Saturday, December 24, 2011

We'll be back in 2012!


We are taking a break from all of our reading to enjoy the last few days of 2011. But not to worry, we will be back after the new year.

Until then, have a pleasant and safe holiday.

Saludos a todo!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Winner of our Early X-Mas Gift...

The winner of our Early X-Mas Gift was...

Mary G.


Sunday, November 20, 2011

An Early X-MAS gift...

Hey, all!

In honor of the Christmas season, we are giving away an early gift to an LLVL fan.

Here is how you can enter and score points:

  1. Post a comment telling us why you like Livin' la vida Latina

  2. An extra point if you share a book recommendation

  3. An extra point if you put our widget on your blog or site (please include the http address)

  4. All entries must be submitted by December 6, 2011

  5. Please include an email address so we can contact you for your shipping information

  6. Only U.S. residents are eligible (No international locations)

Spread the word and good luck!

Friday, November 18, 2011

The Real Friday Night Chicas

Now that we have finished our four-part review of the book, the girls get together for a real Friday night. One night. Three hot movies.

With a bowl of popcorn in the middle, we will sit back and watch the most sizzling and hilarious movies of all--Dance with me, Chasing Papi, and Real Women have curves.

We will return with more reviews after this.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Friday Night Chicas - Pt. 4

The more things changed by Sofia Quintero

Gladys’ friends throw her a bachelorette party at one of NYC’s raunchiest male strip joints. They expected a party, but they didn’t expect the not-so-blushing bride to disappear with one of the strippers!

Reviewed by: Minnie G.

Review: This story begins with Ricky’s POV, but the story is not centered on her; it’s supposed to be on Gladys (at least, that’s what I deduced from the plot summary above.) No, the whole thing is told by Ricky, who is married. Shouldn’t she have been single at least? I mean, that’s what I gathered from the main title of the book: Friday Night Chicas. I assumed every girl in the story was going to be single. Well, certainly for the main character at least.

When Ricky is reunited with her college friends, they play catch-up with the “are you married?” and “do you have any kids?” kind of thing—boring! The only thing that woke me up was Lisa’s secret affair….with a girl! The stripper scenes were kind of gross. My god, those women were practically having sex with these guys right on the stage!

It really only tells more about the past and their friendship, not what’s going on in the present.

I guess it sort’ve made sense that Gladys was not the main character, because you develop an instant dislike to her; and, by the end, you hate her guts. What a horny slut! She should’ve told her fiancé what happened that night.

Really, all this night did was raise some old resentment that divided the foursome. Yet, it also renewed the bond between the dynamic duo—Ricky and Lisa.

Ultimately, I feel that this story just did not belong in a book filled with stories of love burgeoning from a wild Friday night. Not that it was a bad story. It actually was a critical study of how women forge lasting friendships, even if it doesn’t really last forever.

Friday Night Chicas is a good book to curl up with on a cold night when guys aren’t knocking down your door for a date and all you have left are a pair of PJ’s and a warm bottle of tequila.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Friday Night Chicas - Pt. 3

Revenge of the Fashion Goddess by Berta Platas

The once-shy Cali has decided to attend her high school reunion. She slips into her slinkiest Donna Karan and puts on her highest Manolos. After all, she’s out to seek revenge, Latina style….

Reviewed by: Sandra L.

Review: Okay, first of all, the character’s name was Cali, short for California. Wow, what an interesting name! It’s unique and can be shortened to a cute title. I would almost consider naming my daughter that. I liked how it starts off with Cali wanting to show all the people she went to school with that she wasn’t the same geek anymore. A slap in the face can be so sweet. The former geek’s desire reminded me of Carrie, one of my favorite movies of all time. I secretly wanted Cali to waste them all!

Eventually, Cali meets up with Rick—you know, that guy who was like your best friend but whom you secretly had a crush on. Rick was a hottie! But then Cali finds something out about Rick while hiding in the bathroom stall. It surprised me too!

This story had a bunch of flawed reality, full of repressed fear and personal growth, which made for a true-to-life page-turner. I was glad that this wasn’t about a dog that’s been in heat all these years and is now finally letting go of her inhibitions. No, there was a real lesson to be learned for the main character. After all these years, Cali still needed to “grow” out of her teenage self.

This was the best story of all!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Friday Night Chicas - Pt. 2

Hearts are Wild by Caridad Piñeiro

It’s Tori’s thirtieth birthday and all she wants is a nice, quiet night with her family and friends. However, Tori’s friends have other plans, and, during an overnight casino cruise, Tori finds herself taking the gamble of her life.

Reviewed by: Celia F.

Review: I liked Tori. I could relate to her in almost every way—from her putting work first above all else, including love, to having friends practically shove a man-whore in your face. Even your own mother!

At first, “Mr. Papi Chulo” (the guy she meets while gambling) seemed like a player (what else would you find in a casino, right?) but then he revealed a shy, clumsy side, which made him a whole lot sexier than showing off all that bravado. I enjoyed how the author turned the tables in the story by having Tori think like a guy with all her rules: no names, no expectations, no disappointments. But then the guy surprised her by thinking like a chick—he wanted to know her name.

I found the ending to be too coincidental, even for a romance story. It definitely could’ve used some more editing. Some phrases just didn’t make sense. I think the author needed to merge her sentences for a better flow.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Friday Night Chicas - Pt. 1

Here is the first story from Friday Night Chicas

"My Favorite Mistake" by Mary Castillo

Isela isn’t looking for a one-night stand; she’s desperate for one last shot at saving her career. Her ticket is Hollywood’s director du jour Tyler Banks, but one major mistake could cost her everything.

Reviewed by: Bela M.

Review: I have heard of Mary Castillo. Her debut novels included Hot Tamara and In Between Men. I have to say that there was still a lot of the same old awkward phrasing, the kind you don’t see too often and nobody would ever use. However, the author did a great job rendering Isela as a flawed human character with the fear of not being able to make her rent and the clumsiness of standing next to a good-looking hunk like Sebastian. Man, does she get a wonderful surprise when she goes to bed with him. I mean, it literally blew me away!

Afterwards, Isela displayed a mixed combo of vulnerability and strength, which grew exponentially when she decided to get down to business and stop acting like a kid. Mary Castillo is a pretty good story-teller, but it just seems that she should stick to short stories instead of lengthy novels, which seem to go nowhere. Out of all her books, this was the best one. I liked all the little sayings at the beginning of each chapter—very original. Where does she come up with this stuff?

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Review: Friday Night Chicas (In Parts)

Hey, all

We have a special treat for you readers. This week we are reviewing Friday Night Chicas, a collection of stories written by four Latina writers.

Normally, we have one of reviewers rate the entire book; but, this time, we have a different reviewer for each story, and we will post them all right here!

So stay tuned! The first story will be coming up...

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Upcoming October Literary Events

We were sadly stricken by the cancellation of this year's Latino Book and Family Festival usually hosted at Cal State Los Angeles. Last year's festival brought a huge success with the many authors that came to talk about their stories, the book signings, the vendor booths, the live music, and the great food. It was so spectacular that we marked our calendars for the next one; but, unfortunately, due to insufficient funding, the festival will not be returning in 2011.

Not to worry, because we did some digging and discovered some other literary happenings for October (which happens to be Hispanic Heritage Month, by the way.)

