Books, Read + Review, Teen Reviews

Read + Review: Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus by Dusti Bowling



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Aven Green has no arms! But, even at the age of 13, that doesn’t stop her from doing what other kids do. She still eats cereal, brushes her teeth and hair, and much more by her self. She went to the same school, growing up with the same people and living in the same house in Kansas. But then at the age of 13, her parents decided to move all the way to Arizona to take a job running Stagecoach Pass; a rundown Western theme park. That means every thing and every one she knows will all be in Kansas while she on the other hand will be in Arizona….with no one she knows. She then has to start her life all over again– from making friends to feeling at home!

Aven Green moves to Arizona, where the sun heats up everything 24/7. She has to stay at an apartments complex in the heat, above a steakhouse, in a rundown theme park called Stagecoach Pass and, in the middle of nowhere in Arizona! Personally, if I were in that situation, I would not have liked it. It would have been torture! I am more fond of the cold and love it much better than the heat. But, over there she makes friends with two boys; Conner and Zion. Her parents love to see that Aven made friends already. I would have been so happy if that happened to me at that time. Such a lucky ducky! But, Aven is also trying to solve a mystery about the Cavanaughs and who this person named Joe Cavanaugh is. In the end, Aven loves the place she is in because of this mystery with Joe Cavanaugh, and what it had led her to become! She is so lucky to have what she has and that she learned a lot about herself all the way in Arizona!

A memorable thing about the book The Insignificant Events In The Life Of A Cactus is, when Aven finally gets the courage to play the guitar with her feet in front of whole crowd! If I were her I would be so embarrassed and humiliated but, this girl didn’t show any of that fear I would’ve had. She was calm, peaceful and open. She showed everyone that, even people with no arms can do everything else people with arms can!


Reviewed by Rida, Twin Hickory Area Library


Books, Read + Review, Teen Reviews

Read + Review: Girl of the Southern Sea by Michelle Kadarusman



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Nia yearns for the wonders of education, pursuing the career of literature and language. Unfortunately, the slums of Jakarta, Indonesia, offer naught except endless scorching heat and a scarce amount of money. Hardly sustaining her family’s food, Nia toils daily at the market, frying banana fritters and earning a mere handful of coins for dinner. As she struggles to save money for her dream, Nia rapidly notices the day’s earnings vanishing night after night and her father departing the home for hours to return dizzy and disoriented. Inquiring further, Nia discovers that her father consumes drugs nightly, exhausting their money in the process. Disheartened, Nia ponders a solution to halt her father’s constant drug intake and achieve her writing career. Luckily, an unexpected event reaps her instant rewards, although her benefit begins to seem far too pleasant to be true. Mysteries thicken and lies blur with the truth as Nia gradually unearths her family’s past, unraveling secrets that transform Nia’s entire lifestyle.

This novel contained a multitude of suspicious events, begging the reader’s attention and never ceasing to evoke a sense of thrill within the reader. Although I didn’t quite enjoy the author’s style of writing, the events and the thrill did not disappoint. Furthermore, pleasant stories and folktales were woven into Nia’s dreams and thoughts quite artfully, which was quite a contrast to Nia’s mundane lifestyle. Additionally, the novel contained quite an amount of subtle violence, which certainly aided in the constant action. Once more, mysteries lurked within the main conflict, clues seldom revealed, contributing to a truly captivating novel.

One memorable event within the novel lies within the beginning of the novel. Nia quickly opens her stand and begins to create the banana fritter batter, attempting to ignore the relentless heat. The ingredients dance through her mind, forming a chant as she follows the recipe. Eagerly, she awaits customers, whose rupiah may earn her an education.



Reviewed by Soumya, Twin Hickory Area Library

Books, Read + Review, Teen Reviews

Read + Review: The Greatest Treasure Hunt in History by Robert Edsel



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There are many words that historians use to call the infamous Hitler: despicable, abhorrent, reviled, and… cultured? That’s right folks, Hitler was an art lover! One day, he decides to build the greatest museum to ever exist in his hometown. Unfortunately for him, all the greatest artworks to ever exist were already owned by other museums, so he went with the only logical course of action: looting! Meanwhile, on the other side of the war, the allies are concerned with not only keeping and returning the works of art where they belonged, but also protecting them from collateral damage in the war. What ensues is a long battle between Hitler’s forces and the Monuments Men, volunteers for the art-preservation operation, for the most priceless paintings in history. Forget every other treasure hunt you’ve heard of: for this one my friend, is the greatest in history.

If there’s one thing I love, it’s reading a book on something that was never discussed in any of my history classes, something that this book does pretty well. Let me tell you, not once has “What happened to all the famous artwork and historical monuments as Europe was under siege in WWII?” ever crossed my mind before I read the summary on the jacket, which I feel is a very important detail. Art had such a great impact on history, after all! I recommend this book to any fellow history aficionados like me.

My favorite parts were about the Monuments Men’s civilian lives. I am a firm believer that everybody has a story to tell, so I’m glad I got to read about who they were before the war could change them.


Reviewed by Dahlia, Twin Hickory Area Library


Books, Read + Review, Teen Reviews

Read + Review: Broken Throne by Victoria Aveyard


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This Red Queen Collection book is a compilation of various short stories set before and after the events of the series. The first of these stories is ‘Queen Song’, following the life and death of Cal’s mother, Queen Coraine. It is no secret to the court that House Jacos is barely even considered part of the Nortan nobility anymore, so when Coraine Jacos catches the eye of crown prince and heir apparent, Prince Tiberias the VI, her family sees her as a ticket back to the King’s good graces. Pressured by her father and the rest of Norta, Coraine foregoes the tournament of Queenstrial and marries Tiberias. The presence of a bitter rival, Elara Merandus, locks Coraine in a battle of wills to either ensure that her thoughts stay her own, or risk them being used against her.

