The Leaning Pile of Books is a feature where I talk about books I got over the last week – old or new, bought or received for review consideration (often unsolicited). 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.

This week brought some ARCs/review copies, but there’s an event I want to mention before discussing the books.

Last year, Rinn from Rinn Reads hosted Sci-Fi Month, which was dedicated to celebrating all things science fiction. I participated in it and had a lot of fun (especially since it got me to pick up some science fiction books I’d been meaning to read for awhile, including Karin Lowachee’s Warchild, a new favorite of mine). Rinn recently announced that she is hosting it again this November with Kelley, Asti, and Leanne from Oh, the Books! Anyone can participate; check out Rinn’s announcement for more details. I’m already thinking about which science fiction books I should read this year…

On to the books!

The Rise of Aurora West by Paul Pope

The Rise of Aurora West by Paul Pope, JT Petty, and David Rubín

This graphic novel, a companion to Battling Boy, will be released on September 30 (hardcover/paperback). An excerpt from The Rise of Aurora West can be viewed on


The extraordinary world introduced in Paul Pope’s Battling Boy is rife with monsters and short on heroes… but in this action-driven extension of the Battling Boy universe, we see it through a new pair of eyes: Aurora West, daughter of Arcopolis’s last great hero, Haggard West. A prequel to Battling Boy, The Rise of Aurora West follows the young hero as she seeks to uncover the mystery of her mother’s death, and to find her place in a world overrun with supernatural monsters and all-too-human corruption. With a taut, fast-paced script from Paul Pope and JT Petty and gorgeous, kinetic art from David Rubin, The Rise of Aurora West (the first of two volumes) is a tour de force in comics storytelling.

A Plunder of Souls by D. B. Jackson

A Plunder of Souls (Thieftaker Chronicles #3) by D. B. Jackson

This historical fantasy novel became available earlier this month (hardcover/ebook/audiobook). An excerpt from A Plunder of Souls is available on

The previous books in this series are as follows:

  1. Thieftaker (Excerpt)
  2. Thieves’ Quarry

Boston, 1769: Ethan Kaille, a Boston thieftaker who uses his conjuring to catch criminals, has snared villans and defeated magic that would have daunted a lesser man. What starts out as a mysterious phenomenon that has local ministers confused becomes something far more serious.

A ruthless, extremely powerful conjurer seeks to wake the souls of the dead to wreak a terrible revenge on all who oppose him. Kaille’s minister friends have been helpless to stop crimes against their church. Graves have been desecrated in a bizarre, ritualistic way. Equally disturbing are reports of recently deceased citizens of Boston reappearing as grotesquely disfigured shades, seemingly having been disturbed from their eternal rest, and now frightening those who had been nearest to them in life. But most personally troubling to Kaille is a terrible waning of his ability to conjure. He knows all these are related…but how?

When Ethan discovers the source of this trouble, he realizes that his conjure powers and those of his friends will not be enough to stop a madman from becoming all-powerful. But somehow, using his wits, his powers, and every other resource he can muster, Ethan must thwart the monster’s terrible plan and restore the restless souls of the dead to the peace of the grave. Let the battle for souls begin in A Plunder of Souls, the third, stand-alone novel in Jackson’s acclaimed Thieftaker series.

Revenant by Kat Richardson

Revenant (Greywalker #9) by Kat Richardson

This urban fantasy novel will be released on August 5 (hardcover/ebook). The author’s website has an excerpt from Revenant.

The previous books in the Greywalker series are as follows:

  1. Greywalker (Excerpt)
  2. Poltergeist
  3. Underground
  4. Vanished
  5. Labyrinth
  6. Downpour
  7. Seawitch
  8. Possession

Harper Blaine was your average small-time PI until she died—for two minutes. Now Harper is a Greywalker, treading the thin line between the living world and the paranormal realm. And these abilities are landing her all sorts of “strange” cases….

Turmoil, sickness, and destruction are sweeping through Europe—and its effects are being felt all the way across the world in Seattle. Harper Blaine and her lover, Quinton, suspect that Quinton’s father, James Purlis—and his terrifying Ghost Division—are involved.

Following a dark trail of grotesque crimes and black magic across the Old World, the pair slowly draws closer to their quarry. But finding and dismantling the Ghost Division won’t be enough to stop the horror that Purlis has unwittingly set in motion.

An ancient and forgotten cult has allied with Quinton’s mad father. And their goals are far more nightmarish than Harper and Quinton—or even Purlis—could ever imagine.

The pursuit leads to Portugal, where the desecrated tomb of a sleeping king and a temple built of bones recall Harper’s very first paranormal case and hold clues to the cult’s true intentions. Harper and Quinton will need all the help they can get to avert a necromantic cataclysm that could lay waste to Europe and drag the rest of the world to the brink of war.

