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Pre-Publication Blog Tour & Book Review: The Memory Garden by Mary Rickert


By Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez / @ZaraAlexis

memory garden


Category: Paranormal Fiction

Author: Mary Rickert

Format: Trade Paperback, 296 pages

Publisher: Sourcebooks

ISBN: 978-1-4022-9712-0

Pub Date: May 15, 2014


Summary from Publisher:

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

memory garden - flower jasmine


Book Review by Zara

from The Bibliotaphe Closet:

The Memory Garden by Mary Rickert is a pensive and lyrical narrative about the trepidation and surprise of aging, its physical discomfort and pain, its impending inevitability. It’s also a story about the vitality and trust of a friendship between women that’s depth and longevity prove to be unchanged regardless of how much time has passed. It’s also a story of the weight of guilt, its burden, and the poison of secrecy and its old haunts that can pollute one’s life with sadness, fear, regret. Lastly, it is a story of meaning—of flowers and of love.

The narrative in The Memory Garden is as quietly lush and punctuated with flare and oddity as its descriptive garden filled with orphaned shoes and wild flowers.

It’s that of Nan, her worries and complaints of aging, her resignation to its unexpectancy, but its harsh inevitability.

And it’s that of Bay, the restless longing and rebellion of youth, its innocence and confusion, its desire for identity and truth.

The result is an intimate discourse on the mother-daughter relationship, its joy and weariness, its gaps not only in age, but in the mystery of the unknown. And it is at its heart, a window to the uniqueness and flair in which the two live, as both outcasts in their small town, victims of rumour and discrimination.

The setting is as lush and creative as it is a hub for an underlining darkness and eeriness from its detailed and bright descriptions of foliage and hortivulture to its elusive recollections of a dark past and fluctuating visions.

The characters, too, are uniquely vivid and endearing from Nan, whose love and knowledge of horticulture only emphasize her quirkiness, which can be seen through her shoe garden and her creative traditions such as lighting candles outside and refraining from blowing them out on birthdays or climbing through a window annually on Christmas to be greeted by freshly wrapped and dry pyjamas.

To Mavis, whose clinking, gold bracelets are synonymous with her dramatic entrances, her raspy, deep voice, which is able to command the attention of those she speaks to, her lifelong dream to visit Africa, and her sharp restraint, and emotional coolness.

And Ruthie, whose emotional gregariousness hinders her from controlling what she discloses to others, while having a natural giftedness in the kitchen when it comes to cooking a feast or baking delectable sweets—especially her favourite confection—chocolate cake.

Howard, whose small bruise on the cheek is but, a physical mark of his true internal bruising from being ostracized by his family at the news of his sexual orientation.

Stella, a spitting image of her grand-aunt, Eve, in her youth, surprises the women with a coincidental, yet intrusive visit to their reunion in the hopes of gaining more information about her grand-aunt’s life and death.

Thalia, Bay’s best and only friend, is a loyal confidante and curious, yet accepting outsider who is privileged to witness the rumoured mysteriousness of Bay’s family.

And Bay, whose growing yearning for adulthood and answers to her birthright compel her to be torn between the love she feels and has for her adoptive and “strange” mother to wanting to be free from the cruelty that surrounds being ridiculed and ostracized for that very uniqueness.

And Eve, whose stunted innocence carries with it a dark and heavy secret, one that unfurls their childhood into panic, causing in itself helpless decisions made by the inexperience youth.

And lastly, Grace Winter, whose circle of friends and radical independence, sparks curiosity that later leads to vehemence and discriminative crime.

Together these characters are largely revealed through their dialogue, their hardships, and fears as lethal as their self-imposed guilt, and as strong as the bond of their friendship that even after a 60-year absence, has not disappeared.

The plot, while not necessarily active, is simple, yet filled with haunting memory and storytelling as fragrant as the wild garden and forest behind Nan and Bay’s home. It is filled with surprises that take in its gradual pace as long as it does for foliage to bloom, but worth like a beautiful garden, an appreciative result.

The language, though not overly literary, is sound enough to be interesting, pacing the story by the reader’s curiosity for answers and resolution, entertaining by the overall likeability of its characters.

