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Book Review: Moving Foward Sideways Like a Crab by Shani Mootoo

 

05.05.2014

By Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez / @ZaraAlexis

moving forward sideways like a crab

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Category: Literary Fiction

Author: Shani Mootoo

Format: Hardcover, 336 pages

Publisher: Doubleday Canada

ISBN: 978-0-385-67622-9

Pub Date: April 29, 2014

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Summary from the Publisher:

From the author of Cereus Blooms at Night and Valmiki’s Daughter, both nominated for the Scotiabank Giller Prize, comes a haunting and courageous new novel. Written in vibrant, supple prose that vividly conjures both the tropical landscape of Trinidad and the muted winter cityscape of Toronto, Moving Forward Sideways Like a Crab is a passionate eulogy to a beloved parent, and a nuanced, moving tale about the struggle to embrace the complex realities of love and family ties.

Jonathan Lewis-Adey was nine when his parents, who were raising him in a tree-lined Toronto neighbourhood, separated and his mother, Sid, vanished from his life. It was not until he was a grown man, and a promising writer with two books to his name, that Jonathan finally reconnected with his beloved parent-only to find, to his shock and dismay, that the woman he’d known as “Sid” had morphed into an elegant, courtly man named Sydney. In the decade following this discovery, Jonathan made regular pilgrimages from Toronto to visit Sydney, who now lived quietly in a well-appointed retreat in his native Trinidad. And on each visit, Jonathan struggled to overcome his confusion and anger at the choices Sydney had made, trying with increasing desperation to rediscover the parent he’d once adored inside this familiar stranger. As the novel opens, Jonathan has been summoned urgently to Trinidad where Sydney, now aged and dying, seems at last to offer him the gift he longs for: a winding story that moves forward sideways as it slowly peels away the layers of Sydney’s life. But soon it becomes clear that when and where the story will end is up to Jonathan, and it is he who must decide what to do with Sydney’s haunting legacy of love, loss, and acceptance.

– From Chapters-Indigo website

Book Review by Zara

from The Bibliotaphe Closet:

Moving Forward Sideways Like a Crab by Shani Mootoo is a quiet and lucid narrative about a woman named Sidhanni Mahale who yearns to elucidate the truth behind the choice she had to make to abandon Jonathan Lewis-Adey, the son she raised and fostered with her former and long-time partner, India, of 10 years in downtown Toronto before their relationship abruptly came to an end.

In Jonathan’s personal search for the mother he lost as a child, he discovers instead that the mother he knew and remembered as “Sid,” has transformed herself physically into a man who now goes by the name, “Sydney,” and lives in his native birthplace, Trinidad.

Over a nine-year period, and then again, Jonathan returns to Sydney’s side in Trinidad as he lay aged and dying, trying to reconcile the truth of his mother’s original disappearance from not only his life, but also from her own gender from birth into a life-altering decision that ultimately changes and rectifies her sexual identity into a male one.

Much of the narrative is written in personal journal entries or letter correspondence between Sydney and his best friend and long time, secret love, Zain. The letters along with the journal entries reflect the longevity of their friendship and Sydney’s deep affection for Zain, as well as her repressed desire.

While the pacing of the novel in itself is rather slow, the narrative is sentimental and somewhat lyrical, returning often to the storytelling of a life-changing walk towards the clinic where “Sid” eventually began to undergo the process of physically changing into a man.

Much of the novel is dedicated to this journey, its struggle, its tension, its anticipation—its necessity for the main character. And in that explanation, though layered behind the backdrop of growing up and living in two very different cultural environments: Trinidad and Toronto; two opposing genders: female and male; the story which urges to tell itself is one of enduring love for a son that was let go too soon.

In this, Jonathan discovers for himself a “re-discovering” of the woman and the memory of the woman he was so attached to as a child, and the man that woman has become. Jonathan, too, discovers his own liminality, a white man who has grown up most of his life in Toronto, Canada, but whose love for his mother and her native country of Trinidad, has also greatly influenced him and has a special place for him culturally. He is of two places as much as “Sid” and/or “Sydney” is of two genders, once a woman who transitions into man.

While the plot is light with exception to the emotional trauma of Zain’s “unsolved” death by home intrusion for Sydney, much of the book is character-driven told primarily through journal reflections.

There is Sid, whose love and desire for Zain and later other women was only exemplified by what she felt was a betrayal of her own body, one that was born as a woman, but undeniably desired to be a man.

