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