Must-Have Monday #158

Posted 16th October 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.

ELEVEN books this week!

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

Adventures in Bodily Autonomy: Exploring Reproductive Rights in Science Fiction, Fantasy, & Horror by Raven Belasco
Genres: Fantasy, Horror, Sci Fi
Published on: 16th October 2023

The fourteen tales in Adventures in Bodily Autonomy flow across alternate universes and through space and time to consider the issues of reproductive justice through a fresh perspectives. There is an adventure here for everyone.

An astronaut on her way to Mars discovers she’s pregnant — can she keep her baby? Bee-like entities try to force a human to be their queen. In1930s Philly, a vampire offers a novel form of birth control. From a ghost, lessons learned too late. Women who cannot find a comfortable fit in their mythic realities. Future worlds where reproductive choices are different, but individual choice and external battles for that choice are just as real.

Adventures in Bodily Autonomy will be released on October 16th, 2023, a date important in the history of women’s healthcare rights. On October 16, 1916, in Brooklyn, New York, Margaret Sanger opened the country’s first birth control clinic. Just nine days later police shut down the clinic, and Sanger served 30 days in prison.

For over 50 years, NARAL Pro-Choice America has fought to protect and advance reproductive freedom at the federal and state levels — including access to abortion care, birth control, pregnancy and postpartum care, and paid family leave—for every body.

Authors will include Kathleen Alcalá ~ Elizabeth Bear ~ Raven Belasco ~ Tara Campbell ~ Anya De Niro ~ Jaymee Goh ~ Cynthia Gralla ~ K Ibura ~ Ellen Klages Annalee Newitz ~ Nisi Shawl ~ Sonya Taaffe ~ Cecilia Tan ~ Helena María Viramontes

One hundred percent of the royalties of Adventures in Bodily Autonomy are being donated to NARAL Pro-Choice America to help them continue their vital fight for women’s bodily autonomy and basic human rights.

This is such a cool concept to see in SFF??? I’m really intrigued to see what all the authors have done with the premise; I hope they really push it, properly take us to some weird and thought-provoking places!

Antiphony by Sherwood Smith
Genres: Fantasy
Representation: Queernorm world, queer secondary characters
Published on: 17th October 2023

The last book in the Sartorias-deles series is here!

The long series that began with Inda, continued through the Rise of the Alliance, Crown Duel, and The Norsunder War, comes at last to a resonant, deeply satisfying conclusion in Antiphony.

Liere has attained the home she always longed for, though there are compromises: her children are scattered through the world, and she scarcely has time to adjust to her new life before she must use her dyr to prevent war. While elsewhere in the world, Chwahirsland is, at long last, reshaping itself to take place on the world stage. Not everyone is happy to see that.

A hidden identity revealed, with repercussions resounding across three continents-a wanderer visits the most sophisticated court in the world, and everything stops-anomalies turn up. Meaning what?

Or more importantly, when?

The postwar saga reaches a milestone as individual lives as well as countries find new melodies and harmonies. While, unaware, the small grace notes hint at great change...


I think I have to sit down.

The first book – according to internal chronology – was published in 2006, but Smith wrote some of the ‘later’ books as a teenager. This series (world? Universe?) has been her whole life! I’m just. Wow.

And now it’s going to be over!!! I’m having FEELS!

Blood from the Air by Gemma Files
Genres: Fantasy, Horror
Published on: 17th October 2023

Angels and insects, holes in the known world's fabric and what comes out of them, the love of death and the death of love. In award-winning horror author Gemma Files's seventh collection of short fiction, the numinous and the awful tango together through a collapsing series of not-so-alternate realities, and everyone they touch emerges changed, whether or not they may have wanted to be. This is fantasy of the darkest sort, horror-cured, marinating in its own transformative juices. So enter a fractured universe of creepy delights, one where the oldest tropes are turned inside out and wrung for their oddest components, as forgotten gods and monsters cavort beneath a storm of BLOOD FROM THE AIR.

