Friday, January 28, 2011

#BookReview: WAKING UP IN THE LAND OF GLITTER by Kathy Cano-Murillo

Star Esteban is a hot mess.  From the very beginning I could tell reading about this chick was going to be fun and that I would love every minute of it.  And I was right!

Twenty something Estrella "Star" Esteban works at her family business, La Pachanga, a combination restaurant and art gallery.  As an only child, Star's every whim has been catered to by her hippie parents, so it's not unusual for her to start and stop projects without worrying about the repercussions.  But when she goes overboard with her crazy antics, her father gives her an ultimatum: get yourself together or get out of our house.

Her best friend Ofi uses crafting to avoid dealing with real life.  Her mother-in-law is practically raising her daughter and running her house while Ofi overspends at the local craft mart.  She's sure that she'll make it big in crafting one day, though it would help if people could figure out what exactly it is she's making.

The ambitious Chloe Chavez is determined to get to the top.  She's long admired another newscaster turned crafting celebrity.  If she follows her path, she's sure to end up with endorsements and possibly a national news spot.  The fact that she doesn't really care for crafting is just a minor detail.

With the assistance of her friends and a 14 year old boy wonder designer, Star sets off on a path to discover her true passion and get to know herself.  Along the way, her friends begin their own journeys and find that they all have room to grow.

What did you like about this book?
So many times in books women are waiting (whether or not they know it) to be saved by a man.  Star saves herself and I loved that!  That's not to say that there is no romance involved, but it's not the determining factor in who she becomes.

The writing flows extremely well.  I'm really glad that the author took the time to develop the secondary characters so well instead of leaving them in the background.

What didn't you like about this book?
I honestly can't think of a thing.

What could the author do to improve this book?
Find someone to make it into a movie.  I could totally see this on Lifetime or HBO.

Published March 2010

Purchase: Amazon | B & N | Book Depository | IndieBound

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

#BookReview: More Than This - Margo Candela

Margo Candela's Good-bye To All That is our featured book in March, but I wanted to check out some of her other work as well.  It dawned on me after reading More Than This that this was the first time I've read a chick lit book that featured a Latino love interest.  A lot of times,  if it's a book about a woman of color, her love interest is a Caucasian male or male of her own ethnicity.  This time around we're lucky enough to meet the handsome and well-spoken Alexander Velazquez, attorney-at-law.

Occasionally I cast characters in my head and share them with you.  Well I didn't cast everyone this time around, but I did cast Alex.  I have no idea what this actor's name is, but he's from one of the AT&T Re-Think Possible commercials.  Is that McDreamy enough to make you pick up the book? No, okay, then let me tell you why you should.  It's a boy meets everyone except girl story.  Huh? What? Right.

Throughout the entire book the very wealthy Evelyn Morgan is traveling the path to discover who she really is.  After some time in Paris, where she worked at being a struggling artist, she's back in San Francisco.  A case of mistaken identity leads to a job at a local dot com firm.  Though it started off as some harmless fun, Evelyn finds herself dedicated to the company and the tasks before her.

Rebounding from a relationship gone wrong and a newly ended job, Alex Rodriquez has moved back to San Francisco from New York.  When he stops by to visit his friend Pete at work, he walks out with an offer to join the firm and take on one of its most lucrative contracts.  That wouldn't be so troubling if working with the client didn't go against everything he was raised by his parents to believe in.

As Evelyn and Alex move through their lives, there are so many instances of  near encounters that don't happen.  Ironically, their offices face each other and even though they're aware that the other exists, neither realizes that they're being admired from afar.

What did you like about this book?
I loved the family dynamic that was explored on each side.  I especially loved Alex's parents.

What didn't you like about this book?
Every time the main characters were in the same vicinity, I kept hoping that they were finally going to meet and each time, I was disappointed.

What could the author do to improve this book?
Have the characters meet earlier.

Published August 2008

Theme: The One by India.Arie

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

An Interview with Natalie McNeal, Author of The Frugalista Files

1. When and why did you begin writing?
When I was in elementary school, I used to do creative writing and win state awards. When I got to high school, I did a journalism workshop at a local college and knew I had found my calling. I've been doing the journalism thing ever since.

I'm not sure why I began writing. It's just something that I've always done. As a professional, I've identified myself more as a journalist. I haven't written fiction since childhood.

2. As a journalist, did you ever think you'd write a book or were your original plans to stay in that field?
Everyone assumes that journalists write books. A lot of people would encourage me to write a book, but for a long time, I didn't have a subject to write about.

3.What inspired you to write Frugalista?
I wrote the book after the blog took off.  A lot of the readers wanted more details than what was in my 300-word blog posts.  When you are building a brand, you are always looking for ways to connect with your people.