  • Legendary author, Sandra Cisneros, will make at guest appearance at Libreria Martinez - Sept 24 at 3pm (that's today!)

  • Latina author, Sandra Lopez, speaks at Fullerton Public Library - October 20 at 7pm

  • Teen Read Week at Los Angeles Public Library with YA author, Sandra Lopez - October 22 at 2pm

  • Victor Villasenor speaks at Libreria Martinez - October 22 at 3pm

  • Luis Rodriguez will talk about his new book at Libreria Martinez - November 5 at 4pm

Mark your calendars!

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Book Review: The Heavens Weep for us

The Heavens Weep for us: And other stories by Thelma Reyna

If you enjoy Jhumpa Lahiri's short stories, or Sandra Cisneros' ability to portray ordinary Hispanic characters with engaging authenticity and universality, you'll enjoy Thelma Reyna's twelve stories in this thoughtful, moving, sensitive book. From the sheer poetry of the title story, to the complex depiction of a comatose woman and her guilt-ridden unfaithful husband, Reyna exposes the private griefs and losses we all experience in life and imbues her motley cast of characters with deep humanity, courage, and perseverance . Reyna's style is alternately quiet and intense, yet always insightful, poetic, and literary. Have a box of Kleenex and a dictionary by your side. She'll leave you thinking and discovering multiple layers of meanings in her stories long after you've read them. A Hispanic-American author, Reyna's stories speak to all of us, across ethnicities, age, gender, and social status.

Reviewed by: Bela M.

Review: The Heavens Weep for Us is a collection of short stories that are suppose to make you laugh and cry at the same time. I'll be honest--most of the stories did not have that effect on me; however, there was one that did. In "Little Box," an old lady named Petra visits her daughter and son-in-law in Chicago. During her stay, she takes the dog for a walk and discovers a little box along the way. It was a fancy box that just screamed, 'expensive.' Being that she likes collecting hand-me-downs, Petra took the box and hid it in drawer of her daughter's home. Her plan was to take it back home and add it to her vast collection. But Petra noticed something else during her Chicago visit. Her daughter's marriage may be falling apart. Not wanting to interfere, Petra leaves them to hash it out. Eventually, Petra jumps on a plane back to Arizona when she realizes that she forgot the little box she wanted to bring back with her. And that little box ends up causing some big trouble for her daughter's marriage. The conclusive irony was hilarious and sad.

Reyna has proven her great talent with a sensitive writing style used in these stories. I did, however, feel that some of these stories were unfinished--they had a solid beginning and a middle, but no ending. A story should have all three: a beginning, a middle, and an ending. Nonetheless, the best story was "Little Box."

Monday, August 29, 2011

Winner of "The Bolero of Andi Rowe"

The winner of The Bolero of Andi Rowe by Toni Plummer is......

Sandra L.


Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Interview with Toni Plummer


Today we have author Toni Plummer talking about her book, The Bolero of Andi Rowe.

Toni Margarita Plummer is the author of The Bolero of Andi Rowe and a winner of the Miguel Mármol Prize for a first work of fiction by a Latino author. She attended the University of Notre Dame and the Master of Professional Writing Program at the University of Southern California. She is a fellow of the Macondo Foundation. An editor at a New York publishing house, Toni lives in Brooklyn.

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

A: My first book is a collection of short stories, The Bolero of Andi Rowe. And it is a recurring character and I modeled her cultural background after my own: her mother is from Mexico and her father is Irish-American. I really wanted to explore the idea of conflicting identities in these stories. For example, Andi's sister, Maura, doesn't look Latina, and yet she is. So how does she relate to other Latinos and how does she fit in? Also, I write a story about a border patrol agent. He's different from the other agents he works with in that his own mother crossed the border illegally before he was born. At the same time, he's black, so the Mexicans crossing don't identify with him until he speaks to them in Spanish. A lot of my characters are Latino but they're also distinctly American, and that's how I see myself.

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

A: We see some very different Latina heroines. Olivia Real was born in Mexico City. She lost her parents at a young age and was raised by her grandmother in a very traditional and strict household. She started working early and got married young, to her first boyfriend. Her daughters, Andi and Maura, have a very different life. They are in college, free to study their interests because their mother supports their education. They didn't grow up speaking Spanish.

Dulce Moreno is a teacher at the Catholic elementary school Andi and Maura attended. She's 35 and single and has always lived with her mother, except when she was in college. She's very close to her mother, so when she passes, Dulce is at a loss as to what to do with her life.
And then we have Teresa, a teenager grappling with her sexual orientation and faith.

Q: Who is your intended audience, if any?

A: I hope the book will appeal to people wanting to read about Latino characters or about life in Southern California. In their review, Booklist said the stories "speak universally" and that was certainly a goal of mine. These stories deal with the search for home, first love, the death of loved ones--those are all things that everyone can relate to.

Q: How do you feel your books influence Latinas?

A: I don't know that the book will influence anyone exactly. I hope that Latinas will relate to the characters and the situations, and that in these stories they'll also find a unique take on the Latino experience.

Q: What does being Latina mean to you?

A: Being Latina is a part of my heritage and I value it very much. There is so much beauty in the Mexican culture, and in the wider Latin American culture. On an everyday level, there's the language, the music, the food, the particular religious devotions. These are all things and rituals which help us to embrace being Latina. At the same time, it's hard for me to articulate exactly what it means to me. I think I write to understand the answer. It's very important to me as a writer to explore this question--it's something I want to share with a wider American and international audience.

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

A: I think it holds anything and everything. Latinas have achieved much, in literature, the arts, name it. There's still a lot to accomplish. As long as we continue to pursue education, Latinas are going to continue to push the boundaries and to excel in a number of fields.

Q: What are some of your favorite Latina authors and why?

A: I love Sandra Cisneros, Lorraine López, Julia Alvarez, María Amparo Escandón, Cristina García, and Dahlma Llanos-Figueroa, just to name a few. Each of these authors is wonderful with language and they write characters that I care about. They each capture the beauty, sadness, and humor of life, in their own distinct ways.

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

A: I don't have a website, but I'm on Twitter: @tmargaritaplum
This is the publisher's site:

As an added bonus, the author would like to give away one copy of her book to a commenter.

For a chance to win, just post a comment or question to this blog post. A winner will be selected and announced on Aug 29, 2011.

Please be sure to include your email address so we can contact you for your shipping information.

Good luck!

Friday, August 5, 2011

Free Read: The Maid's Daughter

Hello, readers!

We would like to thank everyone for their patience while we worked out the kinks in our network.

To show our appreciation, here is a free read!

The Maid's Daughter by Mary Romero - A book about growing up Latina in America.

Library Journal calls the book, “A valuable case study and a dramatic life story, this oral history explores identity and illuminates race, class, and gender in America at a peculiarly intimate intersection between upper-middle-class white families and the women of color who provide domestic labor for them.”

The afterword is now available on

Here’s the web address:

Feel free to check it out and pass it along!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Interview with Mayra Calvani

Today, we have Latina author, Mayra Calvani, talking about her book Sunstruck

About the author: Mayra Calvani writes fiction and nonfiction for children and adults and has authored over a dozen books, some of which have won awards. She’s co-editor of Voice in the Dark Ezine and a reviewer & columnist for Blogcritics Magazine, Midwest Book Review and Latino Books Examiner. Her articles, stories and interviews have appeared on numerous publications both in print and online. In addition, she regularly offers writing workshops at Visit her website at For her children’s books, visit

Q: What is the meaning of the title, “Sunstruck?”

