October 29, 2010


As a Catholic, I celebrate November 1 as All Saint’s Day and November 2 as All Soul’s Day. (And, November 15, as my birthday!) I pray to the Saints for my family’s well being and for the souls of my loved ones in heaven.

November 2 is also regarded as the Day of the Dead by Mexicans and Mexican-Americans everywhere. It sounds like a “dark” concept, but it’s actually a beautiful tradition of honoring and remembering loved ones that passed away.

In the Mexican tradition, one would build an “altar” to a lost loved one and say prayers in their honor. My mother would turn over in her grave if I were to build an altar for her or Papi. My Abuela would love it though. I won’t be building any altars anytime soon, but I will be thinking of my lost loved ones – Mami, Papi, Mama (my grandmother), cousin Larry. I pray that they are all together and having a wonderful time in heaven.

However, I am interested in the Day of the Dead and the traditions behind it. I’ve found some books that look interesting, even some for children, and I’ve shared them below. I’ve also found a website dedicated exclusively to the Day of Dead, check it out here.   And if you are interested in Day of the Dead crafts, there is no one better than the Crafty Chica herself, Kathy Cano-Murillo.  Check her website at http://www.craftychica.com/.

Whatever your nationality and your traditions, do make it a point to celebrate life and love. I like to think that my loved ones continue to live through me as long as I keep them in my heart and remember them.   Que Dios los bendiga siempre.

COMMENT:  Do leave a comment and let us know what you like best about the Day of the Dead traditions, and do recommend other books on the subject.  Thanks.---mcf

October 27, 2010


On September 14, in a ceremony in Puerto Rico, the U.S. Postal Service released the JULIA DE BURGOS commemorative stamp.  It is the 26th stamp in the USPS' literary series.

de Burgos is a renowned island poet, who won fame after dying nameless on the streets of East Harlem in 1953 at the age of 39. Her first verses were published when she was 19; Her best-known poem is “Rio Grande de Loiza.” de Burgos left behind a legacy of more than 200 poems, exploring issues of love, feminism, and social equality. Today, there are two Julia de Burgos Cultural Centers: one in East Harlem and the other in Cleveland.

Click below for other articles on Julia de Burgos and her commemorative stamp.


UPDATE:   Julia de Burgos is the SECOND Puerto Rican to be honored with a stamp.  The first was none other than former Governor and "Father of Puerto Rico" LUIS MUNOZ MARIN.  His stamp was issued in 1990.  For more about Munoz Marin and his stamp, click here.

Many thanks to Peter Quinones for letting us know.

October 25, 2010


Congratulations and a big round of applause to my 9-year old niece, Joliz Maria, for reading One Million Words this summer. As a result, she and 19 of her fellow school mates won the Connecticut Governor’s Award of Excellence. It is a big honor and a huge accomplishment. Her parents, brothers, grandmother and I couldn’t be more proud.

Joliz has always been a good reader. When she graduated from kindergarten, she was the narrator for the school graduation play and she was only 6! She reads half an hour every day. Something her parents and I endorse whole heartedly.

Of course, I am adding English books by Latino authors to her growing reading pile. The first, THE DREAMER by Pam Munoz Ryan, an illustrated story about Pablo Neruda’s childhood. She loved it, and we had our own mini-book club discussion.

I am looking for other age appropriate books by Latino authors. I welcome all suggestions.

And to all other budding readers out there… Read On.  Read Latino.

October 17, 2010


I know this is wrong. I know I am weak, I know it cannot lead to anywhere good, but things will be different this time because this is me, and I am special. ----Cassandra Maldonado

By Daniel Serrano
Grand Central Publishing
November 2010

“Cassandra was a NYPD detective, an undercover assigned to stop a monster.” Daniel Serrano opens with this gripping sentence and keeps the reader entranced until the last page. This story is full of action, mystery and suspense. It’s about life and death, truth and justice, winning and dying. Serrano’s cast of characters is so real, so vivid that this reader hopes to “meet” them all again soon in future books. (Daniel—this could be a series!)

