ARC Review: The Extraordinaries by T.J. Klune

The Extraordinaries by T.J. Klune
Rating: ★★★★☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: July 14, 2020
Source: ARC via Netgalley

Some people are extraordinary. Some are just extra. TJ Klune’s YA debut, The Extraordinaries, is a queer coming-of-age story about a fanboy with ADHD and the heroes he loves.

Nick Bell? Not extraordinary. But being the most popular fanfiction writer in the Extraordinaries fandom is a superpower, right?

After a chance encounter with Shadow Star, Nova City’s mightiest hero (and Nick’s biggest crush), Nick sets out to make himself extraordinary. And he’ll do it with or without the reluctant help of Seth Gray, Nick’s best friend (and maybe the love of his life).

Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl meets Marissa Meyer’s Renegades in TJ Klune’s YA debut.

 

I have this really bad habit of requesting books on Netgalley without fully reading the synopsis. I just knew that this book had a fun cover, had something to do with superheroes, and was written by T.J. Klune, who I’ve only ever heard good things about. As I was reading, I wrote in my little reading journal “It’s like Renegades meets Fangirl!” and wow… that’s literally in the synopsis. For once, the comparison worked!

First things first, this book was a ton of fun. This was the fun, quirky, nerdy superhero book I never knew I needed. Nick and his friends were great and I absolutely believed in this world where superheroes are real and the police are just exasperated with them. This book almost felt like a movie because it was so descriptive! I could almost see everything playing out in front of me.

I loved how Nick kept trying anything he could think of to make himself an Extraordinary and he never gave up regardless of how many times he failed or how many people told him he was crazy. Also, I thought I knew what was going on with the various superheroes (and villains?) but I did not.

There are at least two major plot points that are hinted at and left open at the end of the book. This was a little bit frustrating for me because I really wanted answers, but now I see that this is going to be a trilogy and things make a little more sense. The next book has no title or cover yet, but it’s set to come out at some point next year. (Do what you will with that information.)

All in all, this was a super fun book and I would definitely recommend it as long as you’re okay with waiting for answers. I would also recommend not taking it seriously, because it’s meant to be a little bit silly.


Have you read The Extraordinaries? Is it on your TBR?
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Blog tour (+ interview!): More Than Maybe by Erin Hahn

More Than Maybe by Erin Hahn
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads 
Publication Date: July 21, 2020

Growing up under his punk rocker dad’s spotlight, eighteen-year-old Luke Greenly knows fame and wants nothing to do with it. His real love isn’t in front of a crowd, it’s on the page. Hiding his gift and secretly hoarding songs in his bedroom at night, he prefers the anonymous comfort of the locally popular podcast he co-hosts with his outgoing and meddling, far-too-jealousy-inspiringly-happy-with-his-long-term-boyfriend twin brother, Cullen. But that’s not Luke’s only secret. He also has a major un-requited crush on music blogger, Vada Carsewell.

Vada’s got a five year plan: secure a job at the Loud Lizard to learn from local legend (and her mom’s boyfriend) Phil Josephs (check), take over Phil’s music blog (double check), get accepted into Berkeley’s prestigious music journalism program (check, check, check), manage Ann Arbor’s summer concert series and secure a Rolling Stone internship. Luke Greenly is most definitely NOT on the list. So what if his self-deprecating charm and out-of-this-world music knowledge makes her dizzy? Or his brother just released a bootleg recording of Luke singing about some mystery girl on their podcast and she really, really wishes it was her?

I loved Erin Hahn’s debut, You’d Be Mine, so imagine my excitement when I was invited to participate in a blog tour for More Than Maybe! (Imagine my excitement growing even more when I got the chance to interview her!) I loved this book just as much as her debut (and already posted my review here) and now I’m thrilled to be able to share an interview!

Thank you so much to Wednesday Books and Erin Hahn for making this post possible!


I absolutely loved this book! It was so much fun to read about Vada, a music blogger, and Luke, a podcast host. What was your inspiration?

