Well, it seems like March 2020 has gone on for well over a year now. With the Pandemic shuttering most entertainment, and parties and get-togethers restricted or discouraged (especially around the holidays), I found myself, like everyone else, with a lot more time on my hands. But instead of settling in for a marathon of Tiger King or watching “all of Youtube,” as my dad likes to say, I realized that I finally had the time and lack of distractions to attack my TBR (To Be Read) pile that I’m constantly adding to.

There was literally “Time Enough at Last.” I felt very much like that character from Twilight Zone, who discovered he was the last man on Earth and now had unlimited time to read. I usually read about 25 books a year, which averages to about a new book every 2 weeks. Depending on my scheduled activities or my interest in a new Netflix show, that could cut into my reading time. Sometimes I would get so wrapped up in a TV series or playing disc golf or family obligations, that the only time I prioritized reading was right before bed. In January 2020, I set the bar a little lower than normal. I figured with all the time I spent house hunting that month and the next, I’d probably only have time to read 22 books by the end of the year. Boy, did COVID change that.

I exceeded my expectations, reading 31 books – and that was just in 2020. So far this year, I’ve read another 20 books. This time spent reading has allowed me to escape from the stress of the pandemic and the ever-changing rules here in California, and experience other lives instead. It was amazing exploring my first Ray Bradbury books (The Martian Chronicles, Fahrenheit 451, The Halloween Tree) reading LGBTQ+ picks (Milk Fed and Juliet Takes a Breath), in addition to some new cozies (A Deadly Inside Scoop, Cat About Town: A Cat Cafe Mystery) and thrillers (One by One, The Guest List, Mexican Gothic) and re-reading old favorites (Stay Sexy & Don’t Get Murdered: The Definitive How-To Guide, My Sweet Audrina), and discovering new favorites (Finlay Donovan Is Killing It, The Honk and Holler Opening Soon, The Midnight Library). I’ve also had my fair share of books I struggled to get through and others that made the DNF (Did Not Finish) list.

Overall, I enjoyed the solace of free time and no expectations or visitors. I also spent this quiet time focusing on my fiction writing, working on three stories simultaneously. After reading so many exhilarating books, I decided to reset my focus on this blog and share with others some of the amazing (and a few disappointing) stories I’ve read over the past 18 months. See below to view all 20 titles I’ve read so far in 2021.

Cost: $0 – rented from my local library as ebooks or audiobooks

Drink of Choice: Iced Brown Sugar Oat milk Shaken Espresso



My reading list for the Halloween season — and yes, I consider it a season, rather than just one day of celebration, is comprised of an old favorite author, a new author and some short stories that I’m looking forward to reading as the days get shorter and the nights cool down.

One short story I highly recommend everyone add to their reading list for September/October is Rad Bradbury’s The Halloween Tree. In under 200 pages, Bradbury explores our history of Halloween and how it’s been influenced by history, myths and from a variety of locations and cultures throughout the world. I listened to this as an audiobook on the Libby app, this version of the story was adapted and performed by the Colonial Radio Players. The actors, accompanying music, and sound effects made this piece of literature come to life. I felt like I was listening to a pre-cursor of The Nightmare Before Christmas, with the images of jack-o-lanterns, and the Halloween tree.

As we ramp up for Hispanic Heritage Month, celebrated annually from Sept. 15 – October 15, I am looking forward to reading Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia. This story is a Gothic horror reminiscent of Jane Eyre, but set in 1950s Mexico. Side note: I am a huge fan of Jane Eyre and anything influenced by it, so I also added Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier. Earlier this year I decided that as a Latina and a writer, I should be supportive of other Latina writers and added several books to my reading list including Island Affair by Priscilla Oliveras and Juliet Takes a Breath by Gabby Rivera. Last year I read Sabrina and Corina by Kali Fajardo-Anstine, which I borrowed from the library and I absolutely loved so much that I bought it in paperback this year to enjoy over and over again.

Obviously, some Stephen King is in order to help get into the mood of the season. I am cautiously looking forward to If It Bleeds, a collection of novellas by Stephen King. The last King book I read was Mr. Mercedes, which was definitely cringey to say the least. However, I didn’t want my reading list to be too heavy, so I also threw in a paranormal romance that was recommended by a friend. Undead and Unwed by MaryJanice Davidson will be a palate cleanser between all the planned horror stories.

And what is Halloween Time without a little magic? To wrap it all up, I plan to read Neil Gaiman’s M is for Magic, which I admit, just seeing the cat on the cover swayed me to add this collection of stories to my To Be Read list immediately. My own black cat turns 11 on Sept. 4 and we’ll be celebrating by hanging out together, and watching movies featuring black cats like Hocus Pocus and Coraline.

All of these books are available through my local library. If I get through this reading list, I’m sure there are more titles to explore, including The Return of the Witch by Paula Brackston, the second book in the The Witch’s Daughter series and many others. What are your favorite Halloween-time books to read?

Cost: $0, borrowed through the Libby app.

