Posted in Books

Undercover LGBTQ+ Books for Closeted Readers

Happy Friday, bibliophiles!

I’ve seen lists like this floating around on some bookish Reels on Instagram, and I figured that I wanted to make a list of my own for the blogosphere.

What I mean by “undercover” is this: if you’re a closeted reader and you’re in a homophobic space/community, you can read these books without anyone else knowing that you’re LGBTQ+, but you can still get the LGBTQ+ rep that you want to see. These are books that have great queer representation, but aren’t explicitly queer from the cover or synopsis. That way, if you’re in an unsupportive/homophobic space, you can still seek out good LGBTQ+ books without outing yourself. These are mostly YA books, but we’ve got several genres in the mix. I know I’m lucky to have supportive family and friends, but it sadly isn’t the reality for all queer people, so I thought I’d provide this list for others in that situation.

And as always, never forget: you are loved, you are valid, you are beautiful, and nobody has any say in your identity except for you. 💗

Let’s begin, shall we?

🌈UNDERCOVER LGBTQ+ BOOKS FOR CLOSETED READERS🌈

Dare Mighty Things – Heather Kaczynski

Amazon.com: Dare Mighty Things: 9780062479860: Kaczynski, Heather: Books

GENRES: sci-fi, thriller

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️.25

Cassandra, the main character, is asexual, and there’s also a secondary character who is bisexual! This one’s a must read if you love high-stakes competitions and sci-fi mysteries and thrillers.

Fire With Fire – Destiny Soria

Fire with Fire by Destiny Soria

GENRES: fantasy, paranormal, romance

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️.5

I got this one as an eARC last year, and it was such a fun fantasy! Dani, one of two POV protagonists, is bisexual as well as mixed-race (white/Latine), and frankly, there’s not much better than queer girls and dragons, so this one’s a must-read.

Spellhacker – M.K. England

Amazon.com: Spellhacker: 9780062657701: England, M. K.: Books

GENRES: sci-fi, urban fantasy, fantasy

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️.5

There’s no shortage of great LGBTQ+ rep in this novel – Diz is queer, her love interest is nonbinary (as well as the author!), and there’s several wlw and mlm couples interspersed throughout. I’ll always recommend this one for fans of both sci-fi and fantasy – it’s a great blend of the two genres!

Victories Greater Than Death – Charlie Jane Anders

Victories Greater Than Death | Charlie Jane Anders | Macmillan

GENRES: sci-fi, space opera

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️.5

This one’s sure to please all the YA space opera fans – lots of strange aliens, sudden powers, and intergalactic battles. There’s no shortage of good queer rep in this one – Tina is bi/pan, her love interest is a Black trans woman, and there’s a wide variety of pronouns used for the many (MANY) characters!

On a Sunbeam – Tillie Walden

Amazon.com: On a Sunbeam: 9781250178138: Walden, Tillie: Books

GENRES: graphic novels, sci-fi, romance

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

I don’t use masterpiece lightly, but On a Sunbeam absolutely is one. With simplistic but stunning artwork and a multiracial wlw relationship told in alternating timelines, there’s no excuse to pass this one by.

Sawkill Girls – Claire Legrand

Sawkill Girls by Claire Legrand – The Hub

GENRES: horror, paranormal, fantasy

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

I don’t normally go for horror, but this was an unexpected 5-star read for me! All three protagonists are queer – Marion is bisexual, Zoey is asexual, Val is a lesbian, and there’s a wlw relationship!

Other Words for Smoke – Sarah Maria Griffin

Amazon.com: Other Words for Smoke: 9780062408914: Griffin, Sarah Maria:  Books

GENRES: paranormal, horror, magical realism

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️.5

None of Sarah Maria Griffin’s books are talked about enough – Other Words for Smoke is hauntingly beautiful and well-written in every sense of the word. There’s a lesbian relationship in this one, and it’s unrelentingly feminist as well.

Wild Beauty – Anna-Marie McLemore

Buy Wild Beauty: A Novel Book Online at Low Prices in India | Wild Beauty:  A Novel Reviews & Ratings - Amazon.in

GENRES: magical realism, fantasy, romance

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

I highly recommend anything of Anna-Marie McLemore’s – their novels always have the most gorgeous prose, combined with fairytale-like fantasies and Latine culture and mythology. Their books always include queer characters, but this one in particular features an entire cast of queer sisters and a genderqueer love interest!

TELL ME WHAT YOU THINK! Did you like any of these books? Do you have any undercover LGBTQ+ recommendations? Tell me in the comments!

Books to Celebrate Pride Month | Penguin Random House Canada

Today’s song:

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

Posted in Book Review Tuesday

Book Review Tuesday (8/10/21) – The Darkness Outside Us

Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles!

Last week, before my trip, I trawled the Kindle library for books to read to tide me over until I could get to the books I bought. I’d had it on hold at the library for a bit, but I realized that it was available on the ebook library, so I checked it out immediately. I was initially excited for it, but I had no idea what I was truly in for; The Darkness Outside Us is more than just a thriller or a sci-fi romance – it’s a heartrending and harrowing exploration of love and grief on a cosmic scale.

Enjoy this week’s review!

The Darkness Outside Us by Eliot Schrefer

The Darkness Outside Us – Eliot Schrefer

After waking up from a strange, deep sleep, Ambrose finds himself on a spaceship with a critical mission – rescuing his older sister, Minerva, who is trapped on a base on Titan. His ship, the Coordinated Endeavor, holds infinite mysteries – it has the voice of his mother, robots with minds of their own, and secrets hidden in every corner. But the most enigmatic of all is Kodiak, his isolated shipmate from a rival country on Earth. Kodiak is bent on keeping distance between them, but when the mission’s true nature becomes clearer, their only choice is to work together.

Quiz: Ripley, Our Lady of Survival | Bookmans Entertainment Exchange

TW/CW: grief, loss of loved ones, violence, descriptions of illness, death

What can I say other than the fact that I’m truly in awe of this book?

The Darkness Outside Us started out like any other sci-fi thriller. We find Ambrose waking up and slowly realizing his surroundings, and figuring out that things about the Coordinated Endeavor are not what they seem. We witness his developing romance with Kodiak, and all the puzzle pieces seem to come together.

