Friday, February 27, 2015

VIVA LA RAZA Book Giveaway - Enter to Win!

7 Books, 7 Winners! Each receiving an autographed book from the following list:

DUE DILIGENCE by Owen Parr - Based on true events. This fictional novel will leave you wondering. DUE DILIGENCE is a fast paced romantic thriller. It will take you on a journey full of intrigue, double crosses, corporate takeovers, money laundering, assassinations and a sinful love affair. Let your imagination wander as you witness the Cuban government's attempt to launder their illicit gains of over forty years utilizing our own Wall Street. Owen has written a unique fictional novel, incorporating his over 27 years with Wall Street companies. Born in Havana, Cuba and later growing up in Miami during the drug-war years, he has woven a tale that will leave you breathless. His creativity and first hand experiences make this a fast paced riveting suspense-filled thriller. You'll ask: could this really happen?

THE LAST PACHUCO by Tony Levario - The story of two men’s quest to find a serial killer in their midst. In 1985 there were over 800 murders in Los Angeles County. Both the LAPD and the Sheriff’s Department were overwhelmed by the significant increase in gang and drug related violence. A serial murderer in their midst was not unique, both departments had worked together to solve the Hillside Strangler murders. The newest string of prostitute murders were unnoticed at first and then given a second-class status even as the two men search for answers. One man, DETECTIVE FRANK ORTEGA, is responding to the requirements of his position as a Sergeant in the Los County Sheriff’s Department’s Homicide Bureau and his desire to find justice for the victims.

DUENDE by Lizzie Eldridge - That most vital struggle, when touching death is knowing, and truly knowing, life.’ In the years leading up to the Spanish Civil War, two men fall in love, a relationship which, in public, can never be accepted. Throughout their lives, Nayo, an artist, and José, a philosopher, wrestle with the duende, a force propelling passion, authenticity and fearless confrontation with death. Their journey coincides with that of real-life people: Salvador Dalí, Ortega y Gasset and, most significantly, Federico García Lorca who becomes their friend. Nayo and José are part of this wider movement in European art when creativity flourished amidst escalating violence. Provoking parallels with the instability of our contemporary world, Duende unfolds within a complex and vibrant landscape in which survival is paramount while existence is tenuous and forever under threat.

WAYPOINT 90 IN THE CHAMBERS OF THE SEA by Simon Vincent - Prepare to feel and cry. Waypoint 90 offers an in-depth look at the power of redemption through love; a story of passion and romance, of political intrigue and suspense, of friendship and loyalty where the sea plays a pivotal role, drawing the characters, each in their own way, to the Florida Keys to fulfill their destinies. Michael Bean leaves his high-pressured, high profile life and unhappy marriage for a simple life fishing and chartering. After a successful escape from Castro's Cuba, Diana de la Vega brings her son to the place closest to her old life and her jailed husband, caught during his own escape attempt. Diana's son finds a father figure in Michael. And Michael and Diana find each other. Meanwhile, Diana's husband is offered an unexpected chance to escape his island prison. However, Diana must ask Michael's help to send a boat for the man she both dreads and longs to see.

AN IMMIGRANT AMERICAN HERO by Mary De La Pena - The story of Patricio (Tico) de la Fuente, a Mexican immigrant who came to this country during World War II when he was only six years old. Leaving behind a life of wealth, nannies and mayor domos in the mining towns in Chihuahua, Mexico, Tico and his family moved into a garage in East Los Angeles. Accepting their new life of reduced circumstances, Tico’s parents never gave into the idea that their sons were not meant to succeed in life. They insisted that Tico and his brother, Chacho, focus on their education and remain faithful to God and the Catholic Church. It was his faith in God, and strong family values that inspired him throughout his life, so that no matter what the circumstance, this American immigrant hero faced his life with humility, bravery, and laughter.

