quotes Elisquared likes

"Saying 'I notice you're a nerd' is like saying, 'Hey, I notice that you'd rather be intelligent than be stupid, that you'd rather be thoughtful than be vapid, that you believe that there are things that matter more than the arrest record of Lindsay Lohan. Why is that?' In fact, it seems to me that most contemporary insults are pretty lame. Even 'lame' is kind of lame. Saying 'You're lame' is like saying 'You walk with a limp.' Yeah, whatever, so does 50 Cent, and he's done all right for himself."— John Green


In My Mailbox (01)

As it was Christmas recently, (the reason for my scarcity) I received a LOT of books.  I love to read, and my Christmas list always reflects this.  I have to struggle to find presents that AREN'T books for my family to buy me (my Mom always wants to buy me something OTHER than books...don't ask me why).  Due to this plethora of gifts, I decided to do a IMM.  This won't be an every week thing, as while I love books, I don't buy them all the time.  But nonetheless, I hope you enjoy, and let me know if you've read any of them!!!

I've already read Eat, Pray, Love and The Red Pyramid, both of which were fantastic!!!  I'm working on Anna and the French Kiss, which I absolutely love love love!  Nerdfighters are such awesome authors!!!

So yeah, I got some freakin awesome books for Christmas!  Let me know what you guys got in the comments and I hope you have a Happy New Year!!!



is being turned into a movie!!!!!!

I was just flipping through trailers on Youtube, when I stumbled upon the trailer for the movie based on the book I Am Number Four by Pitticus Lore (a pseudonym for James Frey (who I despise) and Jobie Hughes (who I now nothing about)).

I've been wanting to read this book for awhile, but haven't gotten a copy yet.  But now that I've seen the trailer for it, my excitement has been pushed up even more.  Here's the synopsis from Goodreads:
In the beginning they were a group of nine. Nine aliens who left their home planet of Lorien when it fell under attack by the evil Mogadorian. Nine aliens who scattered on Earth. Nine aliens who look like ordinary teenagers living ordinary lives, but who have extraordinary, paranormal skills. Nine aliens who might be sitting next to you now.

The Nine had to separate and go into hiding. The Mogadorian caught Number One in Malaysia, Number Two in England, and Number Three in Kenya. All of them were killed. John Smith, of Paradise, Ohio, is Number Four. He knows that he is next.

I AM NUMBER FOUR is the thrilling launch of a series about an exceptional group of teens as they struggle to outrun their past, discover their future—and live a normal life on Earth.

Sounds pretty awesome.  A good mix of sci-fi and adventure, two of my favorite genres!

If you haven't read the book yet, watch the trailer below.  From what little I've read of the book and from friends of mine who own it, they think that the movie will follow the main plot pretty closly!


Waiting On Wednesday (03)

Waiting On Wednesday is a weekly meme, hosted at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we seriously can’t wait for.

 Here's my pick for the week, that I seriously can't wait for:

The Espressologist 
by Kristina Springer
What’s your drink of choice? Is it a small pumpkin spice latte? Then you’re lots of fun and a bit sassy. Or a medium americano? You prefer simplicity in life. Or perhaps it’s a small decaf soy sugar-free hazelnut caffe latte? Some might call you a yuppie. Seventeen-year-old barista Jane Turner has this theory that you can tell a lot about a person by their regular coffee drink. She scribbles it all down in a notebook and calls it Espressology. So it’s not a totally crazy idea when Jane starts hooking up some of her friends based on their coffee orders. Like her best friend, Em, a medium hot chocolate, and Cam, a toffee nut latte. But when her boss, Derek, gets wind of Jane’s Espressology, he makes it an in-store holiday promotion, promising customers their perfect matches for the price of their favorite coffee. Things are going better than Derek could ever have hoped, so why is Jane so freaked out? Does it have anything to do with Em dating Cam? She’s the one who set them up! She should be happy for them, right?  

With overtones of Jane Austen’s Emma and brimming with humor and heart, this sweet, frothy debut will be savored by readers.

