Must-Have Monday #127

Posted 6th March 2023 by Sia in Must-Have Mondays / 0 Comments

Officially the largest Must-Have Monday so for this year, I have FIFTEEN books for you this week!

(Books are listed in order of pub date, then Adult SFF, Adult Other, YA SFF, YA Other, MG SFF.)

A Blackened Mirror (Memoirs of the Borgia Sibyl #1) by Jo Graham
Published on: 6th March 2023

1489—When Giulia Farnese came to Rome to make an arranged marriage with young noble Orsino Orsini, she dreamed of learning and power in the glittering city of the Renaissance popes. However, her mother-in-law seems frightened, and her husband refuses to consummate the marriage at the direction of the head of his family, Lord Bracciano. But Giulia herself has a secret: she sees visions in mirrors and hears the whispers of spirits, the gifts of an ancient sibyl in an age when magic is heresy punishable by death. Is this ability the reason Bracciano has trapped her in this sham of a marriage?
As she struggles to unearth answers, Giulia finds herself drawn to her mother-in-law's cousin, Cardinal Rodrigo Borgia. Ruthless, sophisticated, and old enough to be Giulia's father, Rodrigo is a humanist, a collector of pagan art and heretical writings, and a loving father to his illegitimate children. He is a bright spot in Giulia's chilly life—but to Bracciano, he's a political rival to be removed. Bracciano's dark rites to summon demons may make Giulia the instrument of Rodrigo's destruction.
Dealing with demons is a mortal sin. Refusing Bracciano would be a fatal mistake. And Giulia’s growing attraction to Rodrigo might be her downfall—or the key to her salvation. To defy the demon's power and seize control of her life, Giulia will need to cross the line between innocence and dangerous knowledge. And once she's descended into that underworld, she is not coming back unchanged.

Anything Candlemark & Gleam publishes goes on my auto-buy list, and Jo Graham has an incredible track record all her own! Put the two together, and I will POUNCE!

In fact, it’s waiting for me on my e-reader right now, and the moment I finish this post I’m going to go start it!!!

The Queen's Price (Black Jewels, #12) by Anne Bishop
Genres: Fantasy, Queer Protagonists
Representation: Brown MCs, sapphic MC
Published on: 7th March 2023

Enter the dark and sensual realms of the Black Jewels in this sweeping story in the New York Times bestselling fantasy saga of three young women who must navigate life within the powerful SaDiablo family--and come to terms with Witch, the Queen who is still the heart and will of that family.

The Queen's price is to stand against what you know is wrong. To stand and fight, no matter the cost to your court or to yourself. Especially to yourself.

Zoey, a young Queen-in-training at SaDiablo Hall, is wounded...and vulnerable to taunts and criticism. When an opportunity arises to befriend a stranger seeking sanctuary at the Hall, she puts herself and others in danger by ignoring Daemonar Yaslana's warning to back off.

Meanwhile, the witch Jillian's family prepares for her Virgin Night, the rite of passage that assures a woman will retain her power and her Jewels. The trouble is Jillian secretly went through the ceremony already. Now she has to explain the omission of that detail to her powerful and lethal family. And the High Lord of Hell's daughter, Saetien, travels to Scelt to find out about Jaenelle Angelline's sister--and perhaps to discover truths about herself.

With some guidance from Witch, these three young women will learn when to yield because it is right--and when to take a stand, even if they must pay the Queen's price.

The Black Jewels books are my slightly-guilty-pleasure series; I could write a thesis on its flaws, but it’s still one of my all-time faves, and Queen’s Price feels like a gift – I was so sure that the previous book, Queen’s Weapons, was the last Black Jewels book we’d ever get! I am DELIGHTED to have been wrong; this is hands-down one of my most anticipated releases of the year!

The Faithless (Magic of the Lost, #2) by C.L. Clark
Genres: Fantasy, High Fantasy, Queer Protagonists
Representation: North African-coded sapphic MC, white sapphic disabled MC
Published on: 7th March 2023

In the second installment of C.L. Clark's Magic of the Lost trilogy, soldier Touraine and princess Luca must return to Balladaire to reclaim Luca's throne and to face the consequences of dismantling an empire.

