Today I’m happy to be giving away one copy of the recently released mass market paperback of The Dirty Streets of Heaven by Tad Williams! It is the first book in the Bobby Dollar series, and it will be followed by Happy Hour in Hell (coming September 2013) and Sleeping Late on Judgement Day.

The Dirty Streets of Heaven by Tad Williams

About The Dirty Streets of Heaven:

Set in modern-day California, Bobby is wrestling with his own sins, as well as those of his clients, not to mention a mysterious she-demon known as Countess Cold Hands.

Bobby Dollar has a secret.  Actually he’s got a ton of them.  The most important one is that his real name’s Doloriel and he’s an angel.  Not an important angel, maybe, but a rough-and-tumble guy who’s always done his part in the long cold war between Heaven and Hell.

But now he’s stepped into the middle of something that’s got both sides very nervous—an unprecedented number of missing souls.  And if that wasn’t enough, someone has summoned a truly unpleasant Babylonian demon that’s doing its best to track him down and rip him to pieces.  Also, his opposite number on the case is arguably the world’s sexiest she-devil, and Bobby has feelings for her that Heaven definitely does not allow.

Bobby’s story is as dark and gritty as the setting and Tad Williams’ legions of fans will delight in seeing this new side of his writing.

Read an Excerpt from The Dirty Streets of Heaven

Courtesy of Penguin, I have one copy of The Dirty Streets of Heaven to give away! This giveaway is open to those with a mailing address in the US or Canada.

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 “Dirty Streets Giveaway.” One entry per person and one winner will be randomly selected. Those from the US or Canada are eligible to win this giveaway. The giveaway will be open until the end of the day on Friday, September 6. The 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 book).

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!

(Now that the giveaway is over, the form has been removed.)

Magic Rises is the sixth book in the Kate Daniels series by Ilona Andrews. The book includes a short story, “An Ill-Advised Rescue,” that takes place before events in Magic Rises. I went to the end of the book and read it first as advised on the Acknowledgments page, but I was unsure about how it tied in with the novel before reading it and whether or not I really wanted to follow that suggestion. It is set before the beginning of Magic Rises, and it just fills in the backstory on an event involving Saiman that is referenced. You won’t miss anything important if you do skip it or read it after the novel since the novel supplies the basic details on what happened.

The novels in the Kate Daniels series definitely should be read in order. The previous books in the series are as follows:

  1. Magic Bites (Review)
  2. Magic Burns (Review)
  3. Magic Strikes (Review)
  4. Magic Bleeds (Review)
  5. Magic Slays (Review)

This series was originally supposed to contain 7 novels, but it is now supposed to contain 10. There are also several related shorter stories, and a novel about Kate’s friend Andrea, Gunmetal Magic, was released last year. Gunmetal Magic does take place between the end of Magic Slays and Magic Rises, but it’s not necessary to read it before Magic Rises.

There will be spoilers for previous books in the series in this review starting after the line below. If you have not read the previous five books and dislike spoilers, you will not want to read this review. I do highly recommend this series and think it’s the very best urban fantasy series I have read. If you aren’t completely won over by the first book, don’t let that deter you from reading more, though. Book three is where everything really starts to come together and it pays off in a BIG way!

A common tragedy that befalls shapeshifters is their children dying before reaching adulthood. Approximately 25% of these young shapeshifters go loup, losing control to the Lyc-V virus and becoming so violent toward others they need to be put down. Once a shapeshifter gets to this point, there is no returning to their former selves—unless one happens to be in possession of panacea, a difficult-to-obtain drug produced in Europe that sometimes cures loupism. When Kate and Curran are offered the opportunity to travel to Europe to perform a job in return for panacea, they cannot turn down a medicine that would so greatly benefit their Pack, even though it’s quite obvious to both of them that they’ll be walking right into a trap.

They’ve been asked to be a neutral third party in a dispute involving a young woman, her father, and the two fathers of her unborn children. Desandra, the young woman, has been used as a pawn by her father Jarek, who once tried to “gift” her to Curran himself. Her father eventually married her off to a man belonging to a pack in the Ukraine, but once the marriage was no longer convenient for him, he had her divorce her husband and marry an Italian shapeshifter. Recently, the Italian pack angered him and he decided Desandra should no longer be with them, either.

Unfortunately for him, this was after he promised a sought-after mountain pass to his daughter’s firstborn. His distraught daughter slept with both her current husband and her ex-husband, and became pregnant with twins—one fathered by each of the men. Jarek made it clear that he’d rather his daughter die than see the pack from Italy possess his mountain pass, and there’s concern that he may try to kill her himself. In addition, both packs desire that pass. Kate and Curran’s role is to guard Desandra until her children are born, and witness which is born first, putting the newborn’s family in control of this excellent mountain pass. They gather their best people and head to Europe to do just this—despite being under no illusion whatsoever that it’s incredibly fishy that their presence was requested rather than a closer neutral third party.

The Kate Daniels series is the one I would urge someone to read if they were only going to read one urban fantasy series. The first book intrigued me without managing to hook me, but I enjoyed the second one more. The third book is perhaps the finest urban fantasy story I’ve ever read, and it made me an enthusiastic fan of the series for its great pacing, sense of humor, action-packed scenes, characters and characterization, incorporation of myths, and the way it built up and metered out revelations about Kate’s family history. The fourth one started a little slower, but I enjoyed it nearly as much since it did have many of the same qualities I enjoyed about the third book, and it also dealt more with the arc about Kate’s family. After books three and four built upon the revelations about Kate so well, I admit to being a little disappointed that book five largely ignored them only to hint at returning to a related storyline at the very end. I started Magic Rises with some trepidation since it seemed to be setting up an unrelated story, and I thought it was entirely possible this book may ignore all story threads related to Roland since I knew it was no longer the next-to-last book and the urgency to develop this story arc may no longer be there.