SUMMARY: Detective Cassandra Maldonado – a single mother of an autistic child – will do anything to provide for her son, whether that means putting herself in the path of a monster or blackmailing the Mayor into promoting her to the elite high profile homicide squad. Her first day on the job, has Cassandra investigating the brutal murder of FYSHBone, a rap superstar. There are plenty of suspects, including the supermodel girlfriend, a greedy loan shark, a brutal music tycoon and a hot, sexy lawyer. But Cassandra has no time for romance, as her career and her life are on the line.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Daniel Serrano was born and raised by his mother in the tough streets of New York and Chicago. The eldest of three boys, Serrano witnessed gangs, crime, drugs, poverty, and even murder, as his family lived the urban Latino struggle. After drifting through menial jobs for years, he enrolled in the Weekend Program at Shimer College and studied the classics. Serrano went on to earn a law degree from St. John's University. As an attorney, he has spent the bulk of his career advising politicians and alleged criminals. He is currently at work on his next book. Daniel currently divides his time between New York City and Puerto Rico, where he is hard at work on his next novel.

For more information about the author, click here.

Do leave a comment and let us know how you like BOOGIE DOWN or GUNMETAL BLACK, Daniel's first book.  Happy Reading.

October 10, 2010


Christina Corlett is a Spanish Teacher in Cranford, New Jersey, and the author of two books; plus, she has another two in the works. Three of the books are part of a four-part series about childhood friends; the other is a young adult novel (her first!). And, what is interesting is that Christina self-published her first two books and is planning same for the next two. Some might say that is a waste of time, effort and money, but Christina enjoys self-publishing because it puts her in control.  Follow her on:

Blog: christinacorlett.wordpress.com
Twitter: twitter.com/limabean526

What is your book about?

To date, I have published two books (SECOND CHANCES and WHEN WE MEET AGAIN) via CreateSpace.com and have two almost-completed books in the works (THE ART OF LOVE and HIDDEN). The first three titles are part of a planned four-part series about four childhood friends which follows their roads in life and love; the fourth title is my first foray into the young adult genre.

Cultivating relationships is what life is all about because people are the ones who remember you and carry on your memory long after you are gone. For this reason, I choose to write about the ins and outs of relationships and the love that binds people together, whether it is platonic or romantic.

Where did you come up with the idea for your book? Did you start with a character or with a story?

My first book (SECOND CHANCES) came from a silly exercise I perform most nights to help me fall asleep in which I come up with two characters and a simple story about them – often romantic! I am usually asleep before the story gets very far, but one night I created a story that so intrigued me that when I awoke the next morning, I just had to write about it. That was how SECOND CHANCES was born. As I wrote, the other characters for the series began clamoring to have their story told as well, and so that is how the other books in the series are coming to be!

Why self-publish? Why not a regular publisher or an e-publisher?

I enjoy the freedom of self-publishing. I’m in charge and have only myself to report to or blame if something doesn’t go quite right. I wanted to see my book in print; to hold a copy of this labor of love, and so self-publishing seemed the way to go. I have queried a couple of romance publishing houses and am hopeful to be published in the traditional sense someday, but for now, self-publishing allows me to get my work out there for myself and others.

When you self-publish, is the final product a real book? Can I buy it on amazon.com or at a bookstore?

Absolutely! My books can be purchased on Amazon.com as both a real book, as well as in Kindle format. My goal is to also make them available in bookstores in the near future.

Would you recommend self-publishing to other writers?

Yes, a million times, YES! There are so many people out there that I have spoken to throughout this process that are aspiring writers and want to be published. What better way to realize that dream than to do it yourself?! You’d be amazed at how many resources are available to make it happen. I have established many contacts and made new friends in the writing and publishing world as a result of self-publishing.

What have you learned from the whole process? What advice do you have for new writers?

The road to publishing is full of many twists, turns, and dead ends. First and foremost, discover who you are as an author. Write, write, write, and when you are tired of it, write some more. Make time for writing as you would anything else in your life. Schedule it in somewhere among working, running errands, and eating. I write best at night when the kids are in bed and my husband is watching television. I grab the laptop and sit down for a while, even if it’s just an hour, and I write. I make lists, jot down ideas, reread something I’ve written and make additions/corrections; anything that gets me involved in the process is fine. For me, it is therapeutic, allowing me to shed my worries and every day stressors by escaping into a world of my own creation. Finally, read and research as much as you can, for pleasure but also about the world of writing and publishing. The more you know the better writer you can be.

