Friday, November 17, 2017

Review: THE ANGEL OF A MADMAN by Ricky Dragoni

In the dusty desert town of Pecos New Mexico, a unique and strange friendship blossoms. Bracket a self-proclaimed intergalactic spy encounters Gabriel. Gabriel, a world traveler, has returned home after a family tragedy and is now looking for hope in the bottom of the bottle.
The desert and its majestic mesas bear witness to a grand escape, and what is to be a friendship for the ages. Experience this tale through both unique perspectives; the intergalactic science fiction prism of Bracket’s reality, and Gabriel’s grip on the sad realities of life.
Be part of this journey of friendship, self-realization and the healing of a broken mind. As we explore the beautiful depths of the human intellect and what it can truly achieve.





Reviewed by: Margo
Rating: 3.5 stars

 

Review: Bracket is his codename. After escaping from prison, he recounts his treacherous road through the deserted jungles. Then he meets up with Gabriel, a self-loathing man drowning in his sorrows.  The possibility of an escaped intergalactic spy running into a run-of-the-mill joe is pretty unlikely and far-fetched. I mean, what could they have in common? It’s like pairing up Rambo with Waldo.

Through the eyes of these two men, reader becomes familiar with their pain and history. I found Gabriel’s story much more endearing.

Infused with lovely words of New Mexico landscapes, Dragoni penned a story of tragedy and penance. His style is dark and poetic, which accurately reflected the emotional frailties and struggles of the characters. The pace lagged in some areas, and, at some point, I wondered if one of these characters was dead. For example, when Bracket first meets Gabriel, Bracket is surprised that he could see him because he was but a “human.” What could he have meant by this? Was he an alien from outer space or a fallen soldier that died in battle? This might have added a little mystery to the mix, but it was perplexing nonetheless. It feels like the story almost crosses over into a ghostly plane of existence.

Still, the story retains its well-written message of hope and strength. Readers will be impressed by this work’s massive feat of beauty and strength.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Q&A with Ricky Dragoni



Originally from Puerto Rico, Ricky Dragoni  spent half of his life in the United States. His true passions are writing and cooking. His favorite authors include Edgar Allan Poe and Gabriel Garcia Marquez. From an early age, he started writing poetry and short stories, and his books are born out of the nightmares of his mind and melded with his life experiences. He would describe his books as reality sprinkled with a good magical dose of faerie dust and hopes they can be entertaining and make the reader think.




1.       What inspired you to write The Angel of a MadMan?

I wanted to do my part in encouraging an honest conversation regarding mental illness.  Just before I started writing it, two local middle schoolers committed suicide as well as Robin Williams.  Everyone seemed eager to talk about mental illness, then Kim Kardashian got naked on the cover of Paper magazine and everyone forgot about the conversation.  I understand it is hard to talk about mental illness during a time of tragedy, so I wanted the book to open the conversation to focus on the everyday, the funny, the brilliant, the sad, the scary and the human part of mental illness.

 

2.       Upon first meeting, why was Bracket so surprised that Gabriel could see him?

Bracket believes he can become invisible.  He rationalizes the failure of his “powers” at the convenience store, but with Gabriel he doesn’t quite have an answer.  It is the beginning of his anchoring back to reality.

 

 

3.       What did Bracket and Gabriel provide for each other?

Friendship, support, and the belief in each other.  Even though they looked at the world through incredibly different prisms they believed in each other.  Sometimes in life that is what we need the most.

 

4.       What did each character achieve in the end?

Even though the end is bitter sweet, each character got the opportunity to redeem themselves. 

 

5.       What are some of the main sociological issues that you explore in this book and why did you explore them?

Mental illness, grieving and stigma associated with the mentally ill.  If you look through history some of the most brilliant minds, whether scientific or artistic, would be considered mentally ill.  If we can stop looking at mental illness as someone being broken, and instead looking at is as someone experiencing life through a different prism, I think the conversation could finally advance beyond prayers during times of tragedy.

 

 

6.       In the end, who was the angel and who was the madman?

Wouldn’t you like to know? LOL. The reality is that we all have a little madness inside of us and we can all be an angel to someone else.

 

7.       What do you hope readers will gain from your book?

I want the reader to know that whether it is mental illness or dealing with the loss of someone we love, they are not alone.  We all go through it and it is ok.  No matter how lost a situation might seem there is always light at the end of the tunnel and a chance for redemption and happiness.

 

 

8.       What do you like best and what do you like least about being a writer?

I love being able to express my ideas through my imagination and hopefully make a positive impact on the world.  I love being able to spend quality time with my kids.  I love the feeling of being able to be happy following my passion.