There is Zain, whose love and acceptance of Sid surpassed their geographical and cultural differences, while nurturing a lifelong friendship that perplexed, if also frustrated a number of people in their lives even though Zain herself, proclaimed by her relationships and through her marriage that she was a heterosexual.

There were Sid’s parents who were at most, perplexed by their daughter’s ambiguity, but tolerant and understanding of who she was, up until their own deaths.

There is Gita, Sid’s sister whose intolerance was made evident not only by their emotional distance, but by her inability in the end to attend her sister’s/brother’s funeral.

And also India, Jonathan’s birth mother and Sid’s former partner who had become exasperated with Sid’s slow and gradual change into masculinity and eventually decided to become partners with a man later on in life.

And Jonathan, a sensitive man whose attachment to Sid propels him to travel to Trinidad numerous times over nine years, ends up not only reconciling with Sid as a parent, but becomes the primary witness to the story behind her gender transformation, and later the primary person to perform the last rites for Sydney’s funeral.

It is overall, an introspective novel that spends a lot of time reflecting on the past, focusing on Sydney’s love for Zain and his desire to be a man. In listening to Sydney’s stories, Jonathan learns as much as made possible, the truth of Sydney’s complicated feelings as a person and her/his unrelenting love for him as a son.

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Characters: 3 stars

Plot: 3 stars

Language/Narrative: 3.5 stars

Dialogue: 3 stars

Pacing: 3 stars

Cover Design: 3 stars

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Zara’s Rating

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A special thanks to Random House of Canada on behalf of Doubleday Canada for providing me with a copy of Moving Forward Sideways Like a Crab in exchange for an honest review.

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About the Author:

Shani Mootoo. (c) Photo by Martin Schwalbe.
Shani Mootoo. (c) Photo by Martin Schwalbe.

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Shani Mootoo is the author of the novels Cereus Blooms at Night, which was a Scotiabank Giller Prize finalist, longlisted for the Man Booker Prize, and won the B.C. Book Award for Fiction; He Drown She in the Sea, which was longlisted for the IMPAC Dublin Literary Award; and most recently, Valmiki’s Daughter, which was longlisted for the Scotiabank Giller Prize. Mootoo was born in Trinidad and grew up there and in Ireland. She immigrated to Vancouver two decades ago, and lives with her partner near Toronto.

– From book jacket

Links:

To learn more about Shani, you may visit her page on Wikipedia.

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Do you know and love someone who is part of the LGBT community?

What do you think it feels like to feel “betrayed by one’s own body?”

If you read the book, “Moving Forward Sideways Like a Crab” by Shani Mootoo, do you think Sid’s romantic love was reciprocated on some level by her best friend, Zain? Why or why not?

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Book Review: Kiss Me First by Lottie Moggach

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Book Review: Kiss Me First by Lottie Moggach

08.26.2013

By Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez / @ZaraAlexis

kiss me first cvr

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Category: Contemporary Fiction

Author: Lottie Moggach

Format: Trade Paperback, 312 pages

Publisher: Doubleday Canada

ISBN: 978-0-385-67986-2

Pub Date: July 9, 2013

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Summary from Publisher:

A chilling and intense first novel, this is the story of a solitary young woman drawn into an online world run by a charismatic web guru who entices her into impersonating a glamorous but desperate woman.

When Leila discovers the website Red Pill, she feels she has finally found people who understand her. A sheltered young woman raised by her mother, Leila has often struggled to connect with the girls at school; but on Red Pill, a chat forum for ethical debate, Leila comes into her own, impressing the website’s founder, a brilliant and elusive man named Adrian. Leila is thrilled when Adrian asks to meet her, and is flattered when he invites her to be part of “Project Tess.”

 Tess is a woman Leila might never have met in real life. She is beautiful, urbane, witty, and damaged. As they email, chat, and Skype, Leila becomes enveloped in the world of Tess, learning every single thing she can about this other woman–because soon, Leila will have to become her.

An ingeniously plotted novel of stolen identity, Kiss Me First is brilliantly frightening about the lies we tell–to ourselves, and to others, for good, and for ill.

***

Book Review by Zara from The Bibliotaphe Closet

Kiss Me First, a debut novel by Lottie Moggach, is a creative and surprising story with a wonderfully original plot about two, very different women:

Leila, young, intelligent, yet fiercely logical, and somewhat sheltered in her experiences that she not only considers herself a social outcast, but is attracted to and driven to the isolation and comfort of the online forums hosted by an addictive, philosophical website called Red Pill.

