Must-Have Monday #128

Posted 13th March 2023 by Sia in Must-Have Mondays / 0 Comments

ELEVEN books I’m grabby-hands for this week!

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

Moths by Jane Hennigan
Genres: Queer Protagonists, Sci Fi
Representation: Sapphic MC/PoV character
Published on: 14th March 2023

Where were you at the beginning?
Or at the end?
And where are we all now?

Forty years ago, the world changed. Toxic threads left behind by mutated moths infected men and boys around the globe. Some were killed quietly in their sleep, others became crazed killers, wildly dangerous and beyond help. All seemed hopeless.

But humanity adapted, healed and moved on. Now matriarchs rule, and men are kept in specially treated dust-free facilities for their safety and the good of society, never able to return to the outside.

Mary has settled into this new world and takes care of the male residents at her facility. But she still remembers how things used to be and is constantly haunted by her memories. Of her family, of her joy, of… him.

Now the world is quiet again, but only because secrets are kept safe in whispers. And the biggest secret of all? No one wants to live inside a cage…

Exploring male violence against women, homo-normativity, and gynocracy, Moths is a powerful assessment of life through the lens of a main character in her 70s. A remastered and revitalised version of the previously self-published, smash-hit dystopian thriller by the same name, Moths shows us a new, post-pandemic world.

Originally self-published, this week is its trad-pub release from Angry Robot! Moths might not have made it onto my radar – I gave up on genderpocalypse books a while ago, Manhunt being an amazing exception (which I picked up specifically because it set out to counter the common problems of genderpocalypse stories) – but Jesse, one of my favorite Booktubers, adored it, and I was so sold!

New Suns 2: Original Speculative Fiction by People of Color by Nisi Shawl, K. Tempest Bradford, Darcie Little Badger, Geetanjali Vandemark, John Chu, Nghi Vo, Tananarive Due, Alex Jennings, Karin Lowachee, Saad Z. Hossain, Hiromi Goto, Minsoo Kang, Tlotlo Tsamaase, Rochita Loenen-Ruiz, Malka Ann Older, Kathleen Alcalá, Christopher Caldwell, Jaymee Goh, Walter Mosley, Grace Dillon, Daniel H. Wilson
Genres: Fantasy, Sci Fi, Speculative Fiction
Representation: BIPOC cast
Published on: 14th March 2023

The stunning follow-up to the multiple-award-winning anthology of SFF by people of colour

Octavia E. Butler said, “There’s nothing new under the sun, but there are new suns.”

New Suns 2 brings you fresh visions of the strange, the unexpected, the shocking—breakthrough stories, stories shining with emerging truths, stories that pierce stale preconceptions with their beauty and bravery. Like the first New Suns anthology (winner of the World Fantasy, Locus, IGNYTE, and British Fantasy awards), this book liberates writers of many races to tell us tales no one has ever told.

Many things come in twos: dualities, binaries, halves, and alternates. Twos are found throughout New Suns 2, in eighteen science fiction, fantasy, and horror stories revealing daring futures, hidden pasts, and present-day worlds filled with unmapped wonders.

Including stories by Daniel H. Wilson, K. Tempest Bradford, Darcie Little Badger, Geetanjali Vandemark, John Chu, Nghi Vo, Tananarive Due, Alex Jennings, Karin Lowachee, Saad Hossain, Hiromi Goto, Minsoo Kang, Tlotlo Tsamaase, Rochita Loenen-Ruiz, Malka Older, Kathleen Alcalá, Christopher Caldwell and Jaymee Goh with a foreword by Walter Mosley and an afterword by Dr. Grace Dillon.

Like New Suns, New Suns 2 looks absolutely fantastic – I mean, check out that author line-up!!! I don’t go for short story collections often, but this definitely qualifies as a Must-Have!

Feed Them Silence by Lee Mandelo
Genres: Queer Protagonists, Sci Fi
Representation: Sapphic MC, brown sapphic spouse, secondary nonbinary character
Published on: 14th March 2023

Feed Them Silence begs the question: what does it mean to “be-in-kind” with nonhuman animals? Dr. Sean Kell-Luden uses a neurological interface to translate a subject-wolf’s perception for human consumption, but as her relationship with the subject becomes complicated, she puts her research and her marriage at risk.

When Dr. Sean Kell-Ludon’s grant is accepted, she begins her research of cooperative behaviors in one of Minnesota’s last remaining wolf packs, but she is wholly unprepared for the emotional turmoil that comes with inhabiting and translating a wolf’s consciousness. The longer she observes the subject-wolf and her pack, the more Sean drifts away from her wife. As the harsh winter months threaten the pack’s survival and Sean’s marriage spirals down the drain, Sean will have to face the consequences of her negligence or let the world of wolves and the world she’s known both slip through her fingers.

Mandelo is/was an amazing reviewer and article writer who I followed for years before their debut novel – which knocked it out of the park. Feed Them Silence is very different from that debut, but Mandelo’s sharp, bright prose and incisive storytelling is still on full display here.