The rebels have won, and the empire is withdrawing from Qazal. But undoing the tangled web that binds the two nations will not be easy, and Touraine and Luca will face their greatest challenge yet.

Luca needs to oust her uncle from the Balladairan throne once and for all and take her rightful place as Queen. But he won't let go of power so easily. When he calls for a "Trial of Competence" and Luca's allies start disappearing from her side, she will need to find a way to prove her might. And she knows someone who can help...

Touraine has found a home in the newly free country of Qazal. But she soon realizes that leading a country and leading a revolution are two very different tasks. And, even more importantly, if Luca's uncle doesn't ratify the treaty, the Qazali could end up right back where they started. 

Together, the two women will have to come overcome their enemies, their history, and their heartbreak in order to find a way to secure Luca's power and Touraine's freedom. 

This is the sequel to 2021’s The Unbroken, and it is probably not a good idea to read this without having read that first! In fact, I may need to reread Unbroken before I dive into Faithless – I don’t want to miss any details because I’ve forgotten something from the first book!

Dead Country (Craft Wars, #1) by Max Gladstone
Genres: Fantasy
Representation: Black MC
Published on: 7th March 2023

Since her village chased her out with pitchforks, Tara Abernathy has resurrected gods, pulled down monsters, averted wars, and saved a city, twice. She thought she'd left her dusty little hometown forever. But that was before her father died.

As she makes her way home to bury him, she finds a girl, as powerful and vulnerable and lost as she once was. Saving her from the raiders that haunt the area, twisted by a remnant of the God Wars, Tara changes the course of the world.

Max Gladstone's world of the Craft is a fantasy setting like no other. When Craftspeople rose up to kill the gods, they built corporate Concerns from their corpses and ushered in a world of rapacious capital. Those who work the Craft wield laws like knives and weave chains from starlight and soulstuff. Dead Country is the first book in the Craft Wars Trilogy, a tight sequence of novels that will bring the sprawling saga of the Craft to its end, and the perfect entry point for this incomparable world.

The start of the end of the Craft! No big deal! Everything is super chill!

…It is, actually, which is why I DNF-ed it. But lots of other early readers have loved it, and it is very cool to see this world again (if you haven’t read the Craft Sequence already, I strongly recommend it, especially since it’s set before Dead Country), so I encourage you to give it a go if you’re intrigued.

Infinite Constellations: An Anthology of Identity, Culture, and Speculative Conjunctions by Khadijah Queen, Kiini Ibura Salaam, Kenzie Allen, dg nanouk okpik, Lynn C. Pitts, George Abraham, Yohanca Delgado, Juan J. Morales, Wendy Chin-Tanner, Soham Patel, M.L.J. Sarazin, Brian K. Hudson, Ruth Ellen Kocher, Tonya Liburd, Sheree Renée Thomas, Aerik Francis, Melanie Merle, Cindy Juyoung Ok, Lucien Darjeun Meadows, Sarah Sophia Yanni, Jennifer Elise Foerster, Ra'Niqua Lee, Thirii Myo Kyaw Myint, Alton Melvar M. Dapanas, Thea Anderson, Kenji C. Liu, Pedro Íñiguez, Shakirah Peterson, Shreya Ila Anasuya, André O. Hoilette, Shalewa Mackall, Daniel José Older
Genres: Fantasy, Sci Fi
Representation: BIPOC cast
Published on: 7th March 2023

A gathering of innovative, speculative fictions by writers of color, both established and emerging  

The innovative fictions in Infinite Constellations showcase the voices and visions of 30 remarkable writers, both new and established, from the global majority: Native American/First Nation writers, South Asian writers, East Asian writers, Black American writers, Latinx writers, and Caribbean and Middle Eastern writers. These are visions both familiar and strange, but always rooted in the mystery of human relationships, the deep honoring of memory, and the rootedness to place and the centering of culture.

