Book Review: One Last Stop by Casey McQuiston


Author: Casey McQuiston
Title: One Last Stop
Narrator: Natalie Naudus
Publication Info: Macmillan Audio (2021)
Summary/Review:

After a troubled childhood with an obsessive mother, August finds it difficult to connect with people.  Things begin to change when she moves to Brooklyn to attend college and is pushed out of her comfort zone by her eccentric housemates, Myla, Niko and Wes.  She also finds herself enraptured by a beautiful punk woman she meets on the Q train, Jane.  However, finding love and happiness is challenged by three strange things about Jane: 1. she can’t seem to leave the train, 2. she can’t remember her past, and 3. she hasn’t aged at all from a picture taken of her in 1976.

This book is great fun as it uses a unique time slip story mixed with a queer romance and a story of New York’s gentrification.  It’s particular interesting to read the contrasts of Jane’s experiences in the early LGBTQ+ liberation movements of the 1970s compared to the more accepting contemporary times.  There are a lot of subplots in this novel that get things a bit confused, and perhaps there’s just a bit too much “deep conversation,” but all is forgiven because I love the characters.  McQuiston does a great job of bringing to life a community of fun, creative, and really horny young adults in the city.

Recommended books:

Rating: ****

Book Review: Eager: The Surprising, Secret Life of Beavers and Why They Matter by Ben Goldfarb


Author: Ben Goldfarb
Title: Eager: The Surprising, Secret Life of Beavers and Why They Matter
Narrator: Will Damron
Publication Info: Chelsea Green Publishing (2018)
Summary/Review:

Beavers are important!  That is the message that you will get repeatedly while reading this book, although author Ben Goldfarb does not skimp on providing detailed evidence behind his thesis.  What we learn from reading this book is that the beaver’s most identifiable trait, building dams on rivers and streams, has a profound effect on the landscape.  When beavers were hunted for their pelts in colonial times it lead to the loss of beaver-facilitated habitats for numerous fauna and flora.

Daming also helps in preserving groundwater and preventing flooding and runoff as some farmers and ranchers have learned where managed beaver populations have been reintroduced.  Unfortunately, the benefits on the macro level can be damaging on the micro level, causing local flooding and damage despite being better for the region overall.  This contributes to the beaver being seen as a nuisance animals and extermination policies of many local governments.  Goldfarb documents the efforts of ecologists and scientists to convince people to learn to live with beavers.

It’s a very interesting and fact-filled book and definitely gave me new respect for the beaver!

Recommended books:

Rating: ****

Book Review: Thrawn Ascendancy: Greater Good by Timothy Zahn


Author: Timothy Zahn
Title: Thrawn Ascendancy: Greater Good
Narrator: Marc Thompson
Publication Info: Penguin Audio, 2021 
Summary/Review:

Picking up from Chaos Rising, Thrawn and his crew are cleaning up from the the last great threat to the Chiss Ascendancy.  But a new threat appears in the form of the Agbui who work as kind of conmen to infiltrate Chiss society and gin up conflict among the ruling families with hopes of provoking a civil war. Caregiver Thalias, sky-walker Che’ri, Admiral Ar’alani, and of course, Thrawn return for this middle novel of the trilogy.  But we also spend a lot of time with Captain Lakinda, an ambitious young officer from a minor family hoping to gain prestige for herself and her family.  Since Thrawn is inept at dealing with family infighting and politics, a lot depends on her loyalty to her family or the Chiss.  We also spend a lot of time with Haplif, the smarmy Agbui spy and his marks.

After reading so many Thrawn novels, I finally made the connection that Thrawn is a lot like Sherlock Holmes.  He sees things that others cannot see and then explains it to the point of view characters.  I like that this novel builds the world of the Chaos with seemingly a whole galaxy of planets and alien races seperate from the rest of the Star Wars universe (who it easy to forget are engaged in the Clone Wars at the same time as this novel).  However, it does get a bit confusing keeping all the characters and the families, planets, races, et al straight, but I’m not the most attentive audiobook listener. Nevertheless, this is a fun and engaging story.

Rating: ***1/2

Book Review: The Last Olympian by Rick Riordan


Author: Rick Riordan
Title: The Last Olympian: Percy Jackson and the Olympians, Book 5
Publication Info: New York : Disney/Hyperion Books, 2011.
Previously Read by the Same AuthorThe Lightning Thief, The Sea of Monsters, The Titan’s CurseThe Battle of the Labyrinth
Summary/Review:

The final book of the series leads to the culminating battle to save Olympus from the Titans in the streets of Manhattan. The book builds well to get to that point with a natural ebb and flow in the narrative between fightin’ and more contemplative stuff. Themes that have been building across all five books play out hre and Percy, Thalia, Grover, Annabeth, Tyson, Clarisse, and Nico all show great character development.  I particularly like how Percy plays his reward from the gods.

Rating: ***1/2

Book Review: The Battle of the Labyrinth by Rick Riordan


Author: Rick Riordan
Title: The Battle of the Labyrinth: Percy Jackson and the Olympians, Book 4
Narrator: Jesse Bernstein
Publication Info: [New York] : Listening Library, 2008.