I think the metaphor suits my naive protagonist, Daniella. Plus, it’s really hot in Puerto Rico, so it makes sense. Daniella lives her life as if she’s in a daze. She lets her boyfriend take advantage of her and doesn’t know what do with her future. There’s something wrong with someone whose favorite hobby is spending time with her cat—no matter how much she loves that cat!

Q: How did you come up with the concept?

The idea for this book stemmed from two factors: my personal observations of Puerto Rican artists when I was a teen and my love for satiric writing. My mother was--and still is--an artist, and although she’s ‘retired’ now, back in the early eighties she was an active painter in San Juan, showing her works at art exhibits and galleries regularly. She took me everywhere with her, so I attended all these shows and activities and I observed.

Let me tell you something, the art scene can be extremely interesting and that is because so many artists are eccentric, unconventional people. There’s so much competition, jealousy and gossip! Anyway, I guess all these experiences must have made an impression on me. When the time came to write my book, I knew these were the people and situations I wanted to write about. I decided I would make the book a parody, this way I could keep it upbeat and have the freedom to exaggerate to the point of being ridiculous.

Q: I liked Daniella’s obsession with pirates. Are you a pirate buff? Is your favorite movie The Pirates of the Caribbean?

My favorite movie definitely isn’t The Pirates of the Caribbean! I do enjoy old pirate films, though. I used to watch them all the time when I was a kid. I’m kind of a pirate buff, I guess. My favorite ride in Disney World is ‘Pirates of the Caribbean,’ and I’ve always been attracted to the idea of writing a pirate novel. Maybe I will in the future.

Q: Daniella mentions off and on that she wants to be “free of men” but yet does nothing about it. I suspected that she had some “daddy issues.” Did you ever consider including something about her absent father figure in the story? And if so, what would that have told us about Daniella and the way she is?

That’s funny that you mention that. I originally had a segment in the book where she receives a telephone call from her father, but later I took it out. Her father left her and her mom when Daniella was a little girl. So there are definitely feelings of abandonment and not being ‘good enough.’ Then, as you must have noticed, she seems to be attracted to men who are much older than herself. A big part of why Daniella is the way she is comes from her father’s absence. I think this is very obvious in the story. His total absence makes it even stronger, which is why I wanted to leave it that way.

Q: What is the connection Daniella has with her cat? Is the cat a substitute for something or someone in her life? If so, what?

The cat is always there for her when she needs him—more than can be said for the men in her life… or her father, right?

Q: I liked how you added the crazy Zorro character. Did you ever consider of turning this book into a thriller or mystery with this Zorro in the mix? And if so, did you see Daniella as the one who would catch this guy?

No, this book was always a parody in my mind. I wanted to keep things light and fun, yet, at the same time, make readers wonder about human nature.

Q: My favorite quote is: “If [Daniella] could choose a place to die, she would choose a bookstore, a coffin made of hardcover mystery books.” (pg. 113) Is this your dream?

Ha! I’m glad you enjoyed that! It’s not my dream, but it sure beats a regular coffin if you’re a bookworm like me. It makes me think of ancient Egypt, when they used to bury the person surrounded with all the things she would need in her afterlife.

Q: Most of the time, Daniella seems despondent and it made her do things she doesn’t like. Was this more a study of psychological depression and human behavior? Did you study psychology in school?

I didn’t study psychology in school, but I have read a lot of psychology books during my lifetime. Also, you can get quite an education about human nature from Sherlock Holmes and Hercule Poirot stories! I didn’t intend Daniella’s story to be a study about human depression, but I think your observation is very perceptive. I think there’s a lot under the surface in this novel, if you go deep and are looking for such things.

Q: The whole story has a “men vs. women” political debate. What message did you want to relay? Did you do any research from Puerto Rico history?

Not any systematic research, no. The book is based on what I observed all throughout my childhood and teenage years. Because Sunstruck is a parody/satire, I exaggerated the situations to the point of ridicule (I had fun doing that!).

I guess my message is that all extremes are bad, no matter to what side you belong to.

Q: This book is classified as “women’s fiction.” What do you hope women will gain from reading this?

Hopefully, they will be empowered by Daniella’s story. In spite of Daniella’s flaws—and she has many—I think all of us can identify with her in one way or another. By understanding her lack of confidence and ability to focus and take charge of her life, perhaps women can gain a little insight into how to become stronger themselves.

Q: Do you feel your book will inspire young Latinas?

I hope so! I also hope it will entertain them and make them think a little about the importance of having self confidence and independence.

Q: Any words of encouragement for the Latinas? How about the writers?

Whether you want to become a writer or not, whatever your goal is, dreaming is just part of it. Yes, it all starts with a dream. But planning and staying focused are key components for reaching your goals. It doesn’t matter if you only have time to take a few tiny steps each day or even each week. What matters is to be persistent. Steady progress is the key to success.

Q: What are you working on next?

I’m working on a novel this summer, book I of a 4-book series for young adults. I’m very excited about it. Hopefully I’ll complete the first draft by the end of September.

Thank you! Be sure to check out more about Mayra Calvani on

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Review: Becoming Latina in 10 Easy Steps

Becoming Latina in 10 Easy Steps by Lara Rios

With no marriage prospects and a high-powered career, Marcela Alvarez is already a spinster in the eyes of her traditional family. But when she finds out her deadbeat dad wasn't Latino, her problems only worsen. It's time for her to change some things and prove she still has Chicana roots with a fool-proof ten-step plan, including:

- Dating Mexican men. Her work crush, George Ramirez, almost fills the bill-except that he can't speak Spanish...
- Learning to cook, homestyle. Now, she can't even make mac and cheese without burning the house down. But that's nothing a few private cooking lessons can't fix, especially with a hot maestro...
- Mentoring an at-risk Latina. But with Lupe's switchblade and bad attitude, Marcela starts to wonder: which of them is more at risk...

And when she's done, she'll be able to out-Latina her sisters and cousins, no problem. But who knew being herself could be so much work?

Reviewed by Sandra Lopez

Rating: Review: Marcela just found out she's half white because her mother had an affair with someone else, so now she doesn't know who she is. Then a comment from her family sends her on a mission: to prove that she is as much Latina as any of them. So she begins this 10-step program--really, they're a bunch of cliches for Mexicans (i.e. Spanish cooking, good dancers, etc.) If she was going to add a bunch of stereotypes, she might've also included knowing Spanish and living in a barrio--all totally Mexican, by the way.

I was so envious of Marcela because she had the job I've always wanted--Animator. Lucky dog.

The first thing she does is start dating Mexican men. The typical Mexican would've just crossed the border and would speak no English. Instead, she was stupid enough to date a cholo that nearly raped her on the first "date." I would've taken a wetback over a cholo any day. But then George, a guy that works in the Accounting Dept., captures her eye, even though he was no "Mexican." At first, he was pretty dull, but then he started growing on me as I read on. Girls, you should always go for the nerds. Who knows? They may be hiding a body under all that suit.

