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.