Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Review: THINGS LATINOS LOVE OR HATE by Lilliana Rios

Latinos are extremely passionate souls who can love something as much as they can hate it. This book will give you a glimpse of the Latino culture with descriptions of the things they favor or abhor. Do they believe in superstitions? Which foods they love to eat? What are their likes and dislikes? The author will take you through an amusing journey as she shares her personal funny experiences and how they relate to her Latin roots.

Reviewed by: Celia
Rating: 3 stars

Review:  Why do Latinas tuck money in their bras?

“Too many pillos and bandits around in downtown and we’re tired of people stealing our wallets so we put the money inside our bras. It’s safe there. Trust us. You try to steal our plata, you may be more successful at snatching one breast before we let you take our money.” (15)

“We find all things costly! If it’s not practically free, it’s too pricey. The dilemma here is that good deals aren’t good enough for us.” (16) Too true!

“No, we did not burst out of our mother’s vagina with Salsa shoes on.” (122) =D

“If I had a dollar for every time my mom asks me for grandchildren, I’d be richer than Bill Gates.” (129)

And what’s with our fascination with Walter Mercado and Sábado Gigante?

Like the title suggests, this is a book of what Latinos love and hate. Rather than being a stereotypical account of la raza (in fact, there’s a whole section on stereotypes,) this book is more endearing as Rios adds her own humorous flare and sass. The best thing about these observations was the personal anecdotes provided by the author. For example, in LATINOS LOVE PIERCING EARS, the author recounts how, at 5-years old, her abuela pierced her ear with a hot needle and a cork and how she repeatedly stabbed her as if she were auditioning for Psycho. Ouch!

Latinas will be especially proud of the author’s stats and analysis in regards to Latinas helping the economy. It’s true: Latinos are hard workers. And, yes, Latinos LOVE overfeeding you! People will also be entertained by the frightening myths of La Llorana and el cuco.

Of course, at times, some of the attributes were contradicting. For example, she goes on saying that Latinos love spending money, but then she goes on to say that Latinos love being thrifty. How can that be? A thrifty person doesn’t like to spend money. 


Readers will enjoy the candid and witty repartee from the author and will be able to relate. Of course, you won’t find every, little tid-bit fascinating. In fact, some of it is just pure fluffery. Still, I’d say this was an insightful and comical overview of what makes Latinos tick. 

Monday, August 15, 2016

Q&A with author Lilliana Rios


Lilliana Rios was born in Puerto Rico and raised in New Jersey. She is a Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) and Rutgers University graduate.




  1. What inspired you to write Things Latinos Love or Hate?

Things Latinos Love or Hate stemmed from the blog.  There was nothing like it on the web so I gave it a shot with the intent of only writing a few things, but with my experiences and surroundings I gathered so much material that I now have over 700 posts. I decided to write a book version.


  1. In a few words, how would you describe this book?

Funny, real, and entertaining!



  1. Do you feel this book stereotypes Latinos with clichés?

TLLOH is based on my personal experiences and I encourage people to read it with an open mind.  Surely, two people can look at the same object and see totally different things. If you look for the bad in something, you’ll find it and if you seek the good in it, you will find it as well. If one feels their culture is embarrassing, they may see this book as stereotyping Latinos, but for those who are comfortable in their skin they may relate to it in some way.



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

TLLOH is a humor book, but I did touch up lightly on some serious topics affecting Latinos from systemic racism to people thinking we depend on public assistance. This is something I elaborate on in the book. I thought it was worthy of exploring since we’re portrayed so unfairly in the media. Latinos are constantly being targeted because people refuse to acknowledge things such as facts and stats.



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

I’d say the toughest part was length, deciding which things to omit and which ones made the cut.



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

I’d like for readers to focus on the positive things about Latinos and learn a little about us.




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

What I like about being a writer is having the ability to connect with my readers, to engage and awaken something in them. What I dislike? Writer’s block! There are days that everything comes to you at once, whether you’re driving or getting ready to go to sleep and there are times that the inspiration and ideas become dormant. It can take time to get it back.



  1. Who are some of your favorite authors?

I have so many, but I’d say strong Latina writers truly inspire me such as Sandra Cisneros, Gloria E. Anzaldúa, Cherrie Moraga, and Judith Ortiz Cofer. As for male writers, I love Elie Wiesel, Miguel Piñero, Justin Torres and Paulo Coelho’s work.