And Tess, a vibrant, charismatic woman whose hunger for attention only temporarily masks her need for solitude and anonymity, who experiences the severity of both mood-changing symptoms as a result of the extremity found in those with bipolar disorder.

While one woman’s life is too emotionally buoyant that she decides the only way to cope is to commit suicide, another woman’s life is so isolated that she not only considers herself insignificant, but she also seriously considers taking on another person’s identity entirely.

The two women literally connect through the Internet to devise a plan, which suits both their different needs, and in doing so, test the boundaries of what is considered to be morally correct.

The first-person narrative easily reveals the dichotomy of the two women while its readability makes the mysterious plot not only believable, but also well-paced and engaging.

Readers engage the narrative as their own, fully immersing themselves in the characters’ neurosis, empathizing with the realism in which the work is written.

For a debut novel, the writing is convincing: both distinct voices reveal the neurosis the characters inhabit, it reveals the inner workings of bipolar disorder, and the danger of the role technology continues to play in our lives, in how people can prefer to hide or create virtual realities for themselves instead of fully participating in the real world.

While the characters are interesting enough, it’s the creative plot that will reel its readers in—and then twist them about in surprise, from its trip to disease and hospital, to an apartment above an Indian restaurant, to a freestyle commune, the virtual philosophies of Red Pill, to the head space of an online, intimate, and secret romance.

The story blurs the lines between where a person ends and another person begins, and puts to question the autonomy someone has over his or her life, the ethics associated with suicide and euthanasia, and the dangers of isolation, insecurity, and the impressibility of youth, and those who would take advantage of the vulnerable.

Readers may feel conflicted about the choices the characters feel compelled to make, the morality and/or immorality surrounding those choices, and question the ease in which fraud can take place because of society’s trust with online activity and the Internet.

Overall, the book is a wonderful surprise filled with emotional drama, dilemma, and virtual love, and compromise. For anyone who enjoys reading contemporary fiction and is interested in the mystery of bipolar disorder, the moral issues associated with suicide and euthanasia, the subtext of complicated relationships, and the growing immersion of society in technology, and the ease in which people can become prey to their insecurities, The First Kiss, by Lottie Moggach, is a poignant and disturbing novel.

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Characters:  4 stars

Pacing: 4 stars

Cover Design: 2.5 stars

Plot: 4.5 stars

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Zara’s Rating

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

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About the Author:

Lottie Moggach. From Goodreads.
Lottie Moggach. From Goodreads.

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Lottie Moggach is a journalist who has written for The Times, Financial Times, Time Out, Elle, GQ and The London Paper. She lives in north London. Kiss Me First is her first novel.

– From the Goodreads website.

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Links:

Like Lottie on Facebook

Become a fan of Lottie on Goodreads

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Do you feel people should have autonomy over their bodies and lives to the point of allowing and/or encouraging them to commit suicide, should they feel the need to?

How would you feel about impersonating someone else at risk of losing your own identity? Would you or wouldn’t you do it?

How much time do you spend on the Internet? What do you think is a healthy/unhealthy amount of time to spend on the Internet?

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Teaser Tuesday. 04.09.2013

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Teaser Tuesday

04.09.2013

By Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez / @ZaraAlexis

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

• Grab your current read • Open to a random page • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page

• BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)

• Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

***

Here’s my random teaser for Tuesday:

“Under normal circumstances, we bled together at the new moon, according to one of Mama’s schemes. In consultation with a lunar calendar, she’d pulled the blinds and left on nightlights until, through some sympathetic trick of hormones and her own iron will, all three of us had synched up our cycles to the light and the dark, to each other and to the sky. That was the way things used to be in the wild, Mama told us.” – p. 145

***

 Can you guess from what title it’s from? No, problem. It’s a new release!

cloud question marks***

bone and bread cvr

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It’s Bone & Bread by Saleema Nawaz, published by House of Anansi, March 30, 2013.

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What makes the bond between sisters special?

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My Bunny Has a Name! – Giveaway Winner(s) Announced!

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My Bunny Has a Name!

Giveaway Winner(s) Announced!

