Tag Archives: Barcelona

#Interviewsintranslation Estrella Cardona Gamio (@EstrellaCG ) and LETTER TO CHARO. Small is beautiful

Hi all:

I’d been promising you more interviews and here is a very special one for me. I loved the novel Carta a Charo when I first read it in Spanish and I was lucky enough to be asked to translate it. Today, I have the pleasure of introducing you to a Spanish writer, Estrella Cardona Gamio, and her novel Letter to Charo.

First, the author tells us a bit about herself.

Author Estrella Cardona Gamio
Author Estrella Cardona Gamio

I have a BA in Fine Arts and I’m an author of novels, stories and children’s tales, I have also been a member of the Spanish Association of Journalists and Correspondents, and I’ve contributed editorials and short tales to different publications. I have also collaborated in radio with my own featured programmes. My first novel was self-published in paper years back, El otro jardín (The Other Garden). In March 2006, I published a book of short stories, La dependienta (The Shop Girl), with a publishing company in Madrid, hybrid publishing. In 1999, my sister, María Concepción, registered the publishing company C. CARDONA GAMIO EDICIONES (that started as an online publishing company that same year). From 2006 we started publishing books in paperback format and from the 28th April 2012 we are on Amazon, in Kindle format, broadening our horizons.

Letter to Charo by Estrella Cardona Gamio. Translated by Olga Núñez Miret
Letter to Charo by Estrella Cardona Gamio. Translated by Olga Núñez Miret

Here are the questions:

  • When and how did you start writing? I started writing novels when I was eight years old, instinctively copying others. I was an avid reader and wanted to imitate the writers I read. It was a game to start with but with time it stopped being one.
  • Describe for us your experience as an independent (self-published) writer: Very satisfying. Like many first-time writers, I went through the litany of sending inquiries to publishing companies and finally when Amazon reached Spain, I found what I was looking for, a serious and honest company. My official baptism of fire in the indie world couldn’t have been better.
  • Is there a moment that you remember with particular affection from your career as a writer, up to now? For me, the experience of writing is already the best of all moments.
  • What made you decide to translate your novel Carta a Charo (now available in English as Letter to Charo)? The fact that the action of this novel, now Letter to Charo, develops through the exchange of letters, between London and Barcelona, and I thought it would be very appropriate to translate it, and as you are an excellent translator (her words, not mine) I approached you with the project.
  • Tell us a bit more about your novel. It’s a novel written with plenty of love and I enjoyed the possibilities the interaction between the protagonists all immersed in the same novel, but so different between them, gave me, as they progressively share with us their thoughts and their personality. Charo’s character is a jewel, a true finding, as without her there would be no novel.
  • Do you have any advice for your writer colleagues (and especially for new writers)? Not to feel disappointed if they are not successful from the very beginning. Writing is a beautiful but thankless profession. We shouldn’t look for millions of sales, or for becoming one of the top ten writers, we should try to write well and not lose our patience in the process. All the writers who persevered triumphed in the end and that’s the important thing.

Here a review, written by a publisher, Marlene Moleon:

“Epistolary novels allow us to get close and personal with the intimacy of a character in a way not possible through any other narrative form. It is like entering the world of a person as she is, without embellishments or interpretations on behalf of the narrator. Estrella Cardona Gamio shows us her mastery of the genre with LETTER TO CHARO.

A short novel where rich human feelings and passions fit perfectly in the short number of pages given.”

Link to Letter to Charo:

http://relinks.me/B01LY90NED

 

Follow Estrella Cardona Gamio:

http://www.ccgediciones.com

http://www.estrellacardonagamio.com/blog

https://www.facebook.com/estrellacardonagamioautora/

https://twitter.com/EstrellaCG/

 

Thanks so much to Estrella for her interview and on my behalf for her words and to her and her sister Concha for the opportunity to translate this great novel, thanks to all of you for reading and don’t forget to like, share, comment and CLICK!

#Bookrecommendations. About Barcelona.

Hi all:

I usually bring you reviews or articles, but this week I’ve been busy with a special project. Those who follow my personal blog will know that a few months ago I started volunteering at a local radio station, Penistone FM.  I’ve got to the point where I’m going to provide my own content for the next programme, tomorrow (26th of January) from 5 to 8 pm (GMT time). You can follow online if you have a chance, here.