Drink of Choice: Pumpkin Spice Cold Brew

My perfect beach read.

Imagine the time when the famed poem “The Raven” was brand new, when the world was captivated by the repeating “Nevermore!” It is the 1840s, where gatherings in New England are being held weekly to discuss economics, art, and the gossip of other prominent writers. This is the setting of Mrs. Poe by Lynn Cullen, a wickedly creepy and mesmerizing story that will transport you to the Romanticism period of American history.

Frances Osgood, wife of the famed painter and flirt Samuel Osgood (these are real people by the way) can’t help but be interested in the man from Boston, being from a wealthy Boston family herself before being disowned by her parents for her own reckless marriage. Her husband Samuel is off gallivanting with whatever current heiress he’s busy “producing a portrait” for and hasn’t been seen in months. Lonely and struggling to provide for her daughters on her own writing, Frances sees an opportunity to expand her earnings, if only she could write as dark as the famous Mr. Poe.

The members of New York society are enthralled by the works of Edgar Allan Poe, who jumps the ranks of obscure poet and writer to desired party guest. What’s even more delicious is that he has chosen to move to their community, and has brought along with his mysterious wife – the young Mrs. Virginia Poe, who was barely 13 years old when the two cousins wed nearly 10 years before. It is with such a flurry of excitement that the salon Frances frequents has managed to convince The Poes to join their soiree.

Mrs. Poe is a delicate woman with a horrendous cough that keeps her home for most events. Except that she suddenly keeps showing up unannounced at Frances’s home or constantly inviting her over, actively seeking her attention and trying to win her friendship. Mrs. Poe’s insistence on a friendship bores Frances, but as her own friendship with Mr. Poe seems to blossom, she can’t help feeling like she’s being watched and set up by the sickly Mrs. Poe. These frequent and unexpected meetings with the Poes is causing quite a stir in her community, and for the married, but separated Frances, this can only result in scandal.

I became obsessed with reading this book and enjoyed experiencing the 1840s safely from the 21st century. I didn’t realize how many important literary and American figures were among Poe’s peers: Graham, who inspired the graham crackers, Audubon, Dickens, Walt Whitman, Melville, Louisa May Alcott, and Nathaniel Hawthorne. These people and their re-imagined lives are woven in the story and some of them are just at the cusp of future famous lives. I also learned from reading this book that Samuel Morse was a painter first before inventing the famous Morse Code and his motivation behind his invention. This definitely sparked a trip down the Wikipedia rabbit hole.

I know it’s historical fiction, but I learned a lot about the time period and had a fabulous time trying to decipher if Frances was being paranoid or if the jealous, childish Mrs. Poe was really out to get her. Cue the Rockwell!

Cost: $1.00 at a library book sale

Drink of Choice: Hazelnut latte with oat milk from Rail Side Cafe.


Being ghosted is the ultimate silent treatment. It’s strange when it happens to us, whether we’re on the receiving end of being ghosted by friends or love interests. It leaves a feeling of confusion and loss, and even embarrassment. The questions loom overhead: What did I say? Why don’t they want to respond to me? Did they get my message? Surely, they can’t just be ignoring me. It’s a struggle to understand why this has happened. Ghosted: A novel by Rosie Walsh explores that topic in her intriguing and beautifully written novel.

Sarah Mackey has just met the love of her life. In her 40s, and on the verge of a divorce, Sarah meets Eddie David, in the one place she never thought to find love: her hometown in England. Sarah and Eddie spend six wonderful days together. But, alas, it cannot last, because Sarah’s work and Eddie’s planned vacation are pulling them in two different directions. They make plans to meet each other’s families and promises to find a way to live together, even though Sarah is just visiting from Los Angeles. When Sarah returns from her work event, eager for Eddie’s flight information so she can pick him up, she’s surprised that he hasn’t responded. It’s unexpected. Didn’t they just promise to spend the rest of their lives together?

Sarah doesn’t hear from Eddie again: no response to texts or calls or even calls on his work phone. The line still rings, so it’s not like he’s changed his number. There are no updates on Facebook either, Eddie hasn’t been visible online in weeks. What happened? Convinced that their week together was special, Sarah refuses to believe Eddie would have ghosted her. Something must have happened, something serious. He must be in trouble, or hurt, or – dead? Her friends try to keep Sarah calm and reassure her that Eddie is probably not hurt, but Sarah is so overwhelmed with grief that she feels like she is in mourning. Sarah won’t stop trying to contact Eddie until she finds out what happened to him.

Sarah herself is a very complex character, carrying her pain and simultaneously trying to maintain her leadership in a charity she runs alongside her soon-to-be ex-husband. She is a transplant from England, now living in L.A. We are introduced to her work life, colleagues, and friends and then again to her British friends and family, and the contrasts in each group. The author perfectly captured the L.A./beach-life scene and at the same time, I could easily imagine laying under the stars in a small town in England as well. The love story between Sarah and Eddie is beautiful. The conversations they had made me smile and laugh. As each day of their short one-week lived relationship was revealed, I started to believe Sarah’s claims. She and Eddie were ready to take a next step and there was no way Eddie would just abandon her.

