Doll God by Luanne Castle

In “Prototype,” the first poem in Doll God by Luanne Castle, the first lines state: “it began/a mirror for good.” Throughout Doll God, the living and the breathing, memories, are reflected on objects. Everything is fleeting, but what remains? Do the objects we hold dear have something like a memory of us? The first poems are full of dolls: Barbies, Polly Pockets, American Girls. Chubby cheeked doll babies and buggies. “Pastoral” takes this thread to the literal, when the speaker finds a discarded doll in the mud, “I know the mud will dry./If I leave her here, the earth/will begin its work./In a few more rainstorms/no sign will remain.” The speaker goes on to lament that there is no point in trying to salvage the doll: its ruined, with no one left to love it.

Doll God is filled with references to art and artists and the poems obsessively ask the question, “What remains?” One of my favorite poems is “Debris.” The speaker’s mother-in-law has died and they put all of her paintings into storage and the speaker lets this anxiety of impermanence, even when an effort has been made to leave something behind, come to the surface:

And now, I can’t get the image
out of my mind:
dried paint chipping,
the spread of mold pockmarks,
velour paper edges fraying, canvas rips, a gradual

fading into sand, then dust sifting down
to be layered over by debris
of another generation
always the sifting sand
like a dust storm

Like many poetry collections, there are poems that seem to belong together more than others. A few seem like filler – they are not necessarily bad poems, but they aren’t connected by the thread that unites the rest of the book. Two of the strongest poems come near the end in section four, “Bone Tumor Curettage and Grafting Aftermath” and “A Bone Elegy.” Perhaps it is because they cut a clearer narrative, which I am drawn to as a reader, but they still ask that same question of permanence that runs throughout the book. In “Bone Tumor” it is the scars left behind after a surgery and the possibility that the surgery will fail. “Bone Elegy” connects this same surgery with the death of a childhood friend and contains a lovely stanza:

Leah and I caught bullfrogs in the marshland,

stranded our little brothers on the raft across the lake.

The three of us were intimate

as guppies: Leah, Luanne, the lake.

The lake itself is called Three-Lakes-in-One.

We dived off the Sunfish,

our hair behind us like swampgrass

as we rose out of the water,

sharp as scalpels.

It goes on “What repair can be made now?/Bones live for centuries, lasting past cities and heartbeats,/supporting the earth.”

I’ve already used this word once, but I do think that there is a profound anxiety behind many of these poems. What is left of the dead? The things they cared about? The art they created? Nothing but their physical remains? Doll God is grasping for answers to unanswerable questions. But isn’t that what poetry is for?

This post is part of a blog tour for Doll God by Luanne Castle. You can read more about this tour, including links to the other tour stops at Poetic Book Tours.

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2014 Reading Stats and Looking Ahead to 2015

This might be my favorite time of year when it comes to blogging – everyone is blogging about the reading year they had and the one they plan on having in 2015. Every new year is filled with the promise of new wonderful, favorite reads and newly discovered authors and amazing debuts. I love that excitement.

The reading stats aren’t a way to brag, but a way to be conscious of what I’m reading. Sure, there are times when reading what you want, when you want is a totally valid and necessary way of reading. But, for the most part, I think it’s important to take a look at your reading and see what your missing. Not reading enough books by women? Not enough books by authors of color? Maybe all your books were published after 2005 and you want to read more classics. Whatever it might be!

Last year I made three goals: read more books that I own, read more diversely (with a focus on translations), and post about each book I read. I actually failed at all three of these goals! This was a busy year, full of a lot of transitions (I moved, changed jobs) that I was anticipating the whole year. I turned to a lot of comfort reads and I’m definitely ok with that. Let’s take a closer look at what I did read in 2014.

2014 Stats

Total Books Read: 102
Total Pages Read: 33,646

I read 2 books less this year, but 387 more pages. I read 16 chunksters (450 pages or more) for 8,455 pages, accounting for 25% of my overall reading this year.

Now, for some charts: 

Author Gender

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I’m pretty happy with this split. I always tend to gravitate towards stories written by women, so I’ve never focused on author gender much in years past.

Genre

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My most-read genre was fantasy. I read a lot of Vampire Academy and Bloodlines books this year, which is probably why there’s a slight spike in that ratio. Last year, General Fiction far surpassed Fantasy. My poetry reading has really dropped off in the past two years, which is something I’d like to address in 2015. It’s just unacceptable! I’ve long been a champion of reading poetry, but my own poetry reading is dismal. Otherwise, I’m pretty satisfied with this.

I listened to 10 audiobooks and I read 27 comics/graphic novels. Which is almost exactly the same as 2014. I expect my audiobook number will only continue to grow in 2015, since my new job requires a lot of driving. Much of my reading in the last quarter (after I switched jobs) came from audiobooks and I don’t see that changing. My goal for next year is to read a comic book a week, so hopefully my comics number will nearly double!

Library Books vs My Books

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I can’t believe it was possible to do worse at this goal! I really wanted to read more of my own books and send them out the door. Reducing what I own, all of that. I WILL DO BETTER AT THIS. (Maybe.)

