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?

Consistently Impressed

Early this morning I finished my 37th book of the year. I expect to reach 40 by the end of this week. But this year’s reading has taught me one thing that’s undeniable. Robert Crais is the best crime novelist writing today.

It was the seventh time this year I’ve read one of his books. That’s an absurd amount for me to read by any single author in a given year. Going back to my college days when I was consistently in the 20-40 range several calendar years in a row, I’d never read that many by a single author. This year has been different. Mostly because I’ve actually gotten some good numbers done. So there’s more opportunity.

I’m really stingy with my ratings for books. For example, after I finished my 30th book of the year the average rating was 2.93 out of 5. That was a slight uptick from the first 25. The average rating for the seven Robert Crais novels I’ve read this year? 4.42 out of 5. I’ve rated more than half of them as 5 star reads. I talk and write a lot about Harry Bosch. Michael Connelly is right there with Crais, but in my eyes he’s just slightly behind. Harry will likely be coming to an end at some point as he’s aged in real-time. Nothing I’ve read indicates Elvis or Joe are going anywhere anytime soon. No complaints from me.

I could say more. Lots more. And I will. But it’s time for bed.

February Reading Recap

In February I only read 4 books. Down from 5 in January. But still well on pace to perhaps hit my goal of 50 for the year. But there’s a long way to go.

In February I read 1 fantasy novel, 2 young adult novels, and a mystery. Not bad. I read 3 authors for the first time. I rated 2 books as 5 stars, 1 as 4 stars, and the final as 2 stars. So far in 2019 I’ve yet to rate any of the 9 books I’ve read as 1 star reads.

I do have to admit that I was a little disappointed in the fact that I didn’t finish a book in the second half of the month. But so long as half a month doesn’t stretch into a full month into several months, then I think I’ll be okay. And I’ve already finished my first book in March.

We’re roughly a sixth of the way through the year now. How is your pace so far?

January Reading Roundup

Y’all!

Earlier this year I made it clear how disappointed I was in my reading last year. 5 books. Just saying that makes me want to hit my head on my desk. But 2019 is off to a better start! So I decided to do a little roundup of my January reading.

Two Kinds of Truth

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Harry Bosch ages in real time. In this book he’s into his 60s, but I DON’T CARE. Never stop writing him, Michael Connelly. Or we’re fighting.

Crimson Joy

⭐⭐⭐

I hate to say it, but this was rather unremarkable. I love Spenser. And this won’t discourage me from continuing the series, but I finished the book wanting more.

LA Requiem

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

I wrote about this earlier in the week here. This book was the best crime novel I’ve read! There’s no exaggeration. I gave my reasoning in my previous post. I’m still considering it, but it’s likely a top five all-time read for me. And I have the next four in the series awaiting my curious eyes.

Rodrick Rules

⭐⭐⭐

I said I’d stay with crime novels for a bit, and I mostly did. But this was the lone exception last month. It didn’t have hardly any laugh out loud moments, whereas the first in the series was full of them.

The Second Life of Nick Mason

⭐⭐⭐

This was the first in a new series written by Steve Hamilton. He’s also one of my favorite authors and it was my first time reading one of his books in several years. It’s well below 300 pages and I felt it. It went way too fast and lacked much depth throughout. But still had a number of exciting moments, which kept it at the above rating.

I count 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 books for the month! It was really in the last two weeks, but shh. I matched my entire 2018 in the first month of 2019 and I’m still going! I know there will be some down months ahead, but I’m happy with and encouraged by my start to the year.

How was your month of reading!?

There’s A New Sheriff In Town

AND HIS NAME IS JOHN CENA!

I sincerely hope you’re aware of the meme that I’m referencing. If not, you’re lost. Oh well.

Very rarely do I write anything that resembles a book review. Today is one of those rare days.

Yesterday I finished LA Requiem by Robert Crais. I’m not going to get into the plot very much because if you find this interesting I would love for you to give the book a chance rather than just read spoilers here.

