Book Review: The Word Exchange by Alena Graedon

08.17.2014

By Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez / @ZaraAlexis

 word exchange cvr
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Category: Contemporary Fiction / Dystopian Fiction

Author: Alena Graedon

Format: Hardcover, 374 pages

Publisher: Doubleday Canada

ISBN: 978-0-385-68013-4

Pub Date: April 8, 2014

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Summary from Publisher:

In the not so distant future, the forecasted “death of print” has become a reality. Bookstores, libraries, newspapers and magazines are a thing of the past, as we spend our time glued to handheld devices called Memes that not only keep us in constant communication, but have become so intuitive as to hail us cabs before we leave our offices, order take out at the first growl of a hungry stomach, and even create and sell language itself in a marketplace called The Word Exchange.
Anana Johnson works with her father Doug at the North American Dictionary of the English Language (NADEL), where Doug is hard at work on the final edition that will ever be printed. Doug is a staunchly anti-Meme, anti-tech intellectual who fondly remembers the days when people used email (everything now is text or video-conference) to communicate–or even actually spoke to one another for that matter. One evening, Doug disappears from the NADEL offices leaving a single written clue: ALICE. It’s a code word he and Anana devised to signal if one of them ever fell into harm’s way. And thus begins Anana”s journey down the proverbial rabbit hole. . .
Joined by Bart, her bookish NADEL colleague (who is secretly in love with her), Anana’s search for Doug will take her into dark basement incinerator rooms, underground passages of the Mercantile Library, secret meetings of the anonymous “Diachronic Society,” the boardrooms of the evil online retailing site Synchronic, and ultimately to the hallowed halls of the Oxford English Dictionary–the spiritual home of the written word. As Ana pieces together what is going on, and Bart gets sicker and sicker with the strange “Word flu” that has spread worldwide causing people to speak in gibberish, Alena Graedon crafts a fresh, cautionary tale that is at once a technological thriller, and a thoughtful meditation on the price of technology and the unforeseen, though very real, dangers of the digital age.

- From Chapters-Indigo website

Book Review by Zara

from The Bibliotaphe Closet:

The Word Exchange by Alena Graedon is essentially a desperate letter of advocacy and love to the masses in its homage and sentimentality towards the written, printed, and verbal word. This dystopian novel is one in which its people are not only addicted to their technological devices, they are deeply integrated with them that the technology used itself necessitates and controls their daily functions with its ability to sense its users’ moods and desires.

One such device known as a Meme is so intuitive, it can order its user’s dinner or hail a cab on his or her behalf before asked, so intuitive in fact, that it can function this way even before its user is even consciously aware of his or her own desires.

With its mass use, its function is not only the normally acceptable form of communication, but an integral part of this dystopia’s lifestyle—until a new device is manufactured, the Nautilus, a semi-biological technological device that omits the necessity of hardware connective wiring and instead directly connects to the synopsis of the human brain by delivering input and output through neurons.

The result? An unexpected epidemic in the form of inexplicable headache, nausea, vomiting, fever, and a severe dysfunction in the processing of language through verbal slips, which eventually results in its worst cases—death.

The only people wary of technology’s cyber-attack on language, in particular, the printed word—and more specifically—the last remnants of the printed dictionaries such as the North American Dictionary of the English Language (NADEL), is a secretive and underground group called The Diachronic Society, whose mission is to warn people against the over-indulgent use of Memes and technology in general, while informing the public of its potential dangers in light of the symptoms ravaging the international community, as well as preserve what is left of language in print and its vital connections to our history and past.

What you get is a highly active, tense, and mysterious plot that centers around the disappearance of Anana’s father, Doug, the managing editor at The Dictionary, an active advocate of what is considered to be antiquarian and archaic forms of communication: photographs, art, books, and a pioneer in his distrust and prophetic view of the dangers of absolute technological use of the Aelph, the Meme, and the Nautilus.

The main characters, too, are rich in their respective connection to language.

Anana, a lover of words and words in print, but also an active user and believer in the use of her Meme, is almost as clingy to her boyfriend, Max, as she is to the use of technology—which both prove to be as dangerous to her emotional well-being as to her declining health.

Bart, a wonderfully academic and intelligent man, authoritative in his philosophical beliefs about language, its origins, its connection to history, its importance and metaphorical similarities to love.

Max, an egocentric, equally handsome, ambitious, and charming man whose business aspirations are as steep, self-indulgent, and misguided as his ethics, which secures him a manipulative and vain position as CEO of the new technological company called, Hermes, which merges a dangerous deal with the tech monster, Synchronic.

