I truly did not have the best luck with ARCs recently. Out of these three books, I can only truly recommend one, although one of the other two is probably simply a matter of personal taste.
We’re just going to ignore me smashing three reviews into one blog post because I am behind
I received all of these books from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. All quotes are taken from ARCs, and may not be final.
Out Now: Queer We Go Again, edited by Saundra Mitchell
I’m not entirely sure what I thought about this anthology, but I don’t think I found it quite as strong as the first one. According to a calculator, my ratings for the stories average out to 3.625 stars, but I have to admit I was tempted to round my 3.5 stars down to 3 stars instead of up to 4, even though the technical average amount was closer to four
However, I appreciate the fact that this is an anthology dedicated to uplifting queer voices, and although a lot of the stories fell flat for me I genuinely do recommend this book, because some of the stories were truly amazing, and honestly it’s worth it just for those.
And now that we have my rambly general thoughts out of the way, let’s get onto the story by story breakdown:
Kick. Push. Coast.
I thought this one was pretty solid, but it wasn’t really my thing. I thought it pulled off second person okay (and I usually hate second person), and the questioning rep was good. I just wasn’t engaged, is my main problem.
Also the line “symptoms of demisexuality”, which is uhhhh questionable because it’s?? not an illness?? and as far as I remember that wasn’t used on any of the other identities mentioned?? so uhhhhhhhhhhhhhh
(it was an arc so maybe it changed, idk. I hope so)
What Happens In the Closet
This was fun, but just sorta cheesy and stupid and honestly not very well written if you ask me. Also there were a few weird generalizations and stereotypes that I didn’t love?? But like it was pretty fun.
Player One Fight
This is the single stupidest story I have ever read and the main character was an entitled prick and I hated it.
Literally the entire thing was just his internal monologue about how much his “boyfriend” loved him, but like . . . they weren’t even together??? the main character was just determined he would win the poor dude over??? and the poor guy was just like trying to go about his life?? and the main character was just like blah blah blah he loves me so much blah blah blah he’s gonna be my boyfriend blah blah blah he just doesn’t realize it yet
Lumber Me Mine
One of my absolute favourite stories in the anthology. It was so fluffy and sweet but it also had so much too it, about moving on from a bad relationship and learning to love yourself outside of a relationship that was your entire world (but also it had a cute sapphic romance that I adored haha), and just jkhjfgfjkhghffd it was SO GOOD!! And it had ace rep!!
Also like . . . it made me so happy that I cried. It was so pure and sweet hjfgdghfg
This was exceptionally dumb and not really anything special, but I greatly enjoyed it anyways and it put a smile on my face, and like . . . it was just fun af.
I sort of have the same thoughts on this one as I did the last one: it was good, it was fun, it was sorta stupid, it was absolutely not memorable. It was worth the read tho, for sure.
THIS WAS THE CUTEST SHIT also I would do anything for Luke’s dad like wow he was the best person ever and I love him kjhjfgdghgfdjghfg
This one definitely made me desperately want to read more from Julian Winters and also just jghfhjhfg I loved it ahhh
A Road of One’s Own
This was so good!! I loved seeing the main character come to terms with her sexuality, and it was just very soft and sweet and also made me laugh
Honestly my only complaint with this one was that the side characters weren’t very well developed
This story was one of my favourites and I just!! it was so good!! I fell so absolutely in love with the whole cast of characters, and I’m always soft for reading about characters who are just discovering they’re queer and also just jkhjfgfhjghffd this was so funny and sweet and I loved it so much!!!
Star-crossed in DC
This was hands down the best story in this anthology and I loved it so much and like honestly the whole anthology is worth it just for this, Seditious Teapots, and Lumber Me Mine.
This story . . . wow. This was about the daughter of a republican president who is in love with the daughter of the democrat candidate, and her having to come to terms with the fact that her family is really not great, and learning to stand up for what she believes in and also question her beliefs to better herself and hkjfgdghkhjgfghjghfd it was SO fucking good I loved it so much!!!!!
This was like….. beautifully written but way too weird for me. I feel like this one will be really hit or miss for people though, because I think it’s very much just a matter of whether or not you connect with it, and I REALLY didn’t. (like it’s a short story and yet I considered DNFing it so uhhhhh coming from someone who rarely DNFs……… that’s not a good sign)
The Soft Place
I didn’t looove this one, because it was just a smidge too weird for me, but it was really unique and well-written and I genuinely really did like it.
A Pound of Flesh
This one was so disappointing, because the premise was so excellent, but the execution just . . . didn’t work. Honestly this one didn’t work very well as a short story at all, but also I didn’t love the writing style so I probably couldn’t have read it as a whole book either.
One Spell Too Many
I really don’t have anything to SAY on this one, just that it was fun af and I loved it a lot
Far From Home
This was so bizarre, but also really fun!! It wasn’t my favourite thing ever, but it was quirky and enjoyable and sweet and that was enough to make it worthwhile.
