Tag Archives: book event

Re-cap: Word on the Street Festival 2014


By Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez / @ZaraAlexis / @zara.tokiniha

My husband and I had planned to attend the annual Word on the Street festival in Toronto on September 21 for months since our successful visits since a few years ago. And then of course, closer to the date, we heard the disappointing news of rain and thunder showers, which literally put a “damper” on our intentions to attend. So, after waking up really early with anticipation to leave, we heard the news, and then begrudgingly went back to sleep.

After a little nap, our five-year-old daughter woke us up saying, “Mama, I thought we’re going to Toronto?” That convinced me enough to reconsider. Why disappoint my only daughter? Why break a promise to her because of a little rain? So, my husband and I got up again and were determined to head on out regardless of the potentially bad weather.

In lieu of the poor weather reports we packed our umbrellas and practically ran to catch a GO bus to head to Union Station, at which point we walked to King subway, only to turn back due to the sales booth being closed. The great thing about the weekend in Toronto is the affordable TTC Family Pass, which allows two adults and up to four children to ride the TTC streetcar and subway all day. The unfortunate thing about the weekend in Toronto is its only time to perform construction and maintenance on the subway lines, which only means closures, detours, and delays for its commuters—yes, us.

Eventually, we routed ourselves onto a subway line headed north to College, at which point we needed to hop onto a streetcar to take us to Queen’s Park. We didn’t score the new TTC streetcars only launched a few weeks ago, but got a taste of the imminent crowd that is a Toronto pedestrian lifestyle.

Even though we were late, I was able to snag quite a bit of SWAG in the form of bookmarks, postcards, buttons, posters, stickers, temporary tattoos, and even a beach ball!

Some of the SWAG items I picked up at WOTS 2014. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.
Some of the SWAG items I picked up at WOTS 2014. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.


X. wearing one my favourites pieces of SWAG from WOTS 2014, play reading glasses. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.
X. wearing one my favourites pieces of SWAG from WOTS 2014, play reading glasses. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.


It was, however, a struggle to even get a peek at some of the books for sale at a number of tents because of the bibliotaphe mobs that surrounded these busy tables. But, because of my will, determination, and sheer girth, I was able to squeeze (and elbow) through some people to finally get near some titles.

My friends at HarperCollins Canada loaded their tent with a slew of titles, a hodge podge of genres, ready for the plucking at super-crazy, clearance prices: $3 for hardcovers and $2 for paperbacks! But, because the crowd was busy picking and pecking at books, I was only able to snag a few goodies:

Books I bought at WOTS 2014: "The Age of Hope" by David Bergen, "Solo" by Rana Dasgupta, and "Astray" by Emma Donoghue. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.
Books I bought at WOTS 2014: “The Age of Hope” by David Bergen, “Solo” by Rana Dasgupta, and “Astray” by Emma Donoghue. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.


Still, the trip was worth it since there is always a spot reserved entirely for young children and their families especially the huge stage performances by TVO Kids, which my children enjoyed.

Here are some of the highlights my little readers enjoyed at WOTS this year:

The kids posing with Chirp of TVO Kids at WOTS 2014. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.
The kids posing with Chirp of TVO Kids at WOTS 2014. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.


The kids with one of my favourite characters when I was a kid---it's Polkaroo! (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.
The kids with one of my favourite characters when I was a kid—it’s Polkaroo! (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.


My little cowboy and cowgirl, courtesy of Howdy, TVO Kids. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.
My little cowboy and cowgirl, courtesy of Howdy, TVO Kids. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.


Other highlights included listening in to Claire Cameron speak about her book, “The Bear,” and Kathryn Kuitenbrouwer on her beautifully written novel, “All the Broken Things.”

What a brilliant day for book lovers everywhere!

Hope to see you all next year!


Did you attend WOTS 2014 this year?

Which authors were you most excited about meeting?

What bookish goodies were you able to snag?


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Happy National Reading Day! 01.23.2014


By Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez / @ZaraAlexis

Reading is so fantastic and integral to society that its been given its own holiday. And while most book lovers already read on a daily basis, it’s wonderful to advocate literacy just as often. At least it has a day dedicated to itself in which people are encouraged to read and to honour a genuine love of books.