Shadows by E. C. Blake

Shadows (Masks of Aygrima #2) by E. C. Blake

This fantasy book, the sequel to Masks, will be released on August 5 (hardcover/ebook). The first two chapters from Shadows are available on the author’s website, as well as the prologue and chapter one from Masks.


In Masks, Mara Holdfast’s life changed forever. As the daughter of the Autarch’s Master Maskmaker, she had a clearly defined future: a quiet, ordered life in the capital, making Masks with her father and doing work important to the ruling Autarch. But when her Mask, specially made by her own father, cracked and fell to pieces during her Masking ceremony, Mara was exiled from everything she once knew. Soon, she becomes part of an underground rebellion, rejecting the unjust rules of a Masked society and uncovering a horrifying plot of mind control over the entire population of the empire.

In a moment of crisis, Mara finds herself possessed of a volatile magical power that neither she nor any of her allies can truly control. In Shadow, Mara faces terrifying new challenges and dangers as she struggles to understand her unprecedented ability to use all types of magic—and to tear magic from the living bodies of those around her. With the arrival of Chell, a young man from across the sea, the world beyond the borders of the Autarchy of Aygrima begins to make itself felt. Then an act of brutality tips Mara dangerously close to madness…and in the midst of a desperate and bloody battle, she discovers just how horrifying her power can be…

The Gloomy Ghost by David Lubar

The Gloomy Ghost (A Monsterrific Tale #5) by David Lubar

A new hardcover edition of this children’s book was recently released, and it is also available as an ebook. The six books in this series are as follows:

  1. Hyde and Shriek
  2. The Vanishing Vampire
  3. The Unwilling Witch
  4. The Wavering Werewolf
  5. The Gloomy Ghost
  6. The Bully Bug (available September 2, 2014)

Acclaimed author David Lubar’s Monsterrific Tales return to life with this new edition of The Gloomy Ghost that is sure to appeal to fans of his Weenies short story collections.

There’s something strange going on at Washington Irving Elementary School. Kids are turning into monsters—literally!

First it was Sebastian, then Angie. Now it’s little brother Rory’s turn to be “monsterized!” One minute he’s a normal kid hanging out in his backyard. The next, he finds himself walking through stuff: the back porch, walls, even people! What’s a ghostly kid to do?

Rory decides to find some other spirits and ask them how to get “un-ghosted.” So he heads up to the local haunted house to give it a try. What Rory doesn’t know is that if he doesn’t get the answer soon, he’ll only have a ghost of a chance of ever being a kid again…

The Hienama by Storm Constantine is the first book in a series of novellas set in the Wraeththu universe. Other books set in this world include the original Wraeththu trilogy beginning with The Enchantments of Flesh and Spirit, the Wraeththu Histories trilogy, and some short story collections by various authors (Para Kindred, the most recent of these, was released just a few months ago).

For those unfamiliar with the Wraeththu universe, it is set in a future in which humanity is dying out and being replaced by the Wraeththu. The blood of the first of these people was found to turn men into a being like him, a hermaphrodite with abilities far more advanced than a human’s. The Wraeththu pride themselves on being wiser than humanity, but they still struggle with many of the same problems—after all, many of them were at one time human themselves. Wraeththu, the omnibus containing the original trilogy, is one of my favorite books in all the world for its gorgeous prose, memorable characters, and the thoughtful way it explores the concept of Wraeththu. These books are very focused on the lives of the characters and their relationships and may be too dramatic and angst-filled for some readers, but I loved every bit of it, as well as the first two Histories. I actually keep putting off reading the final Histories novel since I don’t want these stories to end, and for this reason, I was thrilled to learn about the two novellas and the three short story collections. The Hienama is different from these in that it is a shorter book focused on the concerns of more ordinary Wraeththu living in a small village, but it was a very engaging story even if I didn’t enjoy it as much as the full length novels.

The Hienama is narrated by Jassenah, who became one of the Wraeththu at an unusually late age and proved to have particularly strong magic. Because of his abilities, he was encouraged to travel to the village of Jesith to train with the renowned hienama, Ysobi. Jassenah follows this advice and is accepted as one of Ysobi’s students. He starts a new life in the village, working in the vineyard and making friends when he is not studying with his teacher. When his lessons turn to the practical application of magic through aruna (sex), he becomes enamored of Ysobi despite the hienama’s businesslike attitude toward this aspect of his student’s education. Ysobi, who has had bad experiences with student relationships in the past, initially resists Jassenah’s attentions, but before long he admits the feeling is mutual. The two soon enter into the the close bond of chesnari and are happy together until Ysobi accepts a new student—Gesaril, a troubled young Wraeththu who desires Ysobi’s affections for himself.

While The Hienama could be read as a stand alone, I think it would be better to at least read the original Wraeththu trilogy first (and, as I mentioned, I prefer both these and the Histories). Like these other books, I do think it shows the very interesting struggles of the Wraeththu; in particular, this book gives a small glimpse into the reasons so many become Wraeththu at a young age. Jassenah underwent inception as a twenty-two year old, which is considered a rather old age for joining their ranks since the longer one has been around, the more they have ingrained preconceptions that make it difficult for them to adapt.

