Friday, September 21, 2018

The Artemis Fowl Series Read Along | #AFReadAlong

Image credit: Unknown, formerly available on the Artemis Fowl website. Via Artemis Fowl Confidential
Starting in October, I will be hosting an Artemis Fowl read along for the entire series (!!!) to celebrate the release of the live-action film August 19, 2019 -which we've only been waiting 18 years to see.

Eoin Colfer's Artemis Fowl is one of my all-time favorite book series; I lived off the audio versions of the first four books through my teens, patiently waiting and adding each new book to the lineup as it came. I became so enamored with them I insisted on reading them to my dad, imitating as best I could Nathaniel Parker's brilliant voice work for the characters. So what better way to celebrate the near-miraculous upcoming film than to share my love of the series with equally devoted fans and the opportunity to introduce it to some new readers? (There is no better way; in case you were curious.)

I'm very excited to share one of my favorite series with you all -and when I say share, I mean in a very interactive format because I need someplace to let my fangirl run rampant!

All through the read along, Thursdays shall be known across my social medias as #FowlDay. I will have an activity, a game, a random survey, a giveaway*, or anything else I can think of planned to make it the best day of your week for the next eight months.

The read along will span October 2018-May 2019. Each month will be dedicated to one book, and here's that schedule:
  • ARTEMIS FOWL | October 1 - October 31
  • ARTEMIS FOWL: THE ARCTIC INCIDENT | November 1 - November 30
  • ARTEMIS FOWL: THE ETERNITY CODE | December 1 - December 31
  • ARTEMIS FOWL: THE OPAL DECEPTION | January 1 - January 31
  • ARTEMIS FOWL: THE LOST COLONY | February 1 - February 28
  • ARTEMIS FOWL: THE TIME PARADOX | March 1 - March 31

NOTE: The Artemis Fowl Files will not officially be part of this read along, though if you want to add it to your reading, it was published between The Eternity Code and The Opal Deception, so that might be a good time to read it.

  • Sign up here with links to your social media.
  • Readers will have one month to read each book.
  • At the end of each month readers are encouraged to post a review of the book, a recap, or reaction post on a personal blog, social media, or review site.
  • Readers are encouraged to share updates (NON-SPOILERY) on social media using the hashtag #AFReadAlong.
  • Every week I will present an interactive activity, game, or challenge to be shared on #FowlDay (Thursdays) across social media.

ANYONE, that's who! Whether you're reading the series for the first time or re-reading for the hundredth; whether you start from day one or jump in mid-February, anyone is welcome to participate. And if you've already got the books memorized and don't feel like reading along, you can just join the festivities and plethora of activities.

  • READ ALONG DETAILS will be posted here, at Amanda's To Read or Not to Read? This will include monthly reading details and weekly #FowlDay activity announcements.
  • TWITTER + FACEBOOK: Share updates and photos on Twitter and to my Facebook page with the hashtag #AFReadAlong and activity participation with the hashtag #FowlDay.

ARTEMIS FOWL | October 1 - October 31
  • 10/1 - 10/6: Prologue-Chapter 3
  • 10/7 - 10/13: Chapter 4-5
  • 10/14 - 10/20: Chapter 6-7
  • 10/21 - 10/27: Chapter 8-Epilogue
  • 10/28 - 10/31: Post review, recap, and/or reaction; recreate a favorite moment for #FowlDay in any artistic medium!

Don't forget to update on social media throughout the read along with the hashtag #AFReadAlong (no spoilers, please.) And remember, there will be fun activities every Thursday for #FowlDay!
Stay tuned: the first activity will be posted on 9/27 to kick off the #AFReadAlong in style!

Don't wait; join the read along! I can't wait to hear your updates and take trips down memory lane with you, but most importantly, we're here to HAVE FUN and enjoy a great series. Make sure to use the hashtag #AFReadAlong or tag me so I can share your updates with everyone.

*I will be making some handcrafted and/or personally designed items for a few giveaways throughout the read along. If you are interested in donating any Artemis Fowl-themed items for this purpose, I would love that! Shoot me an email at toreadandreview[at]gmail[dot]com to discuss details and promotional opportunities.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

5 Books That Ripped My Heart Out (But I Can't Help Loving)

One of the most gorgeous things about reading is the emotional investment you put into each book. Stories and characters easily touch us with truths, pain, and beauty that is sometimes harder to grasp in reality. And this is why humanity loves stories.

Sometimes, though, the truths that fiction conveys to us hit us right where it hurts the most. Here is a list of my top 5 books that ripped my heart out, but I can't help loving anyway.