Formerly a film critic, journalist, screenwriter and teacher, Gemma Files has been an award-winning horror author since 1999. She has published five collections of short work, three collections of speculative poetry, a Weird Western trilogy, a story-cycle and a stand-alone novel ( Experimental Film , which won the 2015 Shirley Jackson Award for Best Novel and the 2016 Sunburst Award for Best Adult Novel). Her collection In That Endlessness, Our End won both the Bram Stoker Award and the This Is Horror Award in that category for 2021.

Gemma Files is an amazing author of amazing horror, and it’s always a TREAT to get a new collection from her! Your best bet for getting your hands on this is probably directly from the publisher, who is offering it in hardcover, paperback, and ebook formats!

Jonathan Abernathy You Are Kind by Molly McGhee
Genres: Speculative Fiction
Published on: 17th October 2023

"Molly McGhee reminds me of absolutely no one. Here’s an original mind brimming over with invention and comic ferocity . . . [a] mad, hilarious writer.” —Ben Marcus, author of The Flame Alphabet

For readers of Patricia Lockwood and Ling Ma, a debut novel for the modern working stiff

Jonathan Abernathy is a loser . . . he’s behind on his debts, he has no prospects, no friends, no ambitions. But when a government loan forgiveness program offers him a literal dream job, he thinks he’s found his big break. If he can appear to be competent at his new job, entering the minds of middle-class workers while they sleep and removing the unsavory detritus of their waking lives from their unconscious, he might have a chance at a new life. As Abernathy finds his footing in this new role, reality and morality begin to warp around him. Soon, the lines between life and work, love and hate, right and wrong, even sleep and consciousness, begin to blur.

Written with all the dramatic irony of Charlie Kaufman as written by Kurt Vonnegut, Jonathan Abernathy You Are Kind touches on a theme most people know all too well—the relentlessly crushing weight of debt. A workplace novel, at once tender, startling, and deeply funny, Jonathan Abernathy You Are Kind is a stunning, critical work of surrealist fiction.

With a keen sense of her readers, a wry wit, and an undeniable dexterity with language, Molly McGhee’s debut novel is a piercing critique of late-stage capitalism and a reckoning with its true cost.

WELL. I can definitely see how morality could get blurred in this kind of set-up! Dare I even ask what qualifies as ‘unsavory detritus’??? I think I’m going to find out, because I just can’t resist all the questions raised by this premise!

A Stranger in the Citadel by Tobias S. Buckell
Genres: Fantasy
Published on: 17th October 2023

From the powerful storyteller Tobias Buckell (Crystal Rain, The Tangled Lands), a complex novel of humanity’s passion for the written word. At the revolutionary crossroads of magic, betrayal, and long-forgotten truths, a naïve, compassionate royal and a determined, hunted librarian discover a dangerous world of mortal and ancient menaces.

The life of the youngest musketress of Ninetha has been one of hard training. But Lilith’s days have also contained many pleasures, the royal privileges of her family’s guardianship of the Cornucopia, a mystical source of limitless bounty. Lilith has never seen a book, and she never expects to encounter one within the safety of the citadel.

When Ishmael, an outcast librarian, shows up outside the Afriq Gate, Lilith saves him from immediate execution by her father’s second-in-command, the zealot Kira. As Lilith’s curiosity draws her to Ishmael, she lets slip her family’s most dangerous secret, sparking a deadly rebellion and an unexpected journey full of stunning revelations.

It feels uncomfortably timely to see a book about banning books, but that doesn’t make me any less intrigued. (Although I am TiredTM of seeing characters named Lilith who have nothing to do with the figure of folklore.)

You can read an excerpt over at the Civilian Reader!

Let the Dead Bury the Dead by Allison Epstein
Genres: Queer Protagonists, Historical Fantasy
Representation: M/M
Published on: 17th October 2023

An urgent, immersive alternate history set in an imperial Russia on the brink of disaster, following a surprising cast of characters seeking a better future as Saint Petersburg struggles in the wake of Napoleon's failed invasion.