Just look at that cover!  It is gorgeous!  Being a coffee fanatic myself, I love the idea of a girl telling relationship connections based on what kind of coffee they drink.  I can't wait to get my hands on a copy; hopefully it'll be under the Christmas tree!

What are you guys looking forward to?

Teaser Tuesday (02)

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be ReadingAnyone can play along! Just do the following!
  • Grab your current read.
  • Open to a random page.
  • Share a few teaser sentences from somewhere on that page.
  • MAKE SURE NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (you don't want to give too much away and ruin the book for other readers)
  • Share the title and author too, so that other readers can add your book to their TBR list if they like your teaser!
Metamorphosis: Junior Year by Betsy Franco
     "Hell, even last year, Mom was taking poetry classes.  And Dad would drag out his guitar when he'd had more than a couple beers.  But then Thena beat every poetic bone out of their bodies.  They walled up that part of themselves, and it's take a lightning bolt to crack them open again."

(pg. 66)

     I just finished Metamorphosis a couple days ago.  Look forward to a review in the next couple days!


Top 5 (2)

Hosted by Larissa over at Larissa's Life
This week’s theme is Best Books {Series} of 2010!
(I picked series that I read in 2010, not that were published in 2010 necessarily)

1 - Write a post listing your TOP 5 choices within the theme Larissa chose for the week.
2 - Mention this Blog on the post and link back to it.
3 - Fell free to use the Feature's image (there is a smaller size version of it below Larissa's post)
4 - After you've finished your post, add your link (of the post, not your blog's main page) to the   
     Mr.Linky at the end of that week's post on Larissa's blog.

It was really hard to think of my Top 5 series, mostly because I don't read that many series books.  But I did find 5, even if it was hard! Some I just discovered this year, and some are oldies but I love them still!

Of course I've got to start with Harry Potter.  I re-read all the books in the month leading up to the premiere of Deathly Hallows Part 1.  I must re-read at least one of the books every month, and they are still as great as the first time!

 This series, The Looking Glass Wars by Frank Beddor, I just found this year.  For one of my edu. classes we had to find a contemporary companion to a classic.  My classic was Alice in Wonderland, and I found these books simply through Google.  Definitely check them out; they are an amazing re-imagining, very hip and very exciting!  (Check out the soundtrack as well!)

The Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare is so fudgin' good, I'm aching to read the next book, City of Fallen Angels.  Clare's writing is phenomenal, it sucks you in and you can't let go.  For me this series is on the same par as Harry Potter, and I'm so glad that there is more coming!

This was another discovery for me, early 2010.  I read Shiver in February, and loved it!  Luckily, I didn't have to wait very long before Linger came out.  Forever rounds out the Wolves of Mercy Falls series by Maggie Stiefvater, coming out in July 2011.  This is such an interesting canon for werewolves!  I love the origin story of Sam and Grace's relationship.  Go read them!

 Lastly, The Hunger Games series blew me out of the water.  Katniss is one of my favorite heroines in literary history.  Strong, courageous, but still with fear; she tries to hide her emotions but you can see her every decision is ultimately guided by them.  Add Peeta to the mix, and you have me bouncing with anticipation.  If you haven't read this amazing series by Suzanne Collins yet, get out from under your rock and buy them!

Well those are my Sunday Top 5!  Be sure to check out everyone else's at Larissa's blog, and drop me a comment below.

As always, Don't Forget to be Awesome!


Friday Covers

This is a new feature, where I talk about & show some of my favorite book covers.

I am definitely a sucker for awesome cover art.  This is what usually captures my attention the most.
Lately I've had a thing with silhouettes.

Each of these overs share the aspect of silhouettes, and in many, the same colors.I love how simple and how complicated they are.  Each really evokes a feeling, be adventure, wonder, danger, or intrigue. 
I want to read each of these books just because of the covers, especially The Cabinet of Wonders and Deadly.  Both just capture me.  

The Cabinet of Wonders is just that, wonder.  The mix of the purples and yellows exude magic, and the addition of the cog pieces along with the lightning bolt hint at a little danger.  And this doesn't even have a cabinet on it, which I like because I kinda hate literal book covers.

