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.

Disclosure: I am an affiliate of, and I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase.

Some of this is a little late since things have been busier than usual (my husband has been recovering from surgery), but better late than never! This weekend’s highlights include two books in the mail, an ebook purchase, and a digital ARC, but first, here is the latest post since one of these features in case you missed it:

  • Guest Post by Bitter Medicine Author Mia Tsai This contains information on Mia Tsai’s new xianxia-inspired contemporary fantasy novel and “The Case for Aftermaths,” an essay about her love of character-driven stories and aftermaths. (It also includes discussion of the endings of The Princess Bride, the Lord of the Rings trilogy, and The Hunger Games trilogy.)

And now, the latest books on the TBR!

Cover of The Crane Husband by Kelly Barnhill

The Crane Husband by Kelly Barnhill

This novella, a reimagining of the Japanese folktale “The Crane Wife,” came out a few weeks ago. It’s available in hardcover and ebook, and has an excerpt of the first chapter from The Crane Husband. Goodreads currently has a giveaway of 15 print copies for readers in the US and Canada, ending on March 31.

New York Times bestselling author Kelly Barnhill received the World Fantasy Award for her novella The Unlicensed Magician and the John Newbery Medal for The Girl Who Drank the Moon. She is also the author of the National Book Award finalist The Ogress and the Orphans and the novel When Women Were Dragons, which was a Goodreads Choice Award nominee in the fantasy category.

I’ve heard wonderful things about Kelly Barnhill’s work, especially The Girl Who Drank the Moon, and this novella sounds like just the type of dark fairy-tale-like story that’s right up my alley. (As I mentioned before, this post is a bit late and I actually started writing it last weekend. I’ve read a bit of the beginning of The Crane Husband since writing about it here, and I’m enjoying the prose and how creepily unsettling it is so far.)


Award-winning author Kelly Barnhill brings her singular talents to The Crane Husband, a raw, powerful story of love, sacrifice, and family.

“Mothers fly away like migrating birds. This is why farmers have daughters.

A fifteen-year-old teenager is the backbone of her small Midwestern family, budgeting the household finances and raising her younger brother while her mom, a talented artist, weaves beautiful tapestries. For six years, it’s been just the three of them—her mom has brought home guests at times, but none have ever stayed.

Yet when her mom brings home a six-foot tall crane with a menacing air, the girl is powerless to prevent her mom letting the intruder into her heart, and her children’s lives. Utterly enchanted and numb to his sharp edges, her mom abandons the world around her to weave the masterpiece the crane demands.

In this stunning contemporary retelling of “The Crane Wife” by the Newbery Medal-winning author of The Girl Who Drank the Moon, one fiercely pragmatic teen forced to grow up faster than was fair will do whatever it takes to protect her family—and change the story.

Cover of The Chariot at Dusk by Swati Teerdhala

The Chariot at Dusk (Tiger at Midnight #3) by Swati Teerdhala

The final book in the Tiger at Midnight trilogy is available in hardcover, paperback, ebook, and audiobook. The publisher’s website has a text sample and audio excerpt from The Chariot at Dusk, in addition to text and audio samples from the previous books in the series:

  1. The Tiger at Midnight
  2. The Archer at Dawn

I’ve been considering getting a copy of this for a while, and I finally purchased it when I had a few Kindle credits. Although I almost always buy print books, the first couple of books in this series were exactly the type of books I don’t mind reading digitally: fast-paced, compulsively readable, and just plain fun. Swati Teerdhala seems to love and understand what makes the tropes she uses—like a softer boy and a harder girl who bond despite being on opposite sides—work, and I also rather enjoyed the world, which has Indian and Hindu influences.

My reviews of the first two books are here:

  1. The Tiger at Midnight
  2. The Archer at Dawn

Swati Teerdhala also wrote the Women in SF&F Month 2019 essay “The Unlikeable Heroine,” which opens with some thoughts on Sansa Stark:

The first time I heard someone call a heroine unlikeable, I was confused. To me, this heroine, Sansa Stark from Game of Thrones, was a character I had been waiting a long time for. I saw her as someone flawed, someone who was simply trying her best.

She starts off as a young girl caught up in her own life and unaware of her surroundings. She was a little selfish, a little naive, a little too trusting. But she was also kind, clever, and tough. Sansa learns and changes over seven seasons, as she grows into a woman. A woman who is complex and so painfully human, I often wanted to cringe and look away in fear that she might expose my own shortcomings. But also a woman so strong in the face of tragedy and terror that she encouraged. Inspired me.

In short, a woman who was real.

She later discussed writing Esha, one of the two main protagonists in the Tiger at Midnight series, and how her attempts to make her “likeable” in earlier drafts were keeping her from being true to her character.


