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Best Books of 2016

2016 had a great many books that thrilled me, and others that delighted. The rest of the year I could have done without —  so many deaths and a horribly long election and a range of backlash to terrify anyone.

For those interested, these are the best books I read in 2016, though not all were published in 2016.

Best Series:

March by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and artist Nate Powell (March: Book One, March: Book Two, March: Book Three)

Best Photography:


Photographs from the Edge: A Master Photographer’s Insights on Capturing an Extraordinary World by Art Wolfe, Rob Sheppard

Best Memoir:

Bukowski in a Sundress by Kim Addonizio

Best Children’s Book:


Science Verse by Jon Scieszka, illustrated by Lane Smith

Best Young Adult Fiction:


The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

Best Short Story Collection: (I only read 3 and these 2 tied)


Heirlooms: Stories by Rachel Hall (this one has remained on my mind more than expected)


Fall of Poppies: Stories of Love and the Great War by Jessica Brockmole, Hazel Gaynor, Evangeline Holland, Marci Jefferson, Kate Kerrigan, Jennifer Robson, Heather Webb, Beatriz Williams, and Lauren Willig

Best Jane Austen Fiction: (this is a three-way tie)


A Moment Forever by Cat Gardiner


Darcy’s Hope: Beauty from Ashes by Ginger Monette


The Courtship of Edward Gardiner by Nicole Clarkston

Best Poetry: (another tie)


Field Guide to the End of the World by Jeannine Hall Gailey


Obliterations by Heather Aimee O’Neill and Jessica Piazza

Best Fiction: (a three-way tie)


The Secrets of Flight by Maggie Leffler


My Last Continent by Midge Raymond


This is the Story of You by Beth Kephart

What books were your favorites this year?

Mailbox Monday #392

Mailbox Monday, created by Marcia at To Be Continued, formerly The Printed Page, has a permanent home at its own blog.

To check out what everyone has received over the last week, visit the blog and check out the links. Leave yours too.

Also, each week, Leslie, Vicki, and I will share the Books that Caught Our Eye from everyone’s weekly links.

Here’s what I received:

Fun with Stichables! by Suzy Ultman from Quarto Knows books.

Fun with Stitchables introduces young crafters to the fun of simple embroidery. Quick and easy cross-stitch sewing cards are included with punched holes for easy stitching, as well as a 16-page project book with instructions for designing your own unique stitching patterns and color combinations. A project gallery shows examples of what the hand-stitched cards can become once they are complete: everything from ornaments to greeting cards! The simple stitching patterns taught in this book promote growth and development, hand-eye coordination, as well as creativity and imagination. Fun with Stitchables will entertain and delight crafters of all ages and inspire a lifelong love of embroidery.

A Matter of Chance by L.L. Diamond from Anna (borrowed)

When single-mother Lizzy Gardiner meets William Darcy, he doesn’t make the best of impressions. Can the two of them leave their pasts behind and find love with each other, or will the ghosts of the past return to keep them apart?

 

 

Field Guide to the End of the World by Jeannine Hall Gailey, my autographed copy has arrived. I LOVED this book.

Field Guide to the End of the World, winner of the 2015 Moon City Poetry Award, delivers a whimsical look at our culture’s obsession with apocalypse as well as a thoughtful reflection on our resources in the face of disasters both large and small, personal and public. Pop-culture characters—from Martha Stewart and Wile E. Coyote to zombie strippers and teen vampires—deliver humorous but insightful commentary on survival and resilience through poems that span imagined scenarios that are not entirely beyond the realm of possibility. The characters face their apocalypses in numerous ways, from strapping on rollerblades and swearing to taking notes as barns burn on the horizon. At the end of the world, the most valuable resource is human connection—someone holding our hands, reminding us “we are miraculous.”

Just One Thing! by Nancy Viau, illustrated by Timothy Young, an unexpected surprise from Schiffer Publishing.

