The Bibliotaphe Closet Is Being Cleaned!

The Bibliotaphe Closet Is Being Cleaned!

Bloggiesta Recap and New Blogging Schedule

09.30.2012

By Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez / @ZaraAlexis

It seems it takes a lot more than salsa dancing and nacho-munching to successfully complete the Bloggiesta event. I know, and I’m a pretty good dancer. I’ve been MIA for most of the weekend.

While no posts have come live for today with exception to this one, I’ve been hacking away at my keyboard, redesigning, re-thinking, re-organizing–and while it’s gone unnoticed, I have come to a conclusion:

Bloggiesta is not a three-day event, but a long-term project!—And no, I’m not done yet.

But here’s what I have done so far:

  • I’ve renamed my blog from “The Bibliotaphe’s Closet” to “The Bibliotaphe Closet.”
  • I’ve changed my WordPress theme from Coraline to Quintus.
  • I created a new blog button. Bye-bye geisha, hello librarian!
  • I’m still working on streamlining the review format on all my past reviews.
  • I’ve deleted unnecessary buttons from my sidebar.
  • I created my own media icon buttons with links! (I just learned how to do this and I’m really happy with the results!)
  • I’ve been re-thinking and planning a new blogging schedule.

And in this process, I’ve also come to the realization that I require one day off a week from posting on my blog not only for the sake of my sanity, freedom, and well, family time—I also need to do the laundry.

While my blog has seemed to flourish, my house has…well…become a pit of unsanitary neglect. And what better day to rest from blogging than a Sunday? If God rested at least one day in creating the universe, I think I’m entitled to at least a day from blogging, yes?

And you may not know this about me, but I’m not only obsessed with books, I’m also addicted to movies. I’ve been watching movies since the time of Beta. And so, I’ve also decided to include more movie reviews on my blog.

Here’s a rough outline of what my blogging schedule could look like in the near future. Any or all of these can and/or will be posted:

Mondays

Stuffing the Bibliotaphe Closet: 

Much like the book memes: In My Mailbox, Stacking the Shelves, Book Haul, and Showcase Sunday, I’ve decided to rename my meme to Stuffing the Bibliotaphe Closet, which will outline books that I’ve received for review from publishers and/or authors, books that I’ve bought in the past week, and prizes that I’ve won.

Monday Movie Review:

I’ve decided to incorporate movie reviews on my blog, which will include classics, older movies, new releases, and upcoming titles including any and/or all genres (with maybe an exception to horror films—because I really prefer to avoid watching those.)

Tuesdays

Top Ten Tuesday:

This meme is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish blog, which presents thematic top ten lists for bloggers to participate in and link to.

Teaser Tuesday:

This meme is hosted by the Should Be Reading blog, which allows bloggers to choose a random page from a current read and post it online to give readers a taste of that particular book and what is being read in the blogging community.

Wednesdays

Writing Wednesday:

This post can be about anything regarding writing: writing tips, writing exercises, writing workshops, writing events, and maybe even some of my own personal work from my writing portfolio.

Thursdays

Book Reviews:

I will reserve this day for my book reviews as I complete my reading.

Techie Thursday:

I’ll post techie tips, tricks, advice, how-to’s, or recommendations on effective applications that bloggers may find useful.

Fridays

Freebie Friday:

If I’m alerted to free e-books or cool giveaway contests that my readers can enter, I’ll post it here.

Feature Friday:

I love advocating literacy and so I  think it’s important to be able to feature bloggers, authors, publishers, book charities, literacy programs, and book events, which is what Feature Friday will be all about.

Saturdays

Saturday Snapshot:

This meme is hosted by At Home with Books blog and I’ve been participating in it for a while now. It’ll be a quick photo to share with my readers that will hopefully give a little more insight on my personal aesthetic and my photography as a hobby.

Sundays

No posts. I’ll be reserving this day for house chores and more time for reading!

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What types of posts would you like me to post about here at The Bibliotaphe Closet?

