Tag: Books

My Obsession with Adrienne Rich

Here you can simply enjoy the nature and your life

The movie “Wild” made poet & writer Adrienne Rich famous among new generation of women.
Her book “The Dream of a Common Language” includes a chapter of 21 love poems.
I’ve read and re-read XVI tonight:

Moony, inlet-warm, seabathed, I watch you sleep
the scrubbed, sheenless wood of the dressing-table
cluttered with our brushes, books, vials in the moonlight–
or a salt-mist orchard, lying at your side
watching red sunset through the screen door of the cabin,
G minor Mozart of the tape-recorder,
falling asleep to the music of the sea…

It’s been a long time since I’ve posted here on English Muse.

It’s so nice to be  back….

Where Do You Read?

Oddfellows Orphange | Secrets of a Belle

Hello,  English Musers!

It’s Hannah B. again from  Secrets of a Belle. This past weekend, while the rain pitter-pattered on the window, I spent some time curled up on the couch lost in a new favorite book. This got me to thinking. Where do you other people read? Do you curl up on the couch too? Do you read in bed before you drift off to sleep? Personally, my dream is to eventually have a room devoted just to reading… you know, like the Duke!

The Duke of Devonshire Taking a Nap in the Library at Chatsworth, Shot by Christopher Sykes
The Duke of Devonshire Taking a Nap in the Library at Chatsworth, Shot by Christopher Sykes

But it doesn’t have to be that fancy! After all, in the words of Billy Baldwin…

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Here are some other reading spaces I really dig.

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More excellent reading nooks can be found on Pinterest.

What about you? Where do you do your best reading?

Hannah B. lives in East Tennessee where she writes Secrets of a Belle, a blog about the art of living a more beautiful life. You can follow Hannah B. on twitter at @HB_Belle and on Facebook.

 

It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Well, it’s that time of year when our house starts to look more and more like the North Pole each day, and tonight, I plan on getting out my collection of Christmas books. So I thought I’d share a few with you…

Jingle Bells and Santa’s Toy Shop are definitely two of my favorite Christmas children’s books! In fact, this Fall I bought extra copies of each to use in some decor. (You can see the 1st of those projects, a wreath, by clicking here or over on DIYNetwork’s website.)

Christmas at the New Yorker is a fantastic collection of holiday essays that my mother-in-law got me years ago. It is one of my absolute favorite books to read on a December evening… glass of bourbon in hand, of course.

The Curious World of Christmas is a fascinating book full of little facts and stories. It’s the perfect thing to have sitting on your coffee table for guests who are waiting on dinner.

Do you remember reading The Best Christmas Pageant Ever when you were in elementary school? I loved it!

This version of The Night Before Christmas illustrated by Douglas Gorsline may be my favorite. These are the pictures & details that are vivid in my mind every time I hear the poem recited.

Each year, around this time, I pick up Little Women. The first time I read it was in winter and that first chapter by the fire with all of the March sisters never ceases to give me the coziest of feelings.

The Berenstein Bears’ Christmas Tree was my absolute favorite when I was little. I don’t think I will ever get tired of reading it. In fact, I was reminded of it again today when I read about Rachel’s family trekking through the woods in search of a tree for Sebastian.

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So now, I must ask, what are your most-beloved Christmas books?

For a little more Christmas reading, click over to Secrets of a Belle.

Until next week, xo*,
Hannah B. 

Books by Bloggers

Hello, English Musers!

It’s Hannah B. from Secrets of a Belle back to share some fun things with you again. Since we so often share about what our latest literary finds, today I thought I would share about a set of emerging authors that I realized I’d been spending a lot of time with: bloggers turned authors.

blogger books from secrets of a belle's Hannah B

Here are a few of the books I’ve read in the past year that I highly recommend…

Blog, Inc. by Joy Cho of Oh Joy!

This is what I’ve been reading for the past week. Joy is a super artsy mama from LA. I’ve always adored her style and her work so when she released a book about blogging, I couldn’t resist. It’s full of practical tips, but I’m especially enjoying the Q&As with other well-known bloggers.