  1. Are you working on anything new right now?

I started working on a fiction book series, but I’d like to perfect it. It can take anywhere from a few months to years for its completion.




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

I think there’s a brighter future for Latino literature and for more Hispanic authors to be included in the literary canon. I don’t think we’re seeing rapid change, but America’s slightly catching up. They’re just warming up to us now.


Up Next: A review of Things Latinos Love and Hate


Friday, July 22, 2016

New Book: BLACK WIDOW BITCHES by Victor Cass


Victor Cass is the author of a new novel that is garnering attention because of its timeliness and relevance to our changing American military policies regarding the role of women in combat.  It is the first war novel that details how women infantry develop from rookies to brave, skillful warriors in defense of democracy and our nation.  And who are these heroes? The “Black Widows,” the world’s first all-female, full-combat U.S. soldiers to be sent into battle against tens of thousands of unified Jihadist terrorists, including ISIS and Boko Haram, in the not-too-distant World War III.

This is Victor’s fourth book and third novel, but this book has been in the making for almost 10 years, requiring 5 years of research--including extensive interviews with American veterans of various wars --to create a realistic, fictional world that, in hindsight, is amazingly prophetic. Victor has drawn upon his Master’s degree in Military History and over 30 years of pursuing military research on his own, as well as his extensive writing experience in various genres.



Q:  What about your new novel might be considered prophetic?
A:   Two aspects. First, our nation recently removed all the barriers to women in the U.S. military being in full combat. Our Secretary of Defense, Ashton Carter, announced this major change in December 2015. Before that, our previous Secretary of Defense, Leon Panetta, had declared that military positions were now more fully open to women. But more than four years ago, I was writing about this being a reality, showing what this looked like, with our American women being transformed from “green recruits” to full-blown warriors. Second, my novel depicts a world where terrorist groups like ISIS and Boko Haram are able to take over large amounts of territory in regions of the world, like parts of Europe and Africa. When I began writing it, such terrorist groups weren’t on the public radar as they are now.

Q:  Will the readers of your novel be convinced that women can fight in battles, especially women in all-female combat units? Against men?
A:  Yes. In the first part of the book, the reader is introduced to the women and follows them throughout their trials in basic and advanced training as well as their introduction to combat. People who read various drafts of my novel in the past two years--including military veterans, women, and anti-war advocates--have said the novel was very believable. You get to know these women well and witness their gradual transformation from naive “kids” to trained combat professionals. I conducted careful research to accurately depict the transformation that anyone in our military must undergo, men and women alike.

Q:  Tell us about your book’s heroes, these “Black Widows” who broke the proverbial “glass ceiling.”
A:  The feedback I get constantly from readers is how authentic, how believable, the characters are. The women are vastly diverse, representing every ethnic and socioeconomic group, every cultural group, in our society. The top “stars” of the book, for example are a Latina graduate of West Point, a lieutenant who hailed from the “barrio” and who had gang connections in East Los Angeles; a young Black woman who grew up rich and privileged in Chicago’s Gold Coast; a virginal, mousy Midwestern, ultra-religious White girl; a dirt-poor, young White woman from Alabama who was domestically abused; an Iranian-American  devout Muslim, who saved the lives of many of her comrades; a brave, beloved Asian officer, and so on. These women face discrimination from the military high command who are opposed to their presence, as well as challenges amongst themselves. For example, some LGBT soldiers are bullied by other women in their unit. Some face gang issues, race issues, and so on. I show these women warriors on and off the fields of battle, so you’ll get to really know them. The focus of my novel is their huge transformation from fearful rookies to brave warriors. You’ll be able to believe these Black Widows are genuine heroes.

Q:  The book’s main character is a Latino officer. Tell us more about him, since having such a hero in an American war novel is rare.
A:  It is. To my understanding, there are very few American combat novels in our nation’s history with a Latino protagonist.  Elias Marin, my book’s male hero, is symbolic of a leader who falls from grace due to his own failings, and who then has the choice to redeem himself or be undone by his own pride. At the beginning of my book, before the Black Widows unit is established, Elias makes a choice that ultimately costs many human lives. He sticks to facts that are actually on his side, but his pride gets the better of him. Disgraced, humiliated, his dreams destroyed, he is punished. But soon he is given a chance to step into an unknown and untested arena to train the new, all-female army division, a job no male soldier wants. Elias, as readers will see, is a complex character: incredibly strong, but we see him breaking down and weeping in several parts of the novel. He is cold yet sensitive, not the conventional hero, but more akin to what real heroes are probably like: good, conflicted, afraid, and strong. An authentic hero and role model.