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Saturday Snapshot: “Three Generations”

Saturday Snapshot:

Three Generations

09.29.2012

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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“But those who came before us will teach you. They will teach you from the wisdom of former generations.” – Job 8:10

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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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Book Review: The Sweet Girl by Annabel Lyon

A Review: The Sweet Girl by Annabel Lyon

09.27.2012

By Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez / @ZaraAlexis 

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Category: Literary Fiction

Author: Annabel Lyon

Format: Hardcover, 246 pages

Publisher: Random House of Canada

ISBN: 978-0-307-35944-5

Pub Date: September 18, 2012

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The Sweet Girl by Annabel Lyon is a historical fiction novel in the time of ancient Greece, a story focused on the beloved and only daughter, Pythias, called Pytho, of the philosopher, Aristotle.

Aristotle

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When I first opened the novel to the formal list of the Cast of Characters, as I might in reading a Shakespearean play, I was a tad intimidated with the ancient Greek names: Pythias, Herpyllis, Nicomachus, Tycho, Pyrrhaios, Glycera, Euphanor, and Nicanor. As beautiful as they sounded as they rolled off my tongue, I was hesitant in turning the page to read further in anticipation and assumption of a verbose reading—but I’m glad I did and ever so relieved that my assumption, too, was wrong.

The voice of the main character, Pythias, known as Pytho is directly intimate and perfectly written in the tone of an inquisitive, intelligent, yet young, and innocent girl born into privilege and prestige on account of her famous father.

A certain highlight in this novel is the humanized portrayal of Aristotle, the deep and forward thinker, the natural egotism and elitism sometimes awarded to men and women of genius, but especially, the endearing and tender love he has as a family man and father towards his household including those of his servants, and the special bond he has with his highly praised and beloved daughter.

What one would normally know of Aristotle is his philosophical discourse, but it is in this novel, The Sweet Girl, that readers are enlightened to his special pedigree, temperament, and soft inclination and social exception to his daughter, Pythias, who he unconventionally raises to read, think, explore, dissect, and study in so much that she is inclined to a deep reservoir of intelligence, logic, and wit that cannot contain her from the surprise of  men of her father’s tutelage and peers and the scoffing irritation and jealousy of their wives as well as the women of the small garrison town, Chalcis.

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What’s interesting to note is the ritualistic and relationship dynamic between Macedonian and Athenian cultures at the time of ancient Greece between the privileged wealthy and the destitute poor; the educated and the uneducated; the men and the women; the master and the slave.

The propriety of women as talented weavers, market hagglers, family chefs, and elegant forms of visual beauty come at a high price of illiteracy and social hypocrisy.

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“Slaves,” too, are indentured workers obligated to accompany, guard, and serve their “masters” in exchange for accommodation, food, and associated protection by household name, which shows a mimetic example of cultural, ancient Greece.

Annabel Lyon does well in transporting her readers into a classical time with the necessary backdrop of its lush settings from  its home gardens and backwoods to the famous, switchback tides, and its extravagant homes of the wealthy as described of Plios’s house during a welcome party in honour of Aristotle’s arrival to Chalcis.

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But the gift the author has, too, is to re-engage the relevance of modern-day issues concerning the battle of the sexes, the advocacy of justice on behalf of the poor and the marginalized, the hidden, social corruption found in the underbelly of survival and greed, and the continual argument of sexual taboo.

Each character, too, is perfectly realistic in his or her role in the story, well-written enough for the book to be naturally paced and easy to read:

Pythias, known as Pytho: Aristotle’s daughter by his dead wife, also named Pythias is intelligent,  inquisitive, an independent thinker, and fiercely loving and loyal to her father and his needs; a survivor by instinct and led more by logic and reason than passionate emotion.

Aristotle: a famous philosopher and teacher, culturally and intellectually elitist, but a true lover of knowledge and study with an exceptional sense of justice towards others especially his own household, and a profound love and tenderness towards his only daughter.

Herpyllis: Aristotle’s concubine and formerly a servant is a woman of grace who runs the family household with tenacity and efficiency. She has a kind and vast capacity to love both Aristotle and her stepdaughter.

Myrmex: a poor relation and adopted son of Aristotle, inclined to self-pity, jealousy, gambling, and thievery.

Glycera: a widow of natural, yet practiced grace with a stern sensibility towards financial survival, perfect, social etiquette, and strict discipline.

A priestess of Artemis: beautiful, graceful, sombre—and hard as the goddess statue she serves.

Euphranor: a cavalry officer gifted with wealth and sensual charm.

Nicanor: Pythias’s cousin who is diligent as he is dutiful, serious, and reserved.

