Must-Have Monday #137

Posted 15th May 2023 by Sia in Must-Have Mondays / 0 Comments

Must-Have Monday is a feature highlighting which of the coming week’s new releases I’m excited for. It is not meant to be a comprehensive list of all books being published that week; only those I’m interested in out of those I’m aware of! The focus is diverse SFF, but other genres sneak in occasionally too.

We have NINE marvellous books to feature this week!

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

No Foreign Sky by Rachel Neumeier
Genres: Sci Fi
Representation: Brown humans
Published on: 15th May 2023

Generations ago, a single turun explorer discovered a long-abandoned and dwindling population of humans, a devastated colony nearing extinction on a dangerous, hostile world.

Now entirely blended into turun society, uman people have become full citizens of the far-flung Ka' Taand, a civilization that depends on the social instincts of both uman and turun. But the Ka' Taand is now threatened by a vicious enemy from beyond familiar space, an enemy neither species understands.

When small half-fighter tradeship Nkaastu unexpectedly encounters a formation of enemy fighters during a routine trading mission, uman battlecommander Daamon sees no choice but to tackle suicidal odds in the hope of giving the worlds of the Ka' Taand time to prepare for renewed attack. Neither Daamon nor his turun captain expect to survive long enough to know whether the sacrifice of their ship has been in vain ...

... until an unknown and much more powerful ship appears, slashing effortlessly through the enemy fighters and saving Nkaastu . But who are these newcomers? And will they prove the allies the Ka' Taand needs ... or a new and deadlier enemy?

Perfect for fans of CJ Cherryh and Becky Chambers, a new space opera adventure of first contact ... or possibly second contact ... or perhaps both ...

Neumeier always manages to wow me with unusual and interesting worldbuilding, and I think this might be her first scifi? (Although not her first, it looks like she has another scifi series coming later this year!) So I’m intrigued and excited to see what she does with a new genre!

The Scandalous Letters of V and J by Felicia Davin
Genres: Fantasy, Historical Fantasy, Queer Protagonists
Representation: Nonbinary MCs
Published on: 16th May 2023

Paris, 1823. Victor Beauchêne has led a stifling existence, unrecognized for both his cleverness and his gender, except in the pages of his meticulous diary. Abruptly cut off from his family’s fortune, he takes the opportunity to start a new life in a shabby boarding house with his beloved spinster aunt Sophie. There, he stumbles upon two kinds of magic: a pen with eerie powers of persuasion and a reserved, alluring art student named Julien.

Brilliant, unconventional Julien is also Julie, a person whose magical paintings can transform their body or enchant viewers. Haunted by a terrible episode in their past, they’ve come to Paris for artistic success—the ordinary, non-magical kind. Victor, too handsome and far too inquisitive, is a dangerous distraction from their ambitions.

Drawn to each other, Victor and Julie strike up a cautious correspondence of notes slid under doors. It soon unfolds into a passionate romance. Outside the bedroom, their desires clash: Julie wants to distance herself from the world of magic and Victor wants to delve deeper. When the ruthless abuser from Julie’s past resurfaces, he aims to take control of her powers and ruin more lives. Victor and Julie are the only ones who can stop him. Do they trust each other enough to survive the threat to their love and their lives?

The Scandalous Letters of V and J is a historical fantasy romance with two nonbinary main characters, told primarily in letters and diary entries. It is approximately 100,000 words long and sexually explicit.

Davin did a whole Daily Dracula thing with this book, releasing one letter/journal entry/etc from the book each day through their newsletter! I knew I would not survive reading just a little bit every day – I would go RABID if I couldn’t inhale the whole thing at once! – but it was torture resisting it nonetheless! I am genuinely staying up tonight until the ebook appears on my account!!!

Last Canto of the Dead (Outlaw Saints #2) by Daniel José Older
Genres: Fantasy, Contemporary or Urban Fantasy
Representation: Brown diasporic cast
Published on: 16th May 2023

Two gods-turned-teenagers wage simultaneous battles in the Caribbean and Brooklyn in this sequel to Ballad & Dagger.

Healer. Destroyer. Creator. Mateo Matisse and Chela Hidalgo are not just two teenagers in love--they're powerful gods in human form. Powerful enough to have saved their Brooklyn diaspora community from the wrath of an ancient enemy and to have raised their once-sunken native island of San Madrigal from the sea.

But soon they discover that their problems are far from over. On the shores of San Madrigal, two creature armies are battling for survival. And on the streets of Brooklyn, a once tight-knit community is divided, with two sides at each other's throats. But worst of all, a heartbreaking prophecy rips these two young lovers apart, sending Mateo back to the city, where cops are now patrolling the streets, and keeping Chela tethered to the island, where chaos and death lurk around every corner.