Well there are a few. Firstly, as a (young) teen, I was obsessed with the 90s cult classic EMPIRE RECORDS. If you haven’t seen it, you should… but it’s basically built around a day in the life of a record store complete with a misfit cast of employees and a mentor-like rock-and-roll boss, Joe. Working at Empire Records was a dream of mine. I wanted to be the one to save the record store and as an author, I wanted a way to make that idea contemporary. I, like so many others, started working at 14 and had multiple part-time jobs throughout high school and college. First jobs are where you often first stretch your wings and are exposed to a more eclectic population of people. For some kids, they don’t find their people in high school, but rather at their first jobs. For Vada, and later, Luke, the dive bar known as the Loud Lizard becomes a sort of surrogate home for them—filled with interesting characters who challenge and support them. And where you find an eclectic array of strangers of different ages and backgrounds working at a dive bar, you’re bound to find music. I didn’t get to save the record store, but I did get to save the dive bar. ☺

Vada and Luke both reference a ton of great music throughout this book. I was so happy to see some of my favorite bands show up! How did you choose the songs you wanted to use?

Playlists are my superpower. These songs have been waiting years for this moment to shine. I did work super hard on balance in this story. I wanted to make sure I featured an equal number of older, more classic songs and brand new, up and coming artists. Since Vada is a music critique blogger with big ambitions of Rolling Stone, it was important that she knew about all kind of music, not just what is on the radio today. She needed to have educated opinions about music of all genres. Luke, being the son of a former British punk rocker from the 80s and 90s was a good match for that. He’s also well-versed in the classics. I tested it out on several beta readers and my goal was to have EVERYONE hitting up their Google app while reading. I knew it would be impossible to expect everyone (particularly non-music lovers) to know all of the songs and artists, but I hoped to tease the songs enough that people would want to check them out for themselves after reading a conversation between Luke and Vada. I hope I’ve achieved that. I think I have! Nothing makes me happier than when an early reader has reached out to say they’ve been following along with the music in the story and or creating their own playlists. I’ve got my official playlist set up on Spotify, but when readers create their own? Amazing. I love it.

What was the most challenging aspect of writing this book?

I wrote “More Than Maybe” before my debut “You’d Be Mine” released and that made it especially difficult to give myself permission to be creative. I felt on the edge, waiting for readers’ reactions to my first book while trying to convince myself I could write another, and that people would want to read that too! It took a lot of faking it. ☺ But eventually, “You’d Be Mine” released and found its audience and I was able to breathe easy and really focus on making “More Than Maybe” the best it could be. 

Which scene was your favorite to write?

I have a few, to be honest. I loved writing the relationship between Phil and Vada, and basically cried my way through all their interactions. The silent disco “not-date” was fun because Luke and Vada are so overflowing with chemistry around each other but happen to also be completely adorkable and awkward. So that’s a riot for an author to portray. I knew the ending before the rest of the book came together, and I don’t want to spoil it except to say that the day I sat down to write it, my heart was racing, and I wanted to puke, I was so excited for it. It’s definitely my favorite ending I’ve ever written!

What are some of your favorite songs right now?

I’m creating a new playlist for a whole new, totally unrelated story so my current faves come from that… 

Top three are:

Every Heartbeat by Grace Potter

Bluebird by Miranda Lambert 

I Hope by Gabby Barrett

Are there any books that you’ve read recently that you’d recommend checking out?

In the next year, three authors are debuting with magical YA books: Syed Masood wrote the hilarious and heartfelt “More Than Just A Pretty Face”, Laura Zimmerman’s charming “My Eyes Are Up Here” and all the yearning in “Amelia Unabridged” by Ashley Schumaker. 


About the Author

 

Erin Hahn is the author of You’d Be Mine and More Than Maybe. She teaches elementary, would rather be outside and makes a lot of playlists. So many playlists in fact, that she decided to write books to match them! She married her very own YA love interest who she met on her first day of college and has two kids who are much, much cooler than she ever was at their age. She lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan, aka the greenest place on earth and has a cat named Gus who plays fetch and a dog named June who doesn’t.

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Have you read More Than Maybe? Is it on your TBR?
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ALC Review: The Switch by Beth O’Leary

The Switch by Beth O’Leary
Rating: ★★★★☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: April 16, 2020
Source: ALC via Netgalley

Eileen is sick of being 79.
Leena’s tired of life in her twenties.
Maybe it’s time they swapped places…

When overachiever Leena Cotton is ordered to take a two-month sabbatical after blowing a big presentation at work, she escapes to her grandmother Eileen’s house for some overdue rest. Eileen is newly single and about to turn eighty. She’d like a second chance at love, but her tiny Yorkshire village doesn’t offer many eligible gentlemen.

