One Last Stop by Casey McQuiston | ARC Review

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ARC provided by St. Martin’s Press via Netgalley
Publication: June 1, 2021

“August doesn’t believe in most things, but it’s hard to argue that Jane wasn’t put on the Q to fuck up her whole life.”

Red, White & Royal Blue was one of my favorite books of 2019. I was able to get a very early ARC of it, and I fell so deeply in love with this alternate reality I so desperately wanted to live in as a queer biracial with a hopeless romantic heart. Casey’s prose, characters, romance, banter, and (obviously) themes were everything to me, and I knew that they would take the book world by storm with their expectation-shattering debut. But then when they announced their next book would be sapphic Kate & Leopold, with an Asian love interest? Be still, my entire heart and soul. So when I tell you that I ignored every single ARC I needed to read and review before this one for the next eight months, I say that with my whole chest because there was no way I could stop myself once it hit my kindle.

One Last Stop is a story about a twenty-three-year-old bi girl named August who has moved from university to university, state to state, looking for a place that will feel like a home she has never known. Her whole life, her mother has expected her to assist in solving a missing person case from the 70s, but August just wants to find herself, her own way, and wants to feel like she finally belongs somewhere. At the start of this story, she has made it to New York where is she going to finish her degree, and thanks to a questionably placed looking-for-roommates advertisement in a Popeyes she starts to feel like maybe she could eventually call this city and these roommates home.

The Roommates:
Niko – trans Latino psychic (good) bartender (not so good)
Myla – queer Black electrical engineer turned artist (has an adoptive Chinese mom, who really added to the story so beautifully to me, so I am mentioning it here too!)
Wes – queer Jewish tattoo artist

Oh, and I am fully in love with all three of them and the found family depicted in this book is so heartwarmingly perfect, I promise you! There are even more side characters who will easily steal your heart, too, and there is also a big emphasis on New York’s drag scene, and how queer people of color are still paving the way in 2020. This book has a very diverse cast, and we see so many different cultures, sexualities, genders, religions, and more. (There is for sure bigger body representation with August, but I’m not sure that I would say it is fat representation. I will edit this and quote an ownvoices reviewer mutual once they read and review! Also, it is brought up a couple times that August’s mom conceived her via in vitro fertilization, and I just feel like we don’t really get to see that a lot in books and I really loved that too!)

But on August’s very first day’s commute to school, where she takes the Q train subway line, she is having a bit of bad luck and an exceptionally large coffee stain. But all that luck seems to change right before her very eyes, when she meets a girl who gives August her red scarf without hesitation. She can’t stop thinking about the girl who saved her bad day, and the low chances of her being at that exact spot when she needed someone in a city that is so busy second meetings never happen, especially on the subway. That is, until she sees the girl again, and again, and starts to realize that she not only is on the Q every time August is on it, but in the exact same train car.

Oh Jane, where do I even begin? Jane is a Chinese lesbian who is displaced from the 70s in some kind of magical timeslip, where she can’t remember much of anything about her past, only what she carries in her bookbag. That is, until Jane seems to be the only person who helps her remember, while also being the only person she can’t seem to forget. Oh, and come the Mid-Year Freak Out Tag? Every sapphic in the book community with have Jane Su as their fictional crush. On God and on everything else. When I tell you Casey McQuistion wrote most everyone’s sapphic dream, I say it honestly.

But basically, since August has been taught her whole life how to solve missing persons cases, and because she is very gay and can’t stop thinking about the incredibly swoon worthy girl on the train, she decides to do whatever it takes to help not only figure out Jane’s past, but to try to rescue her from the subway she is tethered to. Even if helping her means lots and lots of kissing, maybe especially so actually.

“It’s probably going to break my heart, and it’s still worth it.”

The romance in this book? A tier above. I feel like One Last Stop gave a new definition to the word “yearning” if you want my very honest opinion. Truly, this is the type of book that will make even the most cynical of readers believe in love. The emotions (and tears) it was able to evoke from me was nothing short of astounding. And now I will be forever longing for someone to have a notebook filled with me. Like, this book is truly so goddamn romantic, and the one-liners left me utterly gasping and fully quaking.

“but none of those girls were you.”

On top of the fact that the sex scenes were probably the best I’ve read in any f/f book in my entire life. The range of sexual acts, the different kinds of sex that queer people are extra blessed to have if they want to have sex, the learning of your partner’s wants and needs and body in general; it was all just so perfect, so sexy, and so realistic. And this book was so sex positive, especially when you are in your early twenties and learning what you want and like! Also, there was a very important (and seamlessly woven in) discussion on virginity and how the concept is truly something of dated myth, especially in queer communities.

