Momentous Events in the Life of a Cactus
Series: Life of a Cactus #2
Author: Dusti Bowling
Narrator: Karissa Vacker
Published: September 17, 2019
Reviewed By: Jessica
Dates Read: July 21-25, 2021
Jessica’s Rating: 4.5 stars
The sequel to the critically acclaimed Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus follows Aven Green as she confronts yet another challenge: high school. “High School. Two words that struck fear into the heart of every armless middle schooler I knew. Which was me. And like two people online.” Just as Aven starts to feel comfortable in Stagecoach Pass, with her friends and schoolmates accustomed to her lack of “armage,” everything changes once again. She’s about to begin high school . . . with 2,300 new kids to stare at her. And no matter how much Aven tries to play it cool, nothing prepares her for the reality. In a year filled with confusion, humiliation, fears, loss, and just maybe love, can Aven manage to stay true to herself?
Aven is back in Momentous Life and now she is starting high school… And it is not going how she wanted. Connor has moved 30 minutes away, so she doesn’t see him like she used to. Now her main friend is Zion (“from The Matrix, not the Bible”). Zion is overweight and heavily bullied because of it. Zion was a minor character in the first novel, and Connor was the focus with his Tourette’s Syndrome. Aven clicks well with Zion’s whole family, which includes his older brother Lando (Yes, from Star Wars. Their parents are total science fiction nerds and it has rubbed off on the boys).
High school brings some new challenges: a much bigger school with students who have not seen Aven before. Momentous Life shows how cruel kids can be to each other. Despite her challenges, Aven stays who she is. Aven meets a girl who is home schooled and works part time at Stagecoach Pass and they also become friends.
We also get more of Stagecoach Pass and Henry who is much older and dealing with dementia. We also get more of Josephine who lives in a retirement community and she is just an older version of Aven! You can’t help but love Josephine!
After loving Insignificant Events, I had to read this second novel in the series. This was also a #Diverseathon2021 read for the month of July (the prompt is a main character with a physical or cognitive disability). I listened to the audiobook version as I did with the first and it was also narrated by Karissa Vacker, who did a wonderful job again. I did miss Connor as we did not get as much with him due to his move. I really enjoyed these two novels and would love to see more of Aven as she grows up: Going to college, getting a job, etc. I can see that once Aven matures into an adult that she will be a very confident woman despite her lack of arms. Aven is very much a character that kids can look up to.
Despite being freshmen in high school now, there is still a bit of immaturity in the novel that revolves around them being adolescents, but this novel is definitely appropriate for middle schoolers. This is definitely a book series for children who have a disability that shows them they are still 100% a person.
Momentous Events in the Life of a Cactus is recommended!
July’s host is Kesara at readswithkesara over at Instagram. She is having a giveaway of One book valuing up to $20 from the Book Depository or Amazon (for US based winner) Be sure to check out her Instagram for full details on that giveaway.
Be sure to check out her YouTube Channel!
The Book of Essie
Author: Meghan MacLean Weir
Published: June 12, 2018
Reviewed By: Jessica
Dates Read: June 18-23, 2021
Jessica’s Rating: 4.5 stars
Esther Ann Hicks—Essie—is the youngest child on Six for Hicks, a reality television phenomenon. She’s grown up in the spotlight, both idolized and despised for her family’s fire-and-brimstone brand of faith. When Essie’s mother, Celia, discovers that Essie is pregnant, she arranges an emergency meeting with the show’s producers: Do they sneak Essie out of the country for an abortion? Do they pass the child off as Celia’s? Or do they try to arrange a marriage—and a ratings-blockbuster wedding? Meanwhile, Essie is quietly pairing herself up with Roarke Richards, a senior at her school with a secret of his own to protect. As the newly formed couple attempt to sell their fabricated love story to the media—through exclusive interviews with an infamously conservative reporter named Liberty Bell—Essie finds she has questions of her own: What was the real reason for her older sister leaving home? Who can she trust with the truth about her family? And how much is she willing to sacrifice to win her own freedom?
I don’t watch too much television, but yes in the past I have been a fan of ‘Reality TV’. And yes, I know reality tv actually isn’t real- It just finds a way to pull you in and keeps you watching, even more so when it is a train wreck!