I knew I wanted to talk about books, and I thought, being from Barcelona, Spain I could choose some of my favourite books about Barcelona (not necessarily about Barcelona, but where Barcelona plays a big part).

Here are my three favourite. I was going to say in no particular order, but the last one is one of my favourite books of all the books I’ve ever read. From the comments, not everybody is enamoured with the translation, but other people seem to enjoy it. I didn’t dare to review them for you, as I’ve read them either in Spanish or Catalan, and didn’t want to generalise my comments to the translations, that I hadn’t personally checked.

Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruíz Zafón
Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruíz Zafón

The Shadow of the Wind: by Carlos Ruíz Zafón

A stunning literary thriller in the tradition of Umberto Eco. The discovery of a forgotten book leads to a hunt for an elusive author who may or may not still be alive…

Hidden in the heart of the old city of Barcelona is the ‘cemetery of lost books’, a labyrinthine library of obscure and forgotten titles that have long gone out of print. To this library, a man brings his 10-year-old son Daniel one cold morning in 1945. Daniel is allowed to choose one book from the shelves and pulls out ‘La Sombra del Viento’ by Julian Carax.

But as he grows up, several people seem inordinately interested in his find. Then, one night, as he is wandering the old streets once more, Daniel is approached by a figure who reminds him of a character from La Sombra del Viento, a character who turns out to be the devil. This man is tracking down every last copy of Carax’s work in order to burn them. What begins as a case of literary curiosity turns into a race to find out the truth behind the life and death of Julian Carax and to save those he left behind. A page-turning exploration of obsession in literature and love, and the places that obsession can lead.

http://www.amazon.com/Shadow-Wind-Carlos-Ruiz-Zafon/dp/0753820250/

You can check links in the authors’ website:

http://www.carlosruizzafon.co.uk/the-cemetery-of-forgotten-books/the-shadow-of-the-wind/

Here, what Stephen King says about the book:

‘If you thought the gothic novel died with the 19th century, this will change your mind. In Zafón’s hands, every scene seems to come from an early Orson Wells movie. One gorgeous read.’

Cathedral of the Sea. Ildefonso Falcones
Cathedral of the Sea. Ildefonso Falcones

Cathedral of the Sea by Ildefonso Falcones

A masterful epic of love, war, treason, plague, famine, witchcraft, anti-Semitism and the Inquisition.

14th-century Spain, the medieval city of Barcelona is enjoying a golden age of prosperity. Its humblest inhabitants are building, stone by stone, a magnificent church to overlook their harbour. This is the Cathedral of the Sea: a church to be built for the people by the people.
In its shadow, Arnau, a young serf on the run from his feudal lord, struggles to earn his freedom. After famine, plague and thwarted love, Arnau’s fortunes begin to turn when King Pedro makes him a baron as a reward for his courage in battle. But he is also forced to marry Eleonor, a ward of the King whom he does not love. His newfound status excites jealousy from his friends who plot his downfall with devastating consequences. Arnau’s journey from slave to nobleman is the story of a struggle between good and evil that will turn Church against State and brother against brother …

http://www.amazon.com/Cathedral-Sea-Ildefonso-Falcones/dp/0552773972/

And my all time favourite:

In Diamond Square by Mercé Rodoreda
In Diamond Square by Mercé Rodoreda

In Diamond Square by Mercé Rodoreda

Barcelona, early 1930s: Natalia, a pretty shop-girl from the working-class quarter of Gracia, is hesitant when a stranger asks her to dance at the fiesta in Diamond Square. But Joe is charming and forceful, and she takes his hand.

They marry and soon have two children; for Natalia it is an awakening, both good and bad. When Joe decides to breed pigeons, the birds delight his son and daughter – and infuriate his wife. Then the Spanish Civil War erupts, and lays waste to the city and to their simple existence. Natalia remains in Barcelona, struggling to feed her family, while Joe goes to fight the fascists, and one by one his beloved birds fly away.