4.Were there any aspects of your story that you were afraid or embarrassed to share? Why or why not?
Oddly, I am a private person. I just had this story that people were asking to be told in a book, so I decided to tell it. I talk about a lot of things that happened in my life over the year. It's never easy to discuss love, life or money, but it wouldn't be a memoir if I didn't share with the reader.  I would say everything I shared had some type of emotion attached to it. Memoirs are not easy.

5.What was the hardest part of writing Frugalista?
It was hard to think of my life in a narrative arc. It's my life. It just happened.  Also as a journalist, I am used to telling and reporting stories about other people. It's very scary to turn the pen on yourself.

6. Did you learn anything from writing Frugalista and what was it?
I learned that you can't play it safe all the time. I learned that you have to take a risk and believe that even if you fail, you'll eventually get back up.

7. If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in Frugalista?
Writers always think there is something to fine tune... Is there ever a perfect manuscript in the author's eyes?

8. If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?
I like Benilde Little's earlier works. She's great with nuance. I do not know her personally.

9. Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
I'm pretty random. I just read books that peak my interest. My book shelf is pretty diverse. I have everything from Gary Vaynerchuk to Zora Neale Hurston.

10. What book are you reading now?
I'm re-reading White Teeth by Zadie Smith. She's hilarious.

11. Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?
Nowadays, I spend my time purchasing books of my friends. I just ordered Danielle Evans' book, Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self.

12. What's next for you?
I'll be promoting the book hard for all of 2011. Also, I'm inviting your readers to join me in a No Buy Month, starting in February. I will be going a month without dining out or getting my nails or hair professionally done. I won't even pay to go to the movies. I always end up saving lots of money when I do it. Buy my book and follow along as we save big money! 

13. Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
Thank you for enjoying the ride with me! I cannot do this alone.

For more from the Frugalista, be sure to visit her at The Frugalista and follow her on Twitter @frugalista.  And be sure to stop back by on Friday for a Frugalista giveaway!

Monday, January 10, 2011

#BookReview: The Frugalista Files - Natalie McNeal

It's like a grown up version of The Broke Diaries meets Sophie Kinsella! - Me

Yep, I said that.  The whole time I was reading The Frugalista Files it reminded me of Angela Nissel's The Broke Diaries, but a more mature version.  And author Natalie McNeal adds just the right amount of humor to dance along the periphery of Sophie Kinsella-dom.  All in all, it's an unbeatable combination.

So what happens when a single thirtysomething wakes up one day and realizes that her debt is out of control?  If she's smart, and our author is brilliant, she sizes up the situation and takes control of it.  What started as a 28-day plan (props to the Frugalista for trying this in the shortest month of the year) to stop spending frivolously turned into a year long journey.  Luckily for us, the Frugalista is also a journalist by trade and blogs about her adventures along the way.

What this is not: Your average financial planning guidebook.

What this is: A funny, truthful look at how spending a few dollars here and there can really add up and what you can do to stop spending and start saving.

My favorite tip:  "Friends often have similar taste.  Shake 'em down when they are moving and vulnerable."

What did you like about this book?
It wasn't preachy.  I hate reading books about saving money that make me feel like I'm being lectured to by a stodgy codger in a smoke filled interrogation room.  Instead, it was like getting a glimpse into a friend's diary and saying, "wow, I could totally do that!"

What didn't you like about this book?
Um, it ended.  Yeah, yeah, I know I can I follow the author on Twitter @frugalista or visit her blog at, BUT the book was really entertaining.

What could the author do to improve this book?
A sequel? Another book about whatever moves her?  Either is acceptable.

Published January 2010
Disclosure: Galley received from publisher.

Theme: Money's Too Tight to Mention by Simply Red

Friday, January 7, 2011

'Fess Up Friday, January 7, 2011

Captain's Log, Stardate 2011.01.07 I wrote a really cute blog about books and Kindles, but in the middle of making a minor change, Blogger deleted it for me.  So now you get the abbreviated version.

Last year I wrote about my love for the library and how I'd never give it up for an e-reader (Why I'll Never Quit the Library for eBooks).  Back in October my father offered to buy one for my birthday and I was all, "No, DaddyO, just give me some loot."  Needless to say, he treated me like Charlie Brown and I got nothing.  Lesson learned: Never look a gift horse in the mouth or you'll end up with a mouth full of hay.  Wait, what?  It made sense when I said it in my head.

Fast forward to December and I walk into work to two presents on my desk.  I had no clue as to what they might be, but my boss gives really good gifts, so I was hoping for the best.  Don't ask me how I thought she might squeeze Idris Elba into those boxes, but a girl can wish, can't she?  He's all tall and chocolaty and has an English accent and...Ok, I got caught up for a minute.