I finished this book in about two days. Half of myself was mad with wanting to know what happened and the other half wanted redemption and closure for Sarah. With all the information available to us, surely, there would be some way to track down his whereabouts? One thing I found confusing was that Sarah didn’t go back to his house to look for him. She had spent a week there, surely he would be home and she would get her answer? Was that too much to wish? Maybe it’s just me. Maybe it’s all those cozy mysteries I read with nosy amateur sleuths, but I feel like that would have been my first move if I thought something serious happened. Ghosted is a romantic mystery, different from the usual mysteries I read and I loved it. I highly recommend this book.

Cost: $0.00 on Overdrive

Drink of Choice: Pumpkin Spice Chai Tea Latte

Once Upon a River on my nook.Of all the great books I’ve read this year, this one was my favorite. It is a story of hope that resonated deep within me as I struggled to cope with some painful, personal issues. Once Upon A River by Diane Setterfield lets the patrons of The Swan do the story telling as they resolve to explain and analyze exactly just what happened one Winter solstice night.

At the center of the story are two main characters: the first is a mysterious child of four who was pronounced dead, but now lives and no one can decide who she belongs to, and the second is the River Thames, which is set as the background for this incredible story set in Victorian times. At first glance, this may seem like a fairy or folk tale, but the fantasy is just a way to ease the reader in the deeper truths and hopes we all feel as humans on this earth, whether it’s in 1800s Britain or any other time and place. The occurrences of the solstice and equinox influence the series of events that follow.

The lingering mystery throughout the book is, is the little girl Alice, Amelia, or Ann? Three families will each make a claim that the little girls belongs to them, although no one can be certain. There is Mr. an Mrs. Vaughan, the grieving couple, whose daughter was kidnapped two years earlier, Mrs. White, a widow with a mysterious past, and Mr. Armstrong, half-convinced that the child may be a relation of his.

Once Upon A River draws you in with characters that are likable, others that are not, and all with complex and incredible back stories. On the surface, these characters seem straightforward and stationary, but as the story progress, the heartache and experiences revealed provides a deeper understanding to how each characters acts and reacts to the changing and mysterious situation surrounding the girl who was dead, but now lives again. There is Rita, the nurse; Henry Daunt, the photographer;  Mr. Armstrong and his amazing gift of knowing how to talk to people, several pigs that just know how to figuratively “speak to you” and cast of patrons and employees of the Swan, including the owners, Margot and Joe.

The ending will delight, and possibly, surprise you. I highly recommend this book and cannot express enough the strength of storytelling.

Cost: $0.00 on Overdrive

Drink of Choice: Lemon and Ginger tea

Our House by Louise Candlish is definitely not a summer read. There’s nothing relaxing about this story, so save yourself some unwanted agony, and don’t put this one in your beach tote. Our House isn’t your typical suspenseful, unreliable narrator type of thriller. It’s a tale of domestic anguish that was infuriating to read, and yet, this book was well worth hanging on until the end.

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The Witch's Daughter by Paula BrackstonThe Witch’s Daughter by Paula Brackston recounts the many lives of Bess Hawksmith, from her childhood, living in small town in the 1600s England before she possessed magic, to the Victorian age as a pioneer female surgeon, Eliza, her extraordinary healing powers as a nurse during WW1 and finally – the Bess that has adapted to today’s world as Elizabeth, a loner. Her final identity of Elizabeth is decisive. No longer will she continue to hide, she’s finally ready to face off with Gideon after more than 300 years.

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Don’t be fooled by the umbrella, the cover art doesn’t have much to do with the actual story.

The Favorite Sister by Jessica Knoll takes a cheesy reality show that you’re barely interested in and fills it with secrets that twist and distort what you think you know and suddenly, you find yourself drawn into the drama.

The reality show is Goal Diggers, a production focused on young entrepreneurial women that are now millionaires without the help of a man. There is the stunningly beautiful author, Stephanie, the vegan hippie juice bar CEO, Jen, dating app founder, Lauren Bunn (aka Lauren Fun!), and the lesbian founder of a spin studio with a charitable mission, Brett.

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Now 2018 has come and gone. I ended the year one book short of my Goodreads goal, reading just 24 books in 2018 instead of 25. I blame that on picking up East of Eden with only two weeks left in the year. John Steinbeck’s epic novel spans over 500 pages in paperback and it would take some time to get through it. Toss in the holidays and there just wasn’t enough time to finish it. Of all the books I read last year, there were two amazing books that absolutely stood out and I highly recommend reading.

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Carol cover

I was surprised to see this in the bargain bin so soon after the theatrical release, but now I understand.

In a span of 36 pages, the story makes a sudden change from a mundane road trip to “We’re lesbians” to “OMG, someone is following us, let’s kill him.” Carol by Patricia Highsmith is a slow-paced novel that has a surprising, but deeply satisfying ending.

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