Saint Petersburg, 1812. Russian forces have defeated Napoleon at great cost, and the tsar's empire is once again at peace. Sasha, a captain in the imperial army, returns home to Grand Duke Felix, the disgraced second son of the tsar and his irrepressibly charming lover, but their reunion is quickly interrupted by the arrival of Sofia, a mysteriously persuasive figure whose disruptive presence Sasha suspects to be something more than human. Felix, insisting that Sasha's old-fashioned superstitions are misplaced, takes Sofia into his confidence--a connection that quickly becomes both personal and political. On her incendiary advice, Felix confronts his father about the brutal conditions of the common people in the aftermath of the war, to disastrous results, separating him from Sasha and setting him on a collision course with a vocal group of dissidents: the Koalitsiya.

Meanwhile, the Koalitsiya plan to gridlock Saint Petersburg with a citywide strike in hopes of awakening the upper classes to the grim circumstances of the laboring people. Marya, a resourceful sometimes-thief and trusted lieutenant of the Koalitsiya, also falls under Sofia's spell and, allied with Felix and her fellow revolutionaries, she finds herself in the middle of a battle she could never have predicted. As Sofia's influence grows and rising tensions threaten the tsar's peace, Sasha, Felix, and Marya are forced to choose between the ideals they hold close and the people they love.

Allison Epstein combines cleverly constructed plot with unforgettable characters in this exuberant historical page-turner, intercut with fractured retellings of traditional Eastern European folk stories that are equal parts deadly dark and slyly illuminating. Vividly written and emotionally intense, Let the Dead Bury the Dead reminds us that the concerns of the past aren't quite as far behind us as we like to believe.

Epstein’s prose is gorgeous, and having read the beginning of this, I can confirm she brings Russia to life so well you’d best be prepared for frostbite!

Soul Food Stories: An Otherworldly Feast for the Living, the Dead, and Those Who Have Yet to Decide by Ann McMan, Anna Burke, Virginia Black, Jenn Alexander, Cathy Pegau, Jacob Budenz, Salem West, Christel Cogneau
Genres: Fantasy, Horror
Published on: 17th October 2023

Salem West and Christel Cogneau have assembled a powerhouse lineup of Bywater Books and Amble Press authors to explore, subvert, and reinvigorate the bountiful feast of All Hallows phantasmagoria in this stunning collection.

To the living, “soul food” has a specific meaning, history, and flavor. But what does “soul food” mean to the demon, ghost, fiend, witch, spirit, or vampire? How does their ingenuity and wit rise and fall in the taking, baking, erasing, embracing, and defacing of sustenance? West and Cogneau have challenged their authors to explore these and other questions in surprising and fascinating ways. Sometimes sweet and other times terrifying, sometimes warm or otherwise demented, these stories set the table for an otherworldly feast of delight and intrigue. Let the banquet begin . . .

Soul Food Stories is packed with literary confections by award-winning authors, Anna Burke, Jenn Alexander, Jacob Budenz, Virginia Black, Cathy Pegau, and Ann McMan . Featured stories

Listen, we already know I love foodie stories – you take that and add the supernatural, and you’re presenting me with a feast I am going to DIVE on. Seriously, so in love with this premise and can’t wait to see what all the authors have done with it!!!

All These Sunken Souls: A Black Horror Anthology by Circe Moskowitz
Genres: Horror
Representation: Black MCs
Published on: 17th October 2023

Welcome to the Dark.

We are all familiar with tropes of the horror genre: slasher and victims, demon and the possessed. Bloody screams, haunted visions, and the peddler of wares we aren’t sure we can trust. In this young adult horror anthology, fans of Jordan Peele, Lovecraft Country, and Horror Noire will get a little bit of everything they love—and a lot of what they fear—through a twisted blend of horror lenses, from the thoughtful to the terrifying.

