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This Is a Bit of a Rant Review: One Last Stop by Casey McQuiston

I rarely preorder books. Recently I have started to do it more often but I still try to limit myself because I’m always nervous I may not like a book enough to own it. One Last Stop is Casey McQuiston’s, author of Red White & Royal Blue, sophomore novel. This was one of my most anticipated books of 2021 and I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it so it was one of the few books that I’ve preordered for this year. When I initially read RWRB I really liked it and while my opinion on it has changed a bit I have reread it four times. So upon hearing the synopsis of OLS I was incredibly excited for a sapphic contemporary novel mixed with a unique sci-fi element. Unfortunately though I found the story to be lackluster and the main twist of the plot was poorly executed.

With that being said this is going to be a bit of a rant review. I’m going to split it into a few different sections to try and keep my thoughts together and I’ll also make a disclaimer now that there will be some spoilers. I will note the sections that contain major spoilers in case you want to skip them!

One Last Stop

Synopsis

For cynical twenty-three-year-old August, moving to New York City is supposed to prove her right: that things like magic and cinematic love stories don’t exist, and the only smart way to go through life is alone. She can’t imagine how waiting tables at a 24-hour pancake diner and moving in with too many weird roommates could possibly change that. And there’s certainly no chance of her subway commute being anything more than a daily trudge through boredom and electrical failures.

But then, there’s this gorgeous girl on the train.

Jane. Dazzling, charming, mysterious, impossible Jane. Jane with her rough edges and swoopy hair and soft smile, showing up in a leather jacket to save August’s day when she needed it most. August’s subway crush becomes the best part of her day, but pretty soon, she discovers there’s one big problem: Jane doesn’t just look like an old school punk rocker. She’s literally displaced in time from the 1970s, and August is going to have to use everything she tried to leave in her own past to help her. Maybe it’s time to start believing in some things, after all.

Things I Liked

I’ll start with the things that I liked about the book because I do think that McQuiston shows a lot of promise as an author. I did enjoy OLS enough to finish it and the main reason for that is the colorful cast of characters. The way that McQuiston crafts their side characters is something that I love, it’s one of the things that has brought me back to RWRB and would also bring me back to OLS someday too. I’ll be honest when I say that both books also featured romances between side characters that I was more invested in than the main ones at times.

Another thing that I adore about McQuiston’s books are the friendships that are formed in both. I appreciate these friendships so much because they end up giving me so many warm fuzzy feelings and have me wishing for my own group of friends I could be that close to. I think that McQuiston writes fun stories and I’m a bit unsure of whether or not I’ll be picking up more of their work in the future though I’m just waiting it out at this point.

So now onto some of the things that I didn’t like about the book…

Writing

I’m a big fan of a casual writing style! Sometimes I think it’s fun to pick up books that feel more conversational than wordy and prose filled. I don’t mind swearing in books (usually). With OLS, though, I was honestly thrown off over how much the word “fucking” was used. And I swear A LOT so I’m all for using it as emphasis and frequently do but it genuinely started to get to me the more I read. And I’m aware that this is a very tiny critique but that’s mainly why I put it first. I just think that without this aspect I would have been able to stay immersed in the story instead of taking as long as I did to read it.

Plot

***THIS SECTION WILL CONTAIN MAJOR SPOILERS***

One of the main things that I think I had an issue with in terms of the plot was the pacing. I went into OLS expecting the overarching plot line of helping Jane get back to the 70’s to be woven throughout. McQuiston writes really fun side scenes and side stories within their books but I think in this story it ended up detracting from the time travel portion. I’m going to be honest, I think that this could have just as easily been written without the light sci-fi and almost everything about the story could have stayed the way it was. It was just a convenient way to make Jane be “unavailable” to August in her “real” world. This also was obviously the only way that August or her mom would have ended up getting closure about August’s uncle.

Now this smaller plot line about August’s missing uncle felt like it should have been given a bigger space within the story. I was immediately intrigued by this once it was introduced into the book and I understood why August didn’t bring it up but it took so long for it to be really mentioned or explained that it felt rushed. In part, I also felt like while the confrontation August had with her mother had spent years being built up it didn’t have the same sort of emotional response in me that I had expected. Jane wasn’t a big part of the narration outside of her small flashbacks but I really wish that McQuiston would have given her a bigger role. I would have adored to read about her time with Augie in Louisiana. And I especially would have appreciated to learn more about Jane’s past.