Every child about to enter middle school will be able to relate to this heart-warming, funny story. Anthony Pantaloni needs to figure out one thing he does well one thing that will replace the Antsy Pants nickname he got tagged with on the first day of fifth grade, one good thing he can own before moving up to middle school next year. It seems that every kid at Carpenter Elementary has a claim to fame: Marcus is Mr. Athletic, Alexis is Smart Aleck, Bethany has her horse obsession, and even Cory is known as the toughest kid in the school. Ant tries lots of things, but nothing sticks! It doesn t help that there are obstacles along the way a baton-twirling teacher, an annoying cousin, and Dad’s new girlfriend, to name a few. Just One Thing! is chock full of hilarious adventures that will keep young readers cheering until the very end. For ages 8-12.”

Mabel and the Queen of Dreams by Henry, Joshua, and Harrison Herz, illustrated by Lisa Woods from Schiffer Publishing for review.

Little Mabel is an expert at not going to sleep. She knows all the best bedtime-avoiding excuses. “I’m thirsty.” “I need to use the bathroom.” “Will you tell me a story?” Luckily, Mom’s quiver of bedtime tales includes the story of the Fae Queen, who paints children’s dreams and can only visit when their eyes are closed. Inspired by Mercutio’s soliloquy in Romeo & Juliet, in which he details how the tiny fairy queen influences people’s dreams as she passes by in her flying chariot, the soothing story evokes images of an ant in a worn gray coat and a hazelnut-shell chariot with a roof of grasshopper wings. Told in lyrical language that adults will also appreciate, the story helps parents get their kids to sleep. For ages 0-6.

The Fortress by Danielle Trussoni, an unexpected surprise from Dey Street Books.

From their first kiss, twenty-seven-year-old writer Danielle Trussoni is spellbound by a novelist from Bulgaria. The two share a love of jazz and books and travel, passions that intensify their whirlwind romance.

Eight years later, hopeful to renew their marriage, Danielle and her husband move to the south of France, to a picturesque medieval village in the Languedoc. It is here, in a haunted stone fortress built by the Knights Templar, that she comes to understand the dark, subterranean forces that have been following her all along.

While Danielle and her husband eventually part, Danielle’s time in the fortress brings precious wisdom about life and love that she could not have learned otherwise. Ultimately, she finds the strength to overcome her illusions, and start again.

An incisive look at romantic love, The Fortress is one woman’s fight to understand the complexities of her own heart, told by one of the best writers of her generation.

What did you receive?

Field Guide to the End of the World by Jeannine Hall Gailey

Source: Moon City Press
Paperback, 72 pgs.
I am an Amazon Affiliate

Field Guide to the End of the World by Jeannine Hall Gailey, which is the winner of the 2015 Moon City Poetry Award, is nothing short of phenomenal. While Gailey often puts herself in her poems, there are times when she adopts personas to create poems of female empowerment. This collection has a similar fantasy style (including a moment with Wile E. Coyote, Super Genius) to it with a post-apocalyptic setting, but it also is vastly more personal. While some of the poems may be a bit tongue-in-cheek about death (see “In Case”) and the end of the world and how duct tape is a miracle survival tool, underneath those quips is the seriousness that imminent danger and possible death bring.

She hints in “Introduction to Mutagenesis” that these genetic missteps could be changes we do not understand and that we may need them to survive in the evolving world. It is this kind of hope in the face of despair that is unexpected and inspiring.

Errors in replication — beyond our control — and yet sometimes the systemic destruction
of a certain cell might lead to a breakthrough, a land mass not yet discovered inside us,

clever adaptations that let us survive genetic drift in cases of plague or flood,
carriers of one disease not susceptible to another, …

In our own “black boxes”, our cells tell our history, the lives we’ve led, the deaths we’ve faced, and what finally takes us to the grave, she says in “Every Human Is a Black Box.” None of us have “turnkey solutions” and would we want to — would we want that kind of predictability? Even if the prospect of death or battling cancer is frightening, even paralyzing, would we want the solution to be simple? It would seem that kind of world would be less precious, less of a marvel.

From “Introduction to Spy Narrative as Love Story” (pg. 21)

When I look in a mirror all I see is you
written across my body like the shadow of a blackbird

Gailey’s verse is unique, haunting, and cheeky, but at its heart, her poems teach us that to live is to take the good and bad together and laugh, enjoy life, savor it. Even if the apocalypse is upon you, it is not the time for wallowing in sadness and self-pity, but a time for you to rise up beyond your circumstances and find a way to survive. From “Shorting Out” (which is just gorgeous in its use of white space) to “At the End of Time (Wish You Were Here)”, readers are reminded of the fragility of the mind, of memory, especially when “40 years of learning were leaking through the lesions.” (from “At the End of Time (Wish You Were Here)”).