Q:  Why was it necessary to create all-female fighting units? Why not just integrate the women with their male comrades?
A:  The answer, sadly, is based on reality, not fiction. Despite the fact that America’s military has admitted women in certain areas for a number of years now, including military academies, physical and sexual assaults on women are still a major concern. Women can’t rise through the ranks as the men can, because of tremendous prejudice regarding their abilities. Women in the military academies are harassed, and rape is not uncommon. In my book, these facts are used by the male opponents of the Black Widows to prevent women getting into combat. But the proponents of creating the Black Widows point out that, with all-female units, these obstacles and abuses will not be an issue. Similar to research that shows how students in all-girl schools develop greater leadership abilities and achieve more highly than in heterogeneous schools, this all-female model seemed reasonable.

Q:  So who are the Black Widows’ leaders trying to get this historic division off the ground? Women?
A:  Absolutely! Another top star in the book is its highest-ranking woman officer, General Jennifer Reed. She’s a visionary but a tough realist as well. She fights hard to get the U.S. Congress to approve the Black Widows division, to approve having, for the first time in the history of the world, an all-female combat unit. Now, get this: These Black Widows are an airborne division--paratroopers. They must not only get trained in regular ground combat but as airborne troops as well. They will be warriors dropping from the sky! Luckily for them, Elias Marin is a war hero with airborne combat experience.

Q:  Women advocates might argue that having a male leader as the main hero dilutes the “women’s empowerment” that might otherwise distinguish your book. Are they right?
A:  I’ve heard this expressed already. I can understand why women feel this way and I respect that perspective. But I was trying to reflect reality. When our military first integrated Black soldiers over 100 years ago, there were not enough Black officers to train new recruits, as was also the case in the Civil War with our Black soldiers. So, until there could be a critical mass of Black officers, White officers were used for training. In my novel, women volunteers sign up in droves for the Black Widows, defying expectations. Because of  WWIII’s intensity, our military is being drained, so the U.S. needs all these recruits, but there simply aren’t enough airborne-trained women soldiers, especially at the officer level, to train them. So male officers have to be practically bribed to take on this unconventional assignment.

Q:  And do these women warriors turn into cold-hearted killers? How does their experience in war differ from men’s experiences, if at all?
A:  Great question. There are actually many scenes in my book where the Black Widows fight alongside men, as their battles cross paths, so it’s easy to see similarities in their combat experiences. Yes, our Black Widows turn into killers, because their lives depend upon this. But war is the most horrifying event in civilization. No book, no movie, no real-life retellings of war can escape this. War is not glorious. It is sheer hell. Our Black Widows are courageous, tough, sacrificing themselves, as men do, to save their buddies’ lives. Our Black Widows include bona fide war heroes, Medal of Honor winners, as you’ll see. But no war novel can evade the fact that war is terrible, and our Black Widows are hardened, and many have to fight to hold onto their humanity, or whatever femininity they once had.

Q:  Your depictions of death are gut-wrenchingly realistic, whether on a mass scale, or in describing the individual deaths of heroes or villains. Was it hard for you to create these?
A:  Very important question, since war equals death. I have been an urban police officer in Southern California for almost 23 years.  I recall how I felt as a rookie in a profession that involves guns, threats, all manner of violence, dangerous people, and death. Even now, with all my years in law enforcement, witnessing death and its after-effects doesn’t get any easier.  There are physical, physiological aspects to it--which I capture as necessary in my book--as well as the heartbreaking sadness of it, which I also depict.  My research in preparation for this book, as well as my interviews with war veterans in different combat jobs, also enlightened me regarding death.

