Thursday, January 27, 2011

Book Review: Motorcycle Ride on the Sea of Tranquility

Motorcycle Ride on the Sea of Tranquility by Patricia Santana

It's April 1969, and fourteen-year-old Yolanda Sahagún can hardly wait to see her favorite brother, Chuy, newly returned from Vietnam. But when he arrives at the Welcome Home party the family has prepared in his honor it's clear that the war has changed him. The transformation of Chuy is only one of the challenges that Yolanda and the rest of her family face. This powerful coming-of-age novel, winner of the 1999 Chicano/Latino Literary Contest, is a touching and funny account of a summer that is still remembered as a crossroads in American life. Yolanda and her brothers and sisters learn how to be men and women and how to be Americans as well as Mexican Americans.

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

Review: Chuy is back from war, but he is different; and the whole family is wondering why, especially his "favorite" sister, Yolanda. So, right away, we are presented with a mystery. Who is this guy and what happened to him? Then Chuy runs off on his Harley and disappears. It is at this time that Yolanda and the family reminisce about Chuy and how it used to be with their family. And while Chuy is "missing," Yolanda continues to grow into her teen years, oblivious to her own femininity and the male psyche. It's like "The (Latina) Wonder Years," a story of a youth coming of age as world history--war, TV, music, the 60's--happens all around her.

At times, the story went off track when the main character started telling the history of their roots and the "American" dream--all boring, really. And although this book was very well-written for the most part, you did run into some sentences that were quite ambiguous. Don't be fooled by the cover, which looks like something that was crudely spliced together in Photoshop; this book is actually pretty good. The author writes with such poignant sensitivity and beauty. Full of mystery and intriguing wonder.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Latina Book List #1

For those of you who are starting the new year with a reading challenge, please consider adding Latina books to your list.

Below are just a few of our recommendations:

  1. Becoming Latina in 10 Easy Steps by Lara Rios
  2. In Between Men by Mary Castillo
  3. More than this by Margo Candela
  4. Houston, we have a problema by Gwendolyn Zepeda
  5. Graffiti Girl by Kelly Parra
  6. Lucky Chica by Berta Platas
  7. Operation Famila by Donna Del Oro
  8. Adios to my old life by Caridad Ferrer
  9. Beyond the Gardens by Sandra Lopez
  10. The Tequila Worm by Viola Canales
Of course, there are loads more! (We plan on featuring more book reviews here as the year progresses.)

But this is just to kick things off in the challenge.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Q&A with Misa Ramirez

Today, we are featuring Misa Ramirez, author of the Lola Cruz mysteries.

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

Dolores 'Lola' Cruz is a 29 year old newly licensed Private Investigator in Sacramento, CA. She works for Manny Camacho's PI firm, much to her family's dismay. They would have liked to see her as a teacher, or better yet, married with children. But Lola is a black belt in kung fu, independent, driven, and isn't about to let cultural or familial expectations stop her from living the life she's dreamed about.

Who is your intended audience, if any?

Women of all ages, people who love mysteries, Stephanie Plum readers.

How do you feel your books influence Latinas?

One thing my Latina editor told me was that I'd created a character and series that steered clear of stereotypes. I want Lola to be relatable to women of all cultures, and for people who are not familiar with the Mexican culture to respond to and see themselves in Lola Cruz Mysteries. I want Latinas to see themselves in Lola, and to love her, her choices, her family, and her life.

What does being Latina mean to you?

Well, I am actually not Latina! I like to say I'm 'Latina by marriage' and that Lola is my alter ego, if I were a smart, sexy, Latina PI! My husband is Mexican. We have 5 children. I've been part of his family for so long and I love the culture that when it came to writing a book, I immediately wanted to write someone my children could relate to, someone who balanced their two cultures, and someone fun, smart, sexy, and sassy!

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

Endless possibilities!

What are some of your favorite Latina authors and why?

I enjoy reading Isabel Allende and Julia Alvarez. I also like Caridad Pineiro .

Do you have a website or a blog?

I have several!

These are sites where books are given away every single week!!

