Three Mini Sapphic Reviews: One Last Stop, The Chosen and the Beautiful, and The Jasmine Throne

These really have nothing in common beyond having sapphic women, but I am super duper behind on my reviews and this is one quick way to catch up!

Okay, these aren’t mini reviews at all, but these books are so, so good!

One Last Stop by Casey McQuiston

🌺🌺🌺🌺🌺/5

Truth is, when you spend your whole life alone, it’s incredibly appealing to move somewhere big enough to get lost in, where being alone looks like a choice.

August is 23, cynical and jaded with the world. Moving to New York City is supposed to be a fresh start, a new chance to get away and get lost from her past—from her mother, a hoarder obsessed with the disappearance of her brother over forty years ago—and from the sense that she’s missing something crucial. But then she starts working at a 24-hour pancake house, moves in with a group of close-knit weirdos, and sees a girl on the subway who makes her breath caught. Soon, August is beginning to believe in magic and learning that you don’t have to be alone.

“The hot water takes twenty minutes to get going, but ten if you’re nice.”

“It’s not haunted but it’s like, not not haunted.”

How do I even begin to describe this book?? Yes, it had a couple slumpy parts in the middle where I was like c’mon pick up the pace, and Jane occasionally got on my nerves with how she was written, but overall this was just perfection. And yes, I did fall in love with Jane and her dry humor and general sense of yeah this is weird but I’m just going to roll with whatever is going on until I can’t.

“Look, it gets really boring down here!” Jane says defensively. “But there’s this one white rat that hangs out on the Q sometimes. She’s huge, like the size of a cantaloupe, and basically the same shape. I named her Bao.”

“That’s disgusting.”

“I love her. Sometimes I give her snacks.”

“You’re a nightmare.”

“Judge all you want, but I’m the only one who’ll be spared in the inevitable Great Rat Uprising.”

McQuiston shines at writing secondary characters who jump off the page. I loved each and every one of them—I loved how queer it was, I loved the ambience and weirdness of New York, I adored the snippets of the past leaking through each chapter, and I loved the found family that stumbles into each other and the oddball humor.

August thinks distantly about her gradual stumble into knowing she was bisexual, the years of confusing crushes she tried to rationalize away. She can’t imagine always knowing something huge about herself and never questioning it.

And, of course, I loved the bisexuality rep and the way the mystery unraveled and twisted into itself, the way history and acceptance morphed and changed and came back to itself and then twisted again towards acceptance. And the way people who don’t give a fuck about anything will pour their heart and soul in rallying to save a beloved business.

And the banter. Of course I loved the banter between all of the characters, and the way the universe unfolded in the quiet spaces between stops.

“Sometimes I wonder if I fell out of time because I never really belonged where I started and the universe is trying to tell me something.”

I received this ARC from NetGalley for an honest review.

The Chosen and the Beautiful by Nghi Vo

🌺🌺🌺🌺/5

What Gatsby’s parties were was easy. It felt as if every wish you had while within his domain might be granted, and the only rule was that you must be beautiful and witty and bright.

Jordan Baker is a woman at a series of intersections. She’s an immigrant, a child brought to the American Midwest by a rich white woman enamored of her potential magic. She’s a magician, kept away from the knowledge of her heritage and power, forced to learn and turn away from what her cultural magic. She’s a woman living within the upper hierarchies of blue-blooded society, both entrenched within the system and yet forever apart when it matters most. And she’s queer, in a world where it’s both accepted and frowned upon, depending on what circles you run in.

She’s maintained her friendship with Daisy over the years, and yet when a mysterious stranger from their past returns, she finds her intersections merging harder than ever before, as Jay Gatsby, the Chinese Exclusion Act, her dying aunt and the fraught anxieties of Jazz Age New York rich with magic, changing social structures and impermeance.

People are at their worst in transition, moving from one life to another.

This was such a brilliant retelling of The Great Gatsby, and managed to be both a skewering analysis of that classic and American history, and a fantastical story of a woman moving through various layers, never letting herself really settle on any thing or time.

New York in the summer was a playful kind of purgatory. The men sent their wives and kids to the shore or the countryside, and then they sent for their pretty girls and boys who could bear the heat. Despite the lack of actual children, there was a childish, carnival air to the still summer months, of a breeze that would carry a hint of saltwater taffy and the soft shrill cry of a carousel carillon.

