Friday, December 24, 2010

Holiday Break

Livin' la vida Latina will be on a holiday break from December 24 thru January 2. But have no fear, our reviewers are finishing up their books and will soon have more reviews for you all.

Until then, viva Latina y Feliz Navidad!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Book Review: When the stars go blue

When the stars go blue by Caridad Ferrer

A dancer driven to succeed.

A musical prodigy attempting to escape his past.

The summer they share.

And the moment it all goes wrong.

Dance is Soledad Reyes’s life. About to graduate from Miami’s Biscayne High School for the Performing Arts, she plans on spending her last summer at home teaching in a dance studio, saving money, and eventually auditioning for dance companies. That is, until fate intervenes in the form of fellow student Jonathan Crandall who has what sounds like an outrageous proposition: Forget teaching. Why not spend the summer performing in the intense environment of the competitive drum and bugle corps? The corps is going to be performing Carmen, and the opportunity to portray the character of the sultry gypsy proves too tempting for Soledad to pass up, as well as the opportunity to spend more time with Jonathan, who intrigues her in a way no boy ever has before.

But in an uncanny echo of the story they perform every evening, an unexpected competitor for Soledad's affections appears: Taz, a member of an all-star Spanish soccer team. One explosive encounter later Soledad finds not only her relationship with Jonathan threatened, but her entire future as a professional dancer.

Reviewed by: Sandra Lopez, author of Esperanza and Beyond the Gardens


Review: After reading Adios to my old life, you can bet how much I was looking forward to the next thing from Caridad Ferrer; so you can imagine how I felt when When the stars go blue finally came out.

Soledad is your typical aspirational dancer with an a-typical body--curvaceous and hippy as opposed to flat and stick-like. I've always wanted to know what it was like to lead the dancer's life. Watching movies like Center Stage and Honey helped, but I found them to be a bit too flashy. I liked that this book dealt with the serious, more emotional side. It was theatrical boot camp mixed in with the traveling circus.

Although the story started off kind've slow for me, this book does not dissapoint. The real story doesn't begin until Soledad starts her training on the road after she soon starts dating new boy, Jonathan, who rooked her into this whole thing. At first, I really didn't feel the spark between them, since they've never really talked before; but they end up developing a sweet, summer love between them. You can't help but feel engaged in Soledad's world as she struggles with the awkwardness of being the new kid while trying to start a relationship with a new boy with both his parents right there, especially when the father dissaproves of it all. In fact, Jonathan and Soledad almost have kind've of a Romeo and Juliete thing because of that.

Tensions and jealousy begin to accumulate when Soledad meets Taz "Soccer Boy." Now she's more confused than ever. It made me wonder many things. Will Jonathan and Soledad make it? Will Jonathat defy his father's orders, risking everything he's ever worked for, to be with Soledad? Will Soledad throw away what she has with Jonathan to pursue Taz? This story will have you guessing all the way to the end.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Featuring The Voting Booth After Dark and Q&A with Vanessa Libertad Garcia

The Voting Booth After Dark: Despicable, Embarrassing, Repulsive by Vanessa Libertad Garcia is a collection of short stories and poems interwoven into a narrative that follows a group of addicted gay & lesbian Latino club kids destroying themselves throughout the course of the 2008 elections. The book focuses on how they affect and are affected by the national politics happening around them.

Reviewed by: Thelma T. Reyna, author of The Heavens Weed for us


Review: Gritty and unflinching, the tone of the book is one of desperation and starkness as each character depicted—Marta, a young, disenchanted lesbian; or Diaz Diaz, a gay fashion designer, for example—speaks to us of their heartbreak, alienation, and sometimes of suicidal plans. The personas that Garcia invokes are products of a society that is too fast-paced, too materialistic, and too shallow for twenty-somethings or thirty-somethings trying to find a meaningful niche in life, as they struggle simultaneously to pay bills, be successful in a career, find true love, or simply forge a connection to someone or something outside of themselves that can make their lives fulfilling. Welcome to the underbelly of Los Angeles.

The voices Garcia creates for each of her personas are poignant and heart-wrenching. She describes “sweet-scented one-dimensional images that pop out at you like an early Warhol painting” (in “Longing”). There is little self-pitying though, no sugarcoating of the raw emotions that spill from her characters, many of whom are gay addicts who have seemingly accepted their sex orientations but nevertheless struggle to navigate life.

Matter-of-fact language, which contributes to the non-judgmental tone of the book and its authenticity, is often balanced against poetic descriptions or observations that catch the reader by surprise. For example: “Parasites of the night, dressed to the 9[‘s]/living off the small pints of love/stored in our words” (from “The Dead End Days”). Or: “The sun shuts its lids and the moon clocks in.” “Sadness already home invites guilt in for coffee.” (both from “Lament”).

Yet, amidst the jadedness and sadness are subtle beams of hope for these young lives. In “Compassion” toward the end of the book, Garcia writes: “We are curious children/ with adult powers/that clumsily break the china.” She ends her book thus: “The crumbling world/ is always pieced together by time/and space....Justice eventually finds its place in line.”

Garcia gives us a glimpse of lives in torment but also reminds us that lives are not frozen in time but are forever evolving, and we must stay open to the possibilities of change.

* * * * *
This review first appeared on my blog, American Latina/o Writers Today, at on March 30, 2010.

Q&A with the author:

Can you please tell us a little bit about the kinds of books and films you do?