It is as its title discloses. a Memory Garden, delicately tended to with dedication and love.


Characters: 3.5 stars

Plot: 3.5 stars

Language/Narrative: 3.5 stars

Dialogue: 3.5 stars

Pacing: 3.5 stars

Cover Design: 3.5 stars


Zara’s Rating

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A special thanks to Sourcebooks for including me in the Pre-Publication Book Blog Tour and for providing me with a copy of The Memory Garden in exchange for an honest review.


About the Author:

Mary Rickert. (c) Photo by Will Bauer. All rights reserved.
Mary Rickert. (c) Photo by Will Bauer. All rights reserved.


Before earning her MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts, Mary Rickert worked as a kindergarten teacher, coffee shop barista, balloon vendor at Disneyland, and in the personnel department at Sequoia National Park, where she spent her free time hiking the wilderness. She now lives in Cedarburg, Wisconsin, a small city of candy shops and beautiful gardens. This is her first novel. There are, of course, mysterious gaps in this account of her life, and that is where the truly interesting stuff happened.

– From inside bio in novel, The Memory Garden


Connect with Mary Rickert on her official website.

Find more information on Mary Rickert on Wikipedia.

Be a fan of Mary Rickert on Goodreads.


Be sure to visit the other blogs that are participating in the Pre-Publication Book Blog Tour for The Memory Garden:

Linus’ Blanket

Royal Reviews

Book Bag Lady

Lesa’s Book Critiques

Bookalicious Babe

Mirabile Dictu

Story Matters


What do you think is most powerful about the bond between women in friendship?

What do you think is the best and worst thing about aging?

Do you believe in magic? In ghosts? In witches?

Do you believe in the meaning of flowers and what they represent? What is your favourite flower and why?


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15-Day Book Blogger Challenge: Day 8

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15-Day Book Blogger Challenge:

Day 8


By Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez / @ZaraAlexis


10 Things that Appeal to Me on Blogs

While today’s challenge calls for 15 things that appeal to me on blogs, I only came up with 10. Why fuss? I’m pretty easy to please when it comes to these sure-fire ways to make a blog work for me:

  1. An uncluttered, clean, and clear blog layout design.
  2. Intelligent and well-written reviews.
  3. Generous giveaways.
  4. A great sense of humour in the voice of the posts.
  5. Timely and relevant topics.
  6. Interesting photos.
  7. Blogs that are informative and educational.
  8. Original memes.
  9. Easy navigation.
  10. A blog that engages with its readers by asking relevant questions.


To see the rest of the 15-Day Book Blogger Daily Challenges, you can visit here.

What’s your top 10 list of appealing factors in blogs?


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15-Day Book Blogger Challenge: Day 7

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15-Day Book Blogger Challenge:

Day 7


By Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez / @ZaraAlexis



My Blogging Quirks

I’m kind of quirky to begin with…or maybe it’s “cooky,”—nevertheless, quirks are a familiar topic in my world. In terms of blogging, here are a few of my quirks:

1. If I can create an avatar of myself in almost every avatar application that exists, then I will.

zara wallpaper avatar

weemee zara


2. I’m a blogging meme-queen.

If I find a fun blog meme online, I participate in it. Period.

3. I create a blogging schedule for myself—and then 80% of the time, break it.

I have a hardcopy agenda book, an online calendar, a desk calendar, and a wall calendar—but it just doesn’t seem to matter.



4. I’m addicted to creating blog buttons—but only 2% of them show up on my blog. 

writing wednesday - blue border  writing wednesdays button

friday feature at the bibliotaphe closet button  fashion fridays button


5. I don’t read books as fast as I would like—or write their corresponding reviews as fast either.

Every time I begin a new book, I aspire to read it as fast as I can and then, slowly, but surely, other things get in the way of me finishing the book according to schedule. I try to shrug it off and simply enjoy the process of reading, but guilt grows like a fungus when my schedule gets all mucked up.