What I like the least?   The uncertainty of when the paycheck is coming.  Having worked in the corporate world for over 12 years and having the stability of a paycheck, it has been an adjustment on how the literary world works.

 

9.       Who are some of your favorite authors?

Edgar Allan Poe, love his short stories, they are not only entertaining but they keep you thinking for days.  Gabriel Garcia Marquez was a big influence as well during my formative years.  Current authors I enjoy Simon Green’s Nightside series, Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files, Dean Koontz, I am partial to the Odd Thomas books and Laurell K. Hamilton’s Anita Blake Vampire hunter series.

 

10.   If your book would be turned into a movie, who would you imagine playing the part of the main characters? (Actor can be ANYONE, living or dead.)

For Gabriel there is no question, it would be Gabriel Iglesias also known as “Fluffy.  I went to his show around that time and he talked a lot about the passing of his mom.  It was a huge influence and inspiration for the character.  Bracket I would love if Don Cheadle would play him.  He is an amazing actor and I could see him being able to play an outlandish character yet keeping the kindness and humanity in his eyes. 

 

11.   Are you working on anything right now?

Yes, I am working on “The Swift” It is a dark story, along the same vein as “I am Legend” but with different creepy crawler monsters.  It is a post-apocalyptic survival story but with a huge twist in the end.  That is all I can say right now without giving too much away.

I am also working on Tommy Jones, a young adult series which I am writing with my 13 year old, Lorenzo.

 

12.   And, finally, what do you think is in store for the future of Latino literature?

I think the sky is the limit.  Many of us get exposed to so many kinds of different literatures, whether American, Hispano-American, European and the local ones from our countries that it polishes us as authors and writers.  I think we need to keep writing from our unique and interesting perspectives.  Soon the days of Gabriel Garcia Marquez being the only well-known international Latino author would be a thing of the past, and the Ramirez, Dragoni and Santiago will be as common as Koontz, King and Rice.

 

 

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Review: SIMPLY SALSA: DANCING WITHOUT FEAR AT GOD’S FIESTA by Janet Perez Eckles

With a bit of sassiness, a touch of humor, and an amiga-to-amiga style, Simply Salsa encourages women to accept God’s call to dance!

What keeps women from dancing to the freedom God offers? With passion and boldness, Simply Salsa exposes the lies and misconceptions that imprison women with unfounded insecurities and feelings of inadequacy. No matter the degree of adversity or pain, Janet Eckles has discovered an alternative to gloom—through the security that is only found in God’s love.

When women in the Bible faced tribulations and trials, they sought God’s grace. Simply Salsaillustrates how that same grace offers today’s women the opportunity to:

Leave the ugly past behind and look to a fresh tomorrow
Find peace and increased faith as you wait for answers to prayer
Embrace God’s comfort to conquer sorrow and disappointment
With her own life experiences as testimony, Eckles will have you dancing!




Reviewed by: Celia
Rating: 3 stars

 

Review:Physical blindness, infidelity, the murder of my child, and the acquittal of his killer—all these tragedies piled on one another in my own personal train wreck.” (2) The experience of “her-panic” is something we’ve all been familiar with, whether you’re Hispanic or not.

Author Janet Perez Eckles speaks with such raw candor and reverence. Through life’s turmoils, which involve financial hardship and the death of a child, she somehow manages to find strength and solace in God’s grace and worship. Of course, I am not religious, but I could certainly appreciate the meaning in this story, even though there may have been too much biblical jargon throughout. There was certainly some lag here and there, and, although I couldn't really get that into it, readers will surely enjoy the chica commentaries and dialogue.

Ultimately, the story delivers a powerful message to never give up and keep dancing, which I certainly applaud.

A memoir of love, loss, and salsa!

Monday, October 30, 2017

Q&A with Janet Perez Eckles



Although physically blind, Janet Perez Eckles has been teaching thousands to see the best of life. “Because I lost my sight at 31 and endured the murder of my youngest son, along with the acquittal of the man responsible,” Janet says, “my life should’ve been a mess. But God gave me a message to showcase His power: His power at work to conquer fear and turn the deepest pain to a life rich with triumph and success.”

This triumph sparked Janet’s passion to help others overcome their own struggles. Without sight, but with insight, her inspiration fills the pages of her four books and keynote presentations. And at every local, regional, national or international event, Janet’s lively style captivates audiences as this inspiration dances into their hearts. Whether her messages are delivered in Spanish or English, they have been called “transformational.”