To speak more on the sci-fi aspect of the plot. Jane and August have a run in on the subway and it was lust at first sight. Okay, I’ll go with it probably being more insta-love but I digress. August makes it her sole purpose/goal to rescue Jane from this time trap. And again, this intrigued me from the minute McQuiston started talking about it. I was pumped! But the plot ended up being boiled down to August romanticizing what she has with Jane and acting in an almost white savior role. There was little to no development of the relationship between Jane and August and it was hard for me to understand the motivation and overall need for the sci-fi. I just felt like there was a lack of insight into why August singlehandedly had to save Jane. It went from meet-cute to 100 and I wasn’t a fan of that.

I also wanted to make a small comment on the sexual aspect of August and Jane’s relationship. I’m on the ace spectrum so I try to avoid commenting on things like this when reading because I know these scenes aren’t written for someone like me in mind. With that being said, you may be wondering, “Isn’t Jane stuck on the subway? How do they have sex if she can’t leave the subway?” They do it on the subway…… And again, this type of sex interests people, I know that, I’ve read a lot of kinky fanfiction (and some romance books) over the years however it made me so uncomfortable that I had to skip these scenes and couldn’t read them. Other people can’t consent to seeing you doing the deed in public spaces so one of the scenes in here really overstepped that boundary in my opinion. Also I’m just thinking of how gross subways are and I want to take a shower on behalf of August and Jane. Alright, I’ll wrap this up now and move on.

Characters/Setting

***THIS SECTION WILL CONTAIN MINOR SPOILERS****

As I mentioned in the previous section, August ended up feeling like she was placed in a white savior role. For the most part she felt realistically flawed and I could relate to her a decent amount but when she became so focused on saving Jane that she neglected the rest of her life I got frustrated. It didn’t help that at one point August went to meet with an academic advisor because she was majorly slacking off at school and instead of having to grovel or anything like that she was informed that she was mere credits away from graduating. Like shit if only that’s how it worked for me when I neglected school.

This was a big piece of evidence as to how everything was just incredibly convenient for August. Sure, she had pitfalls here and there but overall she didn’t struggle with anything. And with the lack of development on Jane’s side of the story I was unimpressed. Again, this is why I ended up liking the side characters in this book more than the main ones.

Also, on a slightly different note but still relating to the convenience of everything for August, this whole book romanticized being a young adult as well as the entire city of New York. At the end of everything August starts to formulate an idea of using the skills learned from her mother in trying to find Augie that she would try to pursue something like people finding as a career. I understand that being in your twenties is difficult and trying to decide what you’re going to do with your future can be near impossible (speaking from personal experience and current existential dread) but all of the characters in this book just floated around seemingly without a care in the world for rent, groceries, insurance or anything related to living on your own. It romanticized everything about living in New York without really accounting for reality. I’m linking a Goodreads review from another user here that I think adds a lot more to my thoughts on this.

And finally, a line that deserved the conclusion of my post

This section will contain spoilers

This interaction occurred between Jane and August in Chapter 12. August gets on the subway and finds Jane with a split lip and a ripped shirt, when questioned Jane says:

“Some guy called me some shit I’d rather not repeat,” she finally says. “That old racist-homophobic combo. Always a winner.”

Page 292, One Last Stop

There’s more conversation during which August asks if anyone had called the cops and when Jane begins to get defensive August says:

“I know- it’s, it’s fucked up,” August tells her. She’s thinking about the fire, the things that drove Jane from city to city. “But I promise, most people aren’t like that anymore. If you could go out, you’d see.”

Page 292, One Last Stop

This interaction was almost enough to make me put the book down because it felt so insensitive. Not only was August insensitive to the very real things that Jane had experienced before she was stuck on the subway it felt biased to a white queer experience. Jane watched her friends dying of AIDS. She thought she lost her closest companion, August’s uncle, in a fire that was set in a space that gay men frequented and since we find out by the end of the book that he has died then we know that Jane truly did have reason to grieve for him. The comment was so flippant, so casual, like Jane hadn’t literally just experienced this interaction. Strides have been made for the LGBT+ community but by saying “most people aren’t like that” is a dismissal of the fact that there are people out there who will not hesitate to harm a person in the LGBT+ community.