Field Guide to the End of the World by Jeannine Hall Gailey, which is the winner of the 2015 Moon City Poetry Award, is a guidebook for living, for more than survival in a world about to end. She asks us to remember not to be lonely in the woods, not to be frightened of bears because “There’s the comfort of the knocking on hollow/branches, the scratching song of insects, and those tubes/of sunlight that show up on the path, lighting the way.” (from “Remnant”).

RATING: Cinquain

Other Reviews:

About the Poet:

Jeannine Hall Gailey served as second poet laureate of Redmond, Washington. She’s the author of four previous books of poetry: Becoming the Villainess, She Returns to the Floating World, Unexplained Fevers, and The Robot Scientist’s Daughter. Her work has been featured on Verse Daily and NPR’s The Writer’s Almanac, and included in The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror.

Mailbox Monday #390

Mailbox Monday, created by Marcia at To Be Continued, formerly The Printed Page, has a permanent home at its own blog.

To check out what everyone has received over the last week, visit the blog and check out the links. Leave yours too.

Also, each week, Leslie, Vicki, and I will share the Books that Caught Our Eye from everyone’s weekly links.

Here’s what I received:

Field Guide to the End of the World by Jeannine Hall Gailey from the publisher for review.

Field Guide to the End of the World, winner of the 2015 Moon City Poetry Award, delivers a whimsical look at our culture’s obsession with apocalypse as well as a thoughtful reflection on our resources in the face of disasters both large and small, personal and public. Pop-culture characters—from Martha Stewart and Wile E. Coyote to zombie strippers and teen vampires—deliver humorous but insightful commentary on survival and resilience through poems that span imagined scenarios that are not entirely beyond the realm of possibility. The characters face their apocalypses in numerous ways, from strapping on rollerblades and swearing to taking notes as barns burn on the horizon. At the end of the world, the most valuable resource is human connection—someone holding our hands, reminding us “we are miraculous.”

The A.B.C. Murders by Agatha Christie purchased from Audible as it is the next book club selection.

There’s a serial killer on the loose, bent on working his way through the alphabet. And as a macabre calling card he leaves beside each victim’s corpe the ABC Railway Guide open at the name of the town where the murder has taken place. Having begun with Andover, Bexhill and then Churston, there seems little chance of the murderer being caught – until he makes the crucial and vain mistake of challenging Hercule Poirot to frustrate his plans.

What did you receive?

Interview with Jeannine Hall Gailey, author of The Robot Scientist’s Daughter

2015PoetryMonthIn conjunction with Poetic Book Tours and the 2015 National Poetry Month Blog Tour, Jeannine Hall Gailey agreed to be interviewed about her poetry, including her new collection, The Robot Scientist’s Daughter.

I’ve read her poetry for several years, and I just cannot get enough.  I hope that you’ll not only check out her interview below, but also her April book tour.

A few of your collections — Becoming the Villainess and Unexplained Fevers — have reinvented and breathed new life into beloved heroines, myths, and fairy tales.  How do these stories inspire you to create the vivid and unusual narratives in your poems?  Which are some of your favorites?

At the time I was writing Becoming the Villainess, I was particularly interested in Ovid’s Metamorphoses and the story of Procne and Philomel, and more unusual fairy tales, such as the story of the French fairy Melusine, which I fell in love with after researching it after reading A.S. Byatt’s Possession, and the story of “the coat of thousand furs,” or Allerleirauh. I was not interested in the Disney versions of the fairy tales, as I knew even as a kid how much they differed from their Grimms’ origins, but I did enjoy sort of tweaking the clichés of those films.

Then of course I got really interested in Japanese folk tales a few years ago, when I was writing She Returns to the Floating World, and researched and found as many of them translated into English as I could. I loved the ones that focused on older sisters rescuing younger brothers, which is quite a common trope in Japanese folk tales, and of course the tales of transformations of women into foxes, cranes, peonies, etc. There are so many interesting tales out there. I also love Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Snow Queen” – it’s a fascinating, complicated, and unexpectedly feminist piece of work. I love re-working those characters.