I believe my mission statement sums it up best: I'm a writer and filmmaker that
assembles works of literature and film (both documentary and fiction) that reflect the varied
experiences of underrepresented, a-typical, and eccentric human communities. My books and
films candidly depict subcultural issues through distinctive styles that challenge conventional
forms of storytelling. All the while remembering that sincere communication and human relate-ability are the Vital Spirit of my projects. In short, I strive to produce intimate books and films about uncommon lives for the collective heart.

How do you feel your work influence Latinas?

I feel my work influences Latinas because it represents them in society. My books and films feature the nuances, trials & tribulations that are unique to their contemporary experiences and puts them on display for a wide cross-cultural audience. I write lead characters that are Cuban, Cuban-American, Mexican, Mexican-American, Chilean, Argentinian, etc, who are immersed in the salad-bowl and melting-pot countries of the globe. We're living in a time of vast cultural migration where people of varying ethnicities survive and thrive together on the same land, often times fusing their spirits and traditions into subcultures. These subcultural groups, e.g. Latin(a)-American lesbians, tend to be dismissed, underrepresented, or erroneously depicted by the mainstream, especially in the United States. I strive to give the complexities of our multi-layered Latina lives an honest impacting voice through my books and films. I hope Latinas are influenced by my art work to believe their lives are important to understand and their stories worth chronicling, and therefore continue to do just that -- in their own specialized ways.

What does being Latina mean to you?

Being Latina is an irrepressible part of my core self. My perception of life has been significantly molded by my Cuban-American experience. My perspectives regarding all matters -- especially philosophical, political, and artistic -- have been greatly influenced by my immigrant Cuban family. Even my physicality -- the way I express passionate opinions with my hands in debates or shamelessly shake my hips to a soul-clenching song. My verbal expressions -- the rapid-fire way I speak in both Spanish and English. The specific brand of Cuban-American Spanglish I grew up speaking. Beyond my home, I was raised in primarily Mexican-American neighborhoods throughout Los Angeles such as South Gate and Downey, which also left its own special brand of Latina-ness on my psyche, heart, and Spanglish. I consider "being Latina" an amazing, poignant, and intrinsic part of me.

What do you think the future holds for today’s Latina?

I think the future holds a wide array of limitless, thrilling opportunities for today's Latina. I truly believe that the world, thanks in great part to the internet, is currently in a no-holds-barred state. We brazen, hard-working, and inventive Latinas can do anything -- both professionally and personally -- we set our spirits to. El futuro es nuestro. Si se puede!

Do you have a website or a blog?

If so, please list the URL:

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Book Review: The Three Kings

Since the holidays are upon us, we thought we'd review our first Christmas novel--The Three Kings: A Christmas Dating Story--by best-selling Latina author, Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez.

Who’s bearing gifts this Christmas? Three hot, single guys!
Christy de la Cruz has it all: a great career as an interior designer for the stylish homes of New Mexico, marriage to a tall and handsome man, and a great family—especially her cousin Maggie. But as the holidays approach, she’s down to two out of three—that handsome husband has walked out the door. Christy is so not up for dating . . . until Maggie takes Christy on as the ultimate romantic project. Just like the wise men in the nativity story, Melchior, Caspar, and Balthazar arrive bearing gifts and displaying their best stuff. One’s a pretty boy, one’s a rugged cowboy, and one’s an animal lover. Which one will win Christy’s heart?

Reviewed by: Bela M.


Review: This is the first novel I have read from Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez (I know, silly me, right?) But I'm sure glad I started off with this one. Christy is someone most of us could relate to--independent, self reliant, a non-traditional Mexican. She was a sarcastic, cynical woman boasting with money-making confidence, except when it came to men and relationships, which she was totally clueless on (that's why she got the book on dating rules.)

It starts off with Christy complaining about her gay ex-husband and how the demise of their marriage came about; so, right off the bat, she's bitter and sassy; she tells it like it is and does not omit (all funny, BTW.) Then she starts thinking that she would like to meet a man this Christmas; in fact, she actually wishes for the Virgin Mary. I found it kind've hard to sympathize to this because I didn't feel that her wish was genuine. In fact, I found it to be superficial. I mean, she didn't just wish for one, she had to wish for 2 or 3. Who wishes for that? And to the Virgin Mary? Why couldn't she wish that to Santa Claus? At least you wouldn't have to worry about lightning bolts coming at ya.

But then, by the power of Christmas, her wish comes true. The three guys appear at a cousin's party. And then the game begins.

I found this all to be quite fascinating. Christy was all mortified at the prospect of dating these three guys. But it was exactly what she asked for. "Be careful what you wish for; it may actually come true."

It was actually fun seeing Christy on each date with these guys. Some were down-right romantic in that sweep-you-off-your-feet kind of way, while others were just plain weird and creepy that it actually makes you want to resign from the whole dating scene. This contest not only becomes a race to the finish, but it also turns into a wager for the rest of the family. Which one is better suited for Christy? Which one do you think she will sleep with first?

Filled with hilarious quips and laugh-out-loud dialogue. A quick read for any time of the year (not just XMAS.) This story will leave you guessing all the way to end until we get the answer to the burning question: who will win....her heart?

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Winner of Living the vida Lola

The winner for Living the vida Lola by Misa Ramirez is:


Congratulations and enjoy your prize!

Stay tuned for the next giveaway, folks!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Double Feature: The Girls from the Revolutionary Cantina and Q&A with the author

Today, we have another double feature. We have a review for The Girls from the Revolutionary Cantina and an interview with the author, M. Padilla.