Together along with secondary characters—Dr. Thwaite, Victoria Mark, Vera, Laird, Vernon, Johnny Lee, Floyd—to name a few, create a devastatingly fast and quickly diminishing narrative, with words like, Jenda, exteen, ren, codalisk, zvono, kehzo, slank, konranm dazh, ooloochbu, words that prove the confusion and severe danger of language deterioration on a personal and communal level.

This fear-inciting book and cautionary tale of technological abuse is intelligently written to showcase our potential demise if we don’t guard ourselves against the potential addiction and dependency on online technological devices and the dangers of eventual extermination of print, language, thought, and memory.

If you’re a lover of words and language, and an advocate of the gift of literary privilege, reading, and books in print, this language dystopian novel is one you will readily empathize with and be glad, if not encouraged to continue your active enjoyment of literary pursuits. You might even consider yourself akin to belonging to the elusive, yet fictionally growing membership of the Diachronic Society.

Until then, let’s hope this dystopian novel is cautionary enough to prevent a potential epidemic of a language lost.

Until then, keep reading!

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Characters: 3.5 stars

Plot: 4 stars

Language/Narrative: 3.5 stars

Dialogue: 3.5 stars

Pacing: 4 stars

Cover Design: 3.5 stars

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Zara’s Rating

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A special thanks to Random House of Canada on behalf of Doubleday Canada for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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About the Author:

alena graedon

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Alena Graedon was born in Durham, NC, and is a graduate of Carolina Friends School, Brown University, and Columbia University’s MFA program. She was Manager of Membership and Literary Awards at the PEN American Center before leaving to finish The Word Exchange, her first novel, with the help of fellowships at several artist colonies. Her writing has been translated into nine languages. She lives in Brooklyn.

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Links:

Like Alena on Facebook

Be Alena’s fan on Goodreads

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How dependent are you on your electronic devices? Your mobile phone? Your iPad? The Internet? Online social communities?

Do you think there is a substantial possibility of society moving away from the printed word to an eventual dependency on electronic technology as a form of communication?

How do you think we can work together to preserve what is considered to be antiquarian or archaic forms of communication such as photographs, art, books?

Do you agree with the premise of The Word Exchange in the possibility of an epidemic of a “Word Flu?”

How active are you as a reader? Has your way or desire of reading changed? For e.g. reading books in print to reading e-books online or on an e-reader?

What do you think these changes mean for publishing companies?

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Top 10 Bookish Things (That Are Not Books) That I Want to Own

08.16.2014

By Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez / @ZaraAlexis

Those obsessed with books can’t help themselves, but to surround themselves with great titles by either browsing, buying, and collecting books themselves, and perhaps also sharing their passion about the written word in other things that they purchase—to either decorate their homes, add bookish flavour to necessities, or wear and/or use as personal book talismans.

Here’s my top 10 list of bookish things I’d love to own as a personal homage to the literary word:

1. Miniature Typewriter Necklace

typewriter necklace

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I was absolutely thrilled to receive this typewriter necklace from my husband on Valentine’s Day—a perfect gift and talisman for writers and bookish types! Finally, a typewriter that isn’t too heavy to wear around your neck.

2. Literary Scarf

literary scarf

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This literary scarf will “literally” keep you warm with its words printed on cotton. Why not wear the words you so love to read? I would love to own this bookish accessory—and it’s perfect for the arrival of spring.

3. Eat. Sleep. Read. Mug

eat sleep read mug

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The next best thing to books (in my opinion) is coffee—and the mug it comes in. (I’m also an avid collector of mugs!) For the book lover, there’s isn’t a better mug than the one, which shares its favourite motto with the world: Eat. Sleep. Read.

4. Thesaurus Dinosaur T-Shirt

 

thesaurus t-shirt

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I was introduced to a thesaurus when I was nine-years-old. It was instrumental in helping me find synonyms for the word, “nice,” which my grade five teacher forbade my class to use in our vocabulary.

Which is why I love that bookish people will understand the wit and fun of this Tee. Why keep a thesaurus in your backpack when you can wear one on your shirt? Roar!, says this bookish dinousaur!

5. Scrabble Pillow

scrabble pillow

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Most book lovers are also Scrabble champions. These Scrabble- lettered pillows take the words, “comfort” and “relaxation” to a whole new level. I’d own a couple of these for extra points on the scoreboard.

6. Book Laptop Cover

book laptop cover

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I love the idea of this laptop case, a perfect camouflage for the bookish person’s computer. It not only keeps your computer safe from common nicks and daily wear and tear, but keeps your electronic device fashionable and literary.

7. Dictionary Clutch

word clutch

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This dictionary clutch is perfect for the wordy woman, a stylish accessory for the coins saved up to buy those highly anticipated books. At a loss of words? I am,since I’d welcome one of these in my purse any day.

