Sarah J. Maas Fans: This Queer Sci-Fi Story Explores What Humanity Really Means

Sarah J. Maas fans, take note: there’s a new fantasy queen about to take over your reading life. Award-winning screenplay and short story writer Nina Varela’s debut novel Crier’s War is an Own Voices fantasy epic that will have you on the edge of your seat from the first page. It has been described by Booklist as “Rife with mystery, romantic tension, and political intrigue… perfect for readers craving queer fantasy with dense worldbuilding.”



From debut author Nina Varela comes the first book in an Own Voices, richly imagined epic fantasy duology about an impossible love between two girls—one human, one Made—whose romance could be the beginning of a revolution.

Perfect for fans of Marie Rutkoski’s The Winner’s Curse as well as Game of Thrones and Westworld.

After the War of Kinds ravaged the kingdom of Rabu, the Automae, designed to be the playthings of royals, usurped their owners’ estates and bent the human race to their will.

Now Ayla, a human servant rising in the ranks at the House of the Sovereign, dreams of avenging her family’s death…by killing the sovereign’s daughter, Lady Crier.

Crier was Made to be beautiful, flawless, and to carry on her father’s legacy. But that was before her betrothal to the enigmatic Scyre Kinok, before she discovered her father isn’t the benevolent king she once admired, and most importantly, before she met Ayla.

Now, with growing human unrest across the land, pressures from a foreign queen, and an evil new leader on the rise, Crier and Ayla find there may be only one path to love: war.


Images Via garage26 and HarperCollins


I know. Before you ask, here’s the preorder link. And though you definitely don’t need any more convincing after reading that enticing blurb, I’m just going to keep going, because I am EXCITED about this book.

Though LGBTQAI+ representation has undoubtedly become more common in recent years, it is still super exciting to see this representation manifesting in new and different ways, across all types of fiction. This is something Varela is passionate about, telling blog Book Bratz that “Homophobia doesn’t exist in the world of Crier’s War; Crier and Ayla never experience any suffering or oppression because of their sexualities; but I am queer and I live on Earth and some of my world bled through. I don’t want to spoil anything, but I think there’s a certain part of Crier’s story—separate from the romance—that will resonate with queer people.”

And the School Library Journal agrees, noting that Crier’s War is “A lush #OwnVoices fantasy debut with science fiction elements and LGBTQIA+ representation.” (Sidenote: they also call it “perfect for fans of Sarah J. Maas’s Throne of Glass.” Didn’t I say this! Maas fans, I see you.)

But seriously, Crier’s War is already causing a stir, with Kirkus Reviews gushing that “Dizzying political machinations intertwine with a burgeoning romance. The plot zooms ahead with nail-biting tension. A fresh, suspenseful take on the robot apocalypse'” and Tara Sim, author of the Timekeeper Trilogy calling it “a beautiful poem of a book.” And if you know anything about Nina Varela, it really comes as no surprise that she should have written something so beautiful and revolutionary.

Don’t miss your chance to catch Nina Varela IRL at the following locations next month!

  • Saturday, October 5th, The Ripped Bodice with Audrey Coulthurst, Los Angeles, CA
  • Saturday, October 12th, Tattered Cover with Casey McQuiston, Denver, CO
  • Friday, October 18th, Books Inc. Opera Plaza with Tara Sim, San Francisco, CA

And find her online on her website ninavarela.com, Twitter, and Instagram!

A cute little rainbow for all our LGBT+ readers!

10 New LGBTQ+ Releases to Wow You!

This month’s releases are about to give Reading Rainbow a whole new meaning. We’re fortunate enough to live in an era in which LGBT+ releases don’t just hit the shelves; they sucker-punch them, particularly in the overarching YA genre. It’s not such a surprise that this change has taken place: nearly half of those in Gen-Z do not identify as exclusively heterosexual. Millennials aren’t statistically far behind. What does this mean? Well, hopefully, that we’ll finally have some better representation. It’s no longer enough to simply hint that a character is gay—especially because said hint usually involves two tortured white guys staring meaningfully at each other, possibly while being rivals, enemies, or something else suitably sexy. (Of course, it was never enough to begin with.)

Done with subtext and need more text? These ten releases across genres and age levels should make you pretty happy* about the ongoing state of representation on our bookshelves.

*Disclaimer: some of these may actually make you cry, and you’ll have to read them to figure out which.


1. The Devouring Gray


'The Devouring Gray' by Christine Lynne Herman


Release Date: April 2nd

Stranger Things meets The Raven Boys? More like bisexual representation, meet my bookshelf immediately. Set in a secluded town in upstate New York, the novel is an intimate, chilling exploration of the supernatural—an exploration of the terror involved when it’s not the whole world that’s in danger but your whole world. Readers will appreciate a YA genre release that’s high stakes but small blast radius. Give this book a try for mysterious deaths in a remote wilderness; intrigue going back generations; and an evil beast who lurks within the Gray, a hollow dimension meant to hold the beast captive. But it isn’t captive anymore—and you’re certain to be captivated by every word.


