Tag Archives: books

Canada DOES Read! See the Shortlist for 2016


By Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez / @zaraalexis / @zaraasian

It’s that time of year again when CBC announces the five titles of Canadian literature as chosen by its advocates for its annual debate, Canada Reads. 

This year’s host, Wab Kinew, a former panelist on Canada Reads, defended Joseph Boyden’s, The Orenda, and returns this year to host the event for the second time.

This year’s theme is about “starting over” and the following panelists have chosen Canadian books that they feel best represent transformation and the struggles in starting a new life.

Because Canada Reads begins on March 21 and lasts for four days, you have a chance now, to stock up on and read this year’s titles to see if you agree:

book - birdie***

Bruce Poon Tip will be defending Birdie by Tracey Lindberg.




Farah Mohamed will be defending Bone & Bread by Saleema Nawaz.


book - the illegal


Clara Hughes will be defending The Illegal by Lawrence Hill.


book - minister without portfolio


Adam Copeland will be defending Minister Without Portfolio by Michael Winter.


book - heros walk


Vinay Virmani will be defending The Hero’s Walk by Anita Rau Badami.


Have you read any of the books that will be discussed in this year’s Canada Reads event?

Which book do you think will win this year’s Canada Reads title? Why?

Debates are usually won by those who make the strongest arguments. Based on what you know about the panelists for this year’s debate, who do you think will make the most compelling arguments on behalf of the book he/she is representing?

Which Canadian books would you like to see featured as contenders in next year’s Canada Reads debate?


Until next time, happy reading!

zara - grey fedora

2015: A Fresh Start for the Bibliotaphe Closet

January 12. 2015

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

It seems the doors of the Bibliotaphe Closet have been shut for about a month without much of an explanation from me. That’s what happens when you lose your keys, or in my case, a handle on a reading and writing schedule that worked quite effectively until I unexpectedly picked up a new obsession—pretty stationery, washi tape, mail art, snail mail, and penning letters.

After I agreed to an interview and feature on the Penpal of the Week website as well as having won a free three-month membership to the League of Extraordinary Penpals (LEP), a warm and active online community; I have quickly transformed from an occasional letter-writing penpal to approximately three correspondents to a fully engaged writer and snail mail addict who has unbelievably gained the interest of 50+ penpals within Canada, the U.S.A., and around the world.

Translation —> You will most likely find me in a paper craft store running for the bins that carry a myriad of pretty stationery sets, peony notecards and notebooks, a slew of rubber stamps, kawaii stickers, and an uncertain amount of decorative washi tape, sticky notes, and planner inserts.

Incoming mail from Diana in Australia: instructions on how to make fabric tape and a vintage Paperdoll postcard. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.
Incoming mail from Diana in Australia: instructions on how to make fabric tape and a vintage Paperdoll postcard. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.


I have gone so far as to:

  • create my own envelopes and postcards
  • renovate my study into a small craft room that now stores all my snail mail and mail art supplies
  • install hooks into the wall to display my washi tape
  • create my own midori planners and journals based on a number of YouTube instructional videos
  • buy my own digital shipping scale to weigh my mail packages by the gram
  • memorize postage rates by domestic, US, and international locations
  • bribe “Santa” for a Pilot Metropolitan fountain pen with a fine nib
  • visit my mailbox on a strict rotation of three hours to check for incoming deliveries
  • and carry my mail, blank stationery, and pens with me everywhere I go just in case I have time to pen a letter
My creative writing space. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.
My creative writing space. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.


That said, books and reading are still very much on my priority list. One does not usually forget their first love. But, as people grow, interests, too, tend to expand and develop (at least that’s what I tell myself since books have been left on the shelf).

With that in mind, I also hope to post stories about snail mail, mail art, and paper crafts on this blog. I may even have to consider revamping my blog’s site name, but I haven’t decided yet.

But, for starters, I encourage readers to set realistic reading goals for the year. This can be easily done through the HarperCollins of Canada 50 Book Pledge Program online, which acts as a database and personal tracker for a large reading community through a “To Be Read,” “Read,” and “Wish List” bookshelves.