The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society
by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
It is impossible not to become completely attached to the characters of Guernsey, both in the present story line of Juliet's blossoming friendship with the Society shortly after WWII and their recounting of the German occupation and Blitz during the war. This is one of my favorite books, beautiful and delightful, a funny, feel-good read, with enough weight and substance it clings to you. And that substance is, unfortunately, the bit that ripped my heart out. While tears are unavoidable, it's part of what makes this book so beautifully magnificent.

If you have not yet read this critically-acclaimed masterpiece, you must. It paints the story of a young German girl and her adoptive family in 1939 as they watch their country sink deeper and deeper into the clutches of the Nazi party. While her country is closing in around her and neighbors are divided by their extremist political parties, Liesel's world is opened by the books she reads -and steals. This is a beautiful story that examines the tension and terror of the time from breathtaking angles -from Liesel's telling stories to make their bleak world a little brighter, to her best friend Rudy who idolizes Jessie Owens, to her adoptive father Hans struggling to stand firm in is own beliefs without endangering his family, to her Jewish friend Max hiding in the basement who fantasizes about pummeling Hitler in a boxing ring. Most beautiful of all, I think, is Zusak's choice of narrator in Death, his poetic descriptions, his observations from outside humanity, and his descriptions of the precious souls he carries in his arms when their times come.

This bitter-sweet middle grade novel follows Cedar in the summer after losing her father and brother, as she and what remains of her family fix up a new summer home. Here she discovers Summerlost, an outdoor Shakespearean theater (based off the real-life Utah Shakespeare Festival in Cedar City, UT), a place where she finally begins to feel happy again. It's also where she meets Leo, a boy obsessed with Summerlost's most famous actress, who died tragically young. As the two become fast friends, they begin to investigate the famous woman's death -was it really innocent? or was it murder?- giving Cedar a unique look at others who have survived the grief of losing a loved one. This is a beautiful book, raw and realistic in its dealings with loss and grief and the process of understanding and healing from both.

This non-fiction collection of letters between Helene Hanff and her English booksellers-turned-penpals shares many of the same fantastic qualities and attributes as Guernsey (so much so, I actually wonder how much it influenced Shaffer and Barrows in their writing). Helene's sharp wit and zealous love for books, books, books makes her an instant kindred spirit to any true reader, including dry-humored Frank, her main correspondent, as over 30 years of exchanging letters they develop a unique, close friendship -one book lover's soul to another- even separated by an ocean.

This is the book that inspired the list. I fell head over heels in love with its predecessor, Wolf by Wolf, for it's amazing characterization, depth, story, gorgeous writing, and giving me a character in Yael to whom I could relate in so many ways. While Blood for Blood shares many of these qualities, the ending also ripped my heart out. Ripped my heart out, put it through a shredder, raked through the pieces, and I still haven't gotten them all back into place. I related with Yael so much in this series that, when it came to describing her grief and her loss, I felt the ache of it because it was a reflection of my own. Through most of the series this was almost comforting, to relate to her so much on many different levels, but the ending simply hit too close to home. As much as I love this series, I honestly do not know that I will ever be able to read it again. This doesn't mean I don't recommend it; it is such an amazing story with beautiful, gorgeous, and human characters that I adore. I think everyone in the world should read it, simply consider this a trigger warning for grief.

Your turn:
What beautiful books cut to your soul
and ripped your heart out?

Friday, September 7, 2018

Literary Book Gifts + Promo Code

Looking for ways to express your love of literature?
Literary Book Gifts has got your back.

Literary Book Gifts is a company that specializes in bringing books to life for book lovers and readers of all ages. It's a virtual wonderland for classic book lovers -and I'm not just saying that because they feature, among many others, an Alice in Wonderland design.

"I believe that it is important to express your personal ideas to the world,"says company founder, Melissa,"and t-shirts and totes are some of the most obvious ways to do it."

Just a few of the literary designs available at

The website offers over 70 designs featuring artwork from favorite classics. They're looking to expand to an even wider variety and are enthusiastic about taking your suggestions for titles, authors, or books to feature. When I asked after a Phantom of the Opera design, Melissa said, "Yes for The Phantom of the Opera! I’m so glad you asked...I definitely am looking to add that one to the collection."

All designs are currently offered on a variety of four products in a wide spectrum of colors: t-shirts (women & men's), tanks, hoodies, and tote bags. This is just a taste of the site's offerings -and it was hard to narrow down designs to feature!

Literary Book Gifts currently offers four products: t-shirts, hoodies, tanks, & tote bags.

"I started Literary Book Gifts because I wanted clothes that I would enjoy that I felt suited my personal style," Melissa explains. "I’ve never really liked many graphic tees, and it is always an added effort if you are looking for things cotton these days."

