Much of the US is in the midst of a cold snap right at the tail end of winter. Houston is no different. Today is the third time I’ve gotten to see snow in person. But it’s the first time it hasn’t melted away almost immediately.
One thing readers struggle with is finding new authors who aren’t the James Pattersons of the world. It’s so easy to pick up what everyone else already has. It might even make you feel like you’re joining the cool club. But that doesn’t help the little guy.
A few times a year a debut novel will become an instant bestseller. There are plenty of factors behind this, but for every one that’s able to do the impossible, there are dozens that struggle to sell any copies at all. Again, there are many factors that play into when this happens.
What I’ve decided recently is to make a concerted effort to try new authors, specifically debut authors. I’m sure 20 different people could come up with 20 different ways to do this, but my initial plan is simple. The Edgars. The Edgar Awards are awarded annually to the best (mostly) in mystery. It may be a stretch to say they’re the Oscars of mystery books, but not by much. There’s a category for ‘Best First Novel’. I’ll use the category to read debut authors, and I can keep going back year after year if I choose to do so.
At the start of the year I decided to set a reasonable pace for my reading and stick to it rather than just seeing what happens. The goal is to avoid the multi-month frenzy I had toward the end of last year. Yes I reached my goal, but I’d prefer to avoid an 11 book December. In January I read four books.
All Quiet on the Western Front
This was my second book set in WWI in recent months. It tells the story from the German perspective. Most notable about this book is that it may be the most antiwar book you ever read. Rated 4 stars.
To Selena, With Love
Chris Perez waited more than a decade to tell his side of their love story. The beauty of this perspective is he isn’t trying to describe the budding superstar, but the person he knew and loved. Rated 5 stars.
D-Day: Minute by Minute
Jonathan Mayo describes the events of D-Day during WWII from first person accounts. Could be a general. Followed by a corporal. Then a journalist. He doesn’t describe it as you’d normally expect, but literally minute by minute. Though different, the format is very well done. Rated 5 stars.
The Tattooist of Auschwitz
I have many thoughts and issues with this book I’ll save for another post when I share my review. But for now, rated 1 star.
Those are the books I started the year with. What did you read last month?
Robert Crais has been a favorite author of mine for some time now. In 2020 during my record-setting year of reading I read nine of his books. As of this writing I’ve now read all but the most recent two books he’s published. He’s proven to be in a class of his own among his many contemporaries. Who would you say is the best mystery author writing today?
Recently read this WWI classic for the first time. The review here is not exactly what’s in the video, but it’s very similar.
The subtitle of this could easily be, “A soldier’s experience in the Great War.”
As an American, so much history is told from the perspective of the West. Most notably, major wars of the 20th century. This flips it. It provides the German perspective.
Though published nearly 100 years ago, so many thoughts from this book would still be valid today. Often Paul, the main character, questions the point of the war altogether. At one point during a discussion with his friends it’s asked how wars start. The response is one country offends another. And this simple, yet poignant message bears truth today.
When reading or learning about war we’re told of the harsh conditions. Often those perspectives come from the winning side, but this tells the story of those same, inhumane conditions from the country also losing the war. It’s impossible for nearly all people to comprehend. Nothing in civilian life can come close.
This is an indictment against those who wish to start wars. So often they’re pointless and accomplish little to nothing. But those responsible for starting the war rarely pay the same price as those they send out to fight. History says Germany lost WW1 and we all know what the Nazis did a short while later. But those men were fighting for their country just the same as their American, Russian, French, and English counterparts. The war was not good for any of them. That’s the point of this story and it does a remarkable job of making its case. 4 stars.
I wrote previously about taking my time with my reading going forward. For several months now it had been read, read, read all the time. But that’s a recipe for burnout and not reading for six months. No interest in that. So for the last week I’ve been taking it easy. Not reading.
Normally this would likely be the start of a dry period. Sometimes it can last a few weeks and others it can ruin the whole year. But not this time. I felt it was time for a mini break. There’s nothing wrong with that, right?
On my birthday last month I ventured into my local BN store for the first time. This was the first time I’d been into any BN store in nearly 4 years. Suffice it to say I was not impressed. Watch and tell me your thoughts!
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
If you read this blog you probably know I read quite a bit to finish off 2020. Mostly because I was set on reaching my reading goal for the first time. In December I was reading 3-4 hours on some nights to keep my momentum going.
Now it seems I’m still in that mode to read as much as possible. These last few days I’ve found myself debating whether to read another hour before bed. Often this is between 1:00-2:00AM. There’s nothing wrong with doing so, but there are 52 weeks this year. Plenty of time to continue a solid reading pace without falling asleep with my current book.
I may start to take a day off here and there. In 8 months if I’m behind schedule, then I’ll shift into high gear.
I’m trying something for the first time this year. Because I’ve still been bad about reading books I already own, I’ve decided to schedule which books I’m going to be reading throughout this year.
What I’ve done is I’ve examined my TBR shelf. Even after the 50 books I read last year I still have nearly 70 unread books. I learned the most common reason for me to constantly skip over a book is length. It’s the only reason, quite frankly. So I’m stuck with dozens of books 500-700 pages in length I can never bring myself to read. Until now.
I came up with a system. For every book I read over 450 pages, I’ll read two that are less than that. Because the alternative is leaving these on the TBR shelf in perpetuity. No one has time for that.