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 GarcĂ­a 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.