While this holiday is recognized in the USA and is primarily targeted towards the advocacy of literacy for children, literacy and the love of reading can be celebrated by anyone anywhere.

With the number of publishers and imprints in Canada, the number of genres to choose from, and the number of Canadian authors who are highly acclaimed, the written word has never been more ripe than it is now. Even with the evolution of technology and the way in which people read, there seems to be a continual commitment to producing the best and most diversified forms of literature.

And though there has been a general fear in the decline of both books in print and/or bookstores, there still remains an avid group of readers that devotedly borrow, buy, collect, and read books.

Reading is not to be underrated in its importance both in a general understanding for the individual to survive and function successfully in society, but also the way in which reading builds confidence, and an opportunity to actively participate in the gift of creativity and imagination. Literature as art not only shares stories with its audience as a form of performance and entertainment, but can also house a significant comment on society at large, and can be both a reflection of society, as well as a catalyst for its change.

If anything, the works of our time can showcase and encourage important dialogue about who we are and where we are going. Stories, too, are treasure troves of the semantics of language, narrative, dialogue—all lexicons of how we think, speak, and interact with one another.

While writers can range from the obscure to the fully formed and realized literary idols, they are in essence the gatekeepers to the language and life others know, but cannot articulate.

In honour of National Reading Day, let’s relish in the ability we have to read, but also the freedom in which we can choose what to read.

Perhaps in celebration of National Reading Day, you could do (one of) the following:

  • make a book recommendation to someone personally or online
  • lend a highly recommended book to a friend or family member who’s hesitant to read
  • trade a book with a fellow bibliotaphe
  • donate some well-loved books to a book charity
  • join a book club
  • create a book club
  • create a reading room
  • host a book giveaway
  • host a book party
  • donate money to a book foundation
  • in lieu of toys, commit to buy books for children instead
  • allot time in your day/evening to read
  • commit to reading with your child(ren) on a daily basis
  • take your children to your local, public library and register them for a new library card
  • take your children to a local book store to browse and see what kind of books interest them
  • volunteer at your local library to tutor others in reading
  • become a reading buddy
  • write a thoughtful fan letter to one of your favourite authors
  • write a thoughtful letter of thanks to one of your former English teachers
  • make a reading list and commit to reading each title until it’s completed
  • join the 50 Book Pledge 2014 through HarperCollins Canada
  • create a small, free homemade library on your property
  • leave a book in a public space for someone to pick up and pass on


What do you plan on doing to celebrate National Reading Day?

What are you reading right now?

How can you personally advocate literacy today?

Which of the above suggestions might you participate in today or in future?

What do you love most about reading?


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Education Week: Literacy Day at School

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Education Week: Literacy Day at School


By Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez / @ZaraAlexis

My eight-year-old son’s public school celebrates Education Week on an annual basis, which encourages the celebration of different parts of its curriculum and hosts community events that parents and family members are welcome to participate in during the school day.

Education Week runs from April 15-19 and my three-year-old daughter and I were privileged to attend and participate for at least two days this week at Michael’s school.

Yesterday, we sat in Michael’s Grade Three class and witnessed their celebration of Art Day! We learned about the process of making things look like they’re in the foreground and background. And when we left, Michael was working on a rainforest picture.

And today, we couldn’t turn down the opportunity to visit Michael’s school because it’s Literacy Day! When it comes to reading, as a family, we’re all for it!

Here’s a picture of Michael outside the school, participating in his school’s Dance-a-thon:

Education Week1
Michael in the center in the red jacket participating in the school’s Dance-a-thon! (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.


And now, we’re on our way in! Welcome!

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Michael in his pyjamas for Pyjama Day with his favourite stuffed toy, named “Foxy!” He was SO happy to be able to bring him to school today. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.


And while parents weren’t permitted to take photographs in the classroom in order to protect the students as well as avoid disrupting the class, we were able to visit Michael’s school Book Fair and pick up some literary treats.