Healer. Destroyer. Creator. As gods, their powers know no limits. But as teenagers--separated, desperate, grieving--what will become of them? And what will become of their people?

Join their battle and witness their love in this thrilling conclusion to the epic saga that began with BALLAD & DAGGER.

The sequel to last year’s Ballad & Dagger, I have carefully avoided reading the blurb for fear of spoilers for this, but I’m very excited for it!

Venom & Vow by Anna-Marie McLemore, Elliott McLemore
Genres: Fantasy, Queer Protagonists
Representation: Latine cast & setting, genderfluid MC, trans MC
Published on: 16th May 2023

Keep your enemy closer.

Cade McKenna is a transgender prince who’s doubling for his brother.Valencia Palafox is a young dama attending the future queen of Eliana.Gael Palma is the infamous boy assassin Cade has vowed to protect.Patrick McKenna is the reluctant heir to a kingdom, and the prince Gael has vowed to destroy.

Cade doesn’t know that Gael and Valencia are the same person.Valencia doesn’t know that every time she thinks she’s fighting Patrick, she’s fighting Cade.And when Cade and Valencia blame each other for a devastating enchantment that takes both their families, neither of them realizes that they have far more dangerous enemies.

Cowritten by married writing team Anna-Marie and Elliott McLemore, this is a lush and powerful YA novel about owning your power and becoming who you really are - no matter the cost.

The settings in this one had me completely enchanted, and I feel like it would be a lovely before-bed book – despite the stakes, it felt very soft to me, and dreamy. Take that as you will!

Painted Devils (Little Thieves, #2) by Margaret Owen
Genres: Fantasy, Queer Protagonists
Representation: Demisexual MC & romantic partner, various queer secondary characters
Published on: 16th May 2023

A scrappy former maid and jewel thief must outwit gods, injustice, and her own past in this sequel to the Indie Next Pick, Little Thieves by Margaret Owen.

Let's get one thing straight - Vanja Schmidt wasn't trying to start a cult.

After taking down a corrupt margrave, breaking a deadly curse, and finding romance with the vexingly scrupulous junior prefect Emeric Conrad, Vanja had one great mystery left: her long-lost birth family . . . and whether they would welcome a thief. But in her search for an honest trade, she hit trouble and invented a god, the Scarlet Maiden, to scam her way out. Now that lie is growing out of control—especially when Emeric arrives to investigate and the Scarlet Maiden manifests to claim him as a virgin sacrifice.

For his final test to become a prefect, Emeric must determine if Vanja is guilty of serious fraud or if the Scarlet Maiden—and her claim to him—is genuine. Meanwhile, Vanja is chasing an alternative sacrifice thatcould be their way out. The hunt leads her not only into the lairs of monsters and the paths of gods, but also the ties of her past. And with what should be the simplest way to save Emeric hanging over their heads,he and Vanja must face a more dangerous question: Is there a future for a thief and a prefect, and at what price?

From the indie bestselling author Margaret Owen comes the thrilling next installment in the Little Thieves trilogy with all new interior illustrations from the author.

I had no idea Little Thieves was the start of a trilogy, but I am EXTREMELY HAPPY ABOUT IT! Owen established herself on my auto-buy list with her debut duology The Merciful Crow, and I had a ton of fun with Little Thieves, the previous book in this series! Gah. I’m just so delighted we’re getting more shenanigans with Vanja!

Court of the Undying Seasons by A.M. Strickland
Genres: Fantasy, Queer Protagonists
Representation: Pansexual demigirl MC, pansexual love interest, lesbian, bigender, aro-spectrum rep
Published on: 16th May 2023

Sarah J. Maas meets A Deadly Education in A.M. Strickland's lush, queer YA dark fantasy novel.

In becoming a vampire, I’m less than a girl. And more.
Or maybe I’m becoming what I always have been, deep inside.
A blade.

When nineteen-year-old Fin volunteers to take her secret love's place in their village's Finding, she is terrified. Those who are chosen at the Finding are whisked away to Castle Courtsheart, a vampire school where human students either succeed and become vampires, fail and spend the rest of their lives as human thralls...or they don't survive long enough to become either.