From the Human Rights Campaign Foundation I’m linking their “Dismantling a Culture of Violence” report. I found it to be a highly informative and heartbreaking read about how anti-transgender stigma has created a culture of violence. I also want to highlight the fact that BIPOC who are in the LGBT+ community are disproportionately targeted. Last year there were 44 trans or gender nonconforming people who were murdered in the US. Half of this number were women of color, a majority Black. This year alone there have been 28 murders of trans or gender nonconforming individuals, almost all of these being BIPOC. On top of this there are numerous states that have introduced or passed anti-LGBT legislature.

I also wanted to add to this that Jane is Chinese. With the current abhorrent racism towards Asians in America this is another reason this scene left a bitter taste in my mouth. It was upsetting to see how August dismissed Jane’s trauma and romanticized the world they lived in.

I felt like it was important to include this section of the post because privileged one off comments like the one August made, the one McQuiston included in the book, only add to the struggles that marginalized people face. It’s important to acknowledge that the white queer experience isn’t universal. And August barely internalized that. After reading this section in OLS I almost put the book down because it frustrated me so much but I wanted to write this post so I ended up finishing it. Before I sign off I just wanted to leave y’all with some suggestions of action steps you can take based off of the things I wrote earlier in this section.

If you live in the United States, I encourage you to contact your representatives about anti-LGBT legislation. I was really nervous about doing this at first but there are a lot of handy scripts out there for both emails and phone calls. Now whenever I see something I want to make a statement on I fire off an email. Google is really helpful for finding your reps and all that jazz but if you want any help feel free to reach out (you can email me at adventuresandespresso@gmail.com).

Educate other people in your lives. Seriously, this one can be a lot easier than you might think. I understand if you’re not in a place where you are able or safe enough to educate those around you but if you are just talking about issues and how they hurt people can be a big influence. I used to rant about political stuff constantly to my former coworker and on more than one occasion she told me that I had taught her a lot.

Lastly, I know that there are plenty of big name organizations that you can donate to but I wanted to emphasize the importance and benefit of mutual aid. There are so many people that need financial help. People who need to get out of unsafe living situations, trans individuals who need help affording to transition, the list is endless. When I’m on Twitter and have a bit of extra money I try to find people who are asking for help. It may not seem like a lot if you only have a few dollars to spare but it could mean everything to that person seeking help. If you or someone you know has a need for financial help feel free to reach out if you’re comfortable letting me add the information to this post and I will!

With that, I’m going to sign off for the day. I’m really disappointed that this ended up not being the book I was hoping it would be but I’ve got a list of sapphic contemporary books to pick up next so on to the next one! If you’d like to connect with me elsewhere you can find me:

On Twitter: @/nihilisticactus

On Readerly: @/sideofadventure

My email for review inquiries, etc is adventuresandespresso@gmail.com

You can add me on Goodreads or follow my reviews here.

And my Ko-fi in case you’re interested in financially supporting the blog.

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Books Reviews

Rant Review: Get A Life, Chloe Brown by Talia Hibbert (Spoilers)

Get a Life, Chloe Brown (The Brown Sisters, #1)

Synopsis

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…

Rating

Untitled design-2

Review

I really wanted to love this book, I really did. So many people have raved about this book that I could not wait to get my hands on it. Which is why it took me by surprise when I read the first chapter and immediately wanted to DNF it. The writing felt so awkward to me and I was honestly shocked to find out this book takes place in the U.K. I know it doesn’t need to be explicitly said but I have no knowledge of Talia Hibbert or where she lives and so I guess I had book culture shock when Chloe was referred to as “love” on like the second page. Which is such a small critique but then it took me well over 100 pages to get into the flow of reading it. Now here’s the kicker for anyone who has followed me since last summer… This book reminded me of Fix Her Up by Tessa Bailey and in case you don’t know, I actively despise that book. Well and truly hated it. So for this book to remind me of that, it’s highly disappointing.