The writers in this anthology mirror, instruct, bind and unbind, myth-make and myth-invert, transform and transmute, make us belly-laugh or hum our understanding, gasp or whisper gently, and remember that sometimes we need to holler and fight as we grieve. Any dangers herein, imagined or observed in poem and story, transport us: moving from latent to extant, then unleashed.

This work does not presume; it presents and blossoms, creating a constellation of appearances, a symphony of belonging.

“In collecting this work,” note editors Khadijah Queen and K. Ibura, “we felt humbled by the love threaded throughout the voices speaking to us in stories and poems that vault beyond expectation and settle in our consciousness as an expansion of what’s possible when we tend to one another with intention. We felt lifted, held aloft in these arrangements of language. We hope that as you read each story and poem, you will find the same sense of empowerment and celebration that we know has sustained us over countless generations, and in their beauty and humor and intelligence and complexity, continue to enrich us still.”

CONTRIBUTORS George Abraham / Kenzie Allen / Shreya lla Anasuya / Thea Anderson / Wendy Chin-Tanner / Alton Melvar M. Depanas / Yohanca Delgado / Jennifer Elise Foerster / Aerik Francis / André O. Hoilette / Brian K. Hudson / K. Ibura / Pedro Iniguez / Ruth Ellen Kocher / Ra’Niqua Lee / Tonya Liburd / Kenji C. Liu / Shalewa Mackall / Lucien Darjeun Meadows / Melanie Merle / Juan J. Morales / Thirii Myo Kyaw Myint / Cindy Juyound Ok / Daniel José Older / Soham Patel / Lynn C. Pitts/ Khadijah Queen / Sheree Renée Thomas /  Sarah Sophia Yanni / dg nanouk okpik / shakirah peterson  

Everything about this sounds SPECTACULAR, and I can’t wait to check it out! I adore SFF takes on culture – what it means now, what it might mean in the future, what it could potentially mean in a fantasy world – so this sounds like everything I could possibly want out of an anthology!

The Mimicking of Known Successes (Mossa & Pleiti, #1) by Malka Ann Older
Genres: Queer Protagonists, Sci Fi
Representation: F/F
Published on: 7th March 2023

The Mimicking of Known Successes presents a cozy Holmesian murder mystery and sapphic romance, set on Jupiter, by Malka Older, author of the critically-acclaimed Centenal Cycle.

On a remote, gas-wreathed outpost of a human colony on Jupiter, a man goes missing. The enigmatic Investigator Mossa follows his trail to Valdegeld, home to the colony’s erudite university—and Mossa’s former girlfriend, a scholar of Earth’s pre-collapse ecosystems.

Pleiti has dedicated her research and her career to aiding the larger effort towards a possible return to Earth. When Mossa unexpectedly arrives and requests Pleiti’s assistance in her latest investigation, the two of them embark on a twisting path in which the future of life on Earth is at stake—and, perhaps, their futures, together.

The impression I’ve gotten is that this is a fairly chill/cosy sapphic mystery? In a sci-fi setting? Definitely something I can get on board with!

Gorgons Deserve Nice Things by Tansy Rayner Roberts
Genres: Fantasy
Published on: 7th March 2023

“We lived in a world that did not allow women to breathe; how could we be anything but monsters?”

Tansy Rayner Roberts retells the stories of seven women from Greek mythology, giving voice to the scorned, the sidelined, and the monstrous.

A young gorgon finds acceptance at the Medusa Club. Atalanta spills the truth behind the myth of the Argonauts. Scylla suffers through a series of terrible college roommates. Handmaids in Sparta get more than they bargained for when they interfere in their queen’s correspondence with a Trojan prince. A comparative mythology graduate finds herself at a speed-dating night packed with dodgy gods. Behind a velvet rope, a queenly Minotaur presides over a roller disco. Persephone shares her story via a series of pomegranate recipes.

Deliciously mythic and delightfully funny, Gorgons Deserve Nice Things delivers new takes on ancient stories, reinvigorating them with modern perspectives and settings. Showcasing the craft and insight that made her one of Australia’s most beloved short fiction writers, this collection sees Roberts at her wry, subversive best.

