October 31, 2012

Disney Disappointments a.k.a. The Latina Princess Fail

I think some of my most popular posts ever (at least that generate non-book-related traffic) at A Girl, Books and Other things have been about Disney, their movies and how I feel about their Princesses. Without pussyfooting about it: I love the Disney Princesses (and I have explained why in the past). 

So imagine my surprise this morning, when I was having breakfast, enjoying the pre-Día de los Muertos/Halloween vibe all over the city, and reading the paper when I came across the news that Disney was launching it's latest Princess: Sofia The First, as a series aimed toward younger kids, to air on Disney Junior. And guess, what? Sofia is Latina! Imagine now my moment of great happiness - as I'm, you know, from Mexico and all. 

Then imagine my crushing disappointment when Sofia turned out to look like this: 

Adorable, right? And in the world according to Disney, Latina. 

I don't know about you, but to me that's not Latin@ at all! 

And I don't mean that all Latins have black hair and a dark complexion, I know this because I don't have either, and I dont doubt there are red(ish) headed, blue eyed Latin people out there, and I know that Latin comes in all kind of shades. Latin looks are so elastic because we are such an eclectic mix, so I understand not wanting to go into stereotypes about what Latin is an isn't - I get that.

But when your best shot at 'latina' looks basically caucasian then I'm sorry, but I'm calling shenanigans.  

And Half-assed  explanations  about  how "what's important to know is that Sofia is a fairytale girl who lives in a fairytale world" rather than if she's latina or not, don't really cut it.

- Alex

Ps: Tomorrow I'll go back to book reviewing, I promise.

PS2 - In case any one wants to see the trailer:

October 29, 2012

Book Review: Blue Eyed Devil by Lisa Kleypas

At First Sight: Haven Travis had a privileged upbringing as the youngest child and only daughter of a prominent Houston millionaire. Rebelling against her father's expectations of her, Haven rushes into marriage with her college boyfriend Nick, even though no one in her family likes him. 

When Nick proves to be the worse kind of husband - the abusive kind - and Haven finally finds the strength to walk out, she returns to Houston to make a new life for herself with the support of her older brothers. 

The last person she expects to ever see again is Hardy Cates, the self-made millionaire she met once at her oldest brother's wedding and with whom she shared a kiss she could never quite forget. Back then sparks flew between them, and two years later is just the same. 

Hardy comes from "the wrong side of the tracks" and sacrificed so much to get to where he is in the oil business. He is generally unapologetic about his past - the good and the bad - and set out to woo Haven with all he has.   

Second Glance: Blue-Eyed Devil is the second book int he Travis series by Lisa Kleypas, but it can be read as a stand alone. I read and reviewed it when it was first published a few years ago but this weekend I felt like reading an old fave so I dusted it up to see how I still felt about it. 

I really liked it but it reinforced my belief that this is not quite a contemporary romance because the majority of the story is about Haven and her struggle to find her boundaries and her own self. The page time she actually spends with Hardy is about a third of the total length of the book. 

Still, Hardy does steal the show when he's around, so I don't mind the book being named after him. Both Haven and Hardy had gone through different hardships and are a bit damaged by the time they get together, yet they make sense together and work out their problems quite well. 

Bottom Line: I enjoyed getting lost in Blue-Eyed Devil, I like the characters and the Texas setting and all. It's a good story and it does have really well done romance on it, but it's also the story about a woman trying to find herself. So if you're expecting romance from beginning to end this one probably isn't for you. If you don't mind the mix off romance and chick-lit, then go for it. 

October 27, 2012

Book Review: The Second Bride by Catherine George

The Deal: Jo Fielding fell in love at first sight when she met Rufus Grieson... on the day he married her best friends Claire. Knowing what her feelings were, Jo always kept her distances from him, telling herself that they didn't have anything in common other than Claire and that there was no reason why they should ever spend much time together. 

And then Claire died, and it seemed to Jo like she would never see Rufus again. Until one night when Rufus showed up at her apartment - on the eve of his the first wedding anniversary since Claire's death - looking for someone to talk. 

One thing lead to another before Jo knew it she had had sex with Rufus and was carrying his baby. Rufus always wanted children, so he's not exactly unhappy with the situation, and he readily asks Jo to marry him. 

