April 14, 2014

REVIEW: RIPPER by Isabel Allende

"The kids who play Ripper are a select group of freaks and geeks from around the world who meet online to hunt down and destroy the mysterious Jack the Ripper."
RIPPER is not the type of novel fans expect from Isabel Allende.  This is a totally new genre for her, and instead of keeping to the "norms" of a typical suspense novel, Allende creates her own.  And, while this may be a novel about young-adults, the graphic and sexual nature of the killings call for a more mature audience.
RIPPER is about revenge, obsession, betrayal and loyalty.  The premise is very interesting -- gamers in search of a real killer--, but Allende over populates this novel to the point where the reader loses sight of the story.  Instead of the focus being the murders and the gamers, the focus becomes the never ending list of who's who of secondary characters -- the psychic, the neighbors, the lovers, the exes, the policemen, the clients.  Readers will be so busy trying to keep all the characters in order that the suspense is diluted.  However, true fans will continue reading to the end when, finally, all the loose ends will be tied, and a true hero will emerge to save the day.
True fans will also be interested in learning that Allende wrote this book in Spanish and it was translated into English.  Plus, this book was supposed to be written jointly with her husband mystery writer William C. Gordon, but in the interest of preserving their marriage, Allende wrote it alone.
SUMMARY:   The kids who play Ripper are on the search for a killer.  Their games master, 17-year old Amanda Martín, moves the game from London 1888 to San Francisco 2011.  Now, the kids are on the hunt for another serial killer, a live one.  They are one step ahead of the police, and each brutal death brings the Ripper gamers closer to identifying the killer.  But little do they realize that the killer is known to them and his next victim may be Amanda's mother, Indiana.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:  Isabel Allende is the bestselling author of 12 works of fiction, four memoirs and three young-adult novels, which have been translated into more than 35 languages.  She is the author most recently of the bestsellers MAYA'S NOTEBOOK, ISLAND BENEATH THE SEA and DAUGHTER OF FORTUNE.  In 2004, Allende was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters.  She received the Hans Christina Andersen Literary Award in 2012.  Born in Peru and raised in Chile, Allende lives in California.  Visit the author at www.isabelallende.com.

April 10, 2014


The trick to surviving this country, mi amor, is to look at your own face in the mirror every morning and resist the temptation to hate yourself for turning into the person you swore you’d never become. – Valentina Goldman
As I read this book, I pictured Valentina as Sofia Vergara’s comic character in “Modern Family”  -- the same effervescent energy, the same passionate nature--, but, whereas Sofia’s character is proud to be Latina, Valentina is sort-of not.
The book is in turns funny and sad, wonderful and silly, just like our protagonist.  Readers will alternatively admire and then shake-their-heads at Valentina’s antics, as she sits down to share her life’s story with her step-daughter.   Written in the first person, this book is like a long, chatty brunch conversation with your wild aunt, or in this case your eccentric step-mother.
SUMMARY:    Valentina Viloria believes in knowing where all the exit signs are, whether on a plane, in a crowded department store, or in life.  In fact, her motto is “cut your losses.”  And she does, especially after the end of every marriage.  (She’s been married twice.)  But now, she’s a widow with twins, which is a totally new experience, so while the urn is cooling in the fridge, (Arizona gets very hot.), Valentina shares her life story with her new teenage step-daughter.
Born in Venezuela, Valentina left the tropical paradise at 19, married and with great hopes of finding the American Dream.  One cheating husband later, Valentina is homeless, jobless and determined not to return home so she decides to move on and reinvent herself.  She takes on lots different jobs looking for the perfect fit. 
Valentina does not want to be thought of as a lowly immigrant worker; hence, she stops speaking Spanish and changes her name to Val.  One may think that Valentina is being untrue to her Latinidad, but she would be the first to tell you that she is being the perfect American by assimilating to the customs of her new homeland.  Besides, Valentina is very close to her family and visits Caracas often.  Plus, there are the weekly dramatic phone calls from her sister Azucena, a top-editor in Caracas with two children, a lazy husband and an endless parade of maids to keep her abreast of the town gossip.
Many jobs and two husbands later, Valentina meets and marries Max Goldman.  For a while they have a bi-coastal marriage, until Valentina gives in and leaves New York for Arizona.  Suddenly, she is a mother of twins, with step-children and an ex-wife who criticizes her continually but refuses to speak to her. But, having a step-daughter is not so bad after all.  And the two sit down for a long chat to swap life stories.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:  When she was 18-years-old Marisol Murano moved to the United States to attend school so that afterwards she could return to her native Venezuela to get married and have kids. None of this happened. Instead, she ended up getting a Master’s degree which eventually landed her a boring job in an exciting city: New York.