The premise of this novel was so hopeful, it sounded so good. I was so excited to read about the representation and honestly, that chronic illness/pain and the rep for coping with abusive relationships were the only things that I liked about this book. As someone who has experience with both of these things I think that Hibbert handled it all really well and I appreciated that at least. I think if Chloe and Red had been “normal” people I would have rated this one star or I might have even gone through with DNF’ing this book before I got any substantial amount through it.

I think this book was dramatic smut hidden under the cutesy illustrated cover that leads readers to believe otherwise. I couldn’t see why Red and Chloe had any reason to get together other than for the convenience of it. Literally I felt like between the prologue to the first chapter I was missing an entire book… Or at least a few chapters. I have no idea who Chloe is, why her family is so rich they live together in a family home and Chloe and her sisters get monthly stipends. I don’t know what her relationship is like with any of her family members other than through extremely brief interactions. These brief interactions or introductions are how every single character in this book is treated. Even Red’s introduction was so brief I was taken aback. He was just there with no explanation and with absolutely no shock literally no explanation as to why the hell they hated each other in the first place. I can give a bit of leniency to not fully developing character back stories but even Red’s mother, who seems to be incredibly central to his life, gets one scene unless his finger tattoo that says “MUM” is brought up in conversation.

And now for the freaking romance. INSUFFERABLE, lackluster, instant, horrid. UGH.

I like fluff. I like cutesy. I like happy even when it is laced with pain. This was lust. Like I cannot bring myself to describe it in any other manner. One second they hate each other and the next second they are ripping each other’s clothes off. The first smutty scene took place in PUBLIC which is something that automatically gets many points taken off from any book. It’s not okay, it’s literally against the law. So keep it in your freaking pants and be on your way. Beds are far better for those sorts of activities. The other sex scene that drove me up the dang wall was the camping one. Of any place to have the first “all the way” scene to take place, why the HELL was it in a TENT. Who goes camping and thinks about sex??? Granted their camping trip was different and not as strenuous but STILL. TENTS ARE NOT QUIET. WAS THERE LITERALLY NO ONE ELSE AROUND??? I’m genuinely confused and concerned.

And in the end THEY SAID I LOVE YOU AFTER TWO WEEKS. Considering these are two deeply damaged (that’s such a bad sounding word but I feel it is the best way to put it) individuals I could not put the ending of this book out of my head. Talk about some instant fucking love. I genuinely could not understand the chemistry between the characters. I wasn’t a fan. I still feel like I don’t even know who either of the characters really are.
Oh and considering things started off early on with Chloe spying on Red through her window. Immediate anger from me. Spying, prying, peeping, whatever the heck you want to call it is never okay. It’s not funny, it’s not cute, it’s a huge invasion of privacy and should never be tolerated. Writing it into books (and now I’ve seen it in two highly praised novels) just lets it seem like it’s okay which it’s not and never will be.

I was so disappointed with this book. I had really high hopes and was let down entirely. It was underdeveloped and felt like dressed up smut which I have never been a fan of. I’m really glad I got this through Kindle Unlimited because I was originally planning on buying my own copy of this because I was so excited to check it out but I definitely dodged a bullet there.

If you’ve stuck around this long, does anyone have any good cute and fluffy recommendations for either adult or young adult romance/contemporary books? I’m on a kick and need some good ones to read to make up for this one!

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Books

Review: Fix Her Up by Tessa Bailey

Fix Her Up

Fix Her Up by Tessa Bailey is a “romantic comedy” about Georgie Castle and Travis Ford, childhood friends that have decided to fake date to look more adult to those around them in their hometown and beyond. It’s a smutty mess and doesn’t compare to the description that’s listed on Goodreads whatsoever!! (Can you tell I’m salty about having actually read this book or is that just me?)

This book had been raved about by multiple people that I follow and then two people absolutely hated it. I had just gotten my copy from the library and decided to pick it up and see where I stood on it.

I ultimately rated it 2/5 stars because the plot didn’t align with what I went in expecting it to be, the romance felt toxic, and the timing felt completely screwy throughout the entire book. There were very few things that I actually enjoyed.

The rest of the review contains spoilers.