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The Sweet Girl is a testament to Annabel Lyon’s natural ability to bring depth and intimacy to an elusive and ancient past. And she does so with an easy eloquence and impartial narrative that the reader can can better empathize with the desires and the plight of her characters as they do in reflecting on the moral and philosophical questions that plagued ancient Greece and continue to be explored today.

The Sweet Girl is both despairing and sweet indeed: a personal story, a social discourse, and a novel easily deserving of its 2013 Giller Prize longlist nomination.

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Zara’s Rating

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A special thank you to Random House of Canada for providing me with a media copy of this book in exchange for an unpaid, honest review.

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What is it about ancient Greece that you find most fascinating?

Are you familiar with Aristotle’s philosophical teachings? Do you agree with them?

What do you imagine it would feel like to be Aristotle’s daughter, Pythias?

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Stacking the Shelves in the Bibliotaphe’s Closet.09.26.2012

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Stacking the Shelves in the Bibliotaphe’s Closet

09.26.2012

By Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez / @ZaraAlexis

Defn. Bibliotaphe: noun. A person who hoards books.

It’s only right then that here at The Bibliotaphe’s Closet, the books get stacked high! Here are the books I received from publishers and/or authors for review, books I bought, and books that I was lucky enough to win. Let the hoarding begin.

Books for Review

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The End of Your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe, published by Knopf Canada.

Through the Glass by Shannon Moroney, published by Doubleday Canada.

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Silent House by Orhan Pamuk, published by Knopf Publishers.

Thank you Random House of Canada for providing me with gorgeous new releases for review!

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Remember Me by Brian L. MacLearn, published by Outskirts Press.

Thank you to Brian L. MacLearn for providing me with a copy of his new novel for review!

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Books I Bought:

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The Complete Illustrated Stories of Hans Christian Andersen, published by Chancellor Press.

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The Little Shadows by Marina Endicott, published by Doubleday Canada.

Ilustrado by Miguel Syjuco, published by Hamish HamiltonCanada.

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The Complete Dream Dictionary by Pamela Ball, published by Arcturus.

Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe, published by Simon and Schuster.

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The Taker by Alma Katsu, published by Simon and Schuster Canada.

Spells by Aprilynne Pike, published by HarperTeen.

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Books I Won:

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The Haunted House that Jack Built by Helaine Becker, published by Scholastic Canada.

Thank you to First Book Canada,

a registered book charity, for providing a copy of the book for free at the Word on the Street Toronto festival and a special thank you to Helaine Becker for signing it personally to my children.

Gifts by Jo Ellen Bogard and Barbara Reid, published by Scholastic Canada.

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Thank you to The Canadian Children’s Book Centre,

for providing a copy of the book for free at the Word on the Street Toronto festival.

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While the Sun Is Above Us by Melanie Schnell, published by Freehand Books.

Thank you to Book Club Buddy

for providing weekly draws for free books to advocate literacy and promotion of new authors and new releases! And of course to the publisher, Freehand Books for shipping the book out to me right away!

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The Worst-Case Scenario: Daily Survival Calendar 2013 published by  Chronicle Books.

Thank you Quirk Books

for randomly selecting my answer during their Twitter contest as the winner of the Worst-Case Scenario Calendar 2013. Because it’s always important to be prepared.

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Thank you to Jean from The Jean Book Nerd Blog

for a Whisper by Phoebe Kitandis postcard and bookmark through her amazing blog giveaways!

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Thank you to author Jesse Kimmel Freeman

for sending me an e-copy of the book, Bella Notte as my prize for the Clean Read Book Giveaway Hop!

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Thank you to Jenna of Coffee Books and Me Blog

for hosting the Soldier Hill by Phil Rossi Promo Giveaway! I received the ebook from the author the other day!

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Whew! The Bibliotaphe’s Closet was really lucky this week!…Which reminds me…maybe I should play Lotto Max on Friday….

(If I win Lotto Max, oh boy, will my faithful blog followers receive some goodies! So, cross your fingers and your toes—heck, cross those bookmarks, too! If I win Lotto Max, it’s going to rain books!)

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If you were lucky enough to win the lottery, what kinds of “bookish” things might you do with your winnings? What kind of books might you buy?

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Happy Birthday, Shel Silverstein! 09.25.2012

 

Happy Birthday, Shel Silverstein!