Inspired by their good-natured rivalry, career-oriented best friends Julia Juarez and Ime Benevides have never let anything come between them. Then enters Julia's new coworker, Ilario, who pulls both women's heartstrings, disrupts their friendship, and brings Julia's career to the brink of disaster.

Looking for support, Julia turns to her other friends: Concepción, a party-obsessed dance instructor; Nina, a timid but shrewd seamstress who's not too taken with her fiancé; and Marta, owner of the Revolutionary Cantina, who is preoccupied with the details of a Hollywood murder case. When they involve Julia in a risky scheme, she must choose between her loyalty to her friends and a chance to live the life she's worked so hard to achieve.

Boasting irreverent, edgy humor and a clear sense of Southern Californian culture, this hilarious, insightful debut novel by award-winning author M. Padilla brilliantly captures the comforts and dangers of friendship.

Reviewed by: Elsie Contreras-Gonzalez

Review: When first starting to read The Girls at the Revolutionary Cantina, I expected a common cliché of women enjoying the camaraderie of friendship over drinks. However, once the plot thickened, I became attached to the characters and their different personalities. The Girls at the Revolutionary Cantina filled me with laughter, delight, and surprise.

The novel revolves around Julia Juarez, a sales representative for a security firm, who faces an unruly challenge when her best friend Ime begins dating her boss, Ilario. Once this happened, I anticipated a "love-triangle" romance, but the author, Padilla, certainly changed that expectation. Tension builds within the friendship as the story unfolds. Julia learns just what type of best friend Ime turns out to be.

Julia begins to admit her own feelings for Ilario while spending time with the other girls at the Revolutionary Cantina. The other three ladies - Marta, the bar owner; Concepcion, a fun-loving dance instructor; and Nina, the quiet seamstress. Each woman has her distinctive features which adds depth, humor, and insight about living as a Latina in the San Fernando Valley. Their lives are engaging, and their involvement in the murder scandal with Latino actor, Diego Ramirez, adds a bit of suspense to the novel.

The novel is a true test of friendship for each character because they all face challenges regarding choices. Themes of ambition, loyalty, friendship, and culture frequently surface throughout this book. My expectations were met by a twist of irony. I truly expected a "friends forever, no matter what" type of ending, but this debut novel features a much different conclusion. It is remarkable because Julia ultimately discovers her independence.

Honestly, I felt sad and thankful once I finished the book, because I will miss the characters, but glad I got to "know" them.

And now a Q&A with M. Padilla.

Can you please tell us a little bit about the kinds of books you write and how your culture affects your craft?

My writing ranges from serious drama to brisk comedy, but all my work has at its center a Latina or Latino protagonist. My parents, who came from Mexico to make a life in the United States in the '50s, were committed to assimilating as Americans quickly, and so many of the things that I found interesting about my family stemmed from their experience as immigrants.

Some of my fondest memories as a kid growing up in the San Francisco Bay Area come from when my Spanish-speaking relatives from Los Angeles and Mexico would come to visit. The women in particular were incredibly funny. They brought a kind of energy to our household that was so different from what I was used to. I was a sponge for their stories and jokes, and I loved the way they relentlessly teased each other. Their voices were a big inspiration for The Girls from the Revolutionary Cantina.

Please describe the Latina heroine(s) in your book.

The Girls from the Revolutionary Cantina is the story of a group of Mexican-American women living in California's San Fernando Valley. It's about what happens when things like career aspirations and romantic relationships start to take a toll on the friendships you thought was going to last a lifetime. Julia, my heroine, is a hardworking Chicana struggling to achieve security in what she believes to be a very insecure world. After several misfires, her career is finally starting to take off. However, her friends from childhood, for the first time, begin to become hindrances to her success, and she must begin to reevaluate her relationships with them. She also must find a new way to feel secure in the world rather than relying on these same friends; she must start to learn to stand on her own two feet.

Who is your intended audience, if any?

When I began writing The Girls from the Revolutionary Cantina when I didn't have a particular audience in mind. I set out to tell a story about a Chicana not unlike the women in my own life - career-oriented, fun-loving and passionate about living. My hope is that women who read Cantina will see some of their own struggle in the character of Julia.

Since publication, the book has been marketed largely to women, but many men have said they enjoyed the book as well. Several people have told me that they lost sleep because they could not put the book down. I hope my novel could be enjoyed by anyone who likes a fast-paced, funny story.

How do you feel your books influence Latinas?

The strongest reactions to any of my work have come from women who see themselves in the pages of the things I write. I think it's important to see your culture reflected in the pages of literature and in the media. It's a powerful reminder of the things we share within a culture and of the things we share that are universal across cultures.

What do you think the future holds for today’s Latina?

I hope that, like the characters in my novel, Latinas today are coming to feel greater freedom in how they define themselves. When I was growing up, the roles for Latinas that I saw tended to be wife and mother and caretaker. Latina women have more and more options available to them and can more fluidly than ever move between roles at different times of their lives. Being Latina or Latino itself is becoming a more and more fluid thing. How assimilated to be or not to be, how traditional or not traditional - these are things one can choose, and I think technology is playing a role in opening up all those possibilities to women everywhere and bringing them together so they can draw strength from their numbers.

What are some of your favorite Latina authors and why?

