Posted in Books

YA Reads for Black History Month

Happy Friday, bibliophiles!

Phew, I’m so glad to be on a long weekend…we have the day off school today and next Monday, so I think I’ll have some much needed time to wind down…

As some of you may know, here in the U.S., the month of February is Black History Month! So for the occasion, I decided that it would be a good idea to make a post full of my favorite YA reads from #OwnVoices Black authors. Now more than ever it is critical to share stories from marginalized voices, and in the current climate that much of the world is in, uplifting POC voices should be at the forefront of creative endeavors.

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I’ve made a list of YA reads of all genres for this post, all of them 4-5 star reads for me. So let’s begin, shall we?

THE BOOKISH MUTANT’S YA READS FOR BLACK HISTORY MONTH

The Sound of Stars – Alechia Dow

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GENRES: Sci-fi, dystopia, LGBTQ+, romance

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️.75, rounded up to ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

The Sound of Stars was one of my favorite reads of 2020! A diverse cast, a tender romance, and no shortage of music and book references. Other than the ending, it’s pretty much everything I could want in a book.

The Revolution of Birdie Randolph – Brandy Colbert

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GENRES: Contemporary, romance, LGBTQ+

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

The Revolution of Birdie Randolph is one of those special novels that simultaneously touches on a myriad of important issues, but still retains a lighter, slice-of-life mood. Romantic, sweet, and so inclusive!

Tiffany Sly Lives Here Now – Dana L. Davis

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GENRES: Contemporary, fiction

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

It’s been a few years since I’ve read this one, but Tiffany Sly Lives Here Now has stuck with me ever since. A resonant story about family, mental health and grief.

A Song Below Water – Bethany C. Morrow

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GENRES: Magical realism, contemporary, fantasy

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️.75, rounded up to ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

I’m always on the hunt for good mermaid books, and I’m glad to say that A Song Below Water was such a unique novel! It certainly isn’t without its flaws, but this was a solid piece of magical realism.

Punching the Air – Ibi Zoboi & Yusef Salaam

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GENRES: Poetry/Novels in verse, contemporary, fiction

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

I don’t read an awful lot of poetry, but Punching the Air hit me so hard. This was a truly powerful novel about the corruption of the justice system and the transformative power of art.

Children of Blood and Bone – Tomi Adeyemi

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GENRES: High fantasy, romance

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

It’s been a few years since I’ve read this one and my memory of it’s a bit hazy (oops), but from what I remember, Children of Blood and Bone was such a well-written and well-crafted fantasy! (Plus, that gorgeous cover…)

The Stars and the Blackness Between Them – Junauda Petrus

Image result for the stars and the blackness between them by junauda petrus

GENRES: Contemporary, fiction, LGBTQ+, romance, magical realism

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

This was one of my first reads of the year, and wow, such a beautiful novel! I loved the relationship between Audre and Mabel, and the writing was so tender. Highly recommended.

Monday’s Not Coming – Tiffany D. Jackson

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GENRES: Mystery, thriller, contemporary

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Mystery isn’t my go-to genre, but Monday’s Not Coming was truly astounding. Haunting, gripping and suspenseful–everything a mystery novel should be, really.

The Black Kids – Christina Hammonds Reed

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GENRES: Fiction, historical fiction (1990s)

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Even though it’s set in the 1990’s, The Black Kids has no shortage of timely themes, and stands out as a powerful and immersive historical fiction novel. Highly recommended!

Raybearer – Jordan Ifueko

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GENRES: High fantasy, fantasy, romance

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

I have a distinct memory of looking through reviews for Raybearer before I picked it up; it was a struggle to find any sort of reviews with ratings below 4 stars (I usually try to read reviews in the 3-2 star range before reading most books), and everybody and their mother seemed to be gushing about it. But I’m glad to say that Raybearer absolutely lived up to that hype, and I now count myself among the legions of 4-star ratings!