It is a gods’ damn CRIME that Roberts’ Creature Court trilogy is not better known (I s2g, someday I’ll write proper reviews for each book…!) but hey, if you’ve not read her work before Gorgons Deserve Nice Things sounds like a great place to start! Roberts has an incredible imagination and a wicked sense of humour, so I can’t wait to see what she’s done with the Greek myths!

The Meister of Decimen City by Brenna Raney
Genres: Sci Fi, Queer Protagonists
Representation: Ace MC
Published on: 7th March 2023

No one cares that you cured cancer if you also cloned a horde of dinosaurs and let them rampage down the street.

Supergenius and quasi-villain Rex normally can’t go a week without accidentally endangering Decimen City with her science shenanigans. It’s been two weeks since her genetically engineered dinosaurs rampaged through town—a good streak for her—but the peace is broken when actual villain Last Dance sets his sights on Decimen. And he wants Rex’s help. Before Rex can say “I didn’t do it,” superheroes who’ve dragged her to jail on her worst days are crowding her lab to conscript her into quasi-herodom.

Rex would rather stay out of it and deal with the dinosaurs that keep calling her Mom, but she can’t ignore that she was somewhat responsible for Last Dance’s villainy. She’d kept a very disorganized lab. And he was such a nosy brother. She failed to help him back then, but maybe if she stops him now—and keeps the heroes fooled—she can finally set things right.

I love stories about supervillains (or accidental-supervillains, in this case!) and the early reviews make it clear that this is a proper makes-you-laugh-out-loud story! ALSO, I have been informed that Rex’s dinosaurs have feathers. This is very important to me!

The Curator by Owen King
Genres: Speculative Fiction
Published on: 7th March 2023

From New York Times bestselling author Owen King comes a Dickensian fantasy of illusion and charm where cats are revered as religious figures, thieves are noble, scholars are revolutionaries, and conjurers are the most wonderful criminals you can imagine.

It begins in an unnamed city nicknamed “the Fairest”, it is distinguished by many things from the river fair to the mountains that split the municipality in half; its theaters and many museums; the Morgue Ship; and, like all cities, but maybe especially so, by its essential unmappability.

Dora, a former domestic servant at the university has a secret desire—to find where her brother went after he died, believing that the answer lies within The Museum of Psykical Research, where he worked when Dora was a child. With the city amidst a revolutionary upheaval, where citizens like Robert Barnes, her lover and a student radical, are now in positions of authority, Dora contrives to gain the curatorship of the half-forgotten museum only to find it all but burnt to the ground, with the neighboring museums oddly untouched. Robert offers her one of these, The National Museum of the Worker. However, neither this museum, nor the street it is hidden away on, nor Dora herself, are what they at first appear to be. Set against the backdrop of a nation on the verge of collapse, Dora’s search for the truth behind the mystery she’s long concealed will unravel a monstrous conspiracy and bring her to the edge of worlds.

Praise for The Curator
“Sprawling, densely populated, intricately plotted... with vivid prose, excellent minor characters, and a scrappy, every-which-way inventiveness. Dickens novel meets Hieronymus Bosch painting—dark, chaotic fun.” —Kirkus, *starred review*

“A fantastical panorama of twists and turns… King’s latest is a masterpiece of storytelling.”—Library Journal

"The Curator feels a little like Owen King somehow brought a curiosity cabinet to life. There are terrors here, but also marvels and delights, and a set of the most interesting characters I’ve met in some time. Put The Curator on the same shelf as other classics of the uncanny and uncategorizable, like Susanna Clarke’s Piranesi and Mervyn Peake’s Gormenghast. I loved it."—Kelly Link, bestselling author of the Pulitzer Prize finalist Get in Trouble

"Half fairy tale and half historical account of a revolution that never was, Owen King’s The Curator is full of sly humor, sensuality, and strangeness."—Holly Black, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Book of Night

“Owen King's The Curator is a rich read. Language, characters, and a fascinating world combine to create an intensely satisfying experience.”—Charlaine Harris, #1 New York Times bestselling author of An Easy Death, and the Sookie Stackhouse series

I have no idea what to make of that description, but as a sucker for worldbuilding I honestly just want to see what a world that worships cats looks like!