8. Library Card Phone Case

library card phone case

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For those familiar with the old library card, this phone case is a perfect homage to the past and connection to the present. It’s especially inspirational for those who plan to tell their friends (over the phone) about all the books they’ve read—and plan to read. Friends will certainly want to borrow this phone just for its looks—if not more books from their local library.

9. The LEGO Librarian

LEGO librarian

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My son is mad about all-things-LEGO. His influence introduced me to the LEGO Librarian, whose coffee mug says it all. Shhh! When you don’t have the quiet time you need to read, you can certainly role play with your favourite LEGO Librarian mini-figure.

Here’s to creativity, building LEGO, and building up your own personal book collection!

10. Margaret Atwood Doll

Margaret Atwood doll

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Move over, Barbie. For those of us who are literate, our favourite doll honours a literary Canadian icon: Margaret Atwood.

Feeling overwhelmed with your manuscript? Feeling frustrated with constantly receiving rejection letters? Is the book you’re waiting for not due to press until next year?

My advice to the bookish: Hug your Margaret Atwood doll. She’s sure to comfort you with her well-intended dystopian novels and volumes of award-winning poetry.

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Do you find that your love of books has moved beyond books themselves onto book-themed products?

Do you own or would like to own any of the above items I featured on my blog today? Which one is your favourite?

Do you own something bookish (other than a book) that you absolutely love?

What do you love the most about being a book lover?

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Stuffing the Bibliotaphe Closet

08.14.2014

By Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez / @ZaraAlexis

While I was able to practice self-control this week, I was privileged enough to still receive some books in the mail. Here is how The Bibliotaphe Closet grew in its collection:

Books for Review:

A special thanks to Random House of Canada for providing me with the following books for review due off press at the end of the month:

Ruby by Cynthia Bond

ruby

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Ephram Jennings has never forgotten the beautiful girl with the long braids running through the piney woods of Liberty, their small East Texas town. Young Ruby, “the kind of pretty it hurt to look at,” has suffered beyond imagining, so as soon as she can, she flees suffocating Liberty for the bright pull of 1950s New York. Ruby quickly winds her way into the ripe center of the city–the darkened piano bars and hidden alleyways of the Village–all the while hoping for a glimpse of the red hair and green eyes of her mother. When a telegram from her cousin forces her to return home, thirty-year-old Ruby Bell finds herself reliving the devastating violence of her girlhood. With the terrifying realization that she might not be strong enough to fight her way back out again, Ruby struggles to survive her memories of the town’s dark past. Meanwhile, Ephram must choose between loyalty to the sister who raised him and the chance for a life with the woman he has loved since he was a boy.

- From Chapters-Indigo website

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Moving Forward Sideways Like a Crab by Shani Mootoo

moving forward sideways like a crab

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Jonathan Lewis-Adey was nine when his parents, who were raising him in a tree-lined Toronto neighbourhood, separated and his mother, Sid, vanished from his life. It was not until he was a grown man, and a promising writer with two books to his name, that Jonathan finally reconnected with his beloved parent-only to find, to his shock and dismay, that the woman he’d known as “Sid” had morphed into an elegant, courtly man named Sydney. In the decade following this discovery, Jonathan made regular pilgrimages from Toronto to visit Sydney, who now lived quietly in a well-appointed retreat in his native Trinidad. And on each visit, Jonathan struggled to overcome his confusion and anger at the choices Sydney had made, trying with increasing desperation to rediscover the parent he’d once adored inside this familiar stranger.

As the novel opens, Jonathan has been summoned urgently to Trinidad where Sydney, now aged and dying, seems at last to offer him the gift he longs for: a winding story that moves forward sideways as it slowly peels away the layers of Sydney’s life. But soon it becomes clear that when and where the story will end is up to Jonathan, and it is he who must decide what to do with Sydney’s haunting legacy of love, loss, and acceptance.

- From Chapters-Indigo website

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A special thanks to Sourcebooks for providing me with an Advanced Reading Copy (ARC) of the following book for review due off press in May:

The Memory Garden by Mary Rickert

memory garden
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Nan keeps her secrets deep, not knowing how the truth would reveal a magic all its own Bay Singer has bigger secrets than most. She doesn’t know about them, though. Her mother, Nan, has made sure of that. But one phone call from the sheriff makes Nan realize that the past is catching up. Nan decides that she has to make things right, and invites over the two estranged friends who know the truth. Ruthie and Mavis arrive in a whirlwind of painful memories, offering Nan little hope of protecting Bay. But even the most ruined garden is resilient, and their curious reunion has powerful effects that none of them could imagine, least of all Bay.