I need not have worried: what appears to be a random side adventure turns into more than that. While it doesn’t feel like the next-to-last book (thankfully since that is no longer the case!) it also does build on this underlying storyline like books three and four did. As a result, I loved it as much as these two books in the series despite feeling it wasn’t quite as good in some ways. There were times this novel reminded me of a soap opera, mainly the reason for Kate and Curran’s trip to Europe (twins by an estranged husband and ex-husband with the firstborn deciding the fate of two families!) and some relationship drama. I also wasn’t as captivated by the world mythology as I was in the third and fourth books, but everything else was done right—the humor, the pacing, the action, the characters, and the riveting conclusion. I was never bored for an instant, and the second half especially was very intense.

Normally, I find fight scenes extremely dull, but Ilona Andrews has a gift for writing gripping fight scenes that I can’t get enough of (Magic Strikes was the same way). They’re exciting scenes, but at the same time they tend to tie in with characterizing Kate and showcasing her abilities, and the way action is blended with dealing with either her character or abilities is a winning combination.

On the subject of Kate’s character, one of the things I love so much about this series is that Kate’s past shapes her character and I understand her well because of it. She’s only recently found a place to belong after spending her entire life alone, with one purpose: hide who she is and what she can do long enough to defeat Roland. Friendship, love, and belonging are not things she ever expected to have, and trusting people goes completely against her training. She also had a difficult time becoming part of the Pack because of her fear of becoming a liability to others because of her status of the daughter of Roland. Kate overcame all of it and fought tooth and nail to become the Pack’s Consort, yet others are unable to see her as being worthy of that place due to her humanity. She is not a shapeshifter and cannot truly understand their ways, and there’s still so much she doesn’t know that is basic shapeshifter knowledge. Some wonder how can she ever be a suitable mate for Curran when she’s not truly like him. After the lengths she took to become Consort, what Kate faced in this book from other shapeshifters, including Curran’s odd behavior, was devastating.

The plot itself—oh wow, it’s up to us to go to Europe and deal with these two Packs by making sure this pregnant woman and her twins of two fathers survive and settle this dispute about who gets control of this mountain pass!—was really quite outlandish. It was a great relief to me that Kate and Curran realized this had to be some sort of trap because otherwise I would have spent the whole book thinking it didn’t make sense that they specifically were called upon to do this. As it is, the story of Desandra being impregnated by both her current husband and her ex-husband and her father claiming the family of the firstborn would have access to the pass was like something out of a soap opera. Now that I think of it, so were Kate and Curran’s relationship issues, though I at least thought the lack of communication made some sense since Kate had a job to do and was often unavailable to ask Curran what he was thinking.

Fortunately, so much was done well that I really didn’t think about any flaws while reading it because it was so thoroughly enjoyable to read. It did have the trademark Ilona Andrews humor, and I think their humor hits the mark exactly. It comes across as a natural part of Kate’s personality, not as an overdone attempt at adding some humor to the oft-dark novel. As mentioned, the fight scenes and Kate’s character are very well done. Plus, all the secondary characters even have their own traits and personalities and stand out as individuals, and I was delighted by how interesting I found one of the more prominent ones in this book. Ilona Andrews does know how to write intriguing characters.

In some ways, Magic Rises isn’t technically the strongest installment in the Kate Daniels series since it does have an out-of-left-field dramatic plot and I thought the mythological components were better done in other books in the series. Yet, I didn’t notice any of this while reading it because I found this book far more gripping than the vast majority of books I read due to its strengths, and I had every bit as much fun reading it as the fourth book in the series. Ilona Andrews know how to deliver when it comes to building up story arcs and characters, and I also really love the blend between darkness and humor. The ending is particularly intense, and I’m now salivating for book 7 (especially after reading some hints of what is to come on the author’s website!).

My Rating: 9/10

Where I got my reading copy: I purchased it.

Read Chapter One

Other Reviews of Magic Rises:

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’s post is rather large because a) I included last week’s books since I didn’t do this post last week in order to spend my weekend time on finishing a book/writing a review and b) a lot of books came in this week. They are all ARCs/finished copies from publishers, except the first which is an ARC I got from the author, who happens to be a friend of mine.

For reviews, I did almost get one finished last week, but I wasn’t able to finish it since last week was CRAZY and I wasn’t home very much last week because of it. But the review is really close to wrapped up so I’m hoping to get it up this week!

On to the books!

Celtic Moon by Jan DeLima

Celtic Moon (Celtic Wolves #1) by Jan DeLima

Celtic Moon will be released in mass market paperback/ebook on September 24, and two more books in the series will follow. A brief excerpt can be read on the author’s website, and you can also read more about it in a guest post Jan wrote for Women in SF&F Month last April. This will be her first published novel.

Jan is a friend of mine so I’ve heard some about both this and book two and am pretty excited about reading it!


Like father, like son…

Sophie Thibodeau has been on the run from the father of her son for more than fifteen years. Now her son, Joshua, is changing, and her greatest fears are about to be realized. He’s going to end up being just like his father—a man who can change into a wolf.