But trust me. Once you hit the halfway mark of the book, you may think you’ve predicted all the plots twists (I thought I did…), BUT YOU WON’T. Just as quickly as everything seems to go disastrously wrong, the real plot starts to come together. I don’t want to spoil anything for this novel, but it’s hard to say anything about what happens next without revealing the last half of the plot, but I’ll try my best. It’s better if you go in blind about this one.

For the first half of the book, I thought that I’d give it a 3-3.5 star rating; the characters were decent, the queer enemies-to-lovers romance was well-done, and the mounting tension was well-written. But the further I got on, the surer I became of my 5-star rating. The Darkness Outside Us is far more than what it was marketed as; yes, there’s romance, and yes, there’s a mystery to be solved in ✨space✨, but there is truly so much more than meets the eye. It’s not every day that I truly feel like a novel is a work of art, but this one was. It’s a testament to life itself, appreciating every minute of it while you still can, and the power of love that binds us and shapes us.

We don’t get enough sci-fi/fantasy novels that delve into these core human emotions quite like The Darkness Outside Us did. And if I’m being honest, I think sci-fi can sometimes be an even better vehicle to explore these kinds of themes. With the dizzyingly cosmic scale that this novel takes place over, there’s a unique opportunity to show the transcendental power that love can span over many years. There’s a bleakness to everything, and most of the last half was heartbreaking to read, what with all the grains of hope that were spread throughout being overturned and crushed in seconds, but Schrefer leaves us with a hopeful ending that nearly brought me to tears.

I’ve said several times that part of what makes a good sci-fi is that it makes you think. The Darkness Outside Us fits the bill in every sense of the word. I had…well [ahem] several existential crises over the course of the last half, but in all seriousness, this novel is deeply introspective and philosophical. It’s all about reckoning with our past choices and the choices of others, of breaking free of cycles that have controlled you for millennia (literally), and the enduring power of love and the complicated nature of relationships. I ended up staying up a *little bit later* than I intended to because I just HAD to see what happened, but all that time, I had the space to ruminate about life. Needless to say, this one had me staring at the ceiling and pondering the meaning of life until I fell asleep, despite my attempts to distract myself.

In short, I don’t use the word “masterpiece” lightly, but The Darkness Outside Us truly is one. It’s an ode to love to light the way in the darkness and a musing on the nature of love, relationships, grief, and choices. It’s haunting, heartbreaking, and nothing short of immense in its scale, and will surely leave you thinking about all manner of things after reading it. It’s the book equivalent of Spiritualized’s “Ladies And Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space” – “I will love you ’till I die/And I will love you all the time/So please put your sweet hand in mine/We’ll float in space and drift in time.” Books like this don’t come around often, so pick this one up. You won’t regret it. 5 stars!

cyber-black | Cyberpunk, Cyberpunk anime, Cyberpunk art

The Darkness Outside Us is a standalone, but Eliot Schrefer is also the author of the Ape Quarter (Endangered, Threatened, Rescued, and Orphaned), The School for Dangerous Girls, The Deadly Sister, Glamorous Disasters, and many more novels for young adults and children.

Today’s song:

That’s it for this week’s Book Review Tuesday! Have a wonderful rest of your day, and take care of yourselves!

Posted in Book Review Tuesday

Book Review Tuesday (7/20/21) – Off Balance (Aunare Chronicles, #2)

Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles!

For the most part, I really enjoyed reading Off Planet, the first book in Aileen Erin’s Aunare Chronicles; I read it on vacation, and I loved the fast-paced action. So on a whim (and because it was pretty cheap), I bought book 2 on my Kindle and read it between library hauls.

But…

[heavy sigh]

Oh god, I can’t believe that these books are from the same series…Off Balance took everything that I didn’t like about book 1 and made it the main focus of the plot, making for a mess of a sequel that I had neither the will nor the patience to finish.

(find my mini-review of book 1, Off Planet, here!)

Enjoy this week’s review!

Amazon.com: Off Balance (Aunare Chronicles Book 2) eBook: Erin, Aileen:  Kindle Store

Off Balance (Aunare Chronicles, #2) – Aileen Erin

On the run from Earth and SpaceTech, Amihanna di Aetes flees to the other half of her heritage, the powerful, spacefaring Aunare. Even surrounded by the riches of her father’s estate, her life is one of constant fear – fear of Spacetech, and fear of the aliens who look at her like vermin for her half-human heritage. But as tensions within the royal family begin to rise surrounding her, she must think on her feet to make it out alive.

Gyllenaals GIF | Gfycat

TW/CW: discrimination, trauma-related nightmares, frightening situations, violence, bombing, 10+ year age gap between protagonist and love interest*

*yeah, you heard me right…see the fourth paragraph for me freaking out about that

DNF at 68%

Oh god…where do I begin with this one? It pains me to write DNF reviews these days. Really. It’s so rare for my ratings for a series to drop this much…I gave Off Planet a solid 3.5 stars, and here we have Off Balance with a measly 1…I feel pretty bad about it, but YIKES.

I really wanted to like Off Balance. I really did. But it just kept getting more and more frustrating with every page, and with around 500 pages, there came a point where I couldn’t take any more of it. It’s like everything that I didn’t care about in book 1 was emphasized, and then made 10 times worse…

First off, let me talk about the Aunare for a second. I was excited to see what their culture and physiology and such was like, but…there were hardly any differences from humans. I tried to brush off the fact that Lorne looked like an ordinary human in book 1, but, alas, here we have the “aliens that look exactly like humans but with ✨pretty eye colors✨ and they’re all ✨ridiculously attractive✨” trope. And they glow this time. Oh, joy. Furthermore, other than some of the food and the whole glowing business, all of the culture that we got was just…wild parties in ballrooms and messy stuff with the royal family? If nobody had told me that this was a space opera, I could have passed this off as a fully human cast. All those parties got mind-numbing eventually, which…maybe that was the point? I don’t even know…

And then there’s the issue of Lorne. I don’t judge love interests by whether or not I’m attracted to them, which, I’ll admit, doesn’t happen a whole lot to me in books. He already put me off a bit because of my association of his name from Lorne Malvo from Fargo (oops), but he was just all kinds of frustrating in this book. He was just such a startlingly bland character – there was nothing that distinguished him from any other YA love interest. And the whole thing with him and Amihanna…I just felt…nothing? I wasn’t invested in their relationship in any way, and all of the lines that were supposed to be tender or heartwarming just made me roll my eyes. And…IS NOBODY GONNA TALK ABOUT THE FACT THAT THERE’S AN 11-YEAR AGE GAP BETWEEN HIM AND AMIHANNA?