Q:  Have you received any blowback from the book’s title, Black Widow Bitches? Last I looked, the “b-word” is still much reviled, especially by women.
A:  Yes! Starting with my editor, and my family. My novel is a tribute to the strength and resilience of women from all walks of life. It celebrates how ordinary people, even downtrodden, disempowered women, can rise to great heroism, can do amazing things they never dreamed they were capable of. It celebrates how women can enter into a “man’s world,” a place they were excluded from and told they could never earn entrance into--and succeed! My Black Widows are models of inner strengths rising to the surface. I know that the title might appear to diminish that. But the title is meant to be ironic. The title comes from the snarling, hate-filled villains in the book, who battled the Black Widows and were battered by them. The terrorists in South Africa, in Greece and the Balkans, the terrorists in Europe who had never seen strong women take control, who hated the persistence and skills of the Black Widows. To them, through much of the book, these American women are “Black Widow Bitches”--a shallow, monotone, cliché depiction of women that reflects the denigration women have always experienced. Hearing themselves called this, my women soldiers are energized to crush the monsters these men are.


********************************
Victor Cass is the author of the novels Love, Death, and Other War Stories (2005) and Telenovela (2009), which was a "Top 10 Best Reviewed Books" on Living La Vida Latina.com. He is also the author of the nonfiction book, Pasadena Police Department: A Photohistory, 1877-2000 (2001). His poetry has appeared in Altadena Poetry Review: Anthology 2015 and Spectrum 3 Anthology: Love Love Love. His stories, essays, and other nonfiction have appeared in Arroyo Monthly Magazine, Pasadena Weekly, Pasadena Star-News, If & When Literary Journal, Mexican War Journal, and other publications. He lives in Pasadena, CA. Though Victor has never served in the military, he holds a Master of Arts degree in Military History, with a specialty in Land Warfare, from the American Military University in Manassas, VA. He has researched military history as an avocation for over 30 years. The book can be purchased through www.goldenfoothillspress.com and www.amazon.com .

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Q&A with Eleanor Parker Sapia


Award-winning Puerto Rican-born novelist and painter, Eleanor Parker Sapia was raised in the United States, Europe, and Puerto Rico. Eleanor is a Finalist for Best Historical Fiction, English in the 2016 International Latino Book Awards. Her bestselling historical novel, A Decent Woman, set in colonial Puerto Rico, was selected as July 2015 Book of the Month for Las Comadres & Friends National Latino Book Club, and is a favorite with book clubs around the country. A Decent Woman was selected as 'Essential Boricua Reading for the 2015 Holiday Season' by Centro Voices, the Center for Puerto Rican Studies, and Eleanor is featured in the award-winning anthology, Latina Authors and Their Muses, edited by Mayra Calvani. Eleanor’s life experiences as a painter, counselor, alternative health practitioner, a Spanish language social worker, and a refugee case worker inspire her passion for writing. When Eleanor is not writing, she facilitates creativity groups and tells herself she is walking El Camino de Santiago a second time. Eleanor is a proud member of PEN America, Historical Novel Society, and Las Comadres Para Las Americas. She is the mother of two adventurous, loving grown children and currently lives in wild and wonderful West Virginia, where she is writing her second novel, "The Laments of Sister Maria Inmaculada", and a collection of short stories.



1.       What inspired you to write A Decent Woman?

Thank you for inviting me to visit with your readers. I am honored to be here.
I am a Puerto Rican-born, Spanish speaking writer currently living in wild and wonderful West Virginia. I was born in Santurce, Puerto Rico to an American soldier and a Puerto Rican mother and went on to marry an army officer, which led to a rich life of travel and wonderful opportunities to meet interesting people from all walks of life, which of course means I have tons of stories swirling in my head. My heart belongs to Puerto Rico, so my initial inspiration was to write a love letter to the island of my birth and pay tribute to my kids and to the women of my family. The setting of A Decent Woman, Ponce, Puerto Rico, is my hometown.

Another strong inspiration was that I had never read a story in English about a diverse heroine living and working in colonial Puerto Rico. A diverse heroine was important to me, so I wrote what I wanted to read. I was inspired by the literary traditions of the early Puerto Rican classics I read as a child, like El jibaro and La charca, which dealt with societal issues of the day and portrayed the lives of people in the lower and higher echelons of colonial Puerto Rican society. My story is about an Afro-Cuban midwife; a young widow with small children who marries into a prominent family; and about women of all walks of life, all thrown into the mix in turn of the century Puerto Rico.