MISPLACED by Sylvia Wright - Pharaoh Pepy II dies, plunging Egypt into the chaos that history will come to refer to as “70 rulers in 70 days”. On what would have been her coronation day, golden-eyed Khara witnesses the brutal murder of her father by her jealous sister. Knowing that he cannot possibly protect her, Khara’s Nubian guardian sends her far into the future, to the present day of the American Southwest. At first, completely unaware that she has traveled in time, Khara’s initial thought is that she has died and traveled to the Underworld. Luckily, fate places her in the path of Victoria Barron, a dedicated immigration attorney.  Eventually convinced that Khara is who she claims to be, they make plans to return to Egypt in hopes of finding some way to return her to the past.  When her coronation bracelets surface onto the antiquities black market, a disgraced archaeologist, obsessed with finding the source of these undiscovered relics makes the pair suspects in an artifact smuggling ring.  With the borders of Egypt now closed to them, desperation forces Khara to explore a far-fetched scheme in order to claim the throne of Egypt and her pivotal place in history. 

WEST SIDE GIRL AND OTHER POEMS by Lauren Scharhag - Collection of poems written from 2004-2013, exploring themes of womanhood, family, and German-Mexican heritage.


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Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Review: HOW TO BE A CHICANA ROLE MODEL by Michele Serros

Michele Serros's work has been called "wonderfully comical and wise" (San Francisco Chronicle) and "pulsating with the exuberance of an unmistakably original poetic talent" (Entertainment Weekly). How to be a Chicana Role Model is the fiercely funny tale of a Chicana writer who's trying to find a way to embrace two very different cultures--without losing touch with who she is.

"A young, sassy writer whose brilliant weapon is her humor."--Sandra Cisneros

"Magnificent...such a voice!"--Dorothy Allison

"Michele Serros writes incredibly robust and witty prose."--Carolyn See

"One of the most distinctive and accomplished Latina voices in literature today."--Estylo

Reviewed by: Sandra
Rating: 5 stars

Review: This is a collection of fiction from a strong, witty, and intelligent chicana writer. In these rules, Michele Serros writes about being a “chicana role model” based on tales and experiences.

Rule #1: “Never Give up an Opportunity to Eat for Free” because, if you do, you never know who you might meet, like a publisher maybe.

With her cynical humor, Serros reminds you “of how detoured a career can go and what a waste a college degree could be [because] everyone knows you’re around just to separate Sweet n’ Low from sugar, take phone messages, or tape off seats in the studio audience.” (27) However, for Serros, “writing granted [her] freedom…it gave voice to all the opinions [she] was too afraid to say out loud for fear of sounding unladylike or babyish by family members, classmates, or stupid neighbor[s].” (41)

I loved this book! This was a true road map for the frustrated and relentless author. Written in a diary-entry format, Serros relives her days as a young aspiring writer from the days she sold books out of her garage to the numerous times she called regarding an honorarium for a gig—a real inspiration for many of us!

As her father used to say, “you know…all the Latinos in this country, heading political offices and creating careers with dishwater hands, but you never hear our stories, see our lives on the big screen.” (71) “Being Mexican, [we grow] up to understand that missing work is bad. Very bad. A Mexican without a strong work ethic? Come on!” (94) Serros’ book is a humorous testament to the hard-working Latinos, the largest minority in the U.S.

Rule #8: “Reclaim your Right as a Citizen of Here, Here”

I saw a lot of myself in this book. Michele’s study abroad experience reminded me of my own. Getting lost on the way to a live reading has never been unusual for me. Been there, done that, still doing it!

This book is just an open and honest account from the Mexican-American writer with the Indian-looking nose. A must read!

Wednesday, February 4, 2015


**Currently, we are OPEN for submissions**

Thank you for your interest in having us review your book for our Latina Book Club.

In order for us to consider your book, it must meet one of the qualifications:
a. Must be about a Latina/o or have a Latino theme

b. Must be written for a Latina/o

c. Must be written by a Latina/o

Our club focuses primarily on Latino literature.
We accept a multitude of genres with the exception of:
  • sci-fi
  • westerns
  • erotica
  • religious
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  • poetry
  • essays
  • self-help
  • most non-fiction books
We reserve the right to refuse any work that may not suit our specifications or interests.
Only published and upcoming release books will be reviewed. No unpublished books.

Response time is typically within 48 hours.