2. The Red Scrolls of Magic


'The Red Scrolls of Magic' by Cassandra Clare


Release Date: April 9th

These scrolls may be magical, but there’s a 0% chance they’re anywhere near as magical as this book. Shadowhunters fans will recognize this release as the latest instalment in Cassandra Clare’s ever-expanding fantasy universe. Fans can join stubborn yet compassionate Alec and the freewheeling warlock Magnus Bane as they cause mayhem across Europe in their pursuit of an ever-elusive romantic trip. It was hard enough for the couple to come out to the repressive Clave and to get over the age difference (immortality isn’t always easy), but it may be harder to stop the cult that is, apparently, dead set on making this couple’s getaway more of a get-away-from-me. Of course, the cult also wants to cause chaos around the world. But that’s less annoying, if more important.


3. The Meaning of Birds


'The Meaning of Birds' by Jaye Robin Brown


Release Date: April 16th

Hot-tempered Jess’ love for Vivi changes everything. It cools down her anger issues, which rage constantly beneath the surface. It makes her want to let go of her own pain and embrace her artistic talents, to strive for a future that might actually be within reach. It heals her. Fixes her. That’s what love is, right?


When Vivi passes away, Jess feels as though everything she’s lost everything. But the truth is that she’s only lost Vivi—as if that could ever be said with an only. This beautiful, heart-wrenching tale of first love and first loss serves as reminder that progress is not inextricably tied to another person, no matter how supportive that person is or was. Healing is a place you can only reach yourself, even if someone who loves you helps to guide you there.

4. Starworld


'Starworld' Audrey Coulthurst


Release Date: April 16th

Sam and Zoe are teenage girls with a lot on their minds (a redundant statement when being a teenage girl inherently means having way, WAY too much on your mind). But these are some serious distractions: Sam is trying to help her mother cope with debilitating OCD; Zoe is coping with her adoptive mother’s cancer. In the midst of these hardships, they’re both in need of a less serious distraction—each other. Coulthurst and Garner blend contemporary and genre writing as they portray Sam and Zoe’s text exchanges as a fantasy world, complete with impossible things: a dragon, for starters, and a feeling that this all might work out in the end.

5. A Quick & Easy Guide to Queer & Trans Identities


'A Quick & Easy Guide to Trans & Queer Identities' Mady G


Release Date: April 23th

This new release from Mady G & J.R. Zuckerberg is an insightful follow-up to A Quick & Easy Guide to They / Them Pronouns. (I have my own guide for you: respect them. But something tells me that statement not quite as informative.) Many allies and even LGBT+ people are confused by misconceptions surrounding different queer identities. Some have never heard of any identities beyond the L, G, B & T; some unknowingly believe stereotypes due to their own misunderstandings*.

(*For instance, bisexuals are not indecisive. You may have previously met an indecisive bisexual, but that had nothing to do with their sexuality and everything to do with their inability to choose a place to eat for dinner. Pansexuality is not the same thing as bisexuality, and ‘asexual’ is not a euphemism for ‘has never worn a crop top.’ Now you’re getting it.)

Not only is this book extremely helpful, but it’s clearly also adorable. Keep things light with this fun, non-judgmental, and informative look into the diverse spectrum of LGBT+ identities.


The book explains the difference between bisexuality, asexuality, and pansexuality, three LGBT+ identities which may be confusing to some.


6. Lie With Me: A Novel


'Lie With Me: A Novel' Philippe Besson


Release Date: April 30th

Hailed as ‘the French Brokeback Mountain,’ Lie With Me: a Novel depicts one man’s recollection of his first love, the passionate same-sex affair he fell headlong into as a teenager in the 1980s. And the “a novel” addendum is deeply necessary—without it, readers may be left unclear whether or not this is a memoir. The novel leaks emotional truth, rife with intimacy and honesty that informs rather than suggests that the story may not be entirely fictional.  Hauntingly translated by Sixteen Candles actress Molly Ringwald, Lie With Me gives readers so many more than sixteen reasons to read it cover to cover.


7. Yay! You’re Gay! Now What?: A Gay Boy’s Guide to Life


'Yay! You're Gay! Now What?' Riyadh Khalaf


Release Date: April 30th

Are you there, God? It’s the millions of baby gays with no self-help book that can offer the help they need. While coming-of-age is a shared experience across people of all sexualities (yes, you’re likely to wear ugly clothes and make an ass of yourself in front of your crush regardless), most self-help books skip topics crucial to the LGBT+ community. YouTuber Riyadh Khalef offers thoughtful, earnest advice on how to be your best gay self. Of course, the advice isn’t this book doesn’t only apply to gay boys—the book itself addresses the fluid nature of sexualities: “Yay! You’re gay! Or maybe you’re bi. Or maybe you just feel different… in time, that difference will become the greatest gift you could ask for.” Whether you’re gay, bi, pan, or on the spectrum of asexuality, this heartfelt and often hilarious advice for young queer boys is sure to set the record straight—okay, maybe not so straight after all.