It was admirable how Marcela takes in a troubled teen like Lupe and shows her the world of web design. How brave she was to trust her near her computer on the first night. Things get very rough for Marcela when Lupe's bro enters the scene. She gets cuffed and thrown in jail because of him. Honestly, I don't know if Marcela was brave or stupid. Who would put themselves in danger like that? And for what--to prove something to her family?

And George (even though he turned out to be a hunk,) what was up with him? Why are guys such chicks? One romp in the sack and he was ready to move in with Marcela. Whoa, Nelly! Slow down!

Still, I liked how Marcela thought she deserved a nice guy like George, even if he did wanted to marry her from the start. She becomes a real genuine person when she stops and looks around at what life is like on the other side of the tracks (East L.A., Mexico.)

I enjoyed the writer's sense of humor and style. A great book about finding yourself and becoming a better person. Even though the character does evade from the 10 steps (in other words, she doesn't really do them all,) she was a real character with flaws, hopes, and fears. I could definitely relate to her.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Review: Hasta La Vista, Baby

Hasta La Vista, Baby by Donna Del Oro


"I thought it was great. I mean, I was hooked from the very first page because of all the wit and humor. I found myself laughing a few times ...and that was only the first three chapters!" ---Sandra Lopez, author of ESPERANZA and BEYOND THE GARDENS

"A fun romp to read! Hasta La Vista, Baby is a deft mix of humor and raw emotion with unforgettable characters. Donna Del Oro is an author to watch!" -- Loucinda McGary, award-winning author of THE WILD SIGHT and THE TREASURES OF VENICE.

HASTA LA VISTA, BABY is a romantic comedy set in Silicon Valley. Sonya, the artist, is blind to everything but beauty. She learns the hard way that it's never too late to wake up, wise up and grow up! Muralist Sonya Reyes Barton experiences an emotional meltdown when her handsome, cheating husband, Earl, announces at a family BBQ that he needs a divorce so he can marry his pregnant girlfriend. In front of all the Bartons, Sonya has a nervous breakdown, chases Earl with a barbecue fork, eventually winds down and collapses. How does the worst day of Sonya's life eventually become the best thing that ever happens to her? How does she gain insight into herself and her choice of men? More importantly, how does Sonya learn to forgive herself and move on? There's still life after forty-two and she's determined to find it

Reviewed by: Bela M.

Rating: Review: One of the funniest things in this story is at the very beginning when Sonya has just found out that her husband of many years is dumping her for his pregnant girlfriend. Sonya absolutely goes berserk and starts chasing him around the pool with a BBQ fork. I laughed so hard at that.

For like the next year or so, we follow Sonya's journey in life as she struggles with this loss and sudden change to her existence. She visits every single stage in the mourning process: hate, anger, denial, pity, and finally, acceptance. Eventually, she comes to realize that she must accept the reality and move on.

Although, how can you really be that heartbroken over a guy named Earl? Really, Earl? He was described as a blond surfer dude, but how many blond surfers are named Earl? Surfers are named Zack or Shawn or some other cooler name; not Earl.

Also, how can you begin a dating relationship with your brother-in-law? That's what Sonya eventually does in the story. She ends starting something with her ex-husband's brother, Scott. Really, how weird is that?

For me, personally, it was kind of hard to relate to Sonya's story because I've never been married, but it was definitely a well-written account of marital woes for those who have been there or are going through it. I think OPERATION FAMILIA was actually the author's best novel because it had it all--drama, suspense, romance, and humor! This was just an okay book.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Interview with Teresa Dovalpage

Today, we feature Latina writer, Teresa Dovalpage, author of Habanera: A Portrait of a Cuban Family.

Welcome, Teresa.

1. Can you please tell us about the kinds of stories you write?

Up to a few months ago I was writing primarily about Cuba. All my published books, in English and in Spanish, (Posesas de la Habana, A Girl like Che Guevara, Muerte de un murciano en la Habana, El Difunto Fidel, Habanera) either have Cuban characters or the plot takes place in Cuba, but I find myself more and more interested in science fiction and esoteric themes right now. Maybe that’s a consequence of living in a mystical place like Taos, New Mexico.

2. Is Habanera based on your life or experience?

Yes. In fact, it started as a memoir but when I realized (with my mother’s help) that I had embellished the story too much, I turned it into a novel. It is definitely inspired by real events, but also seasoned with made-up stuff.

3. What inspired this story?

My crazy family life. Dysfunctional families are wonderful sources of inspiration—particularly when one is finally away from them and can look at them with certain detachment, and even laugh at things that used to be exasperating or embarrassing.

4. Are you an only child like the main character?

Yes, and Longina is pretty much based on myself. Since it began as a memoir, the first and second parts are the ones closer to reality. But we didn’t have a ghost at home, as far as I know…

5. What was Longina’s fascination with funerals?

She inherited it from her grandfather, whose favorite place to visit was the Havana cemetery. My grandfather, a quirky recluse like Ponciano, loved to go there because it was free and there were few people around.

6. What was the psychological reasoning behind Longina’s “throwing up?” And why did she stop when her grandmother left?

That episode is also autobiographical. I was being smothered to death, like Longina. My grandma made such a big deal of the fact that I didn’t eat as much as she wanted me to that I dreaded dinnertime and vomited with an alarming frequency. When my grandma travelled to Miami, just like Muñeca, I felt free to eat (or not to eat) and I began to have a healthier relationship with food.

And by the way, I wasn’t anorexic. In fact, being rubenesque and having a big butt were signs of beauty in Cuba then. I actually wanted to become chunkier for a long time, without success.

7. What was the writing process like? Any advice for new writers?

I write and rewrite, write and rewrite…Let things cool off for a while, review…repeat.

8. Who is your intended audience for this book?

Primarily Cuban exiles who want to know what the island has become after 50 years of communism. It can also be of interest to younger Cuban Americans who would like to find out more about the land of their ancestors. (I have noticed that many of them prefer to read in English, even if they speak Spanish fluently.) And it can be marketed to academics and to a broader readership curious about contemporary life in Cuba.

9. What do you hope people will get from reading your book?

I hope to transmit a portrait of life in today’s Cuba, how people talk and think, as well as the younger generation’s view on politics and life.

10. Do you consider yourself a woman writer or a Latina writer? Why?

Ay, Dios mío… I never think in such terms, I am just a writer. But if I had to choose, I’d probably say Latina writer, since the fact that I am a woman is already implied in Latina.

11. What are you working on next?

I am currently working with Patricia Padilla, a Taos-based eighth generation curandera, on a book about Curanderismo. Its title is 101 Questions to a Curandera and it will be published in English and in Spanish.

12. Do you have a website where we can learn more from you?

My website needs to be updated but I have two blogs. One in English, where I post the articles I write for our local newspaper, The Taos News, and other publications

To watch a book trailer of Habanera, click


Habanera, by Stephen Karl, originally published in the Adirondack Review
Best Fiction Books

A portrait of these Cuban times, by Margaret Duran, Ph.D.

A sad song to Havana, by Olga Karman, published in LatinoLA

More info can be found at

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Review: Las Niñas

Today, we review Las Niñas: A Collection of childhood memories by Sarah Rafael García.

