Thursday, October 18, 2018

Top 5 Child Prodigies in Literature | #AFReadAlong

Today's post is part of my Artemis Fowl Read Along; if you haven't joined yet, you should!

Artemis  Fowl
from Eoin Colfer's Artemis Fowl series
How does one describe Artemis Fowl?

How indeed. Before Artemis is even out of his teens he's done the impossible a dozen times over: proving the existence of fairies just to hold one for a gold ransom, going toe to toe with the Russian mafia and the Chicago mob, rediscovering a lost civilization, cracking an ancient and unknown language all on his own, grappling with the most brilliant minds on and under the planet -including his own- and scheming some of the most audacious, ludicrously rewarding, and incredible heists and plots the world had ever seen.

Artemis is impossible not to love, even if I occasionally want to strangle him. He's cool and calculating, amusingly arrogant, and oh so, so clever. What I love most about Artemis is watching his fantastic development through the series; his growth is slow, almost grudging, but immensely rewarding and heart warming. Watching him lock horns with his outside influences -especially Holly Short- as he struggles between his conscience and his moral ambiguity is what story gold is made of.

Conor Broekhart
from Airman by Eoin Colfer
Conor was born with an obsession for flight -perhaps because he was born in the air while his parents were dodging bullets in a hot air balloon at the World's Fair, 1878. Conor was also born with his mother's scientific brains, which he turns to the purpose of designing a flying machine. What I love most about Conor is the fact that he's a dreamer, his head stuck in the clouds, and his great intellect is determined to keep it there. And when his world turns upside down and everyone turns against him, his dreams and his genius become his refuge, keeping him sane and alive.

Ender Wiggin
Ah, Ender. Poor, brilliant Ender. The greatest strategical genius the world had ever seen, and he was bred for just that purpose. Which is what makes Ender so interesting. Even while he's outplanning, outthinking, and outsmarting every other older and bigger team at Battle School, he finds joy and fun in it but struggles too with the fact that this is his entire purpose -that this is the sole reason he was born. 

Ender is the smartest person in any given room, but what I love most about him are his moral complexities in the midst of an intergalactic war and his very simple, very human desire to be liked and loved for who he is -rather than feared and revered as the leader he's meant to be. For as smart as Ender is, he is still young, an innocence we see slowly stripped away as he is tailored and tweaked by his puppeteers into the military leader Earth needs to survive -and someone heartbreaking and beautiful they weren't quite expecting.

Damian Wayne
from DC Comics, character created by Grant Morrison
Much like Ender, Damian was bred and raised for a single purpose: to become the greatest of military leaders and save the world. At least, 'saved' by the standards of Ra's al Ghul and his League of Assassins -which isn't a good thing.

Damian is brilliant, cheeky, and arrogant; he's also brutal and a touch homicidal thanks to his twisted upbringing. One of the things I love most about this 10-year-old is how hard he fights for the world to take him seriously -specifically his Robin predecessors- and how it really boils down to wanting to prove his worth to one person and one person alone -his father, who reached into the pit of death, darkness, and destruction that Damian was raised in and tried to shed a little light and moral justice in his son's life. And the other thing I love about Damian is this moral struggle, this epic battle where nature vs nurture have drawn battle lines in his very soul.

What is it with me and morally conflicted child prodigies?

Of course, no Child Prodigy list would be complete without everyone's favorite cartoon trouble-maker. His genius takes many, many different forms -snowmen, insanely sophisticated make-believe often of a scientific nature, and deep philosophical discussions- but isn't always evident -BATS AREN'T BUGS! and that most of his attempts at ducking school or homework could have been better planned out. So while Calvin isn't perhaps a well-rounded genius, he isn't your ordinary six-year-old either. What I love most about Calvin is the balance in him between the vivid imagination and joy of childhood with the (at times) very mature contemplations on humanity and the state of the world. But seriously, more massive snowman escapades and Spaceman Spiff, please.

Child prodigies are rare gems in literature -hard to get right, but perfect when mastered. I'm always on the lookout for more interesting ones, so come on; spill:
Who are some of your favorite child prodigies?

Monday, October 1, 2018

#AFReadAlong | Artemis Fowl

Let's get this party started! Welcome to the beginning of the Artemis Fowl Read Along. This month, we're reading book 1. Check out the reading schedule below:

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!

I want to see your reading updates! Use the hashtag #AFReadAlong (no spoilers, please). What kind of updates, you ask? Here's some ideas.

Post pics of the book, where you are in the book, you reading the book, you hiding behind the book, or the book with your pet (those are always popular).

Favorite quotes!
These I definitely want to see. If I know you're favorite quotes, I'll have a better idea of what to use for some handmade giveaway items. ;)

Reactions or reread revelations!
Having feels or awesome observation about the book? TELL ME ABOUT IT.

I love canons -and probably accept far, far too many of them. So if you have thoughts about what the characters do in their off-hours or what made them the way they are, I want to know!

Don't forget to check back here or on my social medias for #FowlDay on Thursday. I've got some fun activities lined up, a special blog post about my Favorite Child Prodigies, and there will be a live chat happening on Twitter and Facebook at 12pm!

Want to join the #AFReadAlong?

Thursday, September 27, 2018

#FowlDay Icebreakers | #AFReadAlong

Who's excited to kick off the Artemis Fowl Read Along next week? I mean, besides me.

Today's #FowlDay activities will be Icebreakers, something to get us a little better acquainted with each other and to our individual relationships with Artemis Fowl.

Share your responses with the hashtag #FowlDay on your blog or choice of social media!
Don't miss these live events coming up today:

Activity #1: Icebreaker Survey
1) What country are you from?
2) How many times have you read the Artemis Fowl series?
2b) If you've read the series before, what's your favorite book? (If you haven't, this will be in the closing survey too!)
Not 2b) What's your current favorite book (besides Artemis Fowl)?
4) Will you see the Artemis Fowl film opening weekend, weeks later, or wait for the DVD?
5) Share a random fun fact about yourself!

Activity #2: Reading in the Lap of Luxury

Artemis Fowl II is a rich kid. We're talking millions. Imagine those millions are yours and deck out your dream reading spot in the lap of ultimate luxury. I want details, paint colors, and -if possible- ALL OF THE PICTURES of the coziest reading spot of your dreams.

The Artemis Fowl Read Along officially begins Oct 1 with the first Artemis Fowl book.

I can't wait to get things started!

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?