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 (the latter of which are mainly 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.

Last week brought two books in the mail, but first, here is the most recent post in case you missed it:

On to the new books!

The Archer at Dawn by Swati Teerdhala - Cover Image

The Archer at Dawn (Tiger at Midnight #2) by Swati Teerdhala

The second book in the Tiger at Midnight trilogy was released a couple of months go (hardcover, ebook, audiobook). The third book in the series is scheduled for release in spring 2021. has a text excerpt from The Archer at Dawn, and the Harper Collins website has an audio sample.

Bustle has a text excerpt from The Tiger at Midnight, the first book in this series, and the Harper Collins website has an audio sample from this book as well.

I bought a copy of the first book in this series when it was on sale a little while ago and enjoyed it, especially the second half and the dynamic between the two main characters. It was especially interesting to meet Esha knowing that Swati Teerdhala had felt she had to try to make her softer and more “likeable” in her first draft but later realized that was holding her back from letting her be who she was, as she discussed in her essay “The Unlikeable Heroine.”


Romantic intrigue and electric action fill the gripping sequel to The Tiger at Midnight, a world inspired by ancient Indian history and Hindu mythology. Perfect for fans of Sabaa Tahir and Victoria Aveyard.

A stolen throne. A lost princess. A rescue mission to take back what’s theirs.

For Kunal and Esha, finally working together as rebels, the upcoming Sun Mela provides the perfect guise for infiltrating King Vardaan’s vicious court. Kunal returns to his role as dedicated soldier, while Esha uses her new role as adviser to Prince Harun to seek allies for their rebel cause. A radical plan is underfoot to rescue Jansa’s long-lost Princess Reha—the key to the throne.

But amidst the Mela games and glittering festivities, much more dangerous forces lie in wait. With the rebel’s entry into Vardaan’s court, a match has been lit, and long-held secrets will force Kunal and Esha to reconsider their loyalties—to their countries and to each other.

Getting into the palace was the easy task; coming out together will be a battle for their lives. In book two of Swati Teerdhala’s epic fantasy trilogy, a kingdom will fall, a new ruler will rise, and all will burn.

Architects of Memory by Karen Osborne - Cover Image

Architects of Memory (The Memory War #1) by Karen Osborne

Karen Osborne’s science fiction debut novel will be released on August 25 (trade paperback, ebook, audiobook). The Macmillan website has an excerpt from Architects of Memory.


Millions died after the first contact. An alien weapon holds the key to redemption—or annihilation. Experience Karen Osborne’s unforgettable science fiction debut, Architects of Memory.

Terminally ill salvage pilot Ash Jackson lost everything in the war with the alien Vai, but she’ll be damned if she loses her future. Her plan: to buy, beg, or lie her way out of corporate indenture and find a cure. When her crew salvages a genocidal weapon from a ravaged starship above a dead colony, Ash uncovers a conspiracy of corporate intrigue and betrayal that threatens to turn her into a living weapon.

Crown of Coral and Pearl
by Mara Rutherford
384pp (Hardcover)
My Rating: 5/10
Amazon Rating: 4.4/5
LibraryThing Rating: 3.9/5
Goodreads Rating: 3.94/5

As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Sometimes I wonder if it was our names that determined our fates, or the other way around. Nor and Zadie: coral and pearl. Both precious to our people, both beautiful enough to adorn the necks of queens. But whereas a pearl is prized for its luster, its shape, its lack of imperfections, coral is different. It grows twisted. In its natural form, it can hardly be considered beautiful at all.

I read Crown of Coral and Pearl, Mara Rutherford’s first novel, around the time I first started struggling to get into any books a few months ago because, you know, 2020. The opening lines quoted above made me curious about the two sisters mentioned, and although I never found it to be an especially immersive book, it was easy to focus on despite my difficulty concentrating (even if I did end up thinking the first part was better than the second and didn’t find it all that memorable overall).

