Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Review: PURA VIDA by Annette Montez Kolda

The Lopez family has a lot on its plate - war, death, drugs, undocumented immigration, deportation, teenage pregnancy, and now international terrorism.

Sister Bridget is the Miss Marple of East Austin's Latino community, but she might be in over her head this time. Terrorists have snuck into the country. She and fifteen-year-old Miguel Lopez must race against the clock to stop them.

Meanwhile, Miguel's mother must journey deep into Mexico to find her missing husband and tell him that their oldest son has died.

Eventually, the two storylines intersect.

Reviewed by: Sandra
Rating: 4 stars


Review: "Pura vida, pure life. In her country, it mean living one's life con gusto, with pleasure, appreciation, and gratefulness, even through adversity." (78)

This book centers on the complicated lives of somber and genuine characters―Perla, a Mexican mother of two struggling to find answers to her husband's disappearance; Miguel, Perla's troubled 15-year old son, who only strives to make it while looking after his pregnant sister; and Sister Bridget, an atypical, not-so-average nun, who keeps the word of God in her heart and often finds herself in "sticky" situations.

While Perla flees in the dead of night to Mexico in search of her husband, Miguel somehow stumbles on the schematics of a bomb. A bomb mean to kill Jews and Latinos? All this becomes overwhelming for Miguel, especially since his brother, Andres, was killed by a bomb in Afghanistan. Needless to say, this was a very bad time for his mom to leave as Miguel wouldn't even know how what to do about this. But perhaps Sister Bridget could be the answer to his prayers?

The characters take on a nefarious journey through the dark depths of the seedy underworld. Fear and trepidation trail them as they relentlessly continue their efforts. And when danger arises, they see a brief glimpse of Andres, the fallen soldier, beloved son and brother, and, apparently, a guardian angel.

Story had that vibrant chicano vibe and that refreshing barrio dialect. Well-versed and enriching, Pura Vida captures the soul, delighting readers with its stirring ambiance and endearing characters. The author speaks with such a reverent and poetic stride, depicting the Spanish culture in its raw beauty.

Sister Bridget is a tough chica―crafty, intuitive, and brave. She is just the right nun that would be able to stop a terrorist attack, save the country, and reunite a broken family.

The whole thing was just a fast ride of drama and excitement.

An enjoyable read!

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Q&A with Annette Montez Kolda

Annette Montez Kolda was born and raised in Corpus Christi, Texas. She attended the University of Texas where she earned degrees in Communication and Curriculum and Instruction. After a career in teaching, she turned to writing. Pure Vida is her first novel. More info can be found at

1.       What inspired you to write Pura Vida?
     In a beginning novel-writing class, the instructor asked if I had a character somewhere in the back of my mind. I did! It was Sister Bridget. She is based on two sisters that I know. One that I went on a missionary trip to Mexico with and another sister that I worked with in ministry to people with  disabilities. So the inspiration starts with Sister Bridget, and then secondly, I wanted to write a book that was completely immersed in the Latino culture, one in which the setting was a Latino community, the plot involved Latinos, the dialog was a mixture of English and Spanish and the characters were Latino.   



2.       How did you manage to weave the individual story lines of the characters into one?
    The family is central to the Latino community, and a family is already woven together, so it was easy for the storylines to intersect.



3.       What significant role did Sister Bridget play in the story?
      Sister Bridget is the common character for each story line. She is the “safe base” for everyone else.



4.       Could you please describe Miguel's journey and how Sister Bridget was able to help?
      Miguel is a smart, compassionate young man who has to deal with cruel difficulties in life. His father is absent, his brother has died, his sister is pregnant, and now he has information about terrorists. He could have walked away, but he’s an exceptional young man even though society might look down on him and dismiss him as trouble-maker because of his former drinking and drug use. A lot of people don’t even see him because he is a nobody. Sister Bridget is able to help him because she sees him and values him; she listens to him and takes him seriously.    



5.       What are some of the main socio-economic issues that you explore in this book and why did you explore them?
      Immigration and Deportation - Perla and Emilio had a valid reason for immigrating to the United States. The safety and job security that they sought did not exist for them in their homeland, so they traveled to a place where they could make a better life for their family. I explored this issue because in Texas, there are many such families and their stories are interesting. Poverty - most that live in poverty work hard to make ends meet day to day. They don’t give up; they figure out what they can afford and not afford and they keep plugging at it. I wanted to show that members of the Lopez family work hard and  do well in school. I wanted to give the impression that each upcoming generation of the family would  have a better life than the previous one. The reader got a glimpse of Perla and Emilio’s village in Mexico and their current home in the United States. Miguel seems to be on a path to a college education, so the future looks bright for him. And Luz too. I explored this issue because I wanted to tell a positive story about an impoverished family. I wanted to shine a light on them and show that people with little money have just as much dignity and worth as the more well off.   



6.       In the book, it's indicated that "Pura vida...means living one's life con gusto, with pleasure, appreciation, and gratefulness, even through adversity." (78) Could you please elaborate and explain the significance?
     Pura Vida is a tricky phrase to translate - sure it translates to “pure life” but it is more of an attitude. It’s an easy going, carefree but not careless attitude.  It’s appreciating what you do have, not lamenting over what you don’t have. The significance of pura vida is illustrated in everything that the Lopez family has lost, and yet, everything that they have gained. It’s letting go of the sadness and bitterness and embracing the love and forgiveness. It’s a decision to be happy.  



7.       What do you hope readers will gain from your book?
      I hope readers will see that people are all the same. We all have the same hopes and dreams for our families.



8.       What do you like best and what do you like least about being a writer?
     I love being creative, making a story come alive on paper that didn’t exist before. What I like least is the pressure to market the book.



9.       Who are some of your favorite authors?
     I love Isabel Allenda,  Juno Diaz, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, David Baldacci, Alexander McCall Smith, Dean Koontz, Janet Evanovich, Anne Rice, Mary Higgins Clark and of course, Agatha Christie mysteries.


10.   If your book would be turned into a movie, who would you imagine playing the part of the main character? (Actor can be ANYONE, living or dead.)
     It is difficult to think of a teenage Latino actor just off the top of my head, so I used Google for this one. I found that Omar Avila is a young Cuban actor on a Telemundo series called Los Teens. He’d make a great Miguel. Eva Mendez for Perla. Antonio Bandera or George Clooney could play Detective Maldonado and Sofia Vergara could play Sister Bridget! Just kidding, how about Salma Hayek or Penelope Cruz?   



11.   Are you working on anything right now?
     I am working on a second Sister Bridget book.



12.   And, finally, what do you think is in store for the future of Latino literature?
    I hope that more stories of every genre will include positive Latino characters. Romances with Latino characters, mysteries with Latino characters, young adult novels about Latinos, etc.