Dylan Black has been hunting for Sophie since the night she ran from him—an obsession he cannot afford in the midst of an impending war. Dylan controls Rhuddin Village, an isolated town in Maine where he lives with an ancient Celtic tribe. One of the few of his clan who can still shift into a wolf, he must protect his people from the Guardians, vicious warriors who seek to destroy them.

When Sophie and Dylan come together for the sake of their son, their reunion reignites the fierce passion they once shared. For the first time in years, Dylan’s lost family is within his grasp. But will he lose them all over again? Are Joshua and Sophie strong enough to fight alongside Dylan in battle? Nothing less than the fate of his tribe depends on it…

She Walks In Darkness by Evangeline Walton

She Walks In Darkness by Evangeline Walton

Evangeline Walton’s first novel was published in 1936, and she received the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award and the World Fantasy Lifetime Achievement Award. Sadly, I hadn’t even heard of her work before She Walks In Darkness showed up in the mail. I’m glad I have now since it sounds very interesting!

She Walks In Darkness, written in the 1960s, is being published for the first time in September (trade paperback/ebook). Evangeline Walton died in 1996, but it’s possible some of her other unpublished work may be made available as well.

A brief excerpt from She Walks In Darkness is on the publisher’s website.


A gorgeous Tuscan villa harboring a terrible secret houses this original harrowing adventure of ancient mystery and modern intrigue.

Archaeologist Richard Keyes and his resourceful young bride, Barbara, are expecting a blissful honeymoon in a welcoming new country. But from the moment they arrive in their secluded new home, circumstances conspire against them. A car crash leaves Richard lying unconscious in a bed surrounded by frescoes of a benevolent goddess, while a far more sinister deity in the courtyard seems to gain power in the night.

Meanwhile, in Barbara’s hour of need, a beautiful, young Tuscan appears, and she is drawn to his seductive charms. A conflict has been reawakened after generations of sacrifice, betrayal, and madness, and the key to the mystery lies in the catacombs under the villa.

This first publication of newly-discovered novel from classic fantasist Evangeline Walton (The Mabinogoion series) is sure to please fans of all genres.

Shadows of the New Sun: Stories in Honor of Gene Wolfe

Shadows of the New Sun: Stories in Honor of Gene Wolfe edited by Bill Fawcett and J. E. Mooney

Shadows of the New Sun will be released on August 27 (hardcover, ebook, and audiobook). It’s a tribute to the respected author Gene Wolfe, who has won Hugo, Nebula, and World Fantasy Awards. There are some stories by some excellent authors in this one, including Neil Gaiman and Nancy Kress. In addition, there are two new stories by Gene Wolfe.


Perhaps no living author of imaginative fiction has earned the awards, accolades, respect, and literary reputation of Gene Wolfe. His prose has been called subtle and brilliant, inspiring not just lovers of fantasy and science fiction, but readers of every stripe, transcending genre and defying preconceptions.

In this volume, a select group of Wolfe’s fellow authors pay tribute to the award-winning creator of The Book of the New Sun, The Fifth Head of Cerberus, Soldier of the Mist, The Wizard Knight and many others, with entirely new stories written specifically to honor the writer hailed by The Washington Post as “one of America’s finest.”

Shadows of the New Sun 
features contributions by Neil Gaiman, David Brin, David Drake, Nancy Kress, and many others, plus two new short stories by Gene Wolfe himself.

The Waking Dark by Robin Wasserman

The Waking Dark by Robin Wasserman

This creepy-sounding young adult novel will be released on September 10 (hardcover, ebook, audiobook). An excerpt containing the first 31 pages is available.


They called it the killing day. Twelve people dead, all in the space of a few hours. Five murderers: neighbors, relatives, friends. All of them so normal. All of them seemingly harmless. All of them now dead by their own hand . . . except one. And that one has no answers to offer the shattered town. She doesn’t even know why she killed—or whether she’ll do it again.

Something is waking in the sleepy town of Oleander’s, Kansas—something dark and hungry that lives in the flat earth and the open sky, in the vengeful hearts of upstanding citizens. As the town begins its descent into blood and madness, five survivors of the killing day are the only ones who can stop Oleander from destroying itself. Jule, the outsider at war with the world; West, the golden boy at war with himself; Daniel, desperate for a different life; Cass, who’s not sure she deserves a life at all; and Ellie, who believes in sacrifice, fate, and in evil. Ellie, who always goes too far. They have nothing in common. They have nothing left to lose. And they have no way out. Which means they have no choice but to stand and fight, to face the darkness in their town—and in themselves.

The Exodus Towers by Jason M. Hough

The Exodus Towers (The Dire Earth Cycle #2) by Jason M. Hough

This science fiction novel will be released on August 27 (mass market paperback, ebook, audiobook). The Darwin Elevator, the first book in the series, is now available. The third book in the trilogy, The Plague Forge, is scheduled for release on September 24. (These are the US release dates. The UK release dates are 3 days later for both books.)


The Exodus Towers features all the high-octane action and richly imagined characters of The Darwin Elevator—but the stakes have never been higher.
The sudden appearance of a second space elevator in Brazil only deepens the mystery about the aliens who provided it: the Builders. Scavenger crew captain Skyler Luiken and brilliant scientist Dr. Tania Sharma have formed a colony around the new Elevator’s base, utilizing mobile towers to protect humans from the Builders’ plague. But they are soon under attack from a roving band of plague-immune soldiers. Cut off from the colony, Skyler must wage a one-man war against the new threat as well as murderous subhumans and thugs from Darwin—all while trying to solve the puzzle of the Builders’ master plan . . . before it’s too late for the last vestiges of humanity.

