Must-Have Monday #190

Posted 10th June 2024 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.

TWELVE books this week!

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

Running Close to the Wind by Alexandra Rowland
Genres: Adult, Fantasy, Secondary World No Magic, Queer Protagonists
Representation: Brown queer MC, brown nonbinary love interest with one eye, bi/pansexual love interest
Published on: 11th June 2024

Avra Helvaçi, former field agent of the Arasti Ministry of Intelligence, has accidentally stolen the single most expensive secret in the world―and the only place to flee with a secret that big is the open sea.

To find a buyer with deep enough pockets, Avra must ask for help from his on-again, off-again ex, the pirate Captain Teveri az-Haffar. They are far from happy to see him, but together, they hatch a plan: take the information to the isolated pirate republic of the Isles of Lost Souls, fence it, profit. The only things in their way? A calculating new Arasti ambassador to the Isles of Lost Souls who's got his eyes on Avra's every move; Brother Julian, a beautiful, mysterious new member of the crew with secrets of his own and a frankly inconvenient vow of celibacy; the fact that they're sailing straight into sea serpent breeding season and almost certain doom.

But if they can find a way to survive and sell the secret on the black market, they’ll all be as wealthy as kings―and, more importantly, they'll be legends.

Hands down one of the best books I’ve ever read, perfectly calibrated to me personally! I laughed SO MUCH, but it’s not ‘just’ a funny book; it’s also wicked smart and insightful and ANGRY, the Terry Pratchett kind of angry, which is wrapped up in comedy but hits all the harder because of it.

Containing: shenanigans on top of wardrobes, a nonbinary pirate captain love-hate interest, sea serpents, haunted giant turtles (like, GIANT), a plot-relevant cake competition, blue dogs (actually blue, not fancy grey!), and a blasphemous coat! Among many other awesome things.


My review!

Cuckoo by Gretchen Felker-Martin
Genres: Adult, Horror, Queer Protagonists
Representation: Korean trans MC, sapphic MCs, Black gay MC, fat/plus-sized gay MC, non-binary MC, assorted queer secondary cast
Published on: 11th June 2024

Cuckoo is a searing new novel from Manhunt author Gretchen Felker-Martin, where a motley crew of kidnapped kids try to stay true to themselves while serving time in a conversion camp from hell.

In the late 90s, five queer kids, whose parents want them “fixed,” find themselves thrown together at a secretive "tough love" camp deep in the scorching Utah desert.

Tormented and worked to the point of collapse by hardline religious zealots intent on straightening them out, they slowly become aware that something in the mountains north of the camp is speaking to them in their dreams, and that the children who return home to their families have...changed.

This was so scary I couldn’t finish it – but it’s undeniably amazing. If you can handle conversion camps and queer kids being tortured and killed you’ll, um, love this???

No, really, it is seriously good. I don’t think Felker-Martin is capable of writing anything that isn’t!

My review!

The Fire Within Them (The Soulfire Saga, #2) by Matthew Ward
Genres: Adult, Fantasy, High Fantasy, Queer Protagonists
Representation: Sapphic MC
Published on: 11th June 2024

The second book in Matthew Ward's action-packed trilogy, the Soulfire Saga, The Fire Within Them is set in a world ruled by an immortal king, where souls fuel magic and a supernatural mist known as the Veil threatens to engulf the land. Perfect for fans of John Gwynne and Anthony Ryan.

For the first time in a millennium, the kingdom of Khalad is divided. The Battle of Athenoch has fanned the spark of Bashar Vallant’s rebellion to a raging flame. Tyzanta, jewel of the east, has declared for his cause, and other cities have followed. Vallant, the people’s hero, may soon be powerful enough to challenge Caradan Diar, Khalad’s immortal king.

But such power demands great personal sacrifice.

Afflicted with omen rot after channeling the Deadwinds to save Athenoch from the koilos army, Kat searches for a means to stop the disease killing her as it did her mother. Her journey will uncover secrets long since buried–secrets concerning her past, her family and the kingdom itself. Eventually she’ll learn that the past never stays buried in Khalad–and that the truth can cut deeper than any blade.

I loved the first book in this series, The Darkness Before Them, and I’ve been so excited for The Fire Within Them! All the revelations that came near the end of Darkness!!! I neeeeeeeed to know what happens next!