As a preview, the first few books I look forward to reading and reviewing in 2015 are:

Alphabetique by Molly Peacock



The Strange Library by Haruki Murakami

strange library


Little White Lies by Katie Dale

little white lies


The Jaguar’s Children by John Valliant

jaguars children


If I Fall, I Die by Michael Christie

if i fall i die


Vanessa and Her Sister by Priya Parmar

vanessa and her sister


While I suspected there would be time during the holidays to read, write, and even pen letters, there was instead a perpetual food binge and all forms of lively procrastination.

The New Year rolled itself in and just last week I celebrated my 40th—cough—birthday! (But, more on that in another post.)

Regardless, now that it’s 2015, I’m happy to reconsider some new personal goals and resolutions, as well as give The Bibliotaphe Closet a contextual renovation and a clean, fresh start.

Here’s to more reading—and writing in the New Year!


What are your reading goals for 2015?


zara - vintage

Crazy for CanLit 2014: If They Were Children’s Books


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

If I was a kid, what would this year’s potential Giller Prize books look like? Based on the ones listed on the Crazy for CanLit Pinterest Board, these are what I would change the titles to if the books were for children—because I’m a kid like that. (You have my children to thank, for constantly coercing me to play Tag, Hide ‘n Seek, Rock, Paper & Scissors, and LEGO on a regular basis.)

Ready, kiddies? Let’s play!

ellen in LEGO pieces***

A is for andre alexis


what does pastoral mean


i don't know how to behave bc im just a kid***

the boy in spanish is el nino***

teddy bear***

fallsy downsies we all fall down***

all the broken things are my fault***

watch how we walk funny***

canadas wonderland***

juliet was a kinder surprise***

 answer to everything is aww do i have to***

tiny wife fits in my dollhouse***


walt disney***

How would you change some of the potential Giller Prize books’ titles if you were a kid?

Which is your favourite title change from the list I created above?


zara - tokidoki glow

Wednesday’s Wicked, New Books


By Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez / @ZaraAlexis

The books have been pouring in, which can only mean a few things:

  1. I have an active constellation acting on my behalf.
  2. My bookshelves are getting a good workout.
  3. My husband will soon suspend my book-buying budget.
  4. I am frantically getting behind on my reading and reviews.
  5. Publishers like me.
  6. Twitter is useful.
  7. Rafflecopter is rigged.
  8. My postman is pissed at me—and I mean really pissed at me.
  9. I squeal and book shimmy about every 10 minutes.
  10. Authors are alive and well and still have a lot of stories to tell.

Here’s a look at the Bibliotaphe’s Closet’s latest additions:

Books for Review:

A special thanks as always to Random House of Canada for sending me the following books for review:


Man by Kim Thuy

If this novel is as good as Thuy’s last novel, Ru, then we’re all in for a lyrical read.

book - bone clocks

The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell

book - ten-o-four

10:04 by Ben Lerner

book - stone mattress

Stone Mattress by Margaret Atwood

If you’re an Atwood fan (and really, who isn’t?), you’re going to want to get your hands on her new collection of short stories. I loved her last collection, Moral Disorder, so I’m excited to read this as soon as I can.

And of course, a special thanks to Quirk Books for sending me the following book for review:

book - horrorstor

Horrorstor by Grady Hendrix

When this first arrived, I absolutely fell in love with its book design. I don’t actually have to say which catalogue it resembles,  do I? I don’t think I’ll be able to look at my furniture the same way again.

Thanks to author, Eric Smith, for sending me a copy of his book (and its matching poster) for review. I haven’t hung the poster on the wall yet, only because I need to go out and buy a couple of gigantic frames. Nevertheless, I look forward to decorating my office soon with book posters galore. As for being a geek, yes, I am one.

book - geek's guide to dating

The Geek’s Guide to Dating by Eric Smith

Books I Won:

I apparently have an entire (yet unnamed) constellation dedicated to my good fortune. This constellation, though, seems to only favour me in winning only books because I haven’t yet won the lottery—then again, there is a HUGE money pot up for grabs this Friday, which means I’ll have to talk this constellation up for me to have even a little crack at winning.