The Book of Essie is about an extreme right wing Christian family that has been on television for many years, in fact for longer than Essie’s seventeen years. Essie is the youngest child of the Hicks family and to her mother Celia’s shock Essie is pregnant. Mom and production have a meeting (without Essie being present) to decide what to do with this situation. Several suggestions are made on what to do with Essie’s condition and it is decided that Essie will marry. This will be a ratings blockbuster to the show! Of course, when the baby comes earlier than it should the show will pay doctors to say that yes, the due date was actually X date after the marriage occurred. But who will Essie marry?
We have three narrators: Essie herself, Roarke who is the boy that Celia decides Essie will marry, and Liberty is the one who interviews the ‘couple’. This is a novel that quickly takes place over the course of a few weeks, because time is of the essence. The show has to come up with a fake backstory of Essie and Roarke falling in love months before. And of course, the viewers take everything in and adore this newly famous and in love couple. But there is so much going on behind the scenes that is unknown, including Essie’s older sister who disappeared from the cameras after she graduated high school. So we have a little bit of a mystery as well!
I really liked Essie. Growing up in a unique situation and then finding herself in yet another situation, she may come off that she is not in control, as her mother Celia is all but in charge of everything, but Essie knows what she wants and will do what she needs to do to get it!
We also get backstories to Roarke and Liberty, who both have not had easy lives and have secrets. I did not find myself interested in these two backstories, I was 1000% into reading what was going to happen with Essie and this ‘wedding’. The story goes in a partially guessed/expected direction, but I found myself highly surprised at how much I enjoyed this novel. There are conclusions at the end and everything does get wrapped up nicely.
The Book of Essie ended up working for this month’s prompt for Diverseathon: An LGBTQ+ main character, which I did not know about when I started reading it. And I’m getting this review in just at the end of the month, go me!
I think part of the reason I really enjoyed this novel is that in some ways we get to see how reality television shows are made. If you enjoy reality tv at all and read YA, then you need to read this book! I can not wait to see what Weir writes next.
June’s host is Danyel at dany.alvey over at Instagram. She is having a giveaway of $15 to Book Depository (or Amazon for a US winner) for your choice of a book. This is an international giveaway! Be sure to check out her Instagram for full details on that giveaway.
Hawthorne & Heathcliff
Author: R.K. Ryals
Published: August 2, 2015
Reviewed By: Jessica
Dates Read: December 14-24, 2020
Jessica’s Rating: 4.5 stars
Two names that didn’t belong to us. Two shoes that did.
Intense and introspective, seventeen-year-old Hawthorne Macy knows all about being abandoned. She’s felt the stark pain of being left behind by the people who are supposed to love her the most; her parents. Raised by her caring uncle on an old plantation, Hawthorne lives her life on the fringes of her small Southern town.
Until she meets his shoe.
Senior year, last period English class, and a pair of silent tennis shoes resting next to hers in the back of the room throws Hawthorne into a world she’d learned to stay outside of.
His name is Max Vincent, but in her mind, he’s Heathcliff. The handsome eighteen-year-old boy behind the shoes will pull Hawthorne into a passionate and unforgettable adventure of self-discovery during a time when love seems impossible.
Shoes can tell a lot about a person. The journey they take you on can tell a lot about how they’ll hold up.
Hawthorne & Heathcliff is not my usual genre as it is romance. In fact the only reason I picked it up was because it was my friend Beccie’s top read in 2019. But I am so glad I did pick it up as it is so much more than a teenage romance! (Thankfully there was no love triangle as Beccie does not like those!) There is a very special relationship that Hawthorne has with her uncle which struck a chord with me. This is also a novel where the characters grow over the entire story.
Hawthorne (Clare) and Heathcliff (Max) meet in class in school and gradually their shoes get closer to each other until they connect and eventually a speical romance begins. Shoes are also very important to the novel: You can tell a lot about a person by the shoes they wear. Shoes hold the secrets that are not hidden and are in plain sight.
There are a variety of emotions that will be felt while reading, which may or may not include crying. I expected myself to cry as this is a novel that also deals with grief , and if you are currently experiencing this emotion, I will say that yes, you will cry.
If you are a reader of YA, first love, second chances and emotional reads I say pick up Hawthorne & Heathcliff! You will be glad you did.[Top]