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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A Total Waste of Makeup by Kim Gruenenfelder

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HelenKay:  There are a never-ending series of lits out there – chick lit, hen lit and glam lit, just to name a few.  What separates one offering from another is a smart premise or an interesting voice.  If a reader is lucky, the author provides both.  In this light chick lit/glam lit hybrid, Gruenenfelder succeeds on voice.  She introduces readers to Charlie (Charlize) Edwards, a personal assistant to a Hollywood superstar.  With one ear attached to a cell phone at all times, Charlie struggles to deal with the wedding of her younger sister and a string of broken relationships – all in a flawed and humorous way that prevents A Total Waste Of Makeup from slipping from charming to silly. 

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Scenes From A Holiday Anthology by Lauri Graff, Caren Lissner and Melanie Murray

scenesfromaholiday.jpgWendy:From Wal-Mart to the White House this Christmas/Hanukkah/Kwanzaa/New Year’s season has been marked by the “Happy Holidays” v. “Merry Christmas” debate. Red Dress Ink’s seasonal offering, Scenes from a Holiday neatly sidesteps the issue by presenting an anthology that is not solely devoted to any one celebration. Rather, each novella focuses on a particular holiday, hopping from Hanukkah, to New Year’s Eve, to Christmas. The concept is fresh and exciting. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for much of the execution.

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The Secret Life Of Mrs. Claus by Carly Alexander

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Wendy:  Christmas is a time of year when, as a nation, a culture, a people, we willingly and gleefully suspend our disbelief.  A credible tale really isn’t even required.  Take for example that man in red who lives in the most inhospitable place in the world, surrounded by toy-making halflings, who chooses as his mode of transportation a flying reindeer powered ragtop.  If those circumstances are dismissible, then his ability to cover the world in a single night is ten steps beyond implausible, and his shimmying down chimneys actionable.  And yet, we don’t simply believe, we fight to believe.

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Imaginary Men by Anjali Banerjee

imaginarymen.jpgWendy:  What if the average chick lit protagonist, some young woman making her way in the city, battling her job, her family, and men, headed out for a trip to Jimmy Choo, to be followed by party drinks with her girlfriends and found herself instead in the plot of an average category romance?  Does the chick lit protagonist then toe the romance heroine line?  Or, does the change of genre obscure the predictability of the plot?  In Imaginary Men, Anjali Banerjee pushes her modern single gal protagonist, Lina Ray, to tell the lie of all category romance lies, “I’m engaged,” when there isn’t a man in sight.  However, unlike category romance, Banerjee manages to show the reader all the cards she holds without ever tipping her hand.

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Off The Record: A Novel

offtherecord.jpgHelenKay:  Ever wondered what happened to the quiet boy who sat in the back row in homeroom then moved away during the Summer?  What about the cute guy who lived down the block and transferred to another school when his parents got divorced?  Imagine what could have happened if you forgot about him, but he didn’t forget about you.  That is the theory behind Off The Record, a chick lit offering about growing up without growing stagnant that falls short of the zip and promise of it’s clever premise. 

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