The Hienama is a short, entertaining book that is largely a character/relationship drama about love, lust, and jealousy. It also has some focus on everyday life for Wraeththu in a small town as well as storylines involving Wraeththu reproduction and children. Even though I didn’t love it nearly as much as the full-length original novels with their poetic prose and intensely memorable characters, I still enjoyed it and found it difficult to put down. I’ll certainly be reading the sequel, Student of Kyme, but I would recommend that readers new to these books begin with The Enchantments of Flesh and Spirit.

My Rating: 7/10

Where I got my reading copy: Finished copy from the author.

Thief’s Magic is the first book in the Millennium’s Rule trilogy by bestselling fantasy author Trudi Canavan. The next books in the series, Angel of Storms and Successor’s Son, have not yet been released.

This novel tells the story of two people, Tyen and Rielle. Tyen, a student at the Academy, discovers a magical book on an archaeological trip. At first, he believes this book to be useless since it is blank, but soon words appear on the page. The book, Vella, was a woman until an infamous mage turned her into a book able to read the minds of those who touched her—and unable to hide the truth from them when questioned. Tyen, who hopes to one day be able to undo the spell that quite literally binds Vella, decides to hide her from the Academy but flees when she is discovered. Rielle has been taught all her life to hide her ability to see magic. Only specially chosen people, always men, are allowed to use magic; anyone else is stealing it from the Angels. When Rielle is taken captive by a magic user sought by the priests on her way home from the temple, she learns that there is someone who can teach magic—and becomes entangled with them, finding herself facing a dangerous choice that may be critical to her own happiness.

This was my first book by Trudi Canavan, and I decided to read it because I looked at the first chapter and was intrigued by Tyen’s discovery of the sentient book. Unfortunately, I did not find many of the pages that followed as compelling as its opening, and it alternated between mildly enjoyable and boring. However, once it got past the beginning section, heavily comprised of Tyen hiding and questioning Vella, it did become more interesting, and overall I found there were more times when it was somewhat interesting than dull—even if it never quite managed to be exceptionally engaging. At over 500 pages long, I thought Thief’s Magic was far longer than it needed to be since it largely seemed to be setting up the next two books in the trilogy.

Thief’s Magic is plainly written (which isn’t necessarily bad but is not my preferred prose style), and neither Tyen nor Rielle had engaging or unique voices. I sympathized with both of their plights—Tyen’s wish to protect Vella from the Academy and Rielle’s concerns about her magic—but neither of them were particularly deep or lifelike characters, and neither of their tales contained personality or nuance even though they were perfectly likable protagonists. Their stories dragged, and quite frankly, seemed largely pointless until the end when it seemed like they might each have finally arrived in the places they needed to be for the real story to begin.

Thief’s Magic is a readable book, but largely because it is so easy to read and forthright. Once I put it down, I found it rather forgettable and I’m not likely to read the next book in the series.

My Rating: 6/10

Where I got my reading copy: ARC/finished copy from the publisher. (I read the finished copy.)

When We Wake is a young adult science fiction book by Karen Healey. A companion novel, While We Run, was released a couple of months ago.

In 2027, sixteen-year-old Tegan had just begun dating the boy of her dreams; however, their first official date ended in tragedy. As they arrive at the rally, Tegan is shot and killed by a sniper targeting the Prime Minister—only to be awakened 100 years later by a team of scientists. Prior to this incident, Tegan had donated her body to science in the event of her sudden death, and she became part of an experimental cryonic treatment. Years later, after everyone she knew and loved is dead, she became the first person to be successfully revived. As Tegan attempts to adapt to the changes that have taken place over the last century and resume a normal life by attending school and making friends, she starts to realize that she hasn’t been told the entire truth about the purpose of the experiment that brought her back—and begins searching for answers.

Technically, there was a lot I admired about When We Wake. The future shown in this story is eerily plausible, which makes its less rosy aspects rather terrifying. There are positive changes, such as the tremendous advances that have been made toward equality; however, climate change has taken its toll on the Earth and the future is bleak in many other believable ways. I also appreciated that Tegan was an opinionated character who cared about making her world a better place and that she was far from the only young person with a strong personality and drive to have a positive impact.

Despite this admiration for various elements, I did not find When We Wake terribly compelling. It was an addictive page-turner, but after I set the book down, I found it did not have qualities that made it truly memorable. The writing was not beautiful, and with the occasional exception, Tegan’s narrative voice did not draw me in. While I had sympathy for Tegan’s plight and found her a sympathetic, admirable protagonist, I also never really became all that attached to her as a character. Although I enjoyed When We Wake while I was reading it, I discovered that it was not a book I reflected upon once it was over nor did I care to read the companion novel to discover what happened next.

My Rating: 5/10

Where I got my reading copy: ARC from the publisher.