Jo knows that Rufus might never love her the way he loved Claire, or can he?

My Thoughts: I don't remember who told me to read The Second Bride, but I figured I would like it since I'm usually a sucker for the whole second spouse plot. And I have to say that The Second Bride was an entertaining story.

There was this reveal toward the ending that made me roll my eyes a little, but other than that it was a quick, enjoyable read. The book was very old fashioned though - as far as I can tell the book was first published in 1996, but other than the occasional mention of computers, the book could have been published in the eighties.

For example, after Jo and Rufus first sleep together, he's wants to know if she has been with other people recently, but not because he's worried about an STD or anything, but because he wants to be sure he's the dad in case she's pregnant.

There were a few more things like that that made me think the book was really old. But it was enjoyable anyway. 

Note: I borrowed the book from a friend and later found out it's actually out of print, but there is a Kindle version available, and that's the one linked. 

October 25, 2012

Speed Date: Ferragost by Melina Marchetta

The Deal: Lady Celie of the Lumateran Flatlands has spent a lot of her life in the neighboring kingdom of Belegonia - where her father was an ambassador for many years - and she's a favorite of the royal family. That's why she's spending a small holiday in the island of Ferragost - site of the royal family's spring castle.

Due to travel complications, Celie ends up spending quite a bit of time at the Island with only three other guests and Banyon, the guardian of the Castle. Things suddenly take a turn for the worst when one of her fellow guests is found dead. 

Celie is scared but she's determined to find some answers, and make sense of the whispers she hears about the Island, even if that keeps making her cross paths with Banyon. 

My Thoughts: Lady Celie has always been one of my favorite characters from the Lumatere Chronicles even though she's not a major character (or wasn't in Finnikin and Froi, I have yet to read the third book). She's best friends with Queen Isaboe and very loyal. 

Ferragost is all about Celie's adventure at the island and it almost feels disconnected from the rest of the happenings in the series, because it's a very isolated adventure (though you do learn Celie has had some other adventures along the way).

I enjoyed seeing Celie on her own but I felt the story was too short, I wanted to know more!! And I wanted to see more of Banyon, I felt like I was left hanging there. But it was a nice, quick story that does add a bit of dimension to the rest of the series so that was nice.

Ferragost can only be purchased at the Review of Australian Fiction's site for 2.99 (Australian) and it comes with another short story by Kirsty Eagar called Molasses. Each story is about 75 pages long. It's very easy to buy it from RAF, even if you're not in Australia. 
starstarstar2/3 (The story was good but I wanted more of it!)

What's a Book Speed Date, you ask? It's a quickie review--about 150 words or so--of any genre book (variety is the spice of life, after all).

If you want to join in or just read other speed date reviews, check out The Book Swarm

October 23, 2012

Book Review: All He Ever Needed by Shannon Stacey

At First Sight: Paige Sullivan grew up moving all over the place, following her mother who kept chasing after men she claimed where The One. So, as an adult - and having gone down that same rabbit hole as her mother a few times - all Paige wants is to throw some roots and prove to herself that "Men are a Luxury, Not a Necessity." And she has been doing a good job of it for the last two years, settling down in Whitford, Maine, owning the Trailside Diner and filling her life with wonderful friends.

Mitch Kowalski - one of the infamous Kowalski Kids from the Northern Star Lodge - is back in town for six weeks, just to help his younger brother Josh - the one who got stuck holding the home front while the other siblings did their own thing - while he recuperates from a broken leg. 

But things quickly start going off track as soon as Mitch blows into town and meets Paige. They are both attracted to each other from the start, but Paige has a strict No-Men rule and Mitch doesn't do long-term relationships. But Mitch is interested, and not ready to take no for an answer. 

Second Glance: All He Ever Needed is the 4th Book in the Kowalski series and the second book to focus on this side of the family, and I must say that while I enjoyed the first two books - which focus on these guy's cousins - I like this second batch of books a lot more. 

Mitch is a charming devil who has gotten rather settled in his own ways when it comes to women and relationships, and he's convinced he's not a 'forever' kind of guy. But he's not bad, he's a decent man and he loves his job and he tries really hard to lay it all out before starting a relationship (that he's not sticking around and that once he's gone he's not looking back) as to avoid hurting anyone. 

