Top Ten Tuesday! 07.31.2012

Top Ten Tuesday!

07.31.2012

Top 10 Characters Zara Would Switch Places with for 24 Hours

By Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez / @ZaraAlexis

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1. Shiloh from The Dovekeepers by Alice Hoffman:

Shiloh is an educated and former priestess who is powerful both in her fiery personality, confident sensuality, and deep knowledge of the dark arts. She has a great capacity to love as well as rebel against the status quo in order to fight for justice when necessary. She is a soothsayer, a healer, and helper to women who suffer in silence and fear.

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2. A “Craker” from Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood:

A “Craker” is a member of an evolutionary species created by the brilliant, yet emotionless mind of “Crake,” which sets forth an impending apocalypse. The species are extremely intelligent with a gift for adaptability, has blue skin, communal instincts, and shows physical signs when in heat and ready for mating. They also has an ability to sing with what is compared to the sound of “angels.”

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3. Arwen from The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien:

Arwen bears the Evening Star as the most beautiful of the last generation of High Elves in Middle Earth and the love of Aragorn from the first time he met her in Rivendell. They later committed themselves to marry one another on the mound of Cerin Amroth.

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4. Celia Bowen from The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern:

Celia Bowen, daughter of famous and renowned illusionist, Prospero the Enchanter, and Marco, orphan-turned-student of  The Man in the Grey Suit, Alexander H. She is a gifted illusionist and the main character in the novel known for her exceptional beauty and talent.

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5. Date Bed from White Bone by Barbara Gowdy:

Date Bed is a young female elephant and member of the She-S family. She is the family’s “mind talker,” who is able to read the minds of not only elephants but of animals of other species. She is pleasant, eloquent, and soft-spoken, and aware of the fact that she loves a male elephant in a way that is unnatural for her species.

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6. Sakamoto Chiyo (Sayuri) from Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden:

Chiyo is the main character of the book that becomes apprenticed into a household that trains young girls to become geisha. She is intelligent, full of youth, naiveté, and is known for her rare grey eye colour. After meeting the famous geisha Mameha, Chiyo, who is renamed Sayuri, becomes one of the most desirable geishas in Gion.

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7. G. Willow Wilson from the memoir, The Butterfly Mosque by G. Willow Wilson:

G. Willow Wilson gives a beautifully written and intimate, rare insight into the Muslim world as an American born woman who converts to Islam, learns and becomes fluent in Arabic, and fully assimilates and embraces the life, rituals, and spirituality of what it means to be a woman of two worlds: the east and the west.

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8. Mila from I Am Forbidden by Anouk Markovitz:

Mila is a devoted daughter of the private and reverent world of the strict Hasidic sect, the Satmar. She is humble, pious, and obedient in her reverent faith to her religious beliefs, the community, and her husband, Josef, until the hunger, passion, and desire for a child blinds her to acts of sin that drives her to madness.

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9. The first blind man’s wife from Blindness by Jose Saramago:

The wife of the first blind man goes blind soon after helping her husband to the quarantine. Once inside, she also joins the first ward with the doctor and the doctor’s wife.

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10. Bridget’s father from Strange Heaven by Lynn Coady:

Bridget’s father is secretly sentimental, witty, temperamental, irreverent, and has a variety of great retorts suffused with profanity that is brilliantly timed and outrageously hilarious.

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Who are the book characters you would love to switch with for 24 hours?

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My Family Reads Monday: 07.30.2012

My Family Reads Monday

07.30.2012

By Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez / @ZaraAlexis

Reading is not a solitary act at my house. It’s a communal, social, and beloved activity.  It’s our “quiet time” and our evening routine. It’s also our family time together to visit and support our local public library. It’s our time together to share an imaginary adventure and our thoughts and feelings about what we read.

This is why I started a periodical post called My Family Reads Monday to be able to showcase what it is that’s in the hands of my husband and my little ones since they love reading, too!

My husband’s pick of the week:

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Yes, my 40+ husband is reading The Hunger Games. He’s been a part of the publishing industry for many years now and he’s not prejudiced when it comes to books. Though he’s literary (even though he doesn’t think so himself),  he’ll happily pick up the hottest YA fiction off the shelf out of sheer curiosity and to mind the pulse of latest book trends—oh, and he wants to read the book before he watches the movie!