A highly acclaimed classic that has been translated into more twenty-eight languages, In Diamond Square is the moving, vivid and powerful story of a woman caught up in a convulsive period of history.

http://www.amazon.com/Diamond-Square-Virago-Modern-Classic/dp/1844087379/

Thanks so much for reading, and I hope if you’re planning a visit to Barcelona, or even if you’re not, you check these books. And keep reading! (And listen to my programme if you dare!)

Olga Núñez Miret

@OlgaNM7

http://www.authortranslatorolga.com

http://www.OlgaNM.com

#InterviewsInTranslation ‘Sunrise in Southeast Asia’ by Carmen Grau (@CarmenGrauG ) A traveller and writer Down Under.

Hi all:

As you know I try to bring you writers who mainly publish in Spanish and whose works have been translated to English to help you discover their wonderful offerings. Today, I have the pleasure of bringing you Carmen Grau, a writer from Barcelona (like me) who after travelling widely (and she keeps travelling) now lives in Australia. Therefore the interview title is a bit of a misnomer as she has written it in English, but I thought you’d find it fascinating. And it’s  a topic fairly different to the fiction I usually bring you. If you have children you’ll find her take on children’s education pretty interesting too.

And here, without further ado, I introduce you to Carmen.

Author Carmen Grau
Author Carmen Grau

Biography

Carmen Grau was born and grew up in Barcelona, Spain. She holds a B.A. in English from the University of Barcelona and a B.A. in Liberal Arts from Providence College, R.I. She writes in English, Spanish, and Catalan. She has traveled extensively and lived in different countries like the USA, Singapore, Malaysia, and Australia. In the year 2000 she set out on an unplanned journey around several Southeast Asian countries, and a year later she wrote “Amanecer en el Sudeste Asiático” (Sunrise in Southeast Asia), the number one ebook in all travel categories on Amazon Spain in 2012 and 2013. In 2004, she wrote the novel “Trabajo temporal”. In 2013, she published a second travelogue, “Hacia tierra austral”, which tells her journey on board some of the most legendary trains in the world, from Barcelona, Spain to Perth, Australia. The novel “Nunca dejes de bailar” is her most recent work, published in February 2015. She writes regularly in her blogs: elblogdecarmengrau.blogspot.com, in Spanish, and raisingchildreninfreedom.blogspot.com, in English. Apart from writing and traveling, Carmen has many other passions like cooking, walking, and reading; most of all, spending time with her two unschooled sons, Dave and Alex. She is a child advocate and a firm believer in the right of children to self-education. When not traveling, Carmen and her two sons live in Dunsborough, a small town in the South West of Australia.

When and where did you start writing?

I started writing when I was little. I remember writing my first book when I was eight. I don’t know what happened to it, but I still keep the journals I started when I was ten or eleven. I never stopped, but I did burn some of the later journals so that my siblings would stop wanting to read everything I wrote. I find this very ironic now because they are not interested in reading my books. I don’t mind and we still get along great.

Sunrise in Southeast Asia by Carmen Grau
Sunrise in Southeast Asia by Carmen Grau. Trans. Brendan Riley

Tell us about your experience as an independent writer

I published my first book Amanecer en el Sudeste Asiático (now available in English as Sunrise in Southeast Asia) on Amazon in 2012. I wrote it in 2001, right after my seven-month journey around Southeast Asia. I tried to get it published in Spain with no success. In the meantime, I kept travelling and living life. I also got distracted with marriage and kids. One day it dawned on me that the book had been sitting in a drawer for ten years. I only gave it to read to friends who knew about it and asked for it. One day a writer contacted me. She had heard about my book through a common friend and wanted to read it. She liked it and encouraged me to do something about it. So I decided to try again to get it published in the traditional way. I sent it to over thirty literary agents in Spain. Four of them replied and one said they loved it and would be happy to represent me. However, they did not manage to find me a publisher and blamed it on the current economic crisis in Spain. It was then, at the end of 2011, when I decided to self-publish my book using my small second-hand book business name, Dunsborough Books. The book finally came out in April 2012 and started selling on Amazon straight away. Soon it became number one in all travelling categories on Amazon and has remained at the top since its publication. After that, I was encouraged to keep self-publishing and, of course, writing, which I had never stopped doing. Since then, I have been contacted by traditional publishers who are interested in my work, and I might consider trying this other way, but for the moment I am happy as an independent author and publisher.