A Song of Wraiths and Ruin – Roseanne A. Brown

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GENRES: Fantasy, high fantasy, romance

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

I just finished this one last week (bought it with a gift card I got for Christmas!), and I must say, absolutely worth buying! Complex protagonists, and a writing style that all at once felt nostalgic and wonderfully fresh and unique. (I’ll try to review this one next week!)

TELL ME WHAT YOU THINK! Have you read any of these novels, and what did you think of them? What are your favorite YA novels from #OwnVoices Black authors? Any recommendations?

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Today’s song:

That’s it for this list of recommendations! Have a wonderful rest of your day, and take care of yourselves!

Posted in ARC Reviews, Books

eARC Review: The Brighter the Stars

Happy Friday, bibliophiles!

I haven’t done an eARC review in a little bit, and it was nice to see this one pop up after I’d forgotten about requesting it. It was a quick read for me, but although there was clearly a lot of care put into the worldbuilding, much of The Brighter the Stars fell flat for me.

Enjoy this eARC review!

Image result for the brighter the stars bryan prosek

The Brighter the Stars–Bryan K. Prosek

At only twelve, Jake Saunders witnessed the murder of his uncle by Romalor, the tyrant of a distant world. His death shaped him for years, eventually leading him to the Legion, the intergalactic military. For years, he has sought revenge, but only now does he have the chance to avenge his uncle. But when Diane, an ambassador to Earth and a close friend to Jake, is captured, he must find a way to rescue her–and right the wrongs of the murderous Romalor.

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TW/CW: violence, loss of a loved one

Thank you to Edelweiss+ and CamCat Publishing for sending me this eARC in exchange for an honest review!

Wait, so we’ve got a protagonist who witnessed the murder of his Uncle Ben in his formative years? Wait a minute…[PETER PARKER INTENSIFIES]

(Kidding, kidding…)

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I always feel pretty bad giving more indie books low ratings. It’s hard to put yourself out there, and especially since this one has hardly any reviews or ratings on Goodreads as of now, it did pain me a little bit to give The Brighter the Stars a lower rating. But hey, I’m supposed to give an honest review here, and to be honest, this novel really wasn’t my cup of tea, even though I’m a huge fan of sci-fi.

Let’s start off with the positives. What stood out most to me about The Brighter the Stars was the worldbuilding; the author clearly put a lot of work into making a fleshed-out, intricate world, and for the most part, he succeeded. Although there were several instances where I felt like the information was being info-dumped, the futuristic world that Prosek crafted was one that felt very lived-in.

I also liked the dynamic between Jake, Cal and Diane. They had great chemistry together as a trio, and even though Jake’s and Cal’s personalities/voices were almost indistinguishable, I liked Diane’s character.

What bothered me most about The Brighter the Stars was the writing. It was often very choppy, with long clumps of sentences that were almost the exact same length. Within at least half of the paragraphs, most of the sentences seemed to start with the same word(s); this, combined with the lack of variation for the sentence length, made for a novel that didn’t really flow. I can usually just scan the pages if the sentences have differing lengths, but even the action sequences failed to flow. Additionally, the descriptions leaned quite a lot on telling instead of showing–there’s a whole lot of “was,” “[they] felt,” “[they] knew,” etc., which also contributed to the lack of fluidity throughout the story.

There’s an interesting combination as far as genres go; The Brighter the Stars is pretty hardcore sci-fi, but there’s some clear Western influences on it. (I really don’t know much about Westerns, so take this all with a grain of salt. I guess The Mandalorian was pretty Western-inspired, soooo…) There were quite a few nods to the latter throughout, and I did kind of like the desert/saloon planet, but plot-wise, it still felt quite flat. It was fast-paced, but everything felt far too easy for Jake (ex. beating the supposedly “unbeatable” fighter in the arena, another plot point that I won’t spoil). Now, I’m all for good triumphing over evil in the end, but there seemed to be little to no struggle for Jake to get over the obstacles in his path. He was definitely more of a Gary Stu-type protagonist, which…mmm, nope.

Overall, a sci-fi that clearly took time to create a fleshed-out world, but suffered from dry, choppy writing and unrealistically skilled protagonist. 2 stars.