Las Niñas is a collection of autobiographical childhood memories of three Mexican-American sisters. It recounts their struggles while being raised as the first generation born in America of their Mexican family. Las Niñas portrays common situations that immigrant families can relate to through their own process of cultural assimilation. Each chapter is a different childhood memory celebrating culture, life and change through humor and self-reflection. Its creative style and unique display of a child's perception will entice many genres of readers and provide insight on the possible challenges that many recent immigrants face with their family's new generation in America. The childhood memories lightly touch on issues of immigration, learning English as a second language and assimilating into the American culture. Las Niñas reveals the most humorous, intimate and traumatic events that occurred as Sarita, Chuchen and Nini grew up in their family's new country, ultimately providing the foundation for surviving their father's death at such a young age. The bond among the three sisters allows the reader to feel their family's pride and growth in a dual culture. Nevertheless, the reader's own entertainment and personal relevance will be the greatest contributor to Las Niñas popularity and triumph. Las Niñas represent an honest and heart-felt account of first generation Latinas, American-born girls, who grew up in a Mexican cultural cocoon, to open it and converge in to their outgoing personalities into middle class ethnic America.

Reviewed by: Sandra Lopez


Review: I was so impressed by this writer's amazing talent.

La Niñas is a short autobiography about three young girls growing up as a first-generation Mexican-American family in the U.S. Each memory reads like a short story. It navigates the experience from a child's perspective but carries an adult philosophy with compelling revelation. This book explored the daily issues that many immigrant families go through when assimilating to a new, unfamiliar country. Like most childhood memories, there were good times, bad times, and most often confusing times (especially for a little girl.) In "Chair, Chair, Chair," little Sarah has to give a speech in front of her entire school. The thing is her primary language was Spanish, and when she said "chair" for the very first time, her teacher made fun of her. Of course, the rest of the Spanish-speaking students were afraid to step up and speak--a common sight among our public school system.

One of my favorite parts was when the girls were fighting each other over the bathroom due to diarrhea they got from peanut butter. They called it "peeing from the butt." I laughed at that part. I also liked that each story foretold a life lesson the author acquired from growing up. Like when the Vietnamese family wanted to buy her dog, Twinkie, just so they could eat it. Ewe! Who wouldn't find that disgusting? But then her father explained that every culture has different traditions and they should not be judged by it. Just like Mexicans eat cow's head. Very true!

This book was a great example of growing up Latina. It definitely made me question my cultural issues and reflect back on my family. Write down the name Sarah Rafael Garcia--she's about to be the next Sandra Cisneros.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Review: In Between Men

In Between Men by Mary Castillo

What else could go wrong for 29-year-old ESL teacher and single mom Isa Avellan after she's been voted the un-sexiest woman alive by the entire student body?

Well . . .

She could be knocked unconscious by a well-kicked soccer ball and wind up saddled with a guardian angel who looks and sounds a lot like Joan Collins.

She could have to endure the on-air ravings of her flojo ex-husband as he reveals every intimate, humiliating detail of their sex life to an infamous shock-jock . . . on national radio!

Or she could take matters into her own hands and submit to a total makeover, from lipstick to toenail polish to lacy lingerie. And with the help of some well-meaning (if slightly loca) tías, she could become L.A.'s most ravishing reborn sex goddess, say adios to the past, and see about capturing the attention of a hot new man. But the new Isa is about to find out that it's not so easy juggling motherhood, career, and sex-symbol status. It could, however, turn out to be a whole lot of fun.

Reviewed by: Bela M.


Review: This book was a little bit better than Ms. Castillo's first novel, Hot Tamara. First of all, the whole "working, single mother" routine is a very common scenario among women, and I felt that it was well-portrayed with genuine sincerity. Isa Avellan is one of those single moms, who is struggling to get over a bad divorce and raise a son the best way she could. She has also been recently voted as the unsexiest teacher in school. How humiliating is that? Then comes Alex, her son's soccer coach. And who could not fall for Alex? He shows Isa that, yeah, even moms can be sexy. One of Ms. Castillo's gifts is the ability to draw men realistically--with flaws, fears, and disgruntled emotions that are often hidden behind a sheath of masculinity. I can see these men in real life (not literally, of course, although I wish I could.) However, we still ran into the same writing issues from Hot Tamara--like the bad Spanish and awkward phrasing. Still, they don't detach the reader from the story too much. I'd say this is probably Ms. Castillo's best book.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Review: Evenings at the Argentine Club

Today we feature Evenings at the Argentine Club by Julia Amante

Victor and Jaqueline Torres imagined moving to the U.S. would bring happiness and prosperity-instead they found a world of frustration. While Victor put long hours into his restaurant business, Jaqui devoted her life to her daughters, until they grew up and moved on. Even their eldest, Victoria, is torn trying to reconcile being the perfect Argentine daughter and an independent American woman. Antonio and Lucia Orteli face the same realities, especially when their only son Eric leaves their close-knit Argentine community in pursuit of his own dreams. When Eric unexpectedly shows up at the Argentine Club-the heart of the Argentine community in southern California-he starts a series of events that will bring these two families closer than ever. New relationships are formed and old ones are put to the test, as everyone must learn how to balance different

Reviewed by: Sandra Lopez

Review: The whole story centers around the Argentine Club--a business owned by a working family that migrated to America for a better life. Victor, the father, who wants to leave something "great" before leaving this life; Victoria, the daughter, who never wanted to run her father's business; and Jaqueline, the mother, who fears she may no longer love her husband. Eventually, another family enters the story: Antonia, Lucia, and their son, Eric.

Written from a multi-character perspective, this book pulls you into a world of Argentine culture and values. With every character's personal issues, the story takes on a complexity that intertwines into the livelihood (and gossip) of the club. At times, I felt that there were too many characters to keep track of. I usually like it when a story is centered more on one, two, or even three characters at most. With this story, I sometimes asked myself, "Whose dad was he again?" I kept forgetting. But that was mostly in the beginning. Luckily, I got to know the characters more and more as I got deeper into the book.

Each chapter had a tad too much drama for my taste that it sometimes felt exhausting; however, as secrets are slowly revealed, you can't help but find out how it all ends. I enjoyed the blossoming romance between Victoria and Eric. Growing up, they began as friends; but they ended up falling into a deep love that they could not get anywhere else. It was like falling in love with the kid next door--the kid that kept all your secrets, the one that never made fun of you, the one that always accepted you for the way you were and still hung out with you. Those two were great together! But with Eric at the possibility of leaving again and Victoria finally going after her dreams, I couldn't help but wonder how things were going to turn out for them. A must read!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Review: Beyond the Gardens

Today we feature a book by one of our favorite Latina authors (the one who designed this blog, BTW,) Sandra Lopez! Her newest YA novel has been out for almost two years now and has received some great reviews. We are proud to present our review for Beyond the Gardens.

At the age of 18, Esperanza Ignacio begins her college years at an upscale Los Angeles art school, where she studies to fulfill her long-term dream in Animation. But she soon learns the truth to the old folktale: “you can take the girl out of the barrio, but you can’t take the barrio out of the girl.” Even though she’s getting financial aid, Esperanza works a part-time job during her break from classes just to make ends meet. Her roommate, Anna, is what she calls a “chicana from Beverly Hills” because of the rich daddy and the new car she got for her quinceañera.