Sixty percent of purchases go back to Michael’s school, so what better way to support my son than a treat to good books, bookmarks, and erasers? While I couldn’t buy everything on their shelves, Michael made a couple of great choices:

set 1


The Cross of Lead by Avi Crispin

The Amazing Adventure of Nate Banks: Secret Identity Crisis by Jake Bell


set 2


The Keys to the Kingdom: Grim Tuesday by Garth Nix

Dead and Gone by Norah McClintock


set 3


And we’re in much agreement with “Bite into a good book!” So much so, we had to buy two bookmarks! And I love that monster eraser. I was tempted to buy another for myself, but I figured, it’s my son’s Book Fair, not mine.

All in all, it’s been a festive Education Week. I may just pop by the School Book Fair again and pick up a couple more bookmarks and erasers (another monster one, for sure)!


How do you participate and give back to your community through the love of books?

If you have children, did they participate in Education Week this week?

What book recommendations might you have for an eight-year-old boy? Or a three-year-old girl?


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Meet M.L. Stedman!: April 2nd at Indigo, Bay & Bloor

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Meet M.L. Stedman!

April 2nd at Indigo, Bay & Bloor


By Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez / @ZaraAlexis

I’m pleased to announce an exciting event happening tomorrow!

You and your bookish friends can meet M.L. Stedman who’ll be doing a talk and reading from her debut novel, The Light Between Oceans on April 2nd at Indigo’s Bay and Bloor location.



Summary from the publisher:

After four harrowing years on the Western Front, Tom Sherbourne returns to Australia and takes a job as the lighthouse keeper on Janus Rock, nearly half a day’s journey from the coast. To this isolated island, where the supply boat comes once a season and shore leaves are granted every other year at best, Tom brings a young, bold, and loving wife, Isabel. Years later, after two miscarriages and one stillbirth, the grieving Isabel hears a baby’s cries on the wind. A boat has washed up onshore carrying a dead man and a living baby.

Tom, whose records as a lighthouse keeper are meticulous and whose moral principles have withstood a horrific war, wants to report the man and infant immediately. But Isabel has taken the tiny baby to her breast. Against Tom’s judgment, they claim her as their own and name her Lucy. When she is two, Tom and Isabel return to the mainland and are reminded that there are other people in the world. Their choice has devastated one of them.

M. L. Stedman’s mesmerizing, beautifully written novel seduces us into accommodating Isabel’s decision to keep this “gift from God.” And we are swept into a story about extraordinarily compelling characters seeking to find their North Star in a world where there is no right answer, where justice for one person is another’s tragic loss.

The Light Between Oceans is exquisite and unforgettable, a deeply moving novel.


Be sure to check back at The Bibliotaphe Closet for an upcoming review of M.L. Stedman’s debut novel, The Light Between Oceans!


Have you yet had the pleasure of reading M.L. Stedman’s debut novel?

Will you be attending M.L. Stedman’s reading tomorrow at Indigo’s Bay and Bloor location in Toronto tomorrow?

Like the character, Isabel, in the book, what lengths would you go in “having a baby” after the trauma of two miscarriages?


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Are You Mad About Books? Good! Because It’s HCC March Madness!

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Are You Mad About Books? Good!

Because It’s HCC March Madness!


By Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez / @ZaraAlexis

For book lovers everywhere, the month of March brings a lot of possibilities: from a sense of finally moving away from the drudgery of a cold, harsh winter to the hope of more sunshine (and new spring releases); to the opportunity to go on March Break to read the piles of books that have been waiting patiently on their bookshelves—and now the opportunity to not only VOTE for your favourite books in a battle of books published by HarperCollins Canada (HCC), but also WIN the entire set of 64 contenders for your very own collection!

Is HarperCollins Canada (HCC) mad?


Mad about books just as much as other book lovers are!

Mad enough to give us our say on which books should win the reigning title of Best Book for HCC March Madness.

Mad enough to host this book event for the entire month of March!

Mad enough to give out book prizes to its most enthusiastic cheerleaders!

And mad enough to award one winner the entire collection of 64 books at the end of the event!


How mad are you about books?