- From Chapters-Indigo website

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Books I Won:

A special thanks to Christa of More Than Just Magic blog for sending my book prize in the mail via The Book Depository:

The Archived by Victoria Schwab

archived

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Each body has a story to tell, a life seen in pictures that only Librarians can read. The dead are called Histories, and the vast realm in which they rest is the Archive. Da first brought Mackenzie Bishop here four years ago, when she was twelve years old, frightened but determined to prove herself. Now Da is dead, and Mac has grown into what he once was: a ruthless Keeper, tasked with stopping often-violent Histories from waking up and getting out. Because of her job, she lies to the people she loves, and she knows fear for what it is: a useful tool for staying alive.

Being a Keeper isn’t just dangerous — it’s a constant reminder of those Mac has lost. Da’s death was hard enough, but now that her little brother is gone too, Mac starts to wonder about the boundary between living and dying, sleeping and waking. In the Archive, the dead must never be disturbed. And yet, someone is deliberately altering Histories, erasing essential chapters. Unless Mac can piece together what remains, the Archive itself might crumble and fall.

- From Chapters-Indigo website

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Of the books listed above, which book are you most interested in reading?

Of the books listed above, which do you think I should read next?

What have you added to your book collection this week?

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Congratulations to the Poets Who Made the 2014 Griffin Trust Poetry Prize Shortlist

04.08.2014

By Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez / @ZaraAlexis

The Griffin Trust was founded in April 2000 by Chairman Scott Griffin, along with Trustees Margaret Atwood, Robert Hass, Michael Ondaatje, Robin Robertson, and David Young.

The annual Griffin Poetry Prize awards two literary prizes of $65,000 each and an additional $10,000 to each shortlisted poet who reads at the annual Griffin Poetry Prize Shortlist Readings in Toronto. A Canadian prize is given to a living poet resident in Canada; an international prize is given to a living poet from any country in the world.

- From The Griffin Trust Official Page

In perfect timing to coincide with April as National Poetry Month, the Griffin Trust announced the 2014 Griffin Trust Poetry Prize seven finalists on the shortlist today:

 

International Shortlist

Pilgrim’s Flower • Rachael Boast
Picador

pilgrim's flower

 

Seasonal Works with Letters on Fire • Brenda Hillman
Wesleyan University Press

seasonal works with letters on fire

Silverchest • Carl Phillips
Farrar, Straus Giroux

silverchest

Colonies • Mira Rosenthal, translated from the Polish
written by Tomasz Rozycki

Zephyr Press

colonies

Canadian Shortlist

Red Doc> • Anne Carson
Jonathan Cape and McClelland & Stewart

red doc

Ocean • Sue Goyette
Gaspereau Press

ocean

Correspondences • Anne Michaels
McClelland & Stewart

correspondences

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Are you a poetry reader and/or writer?

What do you love most about poetry?

What do find the most challenging about reading/writing poetry?

Who is your favourite poet?

What book of poetry would you have liked to see make it on the shortlist?

Of the seven finalists above, which book do you predict will win the Griffin Trust Poetry Prize?

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Stuffing the Bibliotaphe Closet

04.07.2014

By Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez / @ZaraAlexis

The book hoarder in me is still alive and well though I’ve done my best to be a little more self-controlled. And even though I haven’t purchased a slew of books this week, they have (much to my husband’s dismay) come in consistently.

My worry now, seems to be how to house all these literary treasures! I may just have to swallow my pride, bite the bullet and buy an e-reader? I don’t know. I still prefer a tactile read than I do reading online. I’m going to have to see how long I can hold out before getting a Kindle…

Here’s The Bibliotaphe Closet’s latest additions:

Books for Review:

A special thanks to Random House of Canada for providing me with a copy of the following for review:

word exchange cvr

The Word Exchange by Alena Graedon, published by Doubleday Canada.

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Books I Bought:

casual vacancy

The Casual Vacancy by J. K. Rowling,

published by Little Brown and Company

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419

419 by Will Ferguson, published by Penguin Group Canada

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juliet

Juliet by Anne Fortier, published by Harper Collins

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Of the books listed above, which are you most interested in reading and why?

Which book of the above do you think I should read next?

Do you judge books by their covers?

What have you added to your book collection this week?

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Book Review: The Light Between Oceans by M. L. Stedman

 

04.04.2014

By Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez / @ZaraAlexis

light between oceans ***

Category: Fiction

Author: M.L. Stedman

Format: Trade Paperback, 346 pages

Publisher: Scribner

ISBN: 978-1-4767-3808-6

Pub Date: March 5, 2013

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Summary from Publisher:

This exquisitely written debut novel sweeps you into the lives of Tom and Isabel Sherbourne. After WWI, Tom returns to Australia very much alone and deeply marked by what he has seen and done. It comes as a shock when the beautiful Isabel finds him attractive. A proper courtship ensues and before long it is Isabel herself who boldly declares her love for Tom. She willingly leaves her comfortable life to join him on the remote island of Janus Rock in Western Australia where he takes up the post of lighthouse keeper.

