Must-Have Monday #84

Posted 2nd May 2022 by Siavahda in Must-Have Mondays / 0 Comments

May is starting with a BANG – there are SIXTEEN books that have caught my eye this week, including some contemporary romances and non-fic! Take a look.

The Prince's Poisoned Vow (Infernal War Saga, #1) by Hailey Turner
Genres: Fantasy, High Fantasy, Queer Protagonists
Representation: M/M
Published on: 2nd May 2022
Goodreads

Every country is built on revolution.

THE WARDEN. Soren is a nameless, stateless man, tasked with keeping watch over Maricol’s borders. He isn’t meant for politics, only dealing with the dead. His past was buried in the poison fields, but after a fateful encounter with a prince, Soren comes to realize he can’t keep what magic burns inside him hidden forever.

THE PRINCE. Vanya Sa’Liandel was the spare who survived the Houses’ murderous games to become the Imperial crown prince of Solaria. He has a duty to his country, but he’ll owe his life to the wardens. Payment of any kind is costly, especially when he’s at risk of losing his heart to the man who saved his life.

THE COG. Caris Dhemlan hears the siren song of clarion crystals better than anyone in Ashion. That skill for inventing has enriched her bloodline, but it’s who she can become that will ultimately entangle her with the Clockwork Brigade.

THE PRINCESS. Eimarille Rourke should have been raised to be queen of one country; instead, she is prisoner of another. Guided by a star god, Eimarille bides her time in a gilded cage, spinning a political web to gain a throne and start a war the world isn’t ready for.

From the author who brought you the Soulbound series comes a queer steampunk-inspired epic fantasy.

I have been reassured by early reviews that this is much more fantasy than romance, which is how I generally prefer it. I’m cautiously hopeful about this one, I’ve heard many good things!

Morfphology by Liv Reimers
Genres: Sci Fi
Published on: 2nd May 2022
Goodreads

In a dystopian future, Dr. Alix Edison is a jaded, but brilliant, genetic engineer who ruthlessly pulled herself to the top of an industry in a society that is hostile toward women. For those who cling to their autonomy and work outside their "natural and proper sphere" of the home, virulent animus awaits. After working much of her career creating "Designer Babies" for the well-to-do, Alix has now developed a gene-editing sequence with the capability of creating very enhanced human beings known as Morfphs.

Morfphs are engineered to read emotions, thoughts, and desires of a human they have bonded with, but their gifts don't end there. They also have the extraordinary ability and the overpowering need to fluidly, both physically and emotionally, shapeshift into the very embodiment of that desire.

Can Morfphs ease the profound loneliness and alienation that have not only blighted Alix's individual life, but have also become pandemic in society? Alix is betting everything on it.

This is such an interesting premise, and the moment I read the description I wanted to know more. I’m not sure what to expect, but I’m intrigued!

Tempest in a Teapot (SerendipiTea, #1) by Kate Valent
Genres: Fantasy, Historical Fantasy
Published on: 2nd May 2022
Goodreads

Charlotte loves tea as much as the next person, but she never expected a magical teapot to choose her husband.   When eccentric businessman and magician Martin Steepe hosts a tea party to find a wife, Charlotte doesn’t expect to be chosen. After all she’s only a baker’s daughter aspiring to be a penny blood author and the Steepes want to marry into nobility. Except he does choose her. With enchanted tea leaves.

Unfortunately for Charlotte he doesn’t even know her name let alone that she isn’t nobility. And she isn’t entirely certain having the same favorite tea is a good basis for a marriage.   

As their awkward courtship evolves, she finds herself falling for Mr. Steepe’s honesty, his charming magic, and the tea he sells. But then his cousin discovers the truth of her standing and refuses to let Martin marry a commoner. With the fate of the Steepe Family fortune at stake, he is determined to end the engagement through whatever magical and non-magical means necessary. If she doesn’t put an end to his scheming he will ruin her engagement. If the truth doesn’t first.  