WHY IS NOBODY ADDRESSING THIS??

WHY?

Threw Up In Mouth GIFs - Get the best GIF on GIPHY

ALL KINDS OF CREEPY. AND NOBODY SEEMS TO BE BATTING AN EYE. WHY?

[waves hands around] okay, okay. Lemme cool off a minute.

The Muppets Screaming Gif - IceGif
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Okay. Now that I’ve gotten that off my chest…

Other than that, the plot just seemed to be completely absent. It was an endless cycle of Amihanna doing some training, drama with the royal family, drama with Dylan, drama with Lorne…just drama. If I didn’t know any better, I would have thought that this was a book from an entirely different series than the first book. I’m still so puzzled as to how we got from such an action-packed first book to…whatever this was.

In the end, I just couldn’t stand to read another page. The plot started to pick up a little, but by that point, I’d lost all will to read Off Balance. So it was a DNF for me.

All in all, a bitter, messy disappointment of a sequel that lacked in everything that made Off Planet a reasonably compelling read. Off Planet is still worth a read, but…maybe just stop at book 1. 1, sad little star.

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Off Balance is the second book in the Aunare Chronicles, preceded by Off Planet and succeeded by In Command (#2.5, a novella) and On Mission (#3).

Today’s song:

That’s it for this week’s Book Review Tuesday! Have a wonderful rest of your day, and take care of yourselves!

Posted in Book Review Tuesday

Book Review Tuesday (7/13/21) – Gearbreakers

Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles!

I’d been wanting to read Gearbreakers for a while, and coincidentally, the last time I went to my favorite bookstore was the day that it came out, so I grabbed a copy. I got a little scared from some of the reviews, but in the end, it was all worth it – a stunning debut that balanced a bleak atmosphere with tender romance!

Enjoy this week’s review!

Amazon.com: Gearbreakers (Gearbreakers, 1) (9781250269508): Mikuta, Zoe Hana:  Books

Gearbreakers (Gearbreakers, #1) – Zoe Hana Mikuta

my copy ft. a cool filter and my guitar amp

Eris Shinandai’s world is one of brutality – under the oppressive thumb of Godolia, poor towns like hers are constantly being snuffed out by the Windups, giant robots with immense firepower and cunning pilots. But Eris has a special occupation – she’s a Gearbreaker, specially trained to destroy the Windups from the inside.

But when a botched operation ends in her arrest, she meets Sona Steelcrest, a disillusioned Windup pilot with a few secrets of her own. Sona knows the oppression of Godolia firsthand, and she’s willing to help Eris take them down. Their uneasy alliance takes them back to the Gearbreakers, and into a dangerous new world of conspiracies.

Ask Box: Open — 2D finding out his S/O has been hiding their...

TW/CW: loss of parents/family (past), graphic sci-fi violence, death, gore, torture, blood

[chanting] sci-fi sapphics, sci-fi sapphics, SCI-FI SAPPHICS!

Oh man, I aspire to have a debut novel as good as this one! Gearbreakers does what most YA dystopian novels fail to do – balance light and darkness in a smart way, and fill the bleak spaces with warm hope and tenderness.

My favorite aspect by far was the found family aspect. The dynamic with Eris and the rest of her Gearbreakers crew was so sweet – Eris was a bit more of a hotheaded, stubborn character, but she was like a mom to all of the other Gearbreakers, and the love they all had for each other was so sweet. The relationship between Eris and Jenny, her older sister, was also so lovely – plenty of banter, but still a deep care for each other. Adding Sona to the mix created an interesting dynamic as well – there was a lot of mistrust for her from the other Gearbreakers, but Sona’s character development really shone in those moments as she tried to advocate for herself.

And coming off of that – CAN WE TALK ABOUT ERIS AND SONA? Their (budding) romance was more of a slow-burn one, but I enjoyed every minute of it. Their personalities were so glaringly different, but as they grew closer to each other, they meshed so well together. Without spoiling anything, I’m interested to see where it goes next – I’m hoping it’ll end smoothly…

The action in this book was also phenomenal! Again, Zoe Hana Mikuta does a stellar job of balancing levity with intense action, and it didn’t feel too comic-relief-y or too cynically dark. There’s nothing like destroying giant robots to get the action more fun, and there’s loads of that, and a whole lot of well-written fight scenes and explosions. The found-family dynamic of the Gearbreakers worked so well with these scenes – everybody all crammed in their jeep (do they specify what kind of car it was? I forget, I just imagined it as a beat-up jeep…) on their way to do some Robot Destruction™️ made for some great banter and amazing chemistry between the characters.

(And I recently heard that somebody’s already gotten the rights to Gearbreakers for a movie?? Which – WHOA, that was quick, and I’m a little worried, but that would make a GREAT movie. The more I read, the more I thought of how well a bunch of Gorillaz songs would be in the soundtrack…IMAGINE “19-2000” PLAYING THE FIRST TIME ERIS AND HER CREW GO DESTROY THE WINDUPS…)

Overall, the worldbuilding was good, but it was definitely the area where the novel had a few pitfalls. There was a lot of care put into the different kinds of Windups, how they worked, and the culture and training surrounding Sona and the other Windup pilots at the academy, which I loved! I just wish the same care was put into some of the history around the rise of Godolia, and where it was situated – there’s a little background, but not quite enough to make a fully-fleshed world. Most of the history we get is from the Tragic Backstories™️ of some of the characters, which I don’t really mind, but I wish the worldbuilding was as well-written as, say, the romance or the fight scenes.

In short, a fantastic sci-fi debut that balanced light and dark like very few other authors can. 4.5 stars!

Pin on star wars

Gearbreakers is the first in a series, and is also Zoe Hana Mikuta’s debut novel. The sequel, Godslayers, is set to release in June 2022.

Today’s song:

That’s it for this week’s Book Review Tuesday! Have a wonderful rest of your day, and take care of yourselves!