Her only wish — and his too — is to have lots of children with whom to share their love. But life does not unfold as it should. Isabel experiences a series of miscarriages and most cruelly — a full-term stillborn. She is devastated and inconsolable.

And then, a small miracle: a half-destroyed boat is washed ashore carrying a dead man and a softly crying infant. Tom, ever the serious and honorable professional, wants to immediately report the shipwreck but Isabel convinces him that this was meant to be — that likely the baby’s mother has drowned and with the father dead, the baby is truly an orphan.

Reluctantly Tom acquiesces and they declare to their friends and family back home that finally they have borne a child. Baby Lucy lights up their world and they shower her with the love they so longed to give.

And then… the lie of Lucy’s birth begins to unravel and Isabel and Tom are forced to deal with moral choices that no parent should ever have to make.

- From Chapters-Indigo website

Book Review by Zara

from The Bibliotaphe Closet:

 

The Light Between Oceans by M. L. Stedman is an emotionally rich and fully engaged story about a couple’s post and isolation on the island Janus Rock in keeping and maintaining the much aged and beloved lighthouse of the small town of Partagueuse.

But the idyllic life of lightkeeping and the idealism between Tom Sherbourne, and his new wife, Isabel Graysmark, in their marriage, quickly disintegrates into devastation and madness with the number of consecutive miscarriages that befall them.

With each miscarriage, Isabel Graysmark, now Mrs. Sherbourne, mourns the deaths of her infants, internalizes her incessant biological failure, and becomes absolutely focused and obsessed with the compulsion of motherhood, which has adamantly eluded her.

Then with the unexpected arrival of a boat that washes up on shore with a dead man and a wailing baby, the Sherbournes stretch the line between morality and immorality with a life-altering decision that not only determines the fate of their family, but greatly deceives and disrupts the whole of the Patagueuse community.

Though the setting is in the 1920′s, the writing is not written with a heavy pen as usually expected in stories of that time, but rather an ease that showcases the depth of a character-driven novel and a story, which will not fail to grip its readers to it’s every word, if not every page.

The dialogue brings the book alive with its accurate-sounding accents and idioms especially from the characters, Ralph Addicott and Bluey, the men who steer the store boat, the Windward Spirit, out to the ocean periodically to provide the Sherbourne family with food, supplies, and current news from town.

But, the heart of the novel is not only its characters: Tom Sherbourne, Isabel Graysmark, Bill and Violet Graysmark, Septimus Potts, Hannah and Frank Roennfeldt, and Lucy-Grace, Ralph and Hilda Addicott, and Bluey—it’s the moral injustice in the book that will drive readers to vehemence and outrage.

I was so personally affected by the reading of the book, so greatly disenchanted by Tom Sherbourne’s yielding submission to his wife, and Isabel’s unreasonable demands and delusions that I simply seethed with hatred for her character and had at many times dropped and/or threw the book down in contempt, needing to turn away from its unfair implications.

I was so moved to anger by this novel, I had at times almost decided not to finish it—but, my curiosity, my yearning for justice, truth, and reconciliation was so severe due to the devastation of the novel, that I was, in the end, glad I had decided to change my mind.

I also found the lyrical prose about the interrelationship between the stars, the ocean, the lighthouse, and the biology, and isolation of Janus Rock, sentimental and beautiful.

Though imperfect, the conclusion of the novel moved me to tears. Though the reading of the book was emotionally gruelling while I struggled to reconcile with the maddening choices made by the desperation of a woman obsessed with her own loss, the novel does well in exploring the internalized conscience, the magnitude of the rippling effect of one’s choices, and a re-examining of the definition of true motherhood and family.

Regardless of your response to this novel, a strong one will be required of you. Either from the vehemence towards one character, disappointment in another, or love and compassion towards its victims. The Light Between Oceans will not only signal the danger of poor choices, the desperation that can be associated with loss and even love, it will prove to be a shining light that bridges the gap between right and wrong, and those drowning in its current.

 

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 Characters: 4 stars

Plot: 3.5 stars

Language/Narrative: 3.5 stars

Dialogue: 4 stars

Pacing: 4 stars

Cover Design: 4 stars

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Zara’s Rating

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A special thanks to Simon & Schuster Canada on behalf of Scribner for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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About the Author:

ML Stedman

M.L. Stedman was born and raised in Western Australia and now lives in London. The Light Between Oceans is her first novel.

