Review: To Selena, With Love

I mentioned previously that I plan to share every review I write on here going forward. Today I’m talking SELENA.

Chris Perez tells the story of his life with Selena, though their time was so awfully cut short.

It’s impossible to put into words how beloved Selena is within the Mexican-American community. Because for much of her short life, she was like every one of us. Her family wasn’t well off. She didn’t speak Spanish. The balance between the Mexican part of you doesn’t always match with the American part. And on and on.

In this work Chris Perez has done what only he could. Throughout the 2+ decades since her death we are always treated to the story from the Quintanilla perspective. The movie and the series do the same. Chris doesn’t aim to retell what we already know. He reveals a side none of us do. Selena at home. Selena after a long day out on the bus. Selena just before bed. Selena the person, not the budding superstar. It’s fitting for her love story to finally be shared after so many years. We all know she eloped with Chris against her father’s wishes, but this work shows just how much it took for them to reach that point.

The most heartbreaking aspect of their story is obviously her death. The despair he endured after comes right off the pages and envelopes you as you read.

Like so many, I’m too young to have known Selena before her death. Her brilliant life may have been cut short, but she continues to live on today, tomorrow, and always.

An intimate window into her love story. 5 stars.

The book and the new series are very different. If you’re interested in hearing what I have to say about the Netflix show, I got ya.

This year I’m going to actively track my reading progress as the year moves forward.

2020 on January 8 – 0 books
2021 on January 8 – 2 books

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 Reading Goal #34 – Flash Boys by Michael Lewis

Y’all, I’m getting so close to my goal of 50! This is already my second best year overall. I’ve decided that I’m going to include every review I write for the last few books of the year on here. This is the first.


The stock market is rigged against the average investor by every other party taking part in the market. That’s what Michael Lewis explains so thoughtfully in this book.

This was the second book I’ve read by Michael Lewis. This was the second time he’s left me thoroughly impressed.

Fair warning, the subject matter of the book is not just the stock market, the focus is on high frequency trading and dark pools and the fractured nature of exchanges. All of it is highly complex and not easily understood even by the financial professionals who work within the system. This isn’t my takeaway, it’s shown throughout the book. But he manages to make these extremely complex practices understandable. Sure, I won’t be giving a Ted Talk on high frequency trading, but upon completion I understand the story he was trying to tell.

What nonfiction often struggles with is leading up to something, a climax or grand event that acts as the high point of the story. Somehow he writes this exactly like a fiction novel. Toward the end of the book Brad Katsuyama (with plenty of help from his small, but highly talented group) launched IEX, their new stock exchange meant to level the playing field and protect investors from the predatory trading practices found elsewhere. Reading the description of what happened that first month is as good as any writing I’ve ever read. As a reader it gave me goosebumps to read about this band of people joining together to take on the entirety of Wall Street. A small minority that needs just a little help from the silent majority to quite literally change the world.

5 stars. No doubt.

Bestsellers and Me: Brave New World

In returning to the blog (posted all five days I planned to last week!) it also means a return to my channel. With my first video back I’m starting a new series. Clearly, it’s called Bestsellers and Me. The idea is to follow up with a video whenever I read a bestseller. I can see the gears of your brain turning, “But what qualifies as a bestseller?”. Glad you asked. For my purposes I’m going to consider a book a bestseller if it has more than 100k ratings on Goodreads. Easy enough.

First in the series is Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World. It would be cool if you watch, but no hard feelings if you don’t. You can also just tell me what you thought of the book.

2020 in Books: The Girls

This is the fourth and final entry (for now) in my series discussing the books I’ve been reading lately. Today we’re taking about Emma Cline’s The Girls.

The book takes us into the lives of the Manson family, one member in particular. It leads up to their most notorious crime. It’s a fictionalized version, of course. On the surface you might be intrigued when hearing that, but don’t be.

When I go to the bookstore (only Half Price Books) I always check online first to see if my store has what I’m looking for. Buying this book was one of those rare occurrences I happened to see it on the shelf and though I knew nothing about the story itself, I remembered when it was first published it had been quite the bestseller. So I bought it.

The book alternates between the 60s and the present when our protagonist (if you can even call her that) is middle aged. I hate repeating myself from an earlier post in this series, but nothing happened. The book doesn’t go into the actual crimes committed. It gives a perspective from within the family before they’re committed and talks about the aftermath. But again, nothing happens and chapters stretch on and on of nothing. It couldn’t be more exhausting.