If your book is selected, we will post a review on our blog. Reviews are also shared on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Goodreads, Facebook, and other sites. Book give-aways, excerpts, and author Q&A's are allowed, whether or not your book is selected for review. Please discuss if interested.   

Please note that we are a team of reviewers and are not compensated for our reviews. Also, please know that the individual reviews we provide are purely subjective, and we cannot guarantee positive reviews. Our reviews are HONEST and are based on the 5-star rating system.

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Review: VIDA by Patricia Engel

Fresh, accomplished, and fearless, Vida marks the debut of Patricia Engel, a young author of immense talent and promise. Vida follows a single narrator, Sabina, as she navigates her shifting identity as a daughter of the Colombian diaspora and struggles to find her place within and beyond the net of her strong, protective, but embattled family.

In “Lucho,” Sabina’s family—already “foreigners in a town of blancos”—is shunned by the community when a relative commits an unspeakable act of violence, but she is in turn befriended by the town bad boy who has a secret of his own; in “Desaliento,” Sabina surrounds herself with other young drifters who spend their time looking for love and then fleeing from it—until reality catches up with one of them; and in “Vida,” the urgency of Sabina’s self-imposed exile in Miami fades when she meets an enigmatic Colombian woman with a tragic past.

Patricia Engel maps landscapes both actual and interior in this stunning debut, and the constant throughout is Sabina—serious, witty, alternately cautious and reckless, open to transformation yet skeptical of its lasting power. Infused by a hard-won, edgy wisdom, Vida introduces a sensational new literary voice.
Reviewed by: Sandra
Rating: 4 stars

Review: Patricia Engel’s debut book was wonderful. Her main character, Sabina, was smart, witty, and real; she often referred to herself as a “late bloomer.”

These are stories of a girl’s coming-of-age from childhood to adulthood (although not necessarily in that order) that trek through the hurdles revolving her family, friends, neighbors, and her ethnic identity.

Living in a community shunned by “blancos” makes life a little lonely for Sabina in “Lucho.” In “Refuge,” Sabina must hide from the wreckage of the 9/11 aftermath while pondering the fact that she “cheated,” that she should’ve been in that building with all those victims if she had only gone to work that day. And, in “Vida,” Sabina befriends a prostitute that she can’t help but be fascinated by.

Full of vivid and lively descriptions like “your skin looks like diarrhea.” (47) I couldn’t help but laugh at that one. “Death is a huge aphrodisiac.” (35) Interesting how you always want people when they’re dead –they are the “ungettable” get.

Engel has a way of engaging the reader with her candid humor and elegant prose. Her unique writing style of broken sentences was so oddly poetic –yet it all seemed to work.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Q&A with Owen Lewis

Owen H Lewis had his heart set on a career in the creative arts from an early age and, after gaining a degree in English Literature in 1998, he was able to break into film and television. At first working in London and then Madrid, Lewis finally settled in Los Angeles with his own production company. As well as making promotional videos for big named business, the company also produced two shorts films scripted by Lewis. However, outside pressures eventually forced him to adopt a more conformist career path and he reluctantly put aside his creative ambitions, moving instead into real estate investment.

After gaining a Masters from Cass Business School, Lewis moved to The City, where his rise through the world of real estate commerce was relatively meteoric. He rapidly secured a directorship within a FTSE 250 company before eventually setting up his own International Real Estate Business in 2008.

But Lewis became increasingly jaded with the environment in which he worked – at this crossroads in his life he once more turned to his first love – writing. And this time he had a truly profound, thoughtful and challenging story to tell.

Coloured by his experiences, Lewis started work on what was to become the ground breaking The Mark of Man, a novel about a future where humanity’s cannon of accepted philosophies are challenged and our passive inertia is confronted.

Owen currently lives in Kew, with his wife and two children, and is already writing a companion piece to his debut, which promises to be darker and even more contentious.

1.       What inspired you to write The Mark of Man?

Initially it was three short stories that I’d been developing for quite some time. However following an extremely vivid dream, where I woke up believing I was living in the environment of The Mark of Man, I had finally found my premise with which to link the three together and therefore was able to embark on a triptych. The result is a thrilling ride which provides a window into mankind’s soul, whilst casting a glance on our constant internal struggle with science vs. religion and nature vs. technology.