After a few years running the corporate rat race, Marisol woke up to this one day, "Even if you win the race, you're still a rat." That was the end of her banking career and the birth of her first novel: The Lady, The Chef, and The Courtesan.

Marisol was the first to be surprised when her first novel was named Latino Book of the Year, Original Voices from Border’s and was picked as a BookSense selection. She was further surprised...more
When she was 18-years-old Marisol Murano moved to the United States to attend school so that afterwards she could return to her native Venezuela to get married and have kids. None of this happened. Instead, she ended up getting a Master’s degree which eventually landed her a boring job in an exciting city: New York.  After a few years running the corporate rat race, Marisol woke up to this one day, "Even if you win the race, you're still a rat." That was the end of her banking career and the birth of her first novel, THE LADY, THE CHEF AND THE COURTESAN.  Marisol was the first to be surprised when her first novel was named Latino Book of the Year, Original Voices from Border’s and was picked as a BookSense selection. She was further surprised when it was translated into several languages.

A second career detour led her to become a chef and the author of a cookbook, DELICIOUSLY DOABLE SMALL PLATES FROM AROUND THE WORLD.  Between novels, Chef Marisol now travels the world conducting culinary demonstrations on exotic cuisine. In fact, VALENTINA GOLDMAN’S IMMACULATE CONFUSION was born at sea in a split-second of confusion when during a culinary demonstration a woman raised her hand to ask: “Did you always know you wanted to be a chef?”

April 4, 2014


Forgive me, Father, if such forgiveness is still an option for my salvation.  Tomorrow will be another day.  Maybe this time the better me will learn to fight back and the demon within will be gone.   –Your humble son… Your fallen angel
WOW!  From the first page – the first murder! – I was hooked.  I almost missed by train stop because I couldn’t stop reading. 
Manuel Meléndez has written an engrossing, fast-paced, suspenseful, pulse-quickening, goose-bump raising thriller, which would certainly gain the approval of the author’s literary heroes – Edgar Allan Poe, Stephen King and Alfred Hitchcock!
WHEN ANGELS FALL (Aignos Publishing) is about the eternal battle between good and evil.  It’s about the duality of man’s soul, about the atonement of sins.  It’s about isolation, obsession, revenge and justice.  It’s about friends and lovers, angels and demons.  It’s a must-read!
Readers will be glued to their seats from the start until the bombshell ending.  Meléndez is a promising new voice and definitely an author to watch!   He has a new book coming out later this year, and we are hoping it’s another thriller.
SUMMARY:   The word is insane, but Ferdinand Muňoz is trying to make the best of it.  He’s just an average Joe, keeping to himself and staying out of trouble.  He lives in Sunnyside, Queens, which is a lot like a small town in the middle of the Big Bad Apple.  But evil lurks everywhere.  Suddenly, Ferdy’s idyllic world becomes surreal.  Murder has come to Sunnyside and it ain’t pretty.
The one ray of sunshine is Annie Lopez, an old friend and possible love interest; if her abusive soon-to-be-ex-husband were out of the picture.  When the ex is killed, it is not a blessing but a curse.  Ferdy becomes a suspect immediately since he knew all the victims.  But it wasn’t him.  It couldn’t be since Ferdy has worked hard all his life to keep his mal genio (mean temper) in check.  Now, the police are looking at him; Annie is keeping her distance; and some wimpy Espiritista is communicating with ghosts and giving Ferdy the evil eye. 
The killer turns out to be a fallen angel; one who begs for forgiveness even as he rejoices in wiping out abusers, bigots and evil doers.  But when Annie becomes the target, all hell will break loose, and help will come from unlikely places and unseen friends.  For the fight for salvation – and survival!– will be fought on earth and in heaven until the surprising end.###
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:   Manuel A. Meléndez was born in Puerto Rico and came to the United States when he was ten years old.   He was raised in East Harlem.  His stories are gritty dramas of life that captured the flavor and the rawness of everyday people that he sees or meets on the streets of New York.  Meléndez has self-published two poetry books: Observations Through Poetry and Voices From My Soul, and a collection of short stories, Christmas Tales-New York. He is also the author of two novels, WHEN ANGELS FALL and Josefa's Curse.   He lives in Sunnyside, New York.
Read his interview with The Latino Author by clicking here.