Do you have a particular moment about your experience as a writer that you remember with particular affection?

I can’t think of one precise moment. I have lots of anecdotes regarding my readers which I cherish. Once a reader found one of my books on a bench. He picked it up, read it, loved it, and wrote to me to let me know all this. Another time, my sister went to Thailand for a month and she met a couple who started telling her about this great book they had just read. It was my book!

Do you have a favourite genre (as a reader and as a writer)

As a reader, I don’t have a favourite genre, but there are genres I wouldn’t read even if they paid me. I read a lot of non-fiction. I love travel books, but also psychology and science books. And I love reading fiction too, mainly literary fiction. As an author, I aspire to write good quality contemporary fiction and also non-fiction about the things that interest me, like education and travelling.

What made you decide to translate your book? And how did you go about it?

The Spanish version of my first book was so successful that I thought I should try to have it translated into English. Besides, all my English speaking friends asked me for it. At the time, I didn’t think I would have the patience or skill to translate it myself, so I looked for a professional translator. Someone recommended me one that turned out to be quite unprofessional. I saw that straight away, so nothing was lost. Then I did some research myself, through Linkedin. I found a translator that seemed very talented and professional and started working with him. It was a great experience and I will be recommending him to a lot of people.

Any advice for other writers?

Have your book read, proofread and revised by as many people as you can, prior to publication. You’ll be surprised at how disparaging your friends’ opinions will be. In the end, though, you decide what changes to make. Write for yourself, you’re the first one who has to like it. If you like it, many other people will like it too, because you’re not that unique. That’s what I do, anyway.

Links to follow Carmen and read more about her book:

Book in paperback (and you can also get the e-version matched for price if you get the paperback)

https://www.createspace.com/5706521

E-book

mybook.to/SunriseinSoutheastAsia

Carmen’s page in Amazon:

amazon.com/author/carmen-grau

A post by Brendan Riley, the translator, about the book.

https://brendanriley2015.wordpress.com/2015/07/15/sunrise-in-southeast-asia/

Thanks so much to Carmen for telling us about her book and her writing, thanks to all of you for reading, and if you’ve enjoyed it, like, share, comment and CLICK!

#InterviewsinTranslation ‘Havana Jazz Club’ by Lola Mariné (@bcnlola). A love story with plenty of music and a touch of Billie Holliday

Hi all:

As promised, today I bring you an interview. If you remember, I brought you Lola Mariné’s book, Havana Jazz Club when it was in pre-order and being shared in Net Galley for early reviews. Now that it has been published, it’s a great chance to have a chat with the author. First, a little information about her:

Author Lola Mariné
Author Lola Mariné

Lola Mariné is a writer and has a degree in Psychology.

She has taken part in four anthologies of short-stories: Tiempo de Recreo (2008), Dejad que os cuenta algo (2009), Atmósferas (2009) in aid of the Foundation Vicente Ferrer, and Tardes del Laberinto (2011).

Nunca fuimos a Katmandú (We Never Went to Katmandú), her first novel, was published by Viceversa in 2010. Two years later, the author published the e-book herself in Amazon and it became one of the bestselling books in Amazon Spain in 2012.

Gatos por los tejados (Cats on the roof), a book of short stories on varied subjects, was published in 2012 through Amazon.

Habana Jazz Club (Havana Jazz Club) , her second novel, was published in Amazon in 2013 and has been recently translated by AmazonCrossing to English and German.

In 2014 Parnass Publishers launched her book on travel Nepal, cerca de las estrellas (Nepal, close to the stars), also translated to English.

And in 2015 she published a children’s book called Aburrilandia, el país sin libros (Boredomland, the country with no books). She has also recently entered the second Amazon contest for independent books written in Spanish with a thriller El caparazón de la tortuga (The tortoiseshell) that is one of the five finalists. The winner will be announced on the 15th of October.

She is hard at work on a new novel and teaches courses on Creative Writing.

She is the creator of a cultural blog: http://gatosporlostejados.blogspot.com, and has a prominent and active presence in social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter.