“She read about San Francisco, about the movements happening there, about Asian lesbians riding on the backs of cable cars just to show the city they existed”

Casey McQuiston constantly pays homage to the lgbtqiap+ community (especially queer people of color) who came before us, who paved the way, and who are the reason that we in present day have so many more rights and freedoms. And they do not shy away from talking about the costs so many paid with heartbreaking loss.

The UpStairs Lounge fire happened in the 1973 and was the largest gay mass murder prior to the Pulse shooting in 2016. The Stonewall riots in 1969, where people refused to be silenced and erased by the police or anyone else, and in return gave us some many civil rights advances. To HIV and AIDS activists who had to live during the Carter and Reagan administrations who not only encouraged hate with racism and homophobia, but who heartlessly let so many die, while also eventually administrated drugs that would lead to toxic overdoses, simultaneously promising a vaccine that would never come. Victims had to wait until 2003 for baseline adequate help after so many had already been lost because of the virus.

There are so many challenges still with being unapologetically who you are in present day, but it is so important to honor and remember all of the lgbtqiap+ activists (again, especially the people of color) who came before us and made what we do have today possible. And Casey McQuiston truly keeps that at the forefront and makes it the heart of this story.

“two different generations of messy, loud, brave and scared and brave again people stomping their feet and waving hands with bitten nails, all the things they share and all the things they don’t. the things she has that people like Jane smashed windows and spat blood for.”

And surrounding yourself with people who see you, amplify you, support you, celebrate you, and love you unconditionally and unapologetically is so important, too. I think it’s always really important to mention that even though Casey honors the past, they filled me with so much hope for the future, and for future generations of marginalized voices who will more easily be amplified, more easily be heard, and so much more easily be seen.

Friendly reminder, if you haven’t found a place that feels like home yet, or the people who uncondiontally love and respect you, I promise you will and I promise are never alone in the meantime. Putting yourself and your safety first will always be the most important thing in all the different stages of life. And just know I see you, and I’m proud of you, and I’m cheering for you, always. But if you ever need extra help The Trevor Project and PFLAG can be wonderful recourses.

Overall, this book just meant so much to me, and I know it is going to mean so much to so many. 2020 has been so hard, so fucking hard, on so many, and this book was the 2020 escapism that I want to fold myself into forever. I haven’t left my home’s property in eight months, but with One Last Stop I got to feel whole and happy and seen on a New York subway, while watching two girls fall in love and carve out the lives that they want, unapologetically. Truly, this book made me even more proud to be a queer Asian, I only wish I was half as cool as Jane Su.

“you’re the first thing I’ve believed in since—since I don’t even remember, okay, you’re—you’re movies and destiny and every stupid, impossible thing, and it’s not because of the fucking train, it’s because of you.”

Oh, and this will probably be my favorite 2021 publication. Happy reading!

Trigger and Content Warnings: talk of loss of a loved one, talk of death, talk of anxiety and anxiety depictions, talk of the devastating impact of Hurricane Katrina, alcohol consumption, talk of homophobia in the past, talk of racism in the past, talk of hate crimes in the past, mention of gentrification, and brief mentions of blood.

5

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The quotes above were taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication.

Buddy read with Maëlys❤

The Red Scrolls of Magic (The Eldest Curses #1) by Cassandra Clare & Wesley Chu

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ARC given to me by my amazingly kind friend – Heather at Bookables!

“It’s a classic love story. I hit on him at a party, he asked me out, then we fought an epic magical battle between good and evil side by side, and now we need a vacation.”

The Red Scrolls of Magic is the story that Magnus and Alec always deserved. My two precious boys, both trying to live in a world that wants them to be something they’re not, but together they are able to find happiness; it’s too pure. There is a reason why they are so many people’s favorite OTP and ship of all time, and I think this brand-new installment is going to make so many people happy.

And this brand-new spin-off takes place during City of Fallen Angels, when most of the Shadowhunter universe believes The Mortal War to be over. I do recommend that you read at the very least Lady Midnight before picking this one up, because there are so many layers and elements that you just will not appreciate without knowing certain twists that are revealed in The Dark Artifices.

Magnus and Alec are off trying to be romantic in Paris together, finally going on their very first vacation together, but a good friend soon informs them that they could potentially be in grave danger. A cult, The Crimson Hand, and their sacred book (yeah, you guessed it), The Red Scrolls of Magic, and the sacrifices they are making in the name of the cult leader. But the thing is, many people, including the Spiral Council, think that Magnus not only started this cult back in the day, but also that he is still leading it. Magnus also is discovering that someone or something has possibly tampered with his memories, yet he feels like there might be some truth in him starting the cult many moons ago.