This sounds super sweet and delightful, and I’m already charmed by the idea of magic tea (and the pun of the series title!)

Maria, Maria: Other Stories by Marytza K. Rubio
Genres: Fantasy
Representation: Latine cast
Published on: 3rd May 2022
Goodreads

“The first witch of the waters was born in Destruction. The moon named her Maria.”

Set against the tropics and megacities of the Americas, Maria, Maria takes inspiration from wild creatures, tarot, and the porous borders between life and death. Motivated by love and its inverse, grief, the characters who inhabit these stories negotiate boldly with nature to cast their desired ends. As the enigmatic community college professor in “Brujería for Beginners” reminds us: “There’s always a price for conjuring in darkness. You won’t always know what it is until payment is due.” This commitment drives the disturbingly faithful widow in “Tijuca,” who promises to bury her husband’s head in the rich dirt of the jungle, and the sisters in “Moksha,” who are tempted by a sleek obsidian dagger once held by a vampiric idol.

But magic isn’t limited to the women who wield it. As Rubio so brilliantly elucidates, animals are powerful magicians too. Subversive pigeons and hungry jaguars are called upon in “Tunnels,” and a lonely little girl runs free with a resurrected saber-toothed tiger in “Burial.” A colorful catalog of gallery exhibits from animals in therapy is featured in “Art Show,” including the Almost Philandering Fox, who longs after the red pelt of another, and the recently rehabilitated Paranoid Peacocks.

Brimming with sharp wit and ferocious female intuition, these stories bubble over into the titular novella, “Maria, Maria”—a tropigoth family drama set in a reimagined California rainforest that explores the legacies of three Marias, and possibly all Marias. Writing in prose so lush it threatens to creep off the page, Rubio emerges as an ineffable new voice in contemporary short fiction.

I can’t quite remember how Maria, Maria ended upon my radar, but I’m glad it did because it sounds incredible! I don’t often go for short story collections, but this one has me hooked before I’ve even read the first page.

Seasonal Fears (Alchemical Journeys, #2) by Seanan McGuire
Genres: Fantasy
Published on: 3rd May 2022
Goodreads

Melanie has a destiny, though it isn’t the one everyone assumes it to be. She’s delicate; she’s fragile; she’s dying. Now, truly, is the winter of her soul.

Harry doesn’t want to believe in destiny, because that means accepting the loss of the one person who gives his life meaning, who brings summer to his world.

So, when a new road is laid out in front of them—a road that will lead through untold dangers toward a possible lifetime together—walking down it seems to be the only option.

But others are following behind, with violence in their hearts.

It looks like Destiny has a plan for them, after all….

One must maintain a little bit of summer even in the middle of winter.” —Thoreau

Seanan McGuire is on my auto-buy list regardless of what she writes, but I admit to being especially excited for this sequel to Middlegame! Which I think I need to reread before diving into Seasonal Fears

When Women Were Dragons by Kelly Barnhill
Genres: Fantasy, Historical Fantasy, Queer Protagonists
Representation: Sapphic MC
Published on: 3rd May 2022
Goodreads

Learn about the Mass Dragoning of 1955 in which 300,000 women spontaneously transform into dragons...and change the world.

Alex Green is a young girl in a world much like ours. But this version of 1950's America is characterized by a significant event: The Mass Dragoning of 1955, when hundreds of thousands of ordinary wives and mothers sprouted wings, scales and talons, left a trail of fiery destruction in their path, and took to the skies. Seemingly for good. Was it their choice? What will become of those left behind? Why did Alex's beloved Aunt Marla transform but her mother did not? Alex doesn't know. It's taboo to speak of, even more so than her crush on Sonja, her schoolmate.

Forced into silence, Alex nevertheless must face the consequences of dragons: a mother more protective than ever; a father growing increasingly distant; the upsetting insistence that her aunt never even existed; and a new "sister" obsessed with dragons far beyond propriety. Through loss, rage, and self-discovery, this story follows Alex's journey as she deals with the events leading up to and beyond the Mass Dragoning, and her connection with the phenomenon itself.