Frozen by Melissa de la Cruz and Michael Johnston

Frozen (Heart of Dread #1) by Melissa de la Cruz and Michael Johnston

Frozen, the first book in a new YA fantasy series, is written by New York Times bestselling author Melissa de la Cruz and her husband Michael Johnston, who has worked with her on other books she has written (with the creation of the Blue Bloods and Witches of East End books and also with writing the Wolf Pact series). It will be published on September 17 (hardcover, ebook). An excerpt from Frozen is available on USA Today.


From New York Times bestselling author Melissa de la Cruz and Michael Johnston comes this remarkable first book in a spellbinding new series about the dawn of a new kind of magic.

Welcome to New Vegas, a city once covered in bling, now blanketed in ice. Like much of the destroyed planet, the place knows only one temperature—freezing. But some things never change. The diamond in the ice desert is still a 24-hour hedonistic playground and nothing keeps the crowds away from the casino floors, never mind the rumors about sinister sorcery in its shadows.

At the heart of this city is Natasha Kestal, a young blackjack dealer looking for a way out. Like many, she’s heard of a mythical land simply called “the Blue.” They say it’s a paradise, where the sun still shines and the waters are turquoise. More importantly, it’s a place where Nat won’t be persecuted, even if her darkest secret comes to light.

But passage to the Blue is treacherous, if not impossible, and her only shot is to bet on a ragtag crew of mercenaries led by a cocky runner named Ryan Wesson to take her there. Danger and deceit await on every corner, even as Nat and Wes find themselves inexorably drawn to each other. But can true love survive the lies? Fiery hearts collide in this fantastic tale of the evil men do and the awesome power within us all.

Transcendental by James Gunn

Transcendental by James Gunn

This science fiction novel by Hugo Award winner James Gunn will be released on August 27 (hardcover, ebook). An excerpt from Transcendental can be read on


Transcendental, an epic, high-concept space opera, is a Canterbury Tales of the far future in which beings from many planets hurtle across the universe to uncover the secrets of the legend of Transcendentalism. Riley, a veteran of interstellar war,  however, is not journeying to achieve transcendence, a vague mystical concept that has drawn everyone else on the ship to this journey into the unknown at the far edge of the galaxy. His mission is to find and kill the prophet who is reputed to help others transcend. As the ship speeds through space, the voyage is marred by violence and betrayal, making it clear that Riley is not the only one of the ship’s passengers who is not the spiritual seeker they all claim to be. As tensions rise, Riley realizes that the ship’s journey is less like the Canterbury Tales and more like a harrowing, deadly voyage on a ship of fools. Looking for allies, he becomes friendly with a mysterious passenger named Asha, who, like so many others on the ship, is more than she appears. But while she professes to be just another pilgrim, he comes to realize that like him, she is keeping secrets could be the key to Riley’s assignment, or might make him question everything he thought he knew about Transcendentalism and his mission to stop it.

This long-awaited novel is a grand space adventure of exploration, intrigue, redemption, and the universal spirit that unites all beings.  This is a real departure for Gunn, a novel of grand scope and high concept, a capstone to the career of this Grand Master of science fiction.

A Dance of Cloaks by David Dalglish

A Dance of Cloaks (Shadowdance #1) by David Dalglish

The Shadowdance trilogy has been self-published, and the first book be released in paperback by Orbit Books in October. The second and third books (A Dance of Blades and A Dance of Mirrors) are scheduled for release in November and December of this year. You can learn more about the differences between the self-published editions and the upcoming Orbit editions on the author’s blog. There have been some changes, but they are looking into arranging it so those who bought ebooks of the earlier version can update to the new one without paying for it a second time.


Thren Felhorn is the greatest assassin of his time. Marshalling the thieves’ guilds under his control, he declares war against the Trifect, an allegiance of wealthy and powerful nobles.

Aaron Felhorn has been groomed since birth to be Thren’s heir. Sent to kill the daughter of a priest, Aaron instead risks his own life to protect her from the wrath of his guild. In doing so, he glimpses a world beyond poison, daggers, and the iron control of his father.

Guilds twist and turn, trading allegiances for survival. The Trifect weakens, its reputation broken, its money dwindling. The players take sides as the war nears its end, and Thren puts in motion a plan to execute hundreds.

Only Aaron can stop the massacre and protect those he loves…

Assassin or protector; every choice has its consequences.

Children of Fire by Drew Karpyshyn

Children of Fire (Chaos Born #1) by Drew Karpyshyn

Children of Fire will be released on August 27 (hardcover, ebook, audiobook). An excerpt starting at chapter 9 is available at Suvudu.


Drew Karpyshyn has made his mark with imaginative, action-packed work on several acclaimed videogames, including Mass Effect and Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, as well as in a succession of New York Times bestselling tie-in novels. Now Karpyshyn introduces a brilliantly innovative epic fantasy of perilous quests, tormented heroes, and darkest sorcery—a thrilling adventure that vaults him into the company of such authors as Terry Goodkind, Brandon Sanderson, and Peter V. Brett.

