12 Books in 12 Months

writing books and blogging about it



The House of Order by John Paul Jaramillo

I don’t know if you read a lot of books in PDF format, but it’s not the greatest fun you’ll ever have.  Fortunately for my eyes, The House of Order by John Paul Jaramillo is only 106 pages of screen time – and the characters have worse things to deal with than dry contact lenses.

You see, I am taking part in my first Blog Tour – where a whole load of bloggers read a book by a new author and write about it in the hope of generating buzz like some kind of Samantha Brick article – and there wasn’t really time to get a hard copy sent over from the USA in time to read it.

The book is very American, which is probably only noteworthy if, like me, you’re not from round there.  It is set in Colorado and New Mexico and offers little snapshots of the lives of the Ortiz family.  This debut story collection is not exactly a happy book – the characters deal with addiction, broken relationships, abuse and poverty.  However, they do not deal with their problems in a dramatic or heartbreaking manner, instead they do it  like real human people – by simply getting on with it.  There is no sense of “oh poor me” from any of the narrators, there are no pleas for sympathy and there is no moral message.  It’s just like hey, this is the way it is.  Sucks to be you, Ernesto Ortiz.

The narrator, Manito, alternates between telling past stories of various family members and describing the present.  There’s an element of detachment as he documents the history of his family – Manito rarely seems to pass judgement, he just explains this is what he said, that’s what he said – yet you do feel a sense of injustice at the way people (particularly kids and women) are treated.

Certain themes reoccur, including domestic violence and rogue uncles (Manito’s Uncle Neto, who gets a pretty raw deal from his own dad, follows his own uncle Mitedio into a life of crime).  There are also a lot of italicised Spanish words peppered throughout, which is a fun way to expand your vocabulary.

(Disclaimer: at first I found this distracting – I kept stopping to look them up, just to make sure I was understanding the relationships between people properly.  I now know that Abuelita is both a Mexican brand of chocolate and an affectionate nickname meaning ‘little grandmother’ or ‘granny’, that Tio can be uncle, bloke or pal, jefita is generally an endearing term for an important female (eg your mum) and that cabron or cabrone can either be an asshole or a cuckold.)

John Paul Jaramillo

This book is a good read for people interested in social history, those who want to learn a bit more about the 99 percent and anyone that likes peeking into other people’s lives for a few pages.  However if you want lots of plot, or something that will cheer you up, perhaps save it for another day.

For my money, The House of Order is well written, evocative, and definitely worth a look.  Still, don’t take my word for it – as discussed the book is on tour at the moment, so you can stop by Live to Read, Inrugian Chronicles, Books Books the Magical Fruit and Linus & Bubba Books to get a few more perspectives.  And if that floats your boat, you can then enter a competition to win a signed copy… See below for details!

Novel Publicity Blog Tour Notes:
Wanna win a $50 gift card or an autographed copy of The House of Order? Well, there are two ways to enter…

  1. Leave a comment on my blog. One random commenter during this tour will win a $50 gift card. For the full list of participating blogs, visit the official House of Order tour page.
  2. Enter the Rafflecopter contest! I’ve posted the contest form below, or you can enter on the official House of Order tour page–either way works just as well.

About the author: John Paul Jaramillo grew up in Southern Colorado but now lives, writes and teaches in Springfield, Illinois. He earned his MFA in creative writing (fiction) from Oregon State University and, currently, holds the position of Associate Professor of English in the Arts and Humanities Department of Lincoln Land Community College. Connect with John Paul on his website, Facebook, Twitter or GoodReads.

Get The House of Order on Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

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Western Tropes

Obviously you can’t write a piece of genre fiction without researching the genre.

Well, technically you can, but chances are it won’t work.  Sometimes it doesn’t work even when you do research the genre, as with my first novel, which was supposed to be a Mills and Boon romance parody but became something very different – even though I read ‘The Millionaire’s Inexperienced Love Slave‘, one where an American tourist falls for a Greek Tycoon, something about a Rake, a deeply disturbing one in which a grieving widow falls in love with her dead husband’s long lost twin brother… the list goes on.  My one regret is that I never got around to the charmingly alliterative ‘Mediterranean Billionaire’s Blackmail Bargain‘.  I say regret, but that’s not what I mean.

Anyway, this week I’ve been researching the Western genre by reading short stories from a rather amazing website called Rope and Wire.  This is essentially a bunch of Western enthusiasts enthusing, and as such some of the stories are quite fun, whilst one or two are kind of terrible.  I enjoyed ‘Mexico George and the Cabin at Rio Del Poncho‘ in the same sort of way as I enjoyed the Owen/Gwen dialogue up against a tree in the ‘Countrycide‘ episode of Torchwood – slightly open mouthed in disbelief and going ‘really?  You thought that would work?’

As I go along I’ve been compiling a list of elements to consider including and updating for Book 3.  Here are some of them.

– Area used to be home to an industry such as mining (in my book could be steelworks, or some other factory) but is now very poor
– Injuns (maybe mine could literally be a person from India – possibly owner of a local business or something)
– Shaggy eyebrows (well, those are timeless)
– Whisky, straight up (ditto)
– A weatherbeaten complexion (he likes gardening…)
– A mysterious stranger to blame ill fortune on – who ends up saving the day (not sure how to use this yet)
– A trusty steed (scooter?)
– A nemesis (slightly older teenage lead of the gang)
– Guns (air guns?)
– Mention of the war (the one mentioned in Westerns is obviously the American Civil War between north and south – Victor’s would have to be one that happened in the 1950s or later – could potentially be a ‘war’ as in industrial action rather than armed combat?)
– A beautiful woman with a tragic past
– People in need of help (someone to stand up to the kids who are terrorizing the street)

Any more for any more?

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