I’ve read and reviewed this one, and it’s just as fabulous as that amazing title!

The Change by Kirsten Miller
Genres: Fantasy, Contemporary or Urban Fantasy
Published on: 3rd May 2022
Goodreads

Miller triumphs...THE CHANGE is that rare treat: a suspenseful story with great pacing, memorable characters, and an engaging voice. Fantastic in every way, this fierce anthem against misogyny is a smash.--Publishers Weekly (starred review)

Big Little Lies meets The Witches of Eastwick--a gloriously entertaining and knife-sharp feminist revenge fantasy about three women whose midlife crisis brings unexpected new powers--putting them on a collision course with the evil that lurks in their wealthy beach town.

In the Long Island oceanfront community of Mattauk, three different women discover that midlife changes bring a whole new type of empowerment...

After Nessa James's husband dies and her twin daughters leave for college, she's left all alone in a trim white house not far from the ocean. In the quiet of her late forties, the former nurse begins to hear voices. It doesn't take long for Nessa to realize that the voices calling out to her belong to the dead--a gift she's inherited from her grandmother, which comes with special responsibilities.

On the cusp of 50, suave advertising director Harriett Osborne has just witnessed the implosion of her lucrative career and her marriage. She hasn't left her house in months, and from the outside, it appears as if she and her garden have both gone to seed. But Harriet's life is far from over--in fact, she's undergone a stunning and very welcome metamorphosis.

Ambitious former executive Jo Levison has spent thirty long years at war with her body. The free-floating rage and hot flashes that arrive with the beginning of menopause feel like the very last straw--until she realizes she has the ability to channel them, and finally comes into her power.

Guided by voices only Nessa can hear, the trio of women discover a teenage girl whose body was abandoned beside a remote beach. The police have written the victim off as a drug-addicted sex worker, but the women refuse to buy into the official narrative.

Their investigation into the girl's murder leads to more bodies, and to the town's most exclusive and isolated enclave, a world of stupendous wealth where the rules don't apply. With their newfound powers, Jo, Nessa, and Harriet will take matters into their own hands...

I love the idea of reframing menopause as something that gives you magical powers rather than as something that is a loss, an end! Definitely going to be giving this one a try.

Book of Night by Holly Black
Genres: Fantasy, Contemporary or Urban Fantasy
Published on: 3rd May 2022
Goodreads

#1 New York Times bestselling author Holly Black makes her stunning adult debut with Book of Night, a modern dark fantasy of shadowy thieves and secret societies in the vein of Ninth House and The Night Circus.

In Charlie Hall’s world, shadows can be altered, for entertainment and cosmetic preferences—but also to increase power and influence. You can alter someone’s feelings—and memories—but manipulating shadows has a cost, with the potential to take hours or days from your life. Your shadow holds all the parts of you that you want to keep hidden—a second self, standing just to your left, walking behind you into lit rooms. And sometimes, it has a life of its own.

Charlie is a low-level con artist, working as a bartender while trying to distance herself from the powerful and dangerous underground world of shadow trading. She gets by doing odd jobs for her patrons and the naive new money in her town at the edge of the Berkshires. But when a terrible figure from her past returns, Charlie’s present life is thrown into chaos, and her future seems at best, unclear—and at worst, non-existent.

Determined to survive, Charlie throws herself into a maelstrom of secrets and murder, setting her against a cast of doppelgangers, mercurial billionaires, shadow thieves, and her own sister—all desperate to control the magic of the shadows.

With sharp angles and prose, and a sinister bent, Holly Black is a master of shadow and story stitching. Remember while you read, light isn’t playing tricks in Book of Night, the people are.

I’ve loved Holly Black’s YA forEVER, so of course I’m going to read her Adult debut! I really liked the sample that was published, and I can’t wait to get started on the rest!