And now, the interview:

When did you start writing?

I started writing when I was eight years old, more or less. Before that I would always tell stories out loud that I would invent them as I went along according to the requests of my listeners: love stories, horror, adventures… My audience used to be my friends and the other girls in the same class in school. The nuns (it was a religious school) would always ask me to tell stories to keep the class under control and quiet when we were doing sewing, crafts and those kinds of things.

I wrote my first novel when I was 12.

How have you found your experience as an independent writer?

The truth is that my first novel, Nunca fuimos a Katmandú, was first published in paper through a traditional publishing company (Viceversa). Luckily I hadn’t sold them the digital rights, and a year after its publication I decided to upload it to Amazon. It became a bestseller and it was one of the books that sold more copies in Spain in 2012. That encouraged me to carry on writing and publishing books and up to now I’ve already published seven. The last one, El caparazón de la tortuga, is a finalist in the 2015 Contest for Independent Writers in Spanish organised by Amazon.

Is there a moment you remember with special affection from your experience as a writer?

Without a doubt when I saw my first novel, Nunca fuimos a Katmandú, published. The day when it reached the bookshops we celebrated it with cava, and afterwards we went to visit the biggest bookshops in Barcelona to enjoy seeing it among the new books in the shelves and take pictures. It was one of the happiest days of my life: a dream come true.

There have also been wonderful moments in my interaction with readers: letters, comments, messages that moved me, where they explained to me their thoughts after reading the novel, their feelings and they also told me they admired my work. Writing is a lonely and uncertain job and obtaining that feedback from the readers is the best reward.

What’s your favourite genre (both as a reader and as a writer)?

I like to write the types of books I enjoy reading: basically stories about women, actual, real, what is called Women’s Fiction. Although in fact, among the seven books I’ve read there have appeared other genres; I have written a travel book (also translated to English), a children’s book and even an erotic novel, and now my last novel is a psychological thriller.

What made you decide to translate your book? And how did you find a translator?

Well, in my case it wasn’t my own decision but Amazon’s. They offered (as a publishing company) to translate Habana Jazz Club to English and German. And with that I also reply to your second question: they found me and they took care of everything.

Tell us something about your book

Havana Jazz Club by Lola Mariné
Havana Jazz Club by Lola Mariné

Habana Jazz Club (Havana Jazz Club, in English) is a love story, but it’s not a romantic novel. Love is force that drive the protagonist throughout her life, but it’s not only romantic love, it’s also the love she feels for her family, for her parents, her son, and her friends, and even for somebody who cannot return her love in the same way. It’s a story of fighting against the odds and courage and a little homage to the great Billie Holliday, whose name is shared by the protagonist.

Any advice for your peer writers (especially for new writers)?

The best advice I can give them is that they should be self-critical and humble. A lot has been said about the ego of the writers and probably there’s some truth in that. We all believe we have written the great work of art the world had been waiting for. But there are many and very good writers. If a publishing company (or several) rejects you, it isn’t because they know nothing about literature or they don’t like you; probably your work isn’t as good as it should be. Carry on working and never give up.

Links:

Havana Jazz Club in English: http://mybook.to/Havana

Her bloghttp://gatosporlostejados.blogspot.com.es/

Her books in Amazonhttp://xurl.es/hvsjr

Author page in Amazon: https://www.facebook.com/Lola-Marin%C3%A9-escritora-310677882289530/timeline/?ref=hl

Twitterhttps://twitter.com/bcnlola

I’ve had the pleasure of reading Havana Jazz Club and I leave you my review:

Love doesn’t conquer everything but art is a great consolation

The novel Havana Jazz Club by Lola Mariné narrates the adventures of Billie, a Cuban girl, daughter of a woman who adores jazz and decides to call her Billie as an homage to Billie Holiday, despite everybody telling her that ‘it’s a boy’s name’. Billie inherits her mother’s love for music, particularly jazz music, and luckily for her, that love never disappoints her. Unfortunately, the rest…

I’ve never been to Cuba and I only know about it what I’ve read in books or watched in movies. I wouldn’t dare to comment on how realistic or not the description of Billie’s life before leaving Cuba is, but her home life is endearing and loving and shows us a close and happy family. Although we all know mothers’ are always right, unfortunately Billie ignores her mother’s advice and her mistrust, and marries a boy, who isn’t only handsome but also knows it, Orlando. Billie leaves Cuba and a big chunk of her heart there, and follows her husband, and things don’t work well for them. Billie’s story once they arrive in Spain becomes one of domestic violence and exploitation. And things only go from bad to worse, to the point when she ends up living in the streets of Barcelona, where she is rescued by her guardian angel, Armando. And when things start to look up, the men in her life continue making her miserable. And I won’t tell you anything else because you must read the novel.