He loves his town and the family's Lodge, but he also has a very real and understandable annoyance with Small Town Life. He doesn't like that everyone knows his business and that they keep talking about his youthful sexual exploits and misdeeds, yet refuse to see he is a grown man and has moved on with his life. 

Paige had a very messed up upbringing, and she has worked very hard to make a life for herself that's everything her life with her mother wasn't, she doesn't want to repeat past mistakes and that sometimes blinds her to some of the more... fun aspects of life, but she's content with her life and is happy in general which was good. She had feelings but she wasn't a mopper 

There are some other sub-plots to the story, like about Mitch's best friend Drew and his wife, and the future of the lodge, some teasing about the main couples of the upcoming books and other things that bound the story together. 

Bottom LineAll He Ever Needed was such a fun, contemporary read. There aren't huge plot twists or big explosions, it's just a story about two regular people falling in love in a small town. Sweet and cute. The ending was a little rushed but I'm fairly certain I'll see Paige and Mitch in the upcoming books so I'm willing to overlook that. And Shannon Stacy is quickly becoming one of my go-to contemporary authors. 
PS - the Kindle edition is already out (that's the one I linked to) with the  paperback is coming out in  December 18th.

October 20, 2012

Book Review: The Comeback Season by Jennifer E. Smith

At First Sight: Ryan Walsh should be at school, enduring yet another awful day of Freshman year, but instead she's riding the train toward Wrigley Field. It's opening day for the Cubs. And it's also the 5th anniversary of her father's passing. 

Since it felt like a sign, Ryan decided to go down to the stadium, filled with hope for once in the last five years. Once there she's unable to get in but ends up sitting outside the stadium with Nick, the new kid in her school. 

Nick loves the Cubs almost as much as Ryan does, and it's their shared love for the team the basis of their tentative friendship. With Nick, Ryan can talk or can be silent and it's all good. He doesn't know her secrets and doesn't try to get them out of her. 

Because Nick, he has his secrets too. 

Second Glance: I stayed up last night reading The Comeback Season and I'm going to start by saying that, well... THERE IS NO CRYING IN BASEBALL!!! But damn it, this book made me cry. Honestly, I wouldn't have picked up this book if I had known it was going to be so sad. 

From the cover, I thought it would be a fluffy book with a little bit of romance and baseball, but it wasn't really like that. Ryan has been through a lot of sadness and she uses said sadness as a shield to keep herself at a distance from the world, trying not to get hurt. Particularly now that her friends have dumped her for a more popular crowd. 

In some ways Nick becomes her life line, and it's because of him that she starts to open up a little. They both love the Cubs but in different ways and for different reasons that kind of reflect their approches to life. 

I really liked the story over all, even though it was sad. A lot of it is about Ryan learning to let go of the bad things while keeping the good, and that part was really well done. But there were a few things that kept the book from being perfect for me. 

To start with, it's hard to connect to Ryan at first because the book is told in Third person- present tense and it made it hard to get into the story. And while I get why Ryan and Nick are important to each other, the development of their relationship was choppy. Finally, there are times when there is a lot of info-dump regarding the Cubs's history.   

Bottom Line: In the end, I enjoyed The Comeback Season a lot, and it got to me - it made me cry - but there were many things that I didn't enjoy so much. Still, I'm glad I read the book because once you get into it, you really do feel for Ryan and Nick. 

Favorite Quote: "It's OK to have doubts, even as you hope." Nick

October 18, 2012

Speed Date: Meant to Be by Lauren Morrill

The Story is about High School Jrs.
People on the cover look about 30
The Deal: For high school junior Julia somethings are Meant to Be, like she's sure the love of her life is her next door neighbor and childhood-friend Max, even though they haven't spoken since he moved back into town.

So, when her English class winds up in London for a few days, Julia doesn't really want anything out of the experience other than seeing museums, read Pride and Prejudice in an actual English garden and have a good learning experience. 

She's not looking for adventure or anything that her classmates would call fun. 

She's out of luck, though, because her English teacher decides to implement The Buddy System and she's paired up with Jason, the class' clown who insists on calling her Book Licker and annoy her every chance he has. With Jason around, it seems like adventure is unavoidable. 

