Category Archives: Gina Ruiz

Google Play & Xicano Literature

There was a Google + post this morning by one of my social media friends, Elianna Murillo regarding Hispanic Heritage Month and Google Play’s Latino books on discount in celebration thereof.  Me being me, I was excited and clicked.  All of a sudden that excitement was replaced by anger.  Why was Sandra Cisnero’s House on Mango Street the only recognizable Chicano/a book on this list?  I grew up in the dawning of Xicano/a lit and I didn’t see ANY of my literary heroes.  Only one book of the many that inspired me, that showed me that I too could be an author, that my voice was important?  Hijole, el corraje!

I posted a reply asking why weren’t my authors listed.  I didn’t expect a reply and decided to rally myself for a fight.  I was going to round up and get some kind of a protest going..or something.  I am nothing, if not a peleoñera, except that I didn’t have to fight for it.  In an amazingly quick and responsive show of why Google is so darned scary successful, they listened.  Elianna replied to me within a half hour (seriously) with this…

Screen Shot 2013-10-13 at 11.45.05 AM


Skeptical, I went over to Google Play and typed in Ana Castillo. Wow! Then Lucha Corpi, Luis Alberto Urrea, Luis J. Rodriguez, Denise Chavez, etc. I kept pulling up pages and pages of beautiful Chicano literature. This is a treasure!

So though I rarely advertise on AmoXcalli and that is in fact, against my policy, head over to Google Play. If you can’t buy the books, please, please please Plus 1 them, post on your networks and share, share, share. We matter. Our books matter. This is our history, our culture and our heart. These are our heroes. Let’s let Google know we care about our authors and that we appreciate them listening and getting these books in.

Good Night Captain Mama


Good Night Captain Mama
Graciela Tiscareno-Sato (Author) , Linda Lens (Illustrator)
Publisher: Gracefully Global Group LLC; Bilingual edition (June 4, 2013)
ISBN-10: 0983476039
ISBN-13: 978-0983476030

I typically don’t review self-published books at all.  I have my reasons and the main one is that I’m just not keeping up with regular reviews like I used to.  To open myself up to a deluge of self-published or indie books is frankly something I can’t afford to do.  That said, I do make the occasional exception.  GOOD NIGHT CAPTAIN MAMA is one.

Why am I making an exception?  I’m doing this because I think this little gem is a very important book in a lot of ways.  I do have some critiques, but whatever the book’s problems it remains important.

GOOD NIGHT CAPTAIN MAMA is the story of a mother and child.  The mother is in the military and is explaining to the child what her various badges on her flight suit mean.  The mother is a Latina, a woman in a typically male industry and in a position of authority in what would also be a typical role that a man would fill.  That’s why the book is important.  Mama isn’t in the kitchen rolling out tortillas, or in the store shopping – it’s her son’s bedtime and instead of settling down for the night herself, she’s preparing to go on a mission.

So much of what we read and see about Latina women is stereotypical.  You’d think it was still the 1950s for how we are portrayed.  If we’re not cleaning a house, we’re either beauty queens or something a lot less savory.  I can’t remember a time where I’ve EVER read about a Latina Captain before.  That’s huge.  It shows Latino children that they can aspire to something more, be more.  Young women and girls will have role models that do more than shake their behinds and sing.

As mentioned above, I did have a few small problems with the book.  The author did a good job with description, but I would have liked to see more story and less show and tell.  It could have been absolutely riveting with a stronger story and I do think the author is capable of that.  She has a story to tell, a good one and she does it, though a little matter of fact and instructional.  I think given time, she will become more polished in her storytelling, more experienced and confident in her voice.  I’d love to see more Captain Mama stories in the future.  It would be a tremendous series and one of great value. I think our children need these books and Captain Mama is a wonderful character with tons of potential.

All in all, GOODNIGHT CAPTAIN MAMA is a must-have for any child, especially girls or children with parents in the military.  The book is bilingual (English and Spanish) with lovely illustrations and I think it should be in every library and school.