Lola Mariné has written a masterful melodrama. There are irredeemable baddies, goodies as sweet as sugar, terrible suffering, and talent and music, plenty of music. There were moments when I couldn’t help reading ahead convinced of what would happen, and that it would be bad, but the same as when we’re dragged by a fast current, I couldn’t do anything else but let myself go and see if I came up, unscathed, at the other side. And despite her trials and tribulations, and the disasters that pepper her journey, or perhaps because of them, the protagonist makes her dreams come true (in a small-scale but…), and creates a family made up of people who love her because she is who she is, and not because she’s been born here or there, or because it is their duty.

The part I enjoyed the most (and I loved it all) was when towards the end, the author, first through Gerardo and later through Billie herself, reflects upon the nature of creativity, about what the really important things in life are, and the tranquillity of feeling happy and comfortable in one’s own skin, without pretending or having to worry about appearances. I hope we can all reach such a state at some point in our lives.

If you enjoy novels with a heart, with unforgettable protagonists, and the stories about self-improvement and personal achievement, I wholeheartedly recommend it to you.

Thanks so much to Lola Mariné for bringing us her novel and answering our questions. Thanks to all for you for reading, and remember to like, share, comment and CLICK!

Olga Núñez Miret

@OlgaNM7

http://OlgaNM.wordpress.com

http://www.OlgaNM.com

 

#Bookreview ‘Havana Jazz Club’ by LolaMariné (@bcnlola) Love doesn’t conquer everything but art is a great consolation. And an opportunity

Hi all:

I have quite a few reviews that I have accumulated and I plan on sharing some in the coming weeks, but I saw an opportunity for other people who love to review books, and also a chance to help a Spanish author whose books I enjoy.

Lola Mariné (here her Amazon page) is from Barcelona too, and although I haven’t met her personally, I’ve had the pleasure of interacting with her on a variety of occasions, mostly in Facebook. Yesterday, through Twitter, she sent me a message to let me know that one of her novels ‘Havana Jazz Club’ that I read a while back and thoroughly enjoyed (although when you read the review you’ll see that enjoy is not perhaps the best word to use, as the book really pulls at one’s heartstrings) had been translated to English (it was chosen by Amazon and they’ve managed the translation) and was now available to reviewers in Net Galley, FREE. I am signed to Net Galley and it’s a great way to get a flavour for new books (both from independent authors and publishing companies, big and small) and yes, it gives one access to books before they are published. Not all the books (some have copyright restrictions and it might depend on where you live if you have access to it or not).

As the book is not going to be officially published until late in August, I thought I’d take the chance to leave you my review for the Spanish version (translated, don’t worry), and would see if any of you who might be signed onto Net Galley could be interested in reviewing it too. I didn’t see any restrictions on the page that is this one:

https://s2.netgalley.com/catalog/book/69985

First I leave you some information about the book and the author.

Havana Jazz Club by Lola Mariné
Havana Jazz Club by Lola Mariné

Description

Translated from Spanish by Rosemary Peele

Like Lady Day, Billie is young when she falls in love for the first time. Lured by her new playboy husband, the beautiful, trusting woman leaves her close-knit and caring family in Cuba to follow him to Spain. Once there, he reveals his true—and violent—nature, and Billie chooses the dangers of the street over the abuses of the man she once loved. Soon she finds herself with trouble to spare and nowhere to turn, but when her voice lands her a spot at the Havana Jazz Club, she discovers a new, unconventional family in a city far from the one she left behind. And with every high note and heartbreak, Billie skirts destiny to write her own song.

