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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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Escats

EscatsBy Jim Parisi

Has it really been ten years since the Escats played their first concert? The answer is that it has, indeed, been a decade since the inception of this musical trio and they have grown from a local San Jose bar band with a homegrown following to a nationally recognized group with fans all over the country. The band was formed by Luis Alonso Naranjo, who plays keyboard, sings and writes most of the songs. Kin Rivera is the drummer/percussionist and Felo Contreras, who joined the band two years ago, is the bassist. Both Contreras and Rivera have each recorded more than three hundred songs in the studio and both were nominated for Latin Grammys in 2007. The band has recorded three albums, each receiving more airplay than the prior one. Their first album, “Para Quien Quiera Que Seas…Donde Quiera Que Estes” was released in 2006. Two years later, the band recorded “Para Que Estes En El Concierto”. Their third album, “Manual Practico Del Amor Y Del Desamor” came out in 2010. Thirteen of their songs from these discs have charted on Costa Rican radio. And it is that radio push that has helped to enhance their popularity, helping to broaden their fan base to extend past the Costa Rican borders, and into Panama, Guatemala and El Salvador and north, into Mexico and the United States.

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Costa Rica WOW!

Costa Rica Wow book coverBy Jim Parisi

When Wila the Tapir decides to follow her lifelong dream to become a professional surfer and go to Puerto Viejo to participate in the World Surfing Championship, of course, she invites her two best friends to come with her on the adventure. Her two closest friends are a coati by the name of Otto and a trogon with brilliant plumage by the name of Waldo. And so we have the introduction to “Costa Rica Wow!”, the newest book for young readers by the Costa Rica publishers Pachanga Kids, the sixth in their series.

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Nobel Costa Rica

Nobel Costa RicaBy Jim Parisi

On December 1, 1987, Oscar Arias had been in office as the elected President of Costa Rica for nearly one full year. The Nobel Prize was awarded to Arias that year as well, but on the first day of December, the announcement had been made but the ceremony had yet to take place. On December 1, 1987, Costa Rica was celebrating its thirty-ninth anniversary of democracy. And this is where Seth Rolbein, a young reporter from the United States, begins his book, “Nobel Costa Rica”.

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Nature Unbound in Costa Rica

 Costa Rica Nature UnboundBy Jim Parisi

 The good people at Ojala Publishing have your invitation waiting for you, in the form of their new book, “Fronteras Naturales”, or “Nature Unbound”, a collaborative project by photographers Luciano Capelli, Juan Jose & Sergio Pucci, with underwater images provided by Diego Mejias and Jose Manzilla. The open invitation comes from the book’s writer, Yazmin Ross, as a request for the reader to “empathize with the world and protect its fragile equilibrium”, as she puts it. The subject matter is the National Parks of Costa Rica, beginning with an introduction and brief history of the country’s parks and reserves, from their founding fifty years ago, to the current effort to keep these “ecosystems as unchanged as possible so that future generations may appreciate them without having to having to resort to photographs”. Yazmin has a way with words. And the project is a team contribution. Juan Jose Pucci, for example, is a Costa Rican physician who travels to different national parks on the weekends, photographing landscapes and wildlife that interest him. It is truly his passion. His brother Sergio is the author of two books: “Guanacaste” and “Costa Rica Pura Vida” as well as freelancing throughout the country.

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Terry and His Bottle Tree

Terry McLaughlinBy Jim Parisi 

Terry McLaughlin is full of surprises. He lived in Tamarindo for some time with his wife, Lynn and entertained all over Guanacaste with his harmonica expertise. During that time, he released his CD, “El Gato”, a collection of classic songs, interpreted by Terry with his own, unique style. It’s a kind of a tribute album, which received great acclaim locally.

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Blood of Brothers, Life and War in Nicaragua

Blood BrothersBy Jim Parisi

Nicaraguans are an enduring people. Their history is one of a proud, diverse people who have witnessed a lot of calamity and disaster in their country… and Stephen Kinzer has witnessed a lot of their recent history, first-hand. Kinzer started his career as an independent reporter in Central America in 1976 and continued until 1989. Initially, he found himself roaming from country to country, going wherever there was a hotspot or new scoop. However, he always found himself drawn to Nicaragua, finally returning and developing an earnest interest in its people. This passion led him to accepting a job with the Boston Globe, and on those merits, later with the New York Times, who awarded him a full-time position reporting exclusively in Nicaragua, with an office in Managua – the first of its kind for The Times. 