This review is part of the Condor Book Tour with the following participating blogs:

?    Mon July 1st NW Prime Radio Live Interview at 11am Pacific!
?    Tues July 2 Knitting and Sundries
?    Wed July 3 Latina Book Club
?    Thurs July 4 Mommy Maestra & NBC Latino
?    Fri July 5 Amoxcalli
?    *Mamiverse publish date TBD

You can purchase CAPTAIN MAMA on

Suggested hashtag: #captmama

About the Author

This book was inspired by a conversation the author had with her son the night before a Veterans Day event at his preschool. As Graciela donned her uniform, her son entered the room on his way to bed when he spotted her in her “costume.” His curiosity and the questions he asked led Graciela to write the first draft of the manuscript that same night.

Graciela Tiscareño-Sato is a graduate of the University of California at Berkeley. She completed the Aerospace Studies program as an AFROTC (Air Force Reserve Officer Training Program) scholarship cadet while earning her degree in Architecture and Environmental Design. During her active duty career in the U.S. Air Force, she deployed to four continents and dozens of countries as aircrew member, instructor and contingency planning officer. Flying many combat sorties over Southern Iraq in the NO FLY Zone after Operation Desert Storm earned her crew the prestigious Air Medal on her first deployment. She served with a NATO Battle staff in Vicenza, Italy, as a military liaison officer at the U.S. Embassy in Quito, Ecuador and much more. She earned a Master degree in International Management from the School of Global Commerce at Whitworth University in Spokane, Washington before leaving active service.

After an international marketing management career with Siemens, she created her global marketing and publishing firm, Gracefully Global Group, LLC. In November 2010, she received “Entrepreneur of the Year” honors at the LATINAStyle Magazine Gala in Washington D.C. Graciela actively mentors students who need education and career roadmaps, a central focus of her four-time award-winning book, Latinnovating. She is a sought-after keynote speaker, workshop leader (personal branding for military veterans) and lecturer in classrooms, business schools, corporate events and conferences around the nation. Graciela and her family live in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Scholastic Discover More: World War II


Scholastic Discover More: World War II
Author: Sean Callery
Publisher: Scholastic Reference (March 1, 2013)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0545479754
ISBN-13: 978-0545479752

I’m quickly learning to love the Scholastic Discover More series of books. The grandchildren love them and for me, they are a wealth of information.

In World War II, a visual history of the world’s darkest days, there are plenty of full color photographs, as well as some stunning black and whites and infographic type pages laid out in a way that is appealing to most children. Also provided is a free digital companion book that kids and parents can access either on Mac or PC through Scholastic’s Discover More website. Continue reading

The Originals


The Originals
Author: Cat Patrick
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers (May 7, 2013)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0316219436
ISBN-13: 978-0316219433

Trust Cat Patrick to write something wild and crazy, told in the most normal of voices.  I first came into contact with her work when I read Revived and was completely blown away.  When I saw The Originals, I knew I just had to read it.  I wasn’t disappointed.  The Originals tells the story of three sisters who are not triplets…they are clones.  Because their scientist/geneticist mother is on the lam and the FBI is searching for girls of their age masquerading as triplets, they are forced to live a sort of half-life; rather a third of a life.  Each girl takes a part of the day and has to be careful in how they wear their hair, clothes, etc.  One heads to school in the morning, then rushes home at lunch to switch.  The third sister takes over the evening.  Occasionally, they switch to accommodate illness or other issues.  Needless to say, it’s kind of nuts, but they take it in stride. Continue reading

The Cats of Tanglewood Forest


The Cats of Tanglewood Forest
Charles de Lint (Author), Charles Vess (Illustrator)
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0316053570
ISBN-13: 978-0316053570