Most of the designs offered at Literary Book Gifts are unique and all of them are gorgeous. Whether your taste in literature runs from children's classics, adventure, horror, or romance to French, Russian, English, or Greek, you're bound to find some favorites in the high quality products offered in their store.

But don't take my word for it! Check them out and take advantage of this exclusive promo code, good for 20% off anything, no minimum, and unlimited uses.

What book design would you love to see on a t-shirt or tote?

15 Things to Keep You Sane Waiting for THE RISE OF KYOSHI

With the announcement of The Rise of Kyoshi by F.C. Yee, the upcoming YA novel expansion of the A:TLA universe, there's really only one question to ask:
How do we survive the wait to July 19, 2019?

You, my friend, have come to the right place.

(If you haven't heard about The Rise of Kyoshi, check out EW's exclusive announcement.
If you aren't familiar with Avatar: The Last Airbender, this will convince you it's 100% necessary, and this will get you started.)

1. Re-watch Avatar: The Last Airbender
(It's still on!)
A no-brainer, sure, but get creative. Introduce the show to a friend who has never seen it (yes, amazingly there still exists such poor souls in the world). Get nostalgic about where/when you first watched the episodes and all the crazy theories you had about the story. I've even heard of an epic 24-hour binge-watching ceremony where supposedly your state of fatigue/exhaustion winds up aligning your emotions rather perfectly with the highs and lows of the Gaang throughout the series. (I read that on a blog somewhere ages ago and can't for the life of me find its origin.)

2. Read up on Kyoshi
Come on, guys; that's why we have fandom-themed Wiki sites!

3. Watch every commentary episode for Avatar: The Last Airbender
If you don't understand "Koizilla!" you have a lot to learn, young padawan.

4. Read The Lost Adventures
By far, this comic book is THE BEST expansion of the A:TLA universe outside the original series. This is an anthology of short canonical adventures that take place throughout Water, Earth, and Fire, most of them created in tandem with the show and released with DVDs or for Free Comic Book Day. Think of it as a 'Tales of Ba Sing Se'-type collection from the whole series.

5. Read the rest of the A:TLA comics
There are (so far) five trilogies of comic books expanding on the Gaang's exploits after the end of the Hundred Year War: The Promise, The SearchThe Rift, Smoke and Shadow, and North and South. While some of these were fun comics, none of them quite lived up to 'great'.

6. Check out some Kyoshi fanfiction, like Kyoshi Rising
Fanfiction is always good to scratch that itch when the wait starts getting to you.

7. Read The Epic Crush of Genie Lo by F.C. Yee
I freely admit I am reading this now for the sole purpose of vetting F.C. Yee's worth as the author to bring Kyoshi -and the whole of the Avatar universe- to the page in epic book form.
You can expect my report in the near future.

8. Write it off
After all, many of the expansion stories have fallen a little short of the pedestal so many of us place the perfection that is A:TLA on

9. Wonder, fret, and hope about whether it will live up to expectations
Avatar Kyoshi, according to Michael Dante DiMartino, " one of the characters fans often ask me about, so I’m excited to have the opportunity to help expand on her legend."
I've certainly always been curious about the towering, big-footed, fight-first-ask-questions-later Avatar founder of the Dai Li. Yes, the Dai Li.

10. Theorize
What fan doesn't love a good theorizing session? And if you've seen half the fanfics that covered What happened to Zuko's mom?! in the interim between A:TLA and The Search, then you already know Avatards have unlocked THE highest achievement in this department.
So do you think this will cover Kyoshi's conflict with Chin the Conqueror or be centered more on Kyoshi's youth, origin story-style? Will we see the birth of the Dai Li or just the horror of Kyoshi's mother as her feet just. keep. growing?

After all, at 230, Kyoshi is the oldest Avatar. They won't be able to cover it all.

11. Pre-order The Rise of Kyoshi
For those of you who are super optimistic. Or who just don't mind pre-ordering books.

12. Pull up your favorite A:TLA AMVs
I used to spend a lot of time watching these and some songs are forever linked in my mind to specific characters. Numb by Linkin Park, for example, will always be Toph's anthem, while Prelude 12/21 by AFI makes a perfect soundtrack to Zuko and Mai's turbulent relationship. (Maiko all the way, fyi.)
Aaand I just realized those are both by ravenhpltc242, whose videos always were my favorites.

13. Break up the wait with other waits
Two more comics are due between now and next July. First off, in December, Imbalance Part One. Second, in January, Team Avatar Tales, which seems to emulate the style of Lost Adventures, and therefore I have high hopes for.

14. Write your own fanfiction
Seriously, if you are super passionate about what they do and don't pull with Kyoshi's story, pour all that passion into words. Hey, people do it all the time!

