Number 50 – Mexican Gothic

I did it! 50 books in a single calendar year for the first time! I know I’ve been mentioning this quite a bit, but it really makes me happy to have finally accomplished an annual goal I’ve been setting for over a decade. I decided I’m going to start posting every review I write on Goodreads on here too. Tomorrow I’ll have a thorough reflection on 2020 and thoughts on what’s to come in 2021, but today I leave you with my review of one of the most talked about books of the year. Hope you reached your goal!

Noemí Taboada receives a strange letter from her cousin, Catalina and sets off to see she’s okay. What she finds is right out of a horror novel.

This was the first time I’ve ever read a book during it’s original publication year. I’d be lying if I didn’t acknowledge I bought this because of the hype. I am not familiar with the author or any of her previous work. But this book seemed to be everywhere after its release.

What I wanted when starting this book was to read a Mexican story for the first time. Immediately Noemí leaves Mexico City and where does she go? To an English family. It doesn’t come across as any different than a story set in NY.

While reading there were two stories I found myself comparing this to. Dracula and The Strain, but much more heavily toward The Strain. Howard Doyle is a copy of The Master. The major difference is he isn’t building an army to take over the world.

The most enjoyable part of the story is no doubt Noemí. She takes no shit. She stands up for herself and her cousin, and even Francis for some reason.

The author has an enjoyable writing style with vivid descriptions that create stunning images as you read. But the story is incredibly slow to start. If it could have moved along at a quicker pace, it could have been a great book. 2 stars.

2020 Sucked, but These Books Didn’t

Today’s the day. No, the year isn’t quite over just yet. But today’s the day I reveal the best books I read this year. Obviously, I’d like you to take a look at the video to hear what I have to say, but because we’re talking about the year’s best I’m also writing about them here.

Every one of these books was a five star read for me. In order read:

The Forgotten Man – Robert Crais
PS I Still Love You – Jenny Han
Chasing Darkness – Robert Crais
The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao – Junot Diaz
Flash Boys – Michael Lewis
Suspect – Robert Crais
The Sentry – Robert Crais
Taken – Robert Crais
The Last Olympian – Rick Riordan
Born a Crime – Trevor Noah

As you can see, Robert Crais wrote HALF of my five star reads for the entire year. Insanity. If you can believe it, there were other books of his I didn’t rate as highly. But he really set the bar this year. He’s been one of my favorite authors for some time, but he dominated my reading this year. I read him nine times. He’s cemented himself as the best crime novelist writing today and I have too many reasons to hit on right now.

It would be pointless to write this and not mention the top of the top. The best book I read this year was The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. I previously wrote a review on here for it, so no point in reviewing it again.

Most surprising, the number two book of the year was Trevor Noah’s Born a Crime. I went in with limited expectations and page after page, chapter after chapter was impressed. I’m limited in my exposure to memoirs, but this an excellent read and I imagine on par with any other.

Lastly, I feel obligated to mention Rick Riordan. I read four of the five Percy Jackson books this year. He seemingly improved with every single one, with his best coming with the final in the series. It was full of heart-wrenching, heart-stopping moments that made me happy to have taken a chance on the books. A phenomenal finale to a rather enjoyable series.

What were some of your top reads this year?

2020’s Worst Reads

We made it! It’s the final week of this trainwreck of a year. To celebrate I’m going to talk about lots of books I read this year throughout the final days of 2020. First, I’m talking about the books that don’t deserve a second reading. Ever.

What were some of the worst reads for you this year?

Is This the Best Way to Buy a Book?

I’ve known about since its launch, though I hardly gave it any thought. It’s an online bookstore that aims to help and preserve independent bookstores in the US.

I’ve written over and over about how much I love Half Price Books. It’s really the only bookstore I regularly shop at. HPB may be a chain, but it’s still family owned. They fall somewhere in the middle of Barnes and Noble on the top of the stack and the local mom and pop bookstore with a single location.

But tries to level the playing field. The site gives away most of its profits to local bookstores and has an affiliate program that pays out 10% commission and matches that with 10% to local bookstores.

When checking their website there’s a lot to like about it. But there’s one flaw. The site is its own bookstore. Though you can find affiliated stores on the site, when buying books you’re buying from the site. What I think would make the site ideal is if the books listed are actually bought from those local affiliate bookstores. The site would act as a marketplace. I’m not sure if this is possible, but it’s a thought. Do you have a favorite bookstore you prefer over others?

Reading Routines

Recently has been the first time I’ve had a real reading routine since my college days. During my first semester twice a week I had a nearly two hour break between classes. Some people studied. Some got food. I usually bought a smoothie and sat down in a study area and pulled out my current book. Every Tuesday and Thursday. Like clockwork.

I’ve been out of school for 7 years. The last 4 I’ve had a set schedule. The last 2 I’ve had a set M-F schedule. But it was difficult to come up with a reading routine. Mostly because I’d read in starts and stops and could never stick to anything.

But 2020 has flipped everything on its head. Didn’t have a dog. Now I do. Hadn’t set up my home office. Now it is. Didn’t have a reading routine. Now I’m reading every night. Where has this John been all these years!?

I can’t say for sure why my reading has taken on more of a priority this year, but in these last 4 months reading nightly has made a big difference. I think of it the same as those who write every single day, no matter what.

What’s your routine?

A New Record

Since 2010 I’ve set a reading goal every year of 50 books. As of this writing, I’ve still never reached it. But last week I did get one step closer. I finally set a new personal record for the number of books I’ve read in a calendar year. My previous record was 44 from all the way back in 2012. As of now I’m at 47 and still going. I no longer doubt that I’ll also reach my goal this year. It’s been a long time coming, but I’m just about there!

How many books have you read this year?

A New Possibility

Maybe you know, maybe you don’t, but for about a year from 2015-2016 I worked at Half Price Books. I’m sorry if you’re not in the US or live in a state without one. They’re really great places.

It was during this period I realized how silly I’d been for so long. Prior to that I’d almost exclusively bought my books through Amazon. Several years ago my favorite was actually Borders because they had the best coupons, but then they closed. At another point I had a Barnes and Noble membership. But the savings were never worth it.

As you can see, over the years I’ve constantly tried to get the most bang for my buck when buying books. Then I found HPB and my world forever changed. Now that vaccinations are starting my hope is that HPB is able to bring back their biggest sales in 2021. 4 times a year they have 20% off everything for a four day weekend. 4 other times a year they have a coupon for every day of the week, culminating with 50% off the final day.

I’ve written over and over about HPB on here. I honestly love the place. But lately it’s been difficult to find some of the books I’ve been looking for. And I’ve been looking for months. I partially attribute this to the pandemic. There’s definitely lots more shelf space than normal. I recently found another used bookstore just down the street from where I live. This is something of a gem, as it’s only one location. But it’s been around for decades. I haven’t gone yet, but I intend to. Who knows? Maybe this will be my new go-to store?

Year End Lists

I write this knowing that I’ll almost certainly be writing a year end list or making a video, but as we approach the end of the year lots of publications are publishing their year end lists of books.

Do you ever look at these? I usually don’t. I can’t remember the last time I read a book during its original publication year, maybe I never have. As someone who almost exclusively buys from Half Price Books, brand new releases are usually hard to come by.

Sometimes it does make me feel like I have no idea what’s going on in the world of books. There are times when new releases trickle down to me and grab my attention. I’ve had my eye on a few recently, but I haven’t bought anything.