Unexplained Fevers actually centers on the fairy tale characters I neglected in my first book, because I felt that they were too passive. But after reading the Snow White/Rose Red references in Haruki Murakami’s After Dark and the Rapunzel narratives in Osamu Dazai’s Blue Bamboo, I started thinking about how I could re-write characters like Sleeping Beauty, Rapunzel, and Snow White – and that’s how I started writing that book.

robotIn your new collection, The Robot Scientist’s Daughter, your subject matter is a little more concrete, including but not limited to the history of nuclear development, family, and nature. How did this collection come to be and did you find the process easier or more difficult compared to previous collections?

I think a seed for this collection was planted when I was working with Dorianne Laux at the Pacific University MFA program some years ago, and she encouraged me to write more about my own life. I considered my life too boring to write about. And Ilya Kaminsky, I remember, told me after reading my first couple of books that “now is the time for you to create your own fairy tale.” I held on to both of those things, but it took me a while to figure out how to incorporate my own experience into poetry.

The Robot Scientist’s Daughter was born in the series of “elemental” poems in the book—poems like “Cesium Burns Blue,” “Radon Daughters,” and “Elemental,” —and then I started thinking about ways to create a character that was like me but was not—and I came up with the Robot Scientist’s Daughter character. Those are more fantasy and sci-fi-based poems, and therefore more familiar to me and fun to write. The straight-up history/autobiography poems were probably the hardest to write—Oak Ridge’s history is fascinating—even the Wikipedia entry can sound like a weird prose poem—but making that history sound poetic was something I struggled with. I did include a series of poems about my childhood that were not as fun to write, but I wanted something that would give the reader sort of a child’s-eye view of the beautiful, mysterious nature of growing up on a farm in Tennessee, not just the “atomic history down the street” part.

Nuclear research, energy, and bombs are dangerous but yet humanity continues to engage in these activities despite the lasting risks. In “They Do Not Need Rescue”, the poem discusses the silence surrounding the consequences of these activities — that the people living nearby Oak Ridge National Laboratory signed away their family’s lives for a meager paycheck and a house — and it raises questions about why they would remain silent even years later and not speak out. Is it a question of fear vs. bravery, or something more?

I can’t really speak for the people who made those decisions, which are individual to each of them. But I do know that the contracts for people that work/worked at ORNL – a huge source of lucrative jobs in a region that even now doesn’t have a ton of great jobs – were pretty prohibitive and threatening, and people in that area signed a contract and stuck with that agreement. If they don’t feel comfortable speaking out today, it’s probably because of the wording of the contracts they signed. I don’t want anyone to get the impression that the people of Oak Ridge are victims – they certainly don’t think of themselves that way – and there’s a culture in Eastern Tennessee of individualism, hard work, patriotism, and a tendency towards the taciturn rather than the loquacious.

Also, the dangers of radiation were not really well known early on in the work of ORNL – as reading some of the memoir of one of Oak Ridge’s early “Safety Physicists”, The Angry Genie, would indicate. In the beginning, they were focused on winning World War II, getting the bomb before the Nazis, and not as worried about pollution and those kinds of “down the road” problems. There was a little bit about how they taped uranium to the wrists of some of the nurses there, to see the effect; I mean, they were very naive back then. The Chernobyl and Fukushima disasters, for instance, indicate that even today, how little prepared most companies and countries are for the kinds of problems that can happen with nuclear disaster, how little they understand the magnitude of something like nuclear pollution, how it stays around for multiple human lifetimes. It’s something to keep in mind as our nuclear power plants age here in the United States.

JeannineHighResHeadshotmediumWriting is a solitary endeavor for many authors. How do you maintain contact with the outside, and how does that differ from the experience of reading your work aloud for an audience?

I’ve belonged to a writing group for thirteen years, and that really helps. Also, Seattle and the surrounding cities have great writing communities. I volunteered with several terrific local journals for many years, which is also a great way to stay connected with the writing community—currently I’m on the Board at Crab Creek Review. Writing itself is work that must be done alone, but sharing it, getting it published, dealing with rejection, applying for grants or residencies—all those parts of the writing life really benefit from the help/encouragement of other writers. I also enjoying teaching, editing manuscripts, and a new venture—helping poets with PR for their books! I absolutely root for every single student and editing client to succeed!