There are so many, but among the writers who influenced me early on were Sandra Cisneros and Julia Alvarez, and more recently Alisa Valdez Rodriguez and Mary Castillo.

Do you have a website or a blog?

Yes, my website is my book page on Facebook is:!/pages/M-Padilla/294677020744

I invite readers to "like" my fan book page so they can keep track of reviews and upcoming books signing of The Girls from the Revolutionary Cantina.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Holiday Giveaway: Living the vida Lola

To celebrate this holiday season, we are giving away Living the vida Lola by Misa Ramirez.

About the book: Dolores "Lola" Cruz loves shoes, kung fu, and her job as an underling at Camacho and Associates, a private investigation firm in Sacramento. After a year and a half on the job, her sexy and mysterious boss, Manny Camacho, finally assigns Lola her first big case--a woman's disappearance.

If Lola gets it right, it could mean a big bump up the career ladder. But this is no grocery store stakeout. The woman turns up dead and the same thing could hapen to Lola if she doesn't watch her back. Complicating matters are the reappearance of Jack Callaghan, the gorgeous guy who first inspired Lola to surveil in high school, and her loving but meddling family that she still lives with. Can Lola solve the murder, reconnect with her long-time crush, and help her cousin's quinceañera go off without a hitch?

Misa Ramirez's debut novel is a delicious mix of mystery, romance, and all-out-fun. Filled with sizzling scenes and side-splitting humor, Living the Vida Lola is a thrilling ride.

The winner will be chosen on a point scale that you must earn by doing any of the following:

+1 - Be a follower of Livin la vida Latina
+1 - For every comment you post on this site
+2 - For every other site you mention Livin la vida Latina
(Note: must include links in the email)

All entries must be emailed to

Type the words, WIN LOLA, in the subject line.

ONLY U.S. RESIDENTS ARE ELIGIBLE (No International Address, please)

A winner will be announced on Dec 12 2010

Buena Suerte!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Book Review: Lucky Chica

Well, we hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving and got stuffed to the gills with turkey and pie! But now it's time to get back to work.

To kick things off again, we have another review by YA author, Sandra Lopez.

Lucky Chica by Berta Platas

Rosie Caballero hates her nagging boss, her "ditch-me" dating history, her second-hand wardrobe and third-rate job--nothing is easy. She can’t even afford to pay for her dog Tootie's food.

And then, Rosie wins the largest lottery jackpot ever: 600 million. Rosie can hardly believe her new life: she spends thousands on diamonds, makeup, clothes, and promises. Rosie parties like a celebrity—and even meets the hottest actor on the planet, Brad Merritt, who sweeps her off her feet and seems too good to be true. But he’s not the only one in her dizzying world—former boyfriends, larcenous advisors, paparazzi all swarm around her, vying for her attention (and money).

In between shopping sprees and photo shoots, Rosie has to find out who she trusts—and what money can (and just can’t) buy.

Reviewed by: Sandra Lopez

Review: What would you do if you won $600 million dollars? Well, most of us would do what we've always wanted to do: quit our jobs after finally telling off the boss, move out of that crummy, rat hole of an apartment, and finally live it up like a spoiled princess where you'll want to hire someone to scratch your nose. That's exactly what the lead heroine in this story does.

After learning that she won the lottery, the very first thing Rosie Caballero does is quit her lousy job after, of course, telling off her boss. Oh, god, that must've felt so good. After that, she and her family get caught in a whirl wind of diamonds, paparazzi, and Hollywood crushes. Rosie eventually comes to wonder if being rich isn't all it's cracked up to be.

Platas has done it again in this heart-warming, hilarious novel. As I read it, I actually pictured it as a movie starring the great and funny Sandra Bullock as Rosie. The way I saw it:

  • The scene opens with Bullock getting out of bed, tired and groggy at first until she realizes that she's late for work yet again.
  • She throws together some aspect of clothing and shimmies down the fire escape in order to avoid her landlord because she's late for the rent again.
  • She races to the bus stop barely making it to see that the bus is going off without her (just like that scene in Speed)
  • The bus is gone. Bullock stomps in frustration then runs and hurdles though rush-hour traffic to get to work
  • She arrives, aching and breathless, wondering if she made it on time; then, her boss enters, a sour look on his face, and asks to see Rosie in his office. Not a good sign.

The whole book played exactly like a movie to me. And who would star as the gorgeous, hunky Brad Merrit? How about gorgeous, hunky Jensen Ackles from Supernatural? (dog pant and howl)

Excellent read!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Holiday Break

Livin' la vida Latina will be taking a little break for the turkey holiday. We will be posting more book reviews starting on Monday, November 29.

If you would like to join our team and become an official reviewer for Livin' la vida Latina, please send an email to

Have a great Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Author Interview with Margo Candela

Today, Latina author, Margo Candela, has come to tell us about her writing.

Can you please tell us a little bit about the kinds of books you write and how your culture affects your craft?

I write women’s fiction, which and I’m hoping to branch out into different genres including writing for young adults and screenplays. I’ve had four novels published so far and each has featured a Latina or Latino as a main character, but I like to explore the fictional lives of other types of people, also. I write a lot about family and identity--two subjects I find complex and interesting--and my books tend to be more on the funny side.

Authors bring a lot to the table when they’re writing a novel, but I’m a big advocate of separating my fiction from my reality. Even though my upbringing has influenced my work, I know there’s a difference between my private life and what I end up writing about. I’m not my characters and my characters aren’t me, but I can relate to them and hope readers can too.