So I open the first box and see that it has some kind of Kindle holder on the outside, but I figure she's just re-used a box and put something else inside.  But then I opened the second box and, yes ladies and gentlemen, it was a Kindle. Normally I'm cooler than the other side of the pillow. On the outside I was all meh.  But on the inside? I was all:

One of the biggest perks of the Kindle is that I'm able to receive e-galleys and ARCs from publishers, eliminating trips to the post office in hopes that a book I've requested has come in.  The question is, am I ready to quit paper books yet? Heck no, and here's why:

  1. Normally I read three to four books a week.  With the Kindle I'm only reading two to three. There's something about the opaque screen that doesn't sit right with me. 
  2. Amazon is in the money making business so they try to limit my reading options to pdfs and books I can buy on their site.  My co-worker has a Nook and is able to download books directly from the library.  Of course there's a workaround for Kindle users, but I shouldn't have to jump through hoops just to read a book.
  3. I'm easily distracted while using a Kindle.  I don't think my brain has yet learned that it's not just another toy like my iPhone.
  4. I love wandering the aisles of the library and bookstores.  What aisles am I wandering on Amazon?
  5. I would still miss the cast of characters at the library: Nonchalant Librarian, Intense Librarian, Crotchety Lady Librarian, Sympathetic & Apologetic Librarian and Sterling, my favorite librarian.
So this is my confession.  I've crossed over into the dark side of the Kindlesphere.  Just like the Borg, I knew they'd pull me in somehow.  "We are the Borg. You will be assimilated. Your biological and technological distinctiveness will be added to our own. Resistance is futile."  And now that I've made two Star Trek references and confirmed my nerdiness, what's your confession?

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

#BookReview: Miss New India - Bharati Mukherjee

Nineteen year old Anjali Bose wants nothing more than to get out of the small town of Gauripur. Most women in her town are married by the time they reach her age, or at least their parents are working finding a suitor for them.  Anjali's father is looking, but Anjali isn't most women.

Much like the small town girl moving to the big stories we read that are set in America, Miss New India is the story of one girl's quest to move beyond the circumstances that are presented to her through no fault of her own.  Anjali is smart.  She's managed to stave off her father's attempts to marry her off, but when a presentable suitor is found, she knows she has no other choice than to head out into the world in search of her own satisfaction.

What would satisfy a small town girl? Becoming a customer service representative at one of the many call centers in Bangalore. And becoming an Americanized, independent, savvier version of herself, representing a shift in Indian women from the set standards to the new Indian woman.  

From the small town of Gauripur to the big city of Bangalore, the Silicon Valley of India, this young woman's journey from Anjali to Angie is absolutely fascinating.  Author Bharati Mukherjee skillfully intertwines Angie's story line with historical background, offering readers both entertainment and a history lesson.

What did you like about this book?
I love to learn about other cultures and thoroughly enjoyed learning more about facets of Indian culture and history.

What didn't you like about this book?
Though other parts of the book seemed very cut and dry, I was left somewhat confused by the ending of the book.   I had to go back and re-read the last chapter and prologue to find the few sentences that confirmed what became of Angie.

What could the author do to improve this book?
Perhaps make the ending more clear.

Published May 2011
Disclosure: Received ARC from publisher

Theme: I Am Changing from Dreamgirls by Jennifer Hudson

Monday, January 3, 2011

Happy New Year & What Not

Welcome to a new year and new books.  I was going to launch right into a book review today, but instead I decided to give you a peek into some of the things I have planned for this year.

As most of you know, I decided to host a Colorful Chick Lit challenge here, as well as on Goodreads. It's not my intention to tell anyone what they should read, but I will be featuring at least one book and author each month that fits into the challenge guidelines.  The purpose is twofold. It will give those that are having difficulty finding colorful chick lit a book suggestion.  And it will give the author some well deserved promotion of her book.  Each book will be highlighted for a week of the month with a review that Monday, an interview or chat with the author on Wednesday, and a book giveaway on Friday.

While I'm still working out the details for the year, our first quarter books and authors will be:

The Frugalista Files by Natalie McNeal

Sweet Little Lies by Michele Grant

Good-bye to All That by Margo Candela

If you have questions for the authors, please email me at  Do you know of a book that you think should be featured this year?  Be sure to leave a comment and I'll see what I can do.

I'll also be hosting a readathon at some point this year to help readers catch up on their reading challenges. I've eliminated January and December as potential months because we're already in January and there's too much going on in December to play catch up.  So in what other months would you be interested in participating in a readathon? Don't worry. It doesn't have to be a hardcore 24-hour readathon.  More than likely we're talking about six to 12 hours.