02.15.2013

By Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez / @ZaraAlexis

For my birthday last month, I received a bunny. A nameless bunny. A bunny that baffled me with its namelessness. What’s in a name? Shakespeare knew. Which is why I decided to host a fun little giveaway for my readers: a name contest for this critter here:

Mommy's bday bunny

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Readers were allowed to enter a maximum of three name suggestions per entry, which meant three chances at winning the grand prize of a book from our beloved The Book Depository!

While names ranged from cute, yet juvenile names that my toddler, too, would have loved like:

  • Floppy
  • Cuddles
  • Nibbles
  • and Fluffy

this bunny seemed far too mature in mind and literary tastes than what those names suggested.

And because he seemed to inspire the “sweet tooth” in others, which I think was indicative of his delectably coloured brown fur, many readers suggested yummy food names like:

  • Chocolate
  • Coco
  • Cinnamon
  • even Swiss Chalet (since that’s where my family took me out for lunch on my birthday)

And then, of course,

because of my bunny’s inherent compatibility with humans, he received many name suggestions  in honour of…well…us, like:

  • Steve
  • Kevin
  • Barry
  • and Danny

And then there were those of you who simply thought out-of-the-bunny-box and created intricate explanations of name origins, meanings, reasons why you nominated such-and-such names, which my bunny and I thoroughly enjoyed!

There were even names, first and last, to give my bunny a fuller identity.

And then there were names that were exceptionally creative, crazy, and fun—(like my bunny):

  • Cuniculus
  • Kelly Hopter
  • Runny Babbit
  • and Oompa Loompa
  • and even the suggestion to name my bunny after whatever’s on his tag!

Believe me when I say I had a truly difficult time deliberating which name I should choose as the   winner for my precocious bunny. I asked my husband and my two young children for their input and names were favoured and fought for, while some were even passionately contested. Still, because a contest like this is purely subjective based on my particular taste, didn’t mean it wasn’t a trial to downsize the list of nominations to at least 10 names!

Entries were that good.

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But, after discussing it with “my bunny,”—because after all, his opinion does and should count—we decided together to increase and change the number of prizes for the contest and award TWO grand prize winners that were equally excellent in their nominations AND ONE runner-up for sheer creativity and fun!

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And the winners who tied for the GRAND PRIZE…

winner

are:

Riza

for her entry:

Chester

and…

winner

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Joe

for his entries:

Trunks McBratney

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My bunny and I particularly enjoyed the creativity and reasoning behind these winning names!

Here’s Riza’s entry explanation for Chester:

“Chester” – ironically NOT the protagonist of the Bunnicula book series, but the family cat. Chester is a prideful, fellow literary buff, has an outrageously vivid imagination, and is known to NOT apologize for his errors, instead referring to them as “a slight misinterpretation of the facts.” He was also given to Mr. Monroe as a birthday present, and was named after English writer G.K. Chesterton. How fitting.

Here’s Joe’s entry explanations for Trunks and McBratney:

“Trunks” – because his ears are long like an elephant trunk….and there are two of them.

“McBratney” –after the author Sam mcBratney, author of “Guess How Much I Love You” (children’s book featuring brown bunnies)

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And so, my birthday bunny’s new certified name is:

Chester “Trunks” McBratney!

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I’d like to think that my bunny, who is the new mascot for The Bibliotaphe Closet blog, is also a literary buff with a vivid imagination. I especially liked that he’s being named in honour of a cat that was given to his owner for his birthday, too, and a character that is  “known to NOT apologize for his errors, [but] instead refer[s] to them as ‘a slight misinterpretation of the facts.'” Mmm…sounds vaguely familiar to someone I know!

And I absolutely agree that Chester’s ears are much like the shape of an “elephant’s trunk!” And I love the symbolism of the elephant. It’s one of the most intelligent animals known for its memory and for its good luck and fortune.

And while the name, McBratney is in honour of the author, Sam McBratney, who wrote, “Guess How Much I Love You,” (which is also one of my favourite children’s books that does feature a brown bunny as its main character), the sound of the name itself is indicative of how I imagine my bunny to be—somewhat of a BOOK BRAT!

guess how much i love you

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And the Runner-Up of the contest is…

the winner

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Sindy

for her creative and fun entry:

“Popcorn”

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It just so happens that one of my favourite snacks is popcorn, which  of course, my new birthday bunny also LOVES A LOT– because really, who needs carrots when popcorn is around?!? Hence, “Popcorn” is surely a suitable nickname for him and the runner-up winner for this contest!