Fin is determined to forge a different path: learn how to kill the undead and get revenge for her mother, who was taken by the vampires years ago. But Courtsheart is as captivating as it is deadly, and Fin is quickly swept up in her new world and its inhabitants - particularly Gavron, her handsome and hostile vampire maker, whose blood is nothing short of intoxicating. As Fin begins to discover new aspects of her own identity and test her newfound powers, she stumbles across a string of murders that may be connected to a larger ritual - one with potentially lethal consequences for vampires and humans alike. Fin must uncover the truth and find the killer before she loses her life...or betrays her own heart.

Court of the Undying Seasons is a deliciously dark romantic novel and a pitch perfect modern take on classic vampire tropes.

Okay, sure – generally speaking, I don’t care about vampire school stories. But it’s Strickland!!! Which means it will be queer and weird and also genuinely dark, which is kinda my thing!!! A little!!!

So obviously I’ll be pouncing on this, is what I’m saying here.

Transmogrify!: 14 Fantastical Tales of Trans Magic by g. haron davis
Genres: Fantasy, Queer Protagonists
Representation: Trans and nonbinary MCs
Published on: 16th May 2023

Perfect for fans of All Out and Cemetery Boys, this anthology claims a seat at the table of fantasy literature for trans and gender nonconforming stories.

Transness is as varied and colorful as magic can be. In Transmogrify!, you’ll embark on fourteen different adventures alongside unforgettable characters who embody many different genders and expressions and experiences—because magic is for everyone, and that is cause for celebration.

Featuring stories from:
AR Capetta and Cory McCarthy
g. haron davis
Mason Deaver
Jonathan Lenore Kastin
Emery Lee
Saundra Mitchell
Cam Montgomery
Ash Nouveau
Sonora Reyes
Renee Reynolds
Dove Salvatierra
Ayida Shonibar
Francesca Tacchi
Nik Traxler

I got to read this early, and wow are there some stunners in there! I got to add a whole bunch of names to my authors-to-watch list! And I’m still in love with that cover.

My review!

Fake Dates and Mooncakes by Sher Lee
Genres: Queer Protagonists
Representation: Chinese-American cast, M/M
Published on: 16th May 2023

Heartstopper meets Crazy Rich Asians in this heartfelt, joyful paperback original rom-com that follows an aspiring chef who discovers the recipe for love is more complicated than it seems when he starts fake-dating a handsome new customer.

Dylan Tang wants to win a Mid-Autumn Festival mooncake-making competition for teen chefs—in memory of his mom, and to bring much-needed publicity to his aunt’s struggling Chinese takeout in Brooklyn.

Enter Theo Somers: charming, wealthy, with a smile that makes Dylan’s stomach do backflips. AKA a distraction. Their worlds are sun-and-moon apart, but Theo keeps showing up. He even convinces Dylan to be his fake date at a family wedding in the Hamptons.

In Theo’s glittering world of pomp, privilege, and crazy rich drama, their romance is supposed to be just pretend . . . but Dylan finds himself falling for Theo. For real. Then Theo’s relatives reveal their true colors—but with the mooncake contest looming, Dylan can’t risk being sidetracked by rich-people problems.

Can Dylan save his family’s business and follow his heart—or will he fail to do both?

Listen, it’s hard to lure me away from my beloved SFF, but it can be done and Fake Dates and Mooncakes is very definitely doing it! Foodie romances are definitely my weak spot, and this one sounds, ahem, delicious and very sweet!

From the Valley of Orchids (The Legend of Saru Book 1) by Niels Saunders
Genres: Fantasy
Representation: Japanese setting & cast
Published on: 20th May 2023

Gods and Demons Clash in Mythological Japan

In the Kingdom of Yamato, magic is misunderstood. When humans pray at shrines to the spirits of the land, their wishes are not granted directly. Instead, sometimes gods are shapeshifting animals with the power to conjure weapons and enter the realm of dreams.

When a snow monkey named Saru is born from a prayer of hope, he longs to understand the truth about his nature. At an enchanted temple, he crosses paths with the demonic monk Akame whose infernal magic destroys everything Saru loves—and could soon threaten the whole world.

Saru flees to Otari Village, a settlement of kind people who welcome him into their homes. The village, however, is plagued by ghosts and wicked men who would exploit Saru’s powers. With Akame’s arrival looming, will Saru save the village, or lose everything again? How far will he go to protect those he loves?

From the Valley of Orchids is the first book in the epic fantasy series The Legend of Saru.

I adore the idea of gods (and other supernatural beings?) being created by prayers or wishes! That’s brilliant. I’d pick up From the Valley of Orchids for that alone, but it’s a mega bonus that we’re getting a Japanese setting rather than *waves hands vaguely* whitewashed Medieval-esque Europe!

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


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