This YA fantasy novel is told from the first person perspective of Nor, who dreams of one day seeing more of the world than her ocean village. But no one leaves their home—except for the one chosen to wed the prince once every generation, and everyone knows that girl will be her beautiful twin sister, Zadie. Although the two are practically identical in appearance, Nor has had a visible scar since the day she saved her sister from drowning and had a face-first brush with some blood coral.

Zadie is indeed selected to marry the next king, but after she is injured, Nor is given some cream to use to cover her scar and sent in the guise of her twin. And in the dark, forbidding castle, Nor learns more about the kingdom and its past—and its ties to problems that have been developing in her village.

Although I never found the worldbuilding convincing, I did rather like the image of the ocean village with stilt-legged houses sitting above the water and boats drifting between buildings and out to sea so residents could dive for dinner or pearls to sell. It was, at least, a setting unlike others I’ve encountered, and it’s also where the relationship between the two sisters and the impact of their beauty-obsessed culture on the village’s girls is explored. The twins’ mother spent her adult years bitter that she was not chosen to be the next queen, and this affected the sisters’ childhoods in every way. They were kept from befriending other girls their mother viewed as potential rivals, and Nor thinks it’s a blessing she and her twin remained best friends, knowing that if she had not been scarred their mother would have constantly pitted them against each other.

Once Nor left the ocean village for her future husband’s windowless mountainside castle, I found the story became much blander since it lacked the setting that made it a bit different and the strong bond between the sisters that added some life. Most of the characters were just kind of there, including the kind younger prince Nor was attracted to, and the only character who had any real depth was the cold prince that Nor-as-Zadie was supposed to marry. The novel delved a bit into the upbringing and circumstances that shaped him, his actions were not always predictable, and he had clear goals and ambitions—even if they were evil. This made him by far the most interesting character and the best developed other than Nor herself, but I also felt he was more intriguing in theory than execution and was disappointed by the end.

Crown of Coral and Pearl was readable enough that I finished it, but the more I read, the less engaging I found it. Given the lackluster ending and that it was never more than mildly entertaining, I’m not interested in reading the sequel coming out later this year.

My Rating: 5/10

Where I got my reading copy: Finished copy from a publicist.

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 (the latter of which are mainly 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.

Over the last week, I added two books to the TBR, one purchase and one ARC. But first, here’s last week’s post in case you missed it:

  • Review of Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia — This creative, haunting Gothic horror story gradually moves from quietly disconcerting to loudly disturbing as the secrets of a creepy mansion owned by a creepy family unfold. It’s one of my favorite books of the year!

Girl, Serpent, Thorn by Melissa Bashardoust - Book Cover

Girl, Serpent, Thorn by Melissa Bashardoust

This new novel by the author of Girls Made of Snow and Glass just came out earlier this month (hardcover, ebook, audiobook). Bustle has an excerpt from Girl, Serpent, Thorn.

Girl, Serpent, Glass is a book I’ve been especially looking forward to—I love fairy tales and have been hearing such wonderful things about it!


Melissa Bashardoust’s Girl, Serpent, Thorn is “an alluring feminist fairy tale” (Kirkus Reviews) about a girl cursed to be poisonous to the touch and who discovers what power might lie in such a curse.

There was and there was not, as all stories begin, a princess cursed to be poisonous to the touch. But for Soraya, who has lived her life hidden away, apart from her family, safe only in her gardens, it’s not just a story.

As the day of her twin brother’s wedding approaches, Soraya must decide if she’s willing to step outside of the shadows for the first time. Below in the dungeon is a demon who holds knowledge that she craves, the answer to her freedom. And above is a young man who isn’t afraid of her, whose eyes linger not with fear, but with an understanding of who she is beneath the poison.

Soraya thought she knew her place in the world, but when her choices lead to consequences she never imagined, she begins to question who she is and who she is becoming…human or demon. Princess or monster.