09.25.2012

By Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez / @ZaraAlexis

I was nine-years-old and in grade five when I first came across the poetry of Shel Silverstein. My first book was Where the Sidewalk Ends, published by HarperCollins in 1974. And to date, it’s still a book I thoroughly enjoy if not only for its nostalgia. And now my eight-year-old son, Michael, and my three-year-old daughter, Mercedes, enjoy its poetry, too (not to mention they also enjoy colouring the illustrations!).

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And one of my favourite bookish poems comes from Shel Silverstein’s collection, A Light in the Attic called “Overdues”:

What do I do?

What do I do?

This library book is 42

Years overdue.

I admit that it’s mine

But I can’t pay the fine—

Should I turn it in

Or hide it again?

What do I do?

What do I do?

– From A Light in the Attic by Shel Silverstein, HarperCollins Publishers, 1981, p.   65.

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And of course, one of my all-time favourites is “Backward Bill.” Here’s a YouTube clip of Shel Silverstein reading it aloud:

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So, in honour of your birthday, we remember you, Uncle Shelby! Thanks for being a best friend to a young, introverted girl who loved words (and still does). You are missed. And wherever you are, I trust that the sidewalk never ends.

Happy birthday, Shel Silverstein!

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Which is your favourite Shel Silverstein book or poem?

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Did You Hear the WORD ON THE STREET, Toronto? I DID!

Did You Hear THE WORD ON THE STREET, Toronto? I DID!

09.23.2012

By Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez / @ZaraAlexis

It was a fantastic book and magazine festival in Toronto yesterday. Queen’s Park was strewn with white tents filled with books, authors, publishers, and registered charities all advocating literacy and a crowd of avid readers and writers that visited each tent with a buzzing fervour.

I was so glad to be able to get there relatively early at 11:30 a.m and make it a fun, full day for the family. We actually left Queen’s Park at 5:00 p.m.

Here are some of the highlights of the festival that made our experience worthwhile:

The WOTS 2012 Enthusiasts at The Clarica Centre at Islington Station on the way to downtown, Queen’s Park.

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For those of you who don’t know, this is on site where I used to work as an editorial assistant for UCPH! I used to walk these halls with a coffee in my hand, readying myself for an upcoming Resource Coordination meeting. And here I am, now, with my kids on a weekend ready for the adventure of The Word on the Street at Queen’s Park! Let’s go!

The Simon & Schuster Canada Tent.

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Simon and Schuster Canada

And what tent did we hit right out of the Queen’s Park subway Station? One of my favourite publishers that I just started to review books for: Simon & Schuster Canada! And while my children scored Olivia the Pig tiaras, I bought super-cheap, but super-great books:

“The Taker” by Alma Katsu published by Simon & Schuster Canada.

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And while the kids missed seeing Olivia the Pig, in “pig-son,” they weren’t ashamed to show-off their Olivia paper tiaras. Here’s Michael helping Mercedes adjust her crown.

The kids fixing their Olivia the Pig paper crowns from Simon and Schuster Canada.

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First Book Canada

And how timely it was that one of our first stops was the registered book charity, First Book Canada. I had a conversation with Wayne Cochrane, Director of Operations, who told me about their great work in putting new books in the hands of children from low-income families. Today alone at The Word on the Street, First Book Canada was able to distribute 750,000 books alone! That’s exciting, especially if you’re a true advocate of literacy. I certainly am! For more information on how you can help foster literacy through First Book Canada, be sure to visit their website.

The First Books Canada tent. A great book charity with the aim to get new books to children from low-income families. Wayne Cochrane, Director of Operations, and children’s author, Helaine Becker.

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Helaine Becker, author of The Haunted House That Jack Built

And while I chatted with Wayne, my husband took the children to meet the children’s author, Helaine Becker who graciously inscribed her book to Michael and Mercedes while Michael turned extremely shy at meeting his very first “author” in person that he could barely speak when she asked him his name!

Michael and Mercedes’ first book signed by an author! THE HAUNTED HOUSE THAT JACK BUILT by Helaine Becker, illustrated by David Parkins.

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Dani Couture

At the Vibrant Voices of Ontario Tent, we took the time to listen to Dani Couture read a few passages from her novel, Algoma.

