Monday, November 30, 2015

Spotlight - Dead in a Park by B. L. Blair + GIVEAWAY

B.L. Blair is on deck today with the newest installment in the '
Leah Norwood Mystery series:        

TITLE:  Dead in a Park
AUTHOR:    B. L. Blair
INFO:    Fiction, 177 pages 
PUBLISHED:   Amazon, 2015
GENRE:    Romantic Suspense

ABOUT:  When Leah Norwood finds the body of Donald Collins in the city park, she doesn’t know he is a distant relative. Young Donnie was a jewel thief and a career criminal. Hidden in the lining of his suit jacket was an exact replica of a ring that has been in Leah’s family for over a hundred years. After her home is burglarized, the sexy chief of police is convinced the ruby ring has something to do with the murder.

Leah wants to find out what happened to Donnie, but why would someone kill for a hundred year old ring? She discovers a connection between Donnie and the drug-dealing Cantono family, between the Cantono family and a jewelry appraiser, and between the jewelry appraiser and one of her own employees. Chief Griggs might be onto something. All clues lead back to the family ring.

EXCERPT:  Was he murdered?” I asked softly.

Oh, yes. It was murder,” Griggs replied.

The last time I found a body it had never occurred to me that the police would consider me a suspect. As a law-abiding citizen, I had just assumed that people knew I was innocent. My experience with the police showed me I was wrong. I looked at both Griggs and Reddish.
Please tell me you don’t think I killed him.”

Griggs snorted. “No, we don’t think you killed him. He was taller than you, and his neck was broken. No way could you have done that.”

It was fast and neat,” Reddish added and then turned to Griggs. “Probably someone with military or combat training.”

Someone who knows how to kill with their hands,” Griggs said softly.

I swallowed. Candace had shot and killed two people in December and tried to kill me twice. She had been crazy, her behavior unexpected and unpredictable, which had made the situation scary. This sounded worse. A person who was calm and rational murdering someone with their bare hands was chilling. And I couldn’t forget about the weird shoe thing.
Did you find his shoes?”

No,” Griggs replied, turning toward me.

Why would someone want his shoes?”

Who knows? There wasn’t much of a struggle, although there were multiple sets of footprints. But all appeared to be made by people wearing shoes.” He turned away from me and back toward Reddish. “Between Leah and her dog stomping around, I doubt we’ll get any viable footprints.”

Hey,” I said indignantly. Both men ignored me.

Let’s keep the area secure anyway,” Griggs continued. “Send a team out to see if they can find anything. Maybe the shoes will show up somewhere else in the park.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:  B. L. Blair writes simple and sweet romance and mystery/romance stories. Like most authors, she has been writing most of her life and has dozens of books started. She just needs the time to finish them.

She is the author of the Holton Romance Series and the Leah Norwood Mysteries. She enjoys reading books, writing books, and traveling wherever and as often as time and money allows. She is currently working on her latest book set in Texas, where she lives with her family.

Buy Links for Dead in a Park
Amazon / iBooks / B&N / Kobo / Smashwords


B.L. Blair is giving one lucky reader a $20 gift card to either Amazon or Barnes & Noble. Enter below and then be sure to check out the other stops for more info on the books as well as more ways to enter. Good luck!

Tour Stops
November 17: BooksChatter
November 18: Journey of a Bookseller - review
November 19: Jane Reads - review
November 19: T's Stuff
November 20: Fiction Zeal
November 20: Queen of the Night Reviews
November 23: The Reading Addict
November 24: Harps Romance Book Review
November 25: Wendi Zwaduk ~ Romance to Make Your Heart Race
November 25: fuonlyknew
November 27: It's Raining Books
November 30: One Book Shy of a Full Shelf
December 1: Unabridged Andra's
December 2: Laurie's Thoughts and Reviews
December 3: Archaeolibrarian- I dig good books!
December 4: Lisa Haselton's Reviews and Interviews
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~~~~~ Disclaimer:  All opinions expressed on this blog are 100% my own.  I do not receive monetary compensation for my reviews but do utilize affiliate links.  I may receive books in  order to facilitate a review, but this does not guarantee a good review - only a completely honest one.  Each review post denotes how I obtained the book.

Spotlight - Obsidian Worlds by Jason Werbeloff + GIVEAWAY

Today we spotlight Obsidian Worlds by Jason Werbeloff. Starting today, you can download this book Today for only 99 CENTS!

