Must-Have Monday #141

Posted 12th June 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.

SIX books this week!

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

The Surviving Sky (Rages, #1) by Kritika H. Rao
Genres: Fantasy, Queer Protagonists
Representation: Desi cast, bisexual MCs, queernorm world
Published on: 13th June 2023

This Hindu philosophy-inspired debut science fantasy follows a husband and wife racing to save their living city—and their troubled marriage—high above a jungle world besieged by cataclysmic storms.

High above a jungle-planet float the last refuges of humanity—plant-made civilizations held together by tradition, technology, and arcane science. In these living cities, architects are revered above anyone else. If not for their ability to psychically manipulate the architecture, the cities would plunge into the devastating earthrage storms below.

Charismatic, powerful, mystical, Iravan is one such architect. In his city, his word is nearly law. His abilities are his identity, but to Ahilya, his wife, they are a way for survival to be reliant on the privileged few. Like most others, she cannot manipulate the plants. And she desperately seeks change.

Their marriage is already thorny—then Iravan is accused of pushing his abilities to forbidden limits. He needs Ahilya to help clear his name; she needs him to tip the balance of rule in their society. As their paths become increasingly intertwined, deadly truths emerge, challenging everything each of them believes. And as the earthrages become longer, and their floating city begins to plummet, Iravan and Ahilya's discoveries might destroy their marriage, their culture, and their entire civilization.

Queer Desi solarpunk featuring a couple of disaster bisexuals who live in a flying plant city.

Do you really need to hear anything else?

My review!

Junker Seven (Twin Suns Duology) by Olive J. Kelley
Genres: Queer Protagonists, Sci Fi
Representation: Nonbinary MC, major trans character
Published on: 13th June 2023

A romantic, queer sci-fi epic about changing the galaxy, one girl at a time.

Castor Quasar is a junker— a bounty hunter making a living off of collecting and selling valuable scrap. They live a quiet life, bouncing from job to job and not worrying about the brewing galactic rebellion.

Except, when they get a job offer for an irresistible amount of money, they find themself embroiled much deeper than expected. Their task? To smuggle transgender activist Juno Marcus across the galaxy under the watchful eye of the Intergalactic Police Force and a propaganda-informed galaxy.

It’s too dangerous to accept, but too valuable to refuse, and it doesn't help that Juno herself is charming and beautiful. Agreeing drags Cas into a whirlwind race against those who want Juno dead to make it across the galaxy to safety, risking it all for a cause they can’t– or won’t– believe in.

I love the premise of this one, and I’ve been seeing a lot of love for it among early readers! Not sure if it’s going to be more serious or more sweet, but either way I’m definitely pouncing on it!

On Earth as It Is on Television by Emily Jane
Genres: Sci Fi
Published on: 13th June 2023

First Contact stories have never been as intoxicating and fun as in Emily Jane’s novel of the sudden arrival—and equally sudden departure—of spaceships above Earth.

The arrival of spaceships can bring up a lot of big questions: What does it mean that we’re not alone? Why did aliens come here? Who knew beforehand? Where…. are the aliens going?

Wait… They can’t just leave! Without inviting us into their galactic federation—or at the very least obliterating us!

In Emily Jane’s debut—a rollicking paean to what it means to be alive in the twenty-first century—the fleeting presence of alien vessels, and the certainty that humans are not alone in the universe, sparks intense uncertainty as to our place within it.

Blaine has always been content to go along with whatever his supermom wife and television-addicted, half-feral children want. But when the kids blithely ponder skinning people to see if they’re aliens, and his wife announces a surprise road trip to Disney World, even steady Blaine begins to crack.

Half a continent away, Heather, bored in a Malibu pool while the ships hover overhead, watches as the Arrival heralds the demise of her dead-end relationship and sets her on a quest to understand herself, her accomplished (and oh-so-annoying) stepfamily, and why she feels so alone in a universe teeming with life.

And Oliver, suddenly conscious and alert after twenty catatonic years, struggles to piece together broken memories and understand why he’s following a strange cat on a westward journey and into the greatest adventure of his—or anyone’s—lifetime.

The title alone is enough to make to make me cackle, and everything about the book itself sounds like fun! I admit to being especially interested in the cat.