Ballad & Dagger (Outlaw Saints, #1) by Daniel José Older
Genres: Fantasy, Contemporary or Urban Fantasy
Representation: Brown diasporic cast, Jewish MC
Published on: 3rd May 2022
Goodreads

Best-selling author Rick Riordan presents Daniel José Older's music-and-magic-filled YA urban fantasy about two teens who discover each other and their powers during a political battle within a unique diaspora community.

"Brimming with mystery, mayhem, and heart, Ballad and Dagger gives us wondrous new magic steeped in deep traditions. It's a gorgeous romance, a wild adventure, and a powerful story that unravels not only the pain of diaspora, but the strength of community and the ways we provide refuge for one another."--Leigh Bardugo, New York Times #1 best-selling author of Shadow and Bone

Almost sixteen years ago, Mateo Matisse's island homeland disappeared into the sea. Weary and hopeless, the survivors of San Madrigal's sinking escaped to New York.

While the rest of his tight-knit Brooklyn diaspora community dreams of someday finding a way back home, Mateo--now a high school junior and piano prodigy living with his two aunts (one who's alive, the other not so much)--is focused on one thing: getting the attention of locally-grown musical legend Gerval. Mateo finally gets his chance on the night of the Grand Fete, an annual party celebrating the blended culture of pirates, Cuban Santeros, and Sephardic Jews that created San Madrigal all those centuries ago.

But the evil that sank their island has finally caught up with them, and on the night of the celebration, Mateo's life is forever changed when he witnesses a brutal murder by a person he thought he knew.
Suddenly Mateo is thrust into an ancient battle that spans years and oceans. Deadly secrets are unraveled and Mateo awakens a power within himself--a power that not only links him to the killer but could also hold the key to unlocking the dark mystery behind his lost homeland.

From the author of the award-winning Shadowshaper Cypher series comes the first novel in the Outlaw Saints duology--a brilliant story that will transport readers to a world where magic, myth, and gods reign over the streets of Brooklyn.

I only found out about this today (how did I not know about it sooner?!) and I was immediately heart-eyes! It sounds seriously amazing, and I’m definitely diving into it the minute I can!

The Marvellers by Dhonielle Clayton
Genres: Fantasy, Contemporary or Urban Fantasy
Representation: Black MC
Published on: 3rd May 2022
Goodreads

Author Dhonielle Clayton makes her middle-grade debut with a fantasy adventure set in a global magic school in the sky.

Eleven-year-old Ella Durand is the first Conjuror to attend the Arcanum Training Institute, where Marvellers from all around the world come together to practice their cultural arts like brewing Indian spice elixirs, practicing Caribbean steel drum hypnosis, and bartering with fussy Irish faeries. Ella knows some people mistrust her Conjuror magic, often deemed "bad and unnatural," but she's eager to make a good impression—and, hopefully, some friends.

But Ella discovers that being the first isn't easy, and not all of the Marvellers are welcoming. Still, she connects with fellow misfits Brigit, a girl who hates magic, and Jason, who is never found without a magical creature or two. Just as Ella begins to find her way at the A.T.I., a notorious criminal escapes from prison, supposedly with Conjurors’ help. Worse, her favorite teacher Masterji Thakur never returns from a research trip, and only Ella seems concerned about his disappearance.

As tensions grow in the Marvellian world, Ella finds herself the target of vicious rumors and growing suspicions. With the help of her new friends, Ella must find a way to clear her family's name and track down her beloved mentor Masterji Thakur . . . before she loses her place at the A.T.I. forever.

HI YES I’LL TAKE TEN THANK YOU! Clayton’s prose has been consistently gorgeous, and I’m so excited to get to read her magic school story!!!

Chef's Kiss by T.J. Alexander
Genres: Queer Protagonists
Representation: Queer MC, nonbinary love interest
Published on: 3rd May 2022
Goodreads

A high-strung pastry chef’s professional goals are interrupted by an unexpected career transition and the introduction of her wildly attractive nonbinary kitchen manager in this deliciously fresh and witty queer rom-com.