March 31, 2014


The Latina Book Club welcomes Dominican writer and illustrator Genia I. Nunez.  For her, it all began with a poster over a decade ago.  Today, she enjoys writing poetry, photography, crafts and keeping her inner child alive!

I believe that education is very important for our children. Being bilingual is more relevant than ever before. – Genia I. Nunez

Q:  We know you are a Civil Engineer and a college professor. Where did the desire to write children's books come from?

A: I've always enjoyed helping children learn. I also taught catechism classes and tutored elementary aged children during my free time. I've always had a creative inclination, and writing and drawing were always ways to express myself. The interest of writing children’s books came because I wanted to help my own children and their friends in school. I always have enjoyed children’s books and their illustrations. I think it’s important to keep your inner child alive!
Q: Tell us about yourself. Your family, your schooling, your home now. We know you come from Santo Domingo. Do you go back often?

A: I like to write poems, paint and use my inspiration. I’m married and the mother of two lovely children.  I travel to Dominican Republic when I get the chance. I earned my Bachelor’s degree in Civil Engineering in Dominican Republic and obtained a Masters of Engineering from Iowa State University. I’ve worked as a Civil Engineer both in Dominican Republic and the U.S.
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Q: Tell us about your book: THE CYCLE OF THE SEVEN DAYS OF THE WEEK.  What inspired you to write about the days of the week?

A: The inspiration to write this book came from a poster I created that illustrated the cycle and order of the days of the week. I wanted to show my children and friend’s children that there are different activities that we do each day and I changed the color for each day to illustrate that each day was different. The original poster is bilingual in English and Spanish, because I used it as a tool for them to learn the days in both languages.
Q:  Do you visit with schools and libraries to read from your book? What do the children think?

A:  I haven’t gone to any schools or libraries yet, but I’ve had living room reading sessions with family and friends and they all enjoy the book.  Many children and their parents like the book. They even have learned Spanish reading it in the bilingual version.
Q: I read a quote of yours:‪ “I believe that education is very important for our children. Being bilingual is more relevant than ever before." Explain why you think being bilingual is a plus in today's society. Do you think bilingual education should start early or can it also be learned as a teen or even an adult?

A: Each language is source of communication that unites us. Being that we’re now more connected than ever with globalization, the more languages you speak the more a person can communicate with the rest of the world. Being bilingual or even multilingual is an all around plus! I think that children have an advantage when they are exposed to languages at a young age. And, I think you can learn a language at any time if you have an interest!
Q: Not a lot of Latino books are being bought and released today, and many authors are turning to self-publishing. ‪Are you self-published? ‪If so, what are the pros and cons of self-publishing?