2.       What was the development process like?

The entire process took me two years to the day. I started writing the treatment to The Mark of Man on September 10th 2012 and I had my first launch on September 10th 2014.

The treatment took me three months to create the story arcs, develop the characters and then create the alternative timeline. It took another eleven months to get the entire story down in raw form.

It took me six months to find a publisher and then another three months to get it out there, for all to see. In its original state there were more than 200,000 words, of which I kept only 116,000 after the final (publisher) edit.



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

Ensuring that there is a beating heart to the story - that it never waivers nor meanders. When you construct such a web of deception and hidden truths, it sometimes gets hard to keep control of your characters. Once I felt satisfied that this was so, my ultimate focus was to leave the reader enlightened by their journey, as if they were either one of the two main protagonists. I believe that The Mark of Man meets these targets and pushes us on further – I would like to think that the readers will agree…




4.       What was the best part about writing this book?

 I guess, as we all broaden our horizons through our use of technology, we re-educate ourselves     and therefore reach the point where it is acceptable to question our own beliefs and  convictions; those that were formed before the  advent of the web.

 The story provided me with a blank canvass to posit my theories and ideals, without necessarily hurting anyone in particular. It gives me a clean slate to start over again; with our culture, our systems and the environment. I can challenge the reader without alienating them and I can keep them guessing because there are no rules.



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

 The Mark of Man’s central premise concerns a mark on the wrist which indicates the death age of the bearer - contrary to other similar tales; this is posited as a genetic anomaly. So the race is  not a simple chase and pursuit tale from evil overlords with a reliance on the familiar clichés and tenets, but one that concerns the whole of humankind and compels everybody (including the reader) to try to find an answer to this ticking doomsday clock.

The book is an adventure yarn with the protagonist counting down the days he has left, whilst trying to come to terms with losing the love of his life. Fate however seems intent on throwing them back together.

 This is a novel about a future where humanity’s cannon of accepted philosophies are challenged and our passive inertia is confronted.

The Mark of Man is a philosophical romance, more than anything else, and just because     most of  the world is clamouring for the next vampire saga or Game of Thrones clone, I’m of the conviction that the world is now ready for a more intelligent and challenging story. Science  fiction shouldn’t just be about shiny spaceships or flesh eating  aliens, it should challenge and  create discussion; perhaps even arguments.





6.       What inspired you to be a writer?

Through a love of literature and film – I studied English Literature at university and then worked in TV & Film afterwards, until family life took over and I felt compelled to move into real estate investment. However one’s interests and skills never leave them and with almost another 20 years living a varied existence, one would hope that I have acquired enough life experience to be a social commentator.



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

Control over creativity and lack of control over your audience – it’s incredibly liberating – cathartic at best, frustrating at worst.

I had my heart set on a career in the creative arts from an early age and, after gaining a degree in English Literature in 1998, I broke into film and television. At first I worked in London, then Madrid and finally settled in Los Angeles with my own production company.  

However, outside pressures eventually forced me to adopt a more conformist career path and I moved into real estate investment. After gaining a Masters from Cass Business School, I moved to The City and what followed was a relatively meteoric rise through the ranks, where I secured a directorship within a FTSE 250 company, before eventually setting up my own International Real Estate Business in 2008.

However I became jaded with the environment in which I worked - the global recession was a major contributing factor. At this crossroads I once more turned to my first love – writing - this time I had a profound, thoughtful and challenging story to tell.



8.       Who are some of your favorite authors?

Philip Pullman, Martin Amis, J.R.R. Tolkien and Louis De Bernieres would have to be up there as my greatest influences but then again there are so many more. It really depends on who’s asking.


9.       Are you working on anything right now?

When is an artist ever satisfied? This is the 1st part of triptych, in that I have another two stories to tell, which are in principal unconnected. They will take a look at the human condition but perhaps from another stand point, whilst being set in a similar paradigm. I am currently writing the treatment to The Dark of Man as we speak.