Upon completion my first thought was that I’d have been better off reading a true crime account of the family and their crimes. Maybe I will at some point. I’m sure you can see where this is going. I’ve rated three books this year as one star. This is one of them.

2020 in Books: The Road

This is the second in my series to discuss some of the books I’ve been reading lately. Some good and some not. Today’s book is The Road by Cormac McCarthy.

We follow a father and son along a road in post apocalyptic North America. As I sit here trying to give just a little bit more of a plot description I realize there’s nothing else to say about it. We follow them as they try to stay alive along this road, but that’s it.

I have serious problems with just about every aspect of this book. There are no names for the characters. The father is the father and the son is the son. I might be mistaken (I read this a few months ago), but I don’t think the book has chapters and the punctuation is not proper. I never could figure the point for writing this way. My only guess is because it’s in this post apocalyptic world that the author felt it best to show that grammatical norms don’t matter when everyone and everything has been destroyed.

I’d love to write about the action or the climax of the story to give more insight, but there’s neither. Nothing happens in the story. This book won the Pulitzer and was adapted into a movie. I haven’t seen the movie and likely won’t, but there should be a White House Commission to investigate who was bribed to award this book the Pulitzer. If you couldn’t tell, I rated this 1 star. It’s also worth noting that this book is partially responsible for a nearly two month gap in my reading this year after I started and stopped because there was not a thing to keep me interested. Thoughts?

This is one of Amazon’s 100 books everyone should read.

2020 in Books: Slaughterhouse Five

I said in yesterday’s post I wanted to write about some of the books I’ve read so far in 2020, and look at me actually doing it. I’m starting with one I know some of you have read. Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut.

Billy Pilgrim takes us through his life as he time travels through different periods, most notably to when he’s captured by Germans just before the Allied bombing of Dresden at the end of WWII.

What bothered me most about the book is the time travel. It happens from one sentence to the next with no warning and keeps you as the reader jumping around in your head trying to figure out where he’s gone back (or forward) to now. But that may not be the worst part. During the course of his life Billy is taken to an alien planet and put on display in what amounts to a zoo. Just writing it takes me back to the absurdity of it.

It would have been perfectly okay to write the same story minus the alien planet and time travel. The Allies bombed an unguarded city at the end of the war, killing tens of thousands. The story could begin just prior to the bombing and tell of the destruction and death that follows. But it doesn’t.

I rated it between 1-2 stars, erring on the slightly higher end. Thoughts?

This is one of Amazon’s 100 Books Everyone Should Read.

A Kinda Sorta (Most Definitely) Review of Raymond Chandler’s The Big Sleep

Spoilers ahead (but who cares, it was published 80 years ago.)

It happened again. I may need to lay off books published before 1970 because clearly I have issues with just about every one I read.

I decided to read this after playing around online and looking up detectives I’d never read before. It didn’t hurt that Raymond Chandler is something of an icon in mystery circles. But, oh boy.

Philip Marlowe is a PI in LA. The book was published in the 1930s, so I guess the assumption is that it takes place during the same period. There are a number of mentions of prohibition. He’s hired by a rich guy who’s getting blackmailed.

I’m going to start with some of the positives:

NONE.

I’m not exaggerating or trying to be silly. There is nothing I can point to in this book that I really enjoyed. But don’t get me started on the negatives.

The writing style made me want to claw my eyes out. How many times can one person say “you’re cute” in a single work? My goodness. No creativity whatsoever.

There are two women who have prominent roles in the story and both of them (they’re sisters) separately are throwing themselves at Marlowe. Ugh. But he’s got the moral compass of Jesus and takes neither of them up on their offer.

Multiple times during the story he slaps women across the face.

There is absolutely no action throughout the story. I kept thinking at some point something would have to happen. Nope.

Twice he went into bad situations without a weapon of any kind against fully armed guys. And twice he got out just fine. Okay, fucking Zeus.

His wit and humor are awful. He’s not funny. Clearly he influenced later detectives, but they’re much better written.

Everyone was smoking the whole book. I have cancer now.

I rated it a 2 star read, and it was just above 1984 and Fahrenheit 451. Honestly, it was shaping up to be a 1 star rating from me until the last 5 pages or so.

Definitely do not recommend to any reader, ever. I can come up with several modern detectives much more intriguing than this bozo.