A Deadly Education by Naomi Novik - Cover Image

A Deadly Education (The Scholomance #1) by Naomi Novik

The first book in a new trilogy by New York Times bestselling author Naomi Novik will be released on September 29 (hardcover, ebook, audiobook). Entertainment Weekly has an excerpt from A Deadly Education.

I LOVED Uprooted, and I love the sound of this based on what Naomi Novik wrote about its inspirations:

“One of the oldest legends of a school for witchcraft and wizardry is the story of the Scholomance, a hidden institution said to be run by the Devil himself, where the students are cloistered for years, never seeing the sun while learning the darkest of arts. Ever since I first read about this mysterious place in my middle-school library, I’ve been imagining its story. Who are the students in its classrooms and why would they or their parents accept the price the school exacts?”

(The quote above and the rest of the piece it’s from are currently on the home page of the author’s website, which is linked in the line below the cover image above.)


From the New York Times bestselling author of Uprooted and Spinning Silver comes the story of an unwilling dark sorceress who is destined to rewrite the rules of magic.

“The dark school of magic I’ve been waiting for.” Katherine Arden, author of Winternight Trilogy

I decided that Orion Lake needed to die after the second time he saved my life.

Everyone loves Orion Lake. Everyone else, that is. Far as I’m concerned, he can keep his flashy combat magic to himself. I’m not joining his pack of adoring fans.

I don’t need help surviving the Scholomance, even if they do. Forget the hordes of monsters and cursed artifacts, I’m probably the most dangerous thing in the place. Just give me a chance and I’ll level mountains and kill untold millions, make myself the dark queen of the world.

At least, that’s what the world expects me to do. Most of the other students in here would be delighted if Orion killed me like one more evil thing that’s crawled out of the drains. Sometimes I think they want me to turn into the evil witch they assume I am. The school itself certainly does.

But the Scholomance isn’t getting what it wants from me. And neither is Orion Lake. I may not be anyone’s idea of the shining hero, but I’m going to make it out of this place alive, and I’m not going to slaughter thousands to do it, either.

Although I’m giving serious consideration to just one.

With flawless mastery, Naomi Novik creates a heroine for the ages—a character so sharply realized and so richly nuanced that she will live on in hearts and minds for generations to come.

As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Silvia Moreno-Garcia weaves Mexican history and supernatural elements into an increasingly unnerving tale of Gothic horror in her latest novel, Mexican Gothic. Set in the 1950s, the spookiness unfolds in a creepy mansion owned by a creepy family in a mountain town inspired by Real del Monte, a place with architecture influenced by the British who arrived in the nineteenth century. Like the British who left their mark on Real del Monte, the fictional Doyle family came from England to run the town’s silver mines and built an English cemetery there—and the story’s horrors are bound to their home and past.

The novel revolves around Noemí, a socialite and university student living in Mexico City, visiting her somewhat recently married cousin, Catalina, a couple of weeks after her father received an odd, rambling letter from her. Catalina wrote of being poisoned by her husband, described ghosts and whispers that can sneak past barred doors, and asked for Noemí to come save her. Concerned, Noemí’s father tried to learn more from Catalina’s husband, who said she’d been distressed but was getting better and refused offers to bring her to the city for care. After her cousin keeps asking for her, Noemí is invited to visit, and her father asks her to determine if there’s an actual problem or if her cousin is just being melodramatic.

It’s immediately clear that something is not right. Noemí found her cousin’s letter to be rather unlike her and thinks it unfair to characterize her as being prone to melodrama, and her cousin’s new home gives off an aura of wrongness from the very start—both the old, decaying mansion itself and most of its occupants. They expect Noemí to be quiet, ask for permission before going into town, and not leave on her own, and the first time she meets her cousin’s new father-in-law, he starts discussing eugenics with her as casually as most discuss the weather. Noemí rarely even gets to see her cousin since she’s told Catalina needs her rest, and what little she does see of her just makes her more concerned about her well being.