Are you mad enough to host your own book blog because you’re obsessed with reading — even though you already have a full schedule of other things to do?

Are you mad enough about books to clear your schedule to attend much-coveted book events?

Are you mad enough to wait in a two-hour line-up to meet and greet your favourite authors?

Are you mad enough to create a personal book budget—and then break it—every time you enter a book store?

Are you mad enough to remember quotes and passages from your favourite books?

Are you mad enough about books that you recognize publisher logos from afar?

Are you mad enough about books that you’re on almost every social media network with friends and followers who are primarily book lovers or are in the book industry?

Are you mad enough about books that you’ve sold your soul to Rafflecopter in the hopes of winning a copy of a book amongst thousands of other entries?

Are you mad enough about books that you often buy bookish jewellery and accessories?

Are you mad enough about books that you think of new ways to organize and re-organize your books on your shelves?

Are you mad enough about books that you find your books pretty much everywhere?

Are you mad enough about books that you look forward to time alone so that you can actually sit down and read?

Are you mad enough about books that your family and friends often come to you for advice on what to read or not to read?

Are you mad enough about books secretly dream of owning your own private library?

Are you mad enough about books that you’re a great advocate of literacy?

Are you mad enough about books that you’re genuinely pleased when you see other people reading?

Are you mad enough about books to VOTE EVERY SINGLE DAY in the HCC March Madness event?


If you’ve said yes to most, if not all, the questions above, you’re the perfect candidate for the HCC March Madness Event!

hcc march madness


To enter the madness, click on the button above and vote, vote, vote!

May the best book win!!


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Freedom to Read Week: February 24 – March 2

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Freedom to Read Week:

February 24 – March 2


By Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez / @ZaraAlexis

freedom to read week


“Everyone has the following fundamental freedoms . . . thought, belief, opinion, and expression.” — Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms


Freedom to Read Week is organized by the Freedom of Expression Committee of the Book and Periodical Council, which is an organization for associations involved in the writing and editing, publishing and manufacturing, distribution, and selling and lending of books and periodicals in Canada.

Freedom to read is indicative of the fundamental right to the freedom of expression for all Canadians.

The Freedom of Expression Committee supports this as it works to monitor censorship issues and opposes all efforts to suppress writing and silence writers.

This annual event that begins today, February 24 and lasts until March 2, encourages us to celebrate our love of reading, reaffirm our support of literacy, and commitment to intellectual freedom.

Here is a list of challenged works in the past decade, which have sought to limit our accessibility to them in schools, libraries, and bookstores. While some have been dismissed, many are still upheld.

To see how you might help to raise awareness and get involved in the Freedom to Read campaign and celebrate Freedom to Read Week,

please visit their website by clicking on the banner at the top of this post.

You can also follow Freedom to Read Week on Facebook.


What books on the list of Challenged Works have you read, enjoyed, and was able to benefit from in its ability to showcase controversial issues?

How do you feel about censorship of books in Canada?

How will you participate and celebrate The Freedom to Read Week?


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2nd Annual Random House Blogger Fest – with Special Guest, Author, Andrew Kaufman!

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2nd Annual Random House Blogger Fest –

with Special Guest, Author, Andrew Kaufman!


By Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez / @ZaraAlexis

I was yet again honoured to be invited to join other book lovers in the blogging community to celebrate a year of reading books published by the renowned publisher, Random House of Canada, at their home office in Toronto this past weekend.

It also gave me an opportunity to reconnect with those I met at last year’s event who have now not only become recognizable faces on and offline, but have also become friends who offer a great network of shared passion, advice, and continual inspiration and encouragement about books, reading, writing reviews, attending events, and managing the hectic lifestyle of a book blogger.

I was especially happy to meet up with Lindsay of Turning the Pages at Starbucks before the event to catch-up over coffee and exchange some (believe it or not) nail polish goodies, which happen to be our second, shared passion alongside our love for books.

Gifts from Lindsay: candles and a set of Maybelline Color Show nail polishes.
Gifts from Lindsay: candles and a set of Maybelline Color Show nail polishes. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.