- From Goodreads Author Page

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Sometimes desperation can have terrifying consequences. How far should one go in fulfilling one’s own desires before it becomes an unhealthy form of obsession or a question of immorality?

Have you ever felt this kind of desperation before?

If you’ve read the book, who do you think Lucy-Grace should have stayed with? Belonged to?

What do you think is the true definition of motherhood and/or parenting? Is it biological? Relational? One or the other? Both?

The lifestyle of a lightkeeper is a unique one. Could you see yourself as a lightkeeper? Why or why not? What about its lifestyle would you find most interesting/enjoyable? Most difficult?

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Happy 9th Birthday Bronx!

04.03.2014

By Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez / @ZaraAlexis

This post comes a little late today on account of a few things I had to do, which kept me away from my computer. And in the flurry of my focus on other things, I had forgotten it was my dog-nephew’s birthday. I’m not sure how else to refer to him since he’s my sister’s dog, (which would essentially make him my nephew, only in dog species!).

At first, I was skeptical about Bronx entering our family. I was, after all, at that time, fundamentally scared of dogs. And then I heard he was a Boston Terrier. All I heard was “terrier,” which almost paralyzed me.

And then I saw his picture as a pup.

bronx puppy
(c) Photo by Riza Garcia-Yarra. All rights reserved.

 

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Oh dear. How could I not fall in love with that? Him? This dog who materialized from the desire of my sister and my brother-in-law long before they had plans of having any children?

He was bred from a line of champion show dogs, which by the way, if you met Bronx personally, you’d know you’re dealing with a champ both in health, demeanor, and temperament.

As a person who was essentially frightened of dogs, Bronx’s personality quickly put me at ease. He’s an extremely dignified and obedient animal, wonderfully social with both humans and other dogs.

He doesn’t bark incessantly like some young pups eager to please or get attention. He barks as necessary.

And he has this tendency to sit on your feet under the table, wanting to be close to you, a dog keen on human contact, but not coddling.

bronx - sitting on feet
(c) Photo by Riza Garcia-Yarra. All rights reserved.

 

While he’s restricted at home to only certain areas in the household, he’s a good sport about it, respecting his owners, respecting his boundaries without complaint.

And he’s a loving and protective companion for my nephew who is only two-years-old. Pretend to point a gun at my nephew or pretend to harm or attack him in any way, and Bronx will be there. And be there quickly and with force. His kindness will shift to fierce loyalty and protectiveness. And he’ll fight you–and win. When it comes to Bronx’s family, their well-being, and their safety, you can’t mess around.

bronx - ayas
(c) Photo by Riza Garcia-Yarra. All rights reserved.

 

Guard dog? It’s not a term for Bronx, it’s an instinctive predisposition. Strangers and delivery people, beware.

But, for those who know and love Bronx, you can count on his affection, his obedience, his close and loving contact.

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Here’s a little about Bronx who turns 9 today:

Breed: Boston Terrier (heavyweight class)

Name: Bronx (after the dog in the Gargoyles cartoon)

Birthday: April 3, 2005

Personality Traits: Loves people and other dogs; tends to lie in front of people and when you trip over him, you are the one who gets hurt and he doesn’t budge; has a tendency to sit his butt on peoples feet; hates baths; infamous for his SBD farts, often mistaken for a warthog due to intermittent snorting sounds.

Favourite Toy: His 4′-long stuffed alligator

Favourite Treat: Loves mini carrots and apple slices

Favourite Trick: Sits and waits for treats and food until you give the “take” command; protects Elias when you pretend to point a gun at him.

My favourite memory with Bronx: Uncalled, he came over to me, gallantly trotting over, I patted his head and then  he plopped down with his butt on my feet, his back wedged between my calves. I said, “Bronx, you okay there?” He turned to look at me, then wedged himself even more between my calves. He and I stayed that way for a good 10 minutes until I had to gently shove him off since I needed a drink!

His Best Halloween Costume: Dressed up as Yoda.

His Most Endearing Feature (to Me): His flat nose and his big eyes. His face just makes me laugh. It’s got as much personality as he does!

Happy 9th Birthday, Bronx!

Translation: (Woof! Woof! Woof woof woof woof—woof, woof, woof-woof!)

(c) Photo by Riza Garcia-Yarra. All rights reserved.
(c) Photo by Riza Garcia-Yarra. All rights reserved.

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Introducing Mr. Mugs

04.01.2014

By Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez / @ZaraAlexis

For you older bibliotaphes, you may remember the primary grade children’s book that was used in school in the early 1970′s called Mr. Mugs.