TITLE:   Obsidian Worlds
AUTHOR:    Jason Werbeloff
INFO:    Fiction, 246 pages
GENRE:    Science Fiction/Horror

ABOUT:  Jason Werbeloff’s short stories have been downloaded over 20,000 times. Obsidian Worlds brings together his 11 best-selling sci-fi shorts into a mind-bending philosophical anthology.

In Your Averaged Joe, a man’s headache is large enough to hold the multiverse. Q46F is an obsessive-compulsive android who finds love in a zombie-embroiled apocalypse. The end of the world isn’t all that bad – The Experience Machine will fulfil your every desire (and some you hadn’t considered). A sex bot dares to dream of freedom in Dinner with Flexi. But mind what you eat, because The Photons in the Cheese Are Lost. Don’t fret though: The Cryo Killer guarantees that your death will be painless, or your money back when you’re thawed. Unless, that is, you’re The Man with Two Legs.

Plug into Obsidian Worlds for these and other immersive stories, including the hilarious Time-Traveling Chicken Sexer. Your brain will never be the same again.

EXCERPT:  (from The Cryo Killer):

Inesa and Paul, good to meet you. Who referred you?”

Mr. Camfrey’s wife.”

Paul’s hands are working. Picking at each other. At the cuticles.

Ah yes, I was sorry to hear about his passing.”

I think,” she lowers her voice, “that it was professionally done. Heart attack, I hear.”

I lean forward. “You’d like a similar package, ma’am?”

Paul speaks up for the first time. “Is it quick?”

If I had a penny for every time a client asked me that question. “Painless,” I say, “or your money back.”

Paul harrumphs.

Excellent,” says Inesa, beaming. “You’ve been doing this a while?”

Best in the business,” says Janet, striding over to us. She places a hand on my shoulder. “You’re safe with Barker.”

So, you’re wanting the double package?”

Inesa squeezes her husband’s arm. Every carat on her ring finger catches the sunlight. His nod is miniscule.

Yes,” she replies after a moment.

Those are difficult.” I lean back in my chair, weighing the ring out of the corner of my eye. “Coroner looks closely at doubles. Need a plausible cause of death. Right now all I have in stock are gas leaks and home invasions. Invasions can get messy – brings down the property value. I suggest the gas leak. Although …” I glance at Paul. “Home invasions are on the rise.”

Paul scratches the skin over his knuckles. His lips have taken on a bluish tinge. I’ve seen all manner of manners displayed in the chairs on the other side of my desk. Clients respond to their impending deaths in all sorts of ways. Paul’s reaction isn’t unique.

Gas leak,” says Inesa definitively.

Paul nods, a quick jerk up and down. “When’ll it happen?” He can’t meet my gaze.

I could probably fit you in next week. Any preferences?”

I’m writing an exam on Tuesday,” says Inesa. She looks to Paul, “And I’m sure you’d like to finalize that merger?”

He groans.

Late next week?” she asks.

Let’s see … Janet, check my availability, please.”

Could do Friday next.”

Excellent,” says Inesa.

But …” Paul is fading to a paler blue by the minute. Droplets dot his forehead. “I just can’t live with the thought of this hanging over me for the next ten days. I just …” He swallows. “I just can’t.”

I reach out a hand and touch the man’s shoulder. His golf shirt is saturated. “Not to worry, sir. A memory wipe is included. You’ll never know you were here.” I offer him my warmest smile. Janet calls it the Big Daddy. “In fact, you may’ve been here before, and you wouldn’t know.”

Paul eyeballs me. “Have we been here before?”

I couldn’t tell you.” I wink.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:  Jason Werbeloff is a novelist and philosopher. He loves chocolate and his Labrador, Sunny.He's interested in the nature of social groups, personal identity, freedom, and the nature of the mind. His passion is translating philosophical debate around these topics into works of science fiction, while gorging himself on chocolate.

AmazonAuthor Page – download all of Werbeloff's fiction from Amazon.

Newsletter – subscribe to get 'The Solace Pill' free, as well as VIP access to Werbeloff's latest fiction.

Goodreads – read reviews of Werbeloff’s fiction.

Facebook and Twitter – follow Werbeloff for release date information on upcoming shorts and novels.

Website- read about the author, and the philosophy behind his fiction.

Jason is awarding one lucky reader a $15 gift card to either Amazon or Barnes & Noble. Enter below for your chance and then visit the other stops on the tour for more opportunities to win and learn more about the book. Good luck!