1.       What inspired you to write Simply Salsa: Dancing without Fear at God's Fiesta?

Not so much “what” but rather, “who” inspired me to write. It was that woman who feels defeated by the problems in life. She is close to giving up and feels overwhelmed by her broken plans and heartache.

My passion is to lift her up, help her see her potential and no matter what she’s facing, guide her to a rich, triumphant life.

 

 

 

2.       What was the development process like?

Lots of self-reflection to see what kind of a book I, myself would like to read.

Research illustrations to blend with my own.

Review the notes, letters and prayer request I receive to know what to address.

Choose the topics that challenge women the most

And finally, write with a blend of warmth and passion as if I were talking to my best friend.

 

 

 

 

3.       What was the hardest part about writing this book?

Making sure the illustrations sang for my readers. Questions like these would usually barge in: are the examples relevant? Is my story well illustrated? Are the insights clear? Are the steps practical for anyone to follow?

Will the content spark in my readers a desire to change?

 

 

 

4. What do you hope readers will gain from your book?

A renewed perception that their situation is not impossible, insurmountable or hopeless.

And as they see the powerful way God turns trials to triumph, they would feel empowered and repeat to themselves, “I know I can live in victory too.”

 

 

5.       What inspired you to be a writer?

The reactions to my first book. I had written it as a story with the only thought of inspiring my grandchildren. But when I received comments about how my book was impacting women not only in the U.S. but also in Australia, England, and New Zealand, I thought I might have something to say.

Thus, I continued to write and after hundreds of magazine articles, 32 stories featured in Chicken Soup for the Soul titles, I wrote Simply Salsa.

 

 

6.       What do you like best and what do you like least about being a writer?

I love the fact that, being blind, God allows me to write (I operate my computer with a screen reader). And as my readers learn about my complete blindness, they realize that what you need is not so much physical sight, but a vision to overcome the impossible.

I relish on each finished piece because part of my soul sings through the lines. It’s a great expression of what goes on in my heart.

And the hardest thing is having the time to write about to many topics that rumble in my mind.

 

 

7.       Who are some of your favorite authors?

Francine Rivers, Max Lucado, Cecil Murphy, David Jeremiah, Carol Kent

 

 

8.       If your book would be turned into a movie, who would you imagine playing the part of the main character? (Actor can be ANYONE, living or dead.)
 
Mary Tyler Moore

 

 

 

 

9.       Are you working on anything right now?

Yes, I’m constantly writing blogs, my free inspirational newsletter, articles, and slideshows for Ibelieve.com and crosswalk. And also I’m working on a book about success, what does it really mean?

 

 

10.       And, finally, what do you think is in store for the future of Latino literature?

An explosion of writing in all genres. Each providing opportunities for Latinas to speak their convictions, to go higher, remove inhibitions and shout out the triumphant passion that pulsates in the Latina heart.

 

 

 

 

Friday, October 13, 2017

Q&A with Chad Vega



Chad Vega is the author of Sex, Drugs, and Corruption: Welcome to Peru.

This is the adrenaline filled story of two carpenters from California who end up taking on the Peruvian government. Faced with losing their property in the jungle to corrupt officials, they start growing medical marijuana to make ends meet. This keeps them in the fight, but it puts their lives at risk. As the court case progresses, they accidentally uncover an unprecedented amount of corruption. Join them on this dangerous journey as they frantically search for justice…  



  1. What inspired you to write Sex, Drugs, and Corruption: Welcome to Peru?
 
I was inspired to write this book after being in Peru for ten years. Living in the jungle and going through court cases gives you a unique glimpse into a different side of Peru. It’s completely different from what most people see, so I wanted to highlight it.
 
  1. What was the development process like?
After my son went to school I would make coca tea, sit in front of a laptop and let it flow naturally.
 
  1. What was the ultimate goal of the two carpenters?
Faced with a grim reality in America, they wanted to make their dreams come true in the Amazon jungle. They tried to escape poverty in California and create their own oasis in Peru. Max found the ideal place in the jungle and managed to purchase the land at the perfect time. Unfortunately, just because a place is beautiful doesn’t mean it isn’t dangerous. They accidentally stumbled upon a hotbed of corruption, but they had no choice but to keep fighting.
 
  1. What did they gain in the end?
On top of life experience, they learned the importance of family. Being thrown into stressful situations has a way of making people unite. Max got closer to his family, and the main character ended up finding his.
 