The Cats of Tanglewood Forest is a fairytale that reads like those old epic stories that tell of someone seemingly ordinary, but who has an extraordinarily kind heart. In the old stories, that was your hero who went on a long quest, filled with adventure, mystery and danger. At the heart of this tale is Lillian, a red-headed girl who loves to run and play in the forest, seeking out fairies and daydreaming under trees. She’s close to the earth and her kindness shows. She has respect for nature, respect for magic and is a lover of tales. You immediately love her and are drawn into her world with the beautiful writing of Charles de Lint, an expert at telling tales. His words paint a vivid and marvelous world full of magic. Charles Vess’ artwork, as always is dreamy, lush and gorgeous. His colors and brushstrokes pull you farther into this world that seems so real. The story makes you feel at home and it also takes you back into your childhood, reminding you of those hours you spent curled up with an old fairytale adventure, being transported into that world. Continue reading

The Emperor of All Things

Author: Paul Witcover
Publisher: Random House UK, Transworld Publishers
Bantam Press

Book Description from the publisher:
Tempus Rerum Imperator: Time, Emperor of All Things

1758. England is embroiled in a globe-spanning conflict that stretches from her North American colonies to Europe and beyond. Across the Channel, the French prepare for an invasion ? an invasion rumored to be led by none other than Bonnie Prince Charlie. It seems the map of Europe is about to be redrawn. Yet behind these dramatic scenes, another war is raging – a war that will determine not just the fate of nations but of humanity itself…

Daniel Quare is a journeyman in an ancient guild, The Worshipful Company of Clockmakers. He is also a Regulator, part of an elite network within the guild devoted to searching out and claiming for England’s exclusive use any horological innovation that could give them an upperhand, whether in business or in war.

Just such a mission has brought Quare to the London townhouse of eccentric collector, Lord Wichcote. He seeks a pocket watch rumoured to possess seemingly impossible properties that are more to do with magic than with any science familiar to Quare or to his superiors. And the strange
timepiece has attracted the attention of others as well: the mysterious masked thief known only as Grimalkin, and a deadly French spy who stop at nothing to bring the prize back to his masters. Soon Quare finds himself on a dangerous trail of intrigue and murder that leads far from the world he knows into an otherwhere of dragons and demigods, in which nothing is as it seems . . . time least of all.


Be prepared for lush, evocative language that makes you want to linger on the page, hesitant to turn to the next just so you can savor it. Paul Witcover’s prose is poetic and beautiful. I fell so deeply in love with the language, with the construction of his sentences that I almost forgot to read the story. Almost. There is a STORY here. A great one really. One that has you as riveted and extraordinarily fascinated with the workings of clocks.

“The ticking of so many timepieces, no two synchronized, filled the space with a facsimile of whispered conversation, as if some ghostly parliament were meeting in the dead of night.”

The fantastical England Wicote writes of is completely wonderful, an 18th century England that you completely believe in. You could swear you read about the Worshipful Company of Clockmakers in a long-forgotten history book and you’ll be scratching your head wondering just where. It is the kind of book that grabs you and makes you a part of its world. It’s clever, intricate and maddening in its twists and turns, as mazelike as the tunnels Quare is led through under the streets. Continue reading

Battlefields of Honor: American Civil War Reenactors


  • Author: Mark Elson
  • Hardcover: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Merrell Publishers (September 18, 2012)
  • ISBN-10: 185894578X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1858945781

If not for the title of the book, I would have thought I was gazing into the richly colored past, such are the quality and beauty of the photographs. The photographs and narrative are wonderful and provide  a fascinating look inside the world of civil war reenactors.  To be honest, I’d never thought much about them and if I had, I’d probably have wondered why they bothered.  BATTLEFIELDS OF HONOR answers that question in great detail.  It’s amazing the amount of care and attention to detail that go into the costumes, weapons, everything.  Prodigious amounts of research on the part of the reenactors go a long way to preserving our history and one can’t help but admire their deep dedication.

The photography is simply stunning.  There are wet plate photographs that look like they came from another time; full color photos that show the gorgeous textures of the fabrics and details to the costumes; and black and white or sepia toned photos and show so much emotion in a face.  I spent a couple of weeks just poring over the photos and often found myself swept away by the power of them.  This book is more than just photo-essays, it is a trip back into time and an incredible view of history.