Mr. Mugs book cvr

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I remember this book with tender nostalgia and affection. It was mandatory reading when I was in JK, SK, and Grade 1, and it taught me some basic words, as well as simple grammar.

Aside from that, I simply loved the dog. Mr. Mugs. He had no first name. There was a quiet reverence in the way students had to address him though he was such a jolly looking dog in the cartoon drawings.

And of course, he always seemed to get himself into trouble. That was always my favourite part of his stories. The mess he’d get himself into and yet the natural way he’s always find himself resolve those conflicts—and still be loved.

And as a child, I often imagined myself getting a dog just like Mr. Mugs, an energetic Bearded Collie.

Well, I grew up in a household who didn’t yet believe in adopting animals as pets. It just wasn’t part of our lifestyle.

And yet, after much consideration (and coercing of my deeply skeptical husband whose family never favoured dogs as pets in the family—they’re more bird and cat people), I was able to finally convince my husband that yes, a dog would be a wonderful addition to our family, not to mention a great companion for the kids growing up!

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While we haven’t yet picked up our little guy from the breeder yet, it was literally love at first sight. Dog owners and pet owners alike can attest top this. That first look. You just know. You’ve chosen—or rather, the newest addition to your family actually chooses you.

Though he hasn’t yet come home, he’s more than happy (or maybe a little shy) to pose for the camera (look at that paw!):

beardie

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And in honour of the original Mr. Mugs, we’ve decided (okay, well I decided) to keep the name. Now, I really have my very own Mr. Mugs!

For more information on the Bearded Collie (or Beardie) breed, you can visit here.

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Are you a pet owner? What kind of pet do you have?

What’s the best thing you love about your pet or adopting a pet?

What’s your biggest challenge with owning a dog/pet?

Do you remember the children’s book, “Mr. Mugs?” What do you think of it?

What’s your favourite animal?

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Stuffing the Bibliotaphe Closet

03.31.2014

By Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez / @ZaraAlexis

This week I haven’t yet received any books for review. But, that should buy me some time to read those books which have been neglected collecting dust on my bookshelves.

I have, however, continued to be lucky in the winning department and was able to score some great book prizes.

Here are a few of the books that were sent to me by mail (and by Lady Luck).

Books Won:

A special thanks to Harlequin Teen Books for sending me my book prize through a Twitter contest:

Anything to Have You by Paige Harbison

anything to have you

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A special thanks to the Yummy Mummy Club for sending me a copy of their latest book club read:

Know the Night by Maria Mutch

know the night

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A special thanks to Bloomsbury for sending me my book prize through a Twitter contest:

Wake Up Happy Every Day by  Stephen May

wake up happy every day

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What have you added to your book closet this week?

Out of the books listed above, which one are you most interested in reading?

Which of the books listed above do you think I should read next?

What are you reading now?

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Book Review: Falling Out of Time by David Grossman

03.24.2014

By Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez / @ZaraAlexis

falling out of time

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Category: Prose Poetry

Author: David Grossman

Format: Hardcover, 208 pages

Publisher: McClelland & Stewart

ISBN: 9-780-7710-3640-8

Pub Date: March 25, 2014

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Summary from Publisher:

David Grossman, a writer whose exceptional humanity, grace, and sheer brilliance as a storyteller have earned him acclaim around the world, has created an inspiring, compassionate, and genre-defying drama — part play, part prose, and a fable of pure poetry — to tell the story of bereaved parents setting out to reach their beloved lost children. It begins in a kitchen, in a small village, where a man is speaking with his wife about their loss. He announces that he is leaving, and he embarks on a walk in search of his dead son. Slowly, more and more people are drawn to him, joining him on his ever-widening circular journey around the town. Little by little, the reader realizes that the people of this anonymous town are also mourners, each having to endure their own bereavement.

Inspired by the tragic loss of David  Grossman’s own son, in combat, Falling Out of Time asks, Can one overcome death by sheer speech or memory? Is it possible, even for a fleeting moment, to free the dead from their death, to call to them and make them present once more? Grossman’s answer to such questions is a hymn to people from all walks of life — from a Net-Mender to a Duke — who ultimately find solace in their community of shared grief and in a kind of acceptance they could not have reached without coming together.

- From Chapters-Indigo website

Book Review by Zara

from The Bibliotaphe Closet:

Falling Out of Time by David Grossman is a 193-page long prose poem that laments and explores the devastation of grief for parents of children who have died.

The characters are unnamed except for their roles in the book: The Walking Man, The Woman Who Left Home, The Town Chronicler, The Town Chronicler’s Wife, The Midwife, The Cobbler, The Net-Mender, The Centaur, The Elderly Math Teacher, the Duke.