I also think social media – Blogs, Facebook, Twitter, what have you – can really help you feel connected to the larger writing world in a way that just wasn’t possible when I was a younger writer. A lot of people hate them, but I absolutely think they are a gift (even if I haven’t exactly figured out how to be the greatest Twitter-er or anything yet.) You can see when different magazines have a call for submissions, or congratulate a friend on good publishing news, or follow writers you admire. I mean, you can’t spend all day on that stuff, but it’s great on a rainy Sunday to go to the Twitter #poetparty, for instance, and say hi to some writing friends and feel encouraged.

What poets you’ve read are making a difference with their poetry, either trying to influence societal, environmental, or political change? What other poets should we be reading?

For the first question: There are really so many! I think probably Carolyn Forché, Alicia Ostriker, Margaret Atwood, Pattiann Rogers, Sandra Alcosser, and llya Kaminsky have all been particularly influential in terms of the way they write their activism. But I am so excited about reading the younger generation’s take (do I sound super-old there? But it’s true!) on issues like racism, feminism, the environment, immigration—I feel that younger writers right now are unafraid of taking on big ambitious subjects than my generation was/is. Another few poets that I think tackle difficult and thought-provoking political subject matter with imagination and empathy: Jericho Brown, Eduardo C. Corral, Saeed Jones.

For the second question: There are so many good poets here in the Northwest that I think don’t get enough attention – in particular, I’d like to champion the first books by poets Annette Spaulding-Convy and Natasha K. Moni, which are both exceptional. And we have a wonderful group of female poets up here, people like Kelli Russell Agodon, Kathleen Flenniken, Kelly Davio, Elizabeth Austen, Martha Silano, Jenifer Lawrence, Marjorie Manwaring. They’re not just great poets, they’re great people who put time and energy into their poetry community. I love the work that my friends at local press Two Sylvias Press are putting out, too – definitely worth taking a look at. I discover great poets out here all the time, people I’ve never met that I’ll happen to hear at a reading. I try to highlight books I love in my reviews for places like The Rumpus, too. Reviewing is still something I try to do on a regular basis, especially for books that might otherwise get overlooked. Anything to bring more love to poetry!

Thanks, Jeannine, for sharing your thoughts with us and your poet recommendations.

The Robot Scientist’s Daughter by Jeannine Hall Gailey

Source: the poet
Paperback, 82 pgs
I am an Amazon Affiliate

The Robot Scientist’s Daughter by Jeannine Hall Gailey, which will be on tour with Poetic Book Tours this month, is a collection that blends invention with a cautionary tale.  Imaginary friends and close connections we make as children often help fill in the holes we have because of our own family dynamics, and the robot scientist and his daughter are no different.  While the scientist experiments for the pure joy of discovery, the consequences of his actions often take a backseat even if those consequences are widely devastating.  In the author’s note, Gailey says, “One reason I wrote this book was to raise awareness that nuclear research is never harmless; that the half-life of the pollution from nuclear sites is longer than most human lifespans; that there is, from reading my father’s research as well as my college classes, no truly safe way to store nuclear waste.” (pg. 6)

These poems will definitely make you think deeper about nuclear research and the effects of not only disposing of waste, but also the impact of atomic bombs and nuclear meltdowns.  Some of Gailey’s signature references to comic book characters and myths are present in these poems if you know where to look, like Dr. Manhattan who found himself transformed by an accident in a lab — an accident that resembles one caused by physicist Louis Slotin — and his modified outlook on humanity, which resembles the attacks of conscience felt by Oppenheimer.  While there are references to the Manhattan nuclear project, the bulk of the collection focuses on the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee.

America Dreams of Roswell

The forbidding sugar of hot desert sand
and hallucinations of mushroom clouds

linger in a city where you can still get pie
with a fried egg on top, where you might catch

a glimpse of UFO dazzle, even the lampposts bloom
into alien heads, where barbed wire might keep out enemies

of the American dream, where the tiny famous lizard’s legs
cling to sad, solid rock.  On the Trinity site, that sand

turned to green glass.  The scientists were unsure
about igniting the whole earth’s atmosphere, nevertheless

the violet light demanded goggles; the shadows
of ranch houses burned into the ground.