Long ago the gods chose a great hero to act as their agent in the mortal world and to stand against the demonic spawn of Chaos. The gods gifted their champion, Daemron, with three magical Talismans: a sword, a ring, and a crown. But the awesome power at his command corrupted Daemron, turning him from savior to destroyer. Filled with pride, he dared to challenge the gods themselves. Siding with the Chaos spawn, Daemron waged a titanic battle against the Immortals. In the end, Daemron was defeated, the Talismans were lost, and Chaos was sealed off behind the Legacy—a magical barrier the gods sacrificed themselves to create.

Now the Legacy is fading. On the other side, the banished Daemron stirs. And across the scattered corners of the land, four children are born of suffering and strife, each touched by one aspect of Daemron himself—wizard, warrior, prophet, king.

Bound by a connection deeper than blood, the Children of Fire will either restore the Legacy or bring it crashing down, freeing Daemron to wreak his vengeance upon the mortal world.

Dark Shadows: Wolf Moon Rising by Lara Parker

Dark Shadows: Wolf Moon Rising (Dark Shadows #3) by Lara Parker

This novel will be available on August 20 (mass market paperback, ebook). An excerpt from Dark Shadows: Wolf Moon Rising can be read on the publisher’s website.


The first all-new Dark Shadows novel in years, written by Lara Parker, one of the stars of the cult classic TV show!

When a portrait is lost that has maintained Quentin Collins’s youthful appearance for over a century—and has also kept his werewolf curse at bay—Quentin begins to dread the full moon.

Meanwhile, David, the sixteen-year-old heir to the Collins fortune, has fallen in love with Jacqueline, a young girl living at the Old House who is the reincarnation of Angelique. David and Jacqueline are swept back in time to the prohibition era of the Twenties, where David uncovers the dark secrets of the Collins family history.

Most threatening of all, Dr. Nathanial Blair, an expert in the paranormal, has come to Collinwood because he suspects they are harboring a vampire. Fortunately, Barnabas Collins has returned to his coffin after a disastrous flirtation with life as a human. Nevertheless, what Blair discovers places the entire Collins family in jeopardy.

Dearly, Beloved by Lia Habel

Dearly, Beloved (Gone With the Respiration #2) by Lia Habel

This zombie novel will be released in trade paperback on September 3. It is already available in hardcover and ebook formats. The first 50 pages from Dearly, Beloved can be read on Suvudu.


Can the living coexist with the living dead?

That’s the question that has New Victorian society fiercely divided ever since the mysterious plague known as “The Laz” hit the city of New London and turned thousands into walking corpses. But while some of these zombies are mindless monsters, hungry for human flesh, others can still think, speak, reason, and control their ravenous new appetites.

Just ask Nora Dearly, the young lady of means who was nearly kidnapped by a band of sinister zombies but valiantly rescued by a dashing young man . . . of the dead variety.

Nora and her savior, the young zombie soldier Bram Griswold, fell hopelessly in love. But others feel only fear and loathing for the reanimated dead. Now, as tensions grow between pro- and anti-zombie factions, battle lines are being drawn in the streets. And though Bram is no longer in the New Victorian army, he and his ex-commando zombie comrades are determined to help keep the peace. That means taking a dangerous stand between The Changed, a radical group of sentient zombies fighting for survival, and The Murder, a masked squad of urban guerrillas hellbent on destroying the living dead. But zombies aren’t the only ones in danger: Their living allies are also in The Murder’s crosshairs, and for one vengeful zealot, Nora Dearly is the number one target.

As paranoia, prejudice, and terrorist attacks threaten to plunge the city into full-scale war, Nora’s scientist father and his team continue their desperate race to unlock the secrets of “The Laz” and find a cure. But their efforts may be doomed when a mysterious zombie appears bearing an entirely new strain of the virus—and the nation of New Victoria braces for a new wave of the apocalypse.

Lia Habel’s spellbinding, suspenseful sequel to Dearly, Departed takes her imaginative mash-up of period romance, futuristic thriller, and zombie drama to a whole new level of innovative and irresistible storytelling.

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 I bought a new book in one of my favorite series, and three other books showed up in the mail.

Magic Rises by Ilona Andrews

Magic Rises (Kate Daniels #6) by Ilona Andrews

The latest book in the Kate Daniels series was just released last week (mass market paperback/ebook). An excerpt from the beginning of the book was posted on the author’s website early (before copyedits).

I pre-ordered it, and I am SO EXCITED about reading it since Kate Daniels is my favorite urban fantasy series! The third and fourth books especially are amazing. The first five books in the series are as follows:

  1. Magic Bites (Review)
  2. Magic Burns (Review)
  3. Magic Strikes (Review)
  4. Magic Bleeds (Review)
  5. Magic Slays (Review)

There are also several related novellas, and there is a related novel about Kate’s best friend Andrea, Gunmetal Magic.


Atlanta is a city plagued by magical problems. Kate Daniels will fight to solve them—no matter the cost.

Mercenary Kate Daniels and her mate, Curran, the Beast Lord, are struggling to solve a heartbreaking crisis. Unable to control their beasts, many of the Pack’s shapeshifting children fail to survive to adulthood. While there is a medicine that can help, the secret to its making is closely guarded by the European packs, and there’s little available in Atlanta.

