar Robert Irwin, Horta and Seale have created a stunning edition of the Arabian Nights that will enchant and inform both devoted and novice readers alike.