Simone Larkspur is a perfectionist pastry expert with a dream job at The Discerning Chef, a venerable cookbook publisher in New York City. All she wants to do is create the perfect loaf of sourdough and develop recipes, but when The Discerning Chef decides to bring their brand into the 21st century by pivoting to video, Simone is thrust into the spotlight and finds herself failing at something for the first time in her life.

To make matters worse, Simone has to deal with Ray Lyton, the new test kitchen manager, whose obnoxious cheer and outgoing personality are like oil to Simone’s water. When Ray accidentally becomes a viral YouTube sensation with a series of homebrewing videos, their eccentric editor in chief forces Simone to work alongside the chipper upstart or else risk her beloved job. But the more they work together, the more Simone realizes her heart may be softening like butter for Ray.

Things get even more complicated when Ray comes out at work as nonbinary to mixed reactions—and Simone must choose between the career she fought so hard for and the person who just might take the cake (and her heart).

It’s not SFF, but last year I discovered I have a definite Thing for cooking-related romances, and this one’s been on my radar for a while! Very much looking forward to curling up with it!

Queerly Beloved by Susie Dumond
Genres: Queer Protagonists
Representation: F/F
Published on: 3rd May 2022
Goodreads

A people-pleasing baker tries to find her place as a bridesmaid-for-hire . Will she finally find her happily ever after—and her own voice?

Amy, a semicloseted queer baker and bartender in mid-2010s Oklahoma, has spent a lifetime putting other people’s needs before her own. Until, that is, she’s fired from her job at a Christian bakery and turns her a one-off gig subbing in for a bridesmaid into a full-time business—thanks to her baking talents, crafting skills, and years watching rom-coms and Say Yes to the Dress. Between her new gig and meeting Charley, the attractive engineer who’s just moved to Tulsa, suddenly Amy’s found something— and someone—she actually wants.

Her tight-knit group of chosen family is thrilled that Amy is becoming her authentic self. But when her deep desire to please kicks into overdrive, Amy’s precarious balancing act strains her relationships to the breaking point, and she must decide what it looks like to be true to herself—and if she has the courage to try.

Another bakery-adjacent romance! Also, it’s another punny title!

I Kissed Shara Wheeler by Casey McQuiston
Genres: Queer Protagonists
Representation: Queer MC
Published on: 3rd May 2022
Goodreads

From the New York Times bestselling author of One Last Stop and Red, White & Royal Blue comes a debut YA romantic comedy about chasing down what you want, only to find what you need...

Chloe Green is so close to winning. After her moms moved her from SoCal to Alabama for high school, she’s spent the past four years dodging gossipy classmates and a puritanical administration at Willowgrove Christian Academy. The thing that’s kept her going: winning valedictorian. Her only rival: prom queen Shara Wheeler, the principal’s perfect progeny.

But a month before graduation, Shara kisses Chloe and vanishes.

On a furious hunt for answers, Chloe discovers she’s not the only one Shara kissed. There’s also Smith, Shara’s longtime quarterback sweetheart, and Rory, Shara’s bad boy neighbor with a crush. The three have nothing in common except Shara and the annoyingly cryptic notes she left behind, but together they must untangle Shara’s trail of clues and find her. It’ll be worth it, if Chloe can drag Shara back before graduation to beat her fair-and-square.

Thrown into an unlikely alliance, chasing a ghost through parties, break-ins, puzzles, and secrets revealed on monogrammed stationery, Chloe starts to suspect there might be more to this small town than she thought. And maybe—probably not, but maybe—more to Shara, too.

Fierce, funny, and frank, Casey McQuiston's I Kissed Shara Wheeler is about breaking the rules, getting messy, and finding love in unexpected places.

