Must-Have Monday #191

Posted 17th 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.

TEN books this week!

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

Rakesfall by Vajra Chandrasekera
Genres: Adult, Queer Protagonists, Sci Fi, Science Fantasy
Representation: QBIPOC and BIPOC cast
Published on: 18th June 2024

Rakesfall is a groundbreaking, standalone science fiction epic about two souls bound together from here until the ends of time, from the author of The Saint of Bright Doors

Some stories take more than one lifetime to tell. There are wrongs that echo through the ages, friendships that outpace the claws of death, loves that leave their mark on civilization, and promises that nothing can break. This is one such story.

Annelid and Leveret met after the war, but before the peace. They found each other in a torn-up nation, peering through propaganda to grasp a deeper truth. And in a demon-haunted wood, another act of violence linked them and propelled their souls on a journey throughout the ages. No world can hold them, no life can bind them, and they'll never leave each other behind. But their journey will not be easy. In every lifetime, oppressors narrow the walls of possibility, shaping reality to fit their own needs. And behind the walls of history, the witches of the red web swear that every throne will fall.

Tracing two souls through endless lifetimes, Rakesfall is a virtuosic exploration of what stories can be. As Annelid and Leveret reincarnate ever deeper into the future, they will chase the edge of human possibility, in a dark science fiction epic unlike anything you've read before.

This one – almost literally! – BLEW MY MIND. On so many levels! It’s a major level up in weird and unconventional from Chandrasekera’s debut, The Saint of Bright Doors, which was at least pretty linear; Rakesfall is incredibly strange, with so many layers of story and meaning to it. I wouldn’t call it experimental, because Chandrasekera isn’t testing anything, he knows exactly what he’s doing – but it’s definitely boundary-pushing. Or maybe just straight-up boundary-ignoring.

Can’t recommend it enough!

My review!

The Unrelenting Earth (Rages, #2) by Kritika H. Rao
Genres: Adult, Fantasy, Queer Protagonists, Science Fantasy
Representation: Desi-coded cast, bisexual MCs
Published on: 18th June 2024

In this dazzling sequel to the The Surviving Sky, Ahilya and Iravan risk everything—their lives, their culture, and their fragile marriage—in pursuit of the earth-shattering truth about their existence.

"Breathtakingly inventive" epic science-fantasy inspired by Hindu philosophy, for fans of N.K. Jemisin and Tasha Suri.

Two months have passed since Ahilya and Iravan learned the devastating truths behind the earthrages. As the cosmic creatures struggle to break into the world, and Nakshar's architecture disintegrates, the desperate council summons their sister ashrams to a Conclave, to discuss the future of life in the skies.

Ahilya, now a councillor, is determined to share the truth about the cosmic beings and the nature of Ecstatic trajection so she can liberate ordinary citizens and save the condemned architects. Her conviction has alienated her allies and created dangerous enemies. Only Iravan has a chance of persuading the Conclave that Ecstatics are not unstable, but he returns from the jungle struggling with his own Ecstasy. He has little control over his second-self, the primal falcon yaksha, and finds the Conclave hostile to his cause.

As strange, deadly storms break out, threatening refuge even in the skies, Iravan and the other Ecstatic architects face brutal reprisals. And with the barrier restraining the cosmic beings thinning, Ahilya and Iravan know they are running out of time to save everyone. Thrust into the center of the storm, both will have to confront what matters most to them, who they really are, and what it means for the future of humanity.

I adored the first book in this trilogy, and the ending left me with SO MANY QUESTIONS! I hope we get some answers in this one!!!

Craft: Stories I Wrote for the Devil by Ananda Lima
Genres: Adult, Speculative Fiction
Published on: 18th June 2024

At a Halloween party in 1999, a writer slept with the devil. She sees him again and again throughout her life and writes stories for him about things both impossible and true. Stories I Wrote for the Devil lures readers into surreal pockets of the United States and Brazil, where they’ll find bite-size Americans in vending machines and the ghosts of living people. Ananda Lima speaks to modern Brazilian-American immigrant experiences―of ambition, fear, longing, and belonging―and reveals the porousness of storytelling and of the places we call home.

I’m very intrigued by the idea of writing stories for the literal Devil…and very much want to check it out and see what Lima’s done with such an interesting premise!

A Shore Thing by Joanna Lowell
Genres: Adult, Queer Protagonists
Representation: Trans MC
Published on: 18th June 2024

A delightful queer Victorian love story, featuring a boldly brash trans hero, the beguiling botanist who captures his heart, and a buoyant bicycle race by the British seaside -- from the author of The Duke Undone.

Former painter and unreformed rake Kit Griffith is forging a new life in Cornwall, choosing freedom over an identity that didn't fit. He knew that leaving his Sisterhood of women artists might mean forfeiting artistic community forever. He didn't realize he would lose his ability to paint altogether. Luckily, he has other talents. Why not devote himself to selling bicycles and trysting with the holidaymakers?