Perhaps their ambiguity is purposed to broaden their mourning from a personal experience to one that is communal since many children died in the village in which this novel takes place. Perhaps their namelessness is in answer to the identity they have lost since the travesty of the death of their children.

A reader must come to this novel with an active patience, a keen and quiet attention, perhaps even the willingness to read the novel twice. Though the novel is not long, nor difficult, its language is poetic and written in such a way that the reader must actively piece together the story’s plot and to whom each speaker addresses.

While the story wallows in the depth and length of its language and the transition from one speaker to another is not always smooth enough to be made clear, the book is filled with a number of lyrical lines of verse that speak the eloquence of a poem.

The novel reminds me of Walt Whitman’s exhaustive yet famous poem, Song of Myself, its tone fully absorbed in its subject—but in this book its subject is not the self, but rather the grief of death.

And like grief, the pacing of the novel is long, the language, context, and emotional feel of the novel, all-consuming. Its message is wailed throughout the novel. Its emotional devastation depicted in the characters’ self-destructive thinking, their solemnness, their communal action.

The book is almost a soliloquy, written as such, except spoken by each character mostly to him or herself. And at times the reading can be exhausting as it is depressing, but so is grief, which is most likely what David Grossman intended.

There is a strangeness, too, a fantastical aspect to the novel, languid in its dreamlike state, its characters’ hypnotic misery. And the act of circling, an endless circling, as if on a journey that does not end, but continues in an eternity, is how the book and its characters unravel themselves—and a little of their grief.

It is their children that are eventually named, identified, spoken, and declared. How the dead become living and breathing entities in the novel, so as to emphasize the hold of grief and mourning.

While this novel is not for those who has little patience for poetry, it does deserve a careful and attentive read. It is linguistically and emotionally driven, more of a grave essence than a fully-bodied plot since grief takes hold of the mind more than it does anything else, this novel, too, is a testimony to grief, to loss, to the ramifications of unwilled survival.

It captures the gravity and emotional drama—even its exaggeration—and injustice of death as it does the willingness of those bereaved to perpetuate their own suffering. While not necessarily a beautiful book since death can be none of those things, it is a painful and harsh rendering of what loved ones can be compelled to do in search for understanding of their loss.

And even though the novel is merely 208 pages, its subject weighs it down with a burden large enough to give it difficulty, quality, and substance.

Falling Out of Time is an ode to death as much as it is a necessary comment on life and the afterlife.

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Characters: 3 stars

Pacing: 2 stars

Cover Design: 3 stars

Plot: 2 stars

Poetic Language: 3 stars

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Zara’s Rating

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A special thanks to Random House of Canada on behalf of McClelland & Stewart for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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About the Author:

David Grossman

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Leading Israeli novelist David Grossman (b. 1954, Jerusalem) studied philosophy and drama at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and later worked as an editor and broadcaster at Israel Radio. Grossman has written seven novels, a play, a number of short stories and novellas, and a number of books for children and youth. He has also published several books of non-fiction, including interviews with Palestinians and Israeli Arabs. Among Grossman`s many literary awards: the Valumbrosa Prize (Italy), the Eliette von Karajan Prize (Austria), the Nelly Sachs Prize (1991), the Premio Grinzane and the Premio Mondelo for The Zig-Zag Kid (Italy, 1996), the Vittorio de Sica Prize (Italy), the Juliet Club Prize, the Marsh Award for Children`s Literature in Translation (UK, 1998), the Buxtehude Bulle (Germany, 2001), the Sapir Prize for Someone to Run With (2001), the Bialik Prize (2004), the Koret Jewish Book Award (USA, 2006), the Premio per la Pace e l`Azione Umanitaria 2006 (City of Rome/Italy), Onorificenza della Stella Solidarita Italiana 2007, Premio Ischia – International Award for Journalism 2007, the Geschwister Scholl Prize (Germany), the Emet Prize (Israel, 2007)and the Albatross Prize (Germany, 2009). He has also been awarded the Chevalier de l`Ordre des Arts et Belles Lettres (France, 1998) and an Honorary Doctorate by Florence University (2008). In 2007, his novels The Book of Internal Grammar and See Under: Love were named among the ten most important books since the creation of the State of Israel. His books have been translated into over 25 languages.

- From Goodreads

Links:

Find David Grossman on Wikipedia.

Be David’s fan on Goodreads.

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Have you ever suffered the grief of losing someone you love to death?

How did you best cope with your personal grief?

Do you prefer prose or poetry? Why?

What is your favourite collection of poetry? Your favourite poem?

Have you read Walt Whitman’s “Song of Myself?” What did you think?

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Books and nooks. Writing and reading between the pages.