From haunted, hungry Victorian mansions, temporal monster–infested asylums, and ravaging zombie apocalypses, to southern gothic hoodoo practitioners and cursed patriarchs in search of Black Excellence, All These Sunken Souls features the chilling creations of acclaimed bestsellers and hot new talents, with stories from Kalynn Bayron, Donyae Coles, Ryan Douglass, Sami Ellis, Brent Lambert, Ashia Monet, Circe Moskowitz, Joel Rochester, Liselle Sambury, and Joelle Wellington.

From one horror(-ish?) anthology to another; this one is YA, and edited by the masterful Circe Moskowitz, which means it’s pretty much guaranteed to be excellent. And that COVER! I am heart-eyes.

Flower and Thorn by Rati Mehrotra
Genres: Fantasy
Representation: Desi cast + setting
Published on: 17th October 2023

One girl. One boy. A promise broken. A magic stolen.

Irinya has wanted to be a flower hunter ever since her mother disappeared into the mysterious mist of the Rann salt flats one night. Now seventeen, Irinya uses her knowledge of magical flowers to help her caravan survive in the harsh desert. When her handsome hunting partner and childhood friend finds a priceless silver spider lily--said to be able to tear down kingdoms and defeat an entire army--Irinya knows this is their chance for a better life.

Until Irinya is tricked by an attractive imposter.

Irinya's fight to recover the priceless flower and to fix what she's done takes her on a dangerous journey, one she's not sure she'll survive. She has no choice but to endure it if she hopes to return home and mend the broken heart of the boy she's left behind.

A young flower hunter gets embroiled in the succession politics of the Sultanate when she must retrieve the rarest and most powerful magical flower after giving it to the wrong hands, in Rati Mehrotra's Flower and Thorn.

I feel about plant+flower books as I do foodie ones, aka, GIMME. I couldn’t care less about the romance, but I want to know ALL ABOUT flower hunting, particularly hunting for magical flowers!

A Bright Heart by Kate Chenli
Genres: Fantasy, High Fantasy
Representation: Chinese (coded?) cast and setting
Published on: 17th October 2023

What if you could avenge your own murder? A brilliant young woman gets a second chance at life in this debut YA tale of vengeance, court intrigue, and romance, inspired by classic Chinese tropes. 

Mingshin outsmarted three princes to help the man she loved become king. But she doesn’t see Ren’s betrayal coming, not until she’s lying in a pool of her own blood on the palace steps. 

As she’s dying, Mingshin makes a desperate plea to the gods to turn back time and give her a chance to make things right. 

Mingshin wakes up two years earlier, her prayer granted, and swears two things: Ren will never become king, and she will never fall in love again. 

But the timeline in this life has changed: a dignitary gifted with dark magic is threatening her kingdom’s peace, and Ren’s thirst for power runs deeper than Mingshin could have imagined.  

She finds herself allying with Jieh, another contender for the throne. Mingshin knows better than anyone not to give her heart to a prince. But in the viper’s nest of the royal court, she and Jieh prove a phenomenal team. Can Mingshin avert the catastrophe of her past by once again learning to trust…and maybe even love?  

I’m always ready for a story about a girl out for scorched-earth revenge! Which theme seems very opposed to the beautiful rainbow-y cover, but honestly that just makes me more interested.

Under the Smokestrewn Sky (The Up-and-Under, #4) by A. Deborah Baker
Genres: Fantasy, Portal Fantasy
Published on: 17th October 2023

The end of the improbable road.

Since stumbling from their world into the Up-and-Under, Avery and Zib have walked the improbable road across forests, seas, and skies, finding friends in the unlikeliest of places and enemies great in number, as they make their way toward the Impossible City in the hope of finding their way home.

But the final part of their journey is filled with danger and demise. Not everyone will make it through unscathed. Not everyone will make it through alive.

The final part of the enchanting Up and Under quartet reminds us of the value of friendship and the price one sometimes pays for straying from the path. No one’s safety can be guaranteed under the smokestrewn sky.

It’s the finale of the Up-and-Under!!! I’m not ready – is anybody???

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


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