Friday, February 27, 2015

Inspired: Christopher Emdin {TED Talk}

Education is arguably the number one thing on my mind these days. Do you ever look back on a decision and just feel so incredibly glad that you made it? That's how I feel about my decision to pursue education as a career. When it comes to applying for graduate school and approaching the end of your undergrad experience, a lot of thoughts pop into your head. Did I choose the right field? Am I going to be happy doing this for the foreseeable future? Will I make a difference in my career? Will this choice allow me to have x, y, z (a comfortable life, funds for traveling, fulfillment -- insert wish/hope/dream here)? I go back and forth between feeling like I'll never be ready to be an adult and wanting desperately to be independent. This kind of  big life change is exhilarating and terrifying, and it's happening really, really soon.

I'm just as anxious as the next graduate, but I'm also so incredibly excited to devote next year to learning more about being a teacher and to finally have regular hours spent in a classroom. I walk away from my education classes each day with the conviction that I am going into the right field, that I am pursuing the job that I was meant to have all along-- despite my foray into three other majors throughout college. Watching TED talks like the one I've posted here only get me more fired up about education and the big dreams I have for contributing something meaningful to the field. 

Confession: I actually listen to TED talks every time I do my laundry. I plug in my headphones, lug my giant laundry bag down to the washroom, and take that time to think about big issues while I sort my clothes into different loads. Usually, I get through about 2-3 talks with each laundry day, but sometimes I end up just listening to one of my favorites again. Today I listened to this one -- Christopher Emdin's ideas about teacher education and a new equation for intelligence. I make a lot of connections between this talk and the talk by Mac Barnett, because they're all about the ability to engage children in a way that's not happening in classrooms today. I am particularly passionate about reading (if you couldn't already tell...) and these two talks really tie together the need for teachers, parents, and communities to show young readers just how exciting reading can be -- and then to help perpetuate that enthusiasm in older grades, when our students are the least engaged in their studies.

For teachers (and aspiring teachers) this talk presents a great opportunity for us to dig deep about the kind of engagement that we want to have in our classrooms, and the ways in which we can bring that level of energy each day to create the best learning environment for our students.

Enjoy, and happy weekend!

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Bibliophile Bucketlist: Admont Abbey Library, Austria

A year from now I'll have my master's degree just within sight, and in a few years I'll (hopefully) be settled into life as a teacher. One of the best parts about being a teacher is that it gives you a bit more time to chase other dreams in the summertime. I'm sure that jet setting around the world won't be realistic for me in my first couple summers as a teacher, but I'd like to think that eventually I'll have the freedom to travel, so I've started to curate my very own bucketlist.

In true bibliophile fashion, I'm curating this bucketlist with books in mind. I'm including places like bookstores, libraries, and famous literary markers that I eventually want to visit, and today I'm kicking it off in a big way with a library that is simply spectacular. 

{image via}

This the Admont Abbey Library in Styria, Austria.

It's straight out of Beauty and the Beast, don't you think? This is the library of my dreams. 

{image via}
{image via}
Admont Abbey is the largest monastery abbey in the world, and also the oldest in Styria. It was founded in 1074 by an archbishop and is considered to be not only a center for the preservation of cultural goods but also one of Europe's largest (and greatest) late Baroque works of art.

Needless to say, this one tops my bucketlist.

What's on your bucketlist? Have any places to add to my bibliophile bucketlist? 

Monday, February 23, 2015

Reading a Series

Since I decided not to set any reading resolutions for 2015, I've been taking it slow in terms of my reading pace. I started off the year with Ken Follett's The Pillars of the Earth, which I didn't end up finishing, and read Kingdom of Lies and Yes Please before picking up A Game of Thrones. It's taken me a few weeks, but I'm almost finished with A Game of Thrones, so I started to consider whether I want to continue reading the rest of the series.

Usually, when I read a series it's one that doesn't have all the books published yet. That was the case for Harry Potter when I was growing up, and more recently for my latest fantasy series obsession. If a series has more than one book (or even the entire set) available, I sometimes like to jump in and read each book in quick succession. With this read, I have many (but not all) of the books in the series available for reading, but I still can't make up my mind.