In consideration of Friday’s snow squall that forced me to shovel my driveway at least four times within 24 hours, that was sarcastically named, “Stormaggedon 2013,” I received a lovely candle called Snowed In from Bath & Body Works that matched a lovely set of Maybelline Color Show nail polishes that Lindsay referred to as “Zara colours!” And she was certainly right. For you nail fashionistas, the colours from left to right are: #240 – Twilight Rays, #725 – Downtown Brown, #720 – Pink Cosmo, and #710 – Metal Icon.

And as an added touch and extremely thoughtful gift, I also received a bottle of Jaded Green Hearts nail polish  by Jaded Nail Co. where the proceeds go to help the families of those whose children were recently murdered in the Sally Hock Elementary School shooting. The matching green Chrysanthemum candle reminds me that even in such a horrific and senseless act; the compassion, love, and support found in friendship and the community at large can still exist and  act as a “light” of comfort during such a terrible tragedy.

So, thanks to my friend, Lindsay, fellow Random House book blogger and nail polish addict, who brought me a little more joy in the goodies she gave me and the presence of her warm and enthusiastic company. (You are awesome, “BFFFB” – Best Friends Forever from Brampton!)

Me and Lindsay at RH Blogger Fest 2013.
Me and Lindsay at RH Blogger Fest 2013. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.


Of course, the RH Blogger Fest wasn’t all fun and games, though it was hard to tell. As usual, our hosts provided us with a kind spread of fruits, munchies, and desserts, as well as coffee and tea.

(c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved,


My scrumptious plate of goodies. Yum, yum!
My plate of goodies. Yum, yum! (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.


Aside from their warm hospitality, we were privileged to meet Andrew Kaufman in person, author of Random House of Canada’s new release, Born Weird.

born weird bk pile
(c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.


Waving at Andrew Kaufman and fellow book bloggers, Kailey and Nicole.
Waving at Andrew Kaufman and fellow book bloggers, Kailey and Nicole. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.


And lucky me, I was even more privileged to be seated right next to him during the event!

a kaufman chair
(Yes, proof that Andrew Kaufman, though not in this photo, was seated next to me during the RH Blogger Fest. If you don’t believe me, ask Mr. Kaufman!) (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.


He introduced the premise of his novel with a bashful enthusiasm and intimacy as one would who spent three years writing it, and as one might, as a parent who affectionately shares stories about his or her lovable, yet incorrigible toddler. I know. I have one.

But his book does a lot more than baby talk. It, like its author, Mr. Kaufman, is creative and imaginative, as well as entertaining. Who better to write magic realism than a man who can create a story about a family of siblings with specific and quirky gifts as given to them by an abrasive grandmother they all affectionately and begrudgingly refer to as the Shark?

As a character, she had enough “bite” in her to appropriate gifts to each, such as: strength to Kent whose small frame never stopped him from winning a physical fight; direction to Lucy who is never lost; faith to Abba who never loses hope; safety to Richard whose fear of commitment is perpetuated by his need to avoid risk or danger; and perpetual forgiveness to Angie, whose sass and sensitivity have more than once put her in a dilemma of sibling abuse on account that they never need face her revenge nor retribution.

Mix in a little quest, absent parents, a beloved, red Maserati, a model city made out of cardboard boxes, and a mouthful of easy and natural dialogue, plus coded messages, bad haircuts, and an exactly timed prophetic death, and what do you get? The Weird Family. Literally.

Well, at least literally in the unfortunate misspelling of their name, which was originally Wyird, until an immigration guard from Halifax accidentally changed the y in the last name to an e. Weird? Yes, very.

But the dialogue with Mr. Kaufman at the Random House Blogger Fest was anything but. We were privileged to discover his favourite character in the book is Kent, the man “blursed” (as in “blessed” and “cursed”) with the gift of physical strength and a guaranteed aptitude for winning fights, arguments, and in the latter part of the book — highway speed and the award for the Sibling-Most-Likely-to-Burn-Rubber-and-Potentially-Kill-His-Siblings-in-a-Car-Crash. Lucky for the characters in the book, there is no such award—I just made it up.