Today I’m delighted to have a guest post written by fantasy author Jaime Lee Moyer to share with you! She is here to discuss the ghosts in her Delia Martin books (Delia’s Shadow and the recently-released sequel A Barricade in Hell), particularly how they add shades of gray to these novels. Also, there is a chance to win one of two sets containing both of these books—fill out the form at the end to enter!

Delia's Shadow by Jaime Lee Moyer A Barricade in Hell by Jaime Lee Moyer
Adding Shades of Gray

I’ve been asked a few times now—why use ghosts in these books?

The easy surface answer is because I could, and because that’s the way the story wanted to be told. As with most things in life, the real reasons are a bit more complicated. I’ll try to explain one.

A lot of the fantasy I’d read was written as head on battles between the forces of good and the forces of evil, the borders between the two crisp and easy to distinguish. The hero never had any moral qualms or questions about what he was doing, never saw the struggle in anything but absolute terms of right and wrong, and was never uncertain. He (it was almost always a “he”) was never really afraid or suffered a heart-rending loss, or if he did, he shrugged it off semi-immediately. There was never a moment, no matter how dire the situation, that the idea evil might actually win was ever seriously considered.

That’s not a completely fair summary of the fantasy I’ve read during my adult life, but it’s not totally unfair either. In any case, that wasn’t the kind of story I wanted to tell.

Ghosts were one way of adding a touch of uncertainty, and a few shades of gray, to the story. That might be even more true for Gabe than for Delia. As a cop, he’d spent his career solving cases by compiling evidence he could see and touch. He had to take Delia and Isadora’s word on faith that spirits existed, and for any ghostly involvement with his cases.

I never saw the ghosts as being wholly good or totally evil. The spirits Delia encounters, or that try to haunt Gabe are largely amoral, with their own agenda and reasons for what they do. Spirits in my world are unpredictable, dangerous, and at times, impossible to control. They will use the living to their own ends and not give a thought to the harm they cause. At other times these ghosts are lost, sad; tragic.

That all combined to keep Delia and Isadora from ever being sure they had the upper hand or that they’d win. They never knew what kind of challenge any one ghost presented, or what danger they might have to face from a spirit. That was true even if the original goal was to let a wandering haunt finally rest.

I decided from the start that shades of gray would extend to my heroes as well. Gabe, Delia and Dora all have a strong moral compass, but they aren’t perfect, and none of them see the world in absolutes, good or evil. They all suffer terrible losses, defeats, lose their temper, and have moments of real despair. The human foes Gabe faces are as unpredictable as the spirits confronting Delia and Dora. Winning is never a sure thing.

In other words, I did my best to make these characters human, with all that implies about frailty and strength and resilience.

So now you know one of my reasons for using ghosts. I’ll leave it up to the readers to decide if I succeeded.

About A Barricade in Hell:
In Jaime Lee Moyer’s A Barricade in Hell, Delia Martin has been gifted (or some would say cursed) with the ability to peer across to the other side. Since childhood, her constant companions have been ghosts. She used her powers and the help of those ghosts to defeat a twisted serial killer terrorizing her beloved San Francisco. Now it’s 1917—the threshold of a modern age—and Delia lives a peaceful life with Police Captain Gabe Ryan.

That peace shatters when a strange young girl starts haunting their lives and threatens Gabe. Delia tries to discover what this ghost wants as she becomes entangled in the mystery surrounding a charismatic evangelist who preaches pacifism and an end to war.  But as young people begin to disappear, and audiences display a loyalty and fervor not attributable to simple persuasion, that message of peace reveals a hidden dark side.

As Delia discovers the truth, she faces a choice—take a terrible risk to save her city, or chance losing everything?

About the Author:
JAIME LEE MOYER’s Delia’s Shadow won the 2009 Columbus Literary Award for Fiction. Moyer has sold short fiction to Lone Star Stories, Daily Science Fiction, and to the Triangulations: End of the Rainbow, and Triangulations: Last Contact anthologies, and edited the 2010 Rhysling Award Anthology for the Science Fiction Poetry Association. Moyer lives in San Antonio with writer Marshall Payne, three cats, three guitars, and a growing collection of books and music.

Twitter: @jaimeleemoyer

I have two sets of the Delia Martin books (Delia’s Shadow and A Barricade in Hell) to give away to two residents of the US or Canada! (Please note Canadian winners may need to provide an email address and/or phone number in addition to their mailing address in order to ship the books.)

Giveaway Rules: To be entered in the giveaway, fill out the form below OR send an email to kristen AT fantasybookcafe DOT com with the subject “Delia Giveaway.” One entry per person and two winners will be randomly selected, and each winner will receive a paperback copy of Delia’s Shadow and a hardcover copy of A Barricade in Hell. Those from the US or Canada are eligible to win this giveaway; Canadian residents who win may need to provide their email address and/or phone number in addition to their mailing address in order to ship the book. The giveaway will be open until the end of the day on Friday, July 25. Each winner has 24 hours to respond once contacted via email, and if I don’t hear from them by then a new winner will be chosen (who will also have 24 hours to respond until someone gets back to me with a place to send the books).