A:  Yes, we do need more Latino books in the market!  And, Yes, I am self-published. It is difficult at the beginning to learn the standards for the printing process, but it’s a good experience and a rewarding feeling when everything is finished. I recommend self-publishing because there are so many options available to get your book out there.
Q:  Do you have any advice for new Latino authors? Any specific advice for those Latino authors wanting to write children's books?  

A:  As a new author myself, I think if you have something to express you should share it and not give up.  My advice: write what you are passionate about. We all have our own unique stories to tell and share.
Q: Do you belong to any professional writing organizations? Do you recommend them to authors?

A:  I do not belong to any professional writing organizations, but I go to writing seminars to learn and share ideas with fellow writers.  It’s always good to network, and to express your concepts and have someone to review/edit. In my case, I feel very lucky that my daughter also shares an interest in writing and helps me with the translations and editing.
Q: Who are your favorite Latino authors?

A:  From the Dominican Republic are Pedro Mir, Salome Ureña, and Juan Bosch. I also enjoy the works by Paulo Coelho, Gabriel García Márquez, Pablo Neruda and Julia Alvarez.
Q:  Who are your favorite children's authors?

A:  I’ve always enjoyed classic fairy tales like the Brothers' Grimm Collection, the Dr. Seuss Series and Clifford the Big Red Dog series.

Q:  What are you writing now?

A:  I have a couple of books that are part of The Cycle Series coming up, that deal with the months of the year and the seasons. I also have some math and traffic educational books that I’m working on. Look for the Cycle books this Summer.
‪Q:  How can readers find out more about you?

A:  Readers can find me at:

Amazon Author Page: http://amzn.com/e/B00HKM18UC

Thank you, Genia!

March 24, 2014

REVIEW: CHOPPER! CHOPPER! Poetry from Bordered Lives by Verónica Reyes

the poet shouted one last grito de Dolores
para her mamá and all the women who came before her
who carved the path and created this red road to follow
every one stood on their feet and threw a grito con orgullo
Panocha!  Power!

Personal. Familial. Cultural.

CHOPPER! CHOPPER!  is dramatic and bold.  This collection will "seep into (our) sueños" and "linger on (our) everyday thoughts," which is why it is a Finalist for Best Poetry Book in the 2014 International Latino Book Awards. 
Verónica Reyes paints intimate portraits of her East L.A. neighborhood, family and local haunts with daring rhythm and raw sensuality.  The neighborhood may have clear borders, but the collection's themes are universal -- love, friendship, survival and sexual freedom. 
Panocha Power is paramount in this collection.  From the Marimacha strutting down Whittier Boulevard to the Super Queer sipping Kahlua on Santa Monica to the Xicana on lesbiana time joining arms with the straight babes in solidarity -- all memorialized "en tinta negra forever."
Readers will be fascinated with this collection from an exciting new voice in Chicana feminism and Lesbian Studies.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:   Verónica Reyes is a Chicana feminist jota poet from East Los Angeles, California.  She holds a BA from California State University, Long Beach and her MFA from University of Texas, El Paso.  Her poems give voice to all her communities:  Chicanas/os, immigrants, Mexican Americans, and la jotería.  Reyes has won AWP's Intro-Journal Project, an Astraea Lesbian Foundation Emerging Artist award, been a Finalist for the Andrés Montoya Poetry award, and a Finalist --twice!!-- for the Lambda Literary Awards.  She has received grants and fellowships from Vermont Studio Center, Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, Ragdale Foundation, and Montalvo Arts Center.  Her work has appeared in Calyx, Feminist Studies, ZYXXYVA, and The New York Quarterly.  To learn more about Verónica Reyes, visit http://redhen.org/authors/veronica-reyes/.

Check out La Bloga's interview with Verónica Reyes here.
Check out the other Finalists and Categories of the 2014 International Latino Book Awards here.

AND, meet the author on Thursday, May 22, at La Casa Azul Bookstore in NYC.