8. Belly Up


'Belly Up' Eva Darrows


Release Date: April 30th

Sara Rodriguez definitely didn’t expect to get pregnant one night at a house party after an ill-conceived revenge hookup—but she definitely didn’t expect the father to turn back up. But if you’re looking for angst, look elsewhere. Sara’s support network is exactly that—deeply supportive and utterly endearing. This story is less about any devastating consequences of Sara’s pregnancy and more about her experience of pregnancy with the help of the important people in her life: demisexual love interest Leaf, who has feelings for her despite her circumstances and her grey-asexual best friend, Devi, who makes sure she’s taken care of. Sara questions her own sexuality and what the hell she did to deserve so much affection.


9. Mama’s Boy: A Story from Our Americas


'Mama's Boy' Dustin Lance Black


Release Date: April 30th

Dustin Lance Black was born into a Mormon, military household. This fact isn’t surprising in and of itself, but it becomes a lot more unusual when paired with its broader context: Black is gay, wrote the screenplay Milk, and is a prominent LGBT+ rights activist who brought the case for marriage equality to the supreme court. This unlikely tale of a memoir studies how Black reached this point—but it’s also a tale of his conservative mother’s journey to understanding and accepting the LGBT+ community without forsaking her religious beliefs in a perhaps even less likely conclusion. Powerful and inspiring, this memoir documents LGBT+ history and moves its readers to the point of tears.


10. The Stonewall Reader


'The Stonewall Reader' Edited by the New York Public Library


Release Date: April 30th

Fifty years after Stonewall, the uprising known best as the most significant event of the LGBT+ liberation movement, the New York Public Library is honoring its impact by releasing this in-depth compilation of primary sources. The Stonewall Reader combines the contributions of activists with periodic literature and news coverage of the events to explore the compelling history of an under-reported event. The NYPL curators offer insight into the courage of the Stonewall activists: predominantly African-American, these LGBT+ heroes were at a precarious intersection of two marginalized communities and, still, their strength was unwavering.



In-text Images Via Amazon.
Featured Image Via Springpod Blog.

John Oliver’s Gay Bunnies Book Among Most Challenged Titles of 2018

Banning books isn’t uncommon. Whether it be because of violent material, political agendas or explicit sexual content, people will always find a reason to ban a book. But what if one of those books was about gay bunnies.


Last Week Tonight With John Oliver Presents A Day In The Life Of Marlon Bundo is a children’s book about the titular bunny, the pet of Vice President Mike Pence, and his LGBT relationship with another bunny named Wesley. The book is a parody of Marlon Bundo’s A Day In The Life Of The Vice President, written by Pence’s daughter Charlotte, about the same bunny. The LGBT themes are meant as a swipe towards the Vice President’s stance against same-sex marriage.


Marlon Bundo covers
Image Via Quartz


Both books sold well and the proceeds for each went to different charities, but some weren’t so happy with Oliver’s book.

The American Library Association released a list of the eleven most challenged books of 2018, and John Oliver’s parody book landed on the number 2 spot on the list. The description reads: “banned and challenged for including LGBTQIA+ content, and for political and religious viewpoints”.

The ALA defines a “challenged” book as one that has been the subject of a formal complaint by a library or a school due to content that is deemed inappropriate for younger readers. Other books that made the list include Thirteen Reasons Why, The Hate U Give and surprisingly Captain Underpants.


Do you think John Oliver’s book should be on the list?



Featured Image Via Variety


Film Depicting Lesbian Love Wins African Film Festival Award

Rafiki, a film by Kenyan director Wanuri Kahiu that depicts lesbian love, has been recognized at the largest African film festival, Fespaco. The festival has awarded Samantha Mugatsia “best actress” for her portrayal of Kena Mwaura.

According to IMDb, the film tells the tale of Kena and Ziki, two girls who “long for something more. When love blossoms between them, the two girls will be forced to choose between happiness and safety.” It is inspired by the short story “Jambula Tree”  by Ugandan writer Monica Arac de Nyeko.



Rafiki Stars



The award is significant because the film is banned in Kenya, the country it was directed in—an extension of the laws against homosexuality in the country.

The laws, though “recent” as far as their imposition in 20th century by British colonial rule, seem to reflect public opinion of much of the country; 90 percent of respondents to a Pew survey conducted in Kenya in 2013 said that “society should not accept homosexuality.” The laws and public aversion to homosexuality fuel each other in a hateful cycle, since “family members and neighbors sometimes report suspected homosexuals to the police.”


Rafiki Stars


The country’s High Court is set to either uphold or overturn its ruling against gay sex on May 24th, several months after it was originally supposed to decide in February.

In the midst of such conflicting public opinion, the film’s being recognized by Fespaco is an undeniable achievement, and hopefully foreshadows what’s to come for gay rights in Kenya!