Tour Stops

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~~~~~ Disclaimer:  All opinions expressed on this blog are 100% my own.  I do not receive monetary compensation for my reviews but do utilize affiliate links.  I may receive books in  order to facilitate a review, but this does not guarantee a good review - only a completely honest one.  Each review post denotes how I obtained the book.

GIVEAWAY Ends Tonight! Castles, Customs and Kings: True Tales by Historical Fiction Authors

Ends tonight at midnight PST. Be sure to comment on the original post HERE to get your entry in.

Castles, Customs, and Kings: True Tales by Historical Fiction Authors

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~~~~~ Disclaimer:  All opinions expressed on this blog are 100% my own.  I do not receive monetary compensation for my reviews but do utilize affiliate links.  I may receive books in  order to facilitate a review, but this does not guarantee a good review - only a completely honest one.  Each review post denotes how I obtained the book.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Review - Zenobia: Challenging a Legend by Russ Wallace + GIVEAWAY

Wrapping up his blog tour with Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours is author Russ Wallace. Here today with the second in his new series: Zenobia - Challenging a Legend.

TITLE:    Zenobia: Challenging a Legend
AUTHOR:    Russ Wallace
INFO:    Historical Fiction, 512 pages
PUBLISHED:   Geode Press LLC, 2015
SOURCE:   Received from Publisher for Review

 Sequel to the award-winning Zenobia – Birth of a Legend.

The continuing saga of the deadly young warrior who will one day challenge Rome for the supremacy of her world.
As the dynamic girl continues her education in Egypt, for a time she is diverted from her warrior path. Complicating Zenobia’s life is a budding romance with her brilliant and charismatic instructor. The challenge – he is the scholar, she the warrior. Can they blend their worlds to become the most exciting couple in Alexandria?
Learning of a slave trade in kidnapped young women, Zenobia determines to free the oppressed. Warrior skills will not be enough. Her new challenge – to become a pirate, then a temptress in her fight for justice.

MY TAKE:   I like reading original and creative takes on actual people or events in history. It makes it so much more enjoyable to learn about the past when you can imagine along with the author what the characters may have been like in their personal relationships or situations. 

I was lucky enough to be able to read and thoroughly enjoy both this second book in the series and the first: Zenobia - Birth of a Legend. While you could be satisfied with just reading this book, I found it to be very rewarding to start at the beginning and follow along her journey into the second story. 

Zenobia is another of the historical warrior women who became a legend and a true inspiration to her people. Much has been written and theorized about her. I found this book/series to be a refreshing change from many of the other books as we are introduced to the person she may have been and we see what things may have shaped her and the world around her. 

There is a lot of action, emotion and adventure in this tale along with plenty of historical figures and events. The author has done a fine job of blending fact and fiction to create a lovely story that most any reader will find enjoyable. I highly recommend this series and am looking forward to the next installment.
Out of 5 JEWELS, I give it:

Both books are available now at Amazon


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:   Russ Wallace is an avid student of history and religion. Zenobia, one of the deadliest and most fascinating women of history, comes to life in his series about her. Russ is working on future releases in the Zenobia book series.

Russ and Amy from Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours are giving away a copy of these first two books in the series to one lucky winner. Rules are simple:

~Must be 18 or older to enter.
~Giveaway is open to the US & UK only.
~Only one entry per household.
~All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspect of fraud is decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion. 

Entry is easy, just leave a comment on this post. Drawing will end Saturday, Dec 5, 2015 at 11:59pm PST. 

Be sure to visit the other stops on the tour to learn more about this series.

Blog Tour Schedule
Saturday, November 14 Tour Kick Off & Giveaway at Passages to the Past
Monday, November 16 Character Interview at Boom Baby Reviews
Tuesday, November 17 Review at History From a Woman's Perspective Spotlight at CelticLady's Reviews
Wednesday, November 18 Spotlight & Giveaway at Teddy Rose Book Reviews Plus More Thursday, November 19 Excerpt & Giveaway at Unshelfish
Friday, November 20 Excerpt at Let Them Read Books
Saturday, November 21 Spotlight at Svetlana's Reads and Views
Tuesday, November 24 Excerpt & Giveaway at Room With Books
Thursday, November 26 Excerpt at Just One More Chapter
Friday, November 27 Review at Book Nerd
Saturday, November 28 Review at One Book Shy of a Full Shelf
Sunday, November 29 Interview at One Book Shy of a Full Shelf