Posted in Book Review Tuesday

Book Review Tuesday (7/6/21) – Spellhacker

Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles!

I got to take a trip to my favorite bookstore last week, and this was one of the books that I picked up. I’d been meaning to read it for years after loving M.K. England’s debut, The Disasters, and I finally got to buy it and reading! And despite the average ratings, England’s second novel is a genre-bending success!

Enjoy this week’s review!

Spellhacker by M.K. England

Spellhacker – M.K. England

my copy ft. a cool filter and some crystals, stones, and my bismuth

Kyrkata is a place where futuristic technology and magic – known as maz – live in harmony, but after a magical plague wracks the population, the maz supply is depleted. Corporations now hold maz with a tight fist, racking up the prices while the people who need it most turn to crime in order to get it.

Enter Diz, Remi, Jaesin, and Ania. For two years, they’ve run an illegal maz-siphoning operation. But with college on the horizon, their next heist has to be their last. When their “last job ever” results in a deadly new strain of maz, the four teens must stop a dangerous secret from coming to the surface – and get to the bottom of a corporate conspiracy that may mean the end of their world.

cute, pixels and aesthetic - image #6916550 on Favim.com

TW/CW: descriptions of illness, loss of loved ones (off-page), violence, near-death situations

Ok. Hear me out.

So if all of the strains of maz have the suffix -az at the end of them (ex. firaz, magnaz), would that mean that Gorillaz would be a valid name for a strain of maz? Guess they’d have to call it maz-19-2000 instead of maz-15…

…okay, I’ll shut up now. I’m just making myself giggle at this point

Gorillaz: Song By Song: 19/2000
the Gang™️ after the maz-15 incident

[ahem] anyways

It’s really such a shame that this book isn’t getting the recognition it deserves. This is what a genre-bending novel should be – it’s a seamless blend of sci-fi and fantasy, with enough worldbuilding to make both of them work! And Spellhacker has everything – heists, found family vibes, weird creatures, exploding magic, and casual queerness!

What stood out most for me was the tender found-family dynamic in this novel. All four of the main characters – especially Diz, our protagonist – are delightfully real and as messy as they come, but they just felt so genuine. They all had their lovely little quirks, and they all bounced so sweetly off of each other. The love between them (both platonic and romantic, I might say) brimmed off the page, and it made my heart so happy. Through thick and thin, they were all there for each other. Spellhacker reminded me of why the found family trope is easily my favorite trope!

And if there’s one thing better than found family, it’s a casually queer and diverse found family! Diz is queer, Remi (her love interest) is nonbinary, and there’s several wlw and mlm couples! (Or, to quote M.K. England themself, “elderly science husbands.”) There’s also a lot of POC-coded characters present, and the diversity truly shines in this novel.

And beyond that, Spellhacker is SO. MUCH. FUN. If any of you here are fans of Six of Crows or The Gilded Wolves, YOU’RE GONNA EAT THIS BOOK UP. It’s fast-paced, high-stakes, and full of disguises, hacking, chase-scenes, and breakneck action. From the moment the crew botched their last heist, the novel takes off, not letting go until the final page. But even with all that, England still allowed the crew moments to be tender, allowing for a lot of sweet scenes and character interactions. It’s the perfect balance of action and softness.

I have…mixed feelings about the worldbuilding, though. For the most part, I thought it was great; there was clearly a lot of care put into the types of maz and how society controlled them, and the various underground operations to siphon it. Kyrkata’s implied to be a world completely different from ours, but there were references to things that were very Earth-specific (I can’t remember them off the top of my head), and several of the characters had very Earth-sounding last names, which threw me off a little. But overall, the things I found were fairly nit-picky, so the worldbuilding was solid overall.

There was also something unexpected hidden in Spellhacker that I loved – England wove the usage of the maz into a metaphor for climate change, and the relationship that corporations have with the environment. Without spoiling anything, there’s themes of greed and destroying the environment in the name of making money, and I love how Diz and the others combatted that. We all love seeing corporations getting their comeuppance, don’t we?

All in all, a fast-paced novel that seamlessly blends sci-fi and fantasy to make an action-packed bundle of exploding fun. 4.5 stars!

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okay I KNOW I need to stop with the Rabbi Milligan gifs, but Diz says something almost exactly like this line and it made me so giddy ksdjhfskjdfh

Spellhacker is a standalone, and M.K. England’s second novel. They are also the author of The Disasters and a forthcoming middle grade novel called Ultimate Gaming Showdown, scheduled for release in 2022.

Today’s song:

That’s it for this week’s Book Review Tuesday! Have a wonderful rest of your day, and take care of yourselves!

Posted in Goodreads Monday

Goodreads Monday (7/5/21) – Iron Widow

Happy Monday, bibliophiles!

Goodreads Monday is a weekly meme created by Lauren’s Page Turners. All you have to do to participate is pick a book from your Goodreads TBR, and explain why you want to read it.

I’m always on the hunt for good YA sci-fi, and this one sounds incredible! I forget where I first heard about it, but everything about it hooked me – inspired by Chinese history, giant sentient machines, and a polyamorous relationship! September can’t come soon enough…

Let’s begin, shall we?

GOODREADS MONDAY (7/5/21) – IRON WIDOW by Xiran Jay Zhao

Amazon.com: Iron Widow (9780735269934): Zhao, Xiran Jay: Books

Blurb from Goodreads:

The boys of Huaxia dream of pairing up with girls to pilot Chrysalises, giant transforming robots that can battle the mecha aliens that lurk beyond the Great Wall. It doesn’t matter that the girls often die from the mental strain. 

When 18-year-old Zetian offers herself up as a concubine-pilot, it’s to assassinate the ace male pilot responsible for her sister’s death. But she gets her vengeance in a way nobody expected—she kills him through the psychic link between pilots and emerges from the cockpit unscathed. She is labeled an Iron Widow, a much-feared and much-silenced kind of female pilot who can sacrifice boys to power up Chrysalises instead.​ 

To tame her unnerving yet invaluable mental strength, she is paired up with Li Shimin, the strongest and most controversial male pilot in Huaxia​. But now that Zetian has had a taste of power, she will not cower so easily. She will miss no opportunity to leverage their combined might and infamy to survive attempt after attempt on her life, until she can figure out exactly why the pilot system works in its misogynist way—and stop more girls from being sacrificed.