Andrew Kaufman discussing his book, "Born Weird." (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.
Andrew Kaufman discussing his book, “Born Weird.” (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.


I even braved a question by forcing my right hand to go up in the air and asked Mr. Kaufman after he described in detail the premise of his upcoming book, (which, according to him is compiled of nine novellas) — which format he prefers to write in: the short story or the novel?

Andrew Kaufman's enraptured audience and blogger friends.
Andrew Kaufman’s enraptured audience and blogger friends. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.


I was quickly reprimanded for using the term, novella, since Mr. Kaufman’s belief is that the use of the term can misinform and misinterpret the true value of the written story — because as Mr. Kaufman passionately shared with us that day, the true value of a well-written story is found in “…its girth and not [its] length.”

At which point, I could not, in my own form of poor wit and quick tongue (plus crass sense of humour), help myself, but chide this published, well-respected author that it was indeed “…alright, we’re in a room full of women…” who clearly understand.

Giggle all around. Giselle from Book Nerd Canada and Kailey. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.
Giggles all around. Giselle from Book Nerd Canada and Kailey. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.


Ha. Ha. People laughed, people grimaced, and I realized too late, that this was no way to make an impression on the blogging community nor the publishing world—and that by no means should I speak out loud at book events again—or intimate, family dinner parties. Nay, I say! Here’s my foot jammed in my mouth! My apologies, Mr. Kaufman! I, like your characters in Born Weird, am not only a Wyird at heart, but seem to also be “blursed” with the specific and quirky gift of irresponsible gab — and of course, usually at the exact, inappropriate moment.

And lesson learned, it was indeed confirmed that Mr. Kaufman enjoys writing and finds satisfaction and value in the currency of 20K words.

Speaking with Andrew Kaufman.
Speaking with Andrew Kaufman. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.


(Short story writers would also agree that it’s quite difficult to write a 5000-word short story than it is to belch out a 650-page , descriptive testimony to the life-and-times of a talkative protagonist whose narrative is in verbose first-person, or whose character is trapped in an intricate web of 17 subplots, and a harem of emotional, pensive, and philosophical secondary characters who are as equally verbose—and quite descriptive about architecture, feelings, and the weather. I know. I, too, am a short story writer.)

After thoroughly embarrassing myself amongst my peers, blushing to a deep hue of flushed that seemed to match the icing of the cupcake buffet and uncomplimentary to my natural skin tone, I lined up with a copy of Born Weird in my hand to grab myself a chance to speak with Mr. Kaufman again, take a photograph as proof to my friends and family that I actually met him in person, and force him to sign my copy of his book—because, dammit, it’s not the length of the line that’s important, it’s the girth of enthusiasm of those in it!

Andrew Kaufman signing my copy of his book, "Born Weird."
Andrew Kaufman signing my copy of his book, “Born Weird.” (c) Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.


"Zara was BORN WEIRD (and it's okay!)" - Andrew Kaufman. My signed copy!
“Zara was BORN WEIRD (and it’s okay!)” – Andrew Kaufman. My signed copy!           (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.


Chatting with Andrew Kaufman.
Chatting with Andrew Kaufman. (c) Photo Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.


The proof! (c) Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.


Oh, yes… I forgot to also mention that Mr. Kaufman is a wonderful patriot of the city of Toronto and a believer of setting his novels in a city, which he loves and knows well. Luckily for us, he’s currently a Torontonian, which means Torontonian readers get an appreciate view of themselves in the familiarity of their city as described in Mr. Kaufman’s book(s). (Yes, westerners, we’re made so much more than the C.N. Tower!)

But, it is also his belief that writers write well of things that they know best. “If [he] moves to London, then [the settings of his book] will take place there.” And why not? While magical realism is Andrew Kaufman’s preferred genre and what he believes to be the best reflection of what is true about people and relationships, he’s wise enough to know that good storytelling isn’t only bound by a fantastic imagination. You write what you know. And Andrew Kaufman certainly knows his city, his readers—and now, a few bloggers—thanks to Random House of Canada for hosting this annual event.


The rest is not so much history as it was a celebration of good writing, good food, and good company. Not to mention great gift bags filled with what book bloggers love most—books!