  1. What are some of the main socio-economic issues that you explore in this book and why did you explore them?
I touch on a lot of issues that many Peruvians face every day. The main focus is on corruption, since it affects everyone. Peru is an extremely resource rich country that has everything going for it, but it’s so poorly run that it barely works. This blatant abuse of the people was built into the system by the Spaniards, but there’s still hope.
Now that everyone has a smartphone, things are coming out that used to be routinely stifled. The ex-president and his wife were recently thrown in jail, and three other presidents including our current one is under investigation. For too long politicians have been selling out Peru’s resources with impunity, but now they are starting to go to jail.
If the biggest offenders can start being held accountable, Peru has the potential to break free from this vicious cycle. This is why I wrote the book, since it’s based on things I saw happen to other people. With education comes the possibility of social change, & I would love to see that happen in Peru.
 
 
  1. What inspired you to be a writer?
I always enjoyed writing as a teenager, but I didn’t make time for it unless someone paid me. For years I wrote articles for clients, but I didn’t write for myself until my friend published a book. This showed me that it was possible, so I decided to start writing recreationally.
 
  1. What do you like best and what do you like least about being a writer?
Being able to express myself is amazing, but spending hours sitting down isn’t.
 
  1. Who are some of your favorite authors?
I always loved Michael Crichton & David Sedaris, but Hunter S. Thompson became my favorite author as a teen.
 
  1. If your book would be turned into a movie, who would you imagine playing the part of the main character? (Actor can be ANYONE, living or dead.
 
I could see Benicio del Toro playing Max, and Matthew McConaughey playing the main character.
 
  1. Are you working on anything right now?
Yes, I just finished writing the sequel to this book. It should be completely edited by the end of October! At the same time, I am also translating this book into Spanish. It’s pretty tedious, since I learned to speak Spanish by ear. But it’s an interesting experience, so I will happily do it so everyone in South America can read my book.
 
  1. And, finally, what do you think is in store for the future of Latino literature?
I think it will continue to grow. Nowadays many of the main barriers for authors have been removed. You don’t have to rely on a big publishing company hiring you to make it. Self-publishing has been streamlined, so it will open doors to people who otherwise wouldn’t have gotten noticed. This platform is open to everyone, and the time is right for Latino authors. Millions of people around the world speak Spanish, so Latinos in any country can participate and reach a large audience.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Review: ALL THAT GLITTERS: A TALE OF SEX, DRUGS, AND HOLLYWOOD DREAMS by Liza Treviño

Alexandria Moreno--clever, sexy, ambitious and, at times, self-destructive. She blazes a path from Texas to Los Angeles at the dawn of the 1980s to make her dreams of becoming an A-list Hollywood film director come true. She and her best friend arrive in Los Angeles with little more than hope and the determination to make it big. Alex, a beauty as dark and mysterious as her scarred heart, stands at the bottom of the Hollywood mountain looking up, fighting for her chance to climb to the top. Will her quest to live fast and take no prisoners on her way to success destroy her in the end?

All That Glitters is a women's fiction Jackie Collins-type saga that introduces a strong, driven Latina heroine at the center of a rags-to-riches story spanning a decade of action. Along the way, Alexandria walks the fine line separating ambition and self-destruction, and discovers that some sacrifices will cost her everything.






Reviewed by: Celia
Rating: 3.5 stars

 
Review: Alexandria Moreno is a renowned Hollywood starlet with everything a girl could ever dream of—fame, money, and a hot stud. Unfortunately, behind all that glitter lies a patch of dark shame and sadness. Suddenly, the charade of the glitz and glamour becomes too overwhelming for Alex as she begins to ponder what keeps her going and how she came to this meaningless lifestyle.

Then the story rewinds to when it all began when Alex and her friend, Elly, journeyed the road from Texas to Los Angeles to make something of themselves. Together, the girls contend with crummy motels, dead-end wages, and leery men while mesmerizing over glowing beach sunsets grazing over Pacific waters. Story is a compilation of parties, sex, drugs, and shady business—it’s Hollywood, after all!

As the girls get caught up in the hype of beauty, fame, and money, they soon realize that the life isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. At times, the story takes on a humdrum quality as repetitive aspects and various characters come into play, which causes a lag in the flow.

Well-written and captivating, this story takes the reader on an enrapturing ride through the ritzy glamour and sordid underbelly of Hollywood.
 

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Q&A with Liza Treviño


Liza Treviño hails from Texas, spending many of her formative years on the I-35 corridor of San Antonio, Austin and Dallas. In pursuit of adventure and a Ph.D., Liza moved to Los Angeles where she compiled a collection of short-term, low-level Hollywood jobs like script girl, producer assistant and production assistant. Her time as a Hollywood Jane-of-all-trades gave her an insider's view to a world most only see from the outside, providing the inspiration for creating a new breed of Latina heroine.