Please describe the Latina heroine(s) in your book.

In my first novel, Underneath It All (Kensington Jan. ’07), Jacqs is divorced and has a job that’s supposedly very glamorous, but is just a mini-version of the relationship she has with her estranged family. In Life Over Easy (Kensington, Oct. ’07), Natalya’s goal is to seek perfection in her professional and personal life even though it’s ruining her chances at happiness in both areas. In More Than This (Touchstone, Aug. ’08), I have two main characters, Evelyn and Alexander, who come from completely different backgrounds but both are hiding from who they really are. And in my latest novel, Good-bye To All That (Touchstone, July ’10), Raquel is trying to keep her family and work life together, but is failing at both while learning some hard truths about herself and others.

There are key traits all my characters share--a good sense of humor, the ability to be honest with themselves and they make lots of mistakes. I like to write about essentially good, but flawed people because those are the types I find most interesting in fiction and real life.

Who is your intended audience, if any?

I write with a heavy dose humor for women anywhere from their late teens and up. Whether they call my books chick lit, mainstream fiction or women’s fiction, my readers are willing to keep an open mind about what constitutes a “happy ending.” My books don’t end with a marriage proposal, dramatic weight loss or the main character moving into a corner office. I’m also very conscious that my reader wants a good story that’s funny and entertaining while being insightful and smart. I do deal with heavy subjects (divorce, job loss), but I’m not one to let my characters be melodramatic about it…unless it can be played for a laugh.

How do you feel your books influence Latinas?

While my main characters are Latinas, I don’t write exclusively for a Latina audience. I explore universal themes in my novels (family, identity, work) with the intention of giving my readers a satisfying experience. My only overt attempt at trying to make a point is that my main characters have been college graduates. That’s as much shepherding as I think I’ll ever do since my main goal is to write an entertaining story, not a preachy one.

What does being Latina mean to you?

My background and the life I’ve lived so far have given me a unique viewpoint that comes across in my writing. Depending on the reader, this may or may not read as Latina. I really can’t worry about that too much because it would be a pointless distraction. I know who I am and I know where I came from. I’d rather think of myself as a woman first and then round it out with other relevant labels. If I had to name five things that make me me, they’d be: writer, mother, Democrat, Latina and failed circus acrobat. Those are in no particular order as some days one role is more important than the others.

What do you think the future holds for today’s Latina?

The future is what you decide to make it, no matter who you are. The one thing I do know about the future is that it’s up to you (and me) to do something to make sure it goes in a positive direction. There’s a growing awareness of the importance of community support either on a more personal level from friends or families or through professional network associations. If we build on harnessing our combined strength and diversity, there’s no limit on what can be achieved both individually and as a whole.

What are some of your favorite Latina authors and why?

I’ve been really lucky in that I’ve gotten to know a handful of authors who happen to be Latinas and are good people on top of that. I always look forward to seeing and hearing from Julia Amante, Mary Castillo, Reyna Grande, Jamie Wood Martinez, Sandra Lopez and Sarah Rafael García to name a few. I’ve had so much fun doing panels with these ladies and I always know that I can reach out to them for some support when I need it.

Do you have a website or a blog? If so, please list the URL.

I try to blog at least once a week. I write about whatever I find interesting or amusing and it’s my space to just let me be me which is why it’s all over the place. I’m also active on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads. My website,, has links as well as a contact page and information about my books.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Book Review: Becoming Americana

The author of Becoming Latina in 10 Easy Steps presents her latest funny and heartwarming novel.

Ever since an article about Lupe Perez ran in the UCLA paper, she's become the poster child for the American Dream: East L.A. bad girl who slashed cop makes good! She goes to school full-time, works in the food court, and volunteers at a center for at-risk teens. Against all odds, Lupe has turned her life around. The thing is, she never asked for all this attention. Now, her professor wants her to write a gigantic thesis about what Americanization means to Mexican immigrants-and she's not even sure yet what it means to her.

YA author, Sandra Lopez gives us her review.
Reviewed by: Sandra Lopez


Review: I loved it! Like my novel, Beyond the Gardens, Becoming Americana is a true rags-to-riches story of a young Latina trying to make her mark in the world. Lupe Perez is a student at UCLA and frequent volunteer at The Vibe, a youth center for at-risk teens. Instant celebrity status follows her when an article is written about her in the campus paper. Now, her professor wants her to write a thesis about Americanization, which we get a glimpse of at the beginning of each chapter.

Things get a little dicey when she is forced to leave home because of her trouble-making brother and move in with Nash, the director of The Vibe and the guy she's had a crush on for years. More confusion is added when the reporter Will (the one who wrote the article) starts taking an interest in Lupe.

While Lupe and Will begin a dating interlude, she and Nash exchange flirty pleasantries and sensual closeness. By the end, it all comes down to her choices. Will or Nash? This job or finishing school? You can't help but wonder how the end will turn out.

Personally, I would've chosen Nash over Will anytime. Nash was older, smarter, and more mature when Will just seemed like your typical college boy who was only into getting sex. The fact that Nash kept resisting Lupe's advances only made him that much hotter to me. It was the whole hard-to-get thing.

The ending was kind of sad for me, even though it was great that Lupe finally got her act together.

Ultimately, this story is all about the emotional ups and downs of a young girl straight out of the barrio. It pulls you into the gritty, dark turmoil of her hopes and fears, and it leaves you reeling from this courageous story long after it's finished. A fantastic read!

