Bestsellers and me: All Quiet on the Western Front

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.

Have you read it? Did you have similar thoughts?

Nearly a Week Off

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?

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

Slowing Down

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.

Scheduled Reading

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.

Is this something you’ve done before?

2020 Reading Recap

As we turn the page on 2020 hopefully this is the last recap post you read. This is my 2020 in books.

As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, I finally reached my annual goal to read 50 books. As happy as I am to have done it, the actual books were a mixed bag.

Best – 5 stars

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

Good – 4 stars

The Late Show – Michael Connelly
Let it Burn – Steve Hamilton
Dark Sacred Night – Michael Connelly
Persepolis – Marjane Satrapi
Demolition Angel – Robert Crais
The Titan’s Curse – Rick Riordan
The First Rule – Robert Crais
The Fall – Guillermo del Toro
The Old Man and the Sea – Ernest Hemingway

Average – 3 stars

The Watchman – Robert Crais
Die a Stranger – Steve Hamilton
The Girl on the Train – Paula Hawkins
Anthem – Ayn Rand
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban – JK Rowling
World War Z – Max Brooks
Brave New World – Aldous Huxley
A Long Way Gone – Ishmael Beah
The Room of White Fire – T. Jefferson Parker
The Battle of the Labyrinth – Rick Riordan
American Sniper – Chris Kyle

Meh – 2 stars

The Sea of Monsters – Rick Riordan
G is for Gumshoe – Sue Grafton
The Border Lords – T. Jefferson Parker
Slaughterhouse Five – Kurt Vonnegut
Dead Man Running – Steve Hamilton
Killing the Blues – Michael Brandman
H is for Homicide – Sue Grafton
The Jaguar – T. Jefferson Parker
Trinkets – Kirsten Smith
You – Caroline Kepnes
The Last Straw – Jeff Kinney
The Night Fire – Michael Connelly
The Promise – Robert Crais
Cop Town – Karin Slaughter
Mexican Gothic – Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Bad – 1 star

The Girls – Emma Cline
The Road – Cormac McCarthy
Cross Country – James Patterson
I is for Innocent – Sue Grafton
A Farewell to Arms – Ernest Hemingway

Look at all those 2 star ratings! Just a little surprising. It’s hard to explain the difference between a 1 star rating and a 2 star. Typically there is no aspect of a 1 star book I enjoyed. Those are usually close to becoming a DNF. I only had one this year.

Though I did read 26 mysteries, I’m happy with the different genres and authors I read. I read 15 authors for the first time. On the other hand I read Robert Crais a whopping 9 times. The beauty of that trade off is now Robert Crais only has 2 books I haven’t read, so I’ll be looking for new authors to read in 2021.

2020 was rough for so many people. But I managed to accomplish a reading goal I’ve had for more than a decade, reach new financial goals I set months ago, and put myself in a great position to start 2021.

Now let’s get back to some semblance of normalcy sometime this year.

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?