RH blogger gift bags.
RH blogger gift bags. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.


While some buzzed together in conversation, on say, the passion, drama, and honour it is to be a book blogger in community and for the Random House Blogging Team—there were those of us, who were wise enough to quickly flock to the gift bags like locusts—sorry, strike that. Not locusts. More like curious and eager ants at a Saturday picnic — myself included.

Peeking… (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.


We can’t help ourselves. We love books. We love authors. We love Random House of Canada!

Here’s what this curious and eager, little ant was lucky enough to snag:

"A Fort of Nine Towers" by Qais Akbar Omar and "Secret" by L. Marie Adeline.
“A Fort of Nine Towers” by Qais Akbar Omar and “Secret” by L. Marie Adeline. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.


"Born Weird" by Andrew Kaufman.
“Born Weird” by Andrew Kaufman. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.


A black "13" Kelley Armstrong T-shirt and a "Crave" tumbler, Random House of Canada's online food and lifestyle site.
A black “13” Kelley Armstrong T-shirt and a “Crave” tumbler, Random House of Canada’s online food and lifestyle site. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.


Bookish postcards and RH luggage tag.
Bookish postcards and RH “Retreat” luggage tag. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.


Thank you, Random House of Canada!
Thank you, Random House of Canada! (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.


And while it’s no…

S.E.C.R.E.T. (by L. Marie Adeline).
S.E.C.R.E.T. (by L. Marie Adeline). (c) Photo Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.


…that Random House of Canada publishes excellent works of literature (including erotica as per above—not me, but in reference to the book cover!), RHC also knows how to throw a great book event!

Happy “Bloggesses” (c) Photo Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. Taken by Giselle San Miguel. All rights reserved.


A special thanks to the Random House of Canada marketing team who worked hard this past weekend to make this annual event happen, to Andrew Kaufman for graciously signing his books and smoozin’ with fanatic book bloogers like myself, and to my fellow blogger friends for putting me in such great company.

It was a memorable weekend and I can’t wait until next February!

To read my review on Andrew Kaufman’s book, Born Weird, here, or find out about more great upcoming titles by Random House of Canada, be sure to check back soon.

(I might even have a giveaway of Andrew Kaufman’s book! <—- HINT, HINT.)

Until then, happy reading, fellow bibliotaphes. And remember: it’s okay to be “Born Weird!”


What “weird” trait(s) do you have that you consider endearing or, like the characters in the “Born Weird” book, might consider a “blursing?” (“Blessing + Curse”)

Have you read “Born Weird” by Andrew Kaufman? If so, who was your favourite character in the book?

(I personally enjoyed the maternal figures in the book for the surprising wisdom found in their mother and her creative haircuts, and “the Shark” for her crass and audacity in “blursing” the Weird family children with gifts in the first place.)

Happy reading!


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Entwined Publishing Scavenger Hunt Birthday Bash! – Day 6

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Entwined Publishing Scavenger Hunt Birthday Bash!

Day 6


By Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez / @ZaraAlexis


entwined scavanger bday bash



Welcome to the Entwined Publishing Birthday Bash!

We want to kick the party off right, and this is the sixth stop along the Scavenger Hunt. It is a ten day event and to find the answers to all of the questions, you’ll have to dig down in Entwined’s books to pull out the answers. We do have a couple author questions and publishing questions along the way as well. For more info, please visit Uniquely Moi Books for all the details and a full schedule of all the stops.

Now, let’s talk prizes!

There will be two winners. The EASY question will count as three points. The HARD question counts as five points. Choose your question wisely, as points will be added up!



The winner of the HARD questions will receive seven Entwined Publishing books, swag, and a $25 Gift Card of Choice.

The winner of the EASY questions will win four books of choice by Entwined Publishing, swag to go with them, and a $15 Gift card of choice.


Today’s question comes from BUTTERFLY KISSES

by Mia Castile.

Easy: Where does Lana meet Tomas?


Hard: What is the one secret Lacey keeps from Chase?


Complete the form below for a chance to win!

 Grand Prize:
Seven novels from Entwined Publishing, swag, and a $25 Gift Card of Choice.