So why do I want to read this?

Iron Man's HUD switching to battle mode in the Avengers: MovieDetails

Okay, WHOA. I haven’t seen a premise like this in YA before…

I LOVE all of the different aspects that are coming together in this novel; according to the author, all of the characters are inspired by figures in Chinese history, and they’re all integrated into an entirely new sci-fi world. I can already tell that I’m gonna love Zetian as a protagonist – strong-willed, independent, and willing to fight for her sister’s honor.

And PATRIARCHY SMASHING! MY FAVORITE! There seems to be a thread of fighting against misogynist institutions in Iron Widow, and I’m 100% here for it. Plus, it’s super cool that instead of having a traditional love triangle, there’s a polyamorous relationship – instead of Zetian having to choose between her love interests, she’s in a relationship with both of them, and the love interests are boyfriends as well! Even though we’ve been making great leaps in LGBTQ+ representation in YA, it’s not often that I see any kind of polyamorous rep, so I think it’s amazing that Xiran Jay Zhao is putting out a novel with that kind of rep.

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All in all, sign me up for the patriarchy-smashing, the sci-fi vibes, and the LGBTQ+ rep!

Today’s song:

Alright I just started listening to this whole album…I’m about halfway through and it’s GREAT

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

Posted in Books

Sci-Fi Tropes: Cryosleep, Unhinged AI, and everything in between 🪐

Happy Friday, bibliophiles!

I’ve been trying to think of more original posts to do, and I figured that this one would be something really fun to explore. I’ve seen a lot of posts talking about tropes, but genre-specific ones are always interesting to think about/discuss, and in much of the YA book fandom, I feel like sci-fi doesn’t get as much love. So I decided to look at six tropes that are specific to sci-fi (for the most part). Sci-fi is my favorite genre, so I got super excited thinking about all of these different tropes, and some (mostly) YA books that use them in different ways.

So let’s begin, shall we?

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WARNING: This post may contain some book spoilers (Aurora Cycle & Dare Mighty Things series), so read at your own risk!

🛸SCI-FI TROPES🛸

CRYOSLEEP, BUT FOR WAY TOO LONG

Quiz: Ripley, Our Lady of Survival | Bookmans Entertainment Exchange

Ellen Ripley – and Aliens in particular – probably set the blueprint for this one, but as the trope gets more popular, authors have started to push the limits on this one, which I think is a really cool move.

It’s most often the protagonist that this happens to – our hero, on the eve of something great, is put into cryosleep for an interplanetary mission, only for something to go terribly awry and stay in cryosleep for longer than they were supposed to. Ripley got an accidental 50 years, Auri from Aurora Rising got 200 years, and Andra from Goddess in the Machine got a whopping 1,000 years.

This trope presents two main advantages for writing: a vehicle for exploring the novel’s world through fresh eyes, and internal conflict within the character. If your cryosleep character is completely unfamiliar with the world, seeing it through their eyes gives the reader a more in-depth look at the world than they’d get with a character that’s already familiar with it. They’ll inevitably notice more things and fixate on different things than another character might, which gives the reader more insight about what’s unique about the world that the author has crafted.

As for the internal conflict piece, this part’s always touched on, but in most of the novels I’ve read with it, it’s a lot more shallow than you’d think. There’s the existential crisis that inevitably occurs when the character realizes that everything they know and love is all but gone, but beyond the first few chapters from their POV, they get over it…relatively quickly? It seems like the kind of trauma that would leave lasting psychological scars, and probably physical health repercussions as well. I’ve yet to read any book that explores all that in depth, but it seems like the perfect setup for a sci-fi novel.

So this one’s a trope that can make for a lot of creative choices, but often has a lot of untapped potential.

BOOKS WITH THIS TROPE: Aurora Rising (Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff), Goddess in the Machine (Lora Beth Johnson)

GOTTEN INTO A SITUATION YOU CAN’T GET OUT OF? TIME TRAVEL!

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“Time travel!”

Apparently this one is a lot more common than I thought, but I’ve only started to see it in YA more recently. (Well, there’s Avengers: Endgame, but it took me a while to realize how common of a trope it is…)

This trope has the possibility of ENDLESS freaky hijinks whilst traversing through time. Sometimes it’s just pushing the events of the past so that everything lines up a little bit nicer, and sometimes it’s rocketing back to another time period entirely. It usually happens only with the last book in a trilogy or duology, just so everyone can fix the mess they got into in the first books.

I have mixed feelings on this one; one the one hand, there’s never a dull moment – time travel jokes, fitting VERY badly into a different time period, and very high stakes, most of all. If the first books have followed a similar formula, it might be good to try for something else to end the series with a bang.

On the other, though, something about it almost feels…lazy to me. Often, this trope arises from The Gang™️ getting a situation so bad that there may not be a feasible way out of it, but…maybe they could? If done wrong, it can feel like lazy writing – an easy way out, and one that provides instant comic relief. And often, the means of said time travel are vague, and often reduced to technobabble from The Smart Character™️, which, hey, I don’t know much about the science of it either, but maybe at least put a little time into it?

So this one’s a double-edged sword: instant plot, or lazy writing? The choice is yours!

BOOKS WITH THIS TROPE: Sword in the Stars (Once & Future, #2) (A.R. Capetta and Cori McCarthy), Aurora’s End (Aurora Cycle, #3) (Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff)*

*this one doesn’t come out until November [screams] but we know that time travel will play a big part in this one, so…

ALIENS THAT BASICALLY JUST LOOK LIKE HUMANS (BUT WITH A FEW MINOR DIFFERENCES)

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I know Jean Grey isn’t an alien, but most of the aliens mentioned below have similar powers to her, so…

Most of the other tropes I’m going to be discussing in this post are ones that I like on some level, but…this one gets on my nerves. For the most part.

Far too many times, I’ve fallen into the trap of picking up a sci-fi book that promises aliens, only to discover that the aliens just look like humans, but with either a) unusual eye colors, b) some sort of powers, or c) a combination of both. And of course, they have to be ✨ridiculously attractive✨ as well. 🙄

Now, I completely get making your aliens humanoid (hey, I’m doing it with some of my aliens for my sci-fi WIP), but there’s a certain point where it feels a bit lazy. Unless there’s some way you can back it up, it seems weird to me that in this entire universe, the only other intelligent beings, by some cosmic chance, are similar to us in almost every way.