The runner-up will receive assorted bookmark SWAG and a bag of popcorn! (Because that’s how Chester “Trunks” McBratney and I roll!)

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Congratulations to all the winners!

I will contact the winners soon by email to advise them of their wins and ask them for their mailing contact information.  Winners will have 48 hours to respond to my notification to be eligible to claim their prize!

And thanks to all participants for your creative and thoughtful entries. I had a great time reviewing the list of potential names for my beloved bunny. Be sure to check back soon!

(I did receive a lamb plush toy for Valentine’s Day…and I might very well need help with a name for him, too, which means potentially another contest! <— HINT, HINT.)

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Until then, happy reading! (From me and Chester Trunks McBratney, AKA Sir Popcorn!)

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Book Review: Born Weird by Andrew Kaufman

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Book Review:

Born Weird by Andrew Kaufman

01.10.2013

By Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez / @ZaraAlexis

born weird

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Category:  Fiction

Author: Andrew Kaufman

Format: Trade Paperback, 280 pages

Publisher: Random House Canada

ISBN: 978-0-307-35764-9

Pub Date: December 26, 2012

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Born Weird by Andrew Kaufman is a light-hearted fictional tale about a creative and quirky family named The Weirds after a misspelling of the original name of their ancestor, Sterling D. Wyird, in the process of emigrating from England to Canada.

It’s a story of the grown children’s quest to gather themselves together to meet their grandmother who they all cynically refer to as the Shark, before the deadline of her own prophetic death.

Why must they do this? Because much to what they’ve guessed about themselves, their grandmother reaffirmed their beliefs about being “cursed” with special gifts they each received from her and promises to lift each curse upon her death.

Though the premise of the story sounds absurd, its telling is easily readable and entertaining enough for the reader to be drawn into its fantastical plausibility and magical realism.

The Weird Family consists of intelligent, witty, and creative, imaginative siblings, though different in personality, are all bound by the sentimental act of building a model city together as children from cardboard boxes and their vivid imagination—and also by the trauma of an absent father who is tragically killed in a car accident.

The five siblings—Richard, is given the ability to keep himself safe; Lucy, is never lost; Abba, never loses hope; Angie, is given the power to forgive anyone, anytime; and Kent, has powerful physical strength in order to defend himself.

And while these “gifts” appear as blessings, the bearers are hindered and bound by the absolutism of them, and the gifts essentially become a curse, which the author and the book’s characters themselves call “blursings.”

It’s in their quest to search out and gather each sibling together to make the deadline of visiting their dying grandmother that they’re able to cope and come to terms with not only the confusion and frustration of their individual gifts, but to also face the mental deterioration of their mother who lives in a janitorial closet in a nursing home, as well as the mysterious nature of their father’s missing body.

The pacing of the story moves well while the humour of the dialogue and the quirky characters make this book a fun, light-hearted read even though the underlying story itself is thoughtful and dramatic. Andrew Kaufman is a talented writer who can transform the “weird” elements of life, reflect them creatively and realistically through his characters and plot, put it all together, and make it as an entertaining read as it is tender and heartfelt.

This is a creative, imaginative, and humorous little book—packed with the hope of transformation, redemption, and acceptance—even if it means a little more “magic” than most!

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Zara’s Rating

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

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If you could choose which “gift” to be “cursed” with, what would you choose and why?

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Book Review: Monsieur by Emma Becker

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Book Review:

Monsieur by Emma Becker

12.22.2012

By Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez / @ZaraAlexis

monsieur

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Category: Adult Erotica, Drama

Author: Emma Becker

Format: Trade Paperback, 376 pages

Publisher: Constable & Robinson

ISBN: 978-1-78033-476-9

Pub Date: October 31, 2012

Intended for 18+, mature readers only.

Explicit sex and sexual language, erotica.

***

Monsieur by Emma Becker will strangle you into its story of erotic passion that started as a young woman’s naive and rebellious curiosity that slowly and thickly becomes a lethal, emotional, and lustful obsession.

It’s a story of 20-something-year-old Ellie, a “nymphet,” of who she describes in the fictional work, “Lolita” by Nabakov—the title, too, is the opening sentence of the first chapter of the book, which should elicit or at least allude to the passion and erotica to come in the novel (no pun intended—well… maybe a little)—and her all-consuming affair with her married lover, a man twenty-five years her senior who she affectionately refers to as, Monsieur.