Once Leena learns of Eileen’s romantic predicament, she proposes a solution: a two-month swap. Eileen can live in London and look for love. Meanwhile Leena will look after everything in rural Yorkshire. But with gossiping neighbours and difficult family dynamics to navigate up north, and trendy London flatmates and online dating to contend with in the city, stepping into one another’s shoes proves more difficult than either of them expected.

Leena learns that a long-distance relationship isn’t as romantic as she hoped it would be, and then there is the annoyingly perfect – and distractingly handsome – school teacher, who keeps showing up to outdo her efforts to impress the local villagers. Back in London, Eileen is a huge hit with her new neighbours, but is her perfect match nearer home than she first thought?

 

In case you hadn’t heard the news, Netgalley now has audiobooks! I was really excited to find Beth O’Leary’s new book available for download and got to listening right away.

First things first, I loved both Eileen and Leena. I could totally relate to Leena’s struggles with a stressful job and a long-distance relationship. I also loved Eileen and I think she’d be such a great grandma to have! Just like with The Flatshare, O’Leary touches on some deeper topics than just swapping lives. Leena’s dealing with grief and there’s a lot of commentary on mental health and healthy relationships.

I really liked both Eileen and Leena’s romances in this book. Both characters ended up with such sweet romances with such great people. I think this book had a great message about finding love and happiness and not just sticking with the same thing (or the same person) because it’s what’s comfortable.

As for the audio, both of the narrators did a great job. I will say that I listened at 1.75x speed, though, because they spoke so slowly! But sped up, it was really easy to listen to this book.

Overall, I’m giving this four stars because although I enjoyed it, I never really had trouble setting it down.


Have you read The Switch? Is it on your TBR?
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Mini-Reviews: So You Want to Talk About Race & Stamped from the Beginning

So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo
Rating: ★★★★★
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: January 16, 2018
Source: Borrowed

In this breakout book, Ijeoma Oluo explores the complex reality of today’s racial landscape–from white privilege and police brutality to systemic discrimination and the Black Lives Matter movement–offering straightforward clarity that readers need to contribute to the dismantling of the racial divide

In So You Want to Talk About Race, Editor at Large of The Establishment Ijeoma Oluo offers a contemporary, accessible take on the racial landscape in America, addressing head-on such issues as privilege, police brutality, intersectionality, micro-aggressions, the Black Lives Matter movement, and the “N” word. Perfectly positioned to bridge the gap between people of color and white Americans struggling with race complexities, Oluo answers the questions readers don’t dare ask, and explains the concepts that continue to elude everyday Americans.

Oluo is an exceptional writer with a rare ability to be straightforward, funny, and effective in her coverage of sensitive, hyper-charged issues in America. Her messages are passionate but finely tuned, and crystalize ideas that would otherwise be vague by empowering them with aha-moment clarity. Her writing brings to mind voices like Ta-Nehisi Coates and Roxane Gay, and Jessica Valenti in Full Frontal Feminism, and a young Gloria Naylor, particularly in Naylor’s seminal essay “The Meaning of a Word.”

This book was very, very good, to the point that I don’t really have anything to say about it. Oluo provides facts about and examples of racism, educates the reader on intersectionality and privilege, and shares a number of questions to think about in order to move forward.

Two quotes stand out for me:

“There is no neutrality to be had towards systems of injustice. It is not something you can just opt out of.”

“What am I thinking that this conversations says about me? Has my top priority shifted to preserving my ego?”

I think that everyone should read this book. And please, if I ever say anything racist or insensitive, don’t be afraid to call me out.


Stamped from the Beginning by Ibram X. Kendi
Rating: ★★★★☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: April 12, 2016
Source: Borrowed

Americans like to insist that they are living in a post-racial, color-blind society. In fact, racist thought is alive and well; it has simply become more sophisticated and more insidious. And as award-winning historian Ibram X. Kendi argues in Stamped from the Beginning, racist ideas in America have a long and lingering history, one in which nearly every great American thinker is complicit.