In fact, if you liked this story, you may also want to check out Beyond the Gardens.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Double Feature: Review and Interview

We have something a little different this week. Latina author, Donna Del Oro, has donated some of her time to do a book review AND an interview for us.

She has recently read The Heartbreak Pill by Anjanette Delgado.

Is it really necessary to suffer for love? What if an easy-to-swallow pill could turn love off and on? You wouldn't desire what isn't good for you. You wouldn't cry for what cannot be. You'd just live. You'd be happy.
Erika Luna is a thirty-something scientist living and working in Miami. When her husband of seven years -- the very successful, very smart, very good-looking founding partner of one of Miami's top public relations firms -- falls in lust with another woman, their marriage spirals toward divorce and Erika's practical nature leads her down a strange path.

What is a scientist to do when slapped with a pain so deep it interferes with her breathing? Develop a cure, of course. Erika moves into a new apartment and turns it into her own personal laboratory. She frantically begins mixing potions and uses herself as a guinea pig as she desperately tries to create a pill that will rid the world of heartbreak forever. As she navigates the murky waters of the recently divorced, Erika also struggles to find her own sense of self and the answer to whether love, and its pain, is worth the risk.

Reviewed by: Donna Del Oro


Review: THE HEARTBREAK PILL is a romantic comedy that won First Place in the Latino Books into Movies Awards contest; my novel, OPERATION FAMILIA, won Second Place in the same category, so I was curious to read the novel that won over mine. I wasn’t disappointed! From page one, my attention was riveted to Erika Luna’s story and I read the book in two days.
Erika Luna, a research chemist for Nuevo Med, is a Cuban-American wife who’s dumped callously by her handsome husband of seven years. In her distinctive voice, she tells of her slow, painful journey from the fog of denial into the light of forgiveness and indifference—in Erika’s words, from “please come back” to “to hell with him”, and finally to “I could care less”—and a kind of peace within herself. Along the way to self-knowledge and acceptance, she researches the part of the brain that controls a human’s emotions and discovers that the chemical reactions in the caudate nucleus center of the brain cause the euphoria of love, its addictive qualities, and the mental and physical pain of love’s loss. With her quick scientific mind, Erika experiments with a drug that can reduce her own pain and fill the “big black hole” in her heart/brain. Only then, she decides, can she truly heal and be happy again. Of course, she’s thinking like a scientist. What she soon learns is that other factors come into play when trying to close the wound of heartbreak.
Along the way, she meets two men who show her different aspects of her self; one is a painter who happens to speak my favorite line of dialogue in the book: “What is art, poetry and music but the transformation of an artist’s pain into a present for humanity?”
In this delightful, humorous but poignant story, Anjanette Delgado shows us the journey everyone must take to recover from love’s loss. And I couldn’t help but think of my second novel, HASTA LA VISTA, BABY, another story of heartbreak and healing. The same catalyst but two totally different stories. Heartbreak is an all too familiar story but with a zillion different journeys.

And now an interview with Donna.

Can you please tell us a little bit about the kinds of books you write and how your culture affects your craft?

My first two published books are romantic comedies with Latina heroines. OPERATION FAMILIA just won 2nd Place in the Romantic Comedy category for the Latino Books into Movies Award, sponsored by the Latino Book Festival. It's about a schoolteacher who's called home for an emergency; her grandmother wants her to rescue her Mexican cousins from a vicious drug cartel. I love to take serious issues and treat them in a lighthearted, satirical way. My second book, HASTA LA VISTA, BABY, is about a bitter divorce and how the worst day in Sonya's life turns out to be the best thing that could have happened. Although the title's not cast in stone, my third book is called BORN TO SING: THE LOVE STORY OF A LATINA OPERA SINGER. I had a wonderful time researching operas and operettas and the lives of divas. But it's basically a love story that spans 25 years.

How do you feel your books influence Latinas?

I'm not sure. The Latinas that I know who've read them have told me they've laughed and cried, all the while relating to the heroines completely. I guess that's quite a compliment!

What does being Latina mean to you?

Good question! I think being half Latina, half Anglita (my father was a blond, blue-eyed Texan) has enabled me to experience and enjoy both my Latino culture and family and my Anglo culture and family. I never had any problems relating to either one. My Latino family always called me "Blondie" because I took after my father; they teased me in a good-natured, affectionate way so I didn't mind. One of my Texas relatives called us "prune pickers"--but hey, he was a redneck and he also meant it affectionately. I think when cultures mix, you tend to get that kind of teasing. You learn to develop a thick hide and let stupid comments roll off you. Being bi cultural, I enjoyed especially the music and food from both cultures. I just wish I'd grown up bilingual. I envy those who are. It's a wonderful thing, to be a true bilingual.

What are some of your favorite Latina authors and why?

I like Anjanette Delgado and Margo Candela. They both write insightful, humorous stories and I love their blend of romance and comedy.

Thank you, Donna!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Book Review: Telenovela

Today, we have reviewed, "Telenovela" by Victor Cass.

Life can be one big soap opera when culture clashes with romance and infidelity

When legal secretary Lorena Sandoval chooses to be single and celibate while waiting for the right man, she bumps into Miriya, a determined girl on the go, whose womanizing hunk of a boyfriend, Arturo, is cheating on her. Lorena learns of this affair while she and Miriya became fast friends. What Lorena doesn't know is that Miriya has been having a secret fling of her own with a mysterious lover. Lorena later thinks she's met the right man in art store manager Steven Meztaz. But the real trouble begins when she introduces Steven to Miriya! It's girl's night out, friendship drama, and sexy romps in the land of the telenovela!