Deadly has that yellow color which reflects disease.  Then the the outlines of the bugs in yellow just reinforce this feeling of sickness.  Juxtaposed with the girl in the elaborate dress it is very intriguing.

Comment and let me know what covers are making you happy this week!


Eyes Like Stars (Review)

Title: Eyes Like Stars
Edition: Paperback, 384 pages
Author(s): Lisa Mantchev
Publisher: Square Fish
Publication Date: April 13, 2010
Source: NCTE
Buy: Amazon, Barnes & Noble

All her world’s a stage.

Bertie Shakespeare Smith is not an actress, yet she lives in a theater.

She’s not an orphan, but she has no parents.

She knows every part, but she has no lines of her own.

That is, until now.

Enter Stage Right

NATE. Dashing pirate. Will do anything to protect Bertie.

COBWEB, MOTH, MUSTARD SEED, and PEASEBLOSSOM. Four tiny and incredibly annoying fairies. BERTIE’S sidekicks.

ARIEL. Seductive air spirit and Bertie’s weakness. The symbol of impending doom.

BERTIE. Our heroine.

     Welcome to the Théâtre Illuminata, where the actors of every play ever written can be found behind the curtain. They were born to play their parts, and are bound to the Théâtre by The Book—an ancient and magical tome of scripts. Bertie is not one of them, but they are her family—and she is about to lose them all and the only home she has ever known.
Lisa Mantchev has written a debut novel that is dramatic, romantic, and witty, with an irresistible and irreverent cast of characters who are sure to enchant the audience.

Open Curtain

     Mantchev brings the reader into the theatre immediately; she does this in several ways: setting the book up as a play, including legendary characters from the stage, and by simply naming her protagonist after one of the greatest playwrights in history.

     The overall concept is interesting, a young girl living in a theatre.  And that theatre is alive with the very characters from the plays it performs.  Bertie is both your typical teenager and your extraordinary heroine.  The supporting cast is also great.  The four fairies provided the much needed comedy relief, but at the same time are Bertie's true champions through her whole ordeal.  Nate is the epitome of swashbuckler with some upstanding sailor thrown in, and Ariel is everyone's bad boy dream.

     However, I did have a few problems with the story.  The action starts out slow, but without clearly establishing anything.  It isn't until almost 2/3 of the way into the book that we, as readers, start getting some substantial plot.  Also the character of Bertie itself can be overly entitled.  She doesn't feel responsibility towards anything, and it gets slightly annoying during the reading.  She does end up redeeming herself, which helps to make up for the beginning.

Overall, it is a good start to the series.  I liked the overall plot, when I got into it, and I feel the supporting cast creates a great backdrop for Bertie's development.  It deserves a read through, especially if you're a fan of the theatre!  The next book, Perchance to Dream, is already in stores, so make sure to grab that too.
Book Cover: 5/5
Book Title: 5/5
Plot: 7/10
Characters: 7/10
Writing: 7/10
Ending: 8/10 
Overall: 32/50  


Waiting On Wednesday (02)

Waiting On Wednesday is a weekly meme, hosted at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we seriously can’t wait for.

 Here's my pick for the week, that I seriously can't wait for:

Cover released by EW (http://bit.ly/eYfCN7)

Title: City of Fallen Angels (The Mortal Instruments #4)
Author: Cassandra Clare
Release Date: April 2011
Genre: Young Adult/Fantasy

     “Love,  blood, betrayal and revenge — the stakes are higher than ever in City  of Fallen Angels. Simon Lewis is having some trouble adjusting to his  new life as a vampire, especially now that he hardly sees his best  friend Clary, who is caught up in training to be a Shadowhunter—and  spending time with her new boyfriend Jace. Not to mention that Simon  doesn’t quite know how to handle the pressure of not-quite-dating two  girls at once. What’s a daylight-loving vampire to do? Simon decides he  needs a break and heads out of the city—only to discover that sinister  events are following him. Realizing that the war they thought they’d won  might not yet be over, Simon has to call on his Shadowhunter friends to  save the day — if they can put their own splintering relationships on  hold long enough to rise to the challenge.” (Goodreads)

     I love the first three books in the series.  They have such complex layers in them, are very well-written, and have engaging characters.  Each aspect of the world is rich with detail, even when the scene is only passing over a specific aspect.  I can see and feel the world, and the fact that Clare is expanding it is exciting!  That is the thing about series; they are great because you get more about your favorite characters, but then they make you cry when it's over (just like I experienced with Harry Potter).  But I'm grateful that Clare is extending it.