Kate can’t bear to watch innocents suffer, but the solution she and Curran have found threatens to be even more painful. The European shapeshifters who once outmaneuvered the Beast Lord have asked him to arbitrate a dispute—and they’ll pay him in medicine. With the young people’s survival and the Pack’s future at stake, Kate and Curran know they must accept the offer—but they have little doubt that they’re heading straight into a trap…

Omens by Kelley Armstrong

Omens (Cainsville #1) by Kelley Armstrong

The first book in a new series by the #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Otherworld series will be released on August 20 (hardcover/ebook). The first 8 chapters can be read on the author’s website.

I’ve been wanting to read the Otherworld books but find the length of the series rather intimidating so I was intrigued to see Kelley Armstrong has a brand new series!


#1 New York Times bestselling author Kelley Armstrong begins her new series with Omens, featuring a compelling new heroine thrust into a decades-old murder case and the dark mysteries surrounding her strange new home.

Twenty-four-year-old Olivia Taylor Jones has the perfect life. The only daughter of a wealthy, prominent Chicago family, she has an Ivy League education, pursues volunteerism and philanthropy, and is engaged to a handsome young tech firm CEO with political ambitions.

But Olivia’s world is shattered when she learns that she’s adopted. Her real parents? Todd and Pamela Larsen, notorious serial killers serving a life sentence. When the news brings a maelstrom of unwanted publicity to her adopted family and fiancé, Olivia decides to find out the truth about the Larsens.

Olivia ends up in the small town of Cainsville, Illinois, an old and cloistered community that takes a particular interest in both Olivia and her efforts to uncover her birth parents’ past.

Aided by her mother’s former lawyer, Gabriel Walsh, Olivia focuses on the Larsens’ last crime, the one her birth mother swears will prove their innocence. But as she and Gabriel start investigating the case, Olivia finds herself drawing on abilities that have remained hidden since her childhood, gifts that make her both a valuable addition to Cainsville and deeply vulnerable to unknown enemies. Because there are darker secrets behind her new home and powers lurking in the shadows that have their own plans for her.

Mage's Blood by David Hair

Mage’s Blood (Moontide Quartet #1) by David Hair

Mage’s Blood will be released in hardcover and ebook in September.


Most of the time the Moontide Bridge lies deep below the sea, but every 12 years the tides sink and the bridge is revealed, its gates open for trade.

The Magi are hell-bent on ruling this new world, and for the last two Moontides they have led armies across the bridge on ‘crusades’ of conquest.

Now the third Moontide is almost here and, this time, the people of the East are ready for a fight … but it is three seemingly ordinary people that will decide the fate of the world.

Box Office Poison by Phillipa Bornikova

Box Office Poison (Linnet Ellery #2) by Phillipa Bornikova

Box Office Poison will be released on August 6 (hardcover/ebook), following This Case Is Gonna Kill Me. An excerpt from Box Office Poison is available on; they also have an excerpt from the first book.


What happens when exquisitely beautiful elves start getting all the roles in Hollywood? Human actors sue, that’s what. In a desperate attempt to keep the squabbling inside the Screen Actors Guild from going public, the president of SAG forces the two sides into arbitration.

Enter Linnet Ellery, a human lawyer working for a vampire law firm, to serve as arbitrator. Linnet discovers that there are sinister forces at work in Tinsel Town determined to shatter the fragile peace between elves, vampires, werewolves, and humans. Someone has been coercing famous elven actors into committing sudden and terrible acts of violence against humans in a series of tragedies that could turn the tide of public opinion against all the supernatural Powers.

During the course of her investigations Linnet realizes that a puzzling secret surrounds her, and that a strange power has been affecting the very course of her life. . . .

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 some books showed up in the mail, plus a friend brought me back a book she thought I might like from a conference she recently went to (I hadn’t heard of this book before but now I’m really excited about reading it!).

For reviews, I’m working on a review of Shattered Pillars by Elizabeth Bear, a phenomenal book. I’m not sure yet what I’ll pull out of the to-review pile after that one.

On to the books!

The Burning Sky by Sherry Thomas

The Burning Sky (The Elemental Trilogy #1) by Sherry Thomas

This young adult fantasy will be available in hardcover and ebook in September. It’s the first young adult fantasy by Sherry Thomas, who is known for her historical romance novels. The first two chapters can be read on the author’s website. The few paragraphs before chapter one begins have me quite intrigued:


Just before the start of Summer Half, in April 1883, a very minor event took place at Eton College, that venerable and illustrious English public school for boys. A sixteen-year-old pupil named Archer Fairfax returned from a three-month absence, caused by a fractured femur, to resume his education.

Almost every word in the preceding sentence is false. Archer Fairfax had not suffered a broken limb. He had never before set foot in Eton. His name was not Archer Fairfax. And he was not, in fact, even a he.

This is the story of a girl who fooled a thousand boys, a boy who fooled an entire country, a partnership that would change the fate of realms, and a power to challenge the greatest tyrant the world had ever known.

Expect magic.

I have a soft spot for the girl dressed as a boy plot, plus “a girl who fooled a thousand boys”? And “a boy who fooled an entire country”? Sounds like fun!


It all began with a ruined elixir and an accidental bolt of lightning…

Iolanthe Seabourne is the greatest elemental mage of her generation—or so she’s being told. The one prophesied for years to be the savior of The Realm. It is her duty and destiny to face and defeat the Bane, the greatest mage tyrant the world has ever known. A suicide task for anyone let alone a sixteen-year-old girl with no training, facing a prophecy that foretells a fiery clash to the death.

Prince Titus of Elberon has sworn to protect Iolanthe at all costs but he’s also a powerful mage committed to obliterating the Bane to revenge the death of his family—even if he must sacrifice both Iolanthe and himself to achieve his goal.