I'll be honest, I love reading Game of Thrones, but I don't think I could have made it through the first book without having watched the TV series first. I know that can be a serious crime for some readers -- to watch a movie or TV show before reading-- but in this case I am definitely a late-to-the-party fan. Plus, there are so many characters and so many complicated relationships; having those characters and their environments already built in my head is so helpful in allowing me to concentrate on the best parts of the story. I remember reading Trickster's Choice by Tamora Pierce (one of the best fantasy authors of all time) when I was younger and really loving the story but constantly struggling with keeping the numerous characters straight.

Considering that keeping up with the story takes some energy (and that I've spent three weeks reading the first in the series), I think I'll be taking a break before moving on to the second book. I am confident, however, that eventually I'll get around to reading the entire series. In the meantime, I'm considering how best to temper the mood of Game of Thrones with my next read. I like to mix up the genre or tone when selecting my next read, so this time around I'm looking for a non-fantasy read that is a bit lighter in tone. First on my list is this funny memoir, but I'm also considering this historical fiction read, or maybe I'll have a random book at the library catch my eye.

How do you read a series?

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Word Worship {Ishmael Beah}

I'll preface today's quote by saying: thank goodness for the written word. As I sit in my bedroom typing this to you, I am grateful for the power of words, for their ability to bring perspective directly into our hands and for their power to make our hearts feel more than would be possible without them. These words below are the words of a real person, who experienced real horrors that we cannot imagine; he thought to share them with us so that we may understand just a tiny piece of his heartbreak and his story. If you haven't yet read A Long Way Gone, I highly recommend it.

"Some nights the skies wept stars that quickly floated and disappeared into the darkness before our wishes could meet them."
-Ishmael Beah, A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier 


I'll be keeping these beautiful words in mind this weekend as I remind myself to move a bit more slowly, to sink into the comforts of a good book, and to express gratitude for many, many things in my life. 

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Deals & Steals with Bookbub

You guys. This post is a game-changer. I am so excited to tell you about Bookbub today.

As you may or may not know, I am a literal hoarder of books. (And shoes -- but that's not what we're here to talk about.) I truly have trouble going into a bookstore without buying myself a book, despite the fact that I have stacks of books halfway up my wall and a full bookshelf, a quarter of which I have yet to read. I know I'm not alone in this, and I think my love of aesthetics is partially to blame. I just cannot resist a book with a pretty cover & spine. 

However, as much as I love my book collection, I also recognize that over the next few years, I can plan on moving at least twice, which means that my boxes and boxes of books will become a bit of a burden. Enter Bookbub, the website that lets me acquire new reads without adding titles to my physical shelves by downloading discounted reads onto my Kindle. If you have an e-reader, this deal is for you!

Bookbub is a website that features new e-book deals everyday. You enter your email address & sign up for an account, tell them which genres you're interested in reading and what kind of device you read on (Kindle, Nook, iBooks, etc.). Once you're signed up, they'll send you a personally curated list of deals to your inbox daily!

For my account, I signed up for deals on several different genres. Like many recommendation algorithms, some of the books miss the mark on my interests, but others are spot-on! The best part? Most of the books listed are on sale for less than $3 and there are always a few that you can get for free. Free books?! That's one thing I will never turn down. If you're a compulsive book-buyer like me, that makes a big difference. I am always on the hunt for a deal, and with my Bookbub subscription (which I signed up for in January), I've already downloaded seven books for free on my Kindle! Now, I'll just toss my Kindle in my purse and know that if I'm bored, I have a whole lot of books to choose from!

I'm one of those people that really dislikes getting promotional deals in my inbox everyday (I've recently gone on an unsubscribing spree), but this is one e-mail that I don't ming getting and highly recommend to readers who primarily use e-readers over physical books.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Presidential Picks

Happy President's Day! 
President's Day is an interesting holiday because it was originally intended to celebrate George Washington's birthday on February 22, but was moved to the third Monday of February to create a three-day weekend and to widen its scope to include a celebration of all U.S. presidents. I certainly appreciate the three-day weekend, though we have yet to have a full week of classes yet because of all this snow!