Things get a little confusing for Esperanza when an old friend comes looking for her, hoping to start a meaningful relationship. But is Carlos the right guy for her? She never even considered him to be anything more than a friend since high school. Then comes Jake, a gorgeous mechanic, who shares her passion for books and loves her for who she is. What’s a girl to do?

Strength and determination help pave the way for the future. And, as she approaches her graduation, she is faced with a difficult decision: should she leave Los Angeles and leave behind her family, her home, and everything she’s known? Ever since she was born in the California barrio of Hawaiian Gardens, she’s always had to look over the fence, wondering what she’s been missing. Now she’s taking a flying leap over to see what’s beyond the little barrio. What’s beyond her family, her friends, and her past? What’s beyond the little nothing town, where dreams don’t exist? What’s beyond The Gardens? Is it life, love, a future? The story of Esperanza is finally concluded in this wildly entertaining and heart-warming sequel.

Reviewed by: Bela M.

Review: After reading Esperanza, you can bet how much I was looking forward to reading this sequel. Esperanza is now in college! She is living her life the way she’s always wanted—on campus away from her mother and barrio neighborhood. Suddenly, her life is upended when friends from her past re-enter: Carlos, who is now interested in her romantically, and his sister, Carla, who had urged Esperanza to marry her brother in high school. Esperanza also contends with her roommate, a rich Chicana; and with Jake, a hunky mechanic who seems to be her soulmate. Life becomes complicated for Esperanza as she constantly wonders what is "beyond the gardens" of her barrio, and what life can possibly hold for her.

This was a very quick and enjoyable read.

Lopez’s story comes across as a somewhat autobiographical fiction, and her character, Esperanza, is someone I really liked. She’s neurotic, an over-achiever, and totally entertaining. She’s a young Latina from the barrio, making a life for herself by breaking out of all expectations and stereotypes. I love this about her, and I think most of us can see ourselves in her.

This is a love story and an inspiration to young ladies who are less apt to try to be beauty queens and more likely to try and use their brains to better themselves. Funny and romantic. Be sure to jot down the name Sandra Lopez as you will be hearing more from her in the future.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Cinco de Mayo Winner!

And the winner is.......

Patricia of Patricia's Dreams


Thursday, May 5, 2011

Cinco de Mayo Giveaway!

In honor of Cinco de Mayo, we have a new giveaway.


  1. To enter, please post a comment in this entry with your name and email address

  2. Only U.S. residents are eligible (No international o PO box address)

  3. Entries must be posted by midnight, 12pm, Pacific Standard Time on May 8, 2011

  4. A winner will be announced on May 9, 2011

Good luck!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Review: Hot Tamara

Hot Tamara by Mary Castillo

Tamara Contreras will never again settle for unmemorable sex. Her long-time boyfriend may look perfect to her traditional Mexican-American parents -- something Tamara has never been -- but at twenty-six she wants more from life than marriage and motherhood. So in front of everyone, Tamara does the unthinkable: She turns down her boyfriend's unexpected marriage proposal and leaves home for L.A.

Tamara thinks she's got the single-girl-in-the-city thing down, until she runs into Will Benavides, the former high school bad boy turned firefighter. If Tamara's parents had known how Will lit up her teenage fantasies, she'd have been shipped off to the nuns for sure! Now Will wants to make those fantasies come true permanently.

When an unexpected opportunity lands in her lap and Tamara has to choose between the career and the man of her dreams, she wonders if maybe la familia was right after all . . .

Reviewed by: Bela M.

Rated: Review: FAIR WARNING: Right away in chapter one, you get hit with this confusing Spanish--"La va a pesar" and "No le veo la punta." What does that mean? Has the author even heard Spanish?

The story then begins with a public proposal to Tamara, who has been living under the control and constant scrutiny of her overbearing mother. C'mon, how can anyone say "no" to a proposal with everyone watching and expecting you to say "yes?" I would've ran away from the scene too. I would've looked like the road runner and left dust trails in my speed.

Then Will enters the picture. He is so HOT! Reminds me of (fireman) Geoff Stults from 7th Heaven--that church show. And Will was an artist too! Hot!

I did not like the whole back-and-forth thing when Will and Tamara had their first kiss. It was annoying and really unnecessary to the flow. It was like listening to a song, then, half way through, stopping it and having to go back to the first part.

The whole thing is written in multi-character perspective, which is fine with me; but I just don't like it when the perspective keeps changing in the same chapter, in the same paragraph. The author should've kept that more uniform. Also, the attraction between Will and Tamara was sort've surreal--in other words, not genuine. It seemed like they were just slapped together at the last minute to make the story work. And, another thing, the book was full of awkward phrasing, like, "Her hair whispered against the pillow." Hair doesn't whisper! I don't even know what this means. No doubt about it that this book could've used some more editing.

Overall, this is an okay book if you like a fast and easy Harlequin Romance with VERY LITTLE Spanish flavor (honestly, you can hardly even taste it.)

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Two Book Festivals this weekend!

Two festivals are happening this weekend!

L.A. Times Festival of Books

The annual Los Angeles Times Festival of Books will be held:

Saturday April 30, 2011 from 10am – 6pm
Sunday, May 1, 2011 from 10am – 5pm at:
University of Southern California
Click here for map.
To locate USC on Yahoo! Maps or similar mapping software, you may use the intersection of Exposition Blvd and S Figueroa St, Los Angeles, CA 90089.

Los Angeles Times Festival of Books’ 2011 Change of Address.

Tickets & Admission
General attendance is free!
For information on attending, see our Attendee FAQ.

Parking at the USC campus will be $10.
Please go to the Getting There page for a detailed map.

LeaLA - Feria del Libro

LeaLA features books in Spanish April 30 to May 1

Which will you attend?

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Winner: More than this


Kesia Saenz


An email has been sent notifying the winner. Thank you all for playing!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Giveaway: More than this


Our prize for this month is More than this by Margo Candela.


  1. To enter, please comment on this post with your name and email address

  2. Only U.S. residents are eligible (No P.O. Boxes)

  3. Contestants must enter by midnight, 12 pm Pacific Standard Time, on April 23, 2011

  4. A winner will be announced on this site on April 24

Good luck!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Pics from the Tucson Festival of Books 2011

The Tucson Festival of Books 2011, which took place at the University of Arizona, was a hit (we heard.) We're so glad that Latina author, Sandra Lopez, was kind enough to share some pictures from that fabulous weekend!

Latinos Moving Forward panel

Sandra Lopez with Kathy Cano-Murillo

Sandra Lopez with members of Nuestras Raices

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Review: B as in Beauty

B as in Beauty by Alberto Ferreras

Everyone in the world, it seems, is either prettier or thinner (or both) than Beauty Marie Zavala. And the only thing "B" resents more than her name is the way others judge her for the extra 40 pounds she can't lose. At least she has her career. Or did, until she overhears her boss criticizing her weight and devising a scheme to keep her from being promoted. Enter B's new tax accountant, a modern-day matchmaker determined to boost B's flagging self-esteem by introducing her to rich, successful men who will accept her for who she is. As B's confidence blossoms, so do her fantasies of revenge. But will B find true happiness or true disaster when she unwittingly falls for the one guy she shouldn't?