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Release date: November 10, 2020

Today’s song:

That’s it for this eARC review! Have a wonderful rest of your day, and take care of yourselves!

Posted in Books

A YA Reader’s Guide to Space Opera 👽

Happy Thursday, bibliophiles!

Would you look at that…for once, I actually have a post that isn’t a meme, an update, or a book tag…

I’ve been planning for this one a little bit, and I’m excited to get into it! If you’ve been following this blog for a while, you know how much I love sci-fi. So for this post, I decided to go semi-in-depth on my favorite subgenre of science fiction and dole out some recommendations of mine.

Let’s begin, shall we?

So first off, what is space opera anyway?

Steam Community :: :: Obi-wan has taught you well.

In all forms of media, space opera is a subgenre of science fiction. It tends to focus less on the heavy science/physics of the universe it’s in, and more on aspects such as plot and characters. There’s often adventures at a breakneck pace, intergalactic war or conflict, strange planets/other locations, and drama between a set of characters. A lot of space opera media that I’ve consumed tends to throw in a ragtag bunch of characters with nothing in common together, and then throws them into an adventure of epic proportions. (Commonly referred to in many of my posts and reviews as “[chaotic] space misfits.”) More often than not, there’s some light elements of fantasy, sometimes as placeholders to explain the workings of the universe. And, as you probably can figure out, it’s usually set in space or on a distant planet.

Star Wars is often used as the quintessential example of a space opera–dogfights in space, romance, strange worlds, and (amazing) lightsaber duels. (What more could you possibly want?) Although it’s probably not *the original* space opera, it’s influenced a huge chunk of space opera/sci-fi media for the last 40-ish years. Guardians of the Galaxy is another widely-known example of space opera, and from= the world of literature, Dune and Foundation are some of the most well-loved space opera classics.

I'm Mary Poppins, y'all! (gif) | Guardians of the galaxy, Marvel cinematic,  Marvel cinematic universe

Sci-fi has only become my favorite book genre in the past…six or seven years; for a while, I was mostly drawn to fantasy, but after reading Tony DiTerlizzi’s Search for WondLa trilogy, there was no going back. And I was raised on a steady diet of Star Wars, so it was bound to happen eventually. There’s a multitude of reasons why I’m drawn to it. Even though fantasy has virtually no limits as far as making up universes goes, there’s just something about about flying through the vast reaches of space and traveling to strange worlds that has always appealed to me. And as someone who’s been something of an outcast for the better part of my life, I’m drawn like a magnet to any kind of found-family tropes. Now, I know full well that it’s not exclusive to space opera, but everything from Star Wars to Aurora Rising has a cast of strange and distinct characters that come to see themselves as a family, and I’ve always loved the theme of finding your tribe of weirdos.

So now, if you say “space opera,” there’s a good chance that I’ll immediately want to read it. (Doesn’t mean I’ll love it–there’s good and bad books in every genre, of course–but I’ll certainly read it.)

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Now, I’ve compiled a list of some YA space opera recommendations! Each one is tailored to different types of readers/tastes, because I firmly believe there’s something for everybody, even if sci-fi isn’t normally your thing. So let’s get to it, shall we?

🪐YA SPACE OPERA RECS🪐

For readers who like character-driven books…

Amazon.com: Heart of Iron (9780062652850): Poston, Ashley: Books

Heart of Iron duology–Ashley Poston

A retelling of the story of Anastasia, this unique duology boasts a diverse and lovable cast of characters, royal intrigue, creepy androids, and some really cool spaceships.

For readers who like fairytale retellings…

Amazon.com: Once & Future (9780316449274): McCarthy, Cori, Capetta, Amy  Rose: Books

Once & Future–A.R. Capetta and Cori McCarthy

A retelling of Arthurian legend where the reincarnation of King Arthur is a pansexual woman of color and a spell gone wrong made Merlin age backwards…into an awkward, voice-cracky teenager. Super diverse, super feminist, and super fun!