Previously Read by the Same AuthorThe Lightning Thief, The Sea of Monsters, The Titan’s Curse
Summary/Review:

The Battle of the Labyrinth is another great quest story, this time primarily underground in the mysterious labyrinthe.  Annabeth leads the quest with Grover, Percy, and Tyson with an angry and dangerous Nico playing a part as well.  The book is well constructed as each characters has a role to play that leads to a specific goal.  The war with the Titans begins in earnest with a battle at Camp Half-Blood that concludes the novel.

Rating: ***1/2

Book Review: The Titan’s Curse by Rick Riordan


Author: Rick Riordan
Title: The Titan’s Curse: Percy Jackson and the Olympians, Book 3
Narrator: Jesse Bernstein
Publication Info: New York : Random House/Listening Library, [2007]

Previously Read by the Same AuthorThe Lightning Thief, The Sea of Monsters 
Summary/Review:

Book 3 of the series once again features a coast-to-coast quest (literally Bar Harbor, Maine to the Bay Area of California) as Percy Jackson seeks to find his friend Annabeth and the goddess Artemis.  The book introduces half-bloods Nico and Bianca di Angelo, features Zeus’ daughter Thalia for the first time, and brings in Zoë Nightshade and the Hunters of Artemis.  All of these characters will be significant to the course of the narrative in the ensuing novels.  But I feel The Titan’s Curse doesn’t work as well as a stand-alone adventure and feels a bit formulaic.  It’s still clever and fun, though.

Rating: ***

Book Review: The Sea of Monsters by Rick Riordan


Author: Rick Riordan
Title:The Sea of Monsters: Percy Jackson and the Olympians, Book 2
Narrator: Jesse Bernstein
Publication Info: [New York, N.Y.] : Listening Library, 2006.
Previously Read by the Same Author: The Lightning Thief
Summary/Review:

The second book of ancient Greek mythology adapted as American teenager adventure and drama is just as it’s fun as its predecessor.  In this book, Percy and his friends have to travel to the Sea of Monsters (now in the Bermuda Triangle) to rescue Grover and find the Golden Fleece.  Adventures include dodgeball with cannibal giants, a ship full of dead Confederates, escaping Circe with the help of Blackbeard’s pirates, and Grover trying to escape marrying the cyclops Polyphemus.  This book also introduces the dim but brave and kind Tyson, one of my favorite characters in the series.

Recommended books:

Rating: ***1/2

Book Review: Dark Force Rising by Timothy Zahn


Author: Timothy Zahn
Title: Dark Force Rising
Narrator: Marc Thompson
Publication Info: 2012 Random House Audio [Originally Published in 1992] 
Summary/Review:

Much like The Empire Strikes Back, this book draws upon its predecessor and takes the storytelling to new heights.  Also like The Empire Strikes Back, this story sends our heroes off on separate missions to come together again at the finale.

Luke Skywalker seeks out Jedi Master Joruus C’baoth for training, not realizing he is mad. Leia Organa Solo travels with Chewbacca to the planet of the Noghri in hopes of using diplomacy to bring them to the side of the New Republic.  Han Solo and Lando Calrissian try to solve the mystery of a spy within the New Republic’s inner echelons and a possible coup by an ambitious Bothan. And Mara Jade, who has sworn to kill Luke, now seeks him out for help.

Grand Admiral Thrawn, who was a major point-of-view character in Heir to the Empire, plays a smaller role here, but his presence lurks behind all that is happening.  Marc Thompson does a great job reading the book and the production includes music and sound effects for full immersion in the Star Wars galaxy.

Rating: ***1/2

Book Review: The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan


Author: Rick Riordan
Title: The Lightning Thief: Percy Jackson and the Olympians, Book 1
Narrator: Jesse Bernstein
Publication Info: Listening Library (2005)
Summary/Review:

Percy Jackson is a troubled preteen whose life is turned upside down when he learns that not only are the pantheon of Greek gods are real, but that he is a demigod (or Half-Blood).  The premise is similar to the Harry Potter series but Riordan comes up with some creative adventures and clever worldbuilding.  This is also my daughter’s new favorite series.

Recommended books:

Rating: ***1/2

Book Review: Paradise by Toni Morrison


Author: Toni Morrison
Title: Paradise
Narrator: Toni Morrison
Publication Info: Random House Audio, 2017 [Originally published 1997]
Summary/Review:

When Paradise was released in 1997, it was the first new Toni Morrison novel since I had learned about her and started reading all of her books.  I got it early on and struggled with it and had to return it to the library after only reading a small part.  I checked it out again but enough time had passed that I had to start over again and I ended up still not being able to finish it.  To my shame, I’ve finally read all of Paradise.  It’s still a book I struggle with, featuring a lot of characters and overlapping plots.

The story takes place in Ruby, and all-Black town in Oklahoma where the prominent men of town take up arms against the women in an abandoned convent on the outskirts of town.  The men treat the convent as if it were a brothel or a coven corrupting the morals in town.  In fact, it is a safe place for women who are escaping abuse, exclusion, and personal tragedies, mainly brought on by the patriarchy of the town and discrimination against light-skin Black people The narrative interweaves the personal stories of women who lived and died at the convent with the history of the town.

As I’ve noted, I found this to be a complex book.  It is also violent and disturbing which makes it hard for me to read.  It’s nonetheless a poetic work with Morrison’s typical honesty and compassion toward her characters.  But it is not going to be a favorite of mine among her novels.

Rating: ***