The Stars Too Fondly by Emily Hamilton
Genres: Adult, Queer Protagonists, Sci Fi
Representation: Sapphic MC, Black trans secondary character, Chinese American secondary character, nonbinary secondary character, F/F
Published on: 11th June 2024

In her breathtaking debut—part space odyssey, part sapphic rom-com—Emily Hamilton tells a tale of galaxy-spanning friendship, improbable love, and found family.

So, here’s the thing: Cleo and her friends really, truly didn’t mean to steal this spaceship. They just wanted to know why, twenty years ago, the entire Providence crew vanished without a trace, but then the stupid dark-matter engine started on its own. Now these four twenty-somethings are en route to Proxima Centauri and unable to turn around while being harangued by a hologram that has the face and snide attitude of the ship’s missing captain, Billie.

Cleo has dreamt of being an astronaut all her life, and Earth is a lost cause at this point, so this should be one of those blessings in disguise that people talk about. But as the ship travels deeper into space, the laws of physics start twisting; old mysteries come crawling back to life; and Cleo’s initially combative relationship with Billie turns into something deeper and more desperate than either woman was prepared for.

I should have loved this, and have no idea why I didn’t – I think it’s objectively good! Maybe I’ll love it when I give it another try? Either way I strongly encourage anyone who likes the sound of the blurb to give it a go! I really do think Hamilton is one to watch.

The Stardust Grail by Yume Kitasei
Genres: Adult, Sci Fi
Representation: Biracial American-Japanese MC
Published on: 11th June 2024

Save one world. Doom her own.

From the acclaimed author of The Deep Sky comes a thrilling anti-colonial space heist to save an alien civilization.

Maya Hoshimoto was once the best art thief in the galaxy. For ten years, she returned stolen artifacts to alien civilizations—until a disastrous job forced her into hiding. Now she just wants to enjoy a quiet life as a graduate student of anthropology, but she’s haunted by persistent and disturbing visions of the future.

Then an old friend comes to her with a job she can’t refuse: find a powerful object that could save an alien species from extinction. Except no one has seen it in living memory, and they aren’t the only ones hunting for it.

Maya sets out on a breakneck quest through a universe teeming with strange life and ancient ruins. But the farther she goes, the more her visions cast a dark shadow over her team of friends new and old. Someone will betray her along the way. Worse yet, in choosing to save one species, she may condemn humanity and Earth itself.
CW: violence and gore, xenophobia, xenocide, colonization, vomit, torture, war, infertility, chronic illness, confinement, suicidal thoughts (minor), pandemic, migraines

Um, anyone who steals artifacts from thieving museums and collectors and so on and returns them to the cultures they belonging to is IMMEDIATELY someone I want to read about!!! EVEN MORE SO when we’re talking alien artifacts and civilisations!!! I am so pouncing on this one the moment it’s on my ereader!!!

The Afterlife of Mal Caldera by Nadi Reed Perez
Genres: Adult, Fantasy, Contemporary or Urban Fantasy, Queer Protagonists
Representation: Bisexual latina MC
Published on: 11th June 2024

Mal's life is over. Her afterlife is only just beginning…

By turns irreverently funny and deeply moving, this debut contemporary fantasy is perfect for fans of They Both Die at the End and The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue.

Mal Caldera—former rockstar, retired wild-child and excommunicated black sheep of her Catholic family—is dead. Not that she cares. She only feels bad that her younger sister, Cris, has been left alone with their religious zealot of a mother, picking up the pieces Mal has left behind. While her fellow ghosts party their afterlives away at an abandoned mansion they call the Haunt, Mal is determined to make contact with Cris from beyond the grave.

She manages to enlist the help of reluctant local medium Ren, and together, they concoct a plan to pass on a message to Cris. But the more time they spend together, the more both begin to wonder what might have been if they'd met before Mal died.

Mal knows it's wrong to hold on so tightly to her old life. Bad things happen to ghosts who interfere with the living, and Mal can't help wondering if she's hurting the people she loves by hanging around, haunting their lives. But Mal has always been selfish, and letting go might just be the hardest thing she's ever had to do…

Funny, emotional and life-affirming, The Afterlife of Mal Caldera will have readers laughing one minute and sobbing the next.

I’ve been seeing so much praise for this one, along with promises/warnings that it will make is feel All The Things, so brace yourself for that!

You can read an excerpt here!

Lovely Creatures by K.T. Bryski
Genres: Adult, Fantasy
Published on: 11th June 2024

Doomsday Dot will wake the day the world ends.

That’s what everyone says, yours truly included.