He’s been reading this one for a while, God bless him, since time doesn’t seem to afford him enough quiet to actually sit, rest, relax, and read a book. He’s a busy, hard-working, fully scheduled and booked-up man. That’s my husband. Working, working, working—-so that I can stay at home with the kids, take care of the house, and read to my heart’s content. You gotta love him. I do.

His current read is The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. (Someone please remind me to buy him a Mockingjay pin for all his effort!)

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My son’s pick of the week:

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My son just turned eight this month and well, his literary taste is growing, as is his vocabulary, and his reading level. His choice for this week is Into the Mist by Patrick Carman:

Before the walls went up…before the battle between Abaddon and Elyon…before Alexa Daley was born…there were two young brothers, Thomas and Roland Warvold, whose pasts were as mysterious as their futures. Raised in a horrible orphanage and forced to escape into a strange, unknown world, Thomas and Roland found adventure wherever they turned and danger wherever they looked. Their story is one of magic, exploration, fellowship, and secrets  — all of which need to be revealed as the chronicles of Elyon unfold. (From the back cover.)

Oy! Even I want to read it! Great literary choice from a great kid!

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My daughter’s pick of the week:

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Now, I’m not sure if my soon-to-be-three-year-old daughter is trying to tell me something, but this is the book that she’s interested in this week: Grumpy Bird by Jeremy Tankard. I’m actually hoping it has more to do with the brightly coloured cover than it does with her “terrible-two” mood. She’s as wilful as I am—(or more) and that’s saying a lot! But, I’m sure this read will appease her and no one in our house can be grumpy at that!

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My pick of the week:

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I’ve been looking forward to reading this book since I’ve seen not only its description, but that it also just recently made the Longlist for the Man Booker Prize! How far would you walk to return to someone important to you in your past?

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Do you know what your family is reading this week?

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Stacking the Shelves: 07.29.2012

Stacking the Shelves

07.29.2012

By Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez / @ZaraAlexis

It’s been a quiet couple of weeks for my bookshelves even though I went through an organizing purge. I did notice, however, that my paranormal young adult fiction collection seems to be growing, which isn’t like me! I’ve always remained a true and steadfast literary fiction reader and book collector, but that’s the joy of keeping an open mind and expanding one’s own literary tastes. I’ve always been one to say that it’s important to give every book a chance regardless of accolades, bestseller lists, or general hysteria.

Here’s my book stacks for the past few weeks:

Books I Bought:

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City of Ashes by Cassandra Clare

City of Glass by Cassandra Clare

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Books I Won:

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The Decision by Penny Vincenzi from Hachette Canada via their Twitter contest! Thanks Hachette Canada for helping my book library grow.

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What have you added to your shelves this week?

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Saturday Snapshot: 07.28.2012

Saturday Snapshot

07.28.2012

By Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez / @ZaraAlexis

To participate in the Saturday Snapshot meme post a photo that you (or a friend or family member) have taken then leave a direct link to your post. Please see the linky at AT HOME WITH BOOKS.

Photos can be old or new, and be of any subject as long as they are clean and appropriate for all eyes to see. How much detail you give in the caption is entirely up to you. Please don’t post random photos that you find online.

 

 

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This was taken in Chinatown, Toronto, July 21, 2012.

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An artist is not paid for his labor but for his vision. – James Whistler

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I own copyright to all photos posted and request that any use of my photos be first cleared by permission from me with the use of an appropriate credit line, which I will specify and provide, as well as a link back to my webpage.

Copyright requests may be sent to me via email.

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A Review: Strange Heaven by Lynn Coady

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A Review:

Strange Heaven by Lynn Coady

07.25.2012

By Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez / @ZaraAlexis

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Category: Literary Fiction

Author: Lynn Coady

Format: Trade Paperback, 216 pages

Publisher: Goose Lane Editions

ISBN: 978-086492-617-3

Pub Date: May 28, 2010

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Strange Heaven by Lynn Coady is a fiercely intelligent and honest, transparent novel about a teenage girl named Bridget Murphy who first transfers herself to a children’s hospital psychiatric ward after giving birth to a baby and putting it up for adoption and then returns home for the Christmas holidays to her rambunctious and irreverent family.

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She is at the centre of the book as its narrator who is surrounded by dysfunctional, yet authentic characters found in the ward as Mona, the suspected pathological liar; Kelly and Maria, starving young girls with anorexia; and Byron, the insecure and attention-seeking megalomaniac.

Together they form a quasi-family of sorts, one that is bound by the common thread of illness, dysfunction, and burden of being ostracized and misunderstood.