Reviewed by: Bela M.


Review: You can't get anymore Latina than a telenovela, right? This book, like a telenovela, is divided into different parts. Part I tells the background of Miriya from adjusting to U.S. life and trying to lose her accent as a child to losing her father as a grown woman. In Part II, we learn about Lorena's family history and origins starting with her grandmother's marriage and conception of her children. All the suspicion, lies, and infidelity doesn't begin until Lorena notices Miriya in a local coffee shop one day. The scenes are just as sizzly and steamy in this book as they are on a TV screen. And while this story takes place, a real telenovela that every character in the book just can't live without it seems, is being watched somewhere in the background. It's a soap opera within a soap opera.

The beautiful descriptions and vivid details helped bring the story to life. The hilarious dialogue brought me back to the days when all the women in my family craved the "soap opera" life through tons and tons of juicy gossip. It has all the drama of a telenovela--sadness, jealousy, suspicion, and betrayal. At times, it was a tad predictable, and some of the sex scenes were a little too graphic for my taste (I guess that's why I don't read erotica novels.) I also thought there were too many characters. C'mon, I really didn't need to know everyone's life story. Also, there was too much cussing. I understand that cussing is a part of the everyday language. I don't have virgin ears, ya know? And, let's face it, sometimes you do need a little cussing in a novel. But there is such a thing as too much cussing. I'd say I ran into f#!* and sh#! about 20-30 times in one page. The author used these words so much that they practically lost their meaning. Enough already, I get it!

All in all, I get what the author was trying to do in this book, and I commend him for that. The story is easy to get through and leaves you content, even though I wasn't too happy with Lorena's ending. That was kind've a bummer.

Sunday, October 31, 2010


The winner of the MEXICAN ENOUGH give-away is.......

Elsie C.

An email has been sent to our winner, who has 48 hours to claim their prize.

Thank you and stay tuned for the next give-away!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Book Review: Estrella's Quinceañera

Today, we have one of today's Latina YA authors submitting a book review to us.

Author Sandra C. Lopez has reviewed Estrella's Quinceañera by Malin Alegria.

Estrella Alvarez is turning fifteen, and she's not happy about it. For as long as she can remember, her mother has been planning an elaborate quinceañera, complete with a mariachi band, cheesy decorations, and a hideous dress. Estrella is so over it. She'd much rather have an understated dinner party at a posh restaurant downtown that way, she can invite her two best friends from private school, who have no idea Estrella lives in the barrio. Even though Estrella tries to keep her home life a secret from her school friends, things get even more complicated when she falls for Speedy, a cholo whom her new friends and her parents would definitely disapprove of.

Caught between her family's wishes and the allure of her sophisticated friends, Estrella is forced to make some tough choices. This funny, touching book follows one girl's struggle to figure out who she really wants to be.

Reviewed by: Sandra Lopez, Author of Esperanza: A Latina Story and Beyond the Gardens


Review: What do most of us do when the topic of quinceañeras come up? We sigh, we roll our eyes, we cringe so hard that we shrivel up inside like a burnt out match. The feeling's mutual in just about everyone. That was exactly how Estrella Alvarez felt in this story.

Even though I have never had a quince myself (thank god,) this story gave me warm nostalgia as I recalled my own years of growing up in a barrio. I remembered the "cholo losers" and the busy-body neighbors; the buttinski mother and the crazy relatives, everthing. You can't help but empathize with Estrella when it comes to how her family views her as the last gleaming hope for a good education, or how she feels like an alien in the world of her rich, prep-school friends. Don't we all feel that way at some point?

I loved Estrella's surly and sarcastic tone as she described every grueling (and often, embarrassing) detail of the party planning. I also liked how Speedy wasn't your typical "cholo" but actually a nice guy (so few of them left in the barrio.) I did think Estrella needed to relax and slow down on growing up. She should've enjoyed hanging out with Speedy as a friend/person instead of concentrating so hard on getting her first kiss from him.

One unique thing about this book was that each chapter had a definition of barrio slang that you couldn't help but smile at. This was a relatable story of finding one's self while coming of age in a dark, scary world. Great job, Malin!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Book Review: Cinderella Lopez

This week, we have reviewed Cinderella Lopez by Berta Platas

Overworked, underappreciated 24-year-old Cynthia Lopez meets her Prince Charming at a Starbucks, unaware that he is Eric Sandoval, 29-year-old CEO of AmerCon—the company that just acquired RTV, the television station where Cyn and her glam-fabulous VJ stepsisters work. Keeping their professional lives secret, Cyn and Eric begin a joyful courtship that comes to an abrupt halt at the RTV Music Awards, when dating and workplace politics, miscommunication and the jealous, meddling steps conspire to tear them apart. Platas imbues her story with Latin spice and a dance hall pace, and populates her New York with vibrant, virtuous heroes and deliciously wicked villains. The result is another finely tuned if formulaic brain vacation for working chicas of all stripes.

Reviewed by: Bela M.