Dani Couture reading a few passages from her book, ALGOMA.

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And since it was still early in the afternoon, we, like the book enthusiasts of Toronto and the GTA, excitedly walked the streets of the festival to find our next great book!

Walking through the WOTS 2012 festival.

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The Penguin Pavilion

Another great highlight at the festival was dropping by The Penguin Pavilion where I chatted with a WOTS volunteer about the work surrounding the planned event. She was helpful, and patient, and like much of the event itself, positive, and energetic! She was even kind enough to let me take a picture of her shirt! Thanks to all the volunteers who stood for hours, passing around pamphlets, maps, and answering excited festival-goers’ questions.

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And because Penguin Books of Canada is an awesome publisher, they gave out AMAZING goodies to those who tweeted promos about Penguin at WOTS. And I tell you, I’m glad I stopped by. (OF COURSE, I’D STOP BY! I review books for Penguin Books of Canada!).

Thank you, Penguin Books! I absolutely LOVE my new Classics Penguin tote bag, my Classic Penguin mug (The Invisible Man by H.G. Wells), and my bookmarks, stickers, and posters!

Penguin Books of Canada SWAG!

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A great poster of Zadie Smith`s new release: N.W., published by Penguin Books.

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Penguin Classics mug: THE INVISIBLE MAN by H.G. Wells.

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Chef Mark McEwan

And then we dropped in on Chef Mark McEwan speak about his work as a Food Network TV host and his books, Great Food at Home and Fabbrica.

Chef Mark McEwan

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With all this book love and excitement, even the best of us have to take a break. Here’s the gang taking a rest with Bear Paw snacks and juice boxes before our next tent hop.

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David Suzuki

And it appears, I’m not the only author groupie around! Here’s my daughter, Mercedes, checking the Author Signing Tour Schedule for details. And because she’s so smart and is a green activist like Mommy, she just happens to be pointing at David Suzuki’s time slot.

Mercedes checking out the Author Signing Schedule. She’s keen on meeting authors, too, like her Mommy!

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Here are other tents we visited:

Book Thug.

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I was happy to see Book Thug at WOTS. I happily subscribe to their email for updates on their latest news of excellent literary work.

This Is Not the Shakespeare Stage Tent

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House of Anansi

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House of Anansi T-shirt.

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I was happy to see one of the other publishers I review for at WOTS: House of Anansi. And “A List” is right! P.S. I WANT THAT “A List” t-shirt!

The Remarkable Reads Tent (Random House of Canada)

The Remarkable Reads Tent, Random House of Canada.

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I dropped by the very popular Remarkable Reads Tent hosted by my friends at Random House of Canada. I kept my eye out for one of my favourite marketing teams: Lindsey and Cass, but didn’t catch them as I was thoroughly distracted by the number of speakers, readings, and books were on hand at the festival! Missed you guys!

I did, however, catch some author sightings and while I couldn’t see everyone I had hoped to see, to see one author in person is more than a book lover and blogger, and author groupie like myself could ask for.

Eva Stachniak

Eva Stachniak, author of the new release, THE WINTER PALACE.

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And if it wasn’t talented and famous authors to swoon at, it was every other kind of “bird.” Especially this one! She was promoting The Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood at the Nightwood Theatre. She was good enough to pose for me in all her feathered glory! (Do you see what we do for you, Margaret Atwood?)

I love theatre! I love drama! I even love Margaret Atwood! But, I absolutely love The Word on the Street!

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Megan Crewe

And before I forget my YA followers and readers, can you guess who I saw at WOTS? Megan Crewe, author of the YA book, The Way We Fall, published by Hachette Book Group Canada.

Megan Crewe, author of YA novel. THE WAY WE FALL.

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And for even our younger readers, I wanted to share the buzz of the Kid Street Festival! Literacy can and should start at a young age. And to be able to see the joy of my own children reading makes me nostalgic of when I, too, fell in love with books for the very first time.

Though Michael and Mercedes were unable to snatch a Hobbit poster like most of the children, they were more than happy to shack up at the Children’s Activity Tent to join Debbie Ridpath Ohi and her interactive storytelling of her book, I’m Bored.

Michael taking a break at the Hobbit promotional tent. No poster, but still a great attitude!

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Kids Activity Tent

Here he is with his sister in the Kids’ Activity Tent giving me his best I’m Bored face, a new children’s book.