And while the name in itself, “Monsieur,” denotes a sense of maturity, propriety, or even a formal politeness or regality; the character referred to as “Monsieur,” is anything but (again, no pun intended and yet, you will need to read the book to understand exactly what I mean—the word “arse” is not only repeated numerous times in the text, but is a focus of delight and fascination by the perverse and lustful character of Monsieur).

This is no light romance of youthful fancy and sentimental imaginings. Readers of innocent and inexperienced youth, the blushing, shy, and embarrassed prudes of moral superiority and those who detest or fear sexual deviancy should not read this book. The context of Monsieur and Ellie’s affair is sordid, crude, and highly brazen. Like the book. Like the narrative.

But, it’s no simple piece of pornographic literature or smut either, though you might think so when first coming across such loud and filthy words in your reading like “cunt,” or “cock.” And trust me when I say, there’s a purpose to this language in the book. It’s at the centre of its context—as well as the style and source of its characters’ torturous affair.

The language of the book (and its couple) is brazen and unashamed, while the sex acts are primal, deviant, and cruel. But, it’s the source and expression of their arousal. It’s what connects their commonality, it’s the fuel to their egotism, and their secret vice.

But the perversity and cruelty of their sexual style is minimal in comparison to the emotional cruelty Ellie is compelled to face. I say “compelled,” because for her, her desire for Monsieur is indeed a compulsion. A choice in which she readily hungers for and chases regardless of indignity or abuse.

And while you could say Ellie’s sensuality or sexuality in some sense eventually blossoms, it does not, however experienced, ever allows itself to emancipate. It’s her desire to be dominated and enslaved that drives her to harsh, self-deprecating, sexual acts as commandeered by her beloved Monsieur.

And when I say “beloved,” I mean that as well, for he becomes that, too: a paternal tyrant, a sexual connoisseur, a physical and haunting catalyst and form for her viscous commitment and adoration.

And even though the language can be brutal, the narrative, too, becomes such a visceral thing in both the characters’ display and extreme enjoyment and pleasure in it—with also direct quotes and references from erotic literature—that it becomes, too, a hybrid of crass audacity and almost indulgent, passionate poetry.

It is a fierce novel of the inner workings (and blatant, graphic detail) of a relationship centred on rough and hard, primal sex, and the taut and unrelenting imbalance and force of power.

And as the constancy and safety of the relationship begins to deteriorate, the strength of its lure and addiction becomes even more potent and destructive.

The irony here, is that while the relationship is dangerously painful and unhealthy, the crux of its most potent cruelty is in its delusional and yet undeniable bewitching form of twisted love.

It is a titillating book (in more ways than one), erotic and candid, yet despairingly emotional.

It’s a dysfunction of senses, an over-stimulated map of one woman’s journey through lust, passion, hunger, obsession, self-loathing—and complete submission and wholehearted self-offering to the man she loves.

It will make you weep as one does in the act of passionate lovemaking, heightened arousal, and potent orgasm—and at the core of painful misery that the heart hungers to endure at the mysterious power of passion.

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Zara’s Rating

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A special thanks to E.B. of the publisher, Constable & Robsinson for providing me with a copy of the book in exchange for an unpaid, honest review.

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What key ingredients are necessary for a relationship to become and stay romantic and loving?

What do you think compels someone to tolerate and yearn for an obviously abusive and destructive relationship instead of a healthy one?

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Teaser Tuesday: 10.30.2012

 

Teaser Tuesday at the Bibliotaphe Closet

10.30.2012

By Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez / @ZaraAlexis

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

• Grab your current read • Open to a random page • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page

• BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)

• Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

***

Here’s my random teaser for Tuesday:

The guidance counsellors would call me into their offices every week because there was a glaring gap between my grades and the results of my IQ tests, which bordered on deficient. How could I not find the intruder in the series, “syringe, scalpel, skull, drill” when I could recite by heart a passage about Jacques Cartier? I only mastered  what had been specifically taught to me, passed on to me, offered to me. Which is why I understood the word surgeon but not darling or tanning salon or horseback riding… – p. 73.

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Can you guess from what title it’s from?

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It’s Ru by Kim Thuy, published by Random House of Canada, January 17, 2012.

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Have you ever felt at a disadvantage in your academic career, your grades, because of your cultural upbringing or displacement?