Jordan Baker flits through her surreal life with an air of calculated detachment and jaded cynicism—her nature is quickly realized as a coping mechanism, as she is a woman who knows exactly where the lines in her life are (from her gender to her sexuality to her age to her being Asian to her magic) and how far she can toe the line before settling back into herself in order to survive in a world stacked against her. And yet there’s always calculation beneath her studied ennui that is a sharp juxtaposition from her friend Daisy, whose own actions are reckless and self-destructive, a spoiled little girl rattling in a cage of respectability and expectation, raging against the limitations placed upon her (which she refuses to break) and the stultifying future of the life of a rich woman with nothing to do.

Men had no idea how careless women of their set weren’t allowed to be. They laughed at how fussy we were about which cars we got into, and they never wondered about the long stretches of bad road between glittering place and glittering place. It was a kind of darkness that could swallow someone whole, and whoever walked back, shoes in her hand, stockings shredded and calling for held from some dingy payphone, she wouldn’t be the same girl who roared off in that unwise Tourister.

Essays could (and probably will) be written about just how brilliant this yes. Yes, I’ve said brilliant again, because it is. It’s just so good and covers so much, and intermingles magic and demons and pacts so fucking well, as a way of demonstrating how ridiculous the excess of the upper class in the Jazz Age was amongst the blue bloods, the new money, and those striving to touch those rarified circles.

Unlike the original, which mostly focuses on Nick and his Midwestern uptightness (and introduces a really fantastic tangle of sexual liaisons) and non-personness, this was focused on the women, and those stretches of darkness spanning from glittering place to glittering place, and what happened and how they survived and thrived and endured and lived.

So much is covered, so much is addressed, and I loved everything except the weak and muddied ending, because I like more resolution in my stories. However, resolution is not what you’re going to find here, and that’s precisely the point.

This is summer in 1920s New York among the upper set, and summer never lasts.

“Well, what in the world are we going to do with ourselves this afternoon?” she cried. “What are we going do with ourselves tomorrow, and then for the next thirty years?”

I received this ARC from NetGalley for an honest review.

The Jasmine Throne by Tasha Suri

🌺🌺🌺🌺🌺/5

Because he thinks the only way a woman can truly serve the empire, the only way a woman can be good, is through the sacrifice of her life

After a failed coup to depose her fanatic brother and a refusal to be sacrificed to the fire, Malini is sent to the Hirana, an ancient temple ruin in an imperial territory half-overrun by pleasure-seeking nobility and the rot. Drugged out of her mind and slowly dying, she’s set to live out her remaining imprisonment when she sees something strange: two servants attacking each other with magical powers long thought to be eradicated. Soon, Malini and Priya’s destinies become intertwined together and with that of the empire.

This is how you stab someone through the heart.

The Jasmine Throne is the second book in the 2021 Sapphic Fantasy Trifecta, and does it ever live up to the hype.

With lush, lyrical prose, two complicated heroines (and a host of other characters with motives), world-building that just will not quit, and a truly fascinating magical system (and religion), this has a little something to offer everyone looking to read more epic fantasy.

It is about colonialism and empire, power and powerlessness, the rippling repercussions of the past (and how the truth can be manipulated) and the strength of women and those considered to be beneath regard, and the why relationships bend and twist, bind and free. It is just so fantastic and amazing and everything that I wanted in a fantasy world, and above all, it is about resistance.

“Maybe freedom will mean being able to protect our children instead of using them,” he added, brushing Rukh’s leaf-strewn hair back from his forehead. “I’d like to believe that.”

Resistance of body. Resistance of mind. Resistance of spirit. Resistance through art and poetry. Resistance through violence and through peace. Resistance by proxy—using children and the weak to accomplish your goals. And above all, resistance through survival.

I don’t want to spoil too much, since I feel that this is a book best experienced knowing the basics, and letting Suri’s prose wrap and wind and wend, wenching tighter until you too are caught in the throws of power struggles between ruler and subject, colony and empire, high and low, husband and wife, mistress and servant.

I received this ARC from NetGalley for an honest review.

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