Like most young girls, our narrator tries to fit in, which is hard in a secretive community where the government has sought waivers from its workers and those living and working in the community cannot speak to anyone about the research being done. Even children get a sense of being cloistered, being penned in.  While some poems are about the past and the nuclear research at the Tennessee labs, some poems take a more recent approach in examining the fallout from the Fukushima disaster, the direct result of a earthquake-generated tsunami.  From butterflies born without eyes to the beautiful disaster that is the art of an explosion, the poet calls into question human curiosity and the vanity that sometimes comes with that, in which the scientist believes only good will result from research and experiments, despite historical evidence to the contrary.

The Robot Scientist’s Daughter by Jeannine Hall Gailey has a gift of putting the bigger questions into a more manageable world within her poems.  From “They Do Not Need Rescue,” “No one needs rescue here in America’s Secret City./…/Not the children/dying of leukemia quietly in hospitals funded/by government grants, uncounted because/their numbers might seem damning.//”  We want to bury our sins and hide from the truth, but it cannot be secreted away, no matter how hard we try.

About the Poet:

Jeannine Hall Gailey is the Poet Laureate of Redmond, WA and the author of Becoming the Villainess, She Returns to the Floating World, and Unexplained Fevers, available spring of 2013. Her work has been featured on NPR’s The Writer’s Almanac, Verse Daily, and The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror. Her poems have appeared in The American Poetry Review, The Iowa Review, and Prairie Schooner. She teaches part-time at National University.

 

 

 

 

 

Who Are Your Auto-Buy Authors?

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Hello everyone! The holidays are nearly here, but I have a treat for you! If you haven’t liked the Savvy Verse & Wit Facebook page yet, go do it now.

Beginning Dec. 12 (sometime this afternoon the first pick will be revealed), I’ll reveal one of the books on my Best of 2014 book list, through Dec. 24.

That’s one book from the list per day, with a tidbit about why I loved the book and a link to where you can buy it.

Today, I wanted to talk about those authors we love so much that we buy their books automatically no matter what the subject.  I used to have just a few of those authors, but my list is now growing!  I thought today would be a good day to share not only the older ones on the list, but also the newer ones that have joined the ranks.

My previous list:

  1. Yusef Komunyakaa
  2. Tim O’Brien
  3. Stephen King
  4. Anita Shreve
  5. Amy Tan
  6. Isabel Allende
  7. James Patterson
  8. Anne Rice
  9. Mary Oliver
  10. Billy Collins

My additions to the list:

  1. Beth Kephart
  2. Jeannine Hall Gailey
  3. Jane Odiwe
  4. Syrie James
  5. Abigail Reynolds
  6. Karen White
  7. Beth Hoffman
  8. Jill Mansell
  9. Janel Gradowski
  10. Diana Raab
  11. C.W. Gortner
  12. John Shors

I find it interesting that there are many more female authors being added to my auto-buy list. 

I’m not really sure why so many great female authors are being added to my auto-buy list these days.  It isn’t that I haven’t read some great male authors, but perhaps I need to read more of them to get a true sense of their work and whether I want to buy it automatically no matter the subject.

Do you have auto-buy authors? Who are they?  What attracts you to their work?

Don’t forget to like the Savvy Verse & Wit Facebook page to find out over the next 12 days which books made the 2014 Best list.

Mailbox Monday #296

Mailbox Monday, created by Marcia at To Be Continued, formerly The Printed Page, has a permanent home at its own blog.

To check out what everyone has received over the last week, visit the blog and check out the links.  Leave yours too.

Also, each week, Leslie, Vicki, and I will share the Books that Caught Our Eye from everyone’s weekly links.

Here’s what I received:

1.  The Robot Scientist’s Daughter by Jeannine Hall Gailey for review.

In The Robot Scientist’s Daughter, Jeannine Hall Gailey charts the dangerous secrets in a nuclear family as well as a nuclear research facility. Her ecofeminist approach to the making of bombs, celebrates our fragile natural world. Full of flowers and computers, this riveting poetry captures the undeniable compromises and complexities of our times. –Denise Duhamel

What did you receive?