Please note email addresses will only be used for the purpose of contacting the winner. Once the giveaway is over all the emails will be deleted.

Good luck!

Update: Now that the giveaway is over, the form has been removed.

The Leaning Pile of Books is a feature where I talk about books I got over the last week – old or new, bought or received 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.

This was a wonderful week for books since I want to drop everything and read all of these right now (if only I could!). The first three are review copies and the last two are gifts from my husband.

Coming up this week, there will be a guest post by Jaime Lee Moyer and a chance to win her books on Tuesday! I’m also hoping to finish and post a review later in the week.

On to the books!

Dust and Light by Carol Berg

Dust and Light (The Sanctuary Duet #1) by Carol Berg

Carol Berg is one of my favorite fantasy authors primarily because of her wonderful characters but also because of her unique worlds and intelligently handled thematic elements. While my favorite of her books remains the first I read, Transformation, I also very much enjoyed her Lighthouse Duology (Flesh and Spirit, Breath and Bone). I was very excited to learn she was writing two more books, The Sanctuary Duet, that take place in the same setting as these previous books. Dust and Light, the first book in this new duology, will be released on August 5 (trade paperback, ebook, audiobook).

An excerpt from Dust and Light is available on the author’s website.


National bestselling author Carol Berg returns to the world of her award-winning Flesh and Spirit and Breath and Bone with an all-new tale of magic, mystery, and corruption….

How much must one pay for an hour of youthful folly? The Pureblood Registry accused Lucian de Remeni-Masson of “unseemly involvement with ordinaries,” which meant only that he spoke with a young woman not of his own kind, allowed her to see his face unmasked, worked a bit of magic for her….After that one mistake, Lucian’s grandsire excised half his magic and savage Harrowers massacred his family. Now the Registry has contracted his art to a common coroner. His extraordinary gift for portraiture is restricted to dead ordinaries—beggars or starvelings hauled from the streets.

But sketching the truth of dead men’s souls brings unforeseen consequences. Sensations not his own. Truths he cannot possibly know and dares not believe. The coroner calls him a cheat and says he is trying to weasel out of a humiliating contract. The Registry will call him mad—and mad sorcerers are very dangerous….

Magic Breaks by Ilona Andrews

Magic Breaks (Kate Daniels #7) by Ilona Andrews

The Kate Daniels series is my favorite urban fantasy series and one of my favorite series of all time. They have an amazing, gradually building story arc; an excellent and well-developed main character; wonderfully incorporated myths; gripping action scenes; and a humorous narrative garnished by entertaining dialogue. What more could I ask for in a series?

I’m far from the only one who feels this way since Ilona Andrews is a #1 New York Times bestselling author and the series has become successful enough that this seventh book is being released in hardcover instead of mass market paperback like its predecessors. It will also be available as an ebook when it is published on July 29. An excerpt from Magic Breaks can be read on If you’re new to the series, you can start with an excerpt from the first book, Magic Bites (while I enjoyed this one it took me awhile to hook me and I also think it is easily the weakest book in the series; the next book is better and the third book is AMAZING).


No matter how much the paranormal politics of Atlanta change, one thing always remains the same: if there’s trouble, Kate Daniels will be in the middle of it…

As the mate of the Beast Lord, Curran, former mercenary Kate Daniels has more responsibilities than it seems possible to juggle. Not only is she still struggling to keep her investigative business afloat, she must now deal with the affairs of the pack, including preparing her people for attack from Roland, a cruel ancient being with god-like powers. Since Kate’s connection to Roland has come out into the open, no one is safe—especially those closest to Kate.

As Roland’s long shadow looms ever nearer, Kate is called to attend the Conclave, a gathering of the leaders from the various supernatural factions in Atlanta. When one of the Masters of the Dead is found murdered there, apparently at the hands of a shapeshifter, Kate is given only twenty-four hours to hunt down the killer. And this time, if she fails, she’ll find herself embroiled in a war which could destroy everything she holds dear…

Beyond the Pale edited by Henry Herz

Beyond the Pale edited by Henry Herz

I don’t read many anthologies, but this young adult fantasy captured my interest because it contains stories by some authors whose work I have enjoyed or heard good things about, including Saladin Ahmed, Jane Yolen, Peter S. Beagle, Gillian Philip, and Jim Butcher. I have already read the first story, the one by Saladin Ahmed, and thought it was excellent.

For more information on the book and authors, visit the Birch Tree Publishing website. Beyond the Pale‘s ship date is August 1 (paperback).


Beyond the Pale is an anthology of fantasy, urban fantasy and paranormal stories that skirt the border between our world and others. Was that my imagination, or did I hear something under my bed? What was that blurred movement in my darkened closet? There is but a thin Veil separating the real and the fantastic, and therein dwell the inhabitants of these stories.