Michael’s best pretend face for the book, I’M BORED.

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Debbie Ridpath Ohi

And here’s the illustrator of the book, I’m Bored, Debbie Ridpath Ohi, encouraging the children to interact as she tells the story.

Debbie Ridpath Ohi, illustrator of the children’s book, I’M BORED.

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Here are other fun spots we visited:

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A little friend, Bear in Underwear, “hanging around” WOTS.

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And here’s Michael wondering where all the books went? I told him, it’s great news when the shelves are empty. It means more people have bought and received more books!

Michael at Mabel’s Fables.

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Arthur

Here the kids are posing with Arthur, one of their favourite book and television characters. They do own and have read all his books!

The kids posing with Arthur.

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The Children’s Book Bank

But most importantly, I had a conversation with the host of The Children’s Book Bank Tent and was pleased to discover their charitable work in providing free books to children from low-income neighbourhoods. My son even joined in the conversation and gladly offered his own books saying,

“I’ve read a lot of books and I’m done with them.”

How can you help? You can bring your new or gently-used books for children up to grade six to the Children’s Book Bank! And they are always in need of dictionaries!

Check out their website for details on hours of operation and other ways you can help by donating money or your time. If you love reading as much as I do, give the gift of literacy to those that need it most: children.

The Children’s Book Bank. An important book charity that places free books into children’s hands. Donate your books now!

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Kids Street Festival

But, the fun didn’t end there! My children were eager to meet their “friends” at the Kids Street Festival:

Chirp

Michael and Mercedes hanging out with CHIRP. Yay!

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Mercedes wasn’t shy! She went straight up to Chirp and gave him a great, big hug. And then she said,

“Chirp is wearing my red boots!”

She was in awe and so pleased that they were both wearing their red rainboots at WOTS.

And then other children flocked to Chirp!

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Kids Think About It!

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TVO Kids

And before we decided to go for a late lunch, Michael wanted to reaffirm that yes, he’s indeed a TVO Kid!

Michael, a TVO kid!

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Polkaroo

And if you’re as OLD as I am, you’ll get as excited as I was in meeting…yes, that’s right…POLKAROO!!

Michael giving Polkaroo a HUGE hug!

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Mercedes’ turn for a hug with Polkaroo!

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A special thank you to TVO Kids for bringing these characters to life for my children. It was surely a highlight of the day for them. (I was EXCITED to see my old friend, Polkaroo, too!)

Here’s the Polkaroo Gang at McDonalds for a late lunch. POLKAROOOOOOO!

The Polkaroo Gang.

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After lunch, the kids sat down for the TVO Kids show: Beatboxing! They had a really good time and even Daddy was impressed with the youth on the stage. Thanks TVO Kids!

The kids are excited. It’s a TVO Kids concert!

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The TVO Kids concert! Beat-beat-beat-boxing!

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Vincent Lam

But it wasn’t just an amazing time for the little ones, it was also a great day for me personally. I was able to catch a glimpse of Vincent Lam signing his new book, The Headmaster’s Wager. And I kept hitting myself, thinking,

“Why, oh, why, did I NOT bring MY copy to get signed?!?” Arghhh!

Vincent Lam signing SOMEONE ELSE’S book! I really should have brought my copy!

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Susan Swan

And a meaningful meet was when I accidentally ran into Susan Swan! I had planned on seeing her read at 3:15 p.m., but here she was, quietly signing her new book, The Western Light.

 She was my Prose Fiction professor at York University while I studied Creative Writing and English Literature many, MANY years ago!

I was excited to see her again in this context and she humoured me with a lovely photograph opportunity and asked for my blog’s business card. Thanks Susan, for always being a true lover of the writing craft and for remembering me.

Susan Swan, author of the new release, THE WESTERN LIGHT.

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Me with my former professor and highly acclaimed writer, Susan Swan. Ah, the nostalgia! 

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Thanks to Susan Swan for her patience and her gracious criticism of my work. She was extremely helpful, yet not unkind in showing me and others how to improve our writing. If you have a chance to purchase her new book, please do so! She’s a great writer and an excellent professor!

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SWAG

What a full day of author sightings, readings, interviews, SWAG, and book purchases. If you love reading and you love books, you’re not going to want to miss next year’s event. Look at all the fun stuff I was able to find on behalf of everyone’s promotion of literacy!