But I’ve seen some authors use it to their advantage – in particular, One Giant Leap (the sequel to Dare Mighty Things) does this especially well. The main alien civilization there look exactly like humans, but it’s because of genetic modifications performed so that they could survive on Earth. See? That’s actually a really good way of turning the trope on its head, and doing so in a practical way!

For the most part, this trope never ceases to bug me, but there’s a few ways to turn it on its head.

BOOKS WITH THIS TROPE: One Giant Leap (Dare Mighty Things, #2) (Heather Kaczynski), Amid Stars and Darkness (Chani Lynn Feener)

UNHINGED A.I.

David - Prometheus --- ah! DON'T TELL ME THAT!!! (lol) | Michael  fassbender, David 8, Sebastian moran
BREAKING: Michael Fassbender Sustains Fatal Back Injuries from Carrying all of the Alien Prequels

For me, at least, this trope is the most fun – and it presents some of the scariest and most formidable antagonists in sci-fi.

Villainous AI are some of the most fascinating characters to explore – they have unmatched power, in some cases, and whether they’re a pre-installed ship AI or an android, it’s always interesting to hear their perspective on all of us puny mortals.

Given that humans trust AI a bit *too* much in most sci-fi novels, they often have a fearsome amount of power at their disposal. AI installed inside of a ship? Access to all the security footage, navigation, communications, and controls of the ship. They know their crew up and down, and have the possibility to play everybody’s weaknesses against each other. They have the power to sabotage anything and everything, and more often than not, they do. WITHOUT HESITATION. A corrupt AI often harbors a hatred or jealousy of human beings, and if it’s not that motivating them, it’s some sort of technologically-stemmed god complex, which is always terrifying to watch play out. (Lookin’ right at you, David…) It’s even more of an interesting development if their moral compass shifts over the course of the series – if there’s one thing I’ve learned from sci-fi, it’s that benevolent robot overlords never stay benevolent for very long.

Corrupt AI as antagonists are often more compelling than human or alien ones (for me, at least) partly because so much is left up to the imagination about the inner workings of their minds. We’ve never developed any kind of artificial intelligence that’s become intelligent enough to have devious tendencies like many sci-fi villains, so a lot of it is the author’s personal choice. There are endless possibilities – but more often than not, they’re all terrifying.

And even if they aren’t main antagonists, the addition of a slight unstable AI as a character is always amusing; for all of its flaws, I loved Gregorovich’s existential musings in To Sleep in a Sea of Stars, and his character added some much-needed flavor to the rest of the cast.

TL;DR: There’s nothing more terrifying than a villain that knows everything about everything, and uses that power for its own gain at whatever the cost.

BOOKS WITH THIS TROPE: To Sleep in a Sea of Stars (Christopher Paolini), Illuminae (Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff), Scythe (Neal Shusterman)

HIGH-STAKES COMPETITIONS TO GO TO SPACE…WITH SOME SERIOUS ULTERIOR MOTIVES

artoo, that way

Scared to send your experienced, highly intelligent scientists to space? Send some teenagers instead!

This one tends to crop up the most in YA, as it’s primed for a book that has a primarily teenage cast. The ones I’ve read do tend to follow a formula, but for the most part, it’s one that’s actually a lot of fun!

The worldbuilding/motives behind it are always a little bit messy (again: sending teenagers into space! What could possibly go wrong?), but often times, you just have to hang in there; it’s a given that whatever program is funding the competition is doing something astronomically shady. (No pun intended.) Part of the fun with this trope is the mystery of it; slowly but surely, the competition starts dropping like flies, and things go very wrong very quickly.

More on the mystery aspect – the mystery that often occurs in these types of novels is very slow-burn, building on itself before the heartstopping reveal at the end (often a cliffhanger). From program superiors lying to scheming androids to deaths under mysterious circumstances, there are endless possibilities for many, many things to go wrong. Add in the not-so-friendly rivalries between the competitors (also scheming, along with everybody else), and you’ve got the perfect recipe for a nail-biting sci-fi mystery.

And once/if they get to space? Everything gets way worse. There’s bound to be aliens, but whether they’re intelligent or just parasitic, things are bound to go way, way south. But there’s never a dull moment – there’s no shortage of suspense, and our protagonist is often at a loss as to how to escape their situation.

Plus, for reasons I’ve yet to figure out, these ones always tend to have the most clever pop culture references. (See: all of the Radiohead songs in the Final Six duology)

BOOKS WITH THIS TROPE: The Final Six (Alexandra Monir), Dare Mighty Things (Heather Kaczynski)

EXPLORING OTHER PLANETS GOES VERY, VERY WRONG (Or, “Don’t do intergalactic colonialism, kids”)

Large yacht passes by gargantuan yacht - boing - Boing Boing BBS

Here’s another common – but by no means overdone – trope that’s always open to endless possibilities!

Because our planet was never enough, apparently (or if we destroyed it…probably), there’s a whole host of sci-fi stories that are set on entirely new planets, with the sole goal of making them a new home for humankind. But just like with our planet, it’s always unpredictable, whether you’re dealing with a foreign contagion, carnivorous wildlife, or superiors who aren’t what they seem.

I’m always a nerd for creature design in sci-fi, and life on other worlds presents all sort of possibilities for creatures lurking in the bushes. Whether it’s flora or fauna, exploring these sci-fi worlds along with the characters is an adventure, especially if the author is particularly creative. Of course, most of the wildlife ends up being carnivorous, or malicious on some level, so there’s all sorts of danger lurking.

But beyond that, this trope is often a great commentary on colonialism. Human history is rife with frightening periods of raping and pillaging land that wasn’t ours to begin with at the cost of those who originally lived there; telling the same story on alien planets serves as a particularly potent comment on the malicious tendency of our species to overstep and overstay our welcome. Books like A Conspiracy of Stars and The Pioneer explore what happens when humanity comes in contact with intelligent life and unlawfully sets foot on their land; both of them do an amazing job of exploring the intricacies of the political implications, as well as the tense conflict that results. I think sci-fi as a genre is one of the best mediums for raising commentary on this kind of thing. Exploring new frontiers in space is bound to happen once we get the technology, but we must always ask ourselves if it’s the right thing to do. Just because we can doesn’t necessarily mean that we should. (Let’s be real: I would be SO excited if we found evidence of life elsewhere in the universe, but…let’s not have a repeat of all of human history, okay?)