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The psychiatric ward becomes a form of escape and refuge for Bridget as well as an experimental outlet in which she can decide how she wants to respond to her personal trauma of birthing and ultimately who she can be as she creates for herself an adamant assertion to remain if not completely cold, certainly distant and outwardly indifferent.

Those in the ward, too, represent the communal angst that reverberates throughout the helplessness and anxiety of the youth destitute towards the banality of pub-crawls and fist fights that daily drinking incurs, caged in a small town. But, they also represent a community in which Bridget’s apathy is not as isolated as she would prefer it to be—that is to say—Bridget Murphy is not alone.

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 And though her escape route to the children’s psychiatric ward is merely temporary since she’s obligated to return home for the Christmas holidays, her experience there has influenced her outlook, however slight and undetected it may seem to be in the novel.

The true story is found in her return to her zany, politically incorrect, and outrageous family which includes:

Margaret P., her bedridden grandmother whose obsession with Catholic religious artifacts are just as strong as her ageing confusion, sharp retorts, and bedpan banging on her bedroom wall to beckon her family to her.

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Uncle Albert, whose persistent cheerfulness is largely due to his good intentions about Bridget’s welfare, his resignation to the bottle after 30+ years of sobriety, and a commitment to return to an active participation in Alcoholics Anonymous.

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 Uncle Rollie, who is developmentally delayed, often the butt of the family’s jokes as perverse affection,  and whose unrelenting devotion to Margaret P. is as evident as his natural talent for woodwork in the forms of the Virgin Mary and other biblical figures and saints.

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 Bridget’s mother, whose compassion and patience is as ready and active as her tongue in sharing the latest news of death in the town as a form of truth and newsworthy gossip.

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 And Bridget’s father, whose incessant hollering is filled with surprisingly witty profanities, politically incorrect comments, and truths that stem from a private sentimentality and protective nature towards those he loves.

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Overall, although the reader may be taken aback by the profanity and the brutal honesty of the subject matter of the book and its dialogue, its irreverence and natural flow is remarkably real and hilarious that it is through the characters’ innate flaws that they become refreshingly authentic and even endearing.

And while Bridget’s apathy seems to confuse her so-called friends and social circle (Heidi, Mark, Stephen, and Alan) as she pulls herself away from the pedantic routine of basement parties, drinking binges, and promiscuity as a result of small-town boredom rather than real need or desire, Bridget herself, though unconscious of her own growing change and maturity, remains  non-judgemental towards her friends and her family. She simply wishes to disassociate herself from them through her resilient silence and unwavering, cool distance.

The audacity of the writing is brave and astonishing as it is real, honest, and from an author’s general inclination, risky. But, that’s what makes this book so revealing, empathetic, and true — not to mention, good.

The reader can finally laugh abruptly—not titter, but guffaw—and empathize with the main character in her clean and raw observations, and recognize the internal war between passivity and action towards either personal potential or ruin—and the dark humour of death, disease, and the enduring and sometimes overbearing connection to one’s own family.

Strange Heaven as Lynn Coady’s debut novel published in 1998 reveals a wise and capable storyteller and a true novelist with profane guts.

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Zara’s Rating

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A special thank you to Goose Lane Editions for providing me with a media copy of the book in exchange for an unpaid, honest review.

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Every family has its own “uniqueness.” What’s wonderfully “unique” about your family?

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Lazy Days of Summer Giveaway Hop @ The Bibliotaphe’s Closet! (INT) – CLOSED

Lazy Days of Summer Giveaway Hop!

July 27th to August 1st

By Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez / @ZaraAlexis

Summer is a great time to get away, go on a trip, visit the cottage, or the beach—and of course, read a good book! It’s that time again for The Bibliotaphe’s Closet to open its doors and participate in another blog hop giveaway to reward its awesome, loyal (and new) followers!

So, here’s what’s up for grabs for this giveaway—one choice from the books listed below OR any book of the winner’s choice up to $12.00 CAD to be delivered from The Book Depository:

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Giveaway Rules:

  1. This giveaway is open to any entrant who resides in a country that The Book Depository (TBD) will deliver to for free. To check if TBD delivers to your country, check here.
  2. You must have a valid email and mailing address to qualify. No P.O. Box addresses accepted.
  3. You must be 15-years-old and up to enter.
  4. You must follow my blog to enter and complete the Rafflecopter form on my Facebook page.
  5. Only one entry per household, excluding extra-earned entries as disclosed by the Rafflecopter form.
  6. A winner will be chosen randomly by Rafflecopter.
  7. Winner must respond to notification within 48 hours to claim prize. If winner fails to claim prize within the time frame given, a new winner will be chosen.
  8. Contest ends Wednesday, August 1, 2012 at 11:59 p.m. EST
  9. For further details, please visit Zara Alexis’ Giveaway Contest Policy.