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Book Review: The Blondes by Emily Schultz

Book Review:

The Blondes by Emily Schultz

08.30.2012

By Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez / @ZaraAlexis

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Category: Fiction

Author: Emily Schultz

Format: Hardcover, 390 pages

Publisher: Doubleday Canada

ISBN: 978-0-385-67105-7

Pub Date: August 14, 2012

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The Blondes by Emily Schultz is an entertaining story about the unexpected contagion that affects blonde-haired women, causing them to first suffer from headaches and nausea until they reach such a rabid state that ultimately causes them to lash out in violence, committing both injury and murder.

***

The narrator is a young university student named Hazel Hayes undergoing her postgraduate studies and working on a thesis on beautiful women in a female-marketed-culture—except, not only is she alone and pregnant, she, like the rest of the community across the globe, is hijacked by the mysterious outbreak of what has been named, The Blonde Fury.

What begins as a rumour of curious and high-brow incidents quickly becomes a mass outbreak of disease, victimization to random acts of violence, and ultimately death.

***

The result? Mass hysteria, a lockdown of borders and states, and severe government protocols in attempt to control the proportion of this illusive contagion.

But, it isn’t all panic and terror as the novel unfolds to reveal dynamics of relationship especially between those that have suffered at the sexualization and betrayal of man—in this particular case that man’s name is Karl—a married professor with a history of sexual indiscretion and deviation that eventually leads to fatal sex addiction.

What the character, “Karl,” looks like to me. From: http://www.blog.seattlepi.com.

***

The women found in the characters: Hazel, Moira, Wanda, and Grace, as well as the women and men at large who suffer the risk of infection (women only) and death by mauling or murder must come to terms with the impending fear and result of an inexplicable epidemic.

While the writing itself divulges the personal narrative and account of the main character, Hazel Hayes, it is also a fearful account of a dangerous and potentially real, post-apocalyptic future at the ruin of vanity, virus, and global rage.

I would, however, have preferred a more substantial reasoning and explanation for the fictional Blonde Fury’s cause, which remained for the most part, lightly similar to and credited to the carrier, fleas, and most effective in attacking blondes on account that they lack melanin in the body.

And while I found the voice of the narrative that directly spoke to an unborn baby through the womb for a large proportion of the book to be somewhat far-fetched and the ending of the story far too rushed in its pacing compared to the rest of the book since it almost seemed the author had simply tired of writing and wished to end the story rather quickly and decisively on account that either a deadline was well past and overdue or the story itself had simply come to a halting impasse—The Blondes on a whole takes on a new idea and caps it off to the general fear and hysteria associated with epidemic.

And while the reader turns the last page and perhaps asks him or herself, “What next?,” the reader will also be glad of at least one of two things—that The Blondes story is but a fictional, apocalyptic tale, or that the reader is neither a victim of its epidemic fury as a brunette, nor a carrier of the literal and deadly disease as the rare and objectified, naturally born blonde.

Lucky for me, my hair is black. A very dark black.

***

Zara’s Rating

***

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

***

Are you a blonde or a brunette?

What would you be more fearful of: contracting the Blonde Fury disease or falling victim to it at the hands of an outraged blonde?

What do you hypothesize could be alternative causes for such an epidemic?

***

Book Review: The Emperor of Paris by C.S. Richardson

Book Review:

The Emperor of Paris by C.S. Richardson

08.29.2012

By Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez / @ZaraAlexis

***

Category: Fiction

Author: C. S. Richardson

Format: Hardcover, 280 pages

Publisher: Doubleday Canada

ISBN: 978-0-385-67090-6

Pub Date: August 14, 2012

***

The Emperor of Paris: A Novel by C.S. Richardson is a delicately written story about the fated circumstances leading two unlikely people together: Octavio Notre-Dame, an illiterate Parisian baker and Isabeau Normande, a woman shamed by facial scars from a disfiguring accident as a child.

The book feels classically written with a formality that feels as genteel as Parisian culture and fable-like as the books collected by the passionate baker in the story, in particular the book, The Arabian Nights.

***

Much of the dialogue, too, is the heartwarming way in which father and son communicate through the sight of pictures and shared storytelling to compensate for their illiteracy.

They thread into part vocal testament to the brutality of war and poverty and the power of imagination and storytelling as a source of survival and joy. And perhaps a subliminal comment on the true meaning of literacy itself.