My Thoughts: Before reading Meant to Be, I had heard some buzz about it. I heard a lot of people saying it was a bit like Anna and the French Kiss but in London - I didn't really get the comparison, if it reminded me of anything was of something between Girl at Sea and The Last Little Blue Envelope by Maureen Johnson, though it's more a 'feeling of the book' then any actual plot points or the like. 

I thought it was a solid debut novel, I really liked the epigraphs at the beginning of each chapter. I found Jason a bit too full of manic energy for my liking and I never really warmed up to Julia, but the situations - once they got going - were amusing. 

But, sadly, that was my biggest problem with the book: The start is very slow and it totally fails the 3 Chapters/50 pages test, as in I usually dump a book if it hasn't grabbed me within the first three chapters or fifty pages. I by-passed those marks and I still felt like the book hadn't started yet, and if it hadn't been a book for review, I would have probably stopped right there. 

That being said, it's not a bad book, I just wasn't blown away by it. 

What's a Book Speed Date, you ask? It's a quickie review--about 150 words or so--of any genre book (variety is the spice of life, after all).

If you want to join in or just read other speed date reviews, check out The Book Swarm

October 17, 2012

Book Review: Rainshadow Road by Lisa Kleypas

At First Sight: From a very young age, Lucy Marinn has known that she has an special connection to glass. It all started in the wake of her sister Alice's bout with meningitis, when the family dynamics switched into a pattern of Alice always getting what she wants and Lucy always having to give up her things in favor to her younger sister.

After one bad episode with Alice, Lucy discovered that when strong emotions overwhelmed her, the glass around her changed to offer her comfort. Young as Lucy was, she always knew this was something she had to keep to herself. 

All grown up and living in the Friday Harbor with her current boyfriend Kevin, Lucy thinks her life is getting pretty close to perfect as she loves where she lives, she loves her boyfriend and she loves her job creating stain-glass windows and ornaments. That is, until Kevin drops the bombshell that he's leaving her... and taking up with Alice. 

Enter Sam Nolan. Sam owns a small vineyard in Friday Harbor and is helping his brother Mark raise their niece Holly after the dead of their sister Victoria. (Christmas Eve in Friday Harbor). He was out walking the family dog when he mets Lucy. And, from then on, they keep running into each other all over town, partially because of mutual friends. 

Neither of them is out to be on a relationship: Lucy because she has been hurt and Sam because he doesn't want to repeat the patterns of his parents' marriage. They are very reluctant, but eventually start a tentative friendship, and start sharing secrets with each other that they had never told anyone before. 

Second Glance: I'm so behind but I finally read Rainshadow Road, and I'm so happy I did because I seriously enjoyed this book, I was very hard for me to put it down. I liked Lucy and Sam, they were nice, every day people; each with their own flaws and gifts. They are both wary of relationships but they aren't complete jackasses as a result. 

Lucy takes so much pride in her work with glass, and so does Sam with his work with grapes, and you can see how they are both very passionate people, and they make so much sense in the context of their families. Sam is also a bit of a nerd and that's actually quite amusing, and sweet. 

The romance worked, and I loved that Lucy and Sam weren't islands: they had families they spent time with, friends, jobs and a place in their community. I loved the backdrop of the San Juan Islands in the story, sometimes I really felt like I was there. 

There is an element of magical realism to the story, which I didn't mind because, well, I'm Mexican and we grow up with magical realism as a cultural element, so I was okay with it but, at the same time, I think you could take it out of the story and it would remain essentially the same. 

Bottom Line: Rainshadow Road was a lovely contemporary read, if you're a Lisa Kleypas fan you'll probably enjoy it a lot too, but even if you aren't, it's a very relaxing, sweet story. And I'm really looking forward to Dream Lake, the next book in the series

Favorite Quote“I’m still in shock. The next stage is crying and sending angry text messages to everyone I know. After that is the stage when I’ll want to rehash the relationship until all my friends start avoiding me.” Lucy knew she was chattering, but she couldn’t seem to stop herself. “In the final stage, I’ll get a short haircut that doesn’t flatter me, and buy a lot of expensive shoes I’ll never wear.” - Lucy

October 16, 2012

Book Review: Endlessly by Kiersten White


At First Sight: All Evie wanted to do was plan an amazing Winter Formal and spend the winter break with her boyfriend Lend, who is back from college. But of course, when you're Evie - a.k.a. The Empty One - and you're a pawn in the plots of paranormals and humans a like, nothing is ever easy.