I also have a brand new Lola Christmas story available on Amazon and Smashwords! It's called The Lola Cruz Christmas Story. Hope you will check it out!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Book Review: Good-bye to All That

Good-bye to All That by Margo Candela

Raquel Azorian has worked her way from temp to executive assistant and is this close to a promotion to junior marketing exec at Belmore Corporation, the media behemoth she’s devoted herself to. She’s learned to play the Hollywood game—navigate office politics, schmooze the right people, avoid the wrong ones, and maintain a sense of decorum even in the craziest of times. All she needs is for her boss to sign her promotion memo. Instead of putting pen to paper, he suffers a very public meltdown that puts not only his professional future but also Raquel’s on the line.

Getting to the next rung on the Belmore ladder will require every ounce of focus, but that’s not going to be easy. Raquel’s mom has decided to leave her husband and move into Raquel’s apartment, and her older brother seems to be sinking deeper and deeper into depression. Raquel has to keep her job, stop her parents from divorcing, and save her brother. In the chaos of juggling so much, she finally reaches a breaking point: there’s just not enough time for everything or for everyone. She’s going to have to choose—success at work or happiness at home. But then a chance encounter at a bookstore café leads Raquel to start planning her own Hollywood ending . . . on her own terms.

Reviewed by: Bela M.


Raquel is your hard-working girl climbing her way up the corporate ladder (or trying to, anyway). It's Girl vs. The Hollywood Machine.

This book embodies the classic style of Margo Candela, author of More than this. It has comical sass mixed in with profound philosophy on modern life. Even though this book started off a little slow for me, the story does not disappoint as you press on. The book picks up towards the middle when Raquel's mother suddenly moves in with her after a fight with her dad. Oy, living with your mother again. And, on top of that, her brother's marriage may be in trouble and suddenly she must fix it. Then things at work start heating up for Raquel when she begins a secret affair with a sexy co-worker.

Filled with witty comments and humorous dialogue. A nice, quick read that you can't wait to get through.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Book Review: Operation Familia

Operation Familia by Donna Del Oro

How does a modern, educated latina, disconnected from her traditional Mexican-American family, discover her true identity and "orgullo" (cultural pride)? Dina Salazar likes to think she has it together. Dodging the bullet of early marriage and motherhood that every other female in her family has succumbed to, she's her own woman. Or is she? Is she free ...or just lost? Adventurous, athletic Dina has a satisfying career and her freedom from emotional entanglements. She has it all. All except the love of her life, Rick Ramos-THE HATED ONE-who ended up marrying another woman nearly six years before. All except the closeness of her blue-collar family, who live in a Latino barrio of Salinas, ninety miles south of Silicon Valley. All except the feeling of belonging to her cultural heritage. She speaks Spanish but who is she really? An American disguised as an Hispanic woman? Or an Hispanic disguised as an American? Is she a mixed mutt with an American mind and a latino heart? In her attempts at educating herself and climbing the socio-economic ladder, has Dolores Salazar lost her latino heart and soul? When Dina learns that her stern, disapproving Mexican-born grandmother has a shameful secret, a son Abuelita Gómez had to abandon in Mexico sixty years before, Dina is reluctant at first to get involved. The uncle she has never known (a drug lord) has died mysteriously-killed, her grandmother believes, by a rival in the Juarez drug cartel. In time the family learns that the rival and suspect is the late drug lord's son-in-law, and Abuelita's grand-daughter, Dina's Mexican cousin, Teresa, has no choice but to flee her ruthless husband. To Dina's dismay, her grandmother urges HER to find out where her grand-daughter and great grandson are seeking refuge in Mexico. Her grandmother tells her that Dina is the only one that can rescue Teresa and her son, for Dina is the smart and brave one of the family-and the only one who speaks Spanish. What's a girl to do when la familia calls?

Reviewed by: Bela M.

Review: I had a blast reading "Operation Familia" by Donna Del Oro. It is a story about a young Latina named Dina Salazar--a school teacher. Dina likes to think she has it all together. But to her Mexican family, she is the sassy rebel who refused to succumb to early marriage. Then one day, her grandmother reveals a shocking secret. Apparently, she gave up a son in Mexico, and her granddaughter is now begging for help in escaping the drug cartel. And Dina is the only one who can save her. On top of all that, the love of her life, Rick Ramos, AKA "THE HATED ONE" has come back into her life after cheating on her with an old girlfriend, which resulted in a surprise pregnancy. Now, he is divorced with full custody of his daughter and wants to be part of Dina's life again. But can she trust him again after what he did? Well, so far, he's worming his way into her heart and onto her bed.