    1.       What inspired you to write All that Glitters?

I’ve always been a reader and a writer since I was a kid. I loved – LOVE – all kinds of genres: horror, suspense, romance, but Jackie Collins, in particular, always held a special place in my heart. I adore her work and all Hollywood fiction.  I gobbled it up when I was a teenager.  Eventually, I was re-reading one of my favorites of hers while I was in grad school in Los Angeles, and it hit me.  Where is a Latina Lucky Santangelo? I wanted to read about a badass character like Lucky Santangelo, but I wanted her to be Latina. And that’s how it started for me. I began thinking about the popular stories I liked to read and decided I was going to create those kinds of stories but put a Latina at the center of the action.  That’s definitely something I wanted to read. I couldn’t find it, so I started writing

 

2.       What were Alex and Elly’s ultimate goal in their journey?

Alex and Elly, strangely enough, are on similar journeys. There are three key relationships in the book, and each of the relationship highlights different but complimentary themes that overlap. Themes that include the redemptive nature of loyalty and friendship, the destructive power of giving into your worst impulses, facing your demons, learning to love yourself, self-acceptance and trust. Both Alex and Elly come up against these questions and they each have to figure out these answers for themselves.

 

3.       How did the main characters evolve in the story and what did they find in the end?

Over a span of the ten to twelve years, we follow Alex and Elly as they each grapple with heartbreak, love, envy and ambition.  In the end, each woman learns their true nature only by going through similar di the nature of the way they each deal with difficult situations.
 
 

4. What are some of the main socio-economic issues that you explore in this book and why did you explore them?

The main socio-economic issues tackled in this book are sexism, gender inequality and the masked yet innate racism/prejudice all ethnic others face.  My story is about this Latina, Alex Moreno, who decides to set her sights on filmmaking as her life’s work. This is what she wants more than anything else in the world.  She is an outsider and she wants to break in and take a seat at a table in one of the toughest businesses there is. Given that Hollywood is a notorious guy’s club, this book had to take a very particular look at gender and sexism through the lens of this most glamorous business.  And, while Alex doesn’t experience overt racism, prejudicial slurs toward her surface when others are threatened by Alex and her success.  By tackling these issues this way, I hoped to bring to light prevalent inequalities that existed and continue to exist at every level. I get no pleasure considering how relevant these issues are today, when the book’s setting is nearly three decades old.

 

5. What do you hope readers will gain from your book?

I hope readers enjoy the book, first and foremost.  Also, I’d love for them to feel like they gained a new Latina hero; someone who is both recognizable and larger than life.

 

6.       What do you like best and what do you like least about being a writer?

Best: Finishing a story and knowing the ending feels right. It literally feels like a weight has lifted and the story is out of me and into the world. And the satisfaction that I did it.

Worst: Just before starting a new story or project. I get racked with insecurity that I’ve forgotten how to write.

 

7.       Who are some of your favorite authors?
 
     Jackie Collins and Joan Didion are my absolute favorites. I'm also a big fan of Carlos Fuentes, Carrie Fisher, Michael Crichton, and Stephen King.



8.       If your book would be turned into a movie, who would you imagine playing the part of the main character? (Actor can be ANYONE, living or dead.) 
 
This used to be a very difficult question. While writing, there were different actresses I could see aspects of Alexandria Moreno, but none were quite her. Recently, I saw the Latina actress Adria Arnoja in NBC’s Emerald City. She definitely is the best fit for Alex Moreno. No doubt about it.

 

9.       Are you working on anything right now?
 
     Yes! All That Glitters is a 3-part series, and I’m working on the second installment. I just finished a Christmas-time romantic comedy set in San Antonio, and I’m developing a true crime, detective story also set in San Antonio, Texas.


 

10.   And, finally, what do you think is in store for the future of Latino literature?

My sincere hope is that Latinas are recognized for the avid readers they are! I think the “Diverse Books movement” is going to result in the providing Latino stories across an array of genres. While the immigrant narrative will always be a part of Latino literature, the future will move beyond the immigrant narrative and expand and spread out among all the popular genres. We all enjoy these pop genres, but what’s missing is the Latino representation. And making Latinos the protagonist, the center of the action is long overdue. That future is here.

 Find out more at https://lizatrevino.com/
 
Coming up: A review of All that Glitters