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Once a Bad Girl, Always a Bad Girl

Bad girlBy Jim Parisi

Mario Vargas Llosa is known for weaving stories like threads into an ultimate, seamless tapestry that far exceeds its individual components. He is also an enigma in that he gained acclaim as a writer while in his birthplace of Peru, became involved in politics there, grew disenchanted and then renounced his Peruvian citizenship. He moved to Spain. But he continues to write about Peru.

I’ve just finished reading his novel, “Bad Girl”, a novel where Llosa unequivocally answers the age-old question, “Which is the weaker sex?” Meet Ricardo Somocurcio, a 1950s Peruvian teenager living in Lima. He falls pathetically in love with “Lily”, who’s just arrived from Chile, with her exotic manner and colloquialisms. She allows Ricardo to hold her hand and no more, calling him “the good boy”. When her Chilean history is exposed as false, she vanishes.

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Historical Album by Guadalupe Urbina

Sones de Tierra CalienteBy Jim Parisi

Born the youngest of ten children in Sardinal, Guanacaste, Guadalupe Urbina demonstrated her interest in folkloric music at a very early age. She sings with passion, veracity, capriciousness and has an incredible range with her voice. She credits her mother as being her mentor and biggest fan as well. Ms. Urbina received her deserved recognition in 1987, when she was invited to participate in the Latin American Music Festival in The Netherlands. From that performance, she was asked to perform at the 1988 Amnesty International Festival in San Jose, along with the likes of Bruce Springsteen, Tracy Chapman, Sting and Peter Gabriel. 

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South of Normal

South of NormalBy Jim Parisi

Norm Schriever used to live in Tamarindo. A couple of times, actually. I met him when he was here for a year, writing a traveler’s memoir, titled “Push-ups in the Prayer Room”, a collection of stories Norm had woven together about his travels around the world a decade earlier. It was also about a young man looking for a humanistic mission in life. I liked it, even gave it a favorable review in The Howler. The book has been put Norm on the map as a credible writer. It also had something of a cathartic effect on him, allowed him to leave something behind as a legacy, positive proof of his existence.

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Brazil Invades the World (Music Market)

Brazilian LoungeBy Jim Parisi

 A few years ago, Putumayo started a vein of Latin music albums that presented a compilation of Hispanic musicians playing modern, “chill” music. The first was titled “Latin Groove”, the second “Latin Lounge”. They were very listenable and great exposure for a bevy of new artists. Putumayo then decided to open the Brazil porthole, with stunning results. In part because the recording company had become versed in their new themes; they became slicker, more adept at their next venture into these realms. But “Brazilian Groove” and “Brazilian Lounge” both also had something else going for them. The musical and conceptual styles seemed to be made for each other. The world noticed, as reflected by sales. Putumayo noticed, too, intrigued by this global response. They released an “Acoustic Brazil” disc that was roundly received.

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Pura Vida, Detroit Style

Pura VidaBy Jim Parisi

Cops grow a tough shell. They have to, I am told, or they’ll never make it. The violence, injustice and dark underside of the human condition that they witness on a regular basis hardens them. Everyone is a suspect. They eat hoagie sandwiches while cracking jokes together at gruesome murder scenes. Take, for example, Detroit homicide detective Jacob Miller: he’s been on the job for thirteen years, seen it all, hell, even his dad was a cop, even if they aren’t speaking to each other any more.

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La Opera Andina

By Jim Parisi

Inspiration comes in a variety of shapes and sizes, in a plethora of locations, at any given time of the day; Jerry Garcia once said it happens “in the strangest of places, if you look at it right”. For Bolivian musician Cristobal Colon, it came as he gazed upon a waterfall deep in the Bolivian jungle. A longtime fan of Jimi Hendrix, he felt a vision, the apparition, the voice of Hendrix telling him that it was time to stop thinking and start creating the opera he had been mentally formulating for some time. In the liner notes, Colon also explains that the Andean Opera “was inspired by the beautiful nature in those too few areas that have not endured the ‘Progress’ of mankind”. 

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A Turtle and a Toad Enter the Pachanga Family

By Jim Parisi

portada-tortugaIn Tortuguero at the break of dawn, a baby turtle cracks through the shell of its egg and begins its perilous trek through prospective predators and other dangers in order to unite with the raging sea that beckons. 

At the dawn of time, according to Bribri legend, there was an only mountain, at the top of which countless toads held up an immense spherical stone that emitted strange noises. The toads, who were all the same color, had been told by their creator that their mission was to protect the stone and keep it from breaking apart. 

These are the openings of the two new bilingual books for young readers from the Costa Rican publishing company Pachanga Kids, their fifth and sixth in the series. 

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