My full review!

Bitter Medicine by Mia Tsai
Genres: Fantasy, Contemporary or Urban Fantasy, Queer Protagonists
Representation: Chinese MC, bisexual MC
Published on: 14th March 2023

In this xianxia-inspired contemporary fantasy, a Chinese immortal and a French elf navigate romance, family loyalty, and workplace demands. In her debut novel, Mia Tsai has created a paranormal adventure that is full of humor, passion, and depth.

As a descendant of the Chinese god of medicine, ignored middle child Elle was destined to be a doctor. Instead, she is underemployed as a mediocre magical calligrapher at the fairy temp agency, paranoid that her murderous younger brother will find her and their elder brother.

Using her full abilities will expose Elle’s location. Nevertheless, she challenges herself by covertly outfitting Luc, her client and crush, with high-powered glyphs.

Half-elf Luc, the agency’s top security expert, has his own secret: he’s responsible for a curse laid on two children from an old assignment. To heal them, he’ll need to perform his job duties with unrelenting excellence and earn time off from his tyrannical boss.
When Elle saves Luc’s life on a mission, he brings her a gift and a request for stronger magic to ensure success on the next job—except the next job is hunting down Elle’s younger brother.

As Luc and Elle collaborate, their chemistry blooms. Happiness, for once, is an option for them both. But Elle is loyal to her family, and Luc is bound by his true name. To win freedom from duty, they must make unexpected sacrifices.

There’s been a lot of hype – and a lot of love! – for Bitter Medicine from early readers, and if you want to dip your toes in before comitting to buying it, you can read an excerpt over on Civilian Reader!

Proud Pink Sky by Redfern Jon Barrett
Genres: Queer Protagonists, Speculative Fiction
Representation: M/M, nonbinary and trans rep, minor polyamory, background gay and lesbian
Published on: 14th March 2023

Berlin: a megacity of 24 million people, is the world’s first gay state. Its distant radio broadcasts are a lifeline for teenager William, so when his love affair with Gareth is discovered the two flee toward sanctuary. But is there a place for them in a city divided into districts for young twinks, trendy bears, and rich alpha gays?

Meanwhile, young mother Cissie loves Berlin’s towering highrises and chaotic multiculturalism, yet she’s never left her heterosexual district – not until she and her family are trapped in a queer riot. With her husband Howard plunging into religious paranoia, she discovers a walled-off slum of perpetual twilight, home to the city’s forbidden trans residents.

As William and Cissie dive deeper into a bustling world of pride parades, polyamorous trysts, and even an official gay language, they discover that all is not well in the gay state – each playing their part in a looming civil war...

I loved the worldbuilding in this, although overall the book didn’t work for me. But maybe it will for you!

Solomon's Crown by Natasha Siegel
Genres: Queer Protagonists
Representation: M/M
Published on: 14th March 2023

Two destined rivals fall desperately in love—but the fate of medieval Europe hangs in the balance.

“A pair of thrones between us, and my heart clutched like a rosary within his hands ...”

Twelfth-century Europe. Newly-crowned King Philip of France is determined to restore his nation to its former empire and bring glory to his name. But when his greatest enemy, King Henry of England, threatens to end his reign before it can even begin, Philip is forced to make a precarious alliance with Henry’s volatile son—risking both his throne, and his heart.

Richard, Duke of Aquitaine, never thought he would be King. But when an unexpected tragedy makes him heir to England, he finally has an opportunity to overthrow the father he despises. At first, Philip is a useful tool in his quest for vengeance... until passion and politics collide, and Richard begins to question whether the crown is worth the cost.

When Philip and Richard find themselves staring down an impending war, they must choose between their desire for one another and their grand ambitions. Will their love prevail, if it calls to them from across the battlefield? Teeming with royal intrigue and betrayal, this epic romance reimagines two real-life kings ensnared by an impossible choice: Follow their hearts, or earn their place in history.

Siegel’s debut made it onto my most-anticipated of 2023 list, and I am SO VERY EXCITED that it’s nearly here!!!

Ravensong by Cayla Fay
Genres: Fantasy, Contemporary or Urban Fantasy, Queer Protagonists
Representation: F/F
Published on: 14th March 2023

A demi-god who refuses to cohabitate with humans accidentally falls in love with one in the first book of a pulse-pounding teen duology that’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer meets Celtic mythology.

Neve has spent lifetimes defending the mortal world against the legions of hell with her two sisters.

Unfortunately for Neve, in this lifetime, she is the only one of the Morrigan—a triad of Irish war gods—still stuck in high school and still without her full power. She’s been counting down the days until her eighteenth birthday, when she finally gets to shed the pretenses of humanity and grow into her divine power.

But then she meets Alexandria. And Alexandria is as determined to force Neve into some semblance of teenage normalcy as she is haunted by her own demons—both figurative and literal.

As they grow closer, Neve decides that humanity—and, perhaps, love—isn’t so detestable after all. Which makes it all the more dangerous when she realizes that something in Hell wants Alexandria, and it’s be up to Neve and her sisters to save her before Alexandria’s past catches up to all of them.

