book love

To Voyage Through Time

Another year has passed, and more books have been read, allowing me to voyage through time. Looking back over my Goodreads list, I am reminded of the best books I read throughout 2018. Unlike 2017, I exceeded my reading goal. While I strived for 75, I completed the challenge at 114 books!

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Some stories made me laugh, others broke my heart completely, but what follows are my favorite books of 2018:

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1.) The Song of achilles by madeline miller

The battered copy of this book sat on my shelf for years. I must admit, the idea of reading this terrified me, because it was the best friend’s favorite. There was too much pressure. But I asked him so many months ago when I should finally read it, and he said, save it for the sun. So I took this worn copy on vacation. With the sound of the ocean and the too-warm breeze, I experienced the utter beauty and heartbreak that is this book. And somewhere along those many pages, this book became my favorite, too. I shared it with my other best friend, and now the three of us have collectively been ruined by this stunning story. I even received my own used copy, and I can’t wait to reread.

“And perhaps it is the greater grief, after all, to be left on earth when another is gone.”

 

2.) The Rules of Magic by alice hoffman

Since childhood, Practical Magic has been one of my favorite movies. So when I discovered Alice Hoffman had released a prequel to that beloved story set in 1960’s New York City, I knew it would be good. I had no idea it would be such an all-consuming read. It was both devastating and hopeful, filled with magic that was all-at-once practical and haunting. This is another book I can’t wait to revisit.

“When you truly love someone and they love you in return, you ruin your lives together. That is not a curse, it’s what life is, my girl. We all come to ruin, we turn to dust, but whom we love is the thing that lasts.”

 

3.) the wicked deep by shea ernshaw

The promise of a novel filled with the essence of both Practical Magic and Hocus Pocus is fulfilled by reading Shea Ernshaw's debut. Within these pages is a story filled with regret, revenge, lies, and most of all, love. And every bit of this summertime story is just as wicked and deep as the title assures. To read more about my thoughts, check out my review, “So Easily Conjured.

“Perhaps we all have some oddity, some strangeness we keep hidden along our edges, things we see that we can't explain, things we wish for, things we run from.”

 

4.) circe by madeline miller

After finishing Miller’s debut, The Song of Achilles, I was excited to read her sophomore novel. Being obsessed with Greek mythology, I couldn’t wait to start reading this. With the combination of heartbreak, fierce femininity, and witchcraft, I was in love. Now I’m left looking forward to whatever Madeline Miller writes next.

"Humbling women seems to me a chief pastime of poets. As if there can be no story unless we crawl and weep.” 

 

5.) the immortalists by chloe benjamin

As someone who enjoys the mysteries of tarot and prophecy, this novel, which begins with the Gold children discovering the day they will die was a perfect read. What follows are five decades filled with family, ambition, dysfunction, and belief. The unbelievably flawed characters within this narrative fear and follow their fate, and the result is both stunning and devastating.

“The power of words. They weaseled under door crevices and through keyholes. They hooked into invididuals and wormed through generations.” 

 

6.) my ariel by Sina Queyras

My unending love of Sylvia Plath led me to this collection of poetry. Sina Queyras explores the pull many feel to Plath’s last collection Ariel, taking inspiration from the groundbreaking text while still making it her own. After following the Plath Poetry Project myself, I recognized some of the most beautiful and horrific themes from Plath’s work, making this one of the most memorable collections I read all year.

“How can I escape the force of her narrative, how she pulls everyone and everything into her design?”

 

7.) my year of rest and relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh

Upon the recommendation of a coworker, I went into this book expecting some kind of Jane Austen story, but I suppose I was judging too heavily on the cover. What followed was one of the most unlikeable narrators I’ve read in some time, but whom I continued to enjoy page after page for that very reason. Following the year of this unnamed character as she tries to escape the resentment of her past with sleep, much of this story reminded me of The Bell Jar. As such, this book was one of the most surprising and satisfying reads all year.

“But I think I was also holding on to the loss, to the emptiness of the house itself, as though to affirm that it was better to be alone than to be stuck with people who were supposed to love you, yet couldn’t.” 