I've put together a quick list of presidential picks to acknowledge the holiday, with a focus on the early presidents. Though there is certainly a plethora of literature that encompasses all of our country's leaders, I find that my interest is most peaked by our early leaders and by those who stood at the helm of our country at pivotal points in history.
 If you are a non-fiction, history, or biography-lover, this is the booklist for you!

Destiny of the Republic by Candice Millard // I'm not a huge fan of non-fiction literature, but this is one biography that I loved. Not only did I find it easier to access than most historical writing, but I also loved how Millard widened the scope beyond Garfield to include the context in which he lived. Hindsight is 20/20 but it's so interesting to see how the medicinal and scientific advances that were occurring at the time could have resulted in a different ending for Garfield, if only his advisors had made more open-minded decisions. 

The President and the Assassin by Scott Miller // This one is of a similar vein to Destiny of the Republic, which is what landed it on my to-read list. It's the story of President McKinley as he helped the U.S. transition to an industrial economy, and his assassin, Leon Czolgosz. Czolgosz was just one citizen representing the many who were bitterly opposed to the change and felt wounded by a government that was increasingly interested in the wants of the rich rather than the needs of the poor. I'm not familiar with this period in our history nor do I know much about the violent ending, so this is one book that I know I'll learn a lot from. 

John Quincy Adams by Harlow Giles Unger // John Quincy Adams was one historical figure who seemed to have a hand in just about every major event at the start of our country's history. He was an ambassador, secretary of state, senator, congressman, and president. He knew Washington and Lincoln, was there for the War of 1812 and the Civil War, and was a fierce advocate for the rights of the people. This biography has excellent ratings on Goodreads and promises to be packed with historical richness.

The Man Who Saved the Union by H.W. Brands // Ulysses Grant is well-known for his leadership on the battlefield, and for his part in bringing victory to the Union during the Civil War. This biography examines how he was also a skilled and competent president who helped tremendously to stitch the country back together and who was a fearless defender of civil rights. 

With Malice Toward None by Stephen B. Oates // I couldn't curate this list without a book about Lincoln, who is arguably the most well-liked president in our country's history. This biography details not only Lincoln's time as president, but also his early life and how he came to be such a revered figure in our past. It promises to read like a novel, which is something that I look for in historical reads. 

Do you have a favorite presidential read? Leave a recommendation below! 

P.S. Click here to read about my presidential pick from last year. 
P.P.S. Here's another favorite from my history-loving-bestie.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Happy Heart Day!

This weekend's inspiration comes from my love of Valentine's Day and my love for a certain poet, whom I featured last year on this very day. 
Happy long weekend, friends, and happy heart day too!

love is a place

e.e. cummings

love is a place
& through this place of 
love move
(with brightness of peace)
all places

yes is a world
& in this world of 
yes live
(skillfully curled)
all worlds

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Review: Yes Please

{on Goodreads}

Yes Please, Amy Poehler's first book, is a recipe for inspiration and girl power. From her childhood in Burlington, Massachusetts, to the start of her comedy career in Chicago, to her hilarious roles and writing at SNL, Amy Poehler writes about her success and fame with humor and an honesty that's rare and raw. She looks back on her career with transparency; it wasn't all laughs, it wasn't all success, and it wasn't all-good-all-the-time. Case in point: during a high point of her career, hosting the Golden Globes with real-life bestie Tina Fey, she was also going through a heartbreaking divorce with husband Will Arnett. While she was making millions of people laugh with her skits on SNL, behind the scenes she was dealing with motherhood, her body image, and other issues that women deal with every day. She makes it clear that her successes were due to hard work, long hours, and sacrifice, but she also tells her story with a clear sense of gratitude for the friendships, opportunities and recognition that she's found along the way. She writes about her mistakes with humility and about moments that gave her perspective when she felt lost. Everything that Poehler has to say shows that she moves through the highs and lows of life with both grace and good humor, and that she is deserving of her status as a role model for women and young girls. 