Civil War buffs will adore the book; but it is really a wonderful book for anyone that loves history or photography or art.  I think it is a great teaching tool for children as well and one that will get them asking questions and wanting to learn more.  Highly recommended!


About the author:

Mark Elson is a Los Angeles-based photographer and filmmaker who specializes in wet plate photography. He attended the College for Creative Studies (formerly the Center for Creative Studies) in Detroit, Michigan, and the American Film Institute in Los Angeles, California. He has been a lifelong student of the American Civil War.

To view more of Mark’s photography and read his blog visit:

Disclosure:  A free copy of this book was furnished by the publisher for review, but providing a copy did not guarantee a review. This information is provided per the regulations of the Federal Trade Commission.


Peaches for Father Francis

Peaches for Father Francis
Author: Joanne Harris
Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
Imprint: Viking USA
Pub Date: October 02, 2012
ISBN: 9780670026364

One of the things I love about Joann Harris’ novels is her skill with language. It is lovely, almost like a poem or a song. Her words skate gracefully along the edges of hyperbole in such an elegant way that it is evocative without being cheesy. Not every writer can manage that so well. PEACHES FOR FATHER FRANCIS embodies this skill and grace of writing. Beyond her flair and style with the written word, Ms. Harris is a master storyteller.

PEACHES FOR FATHER FRANCIS brings back our characters from her popular CHOCOLAT: Vianne, Roux, and the villagers are all back with new characters. The village has changed, the wind that blew Vianne away to Paris has now taken a turn bringing her news from the grave. She and her daughters, Anouk and Rosette return to a town in trouble and steeped in mystery. Along the river there has sprung a Muslim neighborhood and the differences have made the town settle into two camps – us and them. Father Francis, Vianne’s old nemesis, now finds himself seeking her help. Her beloved Roux stays behind in Paris, not wanting to return to the village.

Things are not always as they seem in this story. Could Vianne’s man Roux have fathered the little boy her daughter Rosette is fast becoming friends with? Why is her old friend so reluctant to see her? What is she hiding? What is the story of the girl on the bridge? Is she losing Roux?

Joanne Harris writes so eloquently about the every day living, racial tensions and misunderstandings that can occur in even the most magical of towns. How her characters learn and grow from conflict is always enlightening and courageous. I love most of all her lovely turn of phrase, how she makes us live, breathe and feel each character. She makes me almost smell the peaches cooking for jam mixed with the scent of the river Tannes. I can hear the children laughing and the whispers of secrets that haunt the village of Lansquenet. PEACHES FOR FATHER FRANCIS is a marvelous follow up to her previous novels about Vianne Rocher. It is a story of homecoming and resolution.

About the Author

Joanne Harris is the author of the Whitbread Award-nominated Chocolat (made into an Oscar-nominated film starring Juliette Binoche and Johnny Depp) and seven other bestselling novels. She plays bass guitar in a band first formed when she was 16, is currently studying Old Norse, and lives with her husband and daughter in Yorkshire.

Disclosure:  A free copy of this book was furnished by the publisher for review via NetGalley, but providing a copy did not guarantee a review. This information is provided per the regulations of the Federal Trade Commission.

Children’s Books Roundup for 7/28/2012

The grandkids and I have been doing a lot of reading this summer and we have some recommendations for you from our Random House Children’s Books stack. We’re great fans of RHCB because of the great writing, print quality and storytelling. Some of them are new books from favorite authors and others are completely new to us. We hope you will find these books equally appealing. Don’t forget that the Cybils nominations are coming up in October, so make your notations, we’re sure some of these will make the noms.


Reading level: Ages 3 and up
Hardcover: 32 pages
Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers (May 22, 2012)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0375870148
ISBN-13: 978-0375870149

Our family fell in love with the first Ollie & Moon book, so we were excited about this one. We love the great photos and the silly antics of Ollie and Moon, who are the best of friends. In this latest story, Ollie & Moon roam New York City. The full color photographs of Central Park, Chinatown and other landmarks are a stunning backdrop for the animated and comic figures of Ollie & Moon. It’s a great way to teach your kids about the city. The story is funny as are all the Ollie & Moon stories. It’s silly and wonderful with all the qualities of a cartoon, which is not surprising since the author is an animator and Emmy-award winning artist.