Second Prize:
Four books of choice, swag to go with, and a $15 Gift Card of choice



Good luck and have fun! Be sure to check out the next blog stops, Book Loving Mom and LeBook Squirrel! 

You can also find them all 
listed here, at Uniquely Moi Books!

entwined scavenger hunt blog list


Follow Entwined Publishing at
Twitter: @EntwinedPub
Facebook : https://www.facebook.com/entwinedpublishing
Website: http://entwinedpublishing.com/


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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!


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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!


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


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


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


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.


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!


Here are other tents we visited:

Book Thug.


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


House of Anansi


House of Anansi T-shirt.


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.


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.


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!


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.


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!


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.


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.


Here are other fun spots we visited:


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


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.



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.


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!


Kids Street Festival

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


Michael and Mercedes hanging out with CHIRP. Yay!


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!


Kids Think About It!


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!



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!


Mercedes’ turn for a hug with Polkaroo!


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.


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!


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


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!


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.


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


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!



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!


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.


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


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


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?


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

Hey, Have You Heard the WORD ON THE STREET, Toronto? 09.07.2012

Hey, Have You Heard the WORD ON THE STREET, Toronto?


By Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez / @ZaraAlexis

It’s that time of year again for book lovers everywhere! It’s THE WORD ON THE STREET Book and Magazine Festival Event that takes place in Vancouver, Lethbridge, Saskatoon, Kitchener, Toronto, and Halifax!


And Toronto will be hosting its event on:

September 23, 2012

at Queen Park’s Circle

from 11:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.


And there are going to be hundreds of author events, presentations and workshops, and of course, the beloved marketplace where we can all browse the best showcase of Canadian books and magazines!

Now, if you’re like me, you might already anticipate doing one or more of the following things:

  1. Faint at the thought of all those beautiful books.
  2. Jump up and down from pure giddiness due to the literary buzz.
  3. Recruit your friends to attend so you have someone to help you carry your book purchases.
  4. Print the directions, the street map, and plan out your personal itinerary for the author events.
  5. Plan your wardrobe in advance, packing your camera, notebook, extra pens, and touch-up lipstick for those special author sightings.
  6. And sing and dance out of sheer joy from book love!


Here are some highlight events that I know I’ll personally be visiting:


The Scotia Giller Prize Bestsellers Stage – featuring the biggest names in Canadian literature

Remarkable Reads Tent – Random House and McClelland & Stewart will present favourite Canadian authors.

Penguin Pavilion – Penguin Books of Canada will feature Penguin authors.

Toronto Book Awards Tent – Nominees for the Toronto Book Awards read from their nominated works.


And here are some of the authors I personally look forward to seeing:

Wayson Choy. (c) ABC Local

Wayson Choy: Scribendi.com Wordshop Marquee at 12:00 PM – 12:30 PM


Katrina Onstad: The Remarkable Reads Tent at 12:45 PM – 1:45 PM


David Bergen. (c) HarperCollins Publishing.

David Bergen:  Scotiabank Giller Prize Bestsellers Stage at 1:00 PM – 1:30 PM


John Ralston Saul. (c) AGO.net

John Ralston Saul: the Scotiabank Giller Prize Bestsellers Stage at 1:30 PM – 2:00 PM


Christine Putney. (c) Word on the Street.

 Christine Pountney: Vibrant Voices of Ontario Tent at 1:30 PM – 2:00 PM


Steven Heighton

Steven Heighton:  Great Books Marquee at 1:45 PM – 2:15 PM


Vincent Lam

Vincent Lam: The Remarkable Reads Tent at 3:00 PM – 4:00 PM

Susan Swan

Susan Swan:  the Vibrant Voices of Ontario Tent at 3:15 PM – 3:45 PM


For more details about The Word on the Street, click on the button at the top of this post!

Hope I run into you on September 23 in Toronto. (I’ll have a wide smile on my face, a camera around my neck, and books in my arms!)


Have you ever attended The Word on the Street Festival in your city?

What are you looking forward to the most for this year’s WOTS event?

Which authors are you looking forward to meeting?