Exit Ghost by Jennifer R. Donohue
Genres: Fantasy
Published on: 7th March 2023

After her father is murdered and an attempt is made on her life, New Jersey heiress and witch Juliet Duncan is supposed to be concentrating on getting better and moving forward. Instead, Jules summons her father's ghost using her blood and tears and his old rotary phone to answer the question: who did it? He reveals it was Hector, her dad's best friend and her mom's new fiancé.

Certain her life is still in danger, Jules flees the family estate to the Asbury Park apartment she shares with her best friend and fellow witch, Ashes. When another friend joins them, all three women get caught up with a secret boyfriend who's also big into magic, but in all the wrong ways, all while Jules wrestles with whether her father's ghost was telling the truth. But what Jules does know is that power has its cost, and she is more than willing to pay the price in order to get her revenge.

So this was pitched to me as ‘witchy gender-bent Hamlet’, which already sounds awesome, and the reviews have been STELLAR – it especially caught my attention that so many early readers praised Donohue’s take on magic and witchcraft! That is, as they say, Kinda My Thing. I’m doing grabby-hands!!!

The Fifth Wound by Aurora Mattia
Genres: Fantasy, Queer Protagonists
Representation: Trans MC
Published on: 7th March 2023

A baroque work of intimate myth exploring one woman's interdimensional search for beauty and embodiment, through kaleidoscopic renderings of hospital corridors, brutal breakups, and passionate romance.

The Fifth Wound is a phantasmagorical roman à clef about passion as a way of life. In one dimension, this is a love story--Aurora & Ezekiel--a separation and a reunion. In another, we witness a tale of multiple traumatic encounters with transphobic violence. And on yet another plane, a story of ecstatic visionary experience swirls, shatters, and sparkles. Featuring time travel, medieval nuns, knifings, and t4t romance, The Fifth Wound indulges the blur between fantasy and reality. Its winding sentences open like portals, inviting the reader into the intimacy of embodiment--both its pain and its pleasures.

Do I understand exactly what this book is? No, but even so it sounds amazing and I still want to read it.

The Secret Lives of Country Gentlemen (The Doomsday Books, #1) by K.J. Charles
Genres: Queer Protagonists
Representation: Achilleam MC, biracial achillean MC
Published on: 7th March 2023

Bridgerton meets Poldark in this sweeping LGBTQIA+ Regency romance from award-winning author KJ Charles

Abandoned by his father as a small child, Sir Gareth Inglis has grown up prickly, cold, and well-used to disappointment. Even so, he longs for a connection, falling headfirst into a passionate anonymous affair that's over almost as quickly as it began. Bitter at the sudden rejection, Gareth has little time to lick his wounds: his father has died, leaving him the family title, a rambling manor on the remote Romney Marsh...and the den of cutthroats and thieves that make its intricate waterways their home.

Joss Doomsday has run the Doomsday smuggling clan since he was a boy. His family is his life...which is why when the all-too-familiar new baronet testifies against Joss's sister for a hanging offense, Joss acts fast, blackmailing Gareth with the secret of their relationship to force him to recant. Their reunion is anything but happy and the path forward everything but smooth, yet after the dust settles, neither can stay away. It's a long road from there—full of danger and mysteries to be solved—yet somehow, along the way, this well-mannered gentleman may at last find true love with the least likely of scoundrels.

Is anyone in the queer fiction community not looking forward to this book??? Only if they haven’t heard of it, perhaps. And that’s what Must-Have Mondays are for!

For real, it’s KJ Charles with a feel-good queer regency romance. I mean. WHAT PART OF THAT DOESN’T SOUND WONDERFUL??? No part, that’s what. TAKE MY MONEY ALREADY.

Confidence by Rafael Frumkin
Genres: Queer Protagonists
Representation: Gay MCs
Published on: 7th March 2023

Two lifelong friends, occasional lovers, and constant conmen find themselves on top of the world after founding a company that promises instant enlightenment to its users in this thrilling, brainy caper about scams, schemes, and the absurdity of the American Dream.

