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A View from the Saddle

Book coverBy Jim Parisi

Over the past twenty years, there has been a cascade of memoirs written by people who have moved to Costa Rica to “live the dream”. The quality of these accounts runs the gamut from very informative and readable to dismally amateurish, and everything in-between.

In April of 2019, Linda Gray published her memoir, “Costa Rica: My View From the Saddle”. She had come to Costa Rica for the first time in 2004 on a visit from Gloucester, MA. Linda actually purchased a two hundred acre finca on that visit, returning to The States to begin closing out her former life, and moving into this new one, which included a horse ranch and horseback tours.

Linda’s new home was in the Diamante Valley, near Dominical, in the Southern Zone, at the edge of the province of San Jose. She immediately began transforming her property into a ranch for horses and, eventually, a horseback tour business, appropriately named Rancho Tranquilo. Linda’s story is a familiar one; a mixture of setbacks and then reminders of why one “takes the plunge”. Her relationship with her horse, Ares, is particularly touching and her accounts of entering the world of “horse people” is inspiring and quite amusing.

For anyone who has lived here, Linda’s descriptions of the hurdles she faced are familiar, something we can all laugh about and relate to. For people considering moving to Costa Rica, her information is invaluable, from both bureaucratic and cultural aspects.

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National Parks of Costa Rica by Gregory Basco and Robin Kazmier

National Parks of Costa Rica coverBy Gary Garrett

When Costa Rica’s first national park was created in 1971 ( Poas Volcano National Park), the country’s deforestation was at an all-time high. In point of fact, even during the 1980’s, Costa Rica was losing its forest cover at a rate higher than any country in the western hemisphere. With international attention focused on Brazil’s disappearing rainforests, the disaster in Costa Rica went largely unnoticed. In 1950, for example, 90% of the of the country was covered in forest. By 1990 that figure was 25%.

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Spanish Pocket Dictionary (Published by Larousse)

Larousse Spanish Pocket DictionaryBy Gary Garrett

You’re saying to yourself “Really? He’s reviewing a dictionary? Alrighty, then.” But seriously folks, a Spanish-English Dictionary can be an invaluable tool for our local English-speaking tourists and those residents that have not honed their Spanish skills as yet. To be sure, there are many available in the US and other English-speaking countries but finding one locally might be a challenge. Here at Jaime Peligro Books and Adventure, we chose what is considered by many to be the best-selling version available today. Published by a 150 year old French publishing company, Larousse, the dictionary comes in 2 handy sizes for pockets, handbags, and backpacks.

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A Photographic Guide To Birds of Costa Rica

By Gary Garrett

Birds of Costa Ricacover Of course the purpose of this guide is to help serious and lay birdwatchers identify and learn the characteristics of bird species most commonly found in the diverse regions of Costa Rica. 252 of the most commonly found birds in Costa Rica are chronicled in this handy, comprehensive, 140 page guide that can easily be carried with you as you explore the fascinating world of our flying friends. Although this represents less than a third of actual species that can be found here, these are the ones you are most likely to observe in your birdwatching travels.

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Lyrical Prose Amid the Mangoes and Hammocks

Hammock under the mangoesBy Jim Parisi

Latin American literature is so old that the rocks were still warm from Creation when it began. It is as mercurial as the first fish you ever caught & then tried to land with only your human hands. Remember that?

It is a style of writing that is as indefinable as that very word itself. And that is a part of what makes Latin American Literature fun, unique, a self-defined art form.

As a North American, most of the literature I have read by Latin American authors has been novels, although I have read some Latin poetry, too. Let me also state that I am a big fan of the short story as an art form, in any language. I like the brevity, the maintenance of structure, the importance & impact of every word.

Jaime Peligro Books and Music
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A Goldfinch in Our Midst

The Goldfinch book coverBy Jim Parisi

Theo Decker is a thirteen-year old New York kid whose father left his mother and him a year earlier. It’s probably for the best, since his dad drank too much so he and his mom had to regularly navigate between his binges and his hangovers. They are in the New York Museum of Modern Art when an explosion rips the building and Theo’s life apart at the same time. His mother, just a hundred feet away, is killed immediately. Amidst the rubble, the dust, the fire and live electric wires, Theo crawls toward an opening, escape. He is given a ring by a dying man, along with instructions about where to deliver it. Theo also takes a small painting by an obscure Dutch painter, Fabritius. His intent is to save the painting from destruction. The painting is titled “The Goldfinch”, which is also the title of the new novel by Donna Tartt.

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The Paris Wife

The Paris Wife bookBy Jim Parisi

Ernest Hemingway’s fiction speaks volumes about the author. There is no mistaking the Hemingway persona and bravado in the main characters (usually named Nick Adams) of every one of his novels. And countless biographies have been penned about Papa in an attempt to analyze the man, the myth, the machismo.

I’ve just finished “The Paris Wife”, an historical fiction by American author Paula McClain. The title refers to Hadley Richardson, Ernest’s first wife. The story is told from Hadley’s point of view, in her voice, which is a unique approach. Hadley Richardson, nine years older than Hemingway, meets the young writer in Chicago in 1920. Within a year, they were wed and departed for Paris and points beyond, including Switzerland, Spain and Italy.