     I'm especially glad that Simon, one of the supporting characters in City of Bones, City of Ashes, & City of Glass (The Mortal Instruments series), is being brought into the protagonist role.  I really love his character; he is so strong and his loyalty to Clary really shined in the first three.  I always felt he kept getting the shaft a tiny bit, but it did allow the main story arc to shine in the first three.  Now I'll get to see him more.  I'm really interested in seeing how the relationships between each of the characters develops: Jace and Clary, Alec and Magnus, Simon and Maia and Isabelle (Yes like it said above, he's juggling two girls). 
     The story arc in this next set of three books (City of Fallen Angels, City of Lost Souls, & City of Heavenly Fire) is set to be an epic battle, one pitting Heaven and Hell against each other, and I can't be more excited!!!  I feel like this has been building since City of Bones, and there is still so many questions I'd liked answered.  In addition to this continuation, Clare's "prequel" to The Mortal Instruments, Clockwork Angels, also creates some questions which I believe will be explored.  

     Anyway, I've babbled on way too long for a WoW post.  So just do me a favor: run out and buy The Mortal Instrument series and Clockwork Angel.  You won't regret it!  

ETA:  The cover of City of Fallen Angels has been released by EW. com (see above).  There is an accompanying video and a teaser from the book you should all check out!  Whet your appetites even more! (Link to Article)


Teaser Tuesday (01)

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be ReadingAnyone can play along! Just do the following!
  • Grab your current read.
  • Open to a random page.
  • Share a few teaser sentences from somewhere on that page.
  • MAKE SURE NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (you don't want to give too much away and ruin the book for other readers)
  • Share the title and author too, so that other readers can add your book to their TBR list if they like your teaser!

This teaser comes from Across the Universe by Beth Revis

      The president called it the "epitome of the American dream."
     Daddy called it the unholy alliance of buiness and government.
     But all it really was, was America giving up.  Bailing out in order to join the Financial Resource Exchange.  A multinational alliance focused on one thing: profit.  Fund global medical care to monopolize vaccines.  Back unified currency to collect planet-wide interest.
     And provide the resources needed for a select group of scientists and military personnel to embark on the first trip across the universe in a quest to find more natural resources—more profit.
     The answer to my parents' dreams. 
     And my worst nightmare.
 Page 18 (ARC)
My Comments : 
     I got this ARC at the National Council of Teachers of English convention in November, along with 32 other books.  When I looked at the title, I immediately liked it because it evokes images of love and distance, both because of the Beatles song and the image of space.  I've only read to chapter 8 because I've had finals the past three weeks, but now since I'm break I expect to finish it.
      It is a very interesting concept, and I'm excited to see where it goes.  Look for a review later this month or early January!  In the mean time Happy Reading!


Top 5 (it's a little late...oh well)

Hosted by Larissa over at Larissa's Life 
Books You Want for Christmas
But first, a little bit about this feature and the rules to join in…
1 - Write a post listing your TOP 5 choices within the theme Larissa chose for the week.
2 - Mention this Blog on the post and link back to it.
3 - Fell free to use the Feature's image (there is a smaller size version of it below Larissa's post)
4 - After you've finished your post, add your link (of the post, not your blog's main page) to the   
     Mr.Linky at the end of that week's post on Larissa's blog.


If I Stay by Gayle Forman
Been wanting this for awhile!  And now I have an ARC of Where She Went
(the second book) so I really need to read the first boo

The Chronicles of Vladimir Todd box set by Heather Brewer
I met Heather Brewer at NCTE, and I was captivated by Vladimir as a character.
He seemed so genuine, and it really made me want to read these books!