Disclaimer: All opinions expressed on this blog are 100% my own. I do not receive monetary compensation for my reviews but do utilize affiliate links. I may receive books in order to facilitate a review, but this does not guarantee a good review - only a completely honest one. Each review post denotes how I obtained the book.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Review - Hidden by Amy McKinley + GIVEAWAY

TITLE:    Hidden
AUTHOR:    Amy McKinley
INFO:    Paranormal Fiction, 243 pages
PUBLISHED:   Champagne Books, 2015
SOURCE:   Received from Publisher for Review 

ABOUT:   Cursed since birth, hunted by gods, and desperate for love—Jade never stood a chance.

Half-demon, half-goddess, Jade’s fate makes her a pawn in an epic battle among the gods. Hidden on Earth with her sisters, she successfully avoids the Oneiroi—the dream gods—bent on her destruction until the prophecy, long dormant, awakens a dark shadow within her.

Roen, a reclusive Worr demon known for his battles against the Oneiroi, is called to protect Jade. Together they must unlock their mysterious connection and find a way to beat back destiny. Can she outsmart the prophecy, change her fate, and find love—even when she learns who is connected to her destruction?


EXCERPT:  Hades kissed his wife, Persephone, one last time before reluctantly relinquishing her above ground, where her mother impatiently waited.

Behave while I’m gone, Hades.” Persephone traced a pink-kissed nail along her husband’s dark jawline.

He was loathe to shave too often as the rough stubble against her skin excited her. “Six months is ridiculously long,” he murmured against her lush lips. “Find a way to meet me at the meadow.”

Mischief danced in her eyes as she stepped onto the boat which would ferry her along the River Styx, leading her out of the Underworld. “It’s a date,” she purred, blowing her husband a sultry kiss.

That woman slays me. He watched until she was out of sight. Once his bride was gone, his attention returned to his beloved Underworld and the current state it was in.

Hades leapt onto his chariot. A resounding crack split the air as he commanded his four black horses to lead him past boiling lava pits and stalagmites to the deepest, fiery pits of the abyss—Tartarus.

Creatures scampered out of his way. Fallen angels and demons went about their business—lest they draw his anger—as he thundered past. Tormented screams echoed off cavernous walls and pools of fiery despair. His pulse roared in his veins. He reveled at what he was about to see…

The Fates’ curse had begun.

Reining his steeds to a halt, he dismounted, his black boots crunching on a mixture of bones and jagged pieces of rock. Amidst the prisons, the things of nightmares tortured imprisoned souls.

A laugh rumbled up from his gut and rolled out. He threw back his head then ran his hands through his black hair, freeing it from its tie. Pers wasn’t here right now, due to his brother, Zeus’s, acquiescence to Demeter.

Hades ignored the slow burn in his chest at the thought of his wife being gone for six long months and focused on the game of persecuting his brother instead, for he knew a thing or two about Aiesa’s offspring that Zeus did not.

An ear-splitting scream rent the air, snapping Hades out of his thoughts. New souls.

He knew who sent them. Although he benefited from so many entering his domain, his brother would not be happy.

What a perfect time to pay Zeus a visit.

MY TAKE:   I must say I really enjoyed this book. From all signs it is the first in a new series and I am very much looking forward to the next installment. 

Mythology has always been something I've liked to read. New twists and additions to the old stories many times just don't cut it. Amy McKinley has created a tale (or series of tales) that seem like they sprang up at the same time with the originals. She blends her "new" characters and threads seamlessly with the "old" and known gods and underlings.

I liked Jade and was fascinated with the back story and the history that the author created for her and the other characters. It was interesting to watch the different factions fight for dominance and control while she was learning to fight for her own control of herself and her own inner "demon/goddess". Roen was definitely our questionable "hero" type without going overboard with it. Their chemistry was well written without being too much or too "vivid".  

As many first stories in a series will do, there is a lot of world building going on. This by no means takes away from Jade and her tale, it actually makes it even more of a great story by leaving the reader wanting much, much more. 
Out of 5 JEWELS, I give it:
Amy McKinley is a freelance writer and author. She lives in Illinois with her husband, their four talented teenagers, and three mischievous cats. Her debut novel, Hidden is the first in the Five Fates Series.  Connect with Amy:

Amy is generously giving away a $20 gift card to either Amazon or Barnes & Noble to one lucky reader. After you enter below, be sure to check in at the other tour stops to learn more about this lovely story and to gain more entries into the drawing. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway
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~~~~~ Disclaimer:  All opinions expressed on this blog are 100% my own.  I do not receive monetary compensation for my reviews but do utilize affiliate links.  I may receive books in  order to facilitate a review, but this does not guarantee a good review - only a completely honest one.  Each review post denotes how I obtained the book.

