Monday Chat

After 2+ weeks of struggle, I published two books and created a website. I would not recommend trying to work on three projects at the same time. I was stressed to the 9s. My new books are: Panamá Sketches (eBook – a compilation of my Panamá blog posts), and Church Music Service Planning Notebook (print book – for church musicians). These and my other books are now available on my new website: www.SecondHarvestBooks.com.

Behind the Scene in the Boquete Library

Boquete is blessed to have a wonderful library, thanks to a generous doner and others who raised over a million dollars to construct a 3-story facility. It holds the distinction of being one of the few lending libraries in the country. Until coming to Panamá, I thought all libraries loaned out their books. Such is not the case in Panamá. I find this hard to comprehend.

Boquete Library building

There are more than 40 libraries and branches in the country. The largest is the National Library of Panama, a branch of the Ministry of Education’s library system, with over 200,000 volumes. The Biblioteca Pública Morales has 280,000 volumes, while the University of Panama library has over 267,000 volumes. All of these libraries are located in Panamá City. Lastly, the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Balboa has 44,000 volumes.

The Boquete Library has a growing collection of books. As of 2020, the catalog totaled over 26,500 books, with 30% being in English. There are also a few holdings in French, German, and Italian. This library is so much more than books. The intent is to have a place of pleasure and discovery; it is not intended to be a research library. Books are taken to the local schools for children and youth to use.

Children's library

The facilities offer a meeting room and hall for monthly rotating art exhibits, classical music series, and community talks. There are English classes for both children and adults and story times for children. There are computers throughout the library as well as Wi-Fi being available for personal computer use. Books can even be checked out via the Internet and picked up later.

Library shelves

When an architectural design for the library was created, it was modeled as a cross between a lending library and a Barnes and Noble bookstore. This meant the space would be bright and open, allowing for a comfortable and welcoming mode. This has proven to be true, as the number of users and patrons is high for the size of the community.

The Boquete Library is often ranked as the best public library in the country. Residents of Boquete are proud of their library as they should be.

Fact: The Boquete Library was the first lending library in Panamá
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Some Panamá Romance

Laura Ann Neuleo. Messages to Jake. Author published, 2021 Romance          Softcover, ISBN 9781736349205; ebook

The villagers in Almagro worry about Emma living by herself. But between teaching English, the arrival of HIV testing, and monitoring a mysterious path by her house, loneliness isn’t on her mind. Nonetheless, she experiences moments that trigger thoughts of home—in particular, text messages she used to receive intended for a stranger named Jake.

When Emma discovers that Almagro has cell phone reception, she tracks down Jake’s friend via unexpected help from a villager. Meanwhile, Jake, a third-generation American with Panamanian roots, confronts his past and learns about Emma. After failing to get in contact with her, he heads to Panama.

Emma and Jake develop feelings for each other, but Maya, a villager who resents Emma, gets in the way. To complicate things, Jake has a history of leaving, and Maya holds a secret that affects all three of them.

Will Jake leave Almagro because of village conflict? Can Emma and Maya overcome their differences?

Messages to Jake is a novel about love and loss, secrets and trust, and the danger of assumptions. It showcases the beauty and struggles of living in a rural village, and the challenges of health care in a developing country.

Laura Ann Neuleo. Messages to the Mule. Author published, 2021 Romance          Softcover, ISBN 9781736349229; ebook   

With her boyfriend gone, Maya is offered a choice: join a South American drug cartel or risk the cartel entering her village of Almagro. Treacherous months hiking through the jungle and lonely nights sleeping on coconut husk mattresses ensue.

Maya knows the cartel’s weapon is to use relationships as a threat. Despite that, she makes a friend, visits Almagro, and develops feelings for a fellow mule-all while banking on the trustworthiness of those she encounters. Meanwhile, scenes from the past reveal information about Maya’s first love.

While she struggles with loving a new man after having lost another, a revelation happens that could upheave her life as a mule.

Will Maya succeed in keeping her relationships a secret from the cartel? When faced with life and death choices, will she be able to resist leaving Almagro’s residents out of the drug lords’ hands?

Messages to the Mule is a story about forbidden love, the power of choice, and discovering self-worth under oppression.

Two other Panamá fiction works can be found here.

Fact: 7 books about Panamá have sold over 10,000 copies each (see: https://bookauthority.org/books/best-selling-panama-history-books)
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Two for Panamá

What fun to idle away the hours and still stay connected with Panamá. There’s nothing better than to read a good book during the rainy season – or any other time. I have run across two that fit this bill. If you delve into either of these, let me know. I’d love to hear your reactions and might even, with your permission, pass along your thoughts.

Henríquez, Cristina. The World in Half. Riverhead Books, 2014. Novel.
Softcover. ISBN 9781594484391; also available as an ebook

Miraflores has never met her father. Who is he? She returns home to Chicago to care for her mother who suffers from Alzheimer’s. All Miraflores has is an old pile of letters written between her parents. She discovers how much love her parents shared and the fact that her father wanted a daughter more than anything. The story these letters tell is full of conflicts from what her mother has tried to tell her. Miraflores becomes obsessed to know her father. There’s only one way to find out: she must travel to Panamá and find her father. Along the way, Miraflores learns not only about Panamá’s culture but, more importantly, learns more about who she is.

Christina Henríquez has garnered a long list of awards and placement in major magazines. Oprah.com, among several others, chose her as having written one of the best books of the year. She is a graduate of the prestigious Iowa Writers’ Workshop.

Terrenoire, David. Beneath a Panamanian Moon. Minotaur Books, hardcover 2005; ebook 2014. Thriller. ISBN 9781466872264

A private firm advertises for a piano player who is also an expert with guns and explosives. The most qualified person will receive $1,500 a day along with death benefits to his or her next of kin. The US government tags John Harper for this assignment, but he has retired from the incendiary life in favor of a peaceful life with a baby Steinway. But anyone who can handle a Glock and the white and black keys is a rare find. John reluctantly agrees to take the assignment.

The government sends John to a Panamá resort frequented by Colombian cocaine dealers. John needs to play his way into the cartel despite the Colombians wanting not to be found out. They are planning a revolution for New Year’s Eve. Will this be John’s farewell performance with or without an explosive entry into the new year?

Author David Terrenoire is a bit of a mystery man himself. An exhaustive search finds only that he lives in North Carolina with his wife. He has two dogs who, like their owner, are of indeterminate breeding.

Fact: Boquete has the only lending library in the country
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