Rockabye: A Young Mom's Journey From Wild to Child by Rebecca Woolf
I read Rebecca's blog Girl's Gone Child and I've been wanting to read a
more in depth story of her evolution from party girl to nurturing mother.

War by Sebastian Junger
I have been slowly reading through all the literature on the
Iraq/Afghanistan War, and this is one of the premier books on
the subject.  Want so much!!

Sorry it's late, been out buying Christmas presents.  But better late than never!


The Poison Eaters (Review)

Hardcover Image
Title: The Poison Eaters: and Other Stories
Edition: Paperback, 224 pages
Author(s): Holly Black
Publisher: Big Mouth House (Imprint)
Publication Date: February 23, 2010
Source: NCTE (ARC)
Buy: Amazon, Barnes & Noble
In her debut collection, New York Times best-selling author Holly Black returns to the world of Tithe in two darkly exquisite new tales. Then Black takes readers on a tour of a faerie market and introduces a girl poisonous to the touch and another who challenges the devil to a competitive eating match. These stories have been published in anthologies such as 21 Proms, The Faery Reel, and The Restless Dead, and have been reprinted in many “Best of” anthologies. The Poison Eaters is Holly Black’s much-anticipated first collection of stories, and her ability to stare into the void—and to find humanity and humor there—will speak to young adult and adult readers alike. (Goodreads)

Holly Black has created a different world in each of her stories.  And each world oozes with darkness.  Violence waits around every corner, and the fantastical leaves you breathless.  I believe that this anthology highlights what makes Holly Black such an amazing writer: her voice.  The language is beautiful in each story, lyrical and deep, the same strength you see in her Tithe series.

The creatures of lore come to play in each of these stories: vampires, the devil, elves, werewolves, unicorns, Bacchus, faeries,  fictional characters, and poisonous girls.  Love, in all it's forms, plays a part in each; love tempered by obsession, danger, hatred, or truth.  You are immediately transferred to the reality of the story, and while I was reading I could imagine this happening, either in the present or somtime in the past, but always in this world.

I have several favorites in the book, but I'd have to say I really love two in particular: "The Coat of Stars" and "Paper Cuts Scissors".  Both have male protagonist, but neither are your "typical" male stories.  The first revolves around a young man searching for his girlfriend. You see, she's lost in a book.  The second revolves around a young man protecting the people he loves, in particular his childhood love, who was stolen by faeries when they were children.  Both are fantastic love stories that are just as much about loving yourself as they are about loving another person.

The Poison Eaters and Other Stories is a great anthology, and it is a needed addition to any bookshelf, for Holly Black fans and newcomers to her work alike.
Book Cover*: 4/5
Book Title: 5/5
Plot**: 8/10
Characters: 10/10
Writing: 9/10
Ending**: 9/10
Overall: 45/50 - A

*The book I have is the ARC paperback and my score is based on that
**This is a combination of all the stories


Waiting On Wednesday (01)

Waiting On Wednesday is a weekly meme, hosted at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we seriously can’t wait for.

Here's my pick for the week, that I seriously can't wait for:
Title: Deadly by Julie Chibbaro
Release:  February 2011
Genre: Young Adult
A mysterious outbreak of typhoid fever is sweeping New York.
Could the city's future rest with its most unlikely scientist?

If Prudence Galewski is ever going to get out of Mrs. Browning's esteemed School for Girls, she must demonstrate her refinement and charm by securing a job appropriate for a young lady. But Prudence isn't like the other girls. She is fascinated by how the human body works and why it fails.

With a stroke of luck, she lands a position in a laboratory, where she is swept into an investigation of the fever bound to change medical history. Prudence quickly learns that an inquiry of this proportion is not confined to the lab. From ritzy mansions to shady bars and rundown tenements, she explores every potential cause of the disease. But there's no answer in sight—until the volatile Mary Mallon emerges. Dubbed "Typhoid Mary" by the press, Mary is an Irish immigrant who has worked as a cook in every home the fever has ravaged. Strangely, though, she hasn't been sick a day in her life. Is the accusation against her an act of discrimination? Or is she the first clue in a new scientific discovery?