20141230020054I didn’t separate out Middle Grade from Young Adult, but I’m pretty sure I didn’t read very much Middle Grade at all. This ratio is about perfect for me, but I wouldn’t mind adding a little bit more Middle Grade fiction to my reading list next year.

Diversity

When I moved, I ended up losing my original reading spreadsheet, where I was keeping much more detailed stats on the diversity of my reading. Was the author POC and did the novel prominently feature people of color as characters? When I went back to recreate my spreadsheet, I incorporated both of these categories into one. I feel like this isn’t really an accurate representation of the diversity in my reading, so next year I’m going to keep better track of this.

Goals for 2015

  • Read one book by an author of color for every book I read by a white person.
  • Continue to make an effort to read the books I already own.
  • Blog about every book I read in some capacity.
  • Bring back Comic of the Week and Poetry Wednesday by reading one comic and one book of poetry each week.

And that’s it! Those seem like pretty manageable goals. What are your reading goals for 2015?

Nonfiction November Readalong Announcement

nonfiction november readalongs

The new addition to this year’s Nonfiction November celebration is a readalong, in an effort to encourage non-bloggers to participate in a discussion in addition to bloggers. Last week we asked you to vote on what that readalong title would be. We each picked a book we were interested in reading and in the end, you decided! There were two winners throughout the week that were pretty close in votes: Cleopatra by Stacy Schiff and The Restless Sleep by Stacy Horn.

Since everyone has such varied nonfiction tastes, we thought we’d give you an option to read one or both of these books along with us. Kim and I will be reading The Restless Sleep and Rebecca and Katie will be reading Cleopatra.

We will be wrapping up the readalong on November 19th, before the Thanksgiving holiday in the US, with discussion posts on our blogs and a link-up. You’re welcome to include your links to posts where you talked about the books or to join in the discussion of the book in the comments section. We’ll also be chatting about the books on Twitter, using the hashtag #nonficnov.

I’m looking forward to reading The Restless Sleep with everyone!

4. Fall questionnaires!

Amy from My Friend Amy (lovely, wonderful Amy!) understands my love of Fall. Just look at this Fall survey she posted! I had to fill it out as soon as I read it.

1) What’s the first thing that makes you feel like summer is over and fall has arrived?

Probably the first day I wear a scarf and feel the crunch of leaves when I walk to work. Both things have already happened! Even though this week is really warm.

2) What’s your favorite fall fragrance or flavor?

Can I make a confession? I think it’s so silly that there are people out there who actively hate on pumpkin-flavored things. I understand that companies everywhere have jumped on this bandwagon, but excuse me, it seems like such a useless thing to hate on. Oh, wow, you love pumpkin things. HOW TRENDY. Anyway, now that I’ve got that off my chest, I really like spicy teas and, yes, pumpkin flavored coffee, but also all the smells of comfort food cooking in the kitchen.

3) Favorite fall goodie?

Day after Halloween candy. Pecan pie.

4) Do have any fun fallish outings or traditions? (i.e. apple picking, looking at leaves etc.) If not is there something you’ve always wanted to do?

New York has some really great festivals this time of year. One of my favorites is the Queens County Farm Museum fall festival, which THANK GOD I DID THIS SURVEY, AMY because it’s this Sunday. I guess my weekend plans are made. I love this festival every year because it is actually just a huge farm in the middle of Queens and I love things that make me forget I’m in the middle of a city. They have some really cute sheep there. And alpacas.

Proof:

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Another favorite festival is the Oyster Festival in Oyster Bay, Long Island. Last year was beyond perfect weather – I don’t know how we’re going to top it.

5) Football or Baseball postseason?

I have a nostalgic kind of affection for football season, so I guess that one? All I know is the Superbowl is in New York this year. And it’s the same weekend as the International Gift Show. I will file this away under “Things You Learn Working in Publishing.”

6) Halloween or Thanksgiving?

You really aren’t going to make me choose between the two best eating holidays of the year right?

7) What’s your favorite spooky monster? 

Ghosts! Definitely ghosts. But not like terrifying, murderous ghosts. Ghosts of the unfinished business variety are good. So are poltergeists, even the scary ones. Candy Man and Bloody Mary need not apply.

8) Do you have a favorite quote about fall from a book or movie?

Why, yes! Yes I do!

That’s the way we New Yorkers feel about fall. Come September, despite the waning hours, despite the leaves succumbing to the weight of gray autumnal rains, there is a certain relief to having the long days of summer behind us; and there’s a paradoxical sense of rejuvenation in the air. […] Somehow, despite the coming winter, autumn in New York promises an effervescent romance which makes one look to the Manhattan skyline with fresh eyes and feel: It’s good to live it again.
from Rules of Civility by Amor Towles

Also, this quote I saw floating around on tumblr. I then promptly bought the book, so I hope it is as good as this quote!