Spotlight and Excerpt - The Dream of the City by Andres Vidal + GIVEAWAY!

Today's spotlight shines on a new book in the realm of historical fiction:  

The Dream of the City by Andres Vidal

02_The Dream of the City

The Dream of the City by Andrés Vidal

Publication Date: November 24, 2015 Open Road Integrated Media
eBook; 557 Pages
Genre: Historical Fiction
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 Part love story, part chronicle of the modernist years of Barcelona and a society about to change irrevocably, The Dream of the City is an homage to the genius of the Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí (1852-1926)—an exciting historical novel in which we tour the most bohemian parts of Barcelona. In Barcelona, at the beginning of the 20th century, the destinies of two families, the Jufresas and the Navarros, converge: Francesc Jufresa is the head of the bourgeois family which runs the most renowned goldsmith workshop in the city. His daughter, the beautiful Laura, rejects the limited future of a housewife and mother to work with the brilliant Gaudí on the sculptures for the Sagrada Familia. Juan is the head of the Navarros, a poor family whose members must work hard to survive. Dimas, the first born, embodies his father’s hopes and resents the dangerous and ill-paying work of a streetcar mechanic. When the independent Laura and the ambitious Dimas meet, the encounter will change their lives forever.


About the Author

03_Andres Vidal

Andrés Vidal is the pseudonym of Marius Molla. He is the author of two other novels that were successes in Spain: Inheriting the Earth (2010) and The Dream (2012). By training the author is an industrial engineer in Barcelona. Follow Andres Vidal on Facebook.

Blog Tour Schedule

Tuesday, November 24 Spotlight & Giveaway at Unshelfish 
Wednesday, November 25 Excerpt at To Read, or Not to Read 
Friday, November 27 Excerpt & Giveaway at One Book Shy of a Full Shelf 
Monday, November 30 Review at Beth's Book Nook 
Tuesday, December 1 Excerpt at So Many Books, So Little Time 
Thursday, December 3 Spotlight at CelticLady's Reviews 
Friday, December 4 Interview at Dianne Ascroft Blog 
Spotlight & Giveaway at Teddy Rose Book Reviews Plus More 
Monday, December 7 Spotlight at A Literary Vacation 
Monday, December 21 Review at Luxury Reading Review at Just One More Chapter