 

8.) What if it’s us by becky albertalli & adam silvera

Going into this book, I thought about how much I enjoyed Love, Simon and how devastated I was with They Both Die At the End (the title says it all, and yes, it almost made this list). While this book did make me cry, it wasn’t in the same way as the latter. As someone who loved Dear Evan Hansen, who has a fierce appreciation of musical theater, and of course, Hamilton, I absolutely devoured this book. At times adorable, heartwarming, and so honest, this was one book I can’t wait to return to when life gets rough and I need some happiness brought back into my world.

“I just think you’re meant to meet some people. I think the universe nudges them into your path.” 

 

9.) wink poppy midnight by April Genevieve Tucholke

Since its debut, I’ve wanted to read this gorgeous book. Upon reading, however, I had no idea how dark and twisted this story would be. But I loved every moment within Wink, Poppy, and Midnight’s connected lives.

“People aren't just one thing. They never, ever are.”

 

10.) dark sparkler by amber tamblyn

I wasn’t sure what I was expecting from this collection of poetry written about actresses lost before their time. But it wasn’t the haunting beauty of this book. Throughout reading, I found myself stopping to look up these tragic stories, or recalling the times I’d heard of these women before. Overall, the experience was somewhat obsessive, so I haven’t read again since, but it is a collection I continue to think about almost a year later.

“I’m told Galileo wept at how big his hands looked, how small they felt, while pointing at the stars.”

 

11.) belzhar by meg wolitzer

Another book brought into my life based on my love of Sylvia Plath, became one I so loved. This was a story I talked about at work and at home and one that truly surprised me, which as a writer, is often a difficult feat. The narrative tackles ideas of lost love, isolation, memories, and writing. With obvious connections to The Bell Jar, I found myself enthralled as these characters tried to bring themselves back to life.

“Books light the fire—whether it’s a book that’s already written, or an empty journal that needs to be filled in.”

 

12.) the night circus by erin morgenstern

Technically this book was a reread, but this time, I enjoyed the story as an audiobook. This second read reminded me why I so loved this story the first time around, and truly came to life through the audio rendering. I found myself getting lost in the circus, and wishing it were real long after the story was through.

“We lead strange lives, chasing our dreams around from place to place.”

 

13.) the bees by laline paull

As a writer obsessed with honeybees, this story told from the POV of a bee was an absolute delight. This story handled the beauty and horror of what happens in hives, culminating in a terrifying tale of Flora 717.

“You have wings and courage and a brain. Do not annoy me by asking permission."

 

14.) malagash by Joey Comeau

This strange little book found its way to me during one of my many visits to The Strand in New York City. It was one, which sat on my shelf for too long until I took it on this year’s vacation. It would’ve been difficult for even the best of books to follow The Song of Achilles, yet this story still captivated me. Told from a daughter about to lose her father, Sunday attempts to create a computer virus that will preserve her dad forever. It was a beauty and a barrage of heartbreak.

“And if words mean something to you, if an idea moves you, aren't you changed, just a little?”

 

15.) tiny beautiful things: advice on love and life from dear sugar by cheryl strayed

Narrated by Cheryl Strayed, this collection of advice columns, both dazzled and destroyed me as I listened to the audiobook. So many of the anecdotes and advice were profound examinations of humanity and how we try our best to survive. I can’t wait to own a copy of this for myself to go back and discover the beautiful writing that stuck me so completely the first time. 

“Don't surrender all your joy for an idea you used to have about yourself that isn't true anymore.” 

 

16.) grief is the thing with feathers by max porter

I purchased this book for the best friend long before reading Ted Hughes’ Crow. However, it wasn’t until after my love of Sylvia Plath led me to the aforementioned title that I found my way back to this book. It was an oddity, to say the least. But one which examined the profundity of loss and grief in the most vulnerable way. This definitely is a strange read, as Crow helps two young boys and their father work through their grief for the mother and wife they’ve lost. I think I enjoyed this a smidgen more than the best friend for having knowledge of Hughes’ work. But this stunning story is one that can be enjoyed by anyone who’s felt the echo of losing someone they love.

“Ghosts do not haunt, they regress. Just as when you need to go to sleep you think of trees or lawns, you are taking instant symbolic refuge in a ready-made iconography of early safety and satisfaction. That exact place is where ghosts go.” 

 

17.) i am not your final girl by claire c. holland

Another book purchased for the best friend, this collection reminded me of everything I loved about Amber Tamblyn’s collection. These poems follow different fictional female characters from horror films. It is a timely collection, which tackles violence, femininity, and the act of surviving.

“There is nothing else in this world like realizing you’re going to live and not being sure you can.”

18.) these are the women we write about by kayla king

This might be cheating, but if I am being truthful, this book is both my favorite read and proudest accomplishment of the year. Inspired by the women within Greek myths, my micro collection of poetry examines femininity, both past and present. I hope if you are reading this post that you might take the time to discover the women we write about, but never really know.

“I’m still too brilliant to become anything else. But I’m not sorry for what I’ve written.”

As I dive into some new books this year, I can’t wait to be transported to different worlds and to voyage through time, book after book! 

Want to know more about the books I read in 2018? Be my friend on Goodreads

All best,Kayla King.png

So Easily Conjured

The promise of a novel filled with the essence of both Practical Magic and Hocus Pocus is fulfilled by reading Shea Ernshaw's debut, The Wicked Deep. Within these pages is a story filled with regret, revenge, lies, and most of all, love. And every bit of this summertime story is just as wicked and deep as the title assures. 

From the beginning, the haunting lyricism with which Ernshaw conjures her story is enough to draw readers in, and what's more, drown them entirely in beautiful language. The style blends a contemporary narrative with historical elements given through the titled chapters spread throughout the entirety of the novel. Though the narration of these titled chapters does not follow the linear action of the novel, they are just as captivating as the world seen through Penny Talbot's eyes. Penny believes deep in her bones that the three Swan sisters who were drowned in the harbor of Sparrow, Oregon 200 years ago, do indeed return each summer to drown as many teenage boys as they can. It becomes most clear that "magic was not always so linear. It was born from odium. From love. From revenge." And what begins as a story of revenge soon becomes one filled with love. 

Throughout the story, tensions remain high, stakes fraught with the impending deaths of innocent boys. There is a ticking clock to keep readers swept up in the urgency of the story; the Swan season wanes toward the summer solstice, which marks the day the sisters were drowned after being accused of witchcraft so many centuries ago. Like the descendants of Salem, Marguerite, Aurora, and Hazel Swan were not witches. Yet, they're resurrected every summer, taking over the bodies of young girls in town before slipping from the skins back to the ocean below. It's a rather dire set of circumstances in a town that knows entirely too much of their tragic fates, best explained within the narrative:

"Murder. That's precisely what it is. Calling it a curse does not unmake the truth of what happens here each year...It's as predictable as the tide and the moon. It ebbs and flows. Death comes and goes." 

Held within those few lines is the essence of the story, that constant sway between life and death, killer and victim. And the villains of the story, those Swan sisters with the ability to lure boys to their deaths, are proven to be just as flawed and complicated as any good antagonist should be. What was most unexpected, however, was how their villainy washed away as their tragic fates were shared, making it hard not to accept their revenge.  Best explained by Penny, "Guilt slithers through me, a thousand regrets, and I wish for things I can't have: a way to undo all the deaths, to save the people who've been lost." 

The other characters within this novel are no less authentic. Everyone from Penny's grief-stricken mother to Bo, the new boy in town who hides something just as dark as the town; they all seem to hope for something better. As readers, we learn that "the truth slips between the edges of the lies." These people, like Penny, are broken. She misses her father. Her mother has been driven into darkness most maddening by the disappearance of her husband three years before, and Bo found his way to Sparrow filled with his own heartbreaks. At their core, they are all searching the shores for something. Like Bo explains:

"They're always reasons to stay. You just need to find one reason to leave." 

Shea Ernshaw's strengths within this debut do not merely lie at the bottom of an ocean filled with exquisite language, intricate history, and poignant characters, but rather imbue power into the story with elements of magical realism. The notions of curses and revenge, of momentary resurrection and ghosts might be hard to comprehend amidst the contemporary small town setting. But this is the farthest thing from a summer beach read because of the elements of magical realism woven throughout the narrative in a manner that seems so easily conjured. These details act as a juxtaposition to the haunting reality of death. From the forgetful cakes Penny's best friend's mother bakes, "intended to make you forget the worst thing that's ever happened to you--to wipe away bad memories," to the way Penny and her mother are able to divine the future by reading tea leaves; there is a hint of magic in everything. This acts as a way for the reader to better comprehend the strange events of Sparrow, Oregon, and thus, too, the characters to accept that something wicked most certainly comes from the sea.

Sparrow is a mysterious place, while Penny's home at Lumiere island acts as a protection against everything happening around her. The lighthouse is able to shine light onto the murky truths beneath the waves, and as such, the island becomes its own kind of character within the novel. Just as Penny and Bo gravitate toward the orchards and cottages, the reader, too, will feel bound to the island and the veil of safety it offers against the brutality of the risen sisters.

Reading the line, "Some places are bound in by magic. Ensnared by it," this feels like truth carefully crafted to encompass the marks we leave, even after we're gone. So too, does this truth: "Ghosts remain. But sometimes, the past is the only thing keeping a place alive...But it persists, because it must. Penance is a long, unforgiving thing. It endures, for without it, the past is forgotten." Throughout this book, there were many more lines and paragraphs, which took my breath as I drowned within them, ensnared by Ernshaw's skill to take the reader deep into her characters' lives. Lines resonate long after being read. None so much as:

"Perhaps we all have some oddity, some strangeness we keep hidden along our edges, things we see that we can't explain, things we wish for, things we run from." 

In the end, Shea Ernshaw's debut, The Wicked Deep, will leave readers under its eerie spell. Though this book is a standalone with a satisfying conclusion, it is clear that "endings are never so simple." And navigating this haunting tale to the last page will leave readers looking forward to whatever Ernshaw conjures next! 

All best,Kayla King.png

These Are a Few Of My Favorite Reads

Last year around this time, I set a Goodreads goal of reading 100 books. All this time later, I can't say I achieved this goal. And maybe any other year, this would have been more of a disappointment, but in the past year I've faced more rejection and accomplishment than I ever expected. Maybe those things happened at the cost of not reading as voraciously as I have in the past, but that doesn't mean I love reading or books any less.

 

In fact the 52 books I did read, helped me appreciate the craft and writing and helped me fall in love with reading all over again! 

 

 

What follows are my favorite books from 2017:

 

1.) The Careful Undressing of Love by corey ann haydu

This was the first book I read in 2017, and it set high standards. With beautiful, lyrical writing, and heartbreaking characters, this promised a great year of reading.

 

2.) The Secret Lives of People in Love by simon van booy

I remember texting the best friend asking if he'd ever had a sentence break him, because I was breaking beneath the beauty of this short story collection.

 

3.) Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz

Though this was technically a reread, I did listen to the audiobook version for the first time and Lin Manuel Miranda brought this story to life. 

 

4.)The Collected Poems: Sylvia Plath by sylvia plath

Starting the Plath Poetry Project in April, I used this collection as a road map month by month. Though there's not much left of Sylvia's last year, there are more than enough poignant poems within this collection.

 

5.) Heartless by MARISA meyer

This is one of those audiobook listens I now need to own in hard copy because I can't wait to read this again. Taking all my favorite things: Wonderland, retellings, and villain backstories; this story was one I haven't forgotten!

 

6.) We Are Okay by nina lacour

Fun fact: this is one of the comp. titles I've used for my book while out in the query trenches! Nina's work was all at once heartbreaking and reviving, and this, too, is another audiobook I *need* to own!

 

7.) Caraval by stephanie garber

Filled with fun, adventure, and illusion, I'm thrilled to know the sequel will be coming soon. This was another fantastic audiobook listen that truly took me into the world of Caraval!

 

8.) Ten Miles One Way by patrick downs

This was the first book I started after moving this year, and it was one I anticipated because I loved the freshman novel by this author (Fell of Dark). However, I finished this book beside the best friend while on the subway heading to the Cloisters in NYC. As the characters traversed a city, so did I, and I couldn't imagine reading this haunting book any other way.

 

9.) Rome: Poems by Dorothea Lasky

Though originally a birthday gift for the best friend, it is currently living on my shelf. I found within this poetry collection, a narrative voice similar to my own, and I continue to reread it now because it gets better each time.

 

10.) Like Water by rebecca podos

While reading this book, I had so many thoughts of, "just one more chapter," and then, all too soon, I was finished. It was a book that demanded to be read and felt and I haven't forgotten Vanni or her summer at Mermaid Cove.

 

11.) Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them: Illustrated edition by newt scamander/j.k. ROLLING, illustrated by Olivia Lomenech Gill

Loved the movie. Loved the audiobook. But there is something about the illustrations that really brought Newt's work to life!

 

12.) Turtles All the Way Down by john green

I must confess I was nervous to read this for fear I wouldn't like it as much as John Green's other books. But this story made it's way to the #2 spot in my John Green favorite ( 1.) Looking For Alaska, 2.) Turtles All the Way Down, 3.) Will Grayson Will Grayson, 4.) The Fault in Our Stars).

 

13.) Warcross by marie lu

Another audiobook that succeeded to transport me both with narration and storytelling. While I'm not a gamer by any means, there was still so much to enjoy from this book, as well as a nod to Lu's Legend series, which I devoured many years before.

 

14.) A History of the Unmarried by Stephen S. Mills

While I've also read this before, I'd never read it straight through, but rather read sporadically. Perhaps organizing my own poetry collection inspired me to read this the way Mills intended. Maybe not. Either way, this is another brilliant poetry collection.

 

15.) Whichwood by Tahereh Mafi

I’m embarrassed to say this is my first Tahereh Mafi book I’ve ever read, but rest assured, it will not be my last. I can’t wait to read the companion, Furthermore. Mafi brings readers into a world of the macabre with just enough humor to get through the brutality and honesty of loss and living after grief. 

 

16.) Harry Potter: A Journey Through the History of Magic by british library

One of my favorite Christmas gifts from my sister, I was most astonished by the story behind J.K. Rowling being picked up by Bloomsbury. Currently in the query trenches, Rowling's struggle resonated with me beyond the pages of this book.

 

17.) The Wicker King by K. Ancrum

Fun fact: this is the other comp. title I'm using for my book, which is currently in the query trenches. Ancrum's work is haunting, beautiful, and human. I can't wait to see more from this author in the future!

And I can't wait to see what's in store for this new year of reading! 

Want to know more about the books I read in 2017? Be my friend on Goodreads

All best,Kayla King.png

Fangirling Over Fangirl

I just finished Rainbow Rowell's young adult novel, Fangirl, and I'm so sad it's over. Reading this book was like finding a piece of sea glass on the beach when you're not looking, like wishing on a fuzzy dandelion and having your wish come true. It was completely unexpected, but so rewarding in the end. Picking up this book, I knew it would be good; I'd already madly in love with Eleanor and Park when I read it back in January.

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There was something about Cath, Wren, Reagan, and Levi, which made them seem so real despite the fact that they are just characters in a book. They are flawed, imperfect, and speak their minds honestly. And for the short time I spent with them in this fictional world, they were like my best friends. I connected with Cath as a writer and lover of a fandom, which many people often snub. But luckily, like Cath, I've found friends who support my love of all things nerdy. I have family to supports me, too, and a love for the stories I've read, and the stories in my head. 

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I can't wait to go back and read this lovely piece of YA lit. again, but I'm also saddened because I'll never have the unknowingness the next time around. There is something so perfect and magical about reading a really good book for the first time. But there's also something wonderful about reading your favorite book again and again because you never read it the same way, even if the book doesn't change. You're the one who's changed. And because you've changed, there are certain lines you pay more attention to, which make you smile a little brighter, phrases to break your heart, and scenes that still make you cry. 

I think that's the beauty of all books. Having the ability to go back and spend time with some of your favorite people in worlds you enjoy is important to stay positive, to have faith in this world when bad things happen. And for me, it's even more important because it shows words and stories are still important, making me believe my words and my stories are important. too. And I can't wait to share them with the world. But until then, I think I'm going to fall into fictional place I love!

Book Love

Today, I wanted to give some much deserved book love to Cinder by Marissa Meyer.

I absolutely loved this book! It was refreshing to see Cinderella be more than someone scrubbing floors and wearing pretty dresses; Cinder is a bad ass female! The way Meyer twists the traditional fairytale, breathes new life into Cinderella, while all at once delivering nostalgic gems hidden within the text.

There is a beautiful moment in the story: 

 "If there was one thing she knew from years as a mechanic, it was that some stains never come out." 

Though simple, this seems to encapsulate everything, which later happens within this delightful retelling. It's exciting to see that other people are just as enthralled with fairytales as I am. I can't wait to read Scarlet and Cress, the next books in the wonderfully eerie Lunar Chronicles.