That old September feeling, left over from school days, of summer passing, vacation nearly done, obligations gathering, books and football in the air… Another fall, another turned page: there was something of jubilee in that annual autumnal beginning, as if last year’s mistakes had been wiped clean by summer.
from Angle of Repose  by Wallace Stagner

9) If you could go anywhere for a weekend trip during the season where would it be?

Michael and I are going to try and go to Maine, because we have never been, so Maine!  To see the pretty leaves and eat lobsters and drink cider.

10) Describe your ideal fall day.

The window is open and there is a chill in the air, but the sun is shining, so your spot on the bed/couch/floor is warm. You curl up with a perfectly spooky read, a cup of tea, and a blanket. You don’t really need the blanket. It just feels nice and it’s not too hot with it on. The sky is blue through the window and you can see a tree with changing leaves. Maybe after reading for a while, you go for a walk and enjoy the wind and the fluffy clouds. Later there is pecan pie and a cider and a stew. Not necessarily in that order, though fine if so. In the evening, when the sun has set, you continue to read until falling asleep.

 

Recently Read

PicMonkey Collage

Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick

You know, when Amy likes something, I almost immediately like it more because of it. Are there bloggers you trust in this way? I’m not saying I wouldn’t have liked Silver Linings Playbook, because I almost certainly would have, but the whole time I was reading it, I had Amy’s voice in the back of my head saying how much she loved it. The book is everything she said it is! It’s sad and charming and full of heart. Within the book is the subtext that there’s a fine line between what is considered mentally unstable and what is considered perfectly normal by society.

I read some of the things that were changed in the movie, and I have to say, it makes me much less excited to see the movie. One of my favorite characters is Cliff, the main character’s therapist, and I’m really sad to hear that he’s portrayed as a kind of useless/bad therapist. He is not perfect in the novel, but he is by no means a horrible therapist. Their relationship is actually just really sweet. I’ll still watch it, because I do love all the actors in it, and I do hope I enjoy it, but I won’t be terribly surprised if I don’t.

Stuck in the Middle With You: A Memoir of Parenting in Three Genders by Jennifer Finney Boylan 

As the dusk jacket copy for Stuck in the Middle With You says, Jennifer Finney Boylan was “a father  for ten years, a mother for eight, and for a time in between, neither, or both (“the parental version of the schnoodle, or the cockapoo”).” Jennifer Finney Boylan has written eloquently about her experiences going through her sex change, but this books put the same transition in the context of her role as a parent. Through telling her story, and her family’s story, and interviewing other people about their experiences with their own parents or as parents, she tells a beautiful story about what it means to be a parent. I love Jennifer Finney Boylan’s writing and I immediately want to read everything she’s ever written. I think this should be required reading. It is just that good.

Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta

Is this book called Jellicoe Road or On the Jellicoe RoadI am still confused. It’s still surprising to me that I managed to remain unspoiled for this book, because I have read so many reviews of it over the years. It’s really as good as everyone says it is. And it’s really true that it’s confusing and difficult to get through, and really deserves a second read. You’re only given the information the main character has, so as she learns things, suddenly everything you’ve been told takes on a new meaning. It’s hard to pay attention to everything at first, because the narratives don’t really seem to make sense together. Read it. Please don’t give it the 100 page test. Also, don’t expect a supernatural twist! I kept thinking there was something supernatural coming. Time shift? Zombies? Vampires? I don’t know. And I don’t know why I thought that, but this is just about normal people, no mysterious creatures or time travel.

I feel like this book deserves more, but I didn’t take notes while I was reading it and it’s already been a week or so since I finished. Also, it would be really hard to talk about this one without spoiling it.

Seraphina by Rachel Hartman

This book is one of the best I’ve ever read. I was so completely drawn into this world where dragons can shape shift to look like humans and I just want to read more and more and more. In fact, I might reread it. I listened to it on audio and I’m sure I missed things. Two of my favorite reads this year (Seraphina and The Raven Boys) have been on audio and I want to read them both in print before the sequels come out. I think I’ll save my longer posts about both of them for when I do reread and take notes.

 

Readathon Hour 1

I’m awake! No reading has happened, but I’m happy to say the strange dreams are over and the reading is about to begin! Now, for the introductory questions.

1) What fine part of the world are you reading from today?

The lovely NYC. Mostly from my bed, my couch, and the walk to Dunkin Donuts.

2) Which book in your stack are you most looking forward to?

Poison by Bridget Zinn. I’ve heard such good things.

3) Which snack are you most looking forward to?

I am woefully underprepared when it comes to snacks.

4) Tell us a little something about yourself!

I am blogging from my phone right now, so I apologize of this post looks weird. Or if there are strange autocorrects.

5) If you participated in the last read-a-thon, what’s one thing you’ll do different today? If this is your first read-a-thon, what are you most looking forward to?

Read all day! I haven’t had a readathon without some kind of plans, so this time I’ll really just be reading ALL day!

Readathon: The Night Before

I am getting ready for bed, since we all have a big day tomorrow. So dream sweet dreams of book pages turned and snacks eaten and social media updates. For now, here’s my pile. I can’t wait to spend the day reading with you tomorrow!

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