BOOKS WITH THIS TROPE: The Pioneer (Bridget Tyler), A Conspiracy of Stars, (Olivia A. Cole), Tangled Planet (Kate Blair)

TELL ME WHAT YOU THINK! What are your favorite/least favorite tropes in sci-fi? Have you read any of the books I listed, and what were your thoughts? This’ll probably be one of several posts on the subject, so I can’t wait to hear your thoughts!

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Today’s song:

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

Posted in Book Review Tuesday

Book Review Tuesday (6/22/21) – The Ones We’re Meant to Find

Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles!

Ever since reading Descendant of the Crane about two years ago and loving it, I’ve been itching to read more of Joan He’s novels. My wishing was rewarded with this book, which came out in early May of this year. (Star Wars day, I think….YES) I bought it recently at my favorite bookstore, and I’m glad to say that The Ones We’re Meant to Find is even better than her debut – complex, tense and tender!

Enjoy this week’s review!

The Ones We're Meant to Find — Joan He

The Ones We’re Meant to Find – Joan He

my copy ft. a cool filter and yesterday’s overcast skies

As far as everyone else knows, Celia Mizuhara – Cee for short – went missing three years ago, presumed dead. But Cee is very much alive, stranded on a distant island. She’s been eking out an existence there for three years, with only a strange android for company. But when a boy washes ashore and nearly kills her, she must question what she knows of her life before – and herself.

Meanwhile, Cee’s sister Kasey lives in a floating city, protected from the natural disasters that wrack their climate change-ravaged world. Intelligent and reclusive, she lives an isolated lifestyle, working with experts on the latest technology that could further protect their floating utopia. But Cee’s fate remains at the back of her mind, and Kasey knows that her sister is still out there.

amie kaufman – The Bookish Mutant

TW/CW: loss of loved ones, cancer, grief, violence, near-death situations (drowning, attempted murder), natural disasters

It’s been almost a week since I finished this one, and lemme tell you, I am still REELING. I think I need to go back and re-read it soon…

The Ones We’re Meant to Find is very nearly a masterpiece. It’s haunting in every sense of the word, from the natural disasters surrounding it to the conspiracy within it, and it hooked me to the last page.

The Ones We’re Meant to Find is told in the dual POVs of sisters Cee and Kasey, but I enjoyed Cee’s the most; her story was the more compelling of the two, in my opinion, and I loved seeing her unravel the mystery of her marooning and of her life before. I honestly would’ve been fine if it was just her story – as much as I loved the rest of the novel, her story would’ve been a great standalone as well. I loved all of her little mannerisms and quirks, and she was such a fascinating, multi-layered character. Her tense dynamic with Hero was also so well-written – their relationship was never certain, and I loved the mercurial aspect of it. And she bounced so well off of U-me, the android, too! The friendship that they’d built over the course of three years was so weirdly touching.

Who is the best sidekick droid? (others in comments) | Fandom

And the worldbuilding? PHENOMENAL. Both Cee’s island and Kasey’s floating utopia were so complex and well-developed. There was clearly so much love and care put into every inch of this novel, and it shone through in the best way possible. I could practically feel the hum of machinery, the pouring rain, the battering ocean waves…IMMACULATE.

The mystery at the heart of The Ones We’re Meant to Find was equally compelling. I had to look back through the last few pages just so it could sink in – just when I thought it was over, He delivered another heartstopping twist that had my eyes bugging out of my skull. There are plot twists upon plot twists UPON PLOT TWISTS, and I loved it.

My only complaint is Kasey’s side of the story. I appreciated that she was more of a cold, unlikable character, but her whole side of the plot seemed rather convoluted. Remember how I said that the care put into the worldbuilding showed? There’s a bit of a catch to that, sadly; there were so many aspects that factored into the conspiracy around Cee, Kasey, and Actinium, but the sheer amount of them made me forget their significance, and when the final reveal was made, I had to flip back through just so I could remember “wait, what did that mean again? Why do we care about that?” Like I said – I need to give this one another re-read. Maybe that’ll help me absorb it all. But in the midst of all this wondrousness, this is basically my only major complaint.

Visible Confusion GIF - Visible Confusion StarWars - Discover & Share GIFs
here I go piling on all the Star Wars gifs again

All in all, a haunting and complex cli-fi with androids, sisterhood, and no shortage of thrilling twists. 4.5 stars!

𝖣𝗂𝗌𝗍𝗋𝗂𝖼𝗍 9 - 𝗣𝗿𝗼𝗹𝗼𝗴𝘂𝗲 - Wattpad

The Ones We’re Meant to Find is a standalone, but Joan He is also the author of Descendant of the Crane, and an untitled mystery/thriller novel slated for release in 2022.

Today’s song:

hmm, I listened to this whole album yesterday and loved it? what could have possibly tipped you off?

That’s it for this week’s Book Review Tuesday! Have a wonderful rest of your day, and take care of yourselves!

Posted in Goodreads Monday

Goodreads Monday (6/21/21) – Love in the Time of Global Warming

Happy Monday, bibliophiles!

Goodreads Monday is a weekly meme created by Lauren’s Page Turners. All you have to do to participate is pick a book from your Goodreads TBR, and explain why you want to read it.

I added this one to my TBR a little over a year ago. The promise of bisexual rep was what initially drew me in, but the blend of fantasy, dystopia, and cli-fi ultimately hooked me! I can’t wait to see what this one has to offer.

Let’s begin, shall we?