The First Bright Thing by J.R. Dawson
Genres: Fantasy, Historical Fantasy, Queer Protagonists
Representation: Sapphic MC, F/F, secondary PoC characters
Published on: 13th June 2023

If you knew how dark tomorrow would be, what would you do with today?

The First Bright Thing by J. R. Dawson is a spellbinding debut for fans of The Night Circus and The Invisible Life of Addie La Rue.
Welcome to the Circus of the Fantasticals.

Ringmaster – Rin, to those who know her best – can jump to different moments in time as easily as her wife, Odette, soars from bar to bar on the trapeze. With the scars of World War I feeling more distant as the years pass, Rin is focusing on the brighter things in life. Like the circus she’s built and the magical misfits and outcasts – known as Sparks – who’ve made it their home. Every night, Rin and the Fantasticals enchant a Big Top packed full with audiences who need to see the impossible.

But while the present is bright, threats come at Rin from the past and the future. The future holds an impending war that the Sparks can see barrelling toward their Big Top and everyone in it. And Rin's past creeps closer every day, a malevolent shadow Rin can’t fully escape. It takes the form of another Spark circus, with tents as black as midnight and a ringmaster who rules over his troupe with a dangerous power. Rin’s circus has something he wants, and he won't stop until it’s his.

This didn’t work for me, and I go into a fair bit of detail on why here, but lots have people have adored this, so your mileage may vary. If the issues that bothered me in the DNF review are fine for you, then give it a go!

Fat Witch Summer by Lizzy Ives
Genres: Fantasy, Contemporary or Urban Fantasy
Representation: Fat MC, major BIPOC
Published on: 13th June 2023

Dumplin’ meets The Craft in this body-positive fantasy novel for fans of summer road trips, female friendship, and magic.

Sixteen-year-old Thrash doesn’t enchant eyeliner over her lids or clear her acne with magic. She is plus-size, but she doesn’t hate what she sees in the mirror—that’s the realm of her mother, Osmarra, a slim and elegant Glamour witch. When Thrash unexpectedly breaks a mirror with her mind, she discovers she has a knack for magic and will receive one of the three sanctioned Gifts: Glamour, Growth, or Sight. The only problem is that mothers choose the Gifts, and Osmarra is convinced that the Gift of Glamour will fix her daughter’s looks.

When Thrash fails to persuade Osmarra to accept her as she is, a trio of cool witches who call themselves The Lunes offer her an out. Their leader, fiery and charismatic Cresca, recruits Thrash for a road trip to New Salem University, where the girls plan to steal their own Gifts. As Thrash crosses the magical Thirteen States of America, Osmarra hot on her heels, she discovers bewitched diners, haunted tourist traps, and a secret about the Gifts that will change the Thirteen States forever.

Okay, my blood is already boiling at Thrash’s terrible mother, but everything else about Fat Witch Summer sounds amazing??? I am massively intrigued by the magical Thirteen States, and Thrash herself sounds fabulous. MUCH YAY FOR BODY-POSITIVE WITCHERY, PLEASE AND THANK YOU!

If Found, Return to Hell by Em X. Liu
Genres: Fantasy, Contemporary or Urban Fantasy, Queer Protagonists
Representation: Nonbinary Chinese MC
Published on: 15th June 2023

Being an intern at One Wizard sounds magical on the page, but in practice mostly means getting yelled at by senior mages and angry clients alike. And so, after receiving a frantic call from a young man who’s awoken to a talisman on his bedroom wall—and no memory of how it got there—Journeyman Wen jumps at the chance to escape call-center duty and actually help someone for once.

But the case ends up being more complicated than Wen could ever have anticipated. The client has been possessed by a demon prince from Hell, and he’s not interested in leaving.

Everything I’ve heard of this makes it sound like a lot of fun, with a very sympathetic MC (I think they initially have him just answering the phones?) and – a prince of Hell?! I’m really curious to know if Liu is pulling from the Christian or Chinese Hell for this – I’m betting on Chinese, given the setting, and the Chinese Hells have Kings, so why not princes? EITHER WAY I AM MOST EXCITED!

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


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