Prudence is determined to find out. In a time when science is for men, she'll have to prove to the city, and to herself, that she can help solve one of the greatest medical mysteries of the twentieth century.
(Simon & Schuster)
There's so much I love about the premise of this book.  The position of women/girls within the scientific community.  Events surrounding one of the worst Typhoid breakouts in American history.  A mystery running through New York.  Each of these aspects just sounds awesome!  The cover itself is also gorgeous, and captures the tone of the book, as far as I can tell.


Dash and Lily's Book of Dares (Review)

Title: Dash and Lily's Book of Dares
Hardcover, 272 pages
Author(s): David Levithan & Rachel Cohn
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: October 26, 2010
Source: NCTE
Buy: Amazon, Barnes & Noble 

The Summary
“I’ve left some clues for you.
If you want them, turn the page.
If you don’t, put the book back on the shelf, please.”

 And so begins the latest whirlwind romance from the New York Times bestselling authors of Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist. Lily has left a red notebook full of challenges on a favorite bookstore shelf, waiting for just the right guy to come along and accept its dares. But is Dash that right guy? Or are Dash and Lily only destined to trade dares, dreams, and desires in the notebook they pass back and forth at locations across New York? Could their in-person selves possibly connect as well as their notebook versions? Or will they be a comic mismatch of disastrous proportions? 

Rachel Cohn and David Levithan have written a love story that will have readers perusing bookstore shelves, looking and longing for a love (and a red notebook) of their own.

The Review
I have been waiting to read this book for awhile.  I love the collaborations by David Levithan and Rachel Cohn.  Their previous two books, Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist and Naomi and Ely's No Kiss List,  were fantastic.  They explored love, friendship, and individuality perfectly.  I felt like a teenager again while reading them.  Dash & Lily's Book of Dares is no less fantastic.

As stated above, the story revolves around two characters, Dash and Lily.  They couldn't be more opposite of each other: Dash describes himself as "bookish" and Lily is "full of cheer".  But through Lily's Red Moleskine, these two strangers are brought together all over New York for an eye-opening Christmas.

Cohn and Levithan have a great voice, which is surprising when you find out they don't plan the chapters ahead.  Cohn writes Lily's voice and Levithan writes Dash's voice; they email the story back and forth without discussing the chapters until edit time.  Both capture the voice of teenagers questioning some big issues: divorce, love, acceptance, and discovery of self; all with a lot of humor and hope.

It is a quick read, but very satisfying; the only part I had a slight problem with was the ending, but I think it was more because I didn't want the book to be over!  A pick for the teen or YA fan in your life, perfect for the holiday season coming up.  So if you like mysteries, romance, and cool independent bookstores (Said bookstore, The Strand, is real and the first place I'm visiting in NY) then you have to pick up Dash and Lily's Book of Dares!

The Verdict

Book Cover: 4/5
Book Title: 5/5
Plot: 9/10
Characters: 9/10
Writing: 8/10
Ending: 7/10
Overall: 42/50 - B


Oh Oh ARCS Galore

As I mentioned in my last post, I attended the NCTE convention here in Orlando.  Well a fantastic part of this convention, besides everything I already mentioned, is the fact that you get free swag out the butt.

Seriously, out. the. butt.

I took away 39 books, (only 8 of which I bought, all for $3-$10) and I gave 3 to my little brother and 1 to my older sister, still leaving me with 35 books!!!!!

(Not all are pictured)
A dream come true.

So in honor of all these awesome books, and the fact that my winter break is coming up, I am going to start reviewing said books.  I can't guarantee it will be in a timely fashion, but I promise to review my favorites for sure (I still have to study for my 2 certification tests and fill out Grad School applications).

But the three reviews that are definitely coming up are going to be on:

                                                                  Eyes Like Stars           Dash & Lily's Book of Dares            The Poison Eaters (ARC)             
                                                                      By Lisa Mantchev            By David Levithan & Rachel Cohn                 By Holly Black

Be sure to check back for my thoughts.