Octavio’s charm resides in his humility as a man, his genuine, innocent, yet grand storytelling, as well as his tender relationship with his father even after the effects of post-traumatic stress from war, and his thoughtful and quiet pursuit of the equally shy and isolated, Isabeau Normande.

Isabeau, herself, takes comfort and solace in the dark basements of the Louvre where she meticulously restores beauty to classical paintings as an answer to her personal passion for art itself and perhaps as a form of personal redemption in answer to her own facial disfigurement.

The Louvre.

***

The book is an eloquent and delicately written novella about the art of storytelling filled with the sentimentality of Parisian community, passionate vocation, and the innocence of new, romantic love—especially for those who feel most unworthy of discovering it—yet, the ones who most likely deserved it the most.

Whether you’re a passionate artist or an intrigued voyeur of Parisian life, the kind tone of this novel will bring to light the importance of child-like play and imagination, fantasy, and fairytale  in a hopeful optimism against the devastation of disappointment, personal trauma, and often times, the reality of life.

***

Zara’s Rating

***

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

***

Have you ever been to Paris, France?

Have you ever visited the Louvre?

What fascinates you most about the Parisian culture?

***

A Review: Red House by Mark Haddon

A Review:

The Red House by Mark Haddon

08.22.2012

By Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez / @ZaraAlexis

***

Category: Fiction

Author: Mark Haddon

Format: Hardcover, 264 pages

Publisher: Doubleday Canada

ISBN: 978-0-385-67692-2

Pub Date: June 12, 2012

***

The Red House by Mark Haddon is a wonderful microcosm of two estranged American families brought together by a holiday in a rented house on the Welsh border, near Hay-on-Wye.

***

Though the reader must read actively to connect the story together between the interchanging narrators from one paragraph to the next, the narrative itself is like discordant, yet free-flowing snippets of recollection, intimate thought, and vibrant memory.

***

And while the tone of the characters’ personalities ring with a raw angst at the beginning of the novel, the reader is able to step back and take an honest look into a well-written mosaic that makes up the complicated nature of very real personalities and their fluctuating dynamic with one another.

From Richard’s stiff awkwardness towards his estranged and bitter sister, Angela, and his unintentional vanity and pride birthed from privilege and success to Angela’s religious prejudice and emotional absence especially towards her daughter, Daisy.

Louisa, Richard’s second wife must muster the courage to step out of her husband’s shadow and her daughter’s manipulation to not only find a new form of self-assertion, but the beginning of an authentic happiness.

Dominic, Angela’s “man-child” of a husband must rectify his pacified relationship with his family, discover his inner strength, and define his manhood by making a logical and moral choice.

Alex, Dominic and Angela’s emotionally prepubescent son must learn beyond his libidinal urges and preoccupation with girls, sex, and his interest in sports and history to become a more empathetic character in answer to his family’s needs especially those of his younger brother, Benjy, to grow into the man he periodically rushes to become.

Daisy, Dominic and Angela’s newly liberated and pious daughter must come to terms with her newfound identity in the Christian church and beyond with the realization of a facet of herself in her true desires.

Benjy, their youngest, though extremely gifted and innocent beyond his years, must grapple with shyness, isolation, and the disappointment found in peeking inside the sometimes hypocritical and cruel, adult world.

And Melissa, Louisa’s disgruntled daughter manipulates and instills fear in those around her to mask the insatiable emptiness, resentment, and insecurity that plagues her as a privileged teenager of divorced parents. She is steely, mean-spirited, and hard at the fault of her immaturity and distrust, and what I think readers can assume to be severe loneliness.

Together these characters create a very real story amidst absurd and sometimes awkward circumstances. While I found the interchanging narrators somewhat confusing and difficult to read, it was only a matter of time needed to anticipate it and realign my reading style to Mark Haddon’s sometimes brash, yet honest and comedic narrative.

What I found most refreshing about the book is its treatment of its characters. They are importantly neither one-dimensional, nor do they fit the cliché of our assumptions by meeting a usually expected resolution in the story. Their issues continue throughout and most likely beyond the ending of the book. They fluctuate in what they reveal to us as characters, signifying at its very best, the innate complexity and nature of personality—and the turmoil, politic, and resignation to and from the inextinguishable ties of family.

The key to The Red House is a haunting promise of an open door.

***

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Zara’s Rating

***

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

***

A lot can happen during a holiday. What’s your most memorable holiday or vacation?

Family is both a burden and an assurance. How has your family shaped who you are?

***