In this deeply researched and fast-moving narrative, Kendi chronicles the entire story of anti–Black racist ideas and their staggering power over the course of American history. Stamped from the Beginning uses the lives of five major American intellectuals to offer a window into the contentious debates between assimilationists and segregationists and between racists and anti-racists. From Puritan minister Cotton Mather to Thomas Jefferson, from fiery abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison to brilliant scholar W. E. B. Du Bois to legendary anti–prison activist Angela Davis, Kendi shows how and why some of our leading pro-slavery and pro–civil rights thinkers have challenged or helped cement racist ideas in America.

As Kendi provocatively illustrates, racist thinking did not arise from ignorance or hatred. Racist ideas were created and popularized in an effort to defend deeply entrenched discriminatory policies and to rationalize the nation’s racial inequities in everything from wealth to health. While racist ideas are easily produced and easily consumed, they can also be discredited. In shedding much–needed light on the murky history of racist ideas, Stamped from the Beginning offers tools to expose them—and in the process, reason to hope.

Stamped from the Beginning is, I think, another book that everyone should read. It’s incredibly interesting, going deep into the history of racism in the United States. Kendi brings up many historical figures and analyzes their behavior to show whether they were segregationists, assimilationists, or anti-racists.

While this book was well-written and definitely well-researched, it’s also very, very dense. At nearly 600 pages (or 18 and a half hours on audio), it takes a long time to get through and left me feeling absolutely exhausted. This is a book that you need to dedicate some time to, but it’s worth it.


Have you read any of these books? Are any of them on your TBR?
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Book Review: Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid

Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid
Rating: ★★★★☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: December 31, 2019
Source: Borrowed
In the midst of a family crisis one late evening, white blogger Alix Chamberlain calls her African American babysitter, Emira, asking her to take toddler Briar to the local market for distraction. There, the security guard accuses Emira of kidnapping Briar, and Alix’s efforts to right the situation turn out to be good intentions selfishly mismanaged.
 

Going into Such a Fun Age, I knew two things. First, that it was incredibly, incredibly hyped. And second, that it had something to do with race. I assumed, given the title, that it also had something to do with a toddler, because whenever someone says, “that’s such a fun age!” they’re always talking about toddlers. (Clearly I did not read the synopsis, or I would have seen it right there.)

This book is somehow a light, fun read about a bunch of interesting characters and an incredibly important, well-written commentary on the white savior complex and performative allyship. It all begins when Emira, a Black woman who babysits for a rich white couple, is called in late one night to watch the couple’s three-year-old amid a crisis. She’s been out at a party, she’s been drinking a little bit, and she’s not dressed like a normal babysitter, but her boss doesn’t care. She just wants Briar out of the house. So Emira arrives, whisks Briar away to a grocery store (one of her current favorite places), and attempts to distract her until it’s safer to go home. All is fine and good until a security guard accuses Emira of kidnapping Briar, a bystander captures the incident on camera, and everything begins to change.

There are so many levels to this book that I’m not entirely sure where to start. On the surface, we have the blatant racism that led to the accusation against Emira. Everyone agrees that this is wrong. But there are also much subtler incidents of racism in this book as well as people trying so hard to prove that they’re not racist that they end up doing some pretty questionable things. Reid is not afraid to call out people who try to prove that they’re not racist by having the “correct” number of Black friends. She’s not afraid to comment on the use of the N-word by non-Black people. She shows, rather than tells us, how awkward and inappropriate it is to “save” someone who doesn’t need or want saving. And aside from discussions of race, there’s also a great commentary on parenting in this book! Emira’s boss, Alix, treats her two children very differently. While she dotes over her infant daughter, she constantly brushes Briar off on Emira. It’s so heartbreaking to read about her different reactions to Briar and Catherine, and very telling, I think, that she never really leaves Catherine with Emira. There’s also a discussion of Alix’s past and how it’s shaped her into this person who needs to prove that she’s not racist. All in all, there’s a lot going on in this book, but in a really good way.

There were two things that kept me from giving this book five stars, one big and one small. The small thing is that I felt some of the dialogue could have been tightened up. There are some conversations that seem to go on forever when they really don’t need to. The big thing was the ending. I don’t want to spoil it, but it just felt… over the top. I’m not sure that such a dramatic ending was really necessary, but I also can’t think of a better way to have ended it, so it’s still a four-star read.

Side note: I will protect Briar at all costs. That girl is perfect and her random comments were my favorite part of this book.


Have you read Such a Fun Age? Is it on your TBR?
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