Bryony’s been searching for her big sister for ten years and change, and the trail finally leads her to Mr. Once-Upon-a-Time’s traveling show. There’s a wolf who’ll serve you tea, a lady who’s sometimes a swan, and Bryony’s sister sound asleep in a glass casket. All of them, rolling through the wasteland in a giant wooden Whale.

The Whale’s important, you’ll see.

But Bryony’s not the only one on the hunt. Everyone on the Whale is running from something. And whether Bryony can wake her sister before they’re caught, well, only the Devil herself knows.

The Devil’s important as well. You’ll see that, too.

This sounds like a gorgeous mix of whimsical and weird and maybe even dark; the Devil? Yes PLEASE!

Moonbound by Robin Sloan
Genres: Adult, Fantasy, Sci Fi
Published on: 11th June 2024

Robin Sloan expands the Penumbraverse to new reaches of time and space in a rollicking far-future adventure.

In Moonbound, Robin Sloan has written a novel with the full scope and ambitious imagination of the very books that lit the engines of Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore: an epic quest as only Sloan could conceive it, mixing science fiction, fantasy, good old-fashioned literary storytelling, and unrivaled enthusiasm for what’s next.

It is thirteen thousand years from now . . . A lot has happened, and yet a lot is still very familiar. Ariel is a boy in a small town under a wizard’s rule. Like many adventurers before him, Ariel is called to explore a world full of unimaginable glories and unknown enemies, a mission to save the world, a girl. Here, as they say, be dragons. But none of this happens before Ariel comes across an artifact from an earlier civilization, a sentient, record-keeping artificial intelligence that carries with it the perspective of the whole of human history―and becomes both Ariel’s greatest ally and the narrator of our story.

Moonbound is an adventure into the richest depths of Story itself. It is a deeply satisfying epic of ancient scale, blasted through the imaginative prism one of our most forward-thinking writers. And this is only the beginning.

I enjoyed Sloan’s Sourdough (right up until the very end, anyway) so I’m willing to check out Moonbound – even if I’m not super clear on exactly what genre it is, or if (and if so, how) it connects to Mr Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore? (Which I haven’t read…) I think it’s post-apocalyptic sci fi masquerading as fantasy? Either way, a world ruled by dragons? I’m at least going to check it out!

The Wilderness of Girls by Madeline Claire Franklin
Genres: Speculative Fiction, YA
Published on: 11th June 2024

An unflinching YA debut about a troubled teen who discovers a pack of feral girls in the woods and is swept up in the ensuing mystery: Are the Wild Girls of Happy Valley lost princesses from a faraway land, as they believe, or are they brainwashed victims of a deranged kidnapper?

In her ambitious debut perfect for fans of Sadie and The Hazel Wood, Madeline Claire Franklin crafts a gripping exploration of how the world teaches young girls to cage their wildness―and what happens when they claw themselves free.

After being placed in foster care, Rhi is hungry for a fresh start and begins working at the Happy Valley Wildlife Preserve. While in the woods, she stumbles upon a surreal sight: a pack of wolves guarding four feral and majestic girls. After Rhi gains their trust, they reveal that they’re princesses from another land, raised by a magical prophet they call Mother―and they're convinced Rhi is their lost fifth sister.

Unsure what to believe, Rhi ushers the girls to civilization, where they’re met with societal uproar and scrutiny, dubbed by the ravenous media and true crime junkies as “The Wild Girls of Happy Valley.” Desperate to return to their kingdom, the girls look to Rhi for help. Rhi knows the girls are deluded, but at the same time she’s drawn in by their boldness and authenticity―traits she is afraid she has lost within herself. And when Rhi witnesses strange phenomena she can’t quite explain, the line between fantasy and reality grows blurry.

As the hunt for answers intensifies, Rhi must make a decision that will change the course of her life and the lives of her Wild Girls forever.

Content Warnings — This book portrays, describes, or discusses in detail: Complex-PTSD, suicide and suicidal ideation, disordered eating, body shaming, family and domestic violence, emotional abuse, cannibalism, and sexual assault.

This is one of those books that MIGHT be fantasy…but might not be. This is usually not my cup of tea, so I hope Franklin doesn’t leave it too ambiguous – and that the magic is real, preferably! But even if it’s not, Wilderness of Girls sounds far too interesting to not give a try! (Even with those content warnings!)