A funny romantic comedy with suspense to boot. It is a great book!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Interview with Victor Cass

We have recently featured a review on Victor Cass' latest novel, Telenovela, which was chosen as one of 2010 Best Reviewed Books. Now he returns to discuss what being Latina means.

1. First of all, how did you come up with this story?

I had two relationships, one after the other, with an
Argentinean-American and a Mexican-American woman, and I was struck by
their cultural differences, even though both were Latina. I also
thought it interesting, as I learned more about Latin American culture,
that there were often times of animosity between Mexicans and Guatemalans,
El Salvadorans and Nicaraguans, and Argentineans and other South
Americans, yet there was much more that they had in common to bring
them together than to keep them apart. Using the idea of a "Telenovela"
as a back story, I thought it would be interesting to create a familiar
landscape with two American women of different Latin backgrounds, bring
them together, and see how their lives would be changed by this new and
exciting friendship, especially in relationship to their own worlds and
often frustrating love lives. I made the fictitious "Telenovela" plot
line of "Sofia de Amor" loosely follow the Argentinean character's
twisted love life.

2. Was the title, Telenovela, something you decided right from the start, or did you consider others?

While Telenovela was the strongest front runner, in that is symbolized
the dramatic romance and story of the book, I also considered the
title, "Junior and Red," the two nicknames of the main characters.

3. How would you describe the blooming friendship between Lorena and Miriya? How does it differ from their other friends? Do you think they really needed each other in some way?

I think the friendship took each of them by surprise, yet the ease with
which they took to each other made it kind of a pleasant surprise. They
were so different from what each was used to, yet, at their cores, so
similar in how they believed in what they did, that there was a natural
admiration for the other, that I think each of them felt. It didn't
hurt that they had both noticed each other first, prior to ever
becoming friends, and were intrigued by each other, simply by their own
style and how they carried themselves.

In terms of how this differed from their other friends, I think Miriya
could, at times, feel disconnected from her circle of friends, because
maybe she felt misunderstood, or she was, deep down, wary of their
competitive, catty natures. I also don't think Miriya felt like she was
like her friends, which is a complex situation for any person to have
to figure out. Lorena, on the other hand, had so few friends, and was
perhaps so selective of who she let into her life, because of her own
family dynamic, relationship insecurities, or whatever.

I think that both Miriya and Lorena did need each other, even if
neither had ever known it, because they both represented a side of the
other that was hidden, repressed, or not allowed to fully bloom.

4. How would you describe Miriya's love for Arturo, and how does it
differ from her affair with Steve?

I think at one time Miriya was probably head over heels in love with
Arturo. I think that Arturo, being strong and Argentinean, reminded her
of her own beloved father. In the end, I think her love for him waned
because he was definitely NOT her father, in terms of strength of
character. By that time, however, I think Miriya slipped into the
situation a lot of women find themselves in, when they've invested a
lot of good years with someone who still hasn't "manned" up and married
them--the women fall into "in it to win it" mode, and getting their man
to change, or realize he wants to be married, etc., becomes more
important than the question, "Is this really the man I want to marry
after all?"

I think that with Steven Meztaz, Miriya got a taste of that youthful,
fresh, idealistic love again, that new couples go through. There was
also a simplistic self-assurance that Steven had--he was who he was
and wasn't trying to be anything else, unlike Arturo, who kept chasing
one big dream to the next.

5. How did Lorena's friendship with Miriya affect her relationship with
Steve, considering they did not know each other very well to begin with?

I think that Steven became a victim of Lorena's own personal morality.
I think that Lorena did have an arcane, yet culturally and religiously
understandable moral code, which in relation to her and Miriya boiled
down to, "you don't date your best friend's ex-boyfriend." Lorena had to
choose, and I feel strongly that, based upon who Lorena was, she could
never have dumped her friend, Miriya, now matter how "new" the
relationship was, for a man (read: relationship), which Lorena felt was
probably a fleeting and unreliable situation to be in. I think Lorena,
in her heart of hearts, realized that she could always have a
relationship, if not with Steven, with someone else later, but that
good friends didn't come along every day.