NCTE: Sessions, Teachers, and Authors, Oh My!

This past weekend I had the amazing opportunity to attend my first education convention.

The convention was set up just like a sci-fi convention (which I have been to many times); there was 17 different slots for sessions, not including the 4 General sessions and the Thursday Featured session.  All together there were WAY TOO MANY OPTIONS for each slot.  I wanted to go to practically everything.  And as Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 opened the same weekend, visions of Hermione's Time-Turner kept flashing in my head; if only it were real.

However I did have to choose and choose I did, but as a Pre-Service Teacher I was a little overwhelmed.  What did I want to focus on?  Many of the secondary sessions seemed to be split up into Reading or Writing with a smattering of everything else.  Did I want to focus on writing?  Did I want to focus on reading?  WHAT DID I WANT OUT OF THIS WEEKEND!?  Of course that was the million dollar question.

In the end I tried to do a little of both, but I mostly picked sessions simply based on the descriptions from my monster of a convention booklet.
Here's what I picked:

  • Featured Session - Naked Reading: Creating Life Long Readers
  • Session A - Rationales for Graphic Novels: Because Living Literate Lives Means Having The Opportunity To Do So!
  • Session B - The English Classroom as a Social Network
  • Session C - Moving the Books to the Front of the Room: Integrating LGBTQ Themed YAL into the English Curriculum
  • Session D - Poster Session: Middle Level Gallery of Posters
  • Session E - Finding the "Courage" to Write and Teach It
  • Session F - Author Strand: Heather Brewer, Andrea Cremer, and Melissa De La Cruz
  • Session G - Expectations and Negotiations: Teachers and Students Creating Connections Through LGBT Inquiry
  • Session H - Poster Session: Secondary Gallery of Posters
  • Author Signings - David Levithan & Rachel Cohn; Ellen Wittlinger
  • Session J - A Classroom Without Walls: Collaborating with Web-Based Tools
  • Session L - Read-Alouds in Middle School: The Questions Isn't "Why?" It's "Why Not?"
  • Session M - Using YA Literature to Teach Critical Literacy
  • Session N - Engagement: A Critical Component of Helping Struggling Readers and Writers
I gained something from each of the sessions I attended.  Every person attending was so smart and had so much knowledge to share.  I really tried to soak in as much as I could.  I loved the welcoming feeling I got from each person.  No one looked down on me just because I was "Pre-Service"; if anything they were super excited I was there.  But even though I learned a lot in each session, there were three which really stuck out: Session C, Session L, and Session N.  In each of these sessions, I felt like I took away tangible ideas that I can immediately use in my classroom.  

I especially loved Session L, the Read-Aloud session.  The presenters demonstrated both Teacher-lead read-alouds and Student-lead read-alouds.  I loved both options and feel that both can really work to engage students, but the Student-lead read-alouds really focused on creating a classroom dynamic which lead to authentic readings.

Session C dealt with including LGBTQ literature within the classroom. By using content presented in the literature, teachers are able to have a strong rationale in using LGBTQ YA books.  As many contemporary YA lit has LGBTQ characters, this inclusion is becoming easier, and by having content to back it up the teacher is able to make a good and research-based argument.

Finally, my favorite session of the weekend was Session N.  This was lead by two of my favorite educators: Kylene Beers and Linda Rief (I've used their books in several of my education classes). Each spoke of new ideas which they are enacting within the classroom: Beers presenting "Notice and Note Lessons", which is her new book with the other presenter Robert Probst, and Rief presenting "Creating Writers".  Each gave us strategies to use these ideas within the class right away.  I must admit it was like meeting rockstars for the first time, mostly because Beers came to the table I was sitting at with some of my classmates from USF, which was crazy (if you were in English Education you would understand).

Another very special part of the conference came during the author signings.  I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to meet some of my favorite YA authors, two through a session and three through signings.  Melissa De La Cruz and Heather Brewer write some awesome Vampire books, both of which are NOTHING like Twilight (thank God).  I was able to attend the session they had on Saturday morning.  The the same day I got to meet Rachel Cohn and David Levithan, both of whom write fantastic YA books separately, but also write fantastic YA books together.  I had two books signed: Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist and Dash & Lily's Book of Dares, the first being my favorite and the second being the newest.  

