Alexander McCall Smith, Authors, Brandon Skyhorse, Jaime Becerra, Kathy Cano-Murillo, Matthew Munoz, Rebecca Skloot, Summer reads for adults, T. Soli

Toes in the Sand, Nose in a Book


This catchy byline is the title for Border’s summer book list. Now if we could just find the time to read the entire list and have the money to buy all the books. Since that’s not happening for most of us, let’s see what we can do with a shortage of time and money.
The following books are award winners, an Oprah pick, or on Amazon’s four and five starred review list. There are multi-cultural characters and settings that will take you from Bakersfield to Vietnam. Genres include adventure, biography, thriller, romance, and non-fiction. Best of all they are under $12 and two of them are available for e-reading devices.

Every night is Ladies Night by Michael Jaime Becerra. A humorous and poignant story collection by a writer who observes with great skill, leading him to portray ordinary scenes in the ongoing human drama. (Booklist)
What you see in the Dark by Matthew Munoz: In 1959, the Director (i.e., Alfred Hitchcock) arrives in Bakersfield, Calif., to film Psycho, along with the Actress (Janet Leigh). Providing counterpoint to the events surrounding the making of the iconic Hollywood film, including the search for a motel to serve as the exterior of the Bates Motel, is the story of locals Dan Watson and Teresa Garza, whose doomed love affair ends in murder. (Booklist)
Miss Scarlet’s School of Patternless Sewing by Kathy Cano-Murillo. The founder of popular http://www.craftychica.com pens her second Crafty Chica novel. Scarlet Santana has abandoned a promising engineering career to follow her passion for sewing. Cano-Murillo manages to extract much mirth from her cast of craftsters, each striving to transcend restrictive patterns in life and to defeat family expectations that are squelching self-expression. (Kirkus)

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot. A fascinating story of medicine and family. Henrietta Lacks died from an aggressive cancer at the age of 30 in 1951. A sample of her cancerous tissue, taken without her consent, turned out to provide one of the holy grails of mid-century biology. (Amazon)
The Double Comfort Safari Club by Alexander McCall Smith. The new installment in Smith’s bestselling series finds Mma Ramotswe traveling to the north of Botswana to visit a safari lodge, where there have been several unexplained and troubling events–including the demise of one of the guests. (Amazon)
Madonna’s of Echo Park by Brandon Skyhorse. Echo Park, the LA neighborhood down the hill from Chavez Ravine, is the setting for this novel-in-stories—a vivid portrayal of the lives of Mexican Americans who live and work there. Skyhorse weaves his characters—migrant farm workers, gardeners, dishwashers, bus drivers, house cleaners, gang members—in and out of his stories in various time frames. (Booklist)
The Lotus Eaters by Tatjana Soli. A unique debut novel that follows an American female combat photographer in the Vietnam War as she captures the wrenching chaos and finds herself torn 
between the love of two men.(Amazon)

There are tons of books out there for equal or less prices at swap.com, .99¢ Store, used book stores and for free (library). There is no excuse to relax and get your read on. So put your toes in the sand, your nose in a book, and don’t forget the sunblock.

Authors, Chingonas, Denise Chavez, Kathy Cano-Murillo, Pedro Infante, Strong Women

Loving Pedro Infante…

Do you remember Pedro Infante, the Mexican movie star from the Gran Epoca of Mexican movies? Maybe you don’t, but I mention this because he came into my little ‘blog’ life last week. But I’ll start at the beginning. 

I follow a blog penned by Kathy Cano-Murillo author of two books. She is at http://www.chicawriter.com and http://www.craftychica.com. (She has terrific sites). Kathy asked her readers if we read any of the books she listed on her “to read book list” and if we had she invited us to write a review. One of the books was from one of my favorite authors, Denise Chavez. I’ve read all of her books, including “Loving Pedro Infante.” So I took the plunge and wrote the following review, which you can find, among the others on Kathy’s website. The cover of the book es muy sauve, but I don’t know if it’s copyrighted so here’s another photo of Pedro Infante.
Denise Chavez creates real, flesh and blood characters whose lives touch ours even though they live in fictional border towns, between two cultures. Chavez describes Cabritoville as “…a one-horse-two-dog-mangy-one-cat town…” Her main character, Tere, is a teacher’s aid who  lives “…in the little house, next to my mother’s bigger house.” She is a very engaging, funny, late thirty-something divorcee who spends most of her free time watching old romance movies while waiting for a married lover to give her some attention. Most of us have been there, done that (substitute unavailable for the married). 
Tere says she “…has a degree in living…” and that may be true, but she gets a D in men and romance. She is the secretary of the Pedro Infante Fan Club and spends many an evening romanticizing the Mexican movie star in the humid El Colon movie theater with her best friend Irma. If they’re not in El Colon, they are in a bar, or a friends kitchen discussing relationships.  And herein lies the dilemma for Tere. She knows she’s not happy with a married lover and she yearns for a good man, a romantic man’s man, like Pedro Infante, but does she have the ‘huevos’ or ovaries to break up with the guy.  While she’s waiting for this cabron, she’s getting older, she’s not growing in her life, her quasi-socio-cultural savvy friend Irma mentions– more than once. And Tere knows this is true. 
There is a sub-plot, about a male friend of Tere’s, which isn’t effectively resolved, however it adds some interesting texture to the story. And there is a little confusion in the time sequence of the narrative. But these don’t detract from the ‘pleasure’ value of the story. 
The real romance here is the bond of friendship and family. It’s about the kinds of friends that stay with you long after the bad relationships end and are willing to pick you back up.  The story is enriched with Splanglish and cultural identifications which may put off some readers, but the themes in this book transcend cultures and language. 
If you haven’t read the book, try to find it in the library or order it from Amazon.com. It’s a story most women can identify with, whether you live in Goatville or not.