GOODREADS MONDAY (6/21/21) – LOVE IN THE TIME OF GLOBAL WARMING by Francesca Lia Block

Amazon.com: Love in the Time of Global Warming (9781250044426): Block,  Francesca Lia: Books

Blurb from Goodreads:

Her life by the sea in ruins, Pen has lost everything in the Earth Shaker that all but destroyed the city of Los Angeles. She sets out into the wasteland to search for her family, her journey guided by a tattered copy of Homer’s Odyssey. Soon she begins to realize her own abilities and strength as she faces false promises of safety, the cloned giants who feast on humans, and a madman who wishes her dead. On her voyage, Pen learns to tell stories that reflect her strange visions, while she and her fellow survivors navigate the dangers that lie in wait. In her signature style, Francesca Lia Block has created a world that is beautiful in its destruction and as frightening as it is lovely. At the helm is Pen, a strong heroine who holds hope and love in her hands and refuses to be defeated.

SO WHY DO I WANT TO READ THIS?

Aesthetic Ocean Gif Tumblr - Largest Wallpaper Portal

(two books on my TBR with bi rep and blue covers in a row? oops…)

Love in the Time of Global Warming has a relatively low rating on Goodreads (3.38 as of now), but I’m still willing to dive in headfirst.

What stands out most to me is the incorporation of the Odyssey – the world really needs more retellings of it, and I love the idea of Pen’s Odyssey-like journey through a ruined Los Angeles ravaged by climate change. I’m also excited to see the blend of sci-fi and fantasy; a lot of reviewers have shelved it as magical realism, so that’s an interesting aspect to weave into dystopia. And the queer cast! From what I’ve heard, the vast majority of the cast is LGBTQ+, which is always a major plus in my book.

Overall, a queer, genre-bending, and creative take on The Odyssey that I can’t wait to read!

GIF dystopian - animated GIF on GIFER

Today’s song:

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

Posted in Book Tags

The Boba Fett Book Tag

Happy Friday, bibliophiles!

I figured I’d do another book tag, and since I love all things Star Wars, I wanted to give this tag a go! (I would’ve done it on May 4, but alas, I was very busy.) I found it over at Brooke @ The Reader’s Game, who also created the tag. (And if you haven’t checked out her blog, I highly recommend it!)

Rules

  • Thank the person who tagged you
  • Link back to original post
  • Tag around 10 people
  • You don’t have to watch anything Star Wars related to do this- only to get the references!
  • Have fun!

Let’s begin, shall we?

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🚀THE BOBA FETT BOOK TAG🚀

LIGHTSPEED SKIPPER: A character who is constantly in danger or on the run

Traveling with warp speed | Optical illusions art, Science fiction artwork,  Optical illusions
Amazon.com: Off Planet (Aunare Chronicles Book 1) eBook: Erin, Aileen:  Kindle Store

Maité from Off Planet is certainly on the run for quite a lot over the course of the novel – there’s quite a lot of planet hopping in this book!

RAZOR CREST: A character with a spaceship

BROTHERTEDD.COM - beheworthy: R.I.P. Razor Crest, she was a... |  Mandalorian, Star wars, Far away
Amazon.com: Heart of Iron (9780062652850): Poston, Ashley: Books

Captain Siege from Heart of Iron has her formidable ship, the Dossier, and she’s proud of it! (So is Jax, come to think of it…)

DARTH VADER: A villain who always hides their face

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Oh jeez, I can’t really think of any character that would fit this prompt…don’t mind me…

EX-IMPERIAL: A character who is not what they seem

egg sac - Zen Cart,Magento
The Ones We're Meant to Find eBook by Joan He - 9781250258571 | Rakuten  Kobo Singapore

Cee from The Ones We’re Meant to Find certainly fits the prompt, but for…ah…shall we say spoiler-y reasons, so I won’t say why. If you know, you know.

MANDO: A character tracking down something that was stolen from them

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Amazon.com: The Smoke Thieves (9780425290217): Green, Sally: Books

I suppose none of these characters are tracking down something that was stolen from them, specifically, but the whole plot of The Smoke Thieves centers around a stolen bottle of smoke, and Tash in particular is most involved with capturing demons for their smoke, so I’ll say this fits.

YOUNG BOBA FETT: A character who had a family member killed/taken/beaten before their eyes

Attack of the clones episode ii GIF - Find on GIFER
Amazon.com: Six of Crows eBook: Bardugo, Leigh: Kindle Store

Kaz from Six of Crows witnessed the death of his older brother Jordie firsthand, which…yeah, I got choked up re-reading this recently. It’s a ROUGH flashback scene.

BESKAR: A character who wears armor/weapons

Boba Fett back in his armor | The Mandalorian Chapter 14 [gif by Elisha on  Tumblr] | Star wars pictures, Star wars artwork, Star wars art
Amazon.com: The Galaxy, and the Ground Within: A Novel (Wayfarers Book 4)  eBook: Chambers, Becky: Kindle Store

This was another hard one – my first thought was Speaker from The Galaxy, and the Ground Within, though her armor is more for mobility outside of her homeworld than anything.

RAISED ON MANDALORE: A character who isn’t allowed to show their face

Aaaand just 1 month shy of Season 2 premiering, I... - What Will Your Verse  Be? | Star wars fandom, Yoda wallpaper, Star wars art

Uh…yeah, I’m blanking on characters with masks/characters that can’t show their faces, so I think I’ll have to skip this one…sorry…[Mandalorian theme plays on a kazoo]

UNEXPECTED DOCKING: A character who joins a mission at a random point on the mission

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Aurora Rising: Amie Kaufman, Jay Kristoff: 9781786075338: Amazon.com: Books

Auri from Aurora Rising certainly joins the rest of Squad 312 at an unexpected time in the mission – but ends up setting the course for the rest of the book.

HIGH BOUNTY: A character in debt and/or on the run

Baby Yoda The Mandalorian GIF - BabyYoda TheMandalorian Warrior - Discover  & Share GIFs Star Wars | Star wars humor, Star wars memes, Star wars fandom
Amazon.com: How Rory Thorne Destroyed the Multiverse: Book One of the Thorne  Chronicles eBook: Eason, K.: Kindle Store

Fitting that I used mostly sci-fi books for this tag…hehe…

Anyways, Rory from How Rory Thorne Destroyed the Multiverse goes on the run for much of the novel after discovering the assassination plot.

I TAG:

(I don’t know if I know 10 people on here who are all into Star Wars, so I’ll just list a few…)

And may the Force be with you!

Incorrect Mandalorian Quotes — Random Star Wars Citizen: Mando, come over!  The...

Today’s song:

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