“Seek the children of demons. Love them as you love your lord. Do not let the children be alone.”

We get to see so much of Magnus’ past in this book, and so much of it is heartbreaking. I mean, if you have followed my reviews while I read everything by Cassandra Clare in 2018, you will know that Magnus has always been a favorite character of mine. But all the flashbacks in this book, in juxtaposition to the man we all know and love, it pulled at my heartstrings constantly while reading. Magnus Bane is a literary gift and I will thank all the higher powers for him and for Cassie Clare for creating him every single day.

And this story is broken up in three parts that I will summarize in three sentences:

Part I – City of Love (Paris)
– Romantic vacation quickly turns into a mission from Hell (factually).

Part II – City of Masks (Venice)
– Best party ever, and holy moly cameos from above (literally).

Part III – City of War (Rome)
– All the action, I’m living my best gay life, and the cliffhanger of all cliffhanger endings (truly).

“When was it decided that a warlock child is worth less than the children of the Angel?”

Like all the books in the Shadowhunter universe, bigotry and prejudices are at the forefront. How everyone looks at the Shadowhunters, who share blood with angels, is completely different than the Downworlders, especially Warlocks who share blood with Demons. And hatred will always breed the cruelest acts. The Shadowhunters and the Clave can be pretty closed minded over anyone who is deemed different, so Alec being gay AND dating a warlock is something that has shaken up many Shadowhunters.

But Alec, unconditionally loving himself and Magnus, has started something beautiful, and because of it, many other Shadowhunters are learning to love and accept themselves. Aline and Helen are major side character in this book, and we even get to see them meet for the very first time. Friends, I don’t even have words. Not only are Aline and Helen my favorite queer ship in the Shadowhunter world, they are probably my favorite sapphic ship of all-time. Seeing the Asian girl get the Fae girl of her dreams? It just does something to me every single time. Also, speaking of Shadowhunter cameos, Lily Chen is also in the story, and she is the Asian pansexual love of my life, so I was truly living my best life with the entire cast of characters in this book.

“He’d always assumed that storybook moments like these were meant for Jace, Isabelle, anyone but him. Yet here he was.”

But, to me, this book was all about forgiveness and how sometimes forgiving someone is the most powerful move you can possibly make. We are all more than the mistakes of our parents and people that did horrible things who happen to share our blood. Everyone wants to be loved, and everyone is deserving of love, and sometimes that comes in the form of forgiveness And sometimes, beyond anything else, we need to forgive ourselves for past mistakes that we’ve made. Who you are in this moment means way more than who you were growing up, or even who you were last year. Sometimes people really do deserve second chances, and I hope you give yourself all the chances in the world to become the person you want to be.

Overall, I loved this with my whole heart. These characters, all the queerness, the themes, the story, the mysteries, the twists; it was all amazing, especially knowing everything we know from all the other books that have taken place after the events in this one. And if you love the Warlocks in this world, then this is truly going to be the book for you! This was just a wonderful addition to the Shadowhunter world, and I think so many people are going to love it. Also, with all the Shadow Market activity and cameos, I really can’t wait to read the last two short stories in Ghosts of the Shadow Market this June!

Please use caution reading the rest of this review if you have not read this book and all the series leading up to this book! And as always, I’m going to do a little mini character breakdown on my thoughts and feelings on all of the main characters in this book. Spoilers ahead!

“If only the world were a fairy tale, Nephilim.”

(Art by Cassandra Jean!)

Magnus Bane – Bi, Indonesian, High Warlock of Brooklyn. Magnus is truly going through some shit in this book, and my heart breaks for him. On top of everything, he is so scared to tell Alec who his real father is, and… my heart.

Alec Lightwood – Gay, Shadowhunter, willing to protect Magnus at all costs. Me and Alec honestly have a rocky Shadowhunter history together, but I truly have grown to love him so much, and I love his love for Magnus. Alec is unsure of so many things, but he is never unsure about his love for Magnus.

Aline Penhallow – Lesbian, Asian, Shadowhunter, love of my life.

Helen Blackthorn – Bi, Shadowhunter, half Fae, second love of my life.

Leon Verlac – Bi, Shadowhunter, annoying as fuck. And people are really going to dislike him because of the “I’m bi, so I want to sleep with everyone” stereotype.

“She has seen so many tragedies, and they both knew the worst tragedies were born of love.”

Tessa Gray – Seeing her and Magnus talk about their love for Shadowhunters? Fuck me up, fam. Few things are better in the Shadowhunter universe than Magnus and Tessa’s friendship.

