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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.
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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.
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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?
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Complicidades

complicidadesBy Jim Parisi 

Eric Clapton once said, “I think of guitar playing as accompaniment. Anything beyond that gets gimmicky”. Apparently, violinist Ricardo Ramirez agrees with Clapton. A member of the Costa Rican Grammy award winning band Editus, Ramirez recently released his first solo endeavor, and I really like the concept of the album. Sr. Ramirez invited fourteen Central American singer/songwriters to bring one of their previously recorded works into the studio, to allow them to experiment with their vocal arrangements. And Ramirez takes care of the rest, the accompaniment. Hence, the title: “Complicidades”.
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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.
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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.

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Why Is Guillermo Anderson Smiling?

Guillermo Anderson

Guillermo Anderson has put Honduran music and culture on the global map. This has not been an overnight event. The singer, guitarist and songwriter has been recording and performing for more than two decades now, operating out of his home town of La Ceiba, on the Caribbean side of his country. He has recorded a dozen albums on the homespun Costa Norte label, owned and operated for the past fifteen years by Max Urso in Tegucigalpa, the capitol of Honduras. It should be noted that each of Anderson’s rcordings have their own, unique sound, a key in demonstrating that like Costa Rica, Honduras also has a versatile, panoramic spectrum of musical styles and genres. Papaya Music, a major recording company in Costa Rica agrees: the produced a greatest hits CD, “Llevarte al Mar” for distribution here on their label.
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Accidental Death in Biarritz

Accidental Death in Biarritz

By Jim Parisi

Peter Ellis is an American investigative reporter living in Paris. He’s in his late 30’s or early 40’s and has garnered an excellent reputation for his literary work, writing under then pseudonym Jean LeBlanc, mainly to protect himself from the victims of his pen. That’s how good he is at not only writing, but investigating as well, turning up dirt on high-profile names who would prefer said dirt to remain under a rock. Read More…


Stonetree Growing in Belize

StonetreeBy Jaime Peligro

Ivan Duran got his first guitar when he was fourteen years old and living in Belize. Within a relatively short amount of time, he had also called Mexico, Spain and Cuba home. Then, in 1995, he returned to Belize with one project in mind: to build a quality recording studio, Stonetree Records, in his home town of Benque Viejo, near the Guatemala border. In fact, he told me in a recent interview that the recording studio “is on the same street where I used to play futbol when I was growing up.”

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Bone Horses Come to Life

Bone HorsesBy Jim Parisi

Halfway through reading Lesley Poling Kempes’ second novel, “Bone Horses”, I realized that there was something drawing me into the storyline besides the wonderful storyline. Yes, I have a place in my heart for the New Mexico region where the novel takes place and Lesley’s writing makes the geography a character in the novel. But that’s not it. I grew up in a small town full of small-town characters similar to Agua Dulce, the fictional town that this novel is centered around. But that’s not it, either.

I finally realized that it is Lesley’s incredible character development that makes her story so tangible and comfortable for the reader to fall into. Every person in this novel has depth: not just the half-dozen main characters, not just the Good Guys and The Bad Guy. Although I must say the authoress did a wonderful job with the Bad Guy.

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