"Raise your hand if you’ve been personally victimized by this funny, weird, razor-sharp, intensely compassionate, subversive, sweet, electrifyingly romantic knockout of a book. Casey freaking McQuiston, you’ve done it again.” - Becky Albertalli, New York Times bestselling author of Kate in Waiting and Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda

Not just not-FF, but YA not-SFF??? Yep! Because I’ll read anything and everything McQuiston writes, and I encourage everyone else to, too!

This Has Always Been a War by Lori Fox
Published on: 3rd May 2022
Goodreads

Capitalism has infiltrated every aspect of our personal, social, economic, and sexual lives. By examining the politics of gender, environment and sexuality, we can see the ways straight, cis, white, and especially male upper-class people control and subvert the other—queer, non-binary, BIPOC, and female bodies—in order to keep the working lower classes divided. Patriarchy and classism are forms of systemic violence which ensure that the main commodity of capitalism—a large, disposable, cheap, and ideally subjugated work force—is readily available. There is a lot wrong with the ways we live, work, and treat each other.

In essays that are both accessible and inspiring, Lori Fox examines their confrontations with the capitalist patriarchy through their experiences as a queer, non-binary, working-class farm hand, labourer, bartender, bush-worker, and road dog, exploring the ugly places where issues of gender, sexuality, class, and the environment intersect.

In applying the micro to the macro, demonstrating how the personal is political and vice versa, Fox exposes the flaws in believing that this is the only way our society can or should work. Brash, topical, and passionate, This Has Always Been a War is not only a collection of essays, but a series of dispatches from the combative front lines of our present-day culture.

I don’t read a lot of non-fiction, and I will probably keep this on my tbr for a while because I don’t think I can handle it right now – but this is a book I way much want to read when I’m ready for it.

The Fairy Tellers by Nicholas Jubber
Published on: 3rd May 2022
Goodreads

Fairy-Tales are not just fairy-tales: they are records of historical phenomena, telling us something about how Western civilisation was formed. In The Fairy-Tellers' Trail, award-winning travel-writer Nick Jubber explores their secret history of fairy-tales: the people who told them, the landscapes that forged them, and the cultures that formed them.

While there are certain names inextricably entwined with the concept of a fairy-tale, such as the Brothers Grimm and Hans Christian Andersen, the most significant tellers are long buried under the more celebrated figures who have taken the credit for their stories - people like the Syrian storyteller Youhenna Diab and the Wild Sisters of Cassel. Without them we would never have heard of Aladdin, his Magic Lamp or the adventures of Hansel and Gretel.

Tracking these stories to their sources carries us through the steaming cities of Southern Italy and across the Mediterranean to the dust-clogged alleys of the Maghreb, under the fretting leaves of the Black Forest, deep into the tundra of Siberia and across the snowy hills of Lapland.

From North Africa and Siberia, this book illuminates the complicated relationship between Western civilization and the 'Eastern' cultures it borrowed from, and the strange lives of our long lost fairy-tellers.

Another non-fic! This sounds absolutely marvellous, and I can’t wait to dive in!

Rebel Skies (Rebel Skies, #1) by Ann Sei Lin
Genres: Fantasy
Representation: Asian-coded setting and cast
Published on: 5th May 2022
Goodreads

Teen fantasy adventure set in a world of flying ships and sky cities, where chosen ones have the ability to bring paper to life and work as Crafters - people who hunt wild paper spirits called shikigami. Inspired by Asian culture and exploring themes of empire, slavery and freedom.

Kurara has never known any other life than being a servant on board the Midori, but when her party trick of making paper come to life turns out to be a power treasured across the empire, she joins a skyship and its motley crew to become a Crafter. Taught by the gruff but wise Himura, Kurara learns to hunt shikigami - wild paper spirits who are sought after by the Princess.

But are these creatures just powerful slaves for the Crafters and the empire, or are they beings with their own souls - and yet another thing to be subjugated by the powerful Emperor and his Princess?

I think this might be a UK-only release, but that won’t stop me getting my hands on it! Have you read that description??? Gimme!

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

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