A Note From the Publisher

Lola Mariné is a writer, licensed psychologist, and actress. Born in Barcelona, she worked in show business in Madrid for twenty years before returning to her hometown. There, she earned a degree in psychology while teaching theater workshops to children. She has contributed to four anthologies, Tiempo de recreo (Playtime), Dejad que os cuente algo (Let Me Tell You Something), Atmósferas (Atmospheres), and Tardes del laberinto (Evening of the Labyrinth), and wrote Gatos por los tejados (Cats on the Roofs), a collection of short stories. Her first novel, Nunca fuimos a Katmandú (We Never Went to Kathmandu), was published in 2010.
And here, my review (a word of warning. As explained this is a review of the original Spanish book, although considering Amazon has handled the translation I assume it will be good, but I’ve downloaded the book and will try and check as soon as  I can).

Havana Jazz Club by Lola Mariné. Love doesn’t conquer everything but art is a great consolation

The novel Habana Jazz Club by Lola Mariné narrates the adventures of Billie, a Cuban girl, daughter of a woman who adores jazz and decides to call her Billie as an homage to Billie Holiday, despite everybody telling her that ‘it’s a boy’s name’. Billie inherits her mother’s love for music, particularly jazz music, and luckily for her, that love never disappoints her. Unfortunately, the rest…

I’ve never been to Cuba and I only know about it what I’ve read in books or watched in movies. I wouldn’t dare to comment on how realistic or not the description of Billie’s life before leaving Cuba is, but her home life is endearing and loving and shows us a close and happy family. Although we all know mothers’ are always right, unfortunately Billie ignores her mother’s advice and her mistrust, and marries a boy, who isn’t only handsome but also knows it, Orlando. Billie leaves Cuba and a big chunk of her heart there, and follows her husband, and things don’t work well for them. Billie’s story once they arrive in Spain becomes one of domestic violence and exploitation. And things only go from bad to worse, to the point when she ends up living in the streets of Barcelona, where she is rescued by her guardian angel, Armando. And when things start to look up, the men in her life continue making her miserable. And I won’t tell you anything else because you must read the novel.

Lola Mariné has written a masterful melodrama. There are irredeemable baddies, goodies as sweet as sugar, terrible suffering, and talent and music, plenty of music. There were moments when I couldn’t help reading ahead convinced of what would happen, and that it would be bad, but the same as when we’re dragged by a fast current, I couldn’t do anything else but let myself go and see if I came up, unscathed, at the other side. And despite her trials and tribulations, and the disasters that pepper her journey, or perhaps because of them, the protagonist makes her dreams come true (in a small-scale but…), and creates a family made up of people who love her because she is who she is, and not because she’s been born here or there, or because it is their duty.

The part I enjoyed the most (and I loved it all) was when towards the end, the author, first through Gerardo and later through Billie herself, reflects upon the nature of creativity, about what the really important things in life are, and the tranquillity of feeling happy and comfortable in one’s own skin, without pretending or having to worry about appearances. I hope we can all reach such a state at some point in our lives.

If you enjoy novels with a heart, with unforgettable protagonists, and the stories about self-improvement and personal achievement, I wholeheartedly recommend it to you.

Here is the link to the novel in Amazon, but as I said, it’s not published  yet. Although you can pre-order it.

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00U2ZMTZC/

Sorry for not following the usual format but it’s a bit of a novelty. And once the book is out and the author has had a chance to recover, I’ll try to bring her here for an interview. She’s a fascinating woman.

Thanks so much for reading, and you know, if you’re interested, like, share, comment, and CLIC! And if you do, don’t forget to leave a review!

 

Olga Núñez Miret

@OlgaNM7

http://OlgaNM.wordpress.com

http://www.OlgaNM.com

Book Review. The Serpent Papers by Jessica Cornwell @JessACornwell

The Serpent Papers cover 

www.jessicacornwell.com

 

I’m publishing this review slightly ahead of the actual official publication of this novel, (due on the 29th of January) so although I include the link to the pre-order page, I have not included some of the other data as that will not be available until after publication (and I imagine it could change). I suspect it will be quite easy to find, though.