The fact that Ravensong is the monthly book for Rainbow Crate speaks very highly of it indeed – and I’m always happy to see authors writing about Irish mythology!

Flowerheart by Catherine Bakewell
Genres: Fantasy
Published on: 14th March 2023

Perfect for fans of Margaret Rogerson and Tamora Pierce, this standalone YA debut is a stunning cottagecore fantasy romance about a girl with powerful and violent magic, which she must learn to control—or lose everything she loves.

Clara’s magic has always been wild. But it’s never been dangerous. Then a simple touch causes poisonous flowers to bloom in her father’s chest.

The only way to heal him is to cast an extremely difficult spell that requires perfect control. And the only person willing to help is her former best friend, Xavier, who’s grown from a sweet, shy child into a mysterious and distant young man.

Xavier names a terrible price in return, knowing Clara will give anything to save her father. As she struggles to reconcile the new Xavier with the boy she once loved, she discovers their bargain is only one of the heavy secrets he’s hiding. And as she hunts for the truth, she instead finds the root of a terrible darkness that’s taken hold in the queendom—a darkness only Clara’s magic is powerful enough to stop.

I haven’t heard ‘cottagecore’ used to describe a book before, and I think fantasy + cottagecore is an excellent combination!

Now The Wind Scatters by J. Donai
Genres: Fantasy, Queer Protagonists
Representation: Sapphic MC
Published on: 15th March 2023

Iphigenia seems to have it all.

As the eldest daughter of the House of Atreus and princess of Mycenae, Iphigenia has had an idyllic childhood despite her family’s bloodstained history. She is the darling of the people of her city, and at her side are her endearingly annoying sister Electra and adorable baby brother Orestes. As she comes of age, however, that fragile peace is threatened by strange, burgeoning feelings for her handmaiden. Amidst this crisis of identity, another looms as an ancient goddess only Iphigenia can see simmers beneath the surface of reality. All of this falls to the back burner when war with the Trojans looms high on the horizon, and Iphigenia’s father summons her with a proposal of marriage she would go to the ends of the earth to avoid.

In a desperate attempt to circumnavigate her fate, Iphigenia discovers a dark truth: the altar her father intends for her is sacrificial rather than matrimonial. It is only by an act of divine intervention that she survives, and it is by divine retribution that she will have her revenge.

It is from the desecrated shores of Aulis that Iphigenia will embark on a journey that will take her from the furthest reaches of the ancient Mediterranean to the underworld itself. Amidst romances with goddesses and her own terrifying deification, Iphigenia plots. Despite the pleas of everyone around her, she vows that blood will soon stain the marble halls of the House of Atreus once again.

Vengeance is sweet, but as Iphigenia soon discovers, it comes at a price that could cost her everything.

If you want to talk about ancient Greek retellings, Iphigenia has to be one of the figures who most deserves one! So it’s a good thing Donai has, apparently, rewritten her story extensively. I’m really excited for this very different take on Iphigenia!

The Shattered Lands by Brenna Nation
Genres: Fantasy, Queer Protagonists
Representation: Brown sapphic MC, sapphic love interest, F/F
Published on: 16th March 2023

'A bewitching fantasy packed with heart shattering twists, Brenna Nation has woven a devastating tale about the things we do for love.' - Rosie Talbot, author of Sixteen Souls

18 years after her disappearance, the princess has returned. But what is left of her kingdom?

Sapphire finds herself in Eriobis with a crown, a castle and too many handmaidens to count. And so her life begins as the heir to the throne of a country she doesn't understand - a country ruled by magic and secrets.

That's before she meets Ashes. A dark witch with the power to destroy Sapphire's life and kingdom. But Ashes also happens to be the only person that can help her discover the truth.

And the answers might unravel the very world she's come to know.

Perfect for fans of The Dark Tide and Six Of Crows, discover the secrets of Eriobis in this magical Sapphic story.

I have been told this features ‘if they touch you they die’ energy, and I am so very here for that – especially when it’s queer!

Sleep Alone by J.A.W. McCarthy
Genres: Fantasy, Contemporary or Urban Fantasy, Queer Protagonists
Representation: Sapphic MC
Published on: 18th March 2023

For the past six years, Ronnie has worked selling merch for a perpetually touring band. Late nights, sweaty clubs, dingy motel rooms, endless roads—as rough as it’s been, there is no other way of life for this band of hungry succubi leaving bodies in their wake.

Until she meets the enigmatic Helene.

Helene is just as restless, just as lonely, and just as full of secrets. With Helene in tow, Ronnie and the band make their way across the Pacific Northwest, trying to outrun not only their mistakes, but the mysterious disease stalking the band, a disease that devours succubi from the inside out.

The hunger is as endless as the road, but maybe Ronnie doesn’t always want to sleep alone.

Queer succubi roadies working for a queer succubi rock band? Yes PLEASE!

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


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