Jaime Peligro Books and Music
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A Musical Journey in Costa Rica

SoluneBy Jim Parisi

Steph Solune is a well-known Costa Rican DJ who incorporates World Music into his mix. Born in France, Solune moved to Costa Rica several years ago. He enjoys taking chances and exploring new realms. He is also a man of diverse ideas. His newest side-project, “Costa Rica: Cuaderno de Viaje – Travel Diary” is Steph’s personal notebook during his travels. It combines Costa Rican images with his own words in book form, along with a musical CD of Costa Rican musicians that represent a broad spectrum of the wealth and breadth of musical genres that this relatively small country has to offer. The musical styles on the disc range from cumbia to reggae and calypso to Guanacastecan folkloric to Garifuna and even some Latin funk. The music offers an interesting geographic panorama that demonstrates the regional sounds of Costa Rica as the book travels from the Pacific Ocean to the Caribbean.

Jaime Peligro Books and Music
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The Girl On the Train

Girl on the train coverBy Jim Parisi 

Paula Hawkins has been a professional journalist for more than fifteen years. She recently published the novel “The Girl On The Train” and it  has become the new “it” novel, heralded as the next “Gone Girl”, last year’s “must read” novel, which I reviewed (positively)  in an earlier edition of The Howler.

Being a bookstore owner, I need to know about these things, these popular new novels, these chance-taking authoresses. Before reading the press and doing my homework, I read the book and independently recognized the similarities with “Gone Girl”, sensed the similarities. Proclaimed them to customers as I read Paula’s book and drew conclusions on my own.

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Coffee as an Ingredient

The Coffee CookbookBy Jim Parisi

It is no mystery that Costa Rica is renowned for its high-quality coffee production. Certainly, the cultivation of this bean has permitted opportunities for independence in this country and enjoying a café with friends and family is as much a part of Costa Rican culture as gallo pinto. Thanks to the publication of a new book, “The Coffee Cookbook”, the status of the coffee bean has been elevated even higher. The book is by authoress Yazmin Ross, with recipes by Camille A. Ratton, who is currently the chef at Restaurante Kalu. I must admit that I never thought of coffee as an ingredient in a recipe, but “The Coffee Cookbook” is so much more than just that.
Jaime Peligro Books and Music
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The Year of the Frog  

Year of the frogBy Jim Parisi

I’ve just finished reading Juls Amor’s recent memoir “The Year of the Frog”, recounting her decision to relocate to Costa Rica. Many people have decided to do the same thing, for a variety of reasons. I have to say that Juls and I have a lot of similarities in our decision to live here. We both gave up lucrative jobs, sold everything and bought a one-way ticket. We also both write under a pseudonym. And we both have family members who think we have gone full-blown crazy to arrive at such a decision.

So while reading her new book, I sensed a series of parallel experiences. Juls’ book opens with a history of her life events that led to her move. She explains during this sequence that the writing is a bit disjointed because that is the way she felt at the time. I appreciated her explanation which helped me make sense of the writing and kind of plowed through it, having faith that it would all become clear. And it does: once Ms Amor arrives in Paradise, the name she uses consistently for the country she has moved to. But it is obvious that her Paradise is Costa Rica. Wink, wink.
Jaime Peligro Books and Music
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Two New Children’s Books in Costa Rica

La Danta, Amaranta, The TapirBy Jim Parisi

Amaranta the tapir lives in Santa Rosa National Park in Guanacaste. She has a keen sense of smell and many friends there. Amaranta falls in love with Flavio, who loves her too. The parrots love teasing and encouraging them.

So begins the newest children’s story “La Danta Amaranta” from Pachanga Kids in San Jose. The story is printed in Spanish and English, side-by-side, as are all the books from this publisher. The illustrations by Fabiana Obando are wonderful, colorful, playful. The storyline gently offers geographic, ecological and historic lessons along the way. For example, did you know that the tapir is a cousin to the rhinoceros, or that it has a trunk like an elephant, hooves similar to those of pigs & hair like a horse?
Jaime Peligro Books and Music
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Sofie’s Solitaires

Sofie's Solitaires coverBy Richard Benson

On my weekly meander through the Quepos Feria I spot something new amidst the unique jewelry offerings at Parroquia’s display. It turns out to be the colorful cover of a children’s picture book, Sofie’s Solitaires, written by local author Helen M. Woodhouse.

Parroquia hands me a poster, which includes a glowing Amazon review and a brief description of the story: “Sofie brings home a cage full of Costa Rican songbirds that are too sad to sing. What will she do to restore their magic song?”

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The Family Freedom Project

The Family Freedom ProjectBy Jim Parisi

Liisa Vexler is a conundrum: she is an engaging mother of two boys, Dexter & Charlie, happily married to their father, Derek. They are a family unit who enjoy doing things together: a classic family unit. I know these people. Liisa is a no-nonsense, down to earth realist. And she has a quick wit, along with a sense of adventure. She takes chances, but calculated ones.

She is also an author, her new book very aptly titled “The Family Freedom Project” and even in that title, the dichotomy comes out. Liisa takes chances.
Jaime Peligro Books and Music
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Remember Me

Remember MeBy Jim Parisi

Donald Ruetz felt as if his dreams had come true. He’d met Cynthia, the woman who was his perfect mate. They’d married and then had two sons, Jack and Justin. He decided to retire two years early as Police Captain of Culver City in Southern California after serving on the force for thirty-two years. He and his family moved to Flamingo Beach in Costa Rica and started their new lives together. Life was blissful in Paradise. And then the unthinkable happened. Donald’s wife and two sons perished, along with a friend and his son, when the plane in which they were flying plunged into the ocean near Catalina Island.

Jaime Peligro Books and Music
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