Lastly, I was inspired by the women of my family, who were amazing storytellers. I loved my grandmother’s stories of her midwife, a black Caribbean woman of unknown origin, who caught my mother, two aunts, and an uncle. It was thought Dona Aña came from the island of Martinique, but no one was sure. I was quite fascinated with her. It came as no surprise that the colorful Ana became my protagonist, though initially Serafina was the leading lady. But who can resist a rum-drinking, cigar-smoking midwife with a big attitude and a heart of gold? I couldn’t!
2.       If you could describe this book in a few sentences, what would you say?

Set against the combustive, colonial backdrop of a misogynistic society where women are treated as possessions, A Decent Woman is the provocative story of two lifelong friends: a poor, illiterate Afro-Cuban midwife and a young widow with small children who marries into a prominent family, as they battle for their dignity and for love against the pain of betrayal and social change.



3.       How would you describe the correlation between Ana and Serafina?

When the story begins, Ana the midwife delivers newly-married, sixteen-year old Serafina’s first child. Unmarried and alone, Ana is distrustful of men and authority, a loner, but she is loyal to her midwifery clients and their children. Ana’s journey is about keeping a dark secret from her past hidden while searching for love, respectability, and a family to call her own. She tries her best to live a “decent” life in a turbulent time in Puerto Rico’s history, when many single women find themselves in “indecent” lifestyles and situations to feed and protect their families because they have no male protection.

Motherless sixteen-year old Serafina pursues a friendship with Ana, which will reopen their hearts, and later, break them for a few years. Although Serafina later remarries and has the protection of men, her life is paved with heartache and much loss. Serafina’s journey is growing up and maturing into a confident wife, mother, and loyal friend. Later in life, Serafina will come face to face with her humble beginnings.

What forever bonds these two women is a fierce friendship, loyalty, and an ill-conceived plan to avoid a scandal and preserve Serafina’s honor after a crime is committed against her. They are mother and daughter in many ways.




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

Before my divorce, I worked as a counselor and a Spanish language refugee case worker, and later, as a Spanish language social worker with immigrant families in Northern Virginia. My heart and stories will always be entwined with the marginalized and overlooked members of society. I am proud to give them a voice in literature.

The initial themes of motherhood, friendship, and the sisterhood of women sprang naturally and organically, thanks to my Puerto Rican grandmother, mother, and aunt’s stories of growing up, marrying, and raising families in Puerto Rico. Misogyny, poverty, and racism against black, white, and mulatto women were issues I gleaned from their stories and from research. The atrocities committed against Puerto Ricans, with forced sterilization by the U.S. Department of Health, came to light through research, as did the mass cleansing of black and mulatto women in Ponce. Though not initially planned, I had to include these historical facts in the story. We should never turn our backs on what we discover as writers. If it is a truth, write it. You discovered the truth for a reason.



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

I ended up writing a book about the suffering, joys, and hard lives of women of different social echelons and economic status in turn of the nineteenth century Puerto Rico. I didn’t set out to write that story, but I couldn’t turn my back or ignore what I’d discovered through research.

Readers will take away what they need from a story. As with viewing a piece of art, stories are subjective, and each person will gain something different from their unique background and life perspective. One discovery I made while writing the book was that my life, with its challenges, joys, and struggles, wasn’t that different from women of the past. Life was certainly harder for women at the turn of the century, without modern conveniences, opportunities, rights, but many women around the world today are living exactly like our foremothers—or worse—with few or no rights, limited modern conveniences, and unreachable opportunities for themselves and their children. That wasn’t a discovery—it was a painful reminder.

Maybe readers will gain a bit of knowledge about Puerto Rico’s complex history as a Spanish colony and a U.S. colony after the Spanish-American War in 1899. Puerto Rico has a rich history, culture, and fascinating traditions, thanks to our Taino Indian, African, and Spanish roots. I hope I portrayed those in the book.

I do hope that readers who normally don’t pick up historical fiction will realize the people of long ago faced much the same issues we face today. As I said in another interview, we are single and married, working mothers, and stay-at-home moms, and some of us are faced with indecent situations in order to feed our families. We are society women, educated women, and women living on the fringes of society. In my mind, we are a sisterhood. The word we use in Puerto Rico to refer to dear women friends is comadre, which literally means, “the woman who helped birth my children.” It also means “my friend for life.”