The Best of 2013 List…

In Descending Order (links to the reviews included):
  1. Handling the Truth: On the Writing of Memoir by Beth Kephart
  2. The Painted Girls by Cathy Marie Buchanan
  3. Imperfect Spiral by Debbie Levy
  4. Looking for Me by Beth Hoffman
  5. The Time Between by Karen White
  6. Survival Skills: Stories by Jean Ryan
  7. Unexplained Fevers by Jeannine Hall Gailey
  8. Lotería by Mario Alberto Zambrano
  9. Solving the World’s Problems by Robert Lee Brewer
  10. The Scabbard of Her Throat by Bernadette Geyer
  11. The Neruda Case by Roberto Ampuero, translated by Carolina De Robertis
  12. Six Sisters’ Stuff: Family Recipes, Fun Crafts, and So Much More
Here are my honorable mentions for this year, in descending order (links to the reviews included):
  1. The Gods of Heavenly Punishment by Jennifer Cody Epstein
  2. Dr. Radway’s Sarsaparilla Resolvent by Beth Kephart
  3. Joyland by Stephen King
  4. Seduction by M.J. Rose
  5. Black Aperture by Matt Rasmussen
What books made your list of favorites this year?

202nd Virtual Poetry Circle

Welcome to the 202nd Virtual Poetry Circle!

Remember, this is just for fun and is not meant to be stressful.

Keep in mind what Molly Peacock’s books suggested. Look at a line, a stanza, sentences, and images; describe what you like or don’t like; and offer an opinion. If you missed my review of her book, check it out here.

Also, sign up for the 2013 Dive Into Poetry Challenge because its simple; you only need to read 1 book of poetry. Check out the stops on the 2013 National Poetry Month Blog Tour and the 2012 National Poetry Month Blog Tour.

Today’s poem is from Jeannine Hall Gailey’s Unexplained Fevers: (my review) (This one is for Ti over at Book Chatter)

Sleeping Beauty's Insomniac Twin
             an homage to Haruki Murakami's After Dark

I thought you might recognize me
without the dress and haircut.
Black eyeglasses and a thick book
are enough to dissuade most of the nightcrawlers,
the men looking for a good time and easy lay.
If you come with me, you'll cower at the mafia men
at midnight, pimps and broken prostitutes wrapped in sheets.
We'll narrowly miss being hit by a car.
The late night coffee shops croon their old, seedy jazz tunes.
Come with me, through the open mouth of the city,
where we will rescue the other half of our souls.
If you fall asleep, you'll miss what's right in front of you.

What do you think?

Unexplained Fevers by Jeannine Hall Gailey

Unexplained Fevers by Jeannine Hall Gailey builds on the poet’s exploration of popular myths and legends centered on women, only unlike Becoming the Villainess (my review) where the characters become vengeful, these characters are striking out for parts unknown, examining their legends, and telling the real tales behind the fairy magic.  From Jack and Jill who vowed to stay together against all odds who find themselves in Ohio to Alice in Wonderland who merely gets lost in a coat closet, Gailey is poking fun at the fantasies that rely on women being beautiful and little else to prove their worth.  These heroines are set free, and outside the confines of their tales, they are able to contemplate their past choices and their futures in ways they never though possible.

She Had Unexplained Fevers (page 3)

some nights she just wasn't
herself, skin pale and damp as a child's
they lay her in a glass coffin
told me there was something in her throat
and I said yes we've all swallowed a lot of crap
choked down broken promises like apple.

In looking at these tales, Gailey is not only calling into question their validity but also their impact on the generations that have read them. Are women supposed to be only beautiful and only want that prince to come rescue them? And by the end of the collection, the poet asks readers to think about how much has changed even in the modern world. May be there are few princes with castles and white steeds, but don’t they have other “enticements” like good paying jobs and the house in the suburbs that women continue to gravitate towards as safe and what they should want from their lives?