Enter Muriel Pendrake, the feisty New-York-bound botanist who has come to St. Ives to commission Kit for illustrations of British seaweeds. Kit shouldn't accept Muriel's offer, but he must enlist her help to prove to an all-male cycling club that women can ride as well as men. And she won't agree unless he gives her what she wants. Maybe that's exactly the challenge he needs.

As Kit and Muriel spend their days cycling together, their desire begins to burn with the heat of the summer sun. But are they pedaling toward something impossible? The past is bound to catch up to them, and at the season's end, their paths will diverge. With only their hearts as guides, Kit and Muriel must decide if they're willing to race into the unknown for the adventure of a lifetime.

This sounds absolutely lovely! Sweet and low-key, perfect for cosy reading. Going to save this one for reading in the garden swing-chair, I think!

Daughter of Calamity by Rosalie M. Lin
Genres: Fantasy, Historical Fantasy, YA
Representation: Chinese cast and setting
Published on: 18th June 2024

Jingwen spends her nights as a showgirl at the Paramount, one of the most lavish clubs in Shanghai, competing ruthlessly to charm wealthy patrons. To cap off her shifts, she runs money for her grandmother, the exclusive surgeon to the most powerful gang in the city. A position her grandmother is pressuring her to inherit…

When a series of cabaret dancers are targeted―the attacker stealing their faces―Jingwen fears she could be next. And as the faces of the dancers start appearing on wealthy foreign socialites, she realizes Shanghai's glittering mirage of carefree luxury comes at a terrible price.

Fighting not just for her own safety but that of the other dancers―women who have simultaneously been her bitterest rivals and only friends―Jingwen has no choice but to delve into the city's underworld. In this treacherous realm of tangled alliances and ancient grudges, silver-armed gangsters haunt every alley, foreign playboys broker deals in exclusive back rooms, and the power of gods is wielded and traded like yuan. Jingwen will have to become something far stranger and more dangerous than her grandmother ever imagined if she hopes to survive the forces waiting to sell Shanghai's bones.

Face-stealing?! I’d like to ask why anyone would steal faces, but I’d rather know WHY ‘WEALTHY FOREIGN SOCIALITES’ ARE WEARING THEM. That’s a whole nother level of yellowface!!! Gross, evil, and way too believable. Why do we live in a world where I have no problem believing rich white socialites would totally do that???

Jingwen, on the other hand, sounds fantastic, as does the criminal underworld she has to delve into. People with silver arms? The power of gods being bought and sold?? Jingwen BECOMING SOMETHING STRANGE??? That last one especially is my catnip. GIMME, PRETTY PLEASE AND THANK YOU!

Bad Graces by Kyrie McCauley
Genres: Horror, Queer Protagonists, YA
Representation: F/F
Published on: 18th June 2024

Yellowjackets meets House of Hollow in award-winning author Kyrie McCauley’s gripping and magical YA thriller following a group of young women as they face the stress of harsh elements, a mysterious monster, and an unraveling of secrets after their yacht is wrecked off the coast of North America.

Liv Whitlock knows she doesn’t belong there. But after years of stumbling between foster homes, often due to her own self-destructive tendencies, Liv desperately needs to change the trajectory of her life … so she steals her perfect sister’s identity.

Liv starts to rewrite her story, winning a prestigious internship on a movie set filming in Alaska, and finds herself on a luxury yacht alongside pop star Paris Grace, actress sisters Effie and Miri Knight, Olympic gymnast Rosalind Torres, and social media influencer Celia Jones. Liv tries to find common ground with her famous companions, but just as the group starts to bond, a violent storm wrecks their vessel, stranding them on an island in the North Pacific Ocean.

Among the threats of starvation and exposure, they learn there is a predator lurking in the forest, unlike anything they’ve seen before—until they begin to see it in themselves. Every injury they suffer on the island causes inexplicable changes in their bodies. With little hope for rescue and only each other as their final tether to humanity, can the girls endure the ominous forces at work on the island? Or will they lose themselves to their darker natures?

I’ve seen some VERY positive reviews for this one, and I’ve been promised fungal body horror and ZERO stupid catfighting between the girls! Both of which sound awesome.

The Stars Want Blood: Star Eaters Book One by Morgan Lawson
Genres: Adult, Fantasy, Queer Protagonists
Representation: Nonbinary MC, NB/M
Published on: 19th June 2024

When a summer's wind whips through the spring gardens, when air meets earth, a fate that has long since been written amongst the stars will unfurl itself…

There was only so long that anybody could handle living while disregarding every single piece of advice from their psychiatrist, and Hazel Culhane was reaching their breaking point. Hoping to recharge themself enough to handle the challenge of getting better, they tuck themself into a hidden cabin for a week. It wasn’t a bad idea, but they couldn’t have predicted that something would be waiting for them in those woods, something significantly more frightening than their own crumbling sanity…

All of the Constellites — the celestial gods borne from the stars of the zodiac constellations — knew what fate had planned for them. It was the same in each generation of them. And as the Virgo god, Ezra Thompson should have been no exception. He doesn’t know why his Gemini counterpart came along so late, or why their newfound divinity doesn’t fit them, but it doesn’t take him very long to figure out that the quirky and unstable Hazel — the Constellite of Geminorum — is still his fate.