Edible Selby by Todd Selby of The Selby

I am a huge fan of The Selby. It’s like having a really great interior design magazine online. (If only all the actual interior design magazines would translate to the web so well.) I’ve got The Selby is in Your Place but, as a foodie, Todd’s new book, Edible Selby, is high on my wishlist. It’s chock-full of some serious eye candy.

Design*Sponge at Home by Grace Bonney of Design*Sponge (& the podcast “After the Jump”)

I think Grace Bonney is a role model to a lot of bloggers, and I’m no different. I was especially excited last Christmas to receive this book in my stocking. It’s full of a lot of the inspiring interiors that have been featured on Design*Sponge as well as a bunch of How-To’s.

A Homemade Life by Molly Wizenberg of Orangette

I’ve long been a fan of Molly’s blog so I was anxious to read this book when it came out a couple of years ago. There’s only one word for it: this book is beautiful. It’s a series of personal stories woven together with scrumptious recipes. It will make you laugh, make you cry, and then it will make you want to click over to Molly’s blog and catch up on all the things that have happened since the book’s release. She becomes like a close friend.

(Two Fun Facts: She’s writing another book, and she just had a baby!)

The Bucolic Plague by Josh Kilmer-Purcell of Beekman 1802

You may have seen Brent and Josh competing in CBS’s Amazing Race recently or over on Cooking Channel. Well, this book tells the beginning of their story. It will make you laugh out loud! I will admit, I picked up for cover, bought it for the Martha references, and now will forever be a fan of the fabulous Beekman Boys!

The Black Apple Paper Doll Primer by Emily Winfield Martin of The Black Apple

This is just super fun. Did you ever wish for paper dolls for Christmas? Well, I did, so I was excited to run across this last year when we were in Chicago. I’ve been a fan of Emily’s since I was in college, and I just adore her art. This book is full of lovely characters you’ll want to get to know.

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Are there any bloggers you want to write a book?

Until next week,
Hannah B. 

Charlotte’s Web: This is the Story of a Barn…

“This is the story of the barn. I wrote it for children and to amuse myself.”
~E.B. White in his reading of Charlotte’s Web, which turns 60 today

This morning started as most mornings do… with coffee & NPR… when I heard this little snippet about the 60th anniversary of this beloved children’s classic. Which got me to thinking, I really should pull out my own copy this evening and give it another read. Mine is an old copy, well-loved and given to me by my old high school librarian who, every once in a while, would let my friend and I take some of the most ‘loved’ books off the shelves to make room for shiny, new copies. Given the popularity of Charlotte’s Web, I have to wonder how many copies our library has gone through over the past 60 years. All that to say, if you haven’t read any E.B White in a while, perhaps this is the week.

Also, does anyone out there use goodreads? It’s a social site for readers I came across recently. I would love to find you!

Here’s the link to my goodreads profile page.

I hope you have an absolutely *lovely* week, English Musers! Until next Monday, you can find me at Secrets of a Belle.

xo* ~Hannah B.

What’s Your Favorite Picture Book?

I have always had an affinity for children’s books. I believe it’s one of the main reasons I studied design. There’s a special place in my heart reserved just for my favorite illustrators who, of course, are too numerous to mention here. Reading a children’s book is sort of like transporting yourself on a little mini vacation. The worlds become destinations you can inhabit for the next 10 minutes while the characters quickly become old friends. Don’t you think so? Anyway, today I was thinking that since English Muse is a blog where we all our shameless bookworms, why not share with you some of my favorite *new* children’s books. (disclaimer: “new” in this context means published within the last 5 years or so) This way we can all take a few minutes to indulge our inner Kathleen Kelly.

“A Sick Day for Amos McGee”
written by: Philip C. Stead | illustrated by: Erin Stead

My sweet mother-in-law got me this book for Christmas a couple of years ago, and it is beautiful! The book was written and illustrated by a husband + wife team, which I thought was really neat, and I was particularly fascinated with the illustration process of Erin, which you can read more about here.