10.   And, finally, what do you think is in store for the future of Latino literature?
Not long ago Latino Literature represented the whimsical and fantastical but then Gabriel Garcia Marquez came on the scene in the late 60’s and cast a surrealist influence on everyone

 Through the 80’s, and 90’s the interest in this Boom generation has disappeared and neo-   realism has taken its place, where writers have fled Marquez's mystical landscapes and crash landed  in the hard-boiled, decidedly un-magical, realm of the crime novel. 

 During the last ten years, narconovelas have flooded the bookstores, sparking interest among  Mexican readers and foreign critics in a new strain of Latin American exoticism and displacing  magic realism as the region’s characteristic genre.

The future will no doubt see a dampening of these narco-flames and we’ll see a return to the fantastic as these stories become more and more mystical, in order to win back the hearts and minds of the very people that grew tired of it in the first place.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Review: OFFSIDE: A MYSTERY by William Barrett

In 2006, amid the great real estate bubble, Rick Hermannik, an adult referee of youth soccer, is found murdered in a ritzy Los Angeles suburb, his whistle left in an unnatural place. Suspicion quickly falls upon volunteer coach Diego Diaz, a one-time gang member whose hot Latino rant over an offside call pops up on YouTube. The media eagerly pursue the delicious story line of out-of-control soccer parents. Case closed–until the boyfriend of Diaz’s grown daughter, Hector Rivera, a former high school soccer star but now a college dropout in a dead-end job, tries to figure out the truth, and himself.

Reviewed by: Celia
Rating: 3 stars

Review: Witty and frank, Offside is an intriguing mystery with a solid in-depth base of history, politics, pop culture, and, of course, soccer. Soccer seemed to be the central theme, and why wouldn’t it? It’s vital to Latino culture. But not being a sport buff, it was a little much and a tad confusing at times.

Barrett paints a true landscape of the SoCal scene and he does so with such brutal finesse. The Mexican cultural references and historical facts were a great value and only enhanced the Latino awareness. 

Although slow at capturing my interest, the book illustrates the writer’s impressive skills. He cleverly explores poverty, racism, and other socio-economical issues that Latinos face today. It’s enlightening and thought-provoking. The book is almost suitable for a Chicano Studies class; portions of it can be printed in textbooks. The story, however, was not as great. I felt like I was waiting for the mystery. Also, the variety of characters made it hard to keep track of the story.

It was evident that the author had vast experience and knowledge in police protocol, government, politics, pop culture, and sports, but I felt that it all depleted the energy from the story. Overall, this was an okay first novel.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Q&A with William P. Barrett

Chronicling a wide cross-section of the human condition, William P. Barrett has worked as an award-winning journalist across the country and abroad for major newspapers and national magazines dating back more than four decades. At various times he’s been a police reporter, court reporter, local government reporter, feature writer, foreign correspondent, national correspondent writing about very small places with very big problems, investigative reporter and business reporter. Barrett’s longest stretch was at Forbes, where his writings illuminated dark sections of the financial world and sent miscreants to prison. A New Jersey native, Barrett holds two degrees from Rutgers, one in law, and is a Chartered Financial Analyst charterholder. On the weekends he has refereed youth soccer in the West, including Southern California, for 17 years. Barrett now lives in Seattle. This is his debut novel.

1. What inspired you to write Offside: A Mystery?

 I have been a magazine and newspaper journalist across the country and abroad for more than four decades, writing thousands of stories. But I never had written something as long and detailed as a book. So that became a challenge. I thought a murder mystery would be interesting, so long as it incorporated some real history and allowed me to indulge in social commentary. I had been a referee of youth soccer for years, first in New Mexico and then in Southern California, so I knew a lot about soccer. As an old courts-and-crime newspaper reporter with a law degree, I knew something about the legal system. And as a business writer for Forbes for nearly a quarter-century, I knew a lot about finance. Having lived in Houston, Albuquerque and the Los Angeles area, I knew something about Latino culture. And when I started working on the book, I was living around Los Angeles and was quite aware of--struck even, by--the racial tensions. So I wrote about what I knew.