The Word on the Steet SWAG!

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Time to go home…and well…READ! Happy Word on the Street Day! And hope to see you all next year!

The kids (coerced) to show-off their activity artwork at WOTS.

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Michael says, “Ay Matey! See you next year at Word on the Street Toronto 2013!”

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Bye bye WOTS! Bye bye Chirp and Polkaroo! See you all next year!

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Did you attend The Word on the Street 2012 Festival at Queen’s Park?

What did you enjoy the most about it?

Which authors would you like to see featured next year?

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Continue reading Did You Hear the WORD ON THE STREET, Toronto? I DID!

Saturday Snapshot…on Sunday! 09.23.2012

 

Saturday Snapshot…on Sunday!

09.23.2012

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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It’s nice growing up with someone like you – someone to lean on, someone to count on… someone to tell on! ~Author Unknown

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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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Friday Feature: A Very Eloquent Rendition of The Three Little Pigs

 

Friday Feature: A Very Eloquent Rendition of The Three Little Pigs

09.21.2012

By Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez / @ZaraAlexis

I didn’t really have anything to post for today, but then I remembered this great video clip my brother found on YouTube that I just found equally hilarious and intelligent and I loved it!

Because it’s Friday (or at least the last remnants of Friday), I thought I could share it with you. If you’ve already seen it, then I apologize. If you haven’t, you really should.

Literacy goes a long way and many thanks goes to our old friend, Billy Shakespeare.

Happy Friday!

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Just for fun, why not re-tell a nursery rhyme or fairytale using Shakespearean English?

Leave a snippet of it here in the comments. Give it a try!

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Book Review: The Cosmic Purr: Poems by Aaron Poochigan

 

Book Review:

The Cosmic Purr: Poems by Aaron Poochigan

09.20.2012

By Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez / @ZaraAlexis

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Category: Poetry

Author: Aaron Poochigian

Format: Trade Paperback, 68 pages

Publisher: Able Muse Press

ISBN: 978-0-9878705-2-0

Pub Date: February 29, 2012

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The Cosmic Purr: Poems by Aaron Poochigian is a debut collection of poems that Poochigian fills with metrical verse and a portion that readily emotes a translation of the classics.

While Poochigian’s writing is extravagant with language and uses a few wonderful and stark lines of simile or imagery as in lines such as:

I had forgotten/snowflakes could float about like this, like cotton/from cottonwoods, like tufts of crystal pollen. – From “Grand Forks, MD,” p. 3.

He also has a knack for momentary poetry in an example as small and detailed as spilled win in the poem, You Klutz, with:

the cause, a splatter of Shiraz,/gathering back to impact on/her vintage cashmere sweater, vaulting/ –  p. 27.

While the whole of the poetry collection tends to be too wordy and flamboyant than more modern poetry alone, it’s this flamboyance that will either strike the reader as a hindrance between the audience and the intimacy of poetry or a talent for vocabulary or metrical verse as in the example of One Plus One: A Wedding Sermon:

soft ruffle versus worsted starch;/his sharpness, her florescence. How can they, each keeper of an obstinate ideal,/merge to a round cube, a squared circle? – p. 36.

Even so, the author’s poetry can at times feel non-sentimental, almost tart, and smug like the sting of a fresh bruise on the face of a gruff boxer. The undercurrent of his work has an innate pessimism from the voice of his characters’ poems. Especially poems with lines like:

Why shush her with another bottle,/swaddle her in my arms and hum?/Booze tastes best when the loss is bitter/and all love is a lasting battle. – From “Pulling the Wagon,” p. 28.

Or:

But I bet on the loss, boys, and I buried/my sweet talk back along the interstate/ – From “The Last Bachelors,” p. 29.

I’m uncertain if this is a good thing, but then again, is there such a thing as translucent, “happy poems?”

As for the classics and their translations, I’m not qualified to criticize those, which make up the last portion of The Cosmic Purr. Understanding the classics, let alone Poochigian’s poetics would first be a requirement. And it’s not necessarily that they’re poorly written. No. I’m just not qualified to interpret and analyze classical works as well as Aaron Poochigian himself, who earned his Ph.D. in that subject in 2006.