Peng Fang – We meet this vampire and blood seller in the Paris Shadow Market and I seriously just want to know everything about it, because there is no way he isn’t going come more into play.

Izzy and Jace’s Phone Call – I had to list them with this character breakdown, because this phone call, and Simon trying to ask them for sex advice, was one of my favorite things in this book. The grapefruit suggestion almost took me out, honestly.

Johnny Rook – Be still, my heart. Johnny is normally at the LA Shadow Market, but he is at the Paris one and helps Magnus out a little bit. Also, I remember something that Johnny has in a TDA book and I can’t wait to see how he got his hands on this relic.

Shinyun Jung – Korean, has a history with the cult, and is traveling alongside Magnus and Alec.

Prince Adaon – The smile I had on my face when I saw this sweetheart at the party. Ah, I can’t wait for him to be king already and to let my poor baby Kieran live his best life. Ah, my sweet Unseelie Princes, I can’t.

Malcom Fade – My jaw dropped, friends. Dropped. The High Warlock of LA is for sure in this book and throws the best party I’ve ever read about. And we know all the shit he was up to in Lady Midnight, so I was honestly quaking.

Catarina Loss – Probably my favorite warlock (besides Magnus, obv) and I always smile over her, Magnus, and Ragnor Fell’s friendship. Give me a cameo from her in every Shadowhunter book, please.

Raphael Santiago – Ace/Asexual, Mexican, vampire. Friends, I can’t cry anymore, okay? I always love seeing Raphael and Magnus and their friendship, but seeing Raphael and Alec bond and become friends, in the Raphael way, it truly broke me. And I just keep thinking about their son, and… I honestly am crying more? Wow.

Lily Chen – My pansexual and Asian goddess. I would die for this woman and I want nothing more than for he to have her own full-length series. Also, seeing Helen and her kiss? Can officially confirm: Helen loves Asian women and I am truly living on cloud nine forever.

Hypatia Vex – Warlock, runs the London Shadow Market. Seriously, this book is a warlock wet dream.

Barnabas Hale – Warlock, LA Shadow Market runner, and always a treat to read about.

Asmodeus – I’ve been screaming since City of Heavenly Fire to learn more about Magnus’ dad, and this book truly delivered. Yet, we have so much more to learn, and I think the next book is going to be everything.

“If I’m a hero of war, so is he.”

It is truly just a wild ride to see baby Magnus and baby Alec at the start of their new relationship, figuring out what they both want, what works, and what doesn’t, to seeing them married, seeing them as fathers, seeing them get the life they deserve, even if the world around them is still in chaos. To just know Alec becomes Consul of the Clave and is going to change the world for all Downworlder children. Friends, I am weeping at the honor of getting to see Magnus and Alec’s lives together. What a blessing, truly. Also, because I know people are going to be using the search engine on my blog to find this information: yes, Alec and Magnus do have sex for the first time in this book, but yes, Cassie keeps it totally YA and fades to black it before it becomes not PG13. (Also, friendly reminder: cis women, don’t fetishize m/m sex, thanks!)

And I know I make a lot of jokes about Aline and Helen, but they truly make me happier than any other couple in all of these books. I had no idea that they were even going to be in this story, let alone letting us see them meet for the first time, and seeing Aline being the disaster gay she really is trying to ask Helen out. And with everything I said about Magnus and Alec and seeing them start out but knowing where their path leads in the future together, seeing Aline and Helen, and knowing all that they were forced to endure because of bigotry, it just takes everything to a whole other level.

Overall, I just loved this completely. I laughed out loud, I cried over so many cameos, I smiled from pure happiness at my OTPs starting out their relationships, and I always wanted more of everything. I can’t wait to get my hands on The Lost Book of the White, because I have a feeling that it’s going to be even better than this amazing series starter! Especially with that cliffhanger ending! Lord, hear my prayers.

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The quotes above were taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication.

Content and trigger warnings for violence, talk of past loss of a loved one, abandonment, talk of suicide in the past, past parental abuse (physical), torture, cult rituals, and war themes.

1.) City of Bones ★★★
2.) City of Ashes ★★
3.) City of Glass ★★★
1.) Clockwork Angel ★★★
4.) City of Fallen Angels
2.) Clockwork Prince ★★★★
5.) City of Lost Souls ★★★★
3.) Clockwork Princess ★★★★★
6.) City of Heavenly Fire ★★★★★
*.) The Bane Chronicles ★★★
*.) Tales from the Shadowhunter Academy ★★★
1.) Lady Midnight ★★★★★
2.) Lord of Shadows ★★★★
*.) Ghosts of the Shadow Market 8/10
3.) Queen of Air and Darkness ★★★★