For readers who love a good found-family story…

Aurora Rising - (Aurora Cycle) By Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff (Paperback) :  Target

Aurora Cycle–Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

In short, this is what happens when you put Captain America in a spaceship with his sister, his ex, a whole bunch of random students from the bottom of his class, and a girl with a glowing eye that may or may not start an intergalactic war. Hands down, my favorite series of all time.

For readers who love a little romance…

Amazon.com: Defy the Stars (Defy the Stars (1)) (9780316394031): Gray,  Claudia: Books

The Constellation trilogy–Claudia Gray

The worldbuilding and the imagery are beautiful in all three books, but it’s really the unlikely relationship between Noemi and Abel that shines in this one. [🥺 intensifies]

For readers who like plots with high-stakes competitions…

Amazon.com: Crownchasers (9780062845160): Coffindaffer, Rebecca: Books

Crownchasers–Rebecca Coffindaffer

(Would you look at that…another pansexual protagonist!)

I had my expectations a *bit* too high for this one, but it was still a whole lot of fun! A lot of reviewers have pitched it as Aurora Rising meets The Hunger Games, and I’d say that’s pretty spot-on. I’m excited to see what Coffindaffer has up their sleeve for book 2.

For fans of steampunk…

Tarnished Are the Stars by Rosiee Thor

Tarnished Are the Stars–Rosiee Thor

This one has elements of both sci-fi and fantasy woven in–royal intrigue on other worlds, and lots of clockwork hearts! Plus, it’s a beautiful queer story; we have a wlw romance, as well as a beautiful aro-ace coming out scene for one of the main characters.

For readers who prefer standalones to series…

Amazon.com: Last of Her Name (9781338243369): Khoury, Jessica: Books

Last of Her Name–Jessica Khoury

Another space opera retelling of Anastasia, comin’ right up…

Last of Her Name is a truly beautiful novel, with intricate and detailed worldbuilding, tender romance, and no shortage of twists that I couldn’t see coming. I do wish we’d gotten a larger glimpse into this world, but it was still satisfying as one book.

For thriller fans…

Amazon.com: Illuminae (The Illuminae Files) (9780553499117): Amie Kaufman,  Jay Kristoff: Books

The Illuminae Files–Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

Normally, I’d try to avoid putting two series from the same author(s) in a post like this, but Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff are masters of sci-fi, so I kind of *had to.* Composed of interviews, emails, security footage, and more, this is truly a trilogy like no other.

TELL ME WHAT YOU THINK? What are your favorite space opera books? Do you have any space opera recs for us? Tell me in the comments!

Baby Yoda Soup Baby Yoda Tea GIF - BabyYodaSoup BabyYodaTea BabyYoda -  Discover & Share GIFs | Star wars nerd, Star wars yoda, Star wars

Today’s song:

That’s it for this post! Have a wonderful rest of your day, and take care of yourselves!

Posted in Books, Top 5 Saturday

Top 5 Saturday (9/12/20)–Science Fiction Books 🛸

Happy Saturday, bibliophiles!

Time for another Top 5 Saturday! This was originally started by Devouring Books, and it sounded like such a fun post to take part in. Today’s topic is sci-fi…

You know what that means…

AHAHAAAAAAAA MY FAVORITE GENRE WOOOOOOOOOOOOOO

But anyway, I have lots of sci-fi on my TBR, so I’ll take some picks from there for this week’s Top 5.

UPCOMING SCHEDULE FOR SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER: 

9/12/20Science Fiction Books

9/19/20—Award-Winning Books

9/26/20—Guilty Pleasure Books

10/3/20—Intimidating Books

Rules!

  • Share your top 5 books of the current topic– these can be books that you want to read, have read and loved, have read and hated, you can do it any way you want.
  • Tag the original post
  • Tag 5 people

Let’s begin, shall we?

Dune, Frank Herbert

Check Out the Artwork for a New Edition of Frank Herbert's Dune | Tor.com

I’ve been meaning to read this one for a year or so; my brother read it for an English project (the same one that lead me to Frankenstein) and liked it. And the new trailer got me SO excited, so of course I’ll have to read it before December! (Did that Pink Floyd cover give anybody else chills, or was that just me?)