Beyond the Pale contains eleven short stories by award-winning and New York Times bestselling authors Saladin Ahmed (Throne of the Crescent Moon), Peter S. Beagle (The Last Unicorn), Heather Brewer (Vladimir Tod), Jim Butcher (Dresden Files), Kami Garcia (Beautiful Creatures), Nancy Holder (Wicked), Gillian Philip (Rebel Angels), and Jane Yolen (Owl Moon).

The noun “pale” refers to a stake (as in impaling vampires) or pointed piece of wood (as in a paling fence). “Pale” came to refer to an area enclosed by a paling fence. Later, it acquired the figurative meaning of an enclosed and therefore safe domain. Conversely, “beyond the pale” means foreign, strange, or threatening. You are about to go Beyond the Pale.

The Chaos by Nalo Hopkinson

The Chaos by Nalo Hopkinson

My husband gave this to me as an anniversary gift. After reading Nalo Hopkinson’s novel Sister Mine, I’ve wanted to read more of her books. This one was on my wishlist after reading what Ana and Thea from The Book Smugglers wrote about it in their post on Middle Grade and Young Adult books for Women in SF&F Month 2013.


An acclaimed fantasy author navigates the world between myth and chaos in this compelling exploration of identity, told with a Caribbean lilt.

Sixteen-year-old Scotch struggles to fit in: at home she’s the perfect daughter, at school she’s provocatively sassy, and thanks to her mixed heritage, she doesn’t feel she belongs with the Caribbeans, whites, or blacks. And even more troubling, lately her skin is becoming covered in a sticky black substance that can’t be removed. While trying to cope with this creepiness, she goes out with her brother— and he disappears. A mysterious bubble of light just swallows him up, and Scotch has no idea how to find him. Soon, the Chaos that has claimed her brother affects the city at large, until it seems like everyone is turning into crazy creatures. Scotch needs to get to the bottom of this supernatural situation ASAP before the Chaos consumes everything she’s ever known, and she knows that the black shadowy entity that’s begun trailing her every move is probably not going to help.

A blend of fantasy and Caribbean folklore, at its heart this tale is about identity and self acceptance—because only by acknowledging her imperfections can Scotch hope to save her brother.

Flash Point by Nancy Kress

Flash Point by Nancy Kress

This was another anniversary gift from my husband (who introduced me to Nancy Kress’ work with her excellent science fiction novel Beggars In Spain). I’ve heard mixed things about Flash Point, but I want to read it anyway since I usually enjoy books by this author.


Reality TV meets a chillingly realistic version of America—and the fame game is on!

Amy had dreams of going to college, until the Collapse destroyed the economy and her future. Now she is desperate for any job that will help support her terminally ill grandmother and rebellious younger sister. When she finds herself in the running for a slot on a new reality TV show, she signs on the dotted line, despite her misgivings. And she’s right to have them. TLN’s Who Knows People, Baby—You? has an irresistible premise: correctly predict what the teenage cast will do in a crisis and win millions. But the network has pulled strings to make it work, using everything from 24/7 hidden cameras to life-threatening technology to flat-out rigging. Worse, every time the ratings slip, TLN ups the ante. Soon Amy is fighting for her life—on and off camera.

Today I have an excerpt from Steven Erikson’s new novella The Wurms of Blearmouth—and three copies of it to give away! I haven’t read this book yet, but I have read and enjoyed the first two novellas set in the universe of Malazan Book of the Fallen. I hope you enjoy the excerpt, and you can fill out the form at the end to enter to win a copy!

The Wurms of Blearmouth by Steven Erikson

The Wurms of Blearmouth
By Steven Erikson
Excerpt: Pages 7-10


“Behold!” Arms spread wide and braced against the wind, Lord Fangatooth Claw the Render paused and glanced back at Scribe Coingood. “See how this bold perch incites me to declamation, Scribe?” His narrow, hawkish features darkened. “Why are you not writing?”

Scribe Coingood wiped a drip from his nose, worked his numb fingers for a moment, and then scratched out the one word onto the tablet. Here atop the high tower, it was so cold that the wax on the tablet had chipped and flaked beneath the polished bone point of his scribe. He could barely make out the word he had just written, and the biting ice in his eyes didn’t help matters. Squinting against the buffeting wind, he hunched down, pulling tighter his furs, but that did nothing to ease his shivering.

He cursed his own madness that had brought him to West Elingarth’s Forgotten Holding. He also cursed this insane sorcerer for whom he now worked. He cursed this rotting keep and its swaying tower. He cursed the town below: Spendrugle of Blearmouth was a hovel, its population cowering under the tyranny of its new lord. He cursed the abominable weather of this jutting spur of land, thrashed by the wild ocean on three sides on most days, barring those times when the wind swung round to howl its way down from the north, cutting across the treeless blight that stretched inland all the way to yet another storm-wracked ocean, six days distant. He cursed his mother, and the time when he was seven and looked in on his sister’s room and saw things—oh, what was the point? There were plenty of reasons a man had to curse, and with infernal intimacy he knew most of them.