My boyfriend gave this to me as part of my Christmas gift this year after he had patiently listened to me obsess over it from the moment that I first heard about it (you may remember it made it onto my list for November's currently coveting). Not only do I love the cover image, but I also love the messages that came with it. I am a huge fan of Amy Poehler (Parks and Rec is one of my favorite shows) and I especially love her work with Tina Fey (I may be the only person that can basically recite the lines from Baby Mama -- funniest movie ever). In essence, I am an automatic fan of everything that she does, including her work with Amy Poehler's Smart Girls. I find that she is one of those celebrities that just never loses her sense of real-ness, and as a fan I appreciate that she is open and honest about issues that all women face, especially those concerning career and family, body image, and perceptions of women in society. This would make a great gift for any time of the year, and is one that I think will appeal to a wide-ranging audience, from teenagers to mothers and grandmothers. It would also make a great last-minute gift for your bestie (or yourself) on Valentine's Day! (I've also seen it on a few lists of best books for getting over a break-up, for those who are currently anti-Valentine's Day advocates.)

Bottom-Line Rating: 5/5

The Stats:
Title: Yes Please
Author: Amy Poehler
ISBN: 0062268341
Price: $18 on Amazon (find more links to purchase online on Goodreads)
Format: Hardcover
Source: Gifted
Length: 329 pages

Monday, February 9, 2015

Valentine's Day Booklist for Kids

Can I just preface this by saying: I love Valentine's Day and I'm not ashamed of it. I love that we get an extra-special day each year to celebrate the ones that we love, and I think that the essence of Valentine's Day isn't confined to just significant others; it applies to all family members, to best friends, and especially to the little ones in our lives. My mother still makes sure to send me a little box of love each year for Valentine's Day, and I know I'll be celebrating this holiday with my own children in the future. Valentine's Day give us something to celebrate during one of the hardest months of the year; around here, at least, it feels as though winter is never-ever-ever going to end, and I certainly appreciate a little boost of something bright and cheery. I'm also a year-long super fan of all things pink and floral, so I happen to love it when shelves are stocked with everything in my favorite color. (Plus, there's the chocolate, and you can't go wrong with that.)

So, in the spirit of celebrating love and extra kindness, I've put together a booklist of fifteen fun reads to share with your favorite littles. Most of these can also be found at your local public library, so if you're not into the idea of curating a holiday-themed collection of books, they are easy to borrow just for the weekend!

Pinkalicious: Pink of Hearts by Victoria Kann
Cranberry Valentine by Wende & Harry Devlin
Happy Valentine's Day, Mouse! by Laura Numeroff
Splat the Cat: Funny Valentine by Rob Scotton
Olive, My Love by Vivian Walsh
Mia: The Sweetest Valentine by Robin Farley
The Day It Rained Hearts by Felicia Bond
Clifford's Valentine's Day by Norman Bridwell
Franklin's Valentines by Paulette Bourgeois
Pete the Cat: Valentine's Day is Cool by Kimberly and James Dean
Snowy Valentine by David Petersen
The Yuckiest, Stinkiest, Best Valentine Ever by Brenda A. Ferber
The Berenstain Bears' Funny Valentine by Stan & Jan Berenstain
Fancy Nancy: Heart to Heart by Jane O'Connor
Amelia Bedelia's First Valentine by Herman Parish
Show the littles in your life that everyday is a day to celebrate love, and then treat them to some extra TLC time featuring a stack of love-themed reads & a (small) pile of their favorite treats!

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Inspired: Stuart Firestein {TED Talk}

Another inspiring TED talk for you today! I love that watching these talks gives me a fresh burst of energy...something that is always needed when Friday rolls around to help me finish strong for the week (although I'll readily admit, usually a latte contributes to that energy burst as well). And with our schedule finally back on track (no thanks to four snow days during the first few weeks of school), this inspiration is helping me power through my long list of Saturday homework and helping me prepare for a full week ahead!

Stuart Firestein is a neuroscientist, and I love his take on how we should appreciate the unknown in science (and in everyday life). Ignorance usually has a negative connotation, but Firestein argues that when we pursue "high-quality ignorance," we give it value. 