Seven Devils, Laura Lam and Elizabeth May

Amazon.com: Seven Devils (9780756415808): Lam, Laura, May, Elizabeth: Books

I’ve been eager to read this for a good year and a half, ever since the first tiny synopsis compared it to Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. (Star Wars? Of COURSE you have my attention, shut up and take my library card…)

Unearthed, Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner

Unearthed – Amie Kaufman

Two words: Amie Kaufman. I put this one on hold at the library recently, so I might get to read it next week!

Struck, Jennifer Bosworth

Struck (Struck, #1) by Jennifer Bosworth

This one’s been on my TBR for years, and I really need to get around to reading it…

Landscape with Invisible Hand, M.T. Anderson

Landscape with Invisible Hand by M.T. Anderson

I almost picked this one up about a year ago, but I set it aside because of how short it was. Nonetheless, this still sounds like a unique and fascinating sci-fi!

I TAG ANYONE WHO WANTS TO PARTICIPATE!

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Today’s song:

That’s it for this week’s Top 5 Saturday! Have a wonderful rest of your day, and take care of yourselves!

Posted in Book Tags, Books

“This is My Genre, Tell Me Yours” Book Tag

Happy Monday, bibliophiles!

I found this tag over at Misty’s Book Space, and I thought it would be such a fun tag to participate in! The tag was originally created by Drew @ The Tattooed Book Geek.

RULES:

  • Credit Drew @ TheTattooedBookGeek as the creator of the tag, use the created tag name graphic and link back to his blog. (Also, if you want to learn more about the tag you can see Drew’s post HERE.)
  • Answer the questions.
  • Tag as many people as you want.
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Let’s begin, shall we?

WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE GENRE?

Science fiction, without a doubt.

These Are Not The 130 "Star Wars" GIFs You Are Looking For | Star ...

WHO IS YOUR FAVORITE AUTHOR FROM THE GENRE?

Can I include two? Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff (co-authors of The Illuminae Files and the Aurora Cycle, and the latter is also the author of the LIFEL1K3 trilogy) never fail to disappoint; with their talents combined, every single one of their novels together is guaranteed a 5-star rating from me.

WHAT IS IT ABOUT THE GENRE THAT KEEPS PULLING YOU BACK?

With sci-fi, there’s an almost endless amount of possibilities, but I am always eager to read anything involving aliens, thrill rides in space, and everything that goes along with it. It’s easy to mess up, to be sure, but when an author hits the right note, I will enjoy every second of it.

WHAT IS THE BOOK THAT STARTED YOUR LOVE OF THE GENRE?

The Search for WondLa: Amazon.es: Diterlizzi, Tony, Diterlizzi ...

Tony DiTerlizzi’s Search for WondLa trilogy was my gateway into sci-fi literature, the summer before 5th grade. I instantly fell in love with the characters and the worldbuilding, and it inspired me to become an author as well. I’ll always hold this series close to my heart.

IF YOU HAD TO RECOMMEND AT LEAST ONE BOOK FROM YOUR FAVORITE GENRE TO A NON-READER/SOMEONE LOOKING TO START THE GENRE, WHAT BOOK WOULD YOU CHOOSE AND WHY?

Amazon.com: Heart of Iron eBook: Poston, Ashley: Kindle Store

Heart of Iron would be a spectacular starter for anyone who’s looking to get into the genre. This novel really has it all–political intrigue, witty banter, a misfit crew of thieves, and lovable characters. Oh, and there’s the POWER COUPLE OF THE CENTURY, JAX AND ROBB. It’s also a retelling of the story of Anastasia, which might be a better starting point for some, if they’re already familiar/semi-familiar with the gist of it.

WHY DO YOU READ?

My, that’s a weighty question…

Reading is so many things for me. It’s an escape, a chance to connect, a way to spend the day, a source of inspiration. I’ve always been a voracious reader, but there’s not a singular reason why I’m so drawn to it. There’s always been the aspect of escaping to fictional worlds for a moment to distract from reality, but in my favorite books, I haven’t just found an escape, but something that speaks to me, something more than just bound paper. It’s hard to pinpoint, but there’s a fount of reasons why I read. Either way, I don’t know what I’d do without books in my life.