If anything, I sense from his poetry his classical Greek roots, his instinct for metric rhyme, and his fusion of modern context and language. The result is both a gritty and smooth language that become edible pieces on and off the tongue.

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Zara’s Rating

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A special thank you to Able Muse Press for providing me with a media copy of the book in exchange for an unpaid and honest review.

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Book Review: Sweet Jesus by Christine Pountney

Book Review:

Sweet Jesus by Christine Pountney

09.19.2012

By Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez / @ZaraAlexis

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Category: Fiction

Author: Christine Pountney

Format: Hardcover, 312 pages

Publisher: McClelland & Stewart

ISBN: 978-0-7710-7123-2

Pub Date: September 11, 2012

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Sweet Jesus by Christine Pountney is a book about three siblings, who in their distinct personalities come together in a road trip towards a mega-church in Wichita, Kansas, where their mother once had a powerful faith experience, and where they, too, must come to terms with their own form of spirituality, for or against what is known to be the evangelical right.

There is Connie Foster, the eldest of the siblings who struggles not only with the recent news of her husband’s bankruptcy after a comfortable life of independent business and wealth, but also with her own fears of failure in motherhood and pious, spiritual authenticity.

Hannah Crowe, liberal both in thought, tradition, and sexuality, is desperate to have a child  with Norman Peach, the man she loves, but who is determined to resist her desire for parenthood. She must confront her feelings of insecurity with her family and her own childlessness.

And Zeus Ortega, their adoptive brother from New Mexico who works as a therapeutic clown in a children’s hospital responds to the loss of his boyfriend by planning to meet his biological family for the first time since his adoption.

While the clarity of the language of the novel attributes to it being easily readable, it is also written in a way in which the characters themselves feel distant from the reader and become performers rather than characters with whom the reader can fully empathize. Aside from a few tender and authentic connections, the characters can sometimes come across as almost too self-absorbed.

And rather than take the opportunity to write with grace to show an authentic spiritual struggle like Anouk Markovtis does in her tender and more complex book, I Am Forbidden, the novel, Sweet Jesus, is quite opposite in its view of the evangelical right as would suggest by its title.

Which is unfortunate since its intended message of religious and cultural inclusivity instead comes across as a blatant attack on conservatism, Christianity, and the evangelical movement, thought process, and way of worship as depicted in the described “circus” of the Global Kingdom of Salvation Center in Wichita, Kansas.

The book in its narrative, superficially observes and sheds in a poor light, the evangelical movement, its thought process, and style of worship as an extreme example found in a “weekend service”  without the thoughtful consideration and explanation of its theology, significance and translation of its unique worship style, and potential faith experience.

It’s rather a sad statement to yet again see a novel so easily ridicule, mock, and target the Christian evangelical right more so than any other Christian denomination and/or other religion without a backlash.

It seems to be an easy route, one in which in my mind, is too often accepted, abused, and ignored. While readers, writers, and fictional characters are privileged with the freedom of thought and entitled to disagree on various issues, the care needed to divulge and discern discussions that are meant to enlighten and advocate inclusion and community, especially on such topics as religion regardless of their foreign, elusive, and what can be sometimes deemed as “different” or “strange” practices, deserve at the very least. mature understanding and respect.

This is especially true due to the sensitive nature of the topic of religion as in its discourse, theology, and its practices, regardless of what religion it may be. This is especially true because the heart of religion is in its very nature, not merely and simply about a set of ideology, but a personal, spiritual discourse in which real people of various beliefs ascribe to and find, if not “Christian redemption,” an alternative understanding, direction, comfort, and faith.

Aside from its religious argument, a tender connection is found in the book that I not only enjoyed, but was thoroughly  moved at that I cried at its reading. It  was the well-written and authentic voice of the love letter received by Zeus Ortega from his boyfriend, Fenton Murch, before his personal loss.

If only the book as a whole was written with such openness and tenderness, the inclusivity and religious freedom and respect everyone deserves and aspires to would some day come to fruition, both in literature and in life, in which literature often reflects. If only.

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Zara’s Rating

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 A special thank you to McClelland & Stewart and Random House of Canada for providing me with a media copy of the book in exchange for an unpaid, honest review.

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What ways do you suggest you can act as an individual to further advocate the inclusion of  freedom of thought, freedom of religion,  and authentic encouragement of personal growth and community?

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