6. I try to take my camera with me everywhere I go, just in case I get a great shot for my blog.

My second love to books is my love for photography and my old Canon SX10IS. If I could only afford the Nikon D800!

nikon D800


7. Creating a new blog is much like a pregnancy: it takes a good nine months for it to really come into community. I currently have three blog babies: The Bibliotaphe Closet, Zara’s Makeup Box, and The Branch that Clings to the Vine—as if having one isn’t enough.

Me pregnant. (c) Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez.
Me pregnant. (c) Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez.


8. I don’t like writing my reviews unless I have a cup of coffee on hand. 

I’m not sure if I’m addicted to coffee or if I’m addicted to the act of drinking coffee. Either way, I can’t—absolutely can’t—write a review unless I have a cup of coffee with me. No coffee, no review. It’s just that simple (or quirky).

zara and hcc mug


9. Meeting authors (which is great in itself, as well as creating content for my blog) really makes me nervous and actually freaks me out.

In attendance to my very first Random House of Canada Blogger Fest, I was privileged to meet Paula Mclain, Erin Morgenstern, and Ami McKay. I talked a lot and rapidly, both signs of my nervousness (and glee).

Authors: Paula Mclain, Erin Morgenstern, Ami McKay at Random House Blog Fest, Feb. 2012. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.
Authors: Paula Mclain, Erin Morgenstern, Ami McKay at Random House Blog Fest, Feb. 2012. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.


10. For each new book that I add to my personal collection, I have a very specific routine: 1. I post about it on my “Stuffing the Bibliotaphe Closet” meme. 2. I add it to my library on Goodreads 3. I add it to my TBR pile 4. I don’t usually get to it because another book distracts me.



To see the rest of the 15-Day Book Blogger Daily Challenges, you can visit here.

What are some of your blogging quirks as a blogger, if you are one?


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15-Day Book Blogger Challenge: Day 6

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15-Day Book Blogger Challenge:

Day 6


By Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez / @ZaraAlexis



How I Shop for Books

The word, “bibliotaphe,” means book hoarder.

I am one.

I see a book, and even though I already own more than 2000 in my collection, if it’s a book I’m interested in reading, then I’m compelled to buy it. It’s a very expensive disease.

How do I personally shop for books?

Well, based on recommendations from the reading and publishing community, I usually keep a keen eye on new titles, check their book summaries online, make a list of favourites, and then go hunting,

I usually dedicate an afternoon to perusing my favourite bookshop and aside from my “To Buy” list, I usually end up finding a great, older title that I wasn’t expecting. This is especially true when I visit my favourite used bookstore.

Depending on my book budget and the last time I actually went book shopping, I’ll mentally calculate the consequences I might have to face when my husband sees the amount of books I want to buy if I actually buy them, and also how many I can actually carry them out of the store without causing injury to myself.

I tend to gravitate towards literary fiction and poetry, but young adult paranormal fiction also finds itself in my book bag as well.

How do I decide which books to buy? Here’s the mental list I carry with them while browsing a book shop:

  • Did the cover and its cover design originally draw me in when I first looked at the book?
  • Who is the book’s publisher? Am I familiar with the publisher?
  • Have I read another book by the same author and enjoyed it?
  • After I’ve read the synopsis on the back and on the flap jacket, am I still intrigued?
  • After I randomly choose a page in the book and read a few lines, is the writing style something I would enjoy reading?
  • Is the copy in the trade paperback format?
  • How affordable is the book?
  • Do I already own a copy of this book in another edition?

These are some of the things I consider before purchasing a novel.


To see the rest of the 15-Day Book Blogger Daily Challenges, you can visit here.

How do you shop for your books?


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15-Day Book Blogger Challenge: Day 5

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15-Day Book Blogger Challenge:

Day 5


By Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez / @ZaraAlexis



I don’t cry easily.

But, I do, however, cry when a novel moves me to the point of awe or grief.

And it hasn’t happened often. When it does, it’s a story that stays with me for a long time.

The most recent book that brought me to tears was in my reading of:

constellation of vital phenomena


It’s an exquisite novel.

You can read my review here.


To see the rest of the 15-Day Book Blogger Daily Challenges, you can visit here.

What book would you recommend as a “tear-jerker?”