04_The Dream of the City_Blog Tour Banner_FINAL


Ten years later, the big city, darkened with shadows, passed again before Juan de Navarro's eyes. It was a winter evening in 1914 and the streetlights of the main streets downtown glimmered like fireflies above the cement. Streetcar line 46 was moving toward Horta. The pedestrians were indifferent to the machine that would shoot off the occasional spark. Juan found it impossible to look away from the passing landscape; how it had changed in recent years. In the meantime, the streetcar continued gliding over the iron tracks almost without a rattle. That day, the first of March, was coming to a close, with little light remaining on the horizon where the beautiful, jagged massif of Collserola rose up. Juan remembered then the Sundays in the past when he used to go up there, amid the smooth, slanting limestone and the cane apple trees, to enjoy a picnic in the countryside and the glorious view the location offered. When his family was normal, of course.
A boy with his hands in his pockets and a beret covering the better part of his head smiled at him. Juan returned the gesture with his one still-useful hand. Soon he would arrive at the ancient town of San Martín de Provensals, now a part of Barcelona thanks to the plan thought up by Ildefons Cerdà the century before. When Juan began to think of all the changes he'd seen, he couldn't help but feel that his life was turning in the opposite direction; while the city seemed to know no limits to its growth, he felt smaller and smaller all the time. Since Carmela had left him twenty years back, his life had been in constant collapse.
After passing the intersection of the Avenida Argüelles and Calle Valencia, Juan stood up. Despite his tall stature, it was hard for him to make his way through the people, who were so tightly packed in the streetcar that the cold could scarcely penetrate inside. The ticket taker looked at him askance before his eyes came to rest on a boy who was pressing the fifteen cents for the ticket into his hand. Juan knew very well that the man disapproved of the free access that the veteran drivers conceded him, but he didn't put up a fight.
He approached the conductor's post to say good-bye. Carles had been his coworker until the accident and was also one of the most strident voices among those who clamored for him to receive a pension. Though it never did arrive, at least he could travel for free on the lines where his old friends were in charge.
"See you tomorrow, Carles. And thanks," Juan said, raising his corduroy cap. He uncovered a nest of chestnut hair with a glimmering bald spot at its center.
"See you later, Juan. Tell your son not to come in late. Things are getting rough down in the bays and he doesn't want to end up looking bad."
"I'll tell him, for his sake and mine," he answered.
Dimas was still working in the repair shop. The idea that his son might lose his job gave Juan an empty feeling in the pit of his stomach. While he got lost in these thoughts, his hand caused the coins in his pocket to jingle: six reales he'd been paid in Doña Inmaculada's textile store. From time to time, friends from the neighborhood would send Juan on little errands that served more to keep Juan feeling useful than to earn him money. It had been a while since he'd mentioned these chores to his son. The boy saw it as taking alms, and he wasn't exactly wrong: That day, Juan had made one and a half pesetas carrying packages up and down through the city nearly the entire day, a pittance compared to what he'd made as a conductor ten years back. Moreover, if he did make it to the end of the month, it was only because he didn't pay for the streetcar. No one would hire a man with only one good arm, and his chance for a job was even less with the flood of immigrants constantly flowing into the City of Counts. Juan resigned himself to what the present offered, and that was better than nothing.
With worry accompanying his steps, Juan descended from the streetcar. The stop had been inaugurated only recently, just beside the Sagrada Familia, perennially under construction. His other son, the eight-year-old Guillermo, went to school nearby. When he looked up, he saw the church scaffolding was empty: the workers had already gone home. At that moment he couldn't help but solicit a bit of help from that supreme being who dwelled between the incomplete towers driving into the sky. Juan left behind the vacant lot that surrounded the future basilica and walked along the Calle de Mallorca until he crossed the Calle Igualdad. That was where he lived.
He began his trek up to the top floor, his breathing heavy. At fifty-two years of age, his weary legs couldn't hold up the way they had when he and Carmela first arrived in the city. It had been impossible to make a living in his village, and they had emigrated together. Back home, people spoke of the wonders of Barcelona; they said it was full of opportunities, and it was true that he'd found work as soon as he got there. The misfortunes would come later: The city, like a riled beast, had revealed its ruthless claws.
The wooden steps now creaked beneath his threadbare shoes. There weren't many floors to climb, only four, but Juan had to stop and rest a moment on each landing to catch his breath.
"Father!" Guillermo exclaimed from the hallway. He ran to Juan when he heard the door of their tiny apartment — just two barely furnished rooms — open.
Juan took off his cap and jacket and left them on the rack at the entrance. He kissed Guillermo and asked after Dimas.
"He's in his room," Guillermo said, referring to the bedroom the two brothers shared. "He just got home."
The boy wasn't really Juan's; he belonged to his brother, Raúl, who had suffered the worst consequences of the Tragic Week in 1909. His wife, Georgina, the one the boy owed his blond hair and blue eyes to, had gone along with Raúl during the wave of protests against the conservative government of Antonio Maura between July 26 and August 2. Once again, it had been the poorest of the poor who were called upon to maintain control of the Moroccan Protectorate in the Second Rif War. The war had been a folly of the Spanish administration, still stinging from the loss of Cuba and the Philippines only a few years before.