And the longer Noemí is there, the weirder it gets. The Doyles’ behavior keeps getting odder, and when Noemí does manage to go into town, the townspeople tell her stories of the house being cursed and a murder-suicide that occurred. The mystery and tension just keep escalating as she learns more about the family and their history, uncovers more secrets and questions, and eventually begins sleepwalking for the first time since she was a child, seeing visions, and having unusually realistic dreams. (Content warning: These dreams do include sexual assault, and there is an attempted rape outside of dreams.)

Although this is horror with humans facing the eerie unknown complete with some supernatural elements, Mexican Gothic is ultimately about facing and fighting evil committed by other humans. Much like how technology is often utilized in science fiction, the fantastic aspects were not a threat on their own: a literal horror was born out of greed, colonialism, misogyny, racism, and an overall disregard for the humanity of others. The backstory is not subtle with its parallels, but I thought it worked well in this case. It was not only fitting for the characters involved and the area’s history, but it was also haunting and creative. (I will never look at mushrooms the same way again.)

It’s a novel that’s more focused on plot and mysteries than delving deeply into characters and relationships, but I liked Noemí and was rooting for her the whole time. Regardless of how clear the message to run from this house and its family gets—and it does indeed scream through the pages—she does not abandon her cousin, nor does she let these horrible people get under her skin. She’s fiercely loyal, determined, and kind at heart, and she never stops advocating for better care for her cousin. She’s resourceful and largely self reliant since Catalina is not able to speak freely or leave her room. However, she’s not quite on her own since she starts to befriend one member of the household who is rather unlike the rest of his family, but she’s also not entirely sure how much she can trust him—although he is kind and helps her out despite cost to himself, he is still a part of this family with its myriad secrets.

The writing style is fairly straightforward, which makes devouring its chapters effortless as they move from quietly disconcerting to loudly disturbing. There were times I felt the prose was more stilted than flowing, and as much as I enjoyed the references to Gothic literature and dark fairy tales throughout, there were also times I thought they were intrusive and self indulgent. However, these were minor issues considering how much I enjoyed reading Mexican Gothic overall.

The way it keeps increasing the stakes to become more and more riveting is part of its charm, but the beginning may seem a bit…slow. I’m hesitant to call it “slow” since it doesn’t meander and keeps moving forward, but I did want to mention this since I had no plans to read this novel after sampling the first chapter. Fortunately, I heard enough praise for it afterward that I decided to at least give it a shot when I was invited to download an electronic copy—and I’m so glad I did since I could hardly put it down after the first couple of chapters or so.

In fact, Mexican Gothic is one of my favorite books I’ve read this year. If you’re in the mood for a standalone novel that keeps ramping up the stakes and getting more and more sinister, it may be for you too. (Or maybe even if not—I rarely read horror, and yet I found this one so engaging I want to get a print copy!)

My Rating: 8/10

Where I got my reading copy: Finished electronic copy from the publisher.

Read Chapter One of Mexican Gothic

Read Another Excerpt from Mexican Gothic

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 (the latter of which are mainly 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.

Last week’s books are all purchases: two I ordered from Bookshop during the #BlackoutBestsellerList campaign and one new ebook.

Do You Dream of Terra-Two? by Temi Oh - Cover Image

Do You Dream of Terra-Two? by Temi Oh

I somehow missed hearing about this Alex Award–winning science fiction title until recently, but Do You Dream of Terra-Two? went straight onto the wish list after I did hear about it.

It’s available in hardcover, trade paperback, ebook, and audiobook, and the author’s website has an excerpt from Do You Dream of Terra-Two?


An NPR favorite book of 2019
Winner of the ALA/YALSA Alex Award

When an Earth-like planet is discovered, a team of six teens, along with three veteran astronauts, embark on a twenty-year trip to set up a planet for human colonization—but find that space is more deadly than they ever could have imagined.

Have you ever hoped you could leave everything behind?
Have you ever dreamt of a better world?
Can a dream sustain a lifetime?

