*Books included in this batch of mini book reviews: Exile (Keeper of the Lost Cities #2) by Shannon Messenger, The Last (Endling #1) by Katherine Applegate, SHOUT by Laurie Halse Anderson, Loveboat, Taipei (Loveboat, Taipei #1) by Abigail Hing Wen
» Exile (Keeper of the Lost Cities #2) by Shannon Messenger
*4.5 stars*» I’m happy to report that this second installment of this awesome MG fantasy series does NOT suffer from “second book syndrome.” Exile was just as quick paced & action packed as the first book.
» The best part of this book was more character development in secondary characters we didn’t get much out of from the first book. One of my issues with the first book was that I wanted to see more character development in Grady & Edaline in particular, which I felt was rectified in this installment. I enjoyed seeing more of Sophie’s home life with Grady & Edaline. Keefe was another character we saw more of in this book. He really stepped out of the shadows as an endearing and memorable character. I loved the comedic relief he provides throughout this book.
» We got new characters like Sandor, Sophie’s new bodyguard, and Silveny, an “alicorn” with a special connection to sophie. I enjoyed these new additions & look forward to seeing them in future installments.
» I love all the intrigue surrounding the the Black Swan, the Neverseen, and even the council. It isn’t exactly clear who the “good guys” and who the “bad guys” really are.
» Dex was not as prominent in this installment as he was in the first book, which was a bummer. When we did see Dex, his insecurities were at the forefront of all of his interactions with Sophie. Dex wasn’t as likable as he was in Keeper of the Lost Cities.
» Fitz’s reaction to *the situation* was very uncharacteristic of him. Whereas Fitz was cast as very mature & level-headed in the first book, he did a complete 180 in Exile.
› Recommended to ⇒ Harry Potter fans; MG fantasy fans
» The Last (Endling #1) by Katherine Applegate
After reading Wishtree & The One and Only Ivan, I knew I wanted to read more of Applegate’s work.» Applegate built a very interesting world with unique creatures, a lush setting, and a captivating political system. The Last dives into some heavy themes like inequality, sexism, greed, and power, while also featuring themes like friendship, loyalty, tenacity, and honor.
» The Last was very much a journey/quest plot, which I love in my fantasy books. I was compelled from start to finish.
» Applegate has a gift with creating endearing characters. Not only were these characters lovable, but they were complex and well developed. I loved the dynamic between Byx, Tobble, and Khara. I love when unlikely friends come together to form a crew.
» While this is classified as a middle grade audience, this book will appeal to a wide audience from MG to adult. I would consider this to be a great crossover book that could appeal to both MG readers & YA readers. The Last would be a great book for kids that are middle grade aged, but maybe have a higher reading level. The content is more challenging, while still appropriate for the MG audience.
› Recommended to ⇒ fans of animal stories; quest/journey fantasy
» SHOUT by Laurie Halse Anderson
» This is a must read for fans of Laurie Halse Anderson’s Speak. While you don’t HAVE to read Speak to read this book, I feel like it makes a bigger impact if you read Speak prior to this.
» SHOUT is Anderson’s memoir told in verse. This memoir goes into Anderson’s own experience as a victim of sexual assault. Shout is raw, gritty, and unsettling, as a book addressing rape & rape culture should be.
» While I enjoyed the first half of this book where we learn about Anderson’s upbringing & the sexual assault that influenced her early teen years, the second half of this book was outstanding. Anderson’s relentless pursuit to enact change in how our culture addresses sexual assault is inspiring.
› Recommended to ⇒ teens; parents; teachers
› Trigger/content warnings ⇒ sexual assault; rape culture
» Loveboat, Taipei (Loveboat, Taipei #1) by Abigail Hing Wen
*4.5 Stars*» This is a guilty pleasure type of read. Actually, it gave me a bit of Crazy Rich Asians vibes, so if you enjoyed that book/movie, you’d probably enjoy this book.
» I really appreciated the realistic and uncensored portrayal of teenagers. Teenagers often test boundaries and experiment, this is just reality.
» Watching Ever’s development from the beginning of the book to the end was wonderful. While she makes some poor decisions at the beginning of the book, she learns from these mistakes and grows to understand who she really is. I also appreciated Ever’s passion for dance, and her drive to work hard to achieve her goals.
» While Loveboat, Taipei is lighthearted, it does cover meaningful themes like the pressures of parental expectations, identity, following your dreams, the complexities of female friendships, forgiveness, and first love.
» I really appreciated the dyslexia representation! Not only do we have one character with dyslexia, but we have TWO in Loveboat, Tapei.
» While I typically cringe at the thought of love triangles, Wen proves that the love triangle can work under certain circumstances.
› Recommended to ⇒ drama fans
› Trigger/content warnings ⇒ domestic violence (not graphic); depression (side character); suicide attempt (side character). It is a tad racy, in regards to sexual content, for a YA book… So I’d probably recommend for older YA readers that are 16+
› If you liked this book, try ⇒ Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan (*Adult*)
Have you read any of these books? If so, what did you think?
Comment below & let me know 🙂