“The Composer is Dead”
written by Lemony Snicket | illustrated by Carson Ellis

As the wife of a former band director, this book had me laughing so hard I had to listen to it twice. That’s right: Listen to it. You see, the book itself is great, but it also comes with a cd that not only adds a bit to the story that you won’t find in the original text, but illustrates the text with beautiful music. Think “Clue” meets “A Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra.”

“I Had a Favorite Dress”
written by: Boni Ashburn | illustrated by: Julia Denos

This book is close to my heart for a couple of reasons. First of all, my mother is an absolutely amazing seamstress. I had no idea how spoiled I was until I got older and my wardrobe was no longer custom tailored. (It  is impossible to buy clothes that fit perfectly ‘off the rack!’) Second, the illustrator, Julia Denos, has become an “interweb friend,” and is just as sweet as you would expect when you see her lovely illustrations. I just *adore* her style! This is a must have for any girl!

“Leonard the Terrible Monster”
by Mo Willems

I have always had an affinity for monsters. I was scared of absolutely everything when I was little, but monsters? Never! They were my friends! I just knew that the ones that lived under my bed only wanted to be friends. Why in the world was everyone else so frightened of them? Well, this book was written for everyone that ever thought like me.

“Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs”
by Mo Willems

This book will be a joint present for Husband and I next week (our birthdays are a week apart). Mo Willems always scores, but a dinosaur retelling of Goldilocks? Seriously? Who doesn’t want to read this book?

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So now let’s chat… What is your favorite children’s book?
Is there any particular reason it’s your favorite?

Until Next Week,
Hannah B.

P.S. If you too are a lover of children’s books, you may want to check out this new blog called Three Books a Night. It’s authored by Caryn, whom I consider a kindred spirit. She’s the only grown-up I know with more children’s books than me! Oh, & be sure to say *hello!*

“You don’t get to choose if you get hurt in this world, but you do have some say in who hurts you.”

Jesse Kornbluth, of HeadButler.com, here to tell you about a novel for teenagers — the best novel this aging gent has read all year.

Sometimes you read a book and it fills you with this weird evangelic zeal, and you become convinced that the shattered world will never be put back together unless and until all living humans read the book.

Hazel Lancaster says that in “The Fault in Our Stars,” a novel that leaps off the page and makes you think of those books in your life, and more — that this book knows you so well it reads you. That’s a pretty neat trick.

But that’s not John Green’s best trick. That one is so astonishing, days after I finished reading his book, I was still shaking. Family and friends would confirm this: “The Fault in Our Stars” is all I could talk about. I hated that I’d read it because there was nothing I wanted to do more than read it again for the first time.

Two facts make this a very unlikely obsession:

1) This is a Young Adult (YA) novel — a book for teenagers.

2) Both main characters are teenagers who have cancer.

But it’s not like this is some kind of cheesy teenage “Love Story.”

It’s more like “The Fault in Our Stars” is the best novel — the smartest, most clever, most emotional-but-not-exploitive adult novel you’ve read in a long, long time — but somehow kids found out about it first and claimed it as their own. Which they have done, big time, and in astonishing numbers. Last year, while he was finishing it, Green announced the book could be pre-ordered; it immediately shot to #1 on the Amazon and Barnes & Noble lists. And when “The Fault in Our Stars” was finally published, it opened on the New York Times list for Children’s Chapter Books at #1 and stayed there for five weeks. It has since been named 4th best YA novel of all time in an NPR poll — and this was just four months after it was published![To buy the book from Amazon, click here. For the Kindle edition, click here.]

Why the love?

Simple as this: John Green doesn’t write for “teenagers.” He writes smart, terrific, funny, verbal, real people who happen to find themselves in young bodies. This is fortunate, because the young — the best of them, anyway — are brimming over with Thoughts and Ideals and Questions. They…just…care. Deeply. As we used to care before we grew up and found ourselves playing games that had more to do with Success and Money than Truth and Eternity.

Yeah, but this is “a cancer book.”

