Author Jeanine Kitchel
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A Novel of drugs, Cartels and Survival

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About Wheels up

When Layla Navarro's drug lord uncle is recaptured, she soars to the top of Mexico's most powerful cartel. Challenged by enemies from without and within, she's determined to retain her dominant position in Mexico's criminal world. If she can stay alive.

Self-Publishing Review:

“Kitchel has flipped the script on mobster novels, giving us a strong, nuanced female lead character. Sympathetic drug lords are hard to find, but Kitchel creates one in Layla… Wheels Up is a fast-paced read, reminiscent of sunny South Florida crime novels. Like the novels set in the keys, drinks abound and colorful side characters roam in and out of the narrative… It’s not a lightweight story by any means, but there’s a breeziness mixed with intrigue that makes a perfect summer beach read.” – Greg Rideout

Readers' Favorite:

“Wheels Up by Jeanine Kitchel promises to deliver an adventure about drugs, cartels and survival – and it does. It does not mention on the cover, and is left to the curious and immediately hooked reader to discover that it also comes embellished with compelling and interesting characters – prominent of which is Layla, the new female head of a dominant Mexican cartel, a headstrong, independent, and strangely principled young woman – and a wonderful array of exotic and mostly Yucatan-based locales, with enough adventure packed into its fast-moving pages to satisfy the most ravenous armchair thrill-seeker. The book begins with a drug-loaded airplane crash into the jungle and never relinquishes its momentum after that.” – Joel R. Dennstedt

Artisan Book Review:

“Readers who enjoy fast paced, high energy reads that are based on the insane world of drugs and cartels, will absolutely love Wheels Up: A Novel of Drugs, Cartels and Survival by Jeanine Kitchel. This book is an adventure into the arena of drug sales, drug use and all the mania and drama that goes along with that lifestyle.” – Ella James


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Imagine running away to the Mexican Caribbean and never coming back. That dream became reality for author Jeanine Kitchel and her husband who traveled to the Yucatan and moved there soon after.

The Miami Herald Cancun Edition:

“Kitchel's born love for Mexico, the Mexican people and especially the Yucatán comes through in Where the Sky is Born... Her Mexican adventures will make you turn page after page, and in the end, you'll want to read more.” – Kathy Loretta

A Book Lover's Guide to Mexico, for AfaR:

“Once you are happily installed on a sun-lounger next to the sparkling Caribbean, pick up Where the Sky Is Born: Living in the Land of the Maya by Jeanine Kitchel, a memoir that follows her move to the region from buying a beach house on the then virgin sands of Puerto Morelos to settling into Mexican life. Be warned though: The relaxing tone of her descriptions of life in the Yucatan may make you want to cancel your flight home.” – Susannah Rigg


“Here's another of those 'coming to Mexico to live' books - but with a difference...This is the story about Jeanine Lee Kitchel and her husband, Paul Zappella, who made their first trip to the Yucatan Peninsula in 1985 and fell in love instantly with the place. They had visited various parts of Mexico before that and were quite taken with the country. But the Yucatan beaches were of a different order... On that initial trip they met a contractor who persuaded them to buy a beachfront lot south of Cancun, at that time a fairly new resort city... In my humble O: Look for it. I think you'll like it.” – Allan Cogan

“Where the Sky is Born... leads the reader on an incredible journey to the Yucatán...This book will delight anyone who knows and loves Mexico.” – Ron Mader


Who were the Maya? What motivated them to create ethereal pyramids and intricate calendars? Is December 21, 2012 a paradigm shift or simply resetting the clock?

The People's Guide to Mexico:

“When I first read about the official 2012 fanfare, I thought it sounded like a gimmick, a weak attempt to use a thin premise to bolster flagging tourism...Then I read Maya 2012 Revealed: Demystifying the Prophecy, by Jeanine Kitchel. It turns out that Dec. 21, 2012 is much more significant than I thought and could actually be a really cool time to visit Mayalandia . Beyond that I’m not coughing up any of the book’s secrets; Kitchel does a good job of creating a sense of suspense, and I don’t want to ruin that.

I will say that the book’s three great strengths are its organization, which keeps the reader in suspense (Kitchel delicately avoids weighing in on the key question until the book’s final passages); Kitchel’s sterling objectivity (Kitchel untangles the dearth of 2012 conspiracy theories while delicately avoiding making fun of the 2012-ologists); and Kitchel’s obvious dedication to her subject matter: her voice really comes alive when she talks about Mayan culture... The imminent end of the world still seems unlikely, but if you’re interested in astronomy, astrology, the Maya, or, more specifically, the true significance of Dec. 21, 2012, then Kitchel’s book is well worth your time. A quick yet enlightening read.”– Felissa Rogers

Yucatan Today:

“For anyone who is fascinated by the Maya, this is a must-read book. Kitchel's clear writing style will lead the reader to an understanding of the Maya's profound connection to our galaxy, the Maya calendars, and the truth about the 2012 prophecy.” – Juanita Stein

The Mexico Report:

“Jeanine Kitchel chronicles the history of the Maya in her well-researched book and shows how the ancient Maya answer questions that perplex us in our modern world.” – Susie Albin-Najera


about jeanine


Jeanine Kitchel and her husband Paul Zappella began traveling to the Yucatan Peninsula in the early 80s, searching for adventure. And they found it. What started as lazy beach vacations soon turned into land hunting expeditions fueled by the dream of dropping out and escaping their hectic nine to five lives in San Francisco.

By 1989 they bought land in Puerto Morelos, a fishing village south of Cancun, where they broke ground for their new house. In 1997 they left California behind and drove to Mexico with Max, their cat. Shortly after settling in, they opened Alma Libre Libros, one of only seven bookstores in the state.


By this time, Kitchel had become a serious Mayaphile and her love of the Maya culture led her and her husband to pyramid sites throughout southern Mexico. In the bookstore she entertained a steady stream of customers with their own Maya tales to tell—from archeologists and explorers to tour guides and local experts.


As she settled into life in Mexico, Kitchel, who graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Journalism, began writing travel articles about her adopted homeland and the Maya culture. She has written for The Miami Herald, El Universal/Mexico City, The Herald/Mexico City, Mexico Premiere, Mexico Files,, Sac-Be, The Baja Times, Mexico Connect and Fodors Travel Guides.


Kitchel’s first book, a travel memoir, Where the Sky is Born: Living in the Land of the Maya, is available on Her second book, Maya 2012 Revealed: Demystifying the Prophecy, is also available on Amazon.

For Kitchel’s latest, you can follow her on Blogspot, Pinterest, or Instagram.


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Wheels Up is an expertly crafted work of crime fiction—fast-paced when it needs to be, with gripping detail about the Mexican drug trade and well-drawn characters to match.
— Self-Publishing Review
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