I requested a free copy of this novel from Net Galley when I read the description and saw this was a book about a quest for knowledge, the search for an old manuscript, and the action took place in part in Barcelona. Being from Barcelona and having loved books and reading all my life, it was difficult to resist.

The Serpent Papers is the story of the search for an old illuminated manuscript (a palimpsest to be precise) that has been hidden for years to prevent its destruction. The links of this manuscript with alchemy, an enigmatic figure (Rex Illuminatus confused  at times with the historical figure of Ramon Llull), immortality, witches, and women’s murders make for a complex story. At the heart of the novel there’s a scholar/detective/expert, Anna Verco, who might or might not have some paranormal powers (that might instead be due to organic reasons). Like in many of these books, the search for meaning also becomes an inquiry into the main character and what she stands for.

Cornwell (granddaughter of John le Carré) builds up a complex structure to tell her story. Letters from different periods, accounts of previous attempts at investigating Rex Illuminatus by other experts, interviews of people who knew the victims, dreams and hallucinations…All of them sound and read real, showing a breadth of knowledge and characterization rich and convincing. The language can go from the poetic and lyrical to the mundane and down-to-earth, changing registers with ease.

I loved the little snippets of folk story and legends of the city of Barcelona, the descriptions of the landscape of the island of Mallorca, and the challenges the story poses. It is not an easy read and it can be demanding, both of one’s attention and also of knowledge and deductive capacities. I wondered if a cast of characters for the different eras with some brief descriptions might not make the reading experience easier.

Men using their power and violence to silence women, women being cast as witches as a way of shutting them up, and centuries of attempts at keeping secrets under wraps are not new ideas (at times it made me think of Lars von Trier’s Antichrist although the novel is more complex) but that does not detract from a solid novel that I kept imagining in a big screen near us. I can see actresses fighting over the main character and Barcelona and Mallorca looking very handsome indeed in the adaptation.

I understand this is the first in an ‘alchemical thriller’ trilogy. The appeal and the pull on the imagination of the subject would keep readers coming back for more. Readers who like books about intrigues in a historical setting and with conspiracy theory backgrounds will enjoy it, although I suspect it might be slightly more demanding than previous titles that have become very popular.

In a separate note, I wasn’t sure about the Catalan sentences. There were a number of typos and I couldn’t work out if it was phonetically recorded rather than intended as orthographically correct. More consistency in that aspect would have made the book more seamless for me (that would not be a problem for people not familiar with Catalan).

Just in case you want to check what others have said, here is the Guardian:

http://www.theguardian.com/books/2015/jan/21/the-serpent-papers-jessica-cornwell-review

What the book is about: The search for a palimpsest (a piece of writing, usually ancient, done on top of another writing, a bit like some paintings that have been found to be painted on top of older images) that contains a secret, the people who’ve fought to preserve it and the price they’ve paid.

 Book Highlights: The historical background, the beauty of the descriptions of both Mallorca and Barcelona, the snippets of folk stories and insight into the world of theatre and performances. And the language.

 Challenges of the book: It is a book complex in structure, with different historical periods, different styles of writing and documents, and it keeps you on your toes. It can be dense at times.

 What do you get from it: It made me think, it made me wonder about my own city (Barcelona) and it got me thinking about structure and stylistics.

 What I would have changed if anything: I might have added some timelines and cast of characters in the different eras to aid readers navigate through the ins and outs and of its complex world. (See my above note about the fragments in Catalan in the book).

 Who Would I recommend this book to?: To readers of historical intrigue, lovers of alchemy, puzzles, who don’t mind a bit of a challenge. It also has a complex central female investigator who can “communicate” in interesting ways with books. Not suited if you’re just looking for an easy read or a break.

Ratings:
Realistic Characterization: 3.5/5
Made Me Think: 5/5
Overall enjoyment: 4/5
Readability: 3.5/5
Recommended: 4/5
Overall Rating: 4/5
 

Buy it at:  In pre-order at Amazon
Format & Pricing:
Paperback:  (480 pages) No link available
Kindle:$10.78  

Olga Núñez Miret

@OlgaNM7

http://OlgaNM.wordpress.com

http://www.OlgaNM.com

http://www.amazon.com/The-Serpent-Papers-Trilogy-ebook/dp/B00MELZJM2