The sweeping, dramatic finale of Swati Teerdhala’s South India-inspired fantasy trilogy rounds out the epic, romantic tale of an assassin and a soldier fighting to save their country and their people. Perfect for fans of Sabaa Tahir and Victoria Aveyard.

A queen at last. An empty palace. A kingdom to save.

Esha is reeling from Kunal’s betrayal, but she has a kingdom to rule from behind a thin smokescreen—pretending to be Princess Reha while she sends her most trusted soldiers to collect Reha and Kunal by any means necessary. Traitors, after all, must be punished.

But the Yavar are attacking from every front—tracking down Kunal and Reha in the remote mountains, kidnapping Harun—in search of legendary artifacts that will give them the power to break the precarious janma bond and release the destructive magic back into the lands.

Now that the race is on to find the missing artifacts, Esha must put aside her rage and work with Kunal again—but can she find the strength to forgive him, or will the Viper have her revenge at any cost?

Cover of Under Alien Skies by Philip Plait

Under Alien Skies: A Sightseer’s Guide to the Universe by Philip Plait

This book by astronomer and Bad Astronomy author Philip Plait (who also wrote articles of the same name) will be released on April 18 (hardcover, ebook, audiobook). It sounds fascinating: a guide to what it would be like to explore various parts of the universe, including overviews of the moon, Pluto, black holes, planets with two suns, and more.


A rip-roaring tour of the cosmos with the Bad Astronomer, bringing you up close and personal with the universe like never before.

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to travel the universe? How would Saturn’s rings look from a spaceship sailing just above them? If you were falling into a black hole, what’s the last thing you’d see before getting spaghettified? While traveling in person to most of these amazing worlds may not be possible—yet—the would-be space traveler need not despair: you can still take the scenic route through the galaxy with renowned astronomer and science communicator Philip Plait.

On this lively, immersive adventure through the cosmos, Plait draws ingeniously on both the latest scientific research and his prodigious imagination to transport you to ten of the most spectacular sights outer space has to offer. In vivid, inventive scenes informed by rigorous science—injected with a dose of Plait’s trademark humor—Under Alien Skies places you on the surface of alien worlds, from our own familiar Moon to the far reaches of our solar system and beyond. Try launching yourself onto a two-hundred-meter asteroid, or stargazing from the rim of an ancient volcano on a planet where, from the place you stand, it is eternally late afternoon. Experience the sudden onset of lunar nightfall, the disorientation of walking—or, rather, shuffling—when you weigh almost nothing, the irritation of jagged regolith dust. Glimpse the frigid mountains and plains of Pluto and the cake-like exterior of a comet called 67P. On a planet trillions of miles from Earth, glance down to see the strange, beautiful shadows cast by a hundred thousand stars.

For the aspiring extraterrestrial citizen, casual space tourist, or curious armchair traveler, Plait is an illuminating, always-entertaining guide to the most otherworldly views in our universe.

Cover of The Weaver and the Witch Queen by Genevieve Gornichec

The Weaver and the Witch Queen by Genevieve Gornichec

This historical fantasy novel set in tenth century Norway will be released on July 25 (hardcover, ebook, audiobook). Popsugar has an excerpt from The Weaver and the Witch Queen., and Goodreads is currently running a US giveaway of 10 print copies (ending March 31).

This sounds fantastic, and I’ve heard such great things about Genevieve Gornichec’s first novel, The Witch’s Heart, which also has Norse influences.


The lives of two women—one desperate only to save her missing sister, the other a witch destined to become queen of Norway—intertwine in this spellbinding, powerful novel of Viking Age history and myth from the acclaimed author of The Witch’s Heart.

Oddny and Gunnhild meet as children in tenth century Norway, and they could not be more different: Oddny hopes for a quiet life, while Gunnhild burns for power and longs to escape her cruel mother. But after a visiting wisewoman makes an ominous prophecy that involves Oddny, her sister Signy, and Gunnhild, the three girls take a blood oath to help one another always.

When Oddny’s farm is destroyed and Signy is kidnapped by Viking raiders, Oddny is set adrift from the life she imagined—but she’s determined to save her sister no matter the cost, even as she finds herself irresistibly drawn to one of the raiders who participated in the attack. And in the far north, Gunnhild, who fled her home years ago to learn the ways of a witch, is surprised to find her destiny seems to be linked with that of the formidable King Eirik, heir apparent to the ruler of all Norway.

But the bonds—both enchanted and emotional—that hold the two women together are strong, and when they find their way back to each other, these bonds will be tested in ways they never could have foreseen in this deeply moving novel of magic, history, and sworn sisterhood.