His dreams of wealth and privilege had suffered the fate of a lame hare on the Plain of Wolves, chewed up and torn to bits; and the wind had long since taken away those tattered remnants: the tufts of blood-matted fur, the wisps of white throat-down, and the well-gnawed splinters of bone. All of it gone, scattered across the blasted landscape of his future.

Chewing on the end of his graver, Coingood considered setting that description down in his secret diaries. A lame hare on the Plain of Wolves. Yes, that’s me all right … was that me or my dreams, that hare? Never mind, it’s not like there’s a difference. Not when he was huddled here atop the tower, miserably subject to his lord’s whim, and Hood knew, a manic, eye-gleaming whim it was.

“Have you written it down now, Scribe? Gods below, if I’d known you were so slow I would never have hired you! Tell me, what did I say? I’ve forgotten. Read it back, damn you!”

“M-m-master, y’said … er … ‘Behold!’”

“Is that it? Didn’t I say anything more?”

“S-s-something ’bout a bold p-p-perch, M-m-milord.”

Lord Fangatooth waved one long-fingered, skeletal hand. “Never mind that. I’ve told you about my asides. They’re just that. Asides. Where was I?”


The lord faced outward again, defiant against the roaring seas, and struck a pose looming ominously over the town. “Behold! Oh, and note my widespread arms as I face this wild, whore-whipped sea. Oh, and that wretched town directly below, and how it kneels quivering like an abject slave. Note, too, the grey skies, and that fierce colour of … grey. What else? Fill the scene, fool!”

Coingood started scratching furiously on the tablet.

Watching him, Fangatooth made circular, tumbling motions with one hand. “More! Details! We are in the throes of creativity here!”

“I b-b-beg you, m-m-milord, I’m j-j-just a s-s-scribe, n-n-not a poet!”

“Anyone who can write has all the qualifications necessary for artistic genius! Now, where was I? Oh, right. Behold!” He fell silent, and after a long, quivering moment, he slowly lowered his arms. “Well,” he said. “That will do for now. Go below, Scribe, and stoke up the fires and the implements of torture. I feel in need of a visit to my beloved brother.”

Coingood hobbled his way to the trapdoor.

“Next time I say ‘Behold!’,” Fangatooth said behind him, “don’t interrupt!”

“I w-w-won’t, M-m-milord. P-p-promise!”


Copyright © 2012 by Steven Erikson

Courtesy of Tor Books, I have three copies of The Wurms of Blearmouth to give away! Residents of the US are eligible to win.

Giveaway Rules: To be entered in the giveaway, fill out the form below OR send an email to kristen AT fantasybookcafe DOT com with the subject “Wurms Giveaway.” One entry per person and three winners will be randomly selected. Those from the US are eligible to win this giveaway. The giveaway will be open until the end of the day on Friday, July 18. Each winner has 24 hours to respond once contacted via email, and if I haven’t heard from them by then a new winner will be chosen (who will also have 24 hours to respond until someone gets back to me with a place to send the book).

Please note email addresses will only be used for the purpose of contacting the winners. Once the giveaway is over all the emails will be deleted.

Good luck!

Update: Now that the giveaway is over, the form has been removed.

The Leaning Pile of Books is a feature where I talk about books I got over the last week – old or new, bought or received 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.

This week brought a few books in the mail, plus I received another book order containing some books published by Strange Chemistry that I want to read. As I mentioned previously, young adult speculative fiction publisher Strange Chemistry is no longer releasing books. Last week I talked about a couple of their other books I purchased, and I started reading Stolen Songbird by Danielle L. Jensen. I haven’t wanted to put it down—it’s every bit as good as I’d heard!

A couple of the books that showed up this week are ones that I already discussed:

The Assassin's Curse by Cassandra Rose Clarke The Pirate's Wish by Cassandra Rose Clarke

The Assassin’s Curse and The Pirate’s Wish (The Assassin’s Curse #1-2) by Cassandra Rose Clarke

This duology arrived in the aforementioned book order. I’ve heard they’re very good, and it’s a complete set although The Wizard’s Promise, the first book in a related duology, was released a couple of months ago.

The Assassin’s Curse and The Pirate’s Wish are available in paperback and ebook, and there are also a couple of related short stories available in ebook (The Witch’s Betrayal and The Automaton’s Treasure). An excerpt from The Assassin’s Curse is available online, and the description below is for this book since it’s the first of the two.


Ananna of the Tanarau abandons ship when her parents try to marry her off to another pirate clan. But that only prompts the scorned clan to send an assassin after her. When Ananna faces him down one night, armed with magic she doesn’t really know how to use, she accidentally activates a curse binding them together.