But Titus makes the terrifying mistake of falling in love with the girl who should have been only a means to an end. Now, with the servants of the Bane closing in, he must choose between his mission and her life.

Robert the Bruce by Jack Whyte

Robert the Bruce (The Guardians #2) by Jack Whyte

This historical fiction novel about Robert I will be available in hardcover/ebook on August 6th. It is the second book in a series, but the series seems to be a set of stand alone books about Scottish history. The first book, The Forest Laird, focused on William Wallace.

Robert the Bruce has also been published in Canada as The Renegade: A Tale of Robert the Bruce, and an excerpt from that is here.

I am curious about this one since I really enjoyed the Dreams of Eagles/Camulod Chronicles by Jack Whyte starting with The Skystone. They were a fascinating retelling of the legend of King Arthur.


Robert I, or as he is known to a grateful Scottish nation, Robert the Bruce, was one of Scotland’s greatest kings, as well as one of the most famous warriors of his generation. He spearheaded the valiant Scots in their quest for freedom, leading his people during the Wars of Scottish Independence against the Kingdom of England. His reign saw the recognition of Scotland as an independent nation, and today Bruce is remembered in Scotland as a national hero.

It was by no means a fair and easy road for this indomitable fighter. As a young man he saw the English king Edward I award the vacant Crown of Scotland to John Balliol. The nation quickly splintered into factions and this spurred Robert and his father to at first side with Edward and then against John, whom many of the nobles did not feel was the correct person to guide the nation. Thus began a decades-long path for Scottish freedom. To achieve this goal, Robert sometimes had to delicately balance the power of the nobles against the might of the English. He was a tireless campaigner and after a full life of battle and diplomacy, in May 1328, King Edward III signed the Treaty of Edinburgh-Northampton, which recognized Scotland as an independent kingdom and Bruce as its king.

A passionate man. An incredible warrior. And one of Scotland’s finest.

Blood of Tyrants by Naomi Novik

Blood of Tyrants (Temeraire #8) by Naomi Novik

The next-to-last Temeraire novel will be released in hardcover and ebook on August 13. Chapter One from Blood of Tyrants can be read online.

Naomi Novik is a New York Times bestselling author and the recipient of the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer, and her Temeraire series has been optioned for film by Peter Jackson. I’ve heard this series is wonderful but haven’t read the first book (though I plan to, especially after going to a reading in New York last year in which she read from the first chapter!).

The previous books in the Temeraire series are as follows:

  1. His Majesty’s Dragon
  2. Throne of Jade
  3. Black Powder War
  4. Empire of Ivory
  5. Victory of Eagles
  6. Tongues of Serpents
  7. Crucible of Gold

Shipwrecked and cast ashore in Japan with no memory of Temeraire or his own experiences as an English aviator, Laurence finds himself tangled in deadly political intrigues that threaten not only his own life but England’s already precarious position in the Far East. Age-old enmities and suspicions have turned the entire region into a powder keg ready to erupt at the slightest spark—a spark that Laurence and Temeraire may unwittingly provide, leaving Britain faced with new enemies just when they most desperately need allies instead.

For to the west, another, wider conflagration looms. Napoleon has turned on his former ally, the emperor Alexander of Russia, and is even now leading the largest army the world has ever seen to add that country to his list of conquests. It is there, outside the gates of Moscow, that a reunited Laurence and Temeraire—along with some unexpected allies and old friends—will face their ultimate challenge…and learn whether or not there are stronger ties than memory.

Naomi Novik’s beloved Temeraire series, a brilliant combination of fantasy and history that reimagines the Napoleonic wars as fought with the aid of intelligent dragons, is a twenty-first-century classic. From the first volume, His Majesty’s Dragon, readers have been entranced by the globe-spanning adventures of the resolute Capt. William Laurence and his brave but impulsive dragon, Temeraire. Now, in Blood of Tyrants, the penultimate volume of the series, Novik is at the very height of her powers as she brings her story to its widest, most colorful canvas yet.

A Cold Season by Alison Littlewood

A Cold Season by Alison Littlewood

This horror debut novel will be released in the US (hardcover/ebook) in September. It was released in the UK last year, and it was a Richard and Judy Book Club selection. An excerpt from A Cold Season can be read on the publisher’s website.


Cass is building a new life for herself and her young son Ben after the death of her soldier husband Pete, returning to the village where she lived as a child. But their idyllic new home is not what she expected: the other flats are all empty, there’s strange graffiti on the walls, and the villagers are a bit odd. And when an unexpectedly heavy snowstorm maroons the village, things get even harder. Ben is changing, he’s surly and aggressive and Cass’s only confidant is the smooth, charming Theodore Remick, the stand-in headmaster. Not everyone approves of Cass’s growing closeness to Mr Remick, and it soon becomes obvious he’s not all he appears to be either. If she is to protect her beloved son, Cass is going to have to fight back. Cass realises this is not the first time her family have been targeted by Theodore Remick. But this time, the stakes are immeasurably higher…

The Best of All Possible Worlds
by Karen Lord
308pp (Hardcover)
My Rating: 8/10
Amazon Rating: 3.8/5
LibraryThing Rating: 3.95/5
Goodreads Rating: 3.78/5

The Best of All Possible Worlds is Karen Lord’s second novel and her first science fiction novel. Her debut, the fantasy novel Redemption in Indigo, was nominated for the World Fantasy Award and received the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Adult Literature, the William L. Crawford Award, and the Frank Collymore Literary Award. The Galaxy Game, her third novel and a sequel to The Best of All Possible Worlds, is scheduled for release in March 2014.