THEN came the ultimate experience: meeting Ellen Wittlinger.  She is my hands down favorite YA author.  I own every one of her books.  I've loved her since I was in 8th grade, and I finally got to meet her.  Of course I had two books of her's signed as well: Hard Love and its companion Love and Lies: Marisol's StoryHard Love won both the Lambda Literary Award and the Printz Honor Book Award in 2000 and it is a fantastic LGBTQ story, which is only one reason I love it (GO READ THEM!!!).
Overall the convention was amazing and exhausting.  I hope to be able to travel to next year's in Chicago.  I love this collaborative community that NCTE represents.  As cheesy as it might sound, I feel I've been reaffirmed in my choice of career.  I really feel like I can be a great teacher, and I know that there are hundreds of other teachers out there just as passionate and as eager to be the best they can be and who are willing to help me when I need it.


Review: I'm a Stranger Here Myself by Bill Bryson

    In 1995, Bill Bryson moved his family from England, where he himself had resided for twenty years, to Hanover, New Hampshire for no other reason then “it seemed an awfully nice place”.  In 1996, an old friend of his, Simon Kelner, contacted Bryson to write a weekly column for the British magazine Night & Day about living in America.  In I’m a Stranger Here Myself: Notes on Returning to America After Twenty Years Away, Bryson catalogs his experiences returning to America, and the strange situations he constantly finds himself in a series of essays adapted from the columns written for Night & Day.

    In the first essay of the book titled, “Coming Home”, Bryson chronicles exactly how it feels returning to his home land:

    “Coming back to your native land after an absence of many years is a surprisingly unsettling
     business, a little like waking from a long coma.  Time, you discover, has wrought changed that
     leave you feeling mildly foolish and out of touch.”

This sense of bewilderment and displacement is evident through out the essays, which span topics from a visit to the barbershop to buying a new computer.  Everything that Bryson has done as an adult, such as taking out a mortgage or buying a new car, he has done in England first and adjusting to the “American Way” is turning out to be just a little difficult.

     The experiences Bryson had in England are what enables him to turn the habits of American society upside down, making the activities which Americans find so natural utterly absurd .  No essay shows this better than “Why No One Walks”:

    “The fact is, we not only don’t walk anywhere anymore in this country, we won’t walk anywhere,
     and woe to anyone who tries to make us, as a town here in New Hampshire called Laconia
     discovered to it’s cost. “

Essentially, the poor government officials in Laconia spent $5 million in order to make the downtown shopping district pedestrian friendly, and while it was a beautiful design it was also a  financial disaster, pushing away the shoppers, who having to walk a block back to the parking lot, turned their patronage to suburbian malls.  The charming quirk to refuse to walk is just one of the wonderful things about living in America Bryson points out.

    However it isn’t all tongue in cheek; Bryson does reflect on the good aspects America has to offer, such as Thanksgiving, in his essay “The Best American Holiday”:

     “Perhaps the nicest, and certainly the noblest, aspect of Thanksgiving is that it give you a formal,
       official occasion to give thanks for all those things for which you should be grateful.”

As Thanksgiving remains one of the least commercialized major holidays in America, we can all sit back and appreciate it’s simplicity.  Reading of Bryson’s fond memories from his childhood, and the warm feelings brought on from his current Thanksgiving allows readers to reflect back on their own memories and smile.

     Throughout the book Bryson manages to paint a wildly funny, and oftentimes biting, portrait of America, leaving no tradition unexamined, no idiosyncrasy unturned.  Seeing America from the view of an insider who became an outsider who became an insider is a refreshing and infuriating read.  If that sounded confusing , as soon as you pick up I’m a Stranger Here Myself you’ll see exactly what I’m talking about.

Bryson, Bill.  I’m a Stranger Here Myself: Notes on Returning to America After Twenty Years Away. New York, NY: Broadway Books, 1999. 288 pages. $14.95.
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