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To enter the Lazy Days of Summer Giveaway at The Bibliotaphe’s Closet, click below and complete the Rafflecopter form.

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Be sure to visit all the other blogs on the hop for more giveaways! You can see and visit the linky list here.

A special thanks to Kathy at Colorimetry and  I Am a Reader, Not a Writer for hosting this blog hop!
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Have fun and good luck!
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Wishlist Wednesday: 07.25.2012

Wish List Wednesday

07.25.2012

By Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez / @ZaraAlexis

The wonderful thing about books is that new ones are always coming off press and onto the shelves of your local bookstore. As many as I have already read or own, there’s always a new book to discover.

Here are some new book releases expected to come soon that I look forward to reading and reviewing:

1. Everybody Has Everything by Katrina Onstad, published by McClelland & Stewart, May 29, 2012.

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2. Alif, the Unseen by G. Willow Wilson, published by McClelland & Stewart, July 10, 2012.

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3. Vital Signs by Tessa McWatt, published by Vintage Canada, July 24, 2012.

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4. The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce, published by Doubleday Canada, July 24, 2012.

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5. 13 by Kelley Armstrong, published by Random House of Canada, July 24, 2012.

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6. The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman, published by Scribner, July 31, 2012.

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7. Kill You Twice by Chelsea Cain, published by St. Martin’s Press, August 7, 2012.

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8. The Blondes by Emily Schultz, published by Doubleday Canada, August 14, 2012.

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9. The Emperor of Paris by C.S. Richardson, published by Doubleday Canada, August 14, 2012.

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10. The Kingmaker’s Daughter by Philippa Gregory, published by Touchstone, August 14, 2012.

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11. Paris: A Love Story by Kati Marton, published by Simon & Schuster, August 14, 2012.

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12. The Beautiful Mystery by Louise Penny, published by St. Martin’s Press, August 28, 2012.

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What’s on your new book release wish list?

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Top Ten Tuesday! 07.24.2012

Top 10 Tuesday!

07.24.2012

Top 10 Most Vivid Worlds/Settings in Books

By Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez / @ZaraAlexis

1. Herland by Charlotte Perkins Gilman

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2. The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood

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3. Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad

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4. Darkness at Noon by Arthur Koestler

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5. Late Nights on Air by Elizabeth Hay

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6. Three Day Road by Joseph Boyden

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7. The Dovekeepers by Alice Hoffman

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8. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

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9. Harry Potter series

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10. The Lord of the Rings

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What’s on your list of most vivid worlds or settings in a book?

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Random House of Canada’s Olympic Readathon: July 27-August 12

Random House of Canada’s Olympic Readathon:

July 27-August 12

07.23.2012

By Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez / @ZaraAlexis

 

For most of us push-ups, weight-lifts, or cardio runs seem all too exhausting. But, that’s why we’re not participating in the Summer Olympics in London, which is scheduled to air on July 27—and those brave and disciplined few have been called to represent the best athletic prowess of their country.

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So, why not join them in spirit and participate in the Random House of Canada’s Olympic Readathon instead?

There are a few of us willing to endure late-night reading under lamplight until our eyes bulge out of their sockets from cover and climax reveals, to swoon-worthy, fictional characters, and plot-driven, maddening page-turners. We do it anyway. Why not commit to participating alongside other avid readers and knock off some titles from your TBR list?

 

My To-Be-Read/Reviewed List has ballooned to epic proportions and my house is exploding with piles that are collecting dust. I trust if you’re an addicted book blogger or just a mad book collector, the same is true for you. So, why not put your bookmarks away and get reading?

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The Random House of Canada Readathon will run from July 27 to August 12, which gives you a lot of time to flex those reading muscles of yours. To sign up, you can register here. And be sure to check out the Retreat Random House blog page from which the original post was written.

 

@RandomHouseCA will be using the hashtag #OlympicReadathon to chat about our progress on Twitter, so be sure to join and tell your friends and family to cheer you on or come out and participate.

Twitter Bird…tweet, tweet, tweet!