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15-Day Book Blogger Challenge: Day 4

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15-Day Book Blogger Challenge:

Day 4


By Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez / @ZaraAlexis



I am a passionate person and I’m extremely passionate about books. I’m not quite sure which is worst for me: the book that is marginally okay or the book that is absolutely detestable.

While I don’t often fling books across the room because I care too much about them—and I absolutely HATE it when my books get wrinkled, torn, stained, or even slightly damaged—I have raged against a couple of books for being written so uninterestingly.

The last book that I flung across the room (because I agreed to review it, but actually had an extremely hard time getting through it because I was simply bored) was…

the neruda case


Sorry. I did throw it across the room. But, my faithful readers, try not to weep too hard. The book was only an ARC (thank goodness!).


To see the rest of the 15-Day Book Blogger Daily Challenges, you can visit here.

What book(s) have you flung across the room in a rage?


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15-Day Book Blogger Challenge: Day 3

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15-Day Book Blogger Challenge:

Day 3


By Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez / @ZaraAlexis



My Blogging BFF’s

While I know a few great book bloggers that are great at posting anything and everything about books as well as have genuinely wonderful personalities like:

I do have one blogging friend I consider to be one of my blogging BFF’s:

Lindsay from Always a Girly Girl

Not only is she a book lover, a fellow book reviewer for Random House of Canada, and a nail polish hoarder like myself, her posts are not only fun and informative, but she’s just an all-around extroverted, fun, funny, and thoughtful person!

Me and Lindsay at Random House Blogger Fest 2013.
Me and Lindsay at Random House Blogger Fest 2013.


Who are your blogging BFF’s?


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15-Day Book Blogger Challenge: Day 2

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15-Day Book Blogger Challenge:

Day 2

My Bedtime Reading Ritual


By Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez / @ZaraAlexis



My bedtime reading ritual consists of:

1. Putting the children to bed.

2. Taking a warm shower.

3. Changing into cozy pyjamas and furry slippers.

4. Making myself a cup of tea.

5. Choosing a book to read.

6. Turning on my reading lamp.

7. Setting my tea down on my tiled coaster.

8. Sitting with my feet curled under me on the sofa bed in my reading room.

9. Opening my book.

10. Periodically sipping away at my tea while reading.

11. Depending on how good the book is or how tired I am will dictate how late I actually stay up to read.

12. If I don’t finish the book that night, I do my very best to finish a chapter so I can continue reading, beginning a new chapter the next day.

13. I check on the children sleeping.

14. I may or may not sneak in a few more pages to read.

15. I turn off my reading lamp and sneak into bed to sleep.

16. I look forward to waking up to a fresh cup of coffee and the next chance I can open up a book to read!


To see the rest of the 15-Day Book Blogger Daily Challenges, you can visit here.

What’s your bedtime reading ritual?


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15-Day Book Blogger Challenge: Day 1

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15-Day Book Blogger Challenge:

Day 1


By Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez / @ZaraAlexis

I subscribe to a number of book blogs that I enjoy reading and connect with book bloggers that motivate me to read, write, and also maintain writing for my own blog. Yesterday, I received my regular mail from The Passionate Bookworm and I discovered through her participation, the 15-Day Book Blogger Challenge! Here’s what the 15 days will look like:


And so it seems a great way to start this challenge is to confess—lay down the burden of my secret book-related sins. I can do that. Here we go…

My 15 Book-Related Confessions:

1. I actually prefer books in the trade paperback format, rather than hardcover—and I absolutely can’t stand mass paperback editions!

2. When I was in Grade One, teachers placed me in a special phonetics class on account that they thought I had difficulty learning how to read, write, and use proper grammar.

3. When I was teased in school for not being able to “speak English properly,” I vowed to myself that I would excel in English and one day become a writer and editor—and now I am one.

4. I didn’t own a lot of books when I was a child so I used to sneak reading comics in the Toronto Sun and Toronto Star after my parents threw the newspapers away.

5. I signed up for my first library card with my Dad when I was eight-years-old from The Chinguacousy Public Library, which opened up a new world of books to me. It was the most valuable thing in my wallet.

6. I rallied against my school librarian about students not being able to read young adult romance novels because I had read inside the cover that the books could be read by children ages 8 and up. Since then, novels such as “P.S. I Love You” were allowed to be read by my grade level and beyond.