Hope this leaves you inspired too! Happy weekend!

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Reader Recommendations

Happy Hump Day! Wednesdays are actually pretty fun for me this semester, with an early a.m. ballet class followed by a quick workout at the gym with my bestie, and rounded off with a few hours of quiet time to work on my writing. Hump day has never looked so good! 

If you're struggling to get through the week and need an extra boost, I have no less than eight books for you to pick up at the library for a relaxing, reading-filled weekend! This list comes recommended by the aforementioned bestie, who also happens to be my roomie. Lani and I trade recommendations regularly but have different tastes, so she's here to talk about a few of her favorites.


Angus, Thongs and Full-Frontal Snogging: Confessions of Georgia Nicolson by Louise Rennison // This is the first book in the Georgia Nicolson series, and it pretty much epitomizes my preteen literary experience. Georgia is a bit self-centered and boy-crazed, but most importantly, she's hilarious. I remember trying to hide the titles from my parents, because they are a bit raunchy (book 2 is called On the Bright Side, I'm Now the Girlfriend of a Sex God), though the content is pretty much age appropriate for the 13 - 15 crowd.

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak // One of my favorite books. This historical fiction novel follows Liesel Meminger from ages 9 to 15 in Nazi Germany as her adoptive parents hide a young Jewish man. The Book Thief is narrated by Death, and has beautiful writing and memorable quotes. "The consequence of this is that I'm always finding humans at their best and worst. I see their ugly and their beauty, and I wonder how the same thing can be both."
{I can attest to the greatness of this one. I read it last year and was completely captivated.}

Frankenstein: Or, the Modern Prometheus by Mary Shelley // If you haven't read this book, pop culture has probably skewed your perception as to what it's about. I'm going to dispel some myths right now: Frankenstein is the man, not the monster. The Monster is not silent, slow, and stupid. He's an intelligent being who questions his existence and resents his maker. Frankenstein's monster also has some killer monologues. Shelley essentially founded the science fiction genre, and this story brings up some though-provoking moral issues.

In a Dark, Dark Room and Other Scary Stories retold by Alvin Schwartz // A classic, creepy collection of children's short stories. I haven't read them in a long, long time, yet "The Green Ribbon" still haunts me to this day. All of the stories are pretty predictable, yet delightfully spooky.

The Crazy Man by Pamela Porter // Written in free verse poetry, this award-winning young adult story is about Emaline, a girl living on a farm in Canada in 1965. When her father leaves, Emaline's mother hires a man from a local mental institution to help out around the farm. While I wouldn't say it was my favorite book, it was a quick and enjoyable read and I'd recommend it, especially to readers who are hesitant to tackle a poetry book. It also highlights how society often fails to really help those with mental illnesses, and even though this story takes place decades ago, there are some stark similarities in the prejudices we still have.

Let the Right One In by John Ajvide Lindqvist // This book is a vampire story, but don't let that put you off - it ain't no Twilight. Originally written in Swedish, Let the Right One In is a gritty and gory tale that focusses on Oskar, a bullied 12-year-old who befriends Eli, the vampire next door. This story can be heavy at times and make you feel uneasy, but it's well-written and hard to put down. I'd also highly recommend watching the Swedish movie after reading the book. The film manages to capture the eeriness of the plot while pairing it with some great cinematography, and it's on Netflix!
{I'll be adding this one to my list...both on Goodreads and on Netflix!}

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie // In this young adult book, Alexie writes semi-autobiography that is currently one of the most banned books in the country. I read this book for a Children's Literature course and really enjoyed it. It's a multicultural coming-of-age story about a Native American boy who leaves his school on a reservation in order to get a better education at a white school. This book tackles a lot of issues and really highlights the poor conditions in which Native Americans live, and how the upkeep of their reservations has been severely neglected. It's a very funny story, yet has many darker moments.