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

I love reading, writing, and I love research, which is a perfect recipe for an historical novelist. This motto, which came to me while writing A Decent Woman, sums up what I love best about writing: “This is what we want for ourselves as writers and as readers—we want to reach others and we want to be moved.” Other than working from home, which I am blessed to do, I love creating and sharing diverse heroines with my readers. They are ordinary women who do extraordinary things while living in turbulent times, extraordinary times is how I’d describe them.

What I like least about being a writer is that I don’t have enough hours in a day to get all I want to say down on paper. I have so many stories I want to tell! I’ve also found it difficult to read books for pleasure. These days, I find myself reading books for content and style, which often takes away from the story, as I sit with a highlighter in hand! With little time, I’m now picky about what I read; if I don’t like the story by the third chapter, I close the book.



7.       Who are some of your favorite authors?

Jack Remick, Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, Barbara Kingsolver, Arundhati Roy, and Milos Kundera are among my favorite contemporary authors.  I buy their new books sight unseen, every time. Of course, I love Jane Austen.




8.       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.)

I was an exhibiting painter for twenty-five years before discovering my love of writing stories. It was important for me to visualize my characters as I discovered more about them through writing. The adult Ana would be played by one of my favorite actresses, the fabulous Viola Davis. Ana Belén is strong, gentle, intelligent, and has the quiet strength and gritty courage I’ve seen in many of Viola’s roles in films and on television. I adore Viola’s grin, which reminds me of Ana, who in my mind’s eye has a great grin.

For the flashbacks of young Ana as a child born into slavery on a sugar plantation in Cuba, I’d pick the young actress and Oscar winner, Quvenzhané Wallis, and Lupita Nyong’o would be perfect to play Ana in her twenties when she first arrives in Puerto Rico.

I visualize the young actress Selena Gomez as Serafina at sixteen and the incredibly-talented Mexican actress and director Salma Hayek as the adult Serafina. Of course, I think A Decent Woman would make a great film!



9.       Are you working on anything right now?

Yes, I’m currently working on a novel called The Laments of Sister Maria Inmaculada, set in 1920 Puerto Rico. It’s the story of a young nun working at a leprosarium on a small Puerto Rican islet called Isla de Cabras, The Island of Goats, off the coast of San Juan. I didn’t think I could love another story and new characters as much as I did with my first book, but I do. I hope readers will enjoy my second book, which will come out in 2017.



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

I believe the future in Latino literature is bright with more Latinos penning books in all genres. There are still only a handful of Latino literary agents and publishing companies that cater to Latino writers, and I hope that changes in the future. What I’m most happy about is that more Latinos are active on social media, which helps everyone get their products and books out into the world.

Thank you very much for the wonderful opportunity to stop by and chat with your readers!




Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Review: HOPELESSLY IMPERFECT by Gabriela Cabezut

Cancer is a beast. It's ugly, savage, and has no mercy. Cassie learned this all too well while watching her mother slowly deteriorate, one agonizing day at a time... With the desire to make her mother's last year the best it can be, she works to be the perfect daughter. Every character trait, witty joke, like and dislike-Cassie molds herself to be what her mother would love most. But in the end, it still isn't enough... After years of pretending, Cassie has no idea who she really is. When her mother slips away, Cassie falls into a deep depression, and thoughts of suicide become her most pressing threat. After a failed attempt, she seeks help, and is eventually able to return to life at home. Going through senior year as the girl whose mom died sucks... With her father picking up the pieces of his own heart, and Cassie back in school, she's able to make a few new friends-one of them being Nathan Rivers. A little quiet, strong, and with inner demons of his own, Cassie can't help but be intrigued. And as she grows closer to Nathan, the reasons for their mutual attraction slowly unveil. Pain sometimes feels impossible to cope with. It's consuming, saturating, and all-encompassing. As Cassie and Nathan struggle to heal, can they learn to forgive and accept the past, and possibly find happiness in being Hopelessly Imperfect...?