Like “Alice, Through the Looking Glass,” there are poems that are more universal and do not stick as closely to the stories as some other poems do, and in these poems, Gailey raises questions about body image and the prevalence of women in advertising to not only sell products, but also to sell an idea of what beauty is and should be for every woman. The narrator in “Alice” asks, “What am I doing here in this white room/with no smell but dust and soap//” Meanwhile, Snow White asks the reader in “I Like the Quiet: Snow White” to get her out of our own looking glasses — break free from the need for a certain appearance — readers would see their true selves and who each of us really is and how we matter without the constant need to live up to a beauty standard. Snow White is just like all of us, wanting to spend time alone, wanting space to decide the course of our lives, wanting not to rush into a marriage even with a prince, and all the trappings and decisions we make in our lives.

Unexplained Fevers by Jeannine Hall Gailey easily parallels the myths and stories we’ve read and memorized as children with the current modern lives we lead.  Though lest you think all of the poem narrators are female, there are male narrators, including one knight who did not get the fairytale ending he was expecting.  In this way, Gailey is calling into question the fantasies that men are fed as children as well; must they be rescuers and be the strongest and bravest to get the girl?  A phenomenal collection from beginning to end — one that has a permanent place in my library, right next to her others.

About the Poet:

Jeannine Hall Gailey is the Poet Laureate of Redmond, WA and the author of Becoming the Villainess, She Returns to the Floating World, and Unexplained Fevers, available spring of 2013. Her work has been featured on NPR’s The Writer’s Almanac, Verse Daily, and The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror. Her poems have appeared in The American Poetry Review, The Iowa Review, and Prairie Schooner. She teaches part-time at National University.

This is my 19th book for the Dive Into Poetry Challenge 2013.

Mailbox Monday #218

HAPPY EASTER to those who celebrate!

As tomorrow is the kick-off of National Poetry Month, I’m posting this meme early, and it may be on hiatus for the rest of the month until the blog tour is over.

Mailbox Mondays (click the icon to check out the new blog) has gone on tour since Marcia at A Girl and Her Books, formerly The Printed Page passed the torch. April’s host is Mari Reads.

The meme allows bloggers to share what books they receive in the mail or through other means over the past week.

Just be warned that these posts can increase your TBR piles and wish lists.

Here’s what I received for review:

1.  Writers on the Edge:  22 Writers Speak About Addiction and Dependency edited by Diana M. Raab and James Brown from Modern History Press for review.

Writers On The Edge offers a range of essays, memoirs and poetry written by major contemporary authors who bring fresh insight into the dark world of addiction, from drugs and alcohol, to sex, gambling and food. Editors Diana M. Raab and James Brown have assembled an array of talented and courageous writers who share their stories with heartbreaking honesty as they share their obsessions as well as the awe-inspiring power of hope and redemption.

CONTRIBUTORS: Frederick & Steven Barthelme, Kera Bolonik, Margaret Bullitt-Jonas, Maud Casey, Anna David, Denise Duhamel, B.H. Fairchild, Ruth Fowler, David Huddle Perie Longo, Gregory Orr, Victoria Patterson, Molly Peacock, Scott Russell Sanders, Stephen Jay Schwartz, Linda Gray Sexton, Sue William Silverman, Chase Twichell, and Rachel Yoder.

2.  Unexplained Fevers by Jeannine Hall Gailey for review from the poet.

“Unexplained Fevers plucks the familiar fairy tale heroines and drops them into alternate landscapes. Unlocking them from the old stories is a way to “rescue the other half of [their] souls.” And so Sleeping Beauty arrives at the emergency room, Red Riding Hood reaches the car dealership, and Rapunzel goes wandering in the desert – their journeys, re-imagined in this inventive collection of poems, produce other dangers, betrayals and nightmares, but also bring forth great surprise and wonder.” – Rigoberto González, author of Black Blossoms “Unexplained Fevers begins with that most familiar of phrases, “Once upon a time,” but the world we find inside these covers is deeply defamiliarized. Trapped by physical ills, cultural expectations, and the constraints of marriage, these heroines interrogate the world and propel themselves through it with cunning and sass. We follow, for example, Jack and Jill though a prose poem where they “somehow turned thirty without thunderous applause,” after having sworn they “would follow each other anywhere, but anywhere turned out to be a lot like Ohio.” At the center of these poems – urgent, mysterious, evocative – we find the great topic of all fairy tales, transformation. Read Unexplained Fevers, and be transformed.” – Beth Ann Fennelly, author of Unmentionables.

What did you receive?