The plot was supposed to be a fake dating plot but there wasn’t a single part of it that felt like it was actually them fake dating. The more that I think about the more that I realize that there wasn’t a single aspect of this book that was truly fleshed out. It jumped around from one plot point to another so fast that I just got tired of reading. I ended up skimming the last 75 or so pages because I was so bored.

So much of the summary on Goodreads is about a life makeover… There was no true makeover scene, it maybe lasted three pages, if that. And that in and of itself was frustrating because it seemed like Georgie had her own style and was comfortable with that. Why change it? It was the stereotypical “girl wears not so flattering clothes so must change and start wearing sexier clothes to be appealing to literally anyone”. The girl “club” the Just Us league or whatever that they created was hardly a club. They really didn’t do anything other than sit and chat. It felt like it was just thrown in there to add some form of “feminist” tones even though they mostly just talked crap about the guys in their lives.

The timing was nonexistent. There was absolutely no transition that indicated a passing of time. It felt like one never-ending day even though I know that more time passed than that.

I found the romance in this incredibly cringey. It made me so uncomfortable that Travis spent so much of the book telling himself that he couldn’t be attracted to Georgie because of the fact that she had grown up as the the “dorky little sister”. It just felt like he was infantilizing her and it really didn’t help that he continuously called her “baby girl”. In general I find pet names really cringey but the two aspects paired together made me feel kind of gross. They didn’t even last more than a few chapters before the whole “no sex while we’re fake dating” thing went out the window. I don’t know why they didn’t just agree to be friends-with-benefits from the beginning and just ham up the romantic stuff for the paparazzi.

The romance between the side characters felt completely thrown in there too. I felt like Georgie’s brother had a very toxic relationship with his wife, he very clearly wanted kids and it sounds like she didn’t and was getting him to stay with her by stringing him along letting him think she’ll agree to have kids someday. It skeeved me out too when Georgie’s mom played “wing woman” so that Georgie and Travis could go do it in the pool house (omg the amount of public or semi public sex disturbed me too, don’t do that y’all, it’s not sexy), like her mom acted like she just wanted her daughter to get some. I can understand being supportive of the relationship but ew?

Even for the people that love smutty scenes I don’t really see any sort of redemption from them. Travis was grossly controlling and dominating and while yes there are relationships in which stuff like that works, it always needs to be discussed beforehand and safety always has to be a priority. I’m not saying that anything went out of hand or that anything bad happened but with the way that everything else was talked about (including the fact that her virginity was a main component of all the sexual stuff) it felt like Travis was borderline taking advantage of Georgie. One line that really stuck out to me was when Georgie was described as this “man’s pleasure tool”… Um no, I’m sorry but women aren’t for being used for men’s pleasure.

And how overly sexualized Travis was? Ew. He truly had no redeeming qualities. He treated Georgie like his savior which is absolutely bullshit. Women do not need to fix men. This book should’ve been called “Fix Him Up” with how much work needs to be done with Travis. It genuinely made me mad at how much Travis viewed Georgie as his “savior”. I think Georgie was young and is still in the midst of finding her footing in the world and figuring out who she is and what she wants. She’s only 23!! Also I enjoyed that she realized the potential that he clown business had by working to expand it to a full on party business but again, none of that was really fleshed out. All the side plots and side characters were so secondary to this overly sexualized lusty relationship. I hated the ending so much because it was so rushed and seriously, I get that you’ve known the guy since you were a kid but WHY are you agreeing to marry him??? And given that there really was no time frame in this I have no idea how long they fake dated but I just feel like this was the worst way that this could have ended. Way, way too soon to get engaged.

I think this book might end up being one of the biggest, if not biggest disappointments of the year. Despite going into it with slightly adjusted expectations because of the negative reviews that I saw the description itself sounds like a completely different book than what ended up in my hands. This book had the potential to be something really good and it just wasn’t. It could have been a sweet, steamy, well developed romance and all it was was a giant mess. All I want to do is send this book back to the editor and ask how the hell they let this get published as is.

I really don’t recommend this book. If you’ve read it, what did you think of it? I’m still trying to find a romance book that impresses me, but it feels like everything I’ve read has something that just grinds my gears by the end of it.

I’ll be back on Sunday with an update for Camp NaNoWriMo and shocker, it won’t be great! Have a great weekend everyone.