Becoming Latina in 10 Easy Steps by Lara Rios

becominglatinain10easysteps.jpg It’s a given that there is a special level of Dante’s Inferno for book reviewers that reveal key plot points and endings. Generally, Minos’ fierce tail should be avoided at all costs, but there is something special enough about the last few pages of Lara Rios’ Becoming Latina in 10 Easy Steps that bears exposing: the story is self contained; the heroine’s journey actually ends on the last page. Remember books like that? Books where the plot’s beginning, middle and end could be found between the covers of one book and not a series of books? Remember when it was standard fare to see favorite characters off to their happily-ever-after and know that they stayed there save for possible brief cameos in their siblings’ and friends’ stories? Apparently Lara Rios remembers those books and wasn’t afraid to write one herself. More like her, please.

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Champagne Rules by Susan Lyons

champagnerules.jpgThe cover of Susan Lyons’ debut novel Champagne Rules depicts a nude couple, face to face, embracing. The man is dread-locked, goateed, and well muscled; the woman is soft, slender and at ease. It’s lovely; sexy but not gratuitous, erotic but not graphic. It’s also overlaid with an aborigine tint that mutes the contrast of the models’ skin colors and washes out the sharp lines of their bodies. This might be a random artistic decision—perhaps covers that appear to be a solid shade of eggplant are the new thing—or it might be that the color purple plays heavily into the plot—but this does not turn out to be the case—or perhaps rendering the cover models colorless is the publisher’s attempt to suggest social commentary on interracial couples: the skin color doesn’t matter; all that matters is the coming together of man and woman. Or perhaps the cover is shrouded in ambiguity because the interracial couple at the heart of Champagne Rules: Jaxon Navarre, a Jamaican immigrant to the U.S., and Suzanne Brennan, an Anglo-Canadian, are a couple in conflict over priorities rather than one whose story hinges on the difference in their skin colors.

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Home Sweet Home

Welcome one and all. This is it, our new home. Our permanent home–we know changing links is a chore and we promise not to ask you all to do it again. We’re still unpacking and trying to decide what should go where, but fear not, we will announce the February contest winners–of all them–later today.