At seventeen, Ezra Green doesn’t have a lot going for him. He is shorter than average, gap-toothed, internet-addicted, and halfway to being legally blind. He’s also on his way to Last Chance Camp, the final stop before juvie.

Ezra's summer at Last Chance turns life-changing when he meets Orson, brilliant and Adonis-like, with a mind for hustling. Together, the two embark upon what promises to be a fruitful career of scam artistry. But when they try to pull off their biggest scam yet--NuLife, a corporation that promises its consumers a lifetime of bliss--things start to spin wildly out of control. Searing and charming, Confidence is a story for anyone who knows that the American Dream is just another pyramid scheme.

Speaking of take my money… This sounds nothing like my usual reads, but it also sounds like it could be very funny and fun? And I’ve heard only good things, which, you know, generally a good sign!

Tina, Mafia Soldier by Maria Rosa Cutrufelli, Robin Pickering-Iazzi
Representation: Genderqueer MC
Published on: 14th February 2023

A classic of Italian feminist mafia literature about a dangerous, enigmatic young gangster pushing the boundaries of gender and propriety, in English for the first time

In the 1980s, a teenage girl terrorizes the Sicilian town of Gela. Tina's father was in Cosa Nostra and was brutally shot dead in front of her when she was just eight; after that, she made it her mission in life to join the mafia, although women are traditionally not allowed in. Nicknamed 'a masculidda, or "the tomboy," Tina is notorious through Gela for her recklessness, cruelty, and complete disregard for societal expectations.

When a news article is published about Tina's latest crimes, an unnamed teacher living in Rome feels compelled to write a novel about her--even though it means returning to her home island of Sicily to gather material. She and Tina circle around each other in a hypnotic, dangerous dance of obsession and violence until their first, and last, explosive meeting.

In this ruminative, literary exploration of what it means to live in the mafia's dark shadow, the narrator's observations and interactions are counterposed against recollections of Tina's life as she grows up from a child into a soldier of the mafia, shedding gender constraints along the way.

Based closely on Maria Rosa Cutrufelli's experiences as a Sicilian and on the true case of a teenage girl who became a mafia soldier, Song to the Desert is a powerful work of autofiction whose original Italian publication was a watershed moment for Italian crime fiction, as it shed a light on a corner of mafia literature that had previously gone unexplored: the role of women in the mafia, and the impact that the mafia has on women and girls.

Tina, Mafia Soldier is…quite possibly not-my-thing-at-all, but I’m kinda intrigued and want to give it a try anyway. Historical examples of what we’d now call genderqueerness or nonbinary(-ness?) are fascinating to me, even if crime family stories aren’t. So I guess we’ll see how it goes!

The Golden Spoon by Jessa Maxwell
Published on: 7th March 2023

A killer is on the loose when someone turns up dead on the set of a hit TV baking competition in this darkly beguiling debut mystery that is perfect for fans of Lucy Foley, Nita Prose, and Anthony Horowitz. Soon to be a limited series on Hulu.

Production for the tenth season of Bake Week is ready to begin at the gothic estate of host and celebrity chef Betsy Martin, and everything seems perfect. The tent is up, the top-tier ingredients are aligned, and the crew has their cameras at the ready.

The six contestants work to prove their culinary talents over the course of five days, while Betsy is less than thrilled to share the spotlight with a new cohost—the brash and unpredictable Archie Morris. But as the baking competition commences, things begin to go awry. At first, it’s merely sabotage—sugar replaced with salt, a burner turned to high—but when a body is discovered, everyone is a suspect.

A deliciously suspenseful thriller for murder mystery buffs and avid bakers alike, The Golden Spoon will keep you guessing until the very last page.

Somewhere along the way I got a taste for foodie novels – pun fully intended – and this one sounds like fun! Take note, everyone: how to make Sia care about a murder-mystery? Answer: make it baking-related!

Will you be reading any of these? Let me know!


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