Reviewed by: Sandra
Rating: 4 stars

Review: For Cassie, watching her mother struggle with the big-C was unbearable. How could a young teen deal with that? The only way she could quench the pain was through a blade to her wrist. So when her mother finally died, she died too, which was why she was sent to a psychiatric facility. Now she’s trying to get her life back together. Of course, that’s easier said than done, especially when you’re treated like the school’s pariah, which is all fine since Cassie just wants to be left alone. Then comes Nathan, the brooding guy with the storm-gray eyes who doesn’t talk or pity her; he’s just….there.

There was something interesting about Nathan, but could the rumors about his violent streak be true? Still, a guy who’d be willing to take a punch for a smile can’t be all that bad, right? “Nathan was a mystery. An intriguing, unnerving, alluring mystery.” (64)

Readers will be able to relate to Cassie’s sad and detrimental state as she battles with gut-wrenching guilt and struggles to survive in any way possible.  Agony and overwhelming grief are dreary yet instrumental elements, which are repeated often in the book. It may seem tiresome, but it begs the question: can she go on without the love and guidance of her mother? And Nathan, a “bad boy” with his own problems, seems to provoke something in her—feeling, laughter, life.  Two people at a loss, two people in pain, find a way to breathe and find comfort. Nathan and Cassie just understand each other. Of course, readers will be pleased when Cassie starts to come alive again.

“No matter what happens in your life, there’s always a choice. Always.” (239)


Heartfelt and well-written, Hopelessly Imperfect is a wonderful tale of love, sorrow, and healing. 

Friday, July 8, 2016

Q&A with Gabriela Cabezut


Gabriela Cabezut is a Mexican author who has been inclined to write ever since she was little. Being a creative person has always been one of her major traits. 

When she was a child, she used to type short stories for her family and friends. 

Then, she created and directed a school newspaper for her Elementary School. 

Reading has always been an important part of her life. Distinctively, she loves to read in English. Therefore, after being a silent reader for most of her life, she started to write romance stories on a writer’s community website, where she has succeeded by having thousands of readers from around the globe reading her stories.

She manages her time between her family and friends, as well as her own cake-decorating business and as of lately, writing romance stories.

She's an active Wattpad writer. You can find several stories on her profile.




1.       What inspired you to write Hopelessly Imperfect?
It started as a need to let go. I was going through a difficult time in my life and I didn’t know what to do with all the feelings I had inside of me. My mother passed away a few months earlier and I dealt with her loss by writing this story.


2.       Did you relate to the main character, Cassie, in any way? If so, what?
Yes. So much. Like Cassie, I was feeling guilty about many things. There was so much that I felt like I needed to say and I couldn’t. Not in real life. Hopelessly Imperfect is not an autobiography, but the story has too much of me in it. It was a sad time in my life and I didn’t know how to deal with that emptiness I felt at that time. I couldn’t write my usual humorous romance stories, so I started this one.


3.       How would you describe the relationship between Cassie and Nathan?
They’re each other’s lifeline. They are both in pain and have many emotions to get through. Without really noticing, they both help each other overcome their fears and grow up together in a span of a few months.


4.       What was the hardest part about writing this book?
Publishing it. Not the whole querying thing, but the fact that it’s the book that’s really close to me and it terrifies me to let it out there for the world to read.
And writing that final letter that Cassie wrote to her Mom. It was super hard. I cry every time I read it.

5.       What are some of the main issues that you explore in this book and why did you explore them?
Loss, grief, sadness. Losing someone you love so much is extremely hard, especially when you’re close to them. I’d lost other relatives, but I’d never experienced grief so hard. It took me a while to realize that I didn’t need to be strong all the time, that I could be sad and that it’s okay. We’re allowed to have gloomy days. In fact, it’s healthy to let go. That’s what I wanted to let on, that life goes on.

6.       What do you hope readers will gain from your book?
To have hope, no matter what happens in life or how hard you’re struggling, this too, shall pass. To be brave and say whatever you feel like you need to say and to let every feeling flow. It’s okay to be sad, too.

7.       What do you like best and what do you like least about being a writer?
I love creating different stories and sort of playing God with my characters. Ha! I love making someone feel butterflies in their stomachs for reading one of my stories. Or making them laugh or cry. To connect with my characters.
I don’t like marketing. It’s daunting and half the time I don’t know what I’m doing!