Who are some of your favorite writers?

This is a tough one, but I think it’s safe to say that as a romance writer, some of my favorite authors are those who write in the same genre and a similar style as my own; ones who really delve into relationships and love in a thoughtful and realistic yet romantic way. Nora Roberts is one such author. Some others are Jude Deveraux, Catherine Anderson, and Kristin Hannah. When I want a great period piece, I turn to Johanna Lindsey, Julia Quinn, or Jane Feather. Classically, I love the Austens and the Brontёs. I am also really into chick-lit, reading authors like Jane Green, Sophie Kinsella, and Marian Keyes. And finally, I enjoy young adult novels, which help me when writing that genre and to just relate to my students. Lauren Kate, Stephanie Meyer, and L.J. Smith are my top three favorite young adult authors.

What books are on your to-be-read pile?

I’m a little behind in my reading for pleasure since I have a full-time job, three kids, and my spare time is usually spent writing, editing, or cake decorating. I read before I go to bed, but by then I’m so exhausted that unless the book is so gripping that I can’t put it down, I’m usually asleep in fifteen minutes or less! Nonetheless, here are a few titles that I have good intentions of getting to in the near future.

THE TIME TRAVELER’S WIFE by Audrey Niffenegger
THE TENTH CIRCLE by Jodi Picoult
A DESIRABLE RESIDENCE by Madeleine Wickham
TORMENT by Lauren Kate
THE SEARCH by Nora Roberts

Tell us more about yourself. Work? Family? Pets?

I was born and raised in Passaic, a bustling city in northern New Jersey. My family is from Puerto Rico and, as such, I was raised bilingual. My pride in my language and culture is what prompted me to become a Spanish teacher, which is just one of the many hats I wear.

When I’m not teaching, I am also a mother to three beautiful children - Mandara, Maddie, and Aidan; a wife to Tim; a cake decorator with a small, home-based business; and, of course, a writer. In addition to a husband and three children, my immediate family also consists of a talkative calico cat named Jade and an adorable hamster named Fluffy. We all live in Cranford, New Jersey in small colonial house that is getting more and more crowded by the day!♥



Congratulations to Peruvian author Mario Vargas Llosa who won the Nobel Prize for Literature this morning from the Swedish Academy. The ceremony took place at the Cervantes Institute in New York City.

"I am very grateful to the Swedish Academy. It is totally unexpected, a real surprise," Vargas Llosa told reporters in New York. "I think it is, for any writer, a great encouragement, a recognition of a world."

Vargas Llosa has written more than 30 novels, including THE BAD GIRL and CONVERSATION IN THE CATHEDRAL.

He is the third Latino to win the Nobel Prize for Literature. Columbian author Gabriel Garcia Marquez won in 1982 and Mexican author Octavio Paz won in 1990. The honor comes with a cash prize of $1.5 million dollars.

For Official Press Release, click here.

For coverage of the ceremony, follow these links:

New York Times

Huffington Post

Yahoo News

October 7, 2010



If you are anywhere near Los Angeles this weekend, do consider visiting THE 13th ANNUAL LATINO BOOK & FAMILY FESTIVAL at Greenlee Plaza at California State University.  It promises to be a fun-filled weekend full of books!  And, artists, arts & crafts, story-telling, music, folklorico dancing, exhibits and Mexican food.

The Latino Book & Family Festival is spearheaded by Latino Literacy Now, in partnership with actor and community activitist Edward James Olmos

Author Reyna Grande is this year's Program Coordinator, and she has lined up many wonderful authors, including Belinda Acosta, Julia Amante, Kathy Cano-Murillo, Victor Cass, Margo Candela, Alex Espinosa, Stephen Gutierrez, Josefina Lopez, Rafael Navarro, Thelma Reyna and Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez.   For the complete list of authors, click here.

For more information and the Festival's website, click here.

For directions to the Festival, click here.

If you can't attend, but want to support the Festival's continued fight for Latino Literacy, buy a t-shirt by clicking here.

And if you do attend, please LEAVE US A COMMENT and let us know how you liked the Latino Book & Family Festival.   Have fun!