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell // As a fangirl, I loved this book. Fangirl is aboout Cath, who is obsessed with the Simon Snow book series (i.e. Harry Potter). She has just left for college and has a hard time adjusting. While her twin sister is effortlessly social and happy in her new surroundings, Cath typically will lock herself away in her room to work on her Simon Snow fanfiction (which she's pretty famous for on the internet). She meets a boy (of course) who likes her for who she is, fanfiction author, socially awkward, etc. etc.. The way I describe it makes this book sound a tad dull, but Fangirl is very sweet and relatable (for me anyway, because I may or may not be Cath). I'm definitely going to read it again in the future.


Part of what I love about this reader recommendation series is that it gives both you and me an opportunity to find a new read. In the same way that I love books in the 9-12 year old subsection of children's fiction, Lani is a good source to go to when you need a recommendation for a young adult (YA) book. I'm 100% in agreement that anyone who hasn't yet read The Book Thief should do so immediately, and I'll be adding a few of these to my library list for the coming months (especially Fangirl, as we all know that I'm a real-life Harry Potter fangirl). I also love that she loves Frankenstein, because I feel like that's one classic that is under-appreciated, and she's right that the story has been so skewed by generations of change. 

Thanks for sharing Lani!

Monday, February 2, 2015

Currently Coveting {February}

Happy February! I love this month because it means we are one step closer to spring-- though we are expecting a bit of snow here today-- enough to give us our third snow day of the semester! With an expected high of 14 degrees (yikes!), it's unlikely that I'll be venturing outside more than necessary, so curling up with a good book and a cup of tea sounds just about right. My reading choices have been all over the place lately, so when I sat down to seek some new February finds, my search took me all over Goodreads. Here's are just a few of the titles I've picked to add to my library list:

The Traitor's Wife by Allison Pataki // Did you catch Sons of Liberty on the History Channel last week? I only saw snippets of each episode, but it got me thinking that maybe my failed forays into American history could be solved with a good bit of historical fiction. Enter this book, which is about Benedict Arnold, an infamous traitor to the American Revolution, and his wife, who is actually the mastermind behind his treasonous acts. The story is told from the perspective of the wife's maid, "whose faith in the new nation inspires her to intervene in her mistress's affairs," and looks to be an action-packed read. Definitely for fans of historical fiction, American history, and powerful female characters. Allison Pataki's second book is set to be published mid-month; if The Traitor's Wife is as good as it sounds, then I'll definitely be on the waiting list for her newest release.

A Trip to the Stars by Nicholas Christopher // Sometimes it's hard to tell if a book looks good when its description is only one sentence long, as with this one. "A young boy and his adopted aunt become separated when the youngster is kidnapped by his wealthy, eccentric great-uncle, but mysterious ties continue to link the two unknowingly over the fifteen-year separation." - that's all that Goodreads has to say about this. I was curious, so I turned to reader reviews (one feature of Goodreads that I love), and saw that multiple people had proclaimed this to be the best book they'd ever read. Whoa. So I'm putting my trust in that enthusiasm and putting this book on my to-read list. 

The Invention of Everything Else: A Novel by Samantha Hunt // This book is like a giant mixing pot of genres. When reading the description, I started out thinking that it was a historical fiction novel about Nikola Tesla. To me, that would have qualified as interesting enough to put on my list. Continuing on, I realized it has a rather large science fiction component to it, in the form of time travel. The combination of the two give it an eclectic vibe that I'm looking forward to exploring.

The Painted Bridge by Wendy Wallace // The Victorian Era is a favorite of mine for historical fiction, not just for books but also in film and on TV. Pair that with my fascination with the history of psychology and the clinical approach to mental illness and you have a story that instantly catches my attention. This is the story of a victorian woman who is admitted to a women's-only asylum by her husband just weeks after their wedding. It's one of those tales in which a seemingly sane person questions her sanity to the point of feeling insane, and brings up the point that in reality, we're all a little off-kilter. It reminds me of this book, which I read in 2013 and loved. 


As I mentioned a few times recently, my book rut has lasted much longer than usual, so I've been skipping around from book to book and feeling like I'm not sure which genre I want to indulge in most. From curating this month's list, I am definitely feeling a pull towards historical fiction reads, and I'm thinking this will be the month to bring me back to that feeling of being fully enthralled in a book. Which we all know is the best feeling ever.

What are you looking forward to reading this month?