8.       Who are some of your favorite authors?
The first author I read was Jane Austen and I loved how all her stories had a happy ending. Stephanie Perkins’ stories brought me back from the dark stage I was going through. Veronica Roth for creating such an amazing trilogy…and of course, J.K. Rowling for creating such a magical and complex world.

9.       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 always imagined Cassie as Alexis Bledel and Nathan as Colton Haynes.

10.   What can readers expect in Book 2 of the Imperfect Series?
The second book is about Farah and Chris. At the end of Hopelessly Imperfect, they had broken up, but they were always such a sweet and fun couple. It actually starts when Farah comes back for the summer. Has she forgotten about him? Has he? A lot of things can happen in a year…


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

I’m excited and confident to know that many Latino authors are out there. Having internet and international platforms like Wattpad has made it easy to get your work out there, even though if you’re not based in English-spoken countries. There seem to be more opportunities for writers all around, and that’s pretty exciting!



Up next: A review of Hopelessly Imperfect

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Q&A with Lars Teeney

Lars Teeney was born in Montana. After going to an art school in San Francisco, racking up insane student loans and working for years as a freelance designer for the start-up culture, he became burnt out. He abandoned the Bay Area for the Pacific North-west, where he could hike and bike to his heart’s content. He has worked for a variety of technology companies and has a keen passion for politics, history, science and art.



  1. What inspired you to write The Apostates Book Three: Lake of Fire?

I was inspired to write The Apostates series of book and Lake of Fire because of the it is an interesting time in the world, where our lives are enriched by advanced technology but superstition and baser instincts of humans are a constant threat that could reduce humanity to the values of a less enlightened age.
Many factors inspired my need to write these books. The first factors were 9/11 and the Bush era, the financial crisis of 2007-8, the Iraq and Afghan wars, the rise of the Tea Party and most recently the Trump Candidacy. Racial and economic inequality was also a big factor.
As far as literary influences go, I am a big G.R.R.Martin, Junot Diaz, Neal Stephenson, and Neil Gaiman fan. Old school “Cyber Punk” novels were a heavy influence on my books.



  1. How would you describe the relationship between Archon and Strategos?
Archon and Strategos are titles that Greta Sanchez and Evan Nubia take on. Greta is like the “president” and Evan is akin to her “general”. They have a very close relationship because they have had a child together, Amerigo Nubia. The twist is that Evan is a gay man while Greta is straight. The two of them have survived many ordeals together and have governed the Manhattan Union for five years.




  1. What kind of genre would this book fall into?
This book probably crosses several genre lines. It can be labeled as science fiction, but can fall into subgenres like cyber-punk, post-apocalyptic, and dystopian fiction.




  1. What are some of the main issues that you explore in this book and why did you explore them?
This series is not exactly a light read and deals with subjects like religious extremism, racism, war, fascism, terrorism, government surveillance, environmental destruction, the war on drugs and the supply/demand effect on Latin America, and retaining cultural identity in an age of mass homogenization. There is also plenty of action, romance, drama, and light-hearted scenes.




  1. What do you hope readers will gain from your book?
First I would like for them to have fun reading the book and hopefully it develops into a page-turner for the reader. Mainly, I hope that the story makes an impact on the reader and when characters fall I hope that they feel loss at the event.




  1. What do you like best and what do you like least about being a writer?
Obviously, I love world-building and creating characters the most. I don’t think there is a bad part about being a writer. The tedious part comes from being a self-published author. This fact means that the author is on the hook for all promotion of the product and that cuts into writing time. This aspect of it all I could definitely do without.




  1. Who are some of your favorite authors?
Aside from the authors I already mentioned I like the work of Margaret Atwood, Gore Vidal, Stephen King, George Orwell, William Gibson, etc.




  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 always thought that Michelle Rodriguez could play Greta Sanchez spot on.




  1. Are you working on anything new right now?
I just finished this series, but I am always promoting it. Aside from that I am in the early stages of plotting out a fantasy stand-alone novel. I have no idea low long this will take me to publish since I have a day job.




  1. And, finally, what do you think is in store for the future of Latino literature?
I think that as the sons and daughters of immigrants grow up in America and get exposed to fiction and non-fiction literature and film I think that we will see much more media produced by Latino artists and writers. That is, unless there is some cultural and political shift to fascism in this country that targets immigrants and minorities.