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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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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Mini-Reviews: Beach Read, Get a Life, Chloe Brown, & Twice in a Blue Moon

Beach Read by Emily Henry
Rating: ★★★☆☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: May 19, 2020
Source: Borrowed

A romance writer who no longer believes in love and a literary writer stuck in a rut engage in a summer-long challenge that may just upend everything they believe about happily ever afters.

Augustus Everett is an acclaimed author of literary fiction. January Andrews writes bestselling romance. When she pens a happily ever after, he kills off his entire cast.

They’re polar opposites.

In fact, the only thing they have in common is that for the next three months, they’re living in neighboring beach houses, broke, and bogged down with writer’s block.

Until, one hazy evening, one thing leads to another and they strike a deal designed to force them out of their creative ruts: Augustus will spend the summer writing something happy, and January will pen the next Great American Novel. She’ll take him on field trips worthy of any rom-com montage, and he’ll take her to interview surviving members of a backwoods death cult (obviously). Everyone will finish a book and no one will fall in love. Really.

Beach Read was one of those very, very (very, very, very) hyped books that I was kind of afraid to read but picked up anyway because I had to know if the hype was deserved. I think that because of that, my expectations were a little high and that impacted my opinion.

I do love a “we were obsessed with each other but both thought the other didn’t care” storyline, and that’s one thing that Beach Read does really well. Another thing that the book does really well is the exploration of January’s complicated family life and the way that we learn more about our families as we grow older.

I loved January and Gus individually, I loved their history and their banter, but their actual relationship wasn’t my favorite. And, no spoilers, but that ending really left a lot to be desired.


Get a Life, Chloe Brown by Talia Hibbert
Rating: ★★★★☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: November 5, 2019
Source: Borrowed

Chloe Brown is a chronically ill computer geek with a goal, a plan, and a list. After almost—but not quite—dying, she’s come up with seven directives to help her “Get a Life”, and she’s already completed the first: finally moving out of her glamorous family’s mansion. The next items?

• Enjoy a drunken night out.
• Ride a motorcycle.
• Go camping.
• Have meaningless but thoroughly enjoyable sex.
• Travel the world with nothing but hand luggage.
• And… do something bad.

But it’s not easy being bad, even when you’ve written step-by-step guidelines on how to do it correctly. What Chloe needs is a teacher, and she knows just the man for the job.

Redford ‘Red’ Morgan is a handyman with tattoos, a motorcycle, and more sex appeal than ten-thousand Hollywood heartthrobs. He’s also an artist who paints at night and hides his work in the light of day, which Chloe knows because she spies on him occasionally. Just the teeniest, tiniest bit.

But when she enlists Red in her mission to rebel, she learns things about him that no spy session could teach her. Like why he clearly resents Chloe’s wealthy background. And why he never shows his art to anyone. And what really lies beneath his rough exterior…

Another book that I was kind of scared to read was Get a Life, Chloe Brown. So many people have adored and recommended this book!

I loved how cute and bantery this book was. The writing is really lighthearted and it flows really nicely. The dialogue feels really natural and Chloe absolutely felt like she could be a real person. (Red was possibly too good to be true.) The romance did end up coming together really quickly, though, and I’m not sure how I felt about that.

In the end, I liked the first half of this book more than the second half, but I had a good time with this book overall.


Twice in a Blue Moon by Christina Lauren
Rating: ★★★☆☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: October 22, 2019
Source: ARC via Netgalley

Sam Brandis was Tate Jones’s first: Her first love. Her first everything. Including her first heartbreak.

During a whirlwind two-week vacation abroad, Sam and Tate fell for each other in only the way that first loves do: sharing all of their hopes, dreams, and deepest secrets along the way. Sam was the first, and only, person that Tate—the long-lost daughter of one of the world’s biggest film stars—ever revealed her identity to. So when it became clear her trust was misplaced, her world shattered for good.

Fourteen years later, Tate, now an up-and-coming actress, only thinks about her first love every once in a blue moon. When she steps onto the set of her first big break, he’s the last person she expects to see. Yet here Sam is, the same charming, confident man she knew, but even more alluring than she remembered. Forced to confront the man who betrayed her, Tate must ask herself if it’s possible to do the wrong thing for the right reason… and whether “once in a lifetime” can come around twice.

With Christina Lauren’s signature “beautifully written and remarkably compelling” (Sarah J. Maas, New York Times bestselling author) prose and perfect for fans of Emily Giffin and Jennifer Weiner, Twice in a Blue Moon is an unforgettable and moving novel of young love and second chances.

From the New York Times bestselling author of The Unhoneymooners and the “delectable, moving” (Entertainment WeeklyMy Favorite Half-Night Stand comes a modern love story about what happens when your first love reenters your life when you least expect it…

I was so excited to be offered an ARC of Twice in a Blue Moon, and then, for some reason, I had absolutely no desire to read it. I finally convinced myself to pick it up about nine months after it was originally published, and I can definitively say that it’s not my favorite of this duo’s work.

On the positive side, I can say that Christina and Lauren are great at writing emotional scenes. I felt everything that Tate was feeling. I was right there with her in London, I was on the movie set, I was in that truck. Their writing is always good. Even when I don’t particularly like one of their stories, I can admit that their books are well-written.

The thing that didn’t work for me in this one, unfortunately, was the premise. I love a good second chance romance, but regardless of how good Sam’s excuse was, I don’t think there’s any forgiving him for what he did to Tate. I kept waiting, but I never felt like he truly redeemed himself.

Onto the next Christina Lauren book…


Have you read any of these books? Are any of them on your TBR?
Let’s talk in the comments!

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