To break the spell, Ananna and the assassin must complete three impossible tasks–all while grappling with evil wizards, floating islands, haughty manticores, runaway nobility, strange magic…and the growing romantic tension between them.

The Wurms of Blearmouth by Steven Erikson

The Wurms of Blearmouth (The Tales of Bauchelain and Korbal Broach #5) by Steven Erikson

The Wurms of Blearmouth, which is supposed to take place after the end of the third Malazan Book of the Fallen novella The Lees of Laughter’s End, will be released on July 8 (hardcover, ebook, trade paperback). An excerpt from The Wurms of Blearmouth is available on

I’ve read the first two of these novellas, Blood Follows and The Healthy Dead. They were very enjoyable, darkly humorous books, and neither took very long to read at all.


A new novella from New York Times bestselling author Steven Erikson, set in the world of the Malazan Book of the Fallen, The Wurms of Blearmouth.

Tyranny comes in many guises, and tyrants thrive in palaces and one-room hovels, in back alleys and playgrounds. Tyrants abound on the verges of civilization, where disorder frays the rule of civil conduct and propriety surrenders to brutal imposition. Millions are made to kneel and yet more millions die horrible deaths in a welter of suffering and misery.

But leave all that behind and plunge into escapist fantasy of the most irrelevant kind, and in the ragged wake of the tale told in Lees of Laughter’s End, those most civil adventurers, Bauchelain and Korbal Broach, along with their suitably phlegmatic manservant, Emancipor Reese, make gentle landing upon a peaceful beach, beneath a quaint village at the foot of a majestic castle. There they make acquaintance with the soft-hearted and generous folk of Spendrugle, which lies at the mouth of the Blear River and falls under the benign rule of the Lord of Wurms in his lovely keep.

Make welcome, then, to Spendrugle’s memorable residents, including the man who should have stayed dead, the woman whose prayers should never have been answered, the tax collector everyone ignores, the ex-husband town militiaman who never married, the beachcomber who lives in his own beard, the now singular lizard cat who used to be plural, and the girl who likes to pee in your lap. And of course, hovering over all, the denizen of the castle keep, Lord—Ah, but there lies this tale.

The Causal Angel by Hannu Rajaniemi

The Causal Angel (Jean de Flambeur #3) by Hannu Rajaniemi

The Causal Angel will be released on July 15 (hardcover, ebook). An excerpt is available on

The first two books in this series are as follows:

  1. The Quantum Thief (Read an Excerpt)
  2. The Fractal Prince

With his infectious love of storytelling in all its forms, his rich characterization and his unrivaled grasp of thrillingly bizarre cutting-edge science, Hannu Rajaniemi swiftly set a new benchmark for Science Fiction in the 21st century. Now, with his third novel, he completes the tale of the many lives, and minds, of gentleman rogue Jean de Flambeur.

Influenced as much by the fin de siècle novels of Maurice leBlanc as he is by the greats of SF, Rajaniemi weaves intricate, warm capers through dazzling science, extraordinary visions of a wild future,and deep conjectures on the nature of reality and story.

In The Causal Angel we will discover the ultimate fates of Jean, his employer Miele, the independently minded ship Perhonnen, and the rest of a fractured and diverse humanity flung throughout the solar system.

Skin of the Wolf by Sam Cabot

Skin of the Wolf by Sam Cabot

Skin of the Wolf, a sequel to Blood of the Lamb, will be released on July 31 (hardcover, ebook).


Sam Cabot is the pseudonym of Carlos Dews and S.J. Rozan. In Sam Cabot’s exhilarating new novel, a vicious murder in Sotheby’s begins a series of inexplicable events surrounding an Iroquois ritual mask—and a secret that could unleash the most terrifying chaos and destruction the world has ever seen.

Months after Father Thomas Kelly, art historian Livia Pietro, and scholar Spencer George found themselves racing through Rome in a desperate effort to locate and preserve an incalculably valuable docu-ment, the three are about to be reunited in New York City. Thomas, still trying to assimilate what he learned—that vam¬pires exist, and that Livia and Spencer are among them—is looking forward to seeing Livia again. Livia is excited to be allowed into the back room of Sotheby’s for an exclusive viewing of an ancient Iroquois mask. And Spencer’s in love. But before the three can meet, Spencer is badly injured when he’s inexplicably attacked in Central Park—by a wolf.

That same night, a Sotheby’s employee is found brutally murdered. Steps from her body is the mysterious native mask, undamaged amid the wreckage of a strug¬gle. As rumors begin to swirl around the sacred object, Thomas, Livia, and Spencer are plunged deep into a world where money, Native American lore, and the history of the Catholic Church collide. They uncover an alarming secret: The wolf is a shapeshifter, and the mask contains a power that, if misused, could destroy millions of lives with the next full moon.

In Skin of the Wolf, Sam Cabot masterfully blends historical fact, backroom conspiracy, and all-encompassing alternate reality as the Noantri discover they aren’t the only humans set apart by their natures—there are Others.