Trailer Park Prince by Andre L. Bradley
Genres: Queer Protagonists, Science Fantasy, YA
Representation: Queer MC
Published on: 11th June 2024

A decade ago, a rift tore open the Kaydan sky, pulling twin princes, Noan and Jormon, plus thousands of their people, from their home world and dumping them in the American South. In the years since, they've grown used to the drones policing their every move and to hiding the magic-like abilities that set them apart. But they'll never get used to the crosses burning outside their trailer-an occasional reminder that Kaydans don't belong.

Forced to attend a human high school in the name of integration, a band-aid on an increasingly fraught diplomatic situation, the brothers are hesitant but hopeful. Jormon is excited about pursuing the feelings he has for Dirk, a human-raised Kaydan, away from his traditional father's watchful eye. And Noan, blamed for the Kaydans' displacement, is looking for somewhere-anywhere-to fit in.

But the halls of Toombs County High are as inhospitable as the rest of the country, and Jormon and Noan quickly find they're as unwanted in class as they are on this planet. When tragedy strikes and violence breaks out, Jormon and Noan find themselves at the forefront of a battle for the existence of their people. Their bonds tested, the twins face gut-wrenching choices, forcing them to confront who they really are, what they truly want, and what it takes to survive.

When asked to lead in the face of oppression, will they walk away or fight fire with fire?

A thought provoking and unflinching depiction of prejudice, racial oppression, and the need to define oneself in the face of adversary, Trailer Park Prince is a timely allegory unafraid of addressing the divides facing our society. Full of magic, queer identities, action, and social commentary in an urgent and biting contemporary sci-fi fantasy.

Shouldn’t it really be Trailer Park Princes…? Hm. Maybe one gives up their royalty. I guess we’ll see!

Stone Feather Fang by A.G. Rodriguez
Genres: Fantasy, YA
Representation: Brown MC, queer MC(?)
Published on: 11th June 2024

The gods--the cemi--have left the world of Ke', and their lush and verdant Andolin Islands are now inhabited by impious followers.

Teenage priestess Hildy Rios is tasked with saving her religion. In a special ritual called the Telling, she must somehow reawaken her people's love of the gods. Her effort is the last hope of her people: after this Telling, there will be no more chances, as the cemi will vanish into the past, their power forever lost to the world of Ke'.

The weight of her world on her shoulders, Hildy rewrites the Telling's story--and her own. She weaves a tale of her distant ancestor, a boy named Jenaro, blessed with the ability to see and speak to the cemi; a boy who, though long past, becomes as much a part of the present by way of the Telling's power.

For three days, Hildy brings to life the tale of Jenaro and his yearning for adventure, how he is haunted by the cemi of death, and who--like her--is fighting against the shackles of his family and society. For three days, Jenaro becomes real, and the power of the cemi to reach across time should be enough to convince Ke's people, but their impiety runs so deep...

Hildy and Jenaro. Two people joined by cursed blood, but separated by centuries of time. Only the cemi know how their tales will end.

The premise is a little confusing to me, but also MASSIVELY intriguing – she has to make her people believe in their gods again? With a sort of living story? That’s such a unique idea! And apparently Stone Feather Fang is inspired by Puerto Rican mythology (the author is Puerto Rican American), and I know NOTHING about Puerto Rican mythology, so I’m excited for that!

The Black Between The Stars by Fallon Dewynter
Genres: Fantasy, YA
Published on: 14th June 2024


Raised in the mountains amongst a fierce sisterhood of elite warriors, Sinadine longs to prove her worth to her people, and dreams of glory at the edge of a sword she has yet to earn. But when the emperor dies and an imperial escort is sent to collect its customary tribute of three girls to serve the new heir, to be free of her curse, Sinadine is given an ultimatum: offer herself in service, or face banishment from her clan, if she refuses.

Furious that she must sacrifice her dreams of glory for chains to the empire that enslaved them, Sinadine is thrust into a dangerous web of imperial politics, where she conspires to assassinate the emperling before the crown can touch his head.

Easy enough for A GIRL TOUCHED BY DARKNESS . . .

The emperling is the last son of a dying line. If she succeeds, her clan and all future generations will be free from tyranny but it she fails, Sinadine will be executed for treason--and her entire clan along with her. Failure is not an option, and while threats lurk in every corner of the palace, the biggest one that stands between her path to victory is Navarre: the emperling's bastard brother--and loyal Second Commander of the Imperial Army.

Always here for warrior sisterhoods! I’ve heard almost nothing about this one, but I’m willing to give it a try based on that cover alone!

Will you be reading any of these? Did I miss any releases you think I should know about? Let me know!


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