Once Upon A Seastorm
I literally do not know what to make of this one but I like?? vaguely enjoyed it??? when I wasn’t contemplating DNFing it??? idk it was weird but like good but like weird af and tbh I just didn’t click with the writing style
Queen of Coin and Whisper by Helen Corcoran
This was . . . Fine. I enjoyed myself mostly, I’m glad I read it, but had I put it down and not picked it up again I likely wouldn’t have remembered nor cared.
I’m trying really hard to review this book in depth like I normally would, but honestly I just don’t have anything to say. I have no real criticisms of this book, and no real praise. I didn’t dislike my reading experience, but this book was utterly forgettable.
The Extraordinaries by T.J. Klune
This book would be getting four stars, because it had so many things I loved, but unfortunately it also had some really harmful shit so instead it’s getting a very deserved 1.5 stars!! Yay, disappointment!
I am so incredibly disappointed in this book, and I really wish I could rate it highly and recommend it, but I cannot in good conscience do that because wow wtf. Anyways, i do feel the need to acknowledge the good in this book still, because it was there, and you know this is supposed to be an honest review, so uh:
The Reasons It’s Not Getting One Star:
– the writing was super fun! It was so easy to read and i literally read it in one sitting because i genuinely was enjoying myself a lot when i didn’t feel like throwing it across the room
– the characters were great. I really loved Nick even though he was completely clueless, and Seth was so sweet, and also the side sapphic couple whose names i’ve already forgotten were amazing and just hjgfjghkjghf i loved this cast of characters and i wish!! I could fangirl about them! without feeling vaguely sick!
– this book was soooo funny. Like i spent the whole time laughing aloud and it was a fun time
– the rep! I can’t speak on the adhd rep, but i do believe it was ownvoices. and i really liked the gay rep, and how natural it felt
The Huge Glaring Issue:
The way this book glorifies the police force is deeply harmful. I don’t feel that any book can involve the police force this much without critiquing it, without being an inherently harmful book. (If you still, even after everything that’s happened recently, don’t think that the police force is incredibly fucked up, I don’t know what to tell you. Go do some damn research.) This feels like nothing less than propaganda, and intentional or not that is harmful.
The police play into this book hugely. The main character’s dad is a cop, and the police are always getting involved in stuff with the superheroes. And although the police aren’t always shown as right, especially about the superheroes, they are always shown as a well-meaning institution for good.
I was pretty skeptical from the beginning when I realized his dad was a cop, but i was still somewhat hopeful it would redeem itself and call them out later (spoiler alert: it didn’t). And then we find out that his dad punched a witness. His dad used unnecessary force on someone while doing his job as a cop, and it was shown as okay because he was ‘a good person who made a bad decision’. I barely even have the words for how fucked up that is, but I’m sure as hell going to try because i can’t just let that go.
A cop who punches someone because they said something that made him mad is dangerous. A cop who punches someone because they said something that made him mad has anger issues. A cop who has anger issues is going to get people killed if you let him stay on the force. A cop who has anger issues needs to lose his job asap. The portrayal of him as a good person who made a mistake once just doesn’t work when you think about the context of his position of power. This man needs to be fired.
In case you don’t believe me that he was glorified, here’s a quote (it’s taken from an arc and may not be final, but i still feel it holds a lot of weight) about the cops who stood up for his dad after he punched someone on the job:
These were the people who had fought for Aaron Bell when before had become after, and his dad had lashed out against someone he shouldn’t have. They were the ones that had argued with Internal Affairs and the higher-ups, telling them in no uncertain terms that Detective Bell shouldn’t be dismissed, that he was an unmatched asset to the Nova City Police Department, and to lose him would mean losing someone who bled blue.
These men are shown as heroes, when in reality they are enablers. This isn’t okay.
Meanwhile Nick’s reaction to his dad mentioning what happened is this:
”But that doesn’t mean you still can’t be a good person, right? Just because you did something wrong doesn’t mean that’s who you are. And even if you keep doing the wrong thing, you can still be saved.”
I generally agree with the sentiment, but in the context of his dad being a cop who has abused his powers, something about that really doesn’t sit right with me.
There were also a few other lines about the police that I raised my eyebrows at (again these are taken from an arc and may not be final, but either way are deeply not okay), such as:
Police officers are woefully underpaid,” Nick agreed. “Especially for the line of work they’re in. It’s dangerous on a daily basis, and they should be compensated.”
No. Just no. Defund the police. They don’t need more money.
For this second one I feel the context is very important. This happens when the character is being arrested by cops who know his dad and are being very gentle with him. He knows he’s safe, he knows the worst trouble he’s going to get in is grounded.
”Record this,” Nick bellowed at Jazz and Gibby. “Record this so i can use this in a lawsuit I’m going to file against my dad and the city for police brutality! I will have my vengeance!”
Yes you read that right, that was a joke against police brutality (made by the privileged white male character). This was also the only reference to any real problems with the police force in the entire book. And it was a joke.
In short: this book was entirely out of line and I cannot in good conscience recommend it.