2. What was the development process like?

Lengthy. The process took eight years. I don't write long works without first composing an outline. I started working on OFFSIDE: A Mystery in 2006. I dashed off my first complete outline on a yellow pad during on a single cross-country airplane trip. But I kept revising the outline, trying to work through problems with the plot. Then in 2008 we had the mortgage meltdown as a result of the bursting of the real estate bubble, and Los Angeles was more or less at Ground Zero. I immediately knew I had to get that into the book. So I basically threw out most of my first outline and started over. At some point I stopped writing and spent nearly a year researching more about the history of soccer, California, finance, whatever.




3. Did you relate to the main character, Diego Diaz, in any way? If so, what?

I'd say the main character is Hector Rivera, the 24-year-old college dropout dating the adult daughter of Diaz, the coach accused of killing the referee. Rivera has clear intellectual and physical talent but is stuck in a dead-end job while trying to figure out what to do with the rest of his life. I think there are a lot of people out there in his situation. I am reminded of Thoreau, who wrote, "Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them." Fortunately, I decided while in high school to become a journalist. Because as a journalist I've written so many hard-luck stories, I can relate to Rivera, but not on the basis of personal events. An interesting comparison with me, a part-time soccer referee, is with the part-time referee in the book who ends up seriously dead. I hope the book doesn't prove to be too autobiographical.




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

Constant rewriting, making the plot believable, working through plot problems, while holding down a full-time day job.




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

The final version is set in 2006, two years before the real estate/mortgage meltdown, but there's plenty of foreshadowing. I was quite aware when I moved from New Mexico to Southern California in 2004 that an epic real estate bubble was under way, driven by easy credit. I was old fashioned enough to only buy a home with 20% down and a fixed-rate loan for 15 years. One real estate agent told me he hadn't had a client do that in 18 years. Everything had become little down, adjustable rate, and sometimes interest-only payments. About the same time, I went to a college alumni function in the L.A. area and heard 23-year-old recent graduates bragging about making $120,000 by working as a mortgage broker. I thought that was a commodity business, but it turns out a lot of the brokers were convincing buyers to borrow way more than they should, and maybe helping to "spruce up" the paperwork. The events take place in a town I invented, the allegorically named Valley Mirage, an upscale, racist place full of big homes but with a small Latino population in the rundown older part of town doing much of the menial labor. Rivera's mom ekes out a living as a seamstress, which she is able to do because hardly anyone knows anymore how to sew. I have a line about this in the book: "Much of the American economy was based on the inability of Americans to be economic." In Valley Mirage--as elsewhere--youth soccer is a unifying theme.




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

A feeling that they didn't waste their time in reading the book.




7. What inspired you to be a writer?

I have ancestors on both sides who were newspapermen; one actually co-owned a newspaper in Scranton, Pa. So maybe it's in the DNA. I like learning about things and communicating what I learn to others. Writing is a good way to do this. As baseball great Yogi Berra once said, "You can observe a lot by just watching."




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

Best: the research and observation process. Worst: the writing process.




9. Who are some of your favorite authors?

For fiction, Rudolfo Anaya and Tony Hillerman come to mind. But frankly, most of what I read is nonfiction, often biography, like the works of Robert A. Caro. I just finished John Lewis Gaddis's award-winning biography of the diplomat George F. Kennan. It was a terrific book, although Gaddis had the benefit of cooperation with Kennan himself.




10. Are you working on anything right now?

I now live in Seattle, so I guess it's likely the next book will be set here. However, family members think I should do a sequel to OFFSIDE: A Mystery with the same characters, or at least the ones not killed off.




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

While my book involves Latino characters and deals with Latino/American issues, I don't consider it Latino literature per se. I'm not a Latino, but rather a mere outsider observing. I wrote a murder mystery involving Latino characters with, perhaps, some elements of literary fiction. However, I can't help but notice how much of the writing of the new generation of genuine Latino novelists consists of, for want of a better description, crime fiction. I am thinking especially of Juan Gabriel Vásquez and his translated novel,

 "The Sound of Things Falling." I don't think this development is a bad thing. One thing contemporary novels should do is deal with the problems of society, and crime is definitely a problem. So the future is good.