Men and women raised barricades and faced off against the ruling powers in the streets of Barcelona. The Catholic Church was also affected: convents, churches, and schools were burned to the ground by the hands of an enraged populace. Martial law and a state of war were declared inside the city.
The conflict ended after a fierce repression: more than eighty were dead, nearly two hundred were sent into exile, and seventy life sentences were meted out. The unions and the secular schools were closed down indefinitely. The iron hand tightened its grip on the working class and the more liberal sectors of society.
To Juan, it seemed like it was only yesterday that he'd gone to the police station to pick up Guillermo, then only three, his cheeks red with mourning. From that moment on, the boy had no one but him and Dimas.
"Help me make dinner," said Juan. "That way you can tell me how your day at school went."
Guillermo agreed with a smile and took his place beside him in front of the charcoal stove. Juan didn't want to bother Dimas; he thought he must be very tired from work. He would let them know when he was ready.
With the remaining potatoes and carrots from the pantry, father and son made a soup to be accompanied with a large loaf of bread. Guillermo talked continuously about the lessons he'd been taught that day by Father Flotats and Juan poured the broth into the bowls — with great effort he had learned to get by with his left hand. The little one said he had been the first in the class to be able to add four rows of numbers and that they had given him a prize for his good handwriting. Juan congratulated him. Guillermo's intelligence was nothing new; Juan had watched the boy grow and seen his intelligence flourish much faster than any other child his age. His passion and curiosity reminded Juan of Guillermo's father, Raúl, whose bright-eyed, nonconformist temperament had impelled him to fight for the rights of the working class. How Juan missed his little brother, who had decided to follow in his footsteps and escape the poverty of the village.
"Go get Dimas while I finish setting the table," he told the boy, who obeyed without complaint.
Juan listened to the boy's knuckles rapping the door while he put the spoons and glasses out in the living room. Since Carmela had left them, he had always been the one in charge of cooking and keeping the house in order.
He heard the door closing and sat down at the square table. The tall, wiry shadow of his elder son followed Guillermo. Juan didn't know how he did it, but the boy was the only one capable of touching Dimas's tender side; Dimas was distant with everyone else. When Juan saw his son's angular face, he knew the dinner wouldn't be a calm one. Dimas sat down, forming a triangle with the other two. Juan closed his eyes and gave thanks to God for the food they were about to eat. Only Guillermo said "Amen," while Dimas rolled up his sleeves and began to eat with savor.
With his spoon sunk in the broth, Juan ventured a comment about what his former coworker had said to him in the streetcar.
"Carles tells me things aren't good around there. Is it true?" he asked, a bit unsettled.
Dimas squeezed his lips together. He knew Carles was an old friend of his father's from work, and if they had run into each other, it was because Juan had been out running his goddamned errands. Juan saw the tension in his son's face, but the latter restrained himself, nodding curtly and continuing with the conversation.
"Was there ever a time when they went well?" Dimas asked wearily.
"When I was working ..."
Dimas interrupted him. He spoke with a heavy voice, a bit louder now.
"When you were working, they were already bad. If not, why is your brother dead?" Juan glanced sideways at Guillermo, who went on eating without reacting. "The difference is, you never complained, everything seemed fine to you. ... But it's not! We work more than eleven hours a day and they pay us in scraps." Dimas turned back to his plate, hoping to calm himself down. He carried on with a somewhat calmer tone: "I'm twenty-eight now and I've been working myself to the bone since I was fourteen. And we only have enough for this." He raised his spoon with a sliver of carrot floating inside. "Guillermo is smart and he could go far if he studied, but since we don't have a spare cent to our names, he won't be able to take the examinations for the university, and he'll end up in the bay with me, breaking his back every day to be able to eat potatoes for the rest of his life."
"I won't work in the bays," the boy interrupted, with a convinced air. "Father Flotats says I can be whatever I want to be. So don't worry, I won't go to work with you."
Dimas looked at his brother and fell silent, seeing his face full of innocence. He ruffled his already unkempt hair and answered: "You're right. Sometimes I talk nonsense."
"So it could be you're a little dumb, don't you think?" the child said with a roguish smile, leaving Dimas no option but to smile back.
"A little bit, he is," Juan added, jovial now as well. And he cut a large slice of bread for each of them and considered the argument ended.
Guillermo was right, his father thought. Dimas wasn't a bad kid, but he was fed up. For years Juan had tried to instill in his son the virtues of respect, love of hard work, and the importance of a steady job, and though he knew without a doubt that these principles had stuck, he often noticed that the young man seemed to live in a permanent state of dissatisfaction. It reminded him of how he was as a young man, when he refused to stick it out in the village and ignored the protests of his family, rebelling at the thought of carrying on with his existence in that hovel far from any progress or opportunity to prosper.
But now everything was different, or that's what Juan believed. In his eyes, Dimas had never known real hunger, real misery, and maybe he didn't appreciate what he had.

Regardless, it was undeniable was that he found his son's perennial dissatisfaction discomfiting. It reminded him of Raúl, and he was afraid that Dimas would one day follow in his brother's footsteps and do something crazy, ending up as Raúl did . Keeping the smile on his face, Juan grasped his spoon more forcefully. He refused to think that something bad could occur that would disturb the security of their already fragile home.


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