Reviewed by: Sandra Lopez, author of Esperanza
Review:"B" is someone we can all relate to. She is all of the above and more--a woman who is not happy in her own skin; a woman whose body is not accepted by "skinny" society; a woman who is the "Mexican Burro" at her job (the only one who does any real work;) and, finally, like many of us, she is a woman desperately trying to climb up the corporate ladder for a better salary, a better lifestyle, a better everything.

I liked "B." She was a funny, sassy broad that told it like it was. You can't help but feel bad for her at the way she gets treated because of her weight. No dates, no promotion, no reason to even be seen in the world. But then, suddenly, being a "comfort provider" for a select clientele awakens a new-found confidence in "B" that makes her see herself for the very first time. As the story progresses, we get to experience the kinds of clients she meets. Most of them were just plain weird; some were even kind of nasty. Reading this book made it feel like I was reading the diary of a "fat chick"--where I learned all about her hopes, fears, and insecurities about her self-image.

By the end, I felt that "B" learned a great lesson we should all incorporate: "Change the things you can't accept; and accept the things you can't change."

Overall, I enjoyed the laid-back writing style that you easily fall into. It was simple and straight-forward, although sometimes the writer tended to go off tangent in the story by explaining useless things like the Greek philosophy from high school. As I was reading this book, I couldn't help but feel impressed that a man could write "chick lit" with such precision and accuracy. Usually, men don't understand women. But Alberto Ferreras could. Way to go, man!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Q&A with Kathy Cano-Murrillo

As promised, here is our interview with Latina author, "The Crafty Chica," Kathy Cano-Murrillo. (So sorry for the delay, you guys.)

Q: How does your Latina culture influence your work (writing and art?)

A: It influences everything I do! I’m third generation Mexican-American and have grown up with all the traditions as daily life. I love my culture, I love the history, the beauty, the music, the customs and the pop culture! We are a very diverse people. I grew up in a middle class family and was blessed to have two wonderful l parents, a happy home and good schools. I was able to travel across the world right after high school and learn about other cultures as well. Now when I write my books and make my art, I like my work to reflect that. I want to show “all-American chicas,” who are college educated and making the most of their opportunities, as they have a foot in both worlds. It’s also important to me to represent Latinas in the creative arts industry. Through my web site, I’ve met scores of creative Latinas, who not only work and raise their families, but also find time for themselves to make art and express themselves. It makes them happier and stronger role models.

Q: Please describe your art/writing process.

A: For my books, I always start with a blank art journal. The good kind with heavy art paper sheets. I brainstorm my ideas using colored markers and doodles. I’m a very visual person! Once I get all of that down, I type up a one paragraph summary of what I want the book to be about. I type up character profiles, which I don’t think hard about. I let them flow as I type and that’s how they come to life! Next, I think of their names and then write a paragraph on their story arc. I then piece it all together in one big outline. And then I start writing! I end up varying from the outline, but it still serves as a basic road map.

As far as my art, I go with what kind of mood I’m in. I have an art journal, where I write and draw the ideas that come to me. When I feel like making something new, I’ll open the journal and find an idea that fits my mood. I’ll paint like crazy for a week, and then I’ll switch to sewing. I’m a very project-oriented person. I absolutely MUST finish what I start. I can’t sleep if I leave something unfinished! Even though I can get obsessive about it, it helps me bring an idea to fruition.

Below is video trailer for my newest book.

Books available on Amazon

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Miss Scarlet's School of Patternless Sewing blog tour

Today, we feature the newest novel by Kathy Cano-Murillo entitled Miss Scarlet's School of Patternless Sewing.

We did have a Q&A all set up for this post, but, unfortunately, our old email account was recently suspended and we, therefore, cannot access any stored information, including the one from Ms. Murillo's publicist, who organized this entire tour.

With all this said, we would like to send our sincere apologies to the author and her publicist.

Below is our posting for the day.

About the book: Scarlet doesn't do things like other people. Unfortunately, this leads to some misunderstandings, like when her manager at the fabric store mistakes her measuring methods for assault. But while she may not be as wealthy as her siblings, or as respected as her grandmothers-strict seamstresses whose criticism left Scarlet permanently pattern-phobic-she will be soon. She's been offered a position with Johnny "Scissors" Tijeras, the hottest young designer in New York. To raise money for her move, Scarlet opens an after-hours sewing school in a local record shop, attracting a surprising mix of students. Future freeform garment makers include a high-strung office manager whose marriage counselor thinks she needs to learn to break some rules, and an elderly seamstress with a secret past. But as friendships grow, the lines between teacher and student blur, proving there is no single pattern for happiness-it is always a custom fit.

Available on Amazon

This book is currently in our TBR list and is waiting for one of our reviewers to rate it.

We are hoping the author will stop by today to answer questions from our readers.

If you would like to contact us, you may reach us at our new email:

Thank you!

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Winner of "Colorful Chick Lit" Package

Through the service of, a winner has been selected for our "Colorful Chick Lit" Package giveaway.

And the winner is:

Doret or "Happy Nappy Bookseller"


An email has been sent, notifying the winner.

Thanks for playing!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

"Colorful Chick Lit" Package Giveaway

In honor of the "2011 Colorful Chick Lit Challenge" hosted by Reads4Pleasure, we are giving away a "Colorful Chick Lit" Package.

3 books--all written by women of color!

Bollywood Confidential by Sonia Singh

Hook, Line, and Single by Marcia King-Gamble

Hot Tamara by Mary Castillo

To enter:

-Post a comment in this post with your email address before March 5 2011

-Contest is open to U.S. residents only (Not shipping internationally)

-Contest ends on March 5, 2011; A winner will be announced on this site

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Book Review: Esperanza, A Latina Story

Now, we would like to review a book written by one of our members--Esperanza: A Latina Story by Sandra C. Lopez

Fourteen-year old Esperanza Ignacio could only think of a few words to sum up her life: crap, crap, crap! She was born into a poor Latino family living in a small crummy apartment in the barrio side of town, where the graffiti chiseled more the souls and character of the residents than it impacted the exterior looks of the buildings. Her father was a drunken, gambler, and wife-beater who, one cold night, got arrested after a violent intrusion. Her entire circle of relatives consisted of nothing but formers-former drug-addicts, former gangsters and gang-bangers, former alcoholics, former everything. Yep, her life was nothing but a huge load of crap. And she hadn't even started high school yet. After surviving a scorching summer heat, Esperanza enters the unfamiliar world of high-school with a tight knot in her stomach. On the very first day, she is sucked into a blunder of catastrophic events beginning with accidentally running into the world's BIGGEST bully. Now, she has made herself the prime target for a main course. And, to top it all off, she has to see this girl everyday in P.E! P.E.-the one class Esperanza truly despises the most. Could life be any worse for her? Well, her family could take in a relative hopped up on drugs, a probable shooting can take place right in front of her, and Esperanza could also sit and listen to the crazed ranting of her loud psychotic mother. Oh, wait, all that does happen. To make things even easier, her best friend, Carla, won't stop trying to marry her off to her twin brother, Carlos. And she has these two puny siblings constantly vying for her attention. God, it's a wonder she doesn't strap herself in a straight jacket and pretend to be Elvis. Nonetheless, Esperanza attempts to get through it all. She is a smart and ambitious young kid struggling to survive her life while fighting to make her mark on the world. Her story is filled with pain, strength, and too much loud bickering. It carries a voice enriched with barrio slang and sarcastic humor. Esperanza illustrates what persistent Latino youth can achieve when they get back up after a fall and keep on walking straight into college.