15. Buy some A:TLA stuff like the fandom-crazed Avatard you are
I don't know why I never thought of looking for this stuff online, but Etsy is a veritable wonderland of glorious Avatar merch.

How excited are you for The Rise of Kyoshi on a scale of 1 to 10?
What will you be doing while you wait?

If you think I forgot The Legend of Korra, I didn't. Much like Disney's new Star Wars, I just can't bring myself to accept it as canon.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Seen the Fahrenheit 451 Trailer Yet?

Have you seen the trailer for HBO's upcoming adaptation of Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451 yet?

It's intriguing enough that I've decided it's a necessary re-read. I didn't love Fahrenheit 451 when I read it in high school, but I don't remember hating it either.

After my third read of Ender's Game recently (review to come), I'm realizing my tastes have changed. -Dare we say they're becoming more sophisticated?-

Are you looking forward to the adaptation?

What do you think of the trailer?

Monday, February 26, 2018

REVIEW: I Am Not A Serial Killer by Dan Wells (John Cleaver #1)

My Ratings:

5/5 stars
PG-16: Disturbing content and images; some violence; thematic elements involving serial killers; recommend for mature audience.

My Review:
Ain't gonna lie. I Am Not A Serial Killer is on the dark side. It's macabre and morbid; I now know more about the embalming process than I ever knew I didn't want to know (closed casket funeral for me, thanks); it slams you front and center into the mind of a sociopath and, well,
It's absolutely fantastic.

I don't do horror. I don't do slashers and I really don't like scary stories -Alfred Hitchcock thrillers or Shyamalan's The Village is about how high I go on the intensity scale, but Wells has created something compelling and significant here that I could not put down. I started reading at 10pm and didn't let go til I finished around 5am. More impressive, I slept like a baby afterwards. No nightmares here, thanks! I'll, uh, let you decide for yourself how that rates me on your Disturbed scale after you read what is, as far as I'm concerned, a narrative masterpiece.

You want character driven stories?

You want amazing character depth and first-rate point of view?

These are two major traits that will get a book a permanent place in my heart, and I Am Not A Serial Killer has both in spades. I don't even know where to begin.

My Review -The Video!

John Wayne Cleaver is a sociopath. He can't empathize; he doesn't understand emotions; he doesn't experience emotions on a normal level. Worse than that, he possesses several key predictors of serial killers. He knows he possesses the predictors of serial killers and fears that fate for his future. But the skill of Dan Wells' pen is evident because of HOW EASILY I was able to relate to, understand, and empathize with John. He is portrayed expertly as a sympathetic teenager fighting against a horrific burden -a burden that happens to be a desire to cut people open and examine their guts. And I cared about him. I understood. Even if I couldn't relate personally, I understood John.

You have to understand and recognize what a truly masterful job Wells has wrought in creating this character! I still can't get over the fact I not only finished this book about a serial-killer-obsessed, sociopath teen -I can't wait to get my hands on the rest of the series.

I was enraptured. And, yeah, okay, maybe slightly disturbed by that fact.

I'm intentionally not going into the plot for fear of spoilers; I went into this knowing very little, and I think that's the best way to experience it, and so that is my gift to you. But just so we're clear? As much as I'm raving about the amazing character and narration, the plot is just as deserving of praise. There are really no disappointing qualities here.

I Am Not A Serial Killer is also funny -albeit in a twisted, morbid kind of way. (Am I showing too much of my dark side?)

Bonus? The book doesn't have any swearing or smut and -even when dealing with the grisly events- the descriptions are more straight forward than slasher/gory.

This story is unique, raw, challenging, and beautifully written. Wells manages a good balance between John's own removed emotions toward the terrible deaths and the gravity and reverence with which the other characters treat them to still make it respectable. And he uses this contrast as a building block for both John's character depth and development!

HOW MANY TIMES HAVE I PROCLAIMED MY LOVE OF ALL THINGS CHARACTER? Do you need another reason to give this a try?

Speaking of, it's time to introduce my...

Don't be alarmed. This is a new thing. I'm taking it out for a test drive.
John Wayne Cleaver definitely takes home gold in the Most Interesting Character category, but my favorite is Dr. Ben Neblin. He almost wins hands down for this quote alone:
"You are always in control of your own destiny, and you are always the one who makes your own choices -no one else."
Truer words were never spoken, and when you're dealing with material as heavy and real as this does, it's important -nay, vital- to make such a blatant and brutal distinction as to who must stand responsible for the reprehensible actions not only in this story, but in the reality beyond it.

I did waffle back and forth on whether to rate this four or five stars due to the mature content but I realized I had no qualms about this book outside of the question of age range. Plus, I really, really loved it. Therefore -for mature and responsible audiences- this gets a whopping 5 out of 5 stars.

Are you intrigued yet?