Review: Cinderella Lopez is a heartwarming story of love at first sight.
I liked that this story incorporated some of the details from the Disney classic. I liked that Platas resurrected a classic fairy tale story and added her own Spanish flavor and comedy spice. My favorite scene was when Cyn first takes a walk with Eric to the park. They are sitting on the ground, and Cyn tags Eric and he begins chasing her all over the place. They were just like two kids playing--fun and innocent. And I think that's an intregal part of love--to have that connection and to never stop having fun.
The only thing that was missing was the glass slipper scene. I mean, there was the handsome prince, Eric, the evil stepsisters, and the fairy godmother, who was disguised as two gay men. But where was the glass slipper? That's my favorite part in Cinderella (the movie.) But, overall, it was good.

Website: Berta Platas

Thursday, October 21, 2010

The magical Latina

Being Latina is not all beauty, fun, and intelligence. It can also be magical.

YA author Jamie Martinez Woods speaks to us about the magic of being Latina.

Q: Can you please tell us a little bit about the kinds of books you write?

A: I have eight published books (WOW!) Five of my books focus on earth spirituality, goddess traditions and living in harmony with the heartbeat of the land and all life. These books explore folk wisdom through herbs, cooking, ancient magic, symbols and lore. My other three book explore the Latino culture through the etymology of names, influential wordsmiths and teen fiction.

Q: Please describe the Latina heroine(s) in your book.

A: In my young adult novel, Rogelia's House of Magic, I like to tease and say that I split myself into four so that I could present four perspectives of the Latina lifestyle. There are three teen characters: Xochitl, a recent Mexican immigrant, is smart, determined and the hermit or loner. Colombian American Fern is the creative, impulsive, confident wild child. Marina is the Mexican American princess (8th generation Californio) who is quite sensitive/empathic though she lacks true self confidence or self esteem. Rogelia is their teacher: patient, wise, headstrong, tough and very caring.

Q: Who is your intended audience, if any?

A: My audience changes for each book. But the theme that runs through all my books, whether its the Hispanic Baby Name Book or The Teen Spell Book, is that everyone on this planet has a special gift, which could range from being a good listener to playing the guitar to being a social worker. Our job is to find it, polish it and let it shine in the world. We are not to judge it or allow others to dim our light, but instead revel in our talents and share them with all we contact.

Q: How do you feel your books influence Latinas?

A: My books, particularly the A-Z Latino Writers & Journalists book tells the biographical stories of 150 writers, editors and journalists who have changed the world because they spoke up and shared their tales. The stories represent the diversity of Latino Americans and the tenacity to not only survive but thrive despite dictatorships, suppression, prejudice and more. The Wicca Cookbook, inspired by Like Water for Chocolate, demonstrates that inspiration can come from anywhere and it doesn't have to be limited to any one form of expression and can even break misconceptions using an old tried and true method: cooking with love. The Faerie's Guide to Green Magick From the Garden, my latest book, reminds us to get back to the garden and talk to the plants like abuelita did.

Q: What does being Latina mean to you?

A: Being Latina means I live my life with my heart on my shoulder and I'm proud of the fact that I can be vulnerable enough to show what matters most to me and strong enough to back it up and see my dreams through to manifestation. Latina means family. I love my family, even when they drive me crazy, because I know they always have my back and vice verse. Mostly being Latina means I live, move and love ferociously with a thirst to experience as much as I can, until my last breath.

Q: We see from your website that your books incorporate magical elements. How does that affect today's Latina?

A: There is a strong folk wisdom in the Latina culture that we often ignore or disregard as base or not sophisticated. Sometimes we call it magical realism, sometimes its referred to as curandernismo. But regardless, Latinas have a deep connection to the earth and the supernatural. The physical and the metaphysical - through our use of symbolism, oral traditions and stories, and passion this magic comes alive and reminds us all of the power we have to create a world of our choosing. Or at the very least, find the blessing, humor or lesson (dicho) in almost any situation. We are resilient, but the magic helps us feel connected.

For more information about Jamie and her books, go to

Saturday, October 16, 2010


To kick things off, we are giving away "Mexican Enough" by Stephanie Elizondo Griest.

This giveaway will end on Oct. 31 2010

About the book:
Stephanie Griest, whose mother is a third-generation Mexican-American, made a conscious choice to be white like her dad one day in elementary school and, initially, finds her Hispanic identity when a guidance counselor advises that given her SAT scores, otherwise closed doors would swing open (she graduated Phi Beta Kappa from the University of Texas in 1997). The realization that nearly every accolade I have received in life... has been at least partially due to [this] genetic link inspires her journey to Mexico to learn Spanish and to gain a deeper understanding of [her] cultural heritage. Roughly from January to June 2005, she lives in Querétaro (north of Mexico City), coincidentally with a bunch of gay men. Aside from learning about the gay scene, the art scene and Mexico's unique wrestlers, the timing of her trip places her there when the gay activist Octavio Acuña is murdered. In July, she goes to Chiapas (Mexico's southernmost state), Zapatista territory, and devotes the second half of her book largely to documenting a burgeoning social movement that shook parts of the nation to the core. Patches are interesting, but Griest is not compelling or profound about the harassment and violence suffered by homosexuals, for instance, nor seriously affecting about her personal dilemma, being biracial.

The winner will be chosen on a point scale that you must earn by doing any of the following:

+1 - Be a follower of Livin la vida Latina
+1 - For every comment you post on this site
+2 - For every other site you mention Livin la vida Latina
(Note: must include links in the email)

All entries must be emailed to

Type the words, WIN MEXICAN ENOUGH, in the subject line.

A winner will be announced on Oct. 31 2010

Buena Suerte!