The story follows PIs Elvis Cole and Joe Pike. A friend and former lover of Joe is missing and they’re tasked with finding her when the police find her body first. Her father has powerful connections and the two of them get to operate within the investigation while unaffiliated with the LAPD.

That’s my synopsis, which is fairly similar to what you’d find on the back of the book.

I want to tell you about the title of the post before anything else. I’ve read more crime novels than I can remember. This one was the absolute best one I’ve read, and now that I’m thinking about it I may upload a page on here of my top reads ever that I can update as time goes along. This is likely top 5 for me. Let me tell you why.

Joe and Elvis have known each other a long time. Both are former military. Joe was LAPD for a time. They’re not friends and they’re not family. Whatever comes above that is what they are. Their care for each other goes beyond words and actions. This is the first in the series (since book 1) that highlights their relationship. Think of the people in your life who you would do anything for. Maybe there are quite a few and maybe there are none, but at least the idea of it is there. That’s Elvis and Joe. The importance of those relationships and people in our lives is something we generally can’t describe or put into words because we know deep within ourselves that we’d put ourselves in harm’s way to protect who we hold so dear, even if we can’t explain why.

During the course of the story Joe is in some serious trouble, and Elvis makes it his mission to protect him at all costs, including putting his life on the line if he has to. This exaggerated plot line happens quite a bit in movies, on TV shows, and in books. But never in my 27 years has it been so well done. Elvis and Joe are fictional characters created by who I believe is an exceptional author. But they’re not. They’re every single one of us.

This book wasn’t about solving a murder. It wasn’t about what happens when someone has connections. It wasn’t even about the detectives involved. It’s about what it means to be human and to put everything on the line for who we love. And though most of us will never have to do it, I believe it’s something we can all related to.

This was my tweet immediately after I finished.

Back at it

I last finished reading a book nearly two months ago. And then I started a book I knew nothing about. Bad choice. The book is now my latest DNF.

So last night I was deciding on what to read next. I have books from the Amazon list. I have books for my reading challenge. And I have books that are right in my wheelhouse of crime fiction. I decided to go with what I know. I started the next book in the Elvis Cole series. And only later did I realize that I’d not read in the series since 2014. That’s outrageous. I love Elvis and Joe, and it took the first five pages for me to realize how much I’ve missed them.

Do you have any books you turn to when you’re in the midst of a reading slump?

The Importance of Genres

Sometimes people say things that make no sense. Like comparing the work of two authors who have no business being compared. I think it’s a little ridiculous to say that genres limit creativity by placing labels on one’s work.

No one is saying that certain genres need very specific stories or characters. I mean, just look at young adult. Sure we have an expectation of what to expect when starting a new young adult book, but that doesn’t mean every book is the same. Which goes for every genre.

The fact is (to me) that we need genres. Let me make a comparison here. Imagine if we didn’t have genres in music. Then we wouldn’t have radio stations genre-specific. And maybe that’d be interesting to some, but not to me. Imagine a Madonna song followed by Kendrick Lamar and then Blake Shelton. It would be odd.

Now let’s get back to books. Imagine going into a bookstore and there is not a single label or sign anywhere in the store to tell you which section you’re in. Why? No genres. So the entire store is alphabetized by author. The store is one big blob of books. Business books. Young adult. Mystery. History. Art. All shelved together with no “label”.

Think about this. How many times have you read a book, series, or author and immediately wondered what to read next? I haven’t done it much recently, but I have done it. So you play around on Amazon or Google or maybe even on the author’s website trying to find similar works. That’s what genres help with. I once randomly grabbed a book at Barnes and Noble by Robert B. Parker. I’d never read any detective fiction before. In subsequent years I found Spenser, Elvis Cole, Alex McKnight, Charlie Hood, Alex Cross, and Harry Bosch. These characters are not the same and they’re not directly influential of one another, but they do fall under the same umbrella of detective fiction.

There’s nothing limiting about genres. If you want to write something that blends several different genres together in the pages of a single book, then go ahead. But newsflash, it’s already been done plenty before you and those books are all categorized somewhere.

Do you think genres are important? Or are they just stupid labels to you?