‘Steel Scars’, the second story, provides insight into the various happenings within the early Scarlet Guard. One of the organization’s officers, Captain Diana Farley, is desperate to prove to the Guard and (begrudgingly) her father that she can be trusted with the orders from the illusive Command. As a result, she and her team go rogue to expand the Scarlet Guard from the Lakelands into nearby Norta. Ignoring correspondence from her superiors, Farley races across Norta, gaining intel and recruiting assets to the cause. Despite her success, however, Command sees her actions as insubordination and threatens to strip her of her post. With enemies closing in all around the country, her rank is not the only thing on the line.

The third story is the only one in the book that is set in neither Norta nor the Lakelands. Instead, ‘World Behind’ takes place on the Ohius River, where Ashe, a Riverman who provides transport to those who can pay, is forced to take Lyrisa, a Silver Piedmont Princess, away from her royal troubles. Little does Ashe know, she murdered her entourage to escape her brutish fiance Orrian, who is now in pursuit of their boat. Stranded on a river in the middle of a wilderness, Lyrisa and Ashe must work together to protect the boat’s passengers from a prince who will go to extreme lengths to have his way. Though the boat ventures farther West, it is not safe from the raging wars plaguing Nortan and Lakelander countries of the East.

The fourth story in the book, ‘Iron Heart’ takes place after the Red Queen series. Following the fall of the kingdom of Norta, the former nobles are required to abdicate their thrones and renounce their titles. As Ptolemus Samos, Evangeline’s brother, prepares to do just that, Evangeline struggles to come to terms with the fact that she has to see her old home; the home she already escaped once. As she delivers her own resignation speech, however, she realizes that she is no longer Evangeline Artemia Samos, Queen of the Rift, Lady of House Samos, Daughter of the late King Volo Samos of the Rift and Queen Larentia of House Viper. She is free to be Evangeline, a queen in her own right, even without a crown.

‘Fire Light’, the final story, is the culmination of the–very literal–slow burn in Mare and Cal’s romantic arc. After the deciding battle in the war between the Scarlet Guard and the Nortan nobles, Mare and Cal reached a mutual conclusion to go on a relationship hiatus to heal from their emotional scars and respective traumas. Neither promised they would wait. While Mare retired to the mountains with her family, Cal acted as an ambassador between the republics of the continent and the developing Nortan States. They did not see each other for months, and neither promised to wait. When Premier Davidson of the Republic of Montfort throws a political convention in the form of a gala, Mare and Cal are forced to cross paths again. Their hearts are healed, but there might not be much space for anyone else inside.

Each of the stories provided unique context into character origins and particular events, or described the impact the plot events made on the world. The book brought back beloved characters and extended the story that personally, I never wanted to end. Using the journal entries, maps, timelines, and family trees, I got to imagine what past Norta looked like to better visualize what it looked like during the series. The stories wrapped several subplots up so perfectly, and the epilogue gave enough closure not to speculate relentlessly, but not so much as to make me stop thinking about the futures of the characters.

In the aforementioned epilogue, the characters’ futures were told in conjunction with the results of major plot points in the series. The future of Norta, the Lakelands, and Montfort was discussed in length and through the history-book-like structure of the last pages, characters’ future lives were revealed. I will forever remember how these characters made such drastic changes where little progress had been made for hundreds of years.



Reviewed by Gabby, Fairfield Area Library

Books, Read + Review, Teen Reviews

Read + Review: The Quiet You Carry by Nikki Barthelmess



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Nikki Barthelmess’ debut novel features quiet Victoria, a senior in high school, who currently exists as a “ward of the state of Nevada” after an incident involving father and stepmother. Her life’s goal, to attend college, has been thrown on the ground and grinned by an iron shoe, as she begins her senior year in a new town, with new people, and a new foster family. Throughout the year, Victoria learns to please her foster mother, protect her new sisters, and embrace a life with strangers for classmates and rumors tossed around behind her back. Like a beacon of light, she meets Christina, who sticks with her through thick and thin and convinces her to loosen up. Time goes on, but Victoria can’t stop thinking about her stepsister back at home and the past she left in Reno. She realizes it’s time- time to take action and settle her past and present, once and for all.

Of all the novels I have read, this is by far one of my favorites, touching me personally through its delicate yet direct focus on sensitive topics, such as foster care and mental health. The balance of quiet Victoria and her best friend, outgoing Christina, adds a touch of humor to the novel and along with the short, sweet young love scenes takes away much of the bite behind the way Victoria is treated and the story behind her. Also, the novel features a few cases of situational irony, which make the reader ponder their own life as well as the lives of the characters. Nikki Barthelmess’ writing style includes a sense of light humor, a perfect contrast between the characters, as well as an overall aura of purity and love. Overall, the only criticism I could assign to the novel is the dull growth towards revealing Victoria’s past. I felt that it was slowly revealed through foreshadowing but could have been incorporated into more flashbacks and her dreams, instead of being released all at once and leaving the reader disappointed. All in all, this novel was an amazing combination of humor, love, and the tainted innocence of a child.

Something I will carry away with me from this novel is Victoria’s friendship with Christina, which thrives despite her hidden past and questionable actions in an attempt to keep secrets buried. Christina is the epitome of loyalty and trust, holding on even when Victoria herself admits she only gives her a flimsy branch to hold onto. Victoria’s life is strongly impacted by Christina’s presence- her charismatic demeanor, outgoing personality, and optimistic view on life.


Reviewed by Jennifer, Twin Hickory Area Library