A century ago, an astronomer discovered an Earth-like planet orbiting a nearby star. She predicted that one day humans would travel there to build a utopia. Today, ten astronauts are leaving everything behind to find it. Four are veterans of the twentieth century’s space-race.

And six are teenagers who’ve trained for this mission most of their lives.

It will take the team twenty-three years to reach Terra-Two. Twenty-three years locked in close quarters. Twenty-three years with no one to rely on but each other. Twenty-three years with no rescue possible, should something go wrong.

And something always goes wrong.

An Unkindness of Ghosts by Rivers Solomon - Cover Image

An Unkindness of Ghosts by Rivers Solomon

I’ve heard a lot of praise for Rivers Solomon’s debut science fiction novel, and An Unkindness of Ghosts has received a lot of recognition since its publication: it won the Firecracker Award for Fiction, was selected for the Tiptree Honor List, is a Stonewall Honor Book in Literature, and was a finalist for the Locus Award for First Novel and the Lambda Award for LGBTQ SF/F/Horror.

It’s available in trade paperback, ebook, and audiobook (and hardcover, although that appears to be rarer and more expensive at this point), and The Rumpus has an excerpt from An Unkindness of Ghosts.


Odd-mannered, obsessive, withdrawn–botanist and healer Aster Gray has little to offer folks in rebuttal when they call her ogre and freak. She’s used to the names; she only wishes there was more truth to them. If she were truly the monster they accused of her being, she’d be powerful enough to tear down the walls of HSS Matilda, the generation ship ferrying the last of humanity to a mythical Promised Land.

When a series of blackouts threatens Matilda‘s voyage as well as the lonely life Aster has carved out for herself in the slum decks of the ship, she becomes embroiled in a grudge with a brutal overseer bent on bringing her to heel. Aster may have found a way to improve her lot–if she’s willing to take him on and sow the seeds of civil war.

AN UNKINDNESS OF GHOSTS was a best book of 2017 in The Guardian, NPR, Publishers Weekly, Library Journal, Bustle, Bookish, Barnes & Noble, and more, as well as a Stonewall Honor Book, Firecracker winner, and a finalist for a Locus, Lambda, Tiptree, and Hurston/Wright award.

Of Dragons, Feasts and Murders by Aliette de Bodard - Cover Image

Of Dragons, Feasts and Murders (Dominion of the Fallen Novella) by Aliette de Bodard

Of Dragons, Feasts and Murders, a Dominion of the Fallen story about Thuan and Asmodeus, just came out last week (paperback, ebook). I’m not sure if it’s technically a novelette or a novella since I’ve seen it referred to as both of these.

Although it is set after the books in the Dominion of the Fallen trilogy, it is a standalone. I couldn’t resist getting it since Thuan was my favorite character in The House of Binding Thorns, plus it involves the Dragon Kingdom. (And I loved Thuan and Asmodeus together in the second book!)


From the author of the critically acclaimed Dominion of the Fallen trilogy comes a tale of dragons, and Fallen angels—and also kissing, sarcasm and stabbing.

Lunar New Year should be a time for familial reunions, ancestor worship, and consumption of an unhealthy amount of candied fruit.

But when dragon prince Thuan brings home his brooding and ruthless husband Asmodeus for the New Year, they find not interminable family gatherings, but a corpse outside their quarters. Asmodeus is thrilled by the murder investigation; Thuan, who gets dragged into the political plotting he’d sworn off when he left, is less enthusiastic.

It’ll take all of Asmodeus’s skill with knives, and all of Thuan’s diplomacy, to navigate this one—as well as the troubled waters of their own relationship….

A sparkling standalone book set in a world of dark intrigue.

A Note on Chronology
Spinning off from the Dominion of the Fallen series, which features political intrigue in Gothic devastated Paris, this book stands alone, but chronologically follows The House of Sundering Flames. It’s High Gothic meets C-drama in a Vietnamese inspired world—perfect for fans of The Untamed, KJ Charles, and Roshani Chokshi’s The Gilded Wolves.