Reviewed by: Bela M.
Review: What can I say? I loved Esperanza—her personality, her voice, her sense of humor, but most of all, her inner strength to become somebody. Like many Latino youths, Esperanza comes from a poverty-stricken home marked by domestic abuse, alcoholism, gangland connections among her relatives, and a saddening absence of hope for the future. When Esperanza enters high school, she faces bullies, the peer pressure to meet low expectations, and the tremendous possibility that she, too, will become just another Latina dropout. Esperanza has no role models and no home support, but she finds strength she did not realize she had and fights against obstacles to fulfill her dreams. You can’t help but root for Esperanza as she struggles to find her place in this world.

Not only does this book have an inspirational message for our Latina sisters, but it is also laugh-out-loud funny! I especially loved the overbearing mother. It totally reminded me of my own.

Filled with unforgettable characters and a voice enriched with a raw, teenage voice. We definitely need more books like this out there!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Interview with Anjanette Delgado

Anjanette Delgado is the author of The Heartbreak Pill, which won 1st place in the Best Romance category at the Latino International Book Awards.


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

My books are written for modern women and have been called “smart chick lit.”

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

They’re always women who set to learn something in order to be happy. This stems from my absolute belief in self-transformation. My heroines believe they can change their life for the price of a used paperback.

Who is your intended audience, if any?

I truly believe that everyone can enjoy my books, and I do have the fan mail to prove it. (You wouldn’t believe the diversity in them.) But, I do feel that they land hardest among women like me: multicultural, modern, and trying to be happy and to make sense of life.

How do you feel your books influence Latinas?

Hopefully, they’ll influence them to learn whatever they need to learn to remove whatever stands in the way of their happiness.

What does being Latina mean to you?

Well, for one thing it means a very different thing from being Hispanic. You see, I can be Hispanic living in Puerto Rico, Colombia, or anyplace else for that matter. It just means I come from a Spanish-speaking country. But being Latina means sharing the immigrant experience as it is lived in the USA. Two completely different things. One is secure in its identity because that identity is held by the context of place; the other has to define and protect that identity, even as it goes through the acculturation process of having chosen to live in this country.

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

Oh, the world is the limit. We have so much to give, to contribute. I believe we can be a force for great good. We can be uniters. We can create multicultural bonds. When I’m hanging out with my Jewish friends, and with my African American friends, or my white friends... I see no difference. I see mothers, women. We are sassy, funny, dramatic, scary when we’re angry. We’re all just women.

What are some of your favorite Latina authors and why?

I like Josefina Lopez because because she’s real. She says whatever needs to be said. I also like
Liz Balmaseda, Fabiola Santiago, Carolina Garcia Aguilera, Julia Amante, and Stephanie Greist.

Do you have a website or a blog?

Thank you!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Book Review: Hungry Woman in Paris

Hungry Woman in Paris by Josefina Lopez

A journalist and activist, Canela believes passion is essential to life; but lately passion seems to be in short supply. It has disappeared from her relationship with her fiancé, who is more interested in controlling her than encouraging her. It's absent from her work, where censorship and politics keep important stories from being published. And while her family is full of outspoken individuals, the only one Canela can truly call passionate is her cousin and best friend Luna, who just took her own life.

Canela can't recover from Luna's death. She is haunted by her ghost and feels acute pain for the dreams that went unrealized. Canela breaks off her engagement and uses her now un-necessary honeymoon ticket, to escape to Paris. Impulsively, she sublets a small apartment and enrolls at Le Coq Rouge, Paris's most prestigious culinary institute.

Cooking school is a sensual and spiritual reawakening that brings back Canela's hunger for life. With a series of new friends and lovers, she learns to once again savor the world around her. Finally able to cope with Luna's death, Canela returns home to her family, and to the kind of life she thought she had lost forever.

Reviewed by: Bela M.

Let me start off by stating what little I liked about this book. First of all, the main character's name was Canela. What a fun name! Canela, which means "cinnamon" (Brown and sweet). The story started out with Canela at her favorite cousin's funeral. I liked how the whole family function turned into an all-out brawl right in the middle of it. Lopez brought out an authentic Mexican flavor to her charcters in this scene. It was funny and witty.

The story started taking a slow turn when Canela decides to go to Paris because she called off her engagement. At first, her reason for leaving was to use the tickets she bought for her honeymoon; but, then, her decision to stay was a little anti-American with the following quote: "I hate my life. I hate the war. I hate what is happening to the U.S., and I just can't go back." (pg. 25) Okay, take a chill pill, girl! Sometimes this story got way too political for my taste.

And sometimes Canela was just a coward to me. I mean, fleeing the country because you don't want to face your mother with the truth? C'mon! Although we all can understand the desire to run away from work, family, life--the world! But, sooner or later, you're going to have to come back and face what you ran away from.

The imagery of Paris was described beautifully and eloquently. However, this still did not compensate for the writer being too graphic with the sex scenes. I was so grossed out by most of them. I can't even tell you a little bit about it. Yuck! Also, she outlined the cooking so much that I often skipped these parts. I also thought that there were too many characters that you don't really care about. In all honesty, I didn't really care about Canela either.

All in all, this book was all about food and sex--no story whatsoever. It was a grave dissapointment. Lopez should really stick to screenplays.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Book Review: Graffiti Girl

Graffiti Girl by Kelly Parra

Raised by her single mom (who's always dating the wrong kind of man) in a struggling California neighborhood, Angel Rodriguez is a headstrong, independent young woman who channels her hopes and dreams for the future into her painting. But when her entry for a community mural doesn't rate, she's heartbroken. Even with winning artist Nathan Ramos — a senior track star and Angel's secret crush — taking a sudden interest in Angel and her art, she's angry and hurt. She's determined to find her own place in the art world, her own way.

That's when Miguel Badalin — from the notorious graffiti crew Reyes Del Norte — opens her eyes to an underground world of graf tags and turf wars. She's blown away by this bad boy's fantastic work and finds herself drawn to his dangerous charm. Soon she's running with Miguel's crew, pushing her skills to the limit and beginning to emerge as the artist she always dreamed she could be. But Nathan and Miguel are bitter enemies with a shared past, and choosing between them and their wildly different approaches to life and art means that Angel must decide what matters most before the artist inside of her can truly break free.

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

Review: What can I say? I loved Angel! She absolutely rocked with her non-glamour, doesn't-give-a-crap attitude. But, like any other teen, she's shy and insecure, especially about her skills as an artist. She never liked to show off her work because she felt it would never compare to the other students, who were far more talented than she could ever come close to. I'm an artist myself, so I know how that feels.

Angel is a character that many Latino youths can relate to. The other characters in this story are so genuine agaisnt the back drop of a barrio neighborhood. I was intrigued by the concept of "graffiti" art as far as the application, the process, and how expressive it can be.

And, like taffy, you will be pulled in opposite directions as Nathan and Miguel battle over Angel's affections. The question was: who was right for her?

Towards the end, Angel must learn there are sacrifices in achieving your dreams and the choices she makes could impact her life forever. A fun YA read full of surprises.