With only six days left before returning home from his annual retreat, Dllenahkh learns the news that he no longer has a home to return to. The planet Sadira was destroyed, and the only survivors are those who were off-planet at the time like Dllenahkh—mostly men, presenting a challenge to the continuation of the Sadiri people who do remain.

Dllenahkh and other Sadiri seek a new beginning on the planet Cygnus Beta, home to a mix of people including the taSadiri, descendants of those who left Sadira long ago, and others descended from those with psionic abilities like the Sadiri. While opinion is divided on how to proceed after the near extinction of their people, some Sadiri believe that finding taSadiri with a high percentage of their genes and marrying some of the women is a good option. When it is decided that there should be a team sent to specific regions to look for taSadiri and see if there is any potential for joining with them, Dllenahkh arranges to have Delarua, a biotechnician he was been working with since arriving on Cygnus Beta with an impressive knowledge of languages and an insightful mind, accompany them on their mission. A team comprised of both Sadiri and some locals from Cygnus Beta set out on a search for the taSadiri.

The Best of All Possible Worlds is a unique book: even though it starts with the destruction of a planet and most of its people, the novel is not about conflict between the two peoples or getting vengeance against the aggressors. In fact, the aggressors are hardly mentioned at all other than some brief speculation on why they targeted the Sadiri and a brief discussion about the consequences of their actions toward the beginning of the story. The Best of All Possible Worlds is a novel focused the aftermath of the attack—how the Sadiri move forward and the people brought together on Cygnus Beta in pursuit of the common goal of helping the Sadiri to do just this.

While it is largely about moving forward—visiting settlements to find taSadiri who still had a high percentage of Sadiri genetics—that’s not to say it ignores the emotional turmoil of the situation for the Sadiri. The Sadiri are not a people given to being open about their emotions, but as Delarua observes they do have them contrary to what many may believe about such reserved people, and there are some heartbreaking discussions about what the destruction of most of their people means for the Sadiri. I particularly appreciated how Lord showed the difficulty of the situation they were in. The practical side of repopulating the universe with Sadiri could seem rather callous for those involved, but at the same time, it’s easy to understand that the Sadiri are facing near extinction and want to do all they can to survive as a people. For instance, this is Delarua’s response when Dllenahkh informs her that the Science Council of New Sadira is making it a priority to breed females who may become future wives to the long-lived Sadiri:


But how distressing and strange to spend decades on some kind of genetic backroom shelf waiting one’s turn to clinically contribute to the species!

I said something of the sort to Dllenahkh. He let me know my views were inappropriate. I shut up. [pp. 17]

In this instance, I understood where both Delarua and Dllenahkh were coming from, and I always appreciate being able to understand why two characters who view things differently hold the perspectives they do.

It is a heartwrenching subject and there are certainly emotionally charged discussions and scenes. However, I do not want to give the impression that The Best of All Possible Worlds is a gloomy and depressing book because that is not the case at all! In fact, it’s often quite an uplifting book, mainly because of Delarua’s narrative voice. There are a few brief scenes told from the third person point of view of Dllenahkh, but most of the book is relayed directly through Delarua’s eyes and she is a boisterous, joyful person is a lot of FUN, both for the other characters to be around and for me as a reader being told her story firsthand. Unlike the Sadiri, she is outwardly emotional, and she is outspoken (as can be seen from the quoted passage above where she blurts out exactly what she’s thinking!). It’s so delightful to get to be in on her adventures, her career, and her relationships. Viewing events from her perspective, such as a festival at one settlement and encounters with the “Faerie Queen” at another matriarchal settlement, is purely entertaining. Delarua is just a great, likable character: she’s a compassionate and intelligent woman who faces some interesting developments over the course of the novel, such as her own empathic capabilities and an ethical dilemma as a biotechnician. I also enjoyed the love story that gradually unfolded for her. It’s not filled with angst and pathos but is a mature relationship that grows from a foundation of friendship and respect.

Despite the novel’s short length, there is a lot to take in with learning about the Sadiri and their culture, Cygnus Beta, the different human groups, psionic abilities and more, and Lord weaves it in without infodumping. Over the course of the book, more is also revealed about the universe and the origins of the four human groups that populate it (the Terrans, the Sadiri, the Ntshune, and the Zhinuvians). The Caretakers are said to have brought various people to Cygnus Beta, and I really hope the sequel builds on this and explores more about the Caretakers and the universe in general.

While I appreciated the fact that there was so much packed into this book, I did think it often passed over things and moved on a little too quickly. There is much to explore here, and it keeps going without stopping for reflection. There is so much here that is interesting that I’d love to know more about. Each taSadiri settlement got very little page time, and I really would have liked to learn more about each than what was shown instead of watching the characters jump from place to place. Yet the way it kept moving did mean that I was never once at any point bored!

The Best of All Possible Worlds is both entertaining and thoughtful. I admired how it showed the complexity of the situation the Sadiri were in, and I loved the character relationships and the slowly developing, relatively drama-free romance. The possibilities for the universe Lord has created are also quite intriguing, and I look forward to learning more about it in The Galaxy Game!

My Rating: 8/10

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

Read the first 50 pages of The Best of All Possible Worlds

Other Reviews: