Behind the Poems

I’ve been thinking of starting a series called “Behind the Poems” that I mentioned a couple of weeks ago on my Instagram. Growing up with MTV and VH1, I may have been inspired by the Behind the Music series. I plan on discussing inspiration behind my poetry, why I chose their structures and more.

Introducing behind the poems
Ink and quill

I’ll start with one or two to see how this goes. I’m not sure yet this series will have legs, but I lose nothing in giving it a shot. Let me know if there are any poets out there who would like to participate!

In the meantime, take a look at my other poems here.

Wanderlust: New York Revisited

I went to New York again in 2018, nine years after my last time there. Though in 2009, I did a quick day trip to visit a college, so not sure if that actually counts. It’s now been four years since I’ve been, but the city still holds a certain magic over me. And how fitting that I come to revisit my travels to New York after finishing The City We Became by N.K. Jemisin.

Street mural in New York City. GIF combined from photo burst series
Street mural in New York City

The first time I went to New York as a kid in 2000, we’d visited the Twin Towers. This time, my mom and I found ourselves at the memorial that stands in their place. There’s a confounding mix of hope and sorrow that weighs heavy on your shoulders as you read the names of the lives lost from 9/11. More so on a cold, gray day surrounded by skyscrapers of steel and glass. It almost feels like time stands still while you’re there, and yet you’re always aware of how life goes on around it.

New Adventures in New York

For the first time, I caught a Broadway show. My cousin had entered the raffle and we ended up with tickets to Head Over Heels, a jukebox musical of the Go-Gos songs. It was kind of cheesy and over the top, but fun and filled with so much queer celebration.

Venturing into Brooklyn, we found The Little Sweet Cafe, where we indulged in a delicious breakfast. Taking the bus through the neighborhoods, we made our way to the Brooklyn Bridge and began the trek across. It’s a high traffic foot path, but the exhilaration of walking from that borough to Manhattan went by in the blink of an eye. Of course, the brisk weather probably helped. I’m sure in the summer swelter it’s unbearable.

As a Florida girl, I’m always fascinated by taking the subway. Grand Central Station, inside and out, has a way of captivating you.

Exterior of Grand Central Station in New York City
Looking up at Grand Central Station from the street below

New Perspectives

While we revisited old haunts, we also added new stops to the itinerary. I found a tour of the catacombs of the Basilica of St. Patrick’s Old Cathedral (the one on Mulberry Street, not 5th). We were taken behind the organ and behind the scenes of this historic church. Then it was time to dive under. We were led to an empty, concrete room with a single door leading into the catacombs. As we walked through the musty air and dark tunnels, our guide told us the history of the people buried there.

Making your way through Central Park is quintessential to the New York experience. We took a bike and buggy tour, being pulled along through some of the major highlights. As we passed the Balto statue, I confessed I only knew the cartoon movie story. My cousin could not believe I’d never learned about Balto in my history classes.

While a stroll through Central Park these days is part of the classic city experience, it’s important to remember how the park came to be in the first place. It’s worth a read to learn about the once-thriving African-American community of Seneca Village and how the government used eminent domain to acquire the land for the park’s construction.

No matter how many times I visit, New York always holds something new and magical to discover. I can’t wait to go back sometime!

Have you visited New York? More than once? What’s your impression of the city that never sleeps?

Wanderlust: Salem, Massachusetts

Salem came as an unexpected surprise during my trip to Boston. It’s a city I’ve always wanted to visit and I definitely need to go back in October. But I certainly hadn’t planned for it.

Sign welcoming you into Salem, Massachusetts
Welcome sign in Salem, Massachusetts

If you know about my trip to Washington, D.C., then you know I have a habit of getting on the wrong train. But to be fair, I asked the attendant at the station which route to take to get to the Boston neighborhood I was looking for (of course, I can’t remember the name now). Instead, she sent me to the line that went out to another city of the same name. I found myself on the train that passed through Salem and decided to make that my stop instead.

From the moment I stepped off the train and began walking the quiet streets, I thought to myself, “I could move here and open up a little bookshop.” I made my way to the Salem Witch Trials memorial. The stones with so many names brought to life a history I only knew in passing, mostly through literature. The silence sits heavy over the former home of some of the residents of the witch trials. Unfortunately, many of the museums weren’t open during the time of year I visited.

Salem Witch Trials Memorial sign

I remembered reading The Scarlet Letter in college and loving it. So when I stumbled upon Nathaniel Hawthorne’s House of the Seven Gables, I made sure to take a tour. The most fascinating thing I learned was that his original surname was Hathorne, as in magistrate John Hathorne, one of the leading judges in the Salem witch trials. To distance himself from his family’s atrocities, Nathaniel added the W to his last name. Learning this history made my understanding of his famous novel all the richer.

Nathaniel Hawthorne House of the Seven Gables museum

Walking further out along the bay, I came upon the Salem Maritime National Historic Site, America’s first national historic site. I tried to make the hike out across the rocks to the lighthouse, but the winter chill was simply too much for me. Still, the sight of the bay and the maritime history monuments in the freezing cold was a beautiful sight.

I completed my visit to Salem with a stop at a local tavern and ordered a serving of New England clam chowder to warm me up. Maybe I was just tired and cold, but it was the best damn chowder I’d ever had. I finished and hopped back on the train as the sun started to set, making my way back to my hotel in Lowell.

Have you been to Salem? What did you think? Let me know in the comments!

Wanderlust: Boston

In December 2018 I had quit a job I hated and just graduated from my MBA program. For the first time in my life I found myself free with no specific plans in sight. All my life, I either worked or went to school or did both at the same time. I felt like I had room to breathe, so when my dad asked if I wanted to tag along on his work trip to Boston, I said yes.

Collage of pictures of Boston and Salem, Massachusetts from my trip in 2018
Boston, Massachusetts 2018

My dad and I stayed in Lowell, Massachusetts, about a 40-minute drive from Boston. In the mornings we carpooled with Uber, he dropped me off at the train station and went to work. While he did his job training, I took the train into the city. As I wandered the city early in the morning, I found the Boston Public Market and discovered cider donuts and ginger soda. On a bracing cold day, these sweet treats did a lot to warm my soul.

image on the left a half-eaten cider donut. image on the right a bottle of Green Bee ginger and honey soda
Left: Cider Donut, Right: Green Bee ginger & honey soda

Highlights of My Boston Trip

I did the tourist thing and walked the Freedom Trail. But it really does give you the chance to explore so much of the city’s history. And Boston is rife with history. Along the way I found the Printing Office of Edes & Gill, a dream for a writer like me. An actor gives a demonstration of an old printing press and you have the chance to purchase the document created: the Declaration of Independence.

Historic reenactment demonstration at the Printing Office of Edes & Gill

There are so many stops along the Freedom Trail, it would be hard to name them all. But one of my favorites was the Granary Burying Ground. A lot of people think visiting cemeteries is a bit morbid, but I’ve always been fascinated by them. The headstones so faded only traces of names remain, the quiet reverence as visitors take a moment to consider mortality, the noises of Boston’s streets outside the cemetery gates somehow diluted, all in the midst of the chilly winter.

The Paul Revere House also captivated me. It could have been another museum tour, but the docent who worked there had so much passion for history. I talked to her for almost two hours, listening in rapt attention as she gave me the story of Paul Revere and his life. It always impresses me how much the history books leave out and how they can distill a person to a single point in time, but figures like Paul Revere live such rich and full lives.

I have more to share about my travels to Boston, but I’ll leave the rest for a second part. In the meantime, you can keep reading about my adventures in my Wanderlust tag.

And let me know if you’ve visited Boston. What was your favorite part?

Mexican Gothic Book Review

Disclaimer: Some of the links in my review for Mexican Gothic are affiliate links. If you click them to make a purchase I will earn a commission. The decision of whether or not to buy something is completely up to you.

Hard cover copy of Silvia Moreno-Garcia's Mexican Gothic in front of a glass vase filled with fake marigolds and ferns. Surrounded by small, multicolor pumpkins
Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

I picked this one up sooner than expected thanks to Overdue covering it in their podcast. If you haven’t listened to Andrew and Craig talk books, I highly recommend you begin. Their coverage of Mexican Gothic is fantastic!


Noemí Taboada is a flirtacious socialite in Mexico City who only wants to continue her education and study anthropology. But her father wants her to settle down with an appropriate young man. When they receive an unsettling letter from her cousin Catalina, whom they hadn’t heard from since her marriage, her father strikes a deal with her. If Noemí investigates her cousin’s situation and brings her where she needs to be, he will let her continue her studies. She accepts the challenge, but the situation turns out much more sinister than she imagined.

The Plot of Mexican Gothic

Noemí arrives at High Place, the creepy mansion where her ailing cousin Catalina resides with her family by marriage. The Doyles are a haunting bunch, like living ghosts gliding through the old house. Catalina’s husband, Virgil, insists his wife is suffering from tuberculosis and doesn’t need a psychiatrist. But Noemí is stubborn and won’t leave until she finds out the truth.

However, the darkness she experiences while staying at High Place turns out to have deeper roots than she thought. Catalina’s rantings in her letter were not the ravings of a woman gone mad, but rather a woman held prisoner by a family’s secret.

Throughout the story, Moreno-Garcia builds the fictional horror in such a subtle way you don’t realize it’s happening until it’s too late. But the Doyle patriarch’s obsessive exoticizing of Noemí puts the real horror upfront and center: white supremacy. Moreno-Garcia flips the script so that the Lovecraftian horror takes root the way racism and colonialism do in real life – quietly and behind the scenes.


Noemí works great as a protagonist. Glimpsing into her thought processes throughout the book, you come to find a smart and resourceful heroine. Interestingly enough, this intellect also leaves her vulnerable in the face of the impossible. While she often handles the real evil of the Doyles deftly, the supernatural evil of the house is harder to fight, especially for someone who starts out as a skeptic.

She finds an ally in Francis, the only one of the Doyles who shows a shred of decency. And the first man that has managed to garner Noemí’s genuine affection. His family often derides him, shunning him for his softness. But as sweet and kind as Francis is, he’s also been poisoned by the paranormal evil of the house. It’s a fascinating development that shows how those growing up in a toxic environment will always be a product of it, no matter how compassionate they may be. It takes courage and work to break free from that poison.

Mexican Gothic Rating

5 out of 5 stars hands down. Moreno-Garcia created an unsettling atmosphere by intertwining real-life horrors with the supernatural kind. Every moment reading this novel, I found myself crawling in my skin.

You can find a copy of the book here.

2020 Sci-Fi and Fantasy Books You May Have Missed

Disclaimer: Some of the links in this list of 2020 sci-fi and fantasy books are affiliate links. If you click them to make a purchase I will earn a commission. The decision of whether or not to buy something is completely up to you.

2020 sci-fi and fantasy books, Wizard 3D Art Scifi Magic Fantasy Power Cube
Image by Sachu Sanjayan from Pixabay

When the pandemic hit, some 2020 sci-fi and fantasy books may have fallen through the cracks. And if you’re anything like me, you’re probably 84 years behind on your TBR. But it’s okay, because as 2021 comes to an end, now is the perfect time to discover the books you missed when the pandemic started.

Dark and Deepest Red by Anna-Marie McLemore

McLemore creates a haunting and beautiful fairytale retelling with their story about Rosella Oliva and Emil. A pair of red shoes attach themselves to Rosella’s feet, making her dance uncontrollably. Emil reveals the history of the village’s ancestors who once danced themselves to death in those same shoes, and how his family was blamed for it five centuries before.

Riot Baby by Tochi Onyebuchi

Onyebuchi combines the magic of fantasy with the science fiction of dystopian novels. Brother and sister Ella and Kev have supernatural powers that help them navigate a world built on brutality and racism. When Kev is imprisoned simply for being a black man in America, Ella tries to lead her brother to a revolution that can undo the world as they know it.

Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas

This was one of my favorite among the 2020 sci-fi and fantasy books published. Thomas takes their place among the queer young adult book canon. In this YA fantasy, Yadriel, a Latinx brujo wants to prove his place to his family that can’t accept his gender. But when he summons the ghost of Julian Diaz, the school’s bad boy, he can’t get rid of him. After spending time with him though, he’s not sure he wants to. You can see my full review here.

Docile by K.M. Szpara

In Szpara’s dystopian sci-fi novel, Dociles are the new slaves. These unfortunate individuals find themselves in dire straits and need to find a way to survive and provide for their children’s future. But the true horror of this science fiction novel is its all too real resonance with today’s life. It’s a promising read to add to the queer sci-fi canon.

Black Sun by Rebecca Roanhorse

Roanhorse has earned her place among indigenous authors of renown. With this fantasy novel inspired by Ancestral Puebloan culture, she sets off the Between Earth and Sky trilogy. Featuring a matriarchy, rebel uprising, dark magic and political intrigue, this fantasy series is sure to satiate fans of the genre.

A Beginning at the End by Mike Chen

For sci-fi lovers with a taste for the post-apocalyptic, Chen’s novel fits the wheelhouse. After an epidemic wipes out a large chunk of Earth’s population, the rest are left to rebuild. This splits the world into factions of self-governed cities, gangs in the wastelands and communes for the free-loving. It’s a free-for-all that sci-fi readers will love.

Upright Women Wanted by Sarah Gailey

Featuring queer librarians who act as spies in the American Southwest working for a rebellion against fascists and bandits, Gailey’s LGBTQ+ fantasy is sure to hit all the right notes this coming year. Esther fell in love with her best friend before they killed her for possessing propaganda from the resistance. When her father betrothed her to the man once engaged to her best friend, she stowed away in a librarian’s wagon.

You can find all the books mentioned here on my Bookshop page.

Wanderlust: Chicago 2017

It’s been a while since I wrote about my travels, so I thought I’d dive back in with my visit to Chicago in December 2017. After the last couple of years with limited traveling due to the pandemic, I think I’m long overdue to share my old adventures.

As I made my way between the buildings, I saw ropes stretched along walkways. I wondered what they were for until the moment a strong gust blew and I had to grab the nearby ropes to keep from blowing over. Ah, that’s why they call it The Windy City.

I flew out to Chicago to visit my friend Angela, but on my first day, I trekked solo while she worked. Filled with skyscrapers, banks, libraries and stores like any other city, at first glance it seems ordinary. But take a closer look at the details and you see a story within the cracks and crevices. Something about the city’s architecture captivated me and made me feel like I’d stepped into a different place. And I had. I wasn’t in Florida anymore, so the buildings held a different history.

the Chicago Theater
The Chicago Theater

Since I went in December, holiday lights and events abounded. I found myself at the Navy Pier and popped inside to escape the cold and rain. I walked into a delightful Christmas festival made more for kids, but still beautiful and enjoyable. Outside, even in the gray light, the waterfront promenade enthralled me. Passing by the Shakespeare Theater and the Ferris wheel in the distance, the Navy Pier holds a whimsical allure.

When visiting Chicago, make sure to get views of the city from up high. A ride on the Ferris wheel at the Navy Pier takes you on a wonderful ride above the skyline, seeing all the way out to the horizon. If you’re not afraid of heights, the Sears Tower also gives an incredible view of the city. It’s a tourist attraction, but stepping into the Skydeck over the city is a thrilling experience.

Chicago Skydeck
Sitting in the Chicago Skydeck

On the days Angela and I did hang out, we went to see the Habichuela as I called it. I hadn’t realized until that day that they actually call it the Bean. Cindy’s Rooftop Bar nearby gives an excellent view of the shining structure from above. But be prepared for a bit of a wait, as even before the pandemic it was a wait to enter.

View of the Bean from Cindy's Rooftop Bar
View of the Bean from Cindy’s Rooftop Bar

Have you visited Chicago? What was your impression of the city? Let me know in the comments.

Update 10/20/2021: Time is such a construct that I forgot my first trip to Chicago was in 2017, not 2018.

Best Books for Fall Lovers

Disclosure: Some of the links in this list of best books for fall are affiliate links. If you click them to make a purchase I will earn a commission. The decision of whether or not to buy something is completely up to you.

best books for fall
Image by hudsoncrafted from Pixabay

With the leaves changing colors and cooler weather comes the perfect opportunity to get cozy in your reading nook. Whether it’s a sweet romance or chilling mystery, there’s something for all Fall lovers. Grab a cup of tea and fall into these six books perfect for Autumn.

The Secret History by Donna Tartt

A mystery thriller set in New England makes for one of the best books for fall. A group of smart and strange students become entranced with a new way of thinking about the world, influenced by their charismatic professor. But things go too far, and soon they delve into a world of corruption, betrayal and evil.

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

You can always count on Gaiman to deliver creepy fall books perfect for the Halloween season. Part horror and part young adult paranormal fantasy, this story follows Nobody Owens, a boy who escaped the grisly murder that befell his family. He wanders into a graveyard after the incident, where the land’s deceased residents agree to raise him as one of their own.

The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield

Among the best cozy autumn books is Setterfield’s novel about a recluse author named Vida Winter who penned 12 delightful tales. But the 13th has been missing, until the time just before her death. With the help of biographer Margaret Lea, Winter finally tells the tale she’s kept hidden her whole life.

The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón

If you’re searching for books that feel like autumn, then look no further than the first of the Cemetery of Forgotten Books series. In 1945 Barcelona, a boy named Daniel awakes one day to find he can no longer remember his mother’s face. His father attempts to console him by initiating him into the secret library tended by rare-book dealers.

Transcription by Kate Atkinson

One of the best books set in Autumn takes place in London post-World War II. During the war, Juliet Armstrong worked as a transcriber, cracking codes between an MI5 agent and a suspected German sympathizer. Years after the war, she’s dragged back into the world of spy work she wanted to leave behind.

The Autumn Bride by Anne Gracie

A list of fall books is not complete without a historical romance. Abigail Chantry, a governess, finds the Lady Beatrice Davenham’s estate in shambles. To keep her sisters and friends who work for the estate from falling into poverty, she takes over it herself. But when the Lady’s nephew Max returns and doesn’t find his aunt running the place, misunderstandings ensue and lead to the best kind of romance.

Find most of the books on this list here!

The Crimson Crown by Cinda Williams Chima Book Review

Disclosure: Some of the links in this book review for The Crimson Crown are affiliate links. If you click them to make a purchase I will earn a commission. The decision of whether or not to buy something is completely up to you.

It’s taken several years, but I finally finished the Seven Realms Series. Perhaps I’m well past the age of the appropriate audience, but this ending felt lackluster after such a strong series. It was still a fair book, but not great in comparison to the first three.

The Crimson Crown by Cinda Williams Chima paperback
The Crimson Crown by Cinda Williams Chima


In the final novel of Chima’s high fantasy young adult series, the war that’s been broiling in the realms comes to a head. Raisa, now the queen of the Fells, must contend with all her enemies and bring together people who have been split for centuries. Han Alister, her wizard counselor, and her love interest helps Raisa bring the kingdom together, ensuring everyone has an equal voice. But they can only succeed if they’re honest with each other and bring the truth to light.

Characters of The Crimson Crown

In the past, Han and Raisa’s constant push and pull compelled me. But by the fourth book, it wears out. The will they/won’t they seesaw grew tired and left me unsatisfied in the end. All the relationships felt that way, really. Every dynamic, whether it was Raisa and Amon or the wizards versus clan stretched out too long. It was a relief when it finally came to an end. The prolonged tensions affected the characters’ growth. It felt like three books’ worth of development stagnated and fell short.


While the characters fell short, the story kept moving along at a pace that worked. However, it did feel a bit uneven as well. The political intrigue dragged a bit on both Raisa’s and Han’s sides. The end approached quickly and culminated in a neat little bow.

Cultural Influences

Throughout the series, I couldn’t help but compare the story to Tamora Pierce’s Trickster duology. Raisa represents the bridge between two peoples who cannot coexist: the colonizers and the colonized. She is the daughter of the queen of the conquering people and the chief of the clan people. It’s hard not to make the connection to the sisters in the Trickster duology.

It also bears acknowledging that both series are written by white women. While mixed characters are certainly worth exploring, a more deft hand is required. Both series create an interesting premise that reflects real-life issues. But they don’t go far enough to understand the nuance of such existence.

Rating Crimson Crown

3 out of 5 stars. I loved the rest of the series enough to finish it. But the book doesn’t stand too well on its own.

Find this book on my list and other books I’ve reviewed.

Back in the Blogosphere

Hello friends!

Source: Source: Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

I needed a break from blogging. I’ve been doing it because I enjoy it, but I’m feeling burned out with everything I have going on. But I think I’m ready to come back. Only now I’ll have a once a month schedule. My aim is to post the first Saturday each month. So I don’t burn myself out and have time and energy for other projects on the horizon…

I’m excited to be back!

Warmest Regards,

Meagan Kimberly