No. It isn’t. Hazel, the 16-year-old narrator, is very clear about that, and she ought to know. When she was 13, she almost died, and there was that grim scene in the ICU when the cancer was joined by pneumonia and her mother asked “Are you ready?” and she said she was and her dad was trying not to sob and then — surprise, surprise — her Cancer doctor managed to drain her lungs and she got admitted to a trial for a drug that didn’t work 70% of the time but it worked in her, and now she’s 16 and going to Wednesday night Support Group meetings.

Is Hazel going to tell you a story that becomes a cancer book?

No way.

“Cancer books suck,” she says. “Like, in cancer books, the cancer person starts a charity that raises money to fight cancer, right? And this commitment to charity reminds the cancer person of the essential goodness of humanity and makes him/her feel loved and encouraged because s/he will leave a cancer-curing legacy.”

She knows better. That’s because she has a favorite book – the book she ‘s an evangelist for — called “An Imperial Affliction,” and in that book, the main character “decides that being a person with cancer who starts a cancer charity is a bit narcissistic, so she starts a charity called The Anna Foundation for People with Cancer Who Want to Cure Cholera.” A bad joke, but you get the idea: Cancer is a side effect of the process of dying, as is almost everything.

That attitude makes hazel an unlikely candidate for romance, but one Wednesday at Support Group she meets Augustus Waters, who is 17 and shockingly handsome. He had “a little touch of osteosarcoma a year and a half ago,” and half of one leg had to be amputated, but he’s fine now. The only reason he’s come to the meeting is to support a friend who will, in a month, have both eyes removed.

Augustus isn’t put off by the tubes in Hazel’s nose or the oxygen tank she drags around with her. To him, she’s “a millennial Natalie Portman. Like ‘V for Vendetta’ Natalie Portman.” To her, he’s was “a tenured professor in the Department of Slightly Crooked Smiles with a dual appointment in the Department of Having a Voice That made My Skin Feel Like Skin.”

Love, in short. But it doesn’t come easily and it doesn’t happen fast. There is considerable uncertainty, in fact, given his romantic past and her terminal condition, and also because Hazel and Gus are, in a way, nerds. In Green’s world, that’s a huge compliment. As he has said: “When people call people nerds, mostly what they’re saying is ‘you like stuff.’ Which is just not a good insult at all. Like, ‘you are too enthusiastic about the miracle of human consciousness.’”

In his videos, Green actually talks like that. And so do his characters here. They talk about Magritte, Zeno’s tortoise paradox, Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. They make jokes about their friends in the world of the professionally ill: “I’ve gotten really hot since you went blind.” They know facts you don’t: There are about 98 billion dead people.

At last they open to one another. Their romance is epic, and then some, and they’re not ashamed to cop to it. And, along the way, they slip in terrific little truths, lines that make you reach for a pen: “You don’t get to choose if you get hurt in this world, but you do have some say in who hurts you.”

You’ll notice that I’m not saying much about what happens in this novel. A lot does, and you don’t see it coming — there is a surprise every few pages. And then you get to page 313, and it’s over. How did that happen? How did you laugh so much? How did you cry so hard and yet feel cleansed and triumphant at the end? And if John Green is so good, why does he write YA novels?

Here’s the cheat sheet on Green: He’s got a huge and sincere interest in kids. He’d like to “increase awesome and decrease suck,” so he and his brother launched a web site for kids called Nerdfighters, which looks very much a real community, not yet discovered and ruined by media. And Green and his brother make frequent videoblogs. In one of them, he talks about the job he used to have: as a counselor in a children’s hospital. And he recalls the wisdom of his boss, the hospital minister: ”Don’t just do something, stand there.”

I’m sure you understand what that means. There is a time for bustling and helping, and then there is a time for standing there and bearing witness. Reading “The Fault in Our Stars” is like bearing witness. Just a few characters, a very smart plot, snappy dialogue — yeah, you’ll witness that. And in the witnessing, the book gets to you, and as Gus and Hazel fall in love with one another, you fall in love with them. And when, really, was the last book you can name that did that for you?

No, it’s not a cancer book. Cancer books suck. This book does everything but.

Bonus Video

Green was a friend of Esther Earl, a smart, funny kid who was the inspiration for Hazel. This was the videoblog he made after she died.

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