About the Authors

DIANE KREDENSOR’s grown-up years have been spent pursuing a successful career in animation. She still hasn’t grown up all the way, for which she’s proud. Diane is an Emmy Award-winning artist for her work on Pinky and the Brain, Clifford the Big Red Dog, and WordWorld, to name a few. This is her second children’s book with Random House. Diane happily lives in Brooklyn, New York, with her partner, their son, and two cats who bear a passing resemblance to Ollie and Moon. Visit Diane at

MIKE MESKIN is a Mac wizard who happens to shoot lovely photographs in his spare time. He lives in New York with his wife and son. Continue reading

The Book of Madness and Cures

The Book of Madness and Cures
Author: Regina O’Melveny
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Imprint: Little, Brown and Company
Pub Date: April 03, 2012
ISBN: 9780316195836

Take a trip to 16th century Venice with Regina O’Melveny’s marvelous book, THE BOOK OF MADNESS AND CURES. In it, we follow Gabriella Mondini, a complicated and dedicated doctor in a world dominated by men. Gabriella’s father has disappeared and the doctors of the town have stripped her of her right to practice medicine so Gabriella makes a life changing decision. She will set out into the world, accompanied by her servants and find her father. The book follows her incredible travels through a world vividly depicted by the author who brings the 16th century to life.

I adored this book and loved Gabriella. She’s determined, feisty, unconventional and very real. She has her flaws as we all do and those infuriating little things make her so believable. I loved the idea of a woman traveling through Europe, essentially alone in a time dangerous for a woman alone. The people she meets along the way and the things she learns make it an incredibly interesting read. At one point, she finds a village of only men – they have burned all the women as witches. Making a narrow escape, she continues on her way finding out more about her father and contributing more to their mutual work – a book about cures.
The language of the 16th century is cleverly woven into the story as Gabriella reads or writes in the book. Strange cures and herbal remedies make it even more fascinating as well as adding to the mystery of Gabriella’s father. There is a love story too, almost as a side note but still deeply important. As she travels farther and farther from home, Gabriella learns more about her father, her family and herself. This is a journey of discovery.

Highly recommended. This book is unusual, fascinating, at times haunting and simply wonderful.

Suggested hashtags: #amoxcallireviews #books #historicalfiction #bookreviews

Book description from the publisher:

Gabriella Mondini is a rarity in 16th century Venice: a woman who practices medicine. Her father, a renowned physician, has provided her entrée to this all-male profession, and inspired in her a shared mission to understand the secrets of the human body.??Then her father disappears and Gabriella faces a crisis: she is no longer permitted to treat her patients, women who need her desperately, without her father’s patronage. She sets out across Europe to find where-and why-he has gone. Following clues from his occasional enigmatic letters, Gabriella crosses Switzerland, Germany and France, entering strange and forbidding cities. She travels to Scotland, the Netherlands, and finally to Morocco. In each new land she probes the mystery of her father’s flight, and opens new mysteries of her own. Not just mysteries of ailments and treatments, but ultimate mysteries of mortality, love, and the timeless human spirit.??Filled with medical lore and sensuous, vivid details of Renaissance life, THE BOOK OF MADNESS AND CURES is an intoxicating and unforgettable debut.

About the author:

Regina O’Melveny’s poetry has been published widely in literary journals, garnering several prizes.  She grew up at the edge of pungent chaparral in La Mesa, California, and chose to enroll at Callison College–a school of International Studies at the University of the Pacific–almost solely based upon the fact that the second year would be spent in India.  Thus began her many extended travels that would later inspire The Book of Madness and Cures, her first novel.  She lives in Rancho Palos Verdes, California.

Disclosure:  A free copy of this book was furnished by the publisher for review via NetGalley, but providing a copy did not guarantee a review. This information is provided per the regulations of the Federal Trade Commission.