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 (the latter of which are mainly 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.

Last week brought two books to add to the TBR, but first, here’s what has been posted since the last one of these features in case you missed anything:

  • “Why Jack the Ripper?” — Katherine Addison discussed Jack the Ripper, who appears in her new fantasy novel, The Angel of the Crows. (The giveaway included in this post is over now, and I’ve heard from both winners.)
  • Review of The Obsidian Tower (Rooks and Ruin #1) by Melissa Caruso — This is the first book in a new epic fantasy series set in the same world as the Sword and Tower trilogy but focusing on different characters about 150 years later. Although it didn’t keep me hooked consistently during the first 20% or so, it ended up being the most engrossing, fun book I’ve read in some time.

And now, the new books!

The Empire of Gold by S. A. Chakraborty - Book Cover

The Empire of Gold (The Daevabad Trilogy #3) by S. A. Chakraborty

The final book in S. A. Chakraborty’s wonderful Daevabad Trilogy was just released last week (hardcover, ebook, audiobook, large print edition). io9 has an excerpt from The Empire of Gold, and the Harper Collins website has an audio extract.

Harper Collins also has both text and audio samples from The City of Brass (the first book) and an audio sample from The Kingdom of Copper (the second book).

I pre-ordered the final book in this trilogy since I LOVED the second book, which was one of my favorite books of last year. (And if you too feel like you’ve forgotten some of the details since reading them, Recaptains has summaries of both The City of Brass and The Kingdom of Copper that I found helpful.)


The final chapter in the bestselling, critically acclaimed Daevabad Trilogy, in which a con-woman and an idealistic djinn prince join forces to save a magical kingdom from a devastating civil war.

Daevabad has fallen.

After a brutal conquest stripped the city of its magic, Nahid leader Banu Manizheh and her resurrected commander, Dara, must try to repair their fraying alliance and stabilize a fractious, warring people.

But the bloodletting and loss of his beloved Nahri have unleashed the worst demons of Dara’s dark past. To vanquish them, he must face some ugly truths about his history and put himself at the mercy of those he once considered enemies.

Having narrowly escaped their murderous families and Daevabad’s deadly politics, Nahri and Ali, now safe in Cairo, face difficult choices of their own. While Nahri finds peace in the old rhythms and familiar comforts of her human home, she is haunted by the knowledge that the loved ones she left behind and the people who considered her a savior are at the mercy of a new tyrant. Ali, too, cannot help but look back, and is determined to return to rescue his city and the family that remains. Seeking support in his mother’s homeland, he discovers that his connection to the marid goes far deeper than expected and threatens not only his relationship with Nahri, but his very faith.

As peace grows more elusive and old players return, Nahri, Ali, and Dara come to understand that in order to remake the world, they may need to fight those they once loved . . . and take a stand for those they once hurt.

Tuyo by Rachel Neumeier - Cover Image

Tuyo (Tuyo #1) by Rachel Neumeier

Tuyo, Rachel Neumeier’s latest fantasy novel, was recently self published (trade paperback, ebook). The Kindle version is also currently available on Kindle Unlimited.

The author’s website contains an excerpt from Tuyo.

I’m excited to read this one, especially since I’ve enjoyed other books by Rachel Neumeier (especially House of Shadows!).


Raised a warrior in the harsh winter country, Ryo inGara has always been willing to die for his family and his tribe. When war erupts against the summer country, the prospect of death in battle seems imminent. But when his warleader leaves Ryo as a sacrifice — a tuyo — to die at the hands of their enemies, he faces a fate he never imagined.

Ryo’s captor, a lord of the summer country, may be an enemy . . . but far worse enemies are moving, with the current war nothing but the opening moves in a hidden game Ryo barely glimpses, a game in which all his people may be merely pawns. Suddenly Ryo finds his convictions overturned and his loyalties uncertain. Should he support the man who holds him prisoner, the only man who may be able to defeat their greater enemy? And even if he does, can he persuade his people to do the same?