7. I once lied to my teacher about wanting to do research in the library since I finished all my homework before the rest of my class. Because I was a straight-A student, my teacher allowed me to go without any supervision. Instead of going to the library, I left school property, went to a creek close by, and read poetry under my favourite tree.

8. Please, please, please—don’t EVER bend a page in a new book with dog ears instead of using a bookmark. It really BOTHERS me, especially if it’s a book that I own.

9. I can’t stand it when someone tells me they didn’t bother finishing a book because they didn’t like it. That’s like saying to someone, “I hate your guts,” after only one conversation. I think every book is worth reading until the end before its given a critique. Perspective can change throughout a reading and a reader won’t know the full potential of a story if he/she hasn’t read a book in its entirety.

10. I used to practice my signature and fantasize that one day I would be signing books at my own book-signing.

11. I restricted myself to only date writers, editors, and English Lit. majors while I was in university.

12. While the above is true, I was secretly in love with Michael Ondaatje, where no man I was dating at that time could compare!

13. Sometimes I get stuck on the proper spelling of the word, “rhythm.” I know, just shoot me.

14. I enjoy collecting bookmarks and old photographs that I find in old books that I buy. I always wonder who has and how many has read the book before it has come into my hands.

15. I don’t like reading unless I’m wearing my gold and silver rings. Weird? Yes. True? Very.


To see the rest of the 15-Day Book Blogger Daily Challenges, you can visit here.

What are your bookish confessions?


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The Bibliotaphe Closet in Hiatus! And Intro to The Branch that Clings to the Vine…

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The Bibliotaphe Closet in Hiatus!

And Intro to The Branch that Clings to the Vine…


By Zara D. Garcia / @ZaraAlexis

Unfortunately, the past month since the middle of March has brought crisis upon crisis on my family. It happens. Life happens. And because of our innate vulnerability, life doesn’t wait around for pleas of exemption or special consideration. (And for some reason, this also seems to plague the best of us who also happen to passionately host blogs!)

This past month, crisis upon crisis consecutively attacked my family in the following ways:

  • I suffered a number of undiagnosed migraines that included severe nausea and vomiting, which led to my hospitalization.
  • The investigation of my migraines brought on three back surgeries (two that had failed) that led to a month of slow and painful recovery.
  • My son and daughter fell ill at the same time that led to a week of antibiotics and absence from school.
  • My 1-and-a-half-year-old nephew was hospitalized with pneumonia, which led to two hospital transfers.
  • My father, mother, brother, and sister all fell ill at the same time, of which they are still fighting to recover.
  • And my uncle, my mother’s brother, of whom we’re so close, passed away two days ago, on April 13.

And so, while my family and I have suffered a long bout of illness, it must also now endure personal grief.

I am, however, grateful that out of this suffering, I have been blessed with an opportunity for the renewal of my personal faith. Crisis can do that. It can also open your eyes to a new form of gratefulness especially in light of things you may have easily taken for granted in the past.

Because of this, I’m happy to announce the creation of my new, Christian blog called, The Branch that Clings to the Vine!

branch vine avatar


Its title is based on the biblical verse:

 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” – John 15:5 (NIV)

If you’re interested, I’d love for you to give it a look and also follow me there!

That said, I’m also excited to be able to return to the work associated with my blog, The Bibliotaphe Closet!

But, in light of my health, and my current circumstances, and the addition of a new blog; while I plan on posting articles on The Bibliotaphe Closet, I have realistically decided that I will no longer post articles on my book blog on a daily basis as done previously. My priority is to not only begin managing a healthier lifestyle, as well as two different blogs, but to also catch up on my reading and reviews.

As fellow bibliotaphes and faithful followers of my blog, I kindly ask for your patience (and prayers) to ensure these plans become a success!

Until then, I remain relatively present on Twitter (@ZaraAlexis and @IFollowJesusToo) and will check my email inbox periodically.

And as a kind reminder, today is also the announcement to Pulitzer Prize winners at 3:00 p.m. ET. I look forward to receiving and sharing the news with you!


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