I TAG ANYONE WHO WANTS TO PARTICIPATE!

GIFs for Bookish Posts, Part 4: Cute Animals & Mood | Naty's Bookshelf

Since I’ve already posted once today, check out today’s Goodreads Monday for today’s song.

That’s it for this book tag! Have a wonderful rest of your day, and take care of yourselves!

Posted in Books

Pride Month Book Recommendations, Week 1: Sci-Fi

Happy Thursday, everyone! 🌈

For this Pride Month, I’ve decided to do a batch of weekly recommendations of LGBTQ+ books. I’ll do a different genre each week (though they’ll all probably fall into the YA category), focusing on books with LGBTQ+ protagonists/casts of characters and themes. We’ve come quite a long way in YA, so why not celebrate it?

Let’s begin, shall we?

PRIDE MONTH RECS, WEEK 1: SCI-FI

  1. Once and Future, Amy Rose Capetta and Cori McCarthy
Once & Future by Amy Rose Capetta, Cori McCarthy |, Paperback ...

LGBTQ+ REPRESENTATION: Pansexual protagonist, some of the side characters are gay, genderfluid, and asexual, respectively, wlw relationship with protagonist

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️.75 (rounded up to 5)

Once and Future is a genderbent, feminist retelling of the legend of King Arthur (set in space!), and it’s an absolutely WILD ride.

2. Heart of Iron duology, Ashley Poston

Amazon.com: Heart of Iron eBook: Poston, Ashley: Kindle Store

LGBTQ+ REPRESENTATION: mlm relationship between two of the main characters, wlw relationship between some of the side characters

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

I know I blab about this one quite a lot, but both Heart of Iron and Soul of Stars are truly masterpieces. Plus, Jax and Robb are one of my favorite couples in YA literature. Period.

3. Dreadnought, April Daniels

Amazon.com: Dreadnought: Nemesis - Book One (9781682300688 ...

LGBTQ+ REPRESENTATION: Protagonist is a trans woman/lesbian

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

A poignant and potent spin on the classic, superhero/coming of age story, as Danny comes to terms not only with her gender identity and sexuality, but with her newfound powers. I read this one a year or two ago and haven’t gotten around to reading book 2 (Sovereign), but I REALLY need to do that soon!

4. The Disasters, M.K. England

Amazon.com: The Disasters (9780062657671): England, M. K.: Books

LGBTQ+ REPRESENTATION: Protagonist is bisexual, gay love interest, trans woman side character

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Again, it’s been over a year since I’ve read this one, but it was very Guardians of the Galaxy-esque, and an absolute joy to read!

5. Crier’s War, Nina Varela

Amazon.com: Crier's War (9780062823946): Varela, Nina: Books

LGBTQ+ REPRESENTATION: wlw representation between the two protagonists

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Though I was initially hesitant about reading this one, it turned out to subvert all of my expectations and make for a lushly written novel with romance to DIE for! I suppose you could debate whether or not this is sci-fi or fantasy (I mean, there’s…androids? Basically…), but I’d say it’s a combination of both genres.

6. Aurora Cycle, Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

Amazon.com: Aurora Burning (The Aurora Cycle Book 2) eBook ...

LGBTQ+ REPRESENTATION: There’s 7 POVs/protagonists in the series (though it later gets knocked down to 6); one is bisexual, another is a lesbian

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

You all knew I was gonna put this one in here…but hey, this series is genuinely masterful, and spoke to me on so many levels.

If you want more YA LGBTQ+ novel recommendations, I highly recommend visiting Queer Books for Teens! They have all sorts of recommendations for LGBTQ+ books of all genres, but mostly YA.

TELL ME WHAT YOU THINK! WHAT ARE SOME LGBTQ+ SCI-FI BOOKS THAT YOU LOVED? TELL ME IN THE COMMENTS! 🏳️‍🌈

Today’s song:

That’s it for this week’s Pride Month recommendations! Have a wonderful rest of your day, and take care of yourselves!