Over the last few weeks, lots of paranormals have been gathering around Evie's town, and they all want the same thing: for Evie to open a gate to the dimension they all came from. 

But Evie isn't sure she wants to help out - she doesn't know if she can do it, or how, or what will it cost her. - but she does know that if she does it, it will be on her own terms. 

With the time running out for people she really cares about, Evie has some very tough choices ahead of her. 

Second Glance: I've been looking forward to Endlessly since last year when I read Supernaturally, since I'm such a big fan of this series. And I really, really wanted to like it! I'm happy to say that I did but not as much as I hoped to. 

The book has a rather uneven pace, it has moments were a lot of things are happening, where there are things to be accomplished and others where the action just stops. The writing is funny and I still love the characters, I even grew to care a little about Reth, the faerie guy who is always around Evie, but it was very easy for me to put the book down. 

And sometimes it took me days to get back to it. 

Again, it's not a bad book by any stretch of the imagination, but the pace was a bit of a killer for me. Also I thought the book needed an epilogue. I felt the story just stopped and I would have loved to read a little ways down the road, see how life was after what happens. 

Bottom Line: Endlessly was a good closure for Evie's story, it wraps up everything pretty well, the writing  was fun and breezy and cute, like Evie herself. I liked it, but I wasn't as excited about it as I thought I would be. Maybe my expectations were a bit high, but I still think it was a good book and a lovely series. 

Favorite Quote: "Lets go fix up the couch for Lend, then you need to take a shower. You stink like a faerie, all flowers and sunshine and evil manipulation" -Arianna

October 15, 2012

Book Review: Simple Jess by Pamela Morsi

Ebook Cover
At First Sight: Althea Winsloe's first marriage wasn't necessarily bad, but she's not inclined to repeat it -- he father basically left her to live with relatives after he remarried when she was a child and she doesn't want her son, Baby Paisley, to feel unwanted like she did - no matter how much the town wants her to, or how much her mother in law meddles.

But life in the Ozark Mountains isn't easy, and she did inherit a good farm from her late husband, a farm a lot of people want to get their hands on.

Enter Jesse Best - who everyone calls Simple Jess because when he was born he was deprived of oxygen for a few minutes and his mind has always been a little slow as a result.

Jesse doesn't care about the farm, but he does want to get one of Althea's husbands hunting dogs - which she wants to sell as they take too much time and money to care for - so they strike a deal: Althea will give him the dogs if he helps her get the farm ready for winter.

Since this excels even Jesse's wildest dreams, he's happy and eager to work. Althea has her doubts as to if Jesse knows what needs to be done, but as he sees him work, she realizes that he does know a lot of farming, sometimes better than she does.

At the same time, Althea is being pursued by two very different men - Eben and Oather - something Jesse doesn't like even though he isn't sure why.

Second Glance: I read Simple Jess because a couple of friends of mine said it was a good read. I wasn't sure how it was going to work because of Jesse's condition but it totally worked and it was great.

Jesse was such a lovely character, yes his mind is slow but he's smart in is own way. It takes him a while to learn things but once he does he doesn't forget. He's very good natured and sometimes people take advantage of him and talk down to him, so he relies on his brother in law and sister to help him out when he doesn't know something.

Althea was a little harder to like but after a while she starts to make sense, she's stubborn and spoils her son, but she has a good heart and she slowly starts to see through what she has always known about Jesse to the man he really is. She realizes he's a good provider in his own way - he's a good hunter and farmer, and knows right from wrong.

The subplots were a bit distracting - they are about Eben, Oather and Oather's sister Mavis - and I didn't care for them, but they weren't bad - though there was this scene between Eben and Mavis that was hard to read. But I really liked the central part of the story.

Bottom Line: Simple Jess was a surprise story to me but I loved it. It was sweet and the romance was slow growing. Sometimes it was a little too slow and it did make me get a little sad sometimes, but I loved how things ended.
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