Fate has given them love, but with it, destruction. Will they be able to rewrite fate and save themselves? Or will they get pulled into the event horizon that fate has waiting for them?

... and it will demand blood.

The Stars Want Blood is the first installment of the Star Eaters series, a gut-wrenching dark romantasy that ties together religious mysticism, Greek mythology, and astrology. Filled to the brim with mentally ill characters, elaborate lore, and spice, this story is the perfect read for fans of D.Gray-Man, Moon Knight, and the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series.

I always get my hopes up for fantasy involving stars – but I’m usually disappointed. The reviews for this one have one hopeful, though, as do the excerpts I’ve seen in some of the reviews. Fingers crossed!

Under the Dragon Moon (The Belamour Archives Book 1) by Mawce Hanlin
Genres: Adult, Fantasy, Contemporary or Urban Fantasy, Queer Protagonists
Representation: Trans MC, M/M
Published on: 20th June 2024

To break the thread of weaver’s fate, those who witness must weave anew…

Mael Nguyen doesn’t believe in fate, but he does believe in magic. His entire life revolves around the study of the arcane—spells and rituals, potions and illusions. As far as Mael is concerned, all he needs is a book in one hand and magic in the other. Anything outside of his bookshop, hidden away in the streets of New Orleans, isn’t worth his attention. But when a strange human stumbles into his life and hires him for a job, bringing along his blinding smile and curious magic, Mael finds that Fate is just as dangerous as Magic.

Leo Greyson refuses to believe in fate, but he desperately wishes to believe in magic. As a small time rockstar, full time radio host, Leo has never been one to shy away from experience and adventure. He’s always lived his life on the edge—always moving, never standing still. But when his twin sister is murdered, and he gains custody of her strangely magical daughter, that constant motion comes to a screeching halt. Instead, he is launched into an entirely new world hidden right beneath his nose, and Leo finds himself wondering if Fate really does exist, and if she’s led him right where he needs to be.

A queer take on magic, murder, and romance, fans of The Dresden Files, Howl's Moving Castle, and A Marvelous Light will find family, acceptance, and a fantastical new world to get lost in within the pages of Under the Dragon Moon, the first book in the Belamour Archives.

I adore everything about this premise, and am terribly jealous of Mael getting to live in a magic bookshop. Why don’t I live in a magic bookshop, huh? I am owed answers! But until I get them, I will happily dive into Mael and Leo’s story!

Freakslaw by Jane Flett
Genres: Adult, Fantasy, Horror, Queer Protagonists, Speculative Fiction
Representation: Queer MCs
Published on: 20th June 2024

Discover the dazzling new queer literary horror novel about chosen family and the risks it takes to become the person you want to be.

‘The glittery punk offspring of Katherine Dunn’s Geek Love and Angela Carter’s Nights at the Circus.’ Chelsea G. Summers, author of A Certain Hunger

A travelling funfair of seductive troublemakers arrive in a repressed Scottish town. What could possibly go wrong?

It’s the summer of ’97 and the Scottish town of Pitlaw is itching for change.

Enter the Freakslaw – a travelling funfair populated by deviant queers, a contortionist witch, the most powerful fortune teller, and other architects of mayhem. It doesn’t take long for the Freakslaw folk to infiltrate Pitlaw’s grey world, where the town’s teenagers – none more so than Ruth and Derek – are seduced by neon charms and the possibility of escape.

But beneath it all, these newcomers are harbouring a darker desire: revenge.

And as tensions reach fever pitch between the stoic locals and the dazzling intruders, a violence that’s been simmering for centuries is about to be unleashed…

I think this is a UK-only release, but I have my ways, and I will DEFINITELY be using them because this sounds AWESOME. Also kind of terrifying, from the content warnings in some of the reviews??? But not enough to stop me from checking it out. ‘Lock up your daughters…Tie a horse rope round your sons’??? Who can resist that?!

Mary Ellen, Craterean! (The Crater School Book 3) by Chaz Brenchley
Genres: Sci Fi, YA
Published on: 20th June 2024

Like private schools back on Earth, the Crater School is primarily the preserve of the upper and middle classes. But the hinterlands of Mars are very rural. Farming the Red Planet is hard, and families rely on their children to help with the work. What, then, is a farming family to do with a girl like Mary Ellen who seems interested only in books, and who asks questions that her teachers are hard-pressed to answer?

Then, one day, a chance event changes Mary Ellen’s life. A famous author on a research trip visits her farm and spots her talent. An offer is made, a fully-paid scholarship to the famous Crater School. It seems like a dream come true. But dreams can easily turn into nightmares.

The Crater School series is one of my cosy reads – think the traditional British boarding school stories, but set on Mars! This one sounds like it might be set chronologically before the other books, which means you can read it even if you’re unfamiliar with the series! Me, I’m going to dive right in. I want Mary’s origin story!

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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