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Until then, I’ll be scrounging my piles to see what goodies I’ll be getting into for the readathon. See you at the Start—and hopefully, the Finish Line!

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Are you a fan of the Olympics? Do you plan on keeping track of this year’s events?

Will you be participating in the Random House of Canada’s Olympic Readathon?

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Re- Cap of the Picasso: Masterpieces from the Musee National Exhibit at the AGO

Re-cap of the Picasso: Masterpieces from the Musee National Exhibit at the AGO

07.22.2012

By Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez / @ZaraAlexis

Picasso. The name is as famous as it is as revered as one of the most important artists of the 20th century. And one of his shows: Masterpieces from the Musee National Picasso in France is housed in Toronto at the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) for the duration of the summer.

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Though I consider myself more of a writer and photographer than an artist, I didn’t want to pass up on a chance at seeing Picasso’s work in the “flesh”—for a second time. My husband and I had seen the Picasso Erotique show in Montreal a number of years back when we were still single.

This is one of my favourite charcoal drawings by Picasso, “The Embrace (The Kiss), which I first saw at the Picasso Erotique show in Montreal.

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The architecture of the AGO in itself is an elaborate art piece from its large wooden staircases to its grand ceilings and open concept skylights.

AGO staircase. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez.

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The show opened with a number of black and white personal photographs of Picasso and his family, which created an immediate intimacy for the voyeur.

But, the oil painting that struck me as one of my favourites almost immediately was the oil on canvas piece called Olga in an Armchair painted in Montrouge in the spring of 1918. Its portrait held a sad, yet simple grace that embodied a woman who was not only Picasso’s first wife, but a woman who later had to bear the adultery of her famed husband.

“Olga in an Armchair.” Oil on canvas. Pablo Picasso. 1918.

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I especially liked the floral brocade on the armchair that matched the hem of Olga’s skirt. And if you look closely enough at the original painting you’ll notice a hint of Olga’s silver necklace.

And at the edges of the painting are brushstrokes of what seems to be excess paint from Picasso’s brush. I assume this wasn’t intentionally meant to be a part of the piece, but has remained intact since its 1918 inception.

I loved this painting so much, I bought a print before returning home!

The grandeur of The Acrobat painted in Paris on January 18, 1930 also caught my attention with its fluid contortion and its sheer size. The painting is all limbs with no torso and embodies Picasso’s nightmares about his body and his loved ones’ bodies changing, which according to the descriptive piece about the painting, “anguished him.”

“The Acrobat.” Oil on canvas. Pablo Picasso. 1930.

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A smaller painting, gouache on plywood, Two Women Running on the Beach (The Race) painted in Dinard in the summer of 1922 was beautifully detailed right down to the curl of the women’s hair. The print below does not do the original justice, so those of you who can make a trip to the AGO before the summer ends, I suggest that you do. The detailing and the colour of this piece is a feast for the eyes. And though the women are heavy in stature the painting evokes a wonderful freedom and exuberance with one breast bared on each woman and one woman hanging her head back in exhilaration.

“Two Women Running on the Beach (The Race).” Gouache on plywood. Pablo Picasso. 1922.

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 Another beautifully coloured painting is the oil on canvas, Nude in a Garden created in Boisgeloup on August 4, 1934. The pink flesh of the woman in the painting is bright with her head lying back and her arm behind her head in relaxed ecstasy. The painting’s bright colours especially the pink flesh against the green backdrop of the garden with voluptuous white flowers reflect an obvious eroticism in Picasso’s painting, which is further explained when the viewer realizes the painting is of Picasso’s mistress, Marie-Therese Walter.

“The Nude in the Garden.” Oil on canvas. Pablo Picasso. 1934.

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Overall, the showing was pent-up with the buzz of audience excitement since quite a number of patrons came to the show even with the slotted entrance times. The exhibit filled approximately four to five rooms that included mixed media, oil paintings, and sculptures. Though it wasn’t as intense as the Picasso Erotique showing in Montreal, it was an overlay of work by a master whose creations have not yet lost its appeal.

For those who are not as familiar with Picasso’s work, the Masterpiece show at the AGO is a good place to start. For avid fans of his work, the show will help you reminisce of the first time you fell in love with the genius that is Picasso.

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“I paint the way some people write an autobiography. The paintings, finished or not, are the pages from my diary.” – Pablo Picasso (1881-1973)

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What is your favourite piece created by Pablo Picasso?

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