Margo Candela

Thelma Reyna

Victor Cass

Stephen Gutierrez

October 4, 2010


By Benjamin Alire Saenz
Cinco Puntos Press
Finalist of the PEN USA Award in the Young Adult category

“I have it in my head that when we’re born, God writes things down on our hearts. See, on some people’s hearts he writes Happy and on some people’s hearts he writes Sad and on some people’s hearts he writes Crazy on some people’s hearts he writes Genius and on some people’s hearts he writes Angry and on some people’s hearts he writes Winner and on some people’s hearts he writes Loser. It’s all like a game to him. Him. God. And it’s all pretty much random. He takes out his pen and starts writing on our blank hearts. When it came to my turn, he wrote Sad. I don’t like God very much. Apparently he doesn’t like me very much either.” --Zach, protagonist

Saenz captures the vulnerability and defiance of youth beautifully in his latest novel.  It is a poignant, heart wrenching and, sometimes too realistic, reflection of our society. It’s the story of a boy -- yes, an 18 year old is still a child -- struggling to survive his family, his hormones, his addiction, his life.  It’s also a story about the importance of family, either the one you are born into or the one you welcome into your life.    

SUMMARY:    At 18, Zachariah “Zach” Johnson Gonzalez wakes up one morning with a hell of a hangover and no memory of how he got to Cabin 9 in a rehab center. And, he doesn’t want to remember….not his alcoholic father, manic-depressive mother, abusive older brother, nor the “monster” he drank to forget. Slowly with the help of his therapist – he’d rather have a dog! – and, the help of his newly adopted family, his cabin mates, Zach begins to remember and to heal.

Benjamin Alire Saenz is an artist, poet, novelist and a writer of children’s books. His first novel, SAMMY AND JULIANA IN HOLLYWOOD, was a finalist for the LA Times Prize and a YALSA Top Ten Books for Young Adults pick in 2005. He has been awarded a Wallace Stegner Fellowship in poetry, a Lannan Poetry Fellowship, an American Book Award, The Paterson Book Prize, the Americas Awards, the Tomas Rivera Award, the Southwest Book Award, and has been a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. Some of his books include: CARRY ME LIKE WATER, HE FORGOT TO SAY GOODBYE, A GIFT FOR PAPA DIEGO, THE DOG WHO LOVED TORTILLAS. His fifth book of poems, THE BOOK OF WHAT REMAINS, was published earlier this year.
        His new novel, LAST NIGHT I SANG OT THE MONSTER, is a finalist of the PEN USA Award in the Young Adult category, and was named one of the best books of the year by School Library Journal.

COMMENT:   Have you read Zach's story?  Let us know what you thought.

October 1, 2010


by Cristina Garcia
Scribner, Sept 2010

"The novel has the energy of an obsessive tango.
Or, indeed, a bullfight."
--The New York Times Book Review

A dazzling, evocative novel about the intertwining lives of the denizens of a
Latin American hotel in the midst of political turmoil . . .
a fierce and gorgeous story about politics, gender, and passion.
BOOK SUMMARY:    In an unnamed Central American capital, at a luxurious hotel, the lives of six men and women converge over the course of one week. There is a Japanese-Mexican-American matadora in town for a bull-fighting competition; an ex-guerilla now working as a waitress in the hotel coffee shop; a Korean manufacturer with an underage mistress ensconced in the honeymoon suite; an international adoption lawyer of German descent; a colonel who committed atrocities during his country's long civil war; and a Cuban poet who has come with his American wife to adopt a local infant. With each day, their lives become further entangled resulting in the unexpected-- the clash of histories and the pull of revenge and desire.

Click here to read an excerpt.

Cristina García has published five novels: DREAMING IN CUBAN, THE AGÜERO SISTERS, MONKEY HUNTING, A HANDBOOK TO LUCK, and her newest just published by Scribner, THE LADY MATADOR'S HOTEL. She’s also published two anthologies, two young adult novels and a collection of poetry.

Her work has been nominated for a National Book Award and translated into a dozen languages. She is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Whiting Writers' Award, a Hodder Fellowship at Princeton University, and an NEA grant, among others.  To learn more about Cristina, visit her at http://www.cristinagarcianovelist.com/.

COMMENT:   Let us know what you think of THE LADY MATADOR'S HOTEL and you will be entered to win a $25 gift card from Amazon.com.  Winner announced October 31.