6. Was the ending hard to come up with? Did you consider alternate

I think every writer of a romance or "romantic story" wants to let the
girl or the guy win the object of their affection in the end. However,
as my story unfolded, I realized that getting the guy might not be such
a great thing, especially in Arturo's case. This was a story more about
the love two people could have for each other, who were friends, kind
of a deep platonic love, a "bro-mance" but for chicas.

7. Why did you have a real soap opera running in the background of this

I wanted something very cultural to be in the story, that related to
love and romance, and thought of no better representation than the
telenovela format. I also wanted it to be a real "story" as well, so
that hopefully my readers would become nearly as interested in poor
Sofia de Amor, as the story's "real" characters.

8. Did you have to watch a lot of telenovelas as research? If so, which
did you watch?

I watched bits and pieces of some, just to kind of get a "feel" for
their style and pacing, but I can't recall any titles or particular
shows. For a brief period, years ago, I got hooked on "Guiding Light"
believe it or not (even though that's an American soap opera). But
soaps and novelas really aren't my cup of tea.

9. Was writing about Latinas a bit of a challenge with being a male

I think it was, more for the cultural stuff than anything else. I'm a
good people-watcher, though, and I love women. I think that any male
writer has to have a good sense not only of themselves but of people
and has to have a healthy love and respect of women in order to be able to
write authentic female characters. If you don't "get" women, if you are
unable to have normal conversations with them, listen to them, and
really enjoy their company, their outlook on life, and how they see the
world, then it will be very difficult writing women characters for a
man. That's my opinion.

10. What do you think Latinas can learn from this story and its

Trust your instincts, both about friends and lovers. Trust in your
moral convictions, even those that were passed down through the prism
of your own Latin culture and religious faith. And definitely do not
underestimate the importance of how your relationship with your father,
good or bad, will impact your life (and get therapy if you need to).
Many of the Latinas I've known either had a non-existent father, or a
father who provided but said little and had little influence (or hands
on impact) on the day-to-day raising of their children. And others have
had the wonderful, strong, loving father who is later a hard act to
follow for would-be suitors in a Latina's life. A Latin woman's
relationship with her family, as well as the family dynamic, will have
the most important impact of any on her entire life.

11. What do you think the future has in store for today's Latina?

Today's Latina, especially in the United States, is far more educated,
intelligent, and empowered than her forebears. I think they are moving
slowly away from the stereotypical model of getting pregnant with their
boyfriends before they're married or have moved out of their parents'
house. We're seeing more Latinas graduating not only from college, but
from grad school as well. I think the biggest challenge for American
Latinas will be in raising sons, who are probably America's most
endangered commodity in "raising" their men to bring themselves up
emotionally, educationally, and financially. Too many Latin men are
falling behind in the progress of Latinos in general, while their women
are advancing. This can only spell serious trouble for the future of
Latino families, marriages, relationships, and the emotional and mental
health of the Latin community as a whole.

Thank you!

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Best of 2010

Hola, amigos!

We hope you all had a great holiday break and are striving for some great changes in the new year. Even though we only started just a few months ago, we have still managed to rake in many followers. And, thanks to the generosity of writers and publishers, we have obtained many books.

So here is our list of best reviewed books of 2010.

Best Reviewed Books of 2010

1. Becoming Americana by Lara Rios
2. Lucky Chica by Berta Platas
3. The Girls from the Revolutionary Cantina by M. Padilla
4. The Heartbreak Pill by Anjanette Delgado
5. Estrella’s Quinceañera by Malin Alegria
6. When the stars go blue by Caridad Ferrer
7. The Three Kings by Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez
8. Cinderella Lopez by Berta Platas
9. The Voting Booth after dark by Vanessa Libertad Garcia
10. Telenovela by Victor Cass

Please be sure to check these great titles at your local book store and stay tuned for more reviews in 2011.