Nevertheless, I have a heart full of thanks to send out to many generous publishers and authors who have chosen me as the recipient of their book giveaways and contests. Me and my bookshelves are honoured!

Thanks to Penguin Random House on behalf of Razorbill and the Bloggers & Books Network Program for sending me the following book:

book - art of getting stared at

The Art of Getting Stared At by Laura Langston

I don’t have the tendency to get stared at, unless of course, I have something on my face like the remnants of the last cupcake I’ve devoured. Only then do people notice me. Still, this book looks good to read.

Thanks to my special friends at Simon & Schuster Canada for sending me a copy of the following for review:

book - mating for life

Mating for Life by Marissa Stapley

Personally, I mate for life. After being married a good 12 years to who I consider the sexiest man alive this year and for every year after, I know I’m in it forever. (I hope this book is as positive about marriage as I am.)

Thanks to Source Books who host a monthly book chat and for sending me a copy of the following:

book - paris architect

The Paris Architect by Charles Belfoure

I love Paris. I haven’t been to Paris, but I love it still. And I look forward to reading this politically charged novel.

A big high-five to the folks at Retreat Random House of Canada for hosting a read-along. I was lucky enough to be one of the winners on the Rafflecopter to score a new edition of this book:

book - remains of the day

The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro

Congratulations to author, Josephine Angelini, on her new publication of this bewitching YA, paranormal book. I’m glad to be one of the few winners who snagged an ARC from her blog giveaway:

book - trial by fire

Trial By Fire by Josephine Angelini

Tor Books sent me more magic by sending me a copy of this book, plus a cute Tor Books recycling bag as the winner of their giveaway contest. Thanks, Tor Books!

book - copper magic

Copper Magic by Julia Mary Gibson

Steph from the book blog, Feisty Little Woman, sent me a personal note along with my book prize from her giveaway. I was so pleased to receive both. Thanks, Steph!

book - interference

Interference by Michelle Berry

And thanks to the marketing folks on Twitter on behalf of Hyperion for sending me this book from their Twitter giveaway. I’m looking forward to reading all about Rosie:

book - love rosie

Love, Rosie by Cecilia Ahern

And last, but not least, a special thanks goes out to Giselle, a fellow book blogger whose reviews are as great as her web design! Be sure to check out her the book blog, Book Nerd. She sent me my choice of prize from her August 2014 Book Outlet Giveaway:

book - sharp time

The Sharp Time by Mary O’Connell

Books I Bought:

These YA books caught my eye not only because of their plots and cover designs, but because of their unbelievable prices! Yes, I bought these babies on sale and the discount was so deep, they felt like they were almost free!

book - because it is my blood

Because It Is My Blood by Gabrielle Zevin

book - cross my heart

Cross My Heart by Sasha Gould


Based on the number of books in this collection, I think it’s fair to say that all the reasons I listed above most likely all apply to why these books may have poured in at once! Thanks to my loyal constellation, the generosity of publishers and authors, and the patience of my dutiful and hardworking postman.

(Here’s hoping that my luck is even better when I play the lottery on Friday…)


Of all the books listed above, which are you most interested in reading and why?

Do you have any of these in your collection?

Which ones would you like to add to your bookshelf?

What’s the last prize you won?


zara cat stamp


Stuffing the Bibliotaphe Closet


By Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez / @ZaraAlexis

From anticipating the end of the school year for my children in June, to planning a 10th birthday party for my son who’s obsessed with LEGO, to all the activities planned for the rest of the summer—I blinked, opened my eyes, and realized, OMG, it’s already August, with only three more weeks left until the children return to school in the fall.

Amongst some of those summer activities is continuously adding new books to the Bibliotaphe Closet collection.

Here are some new and great goodies waiting to be read on my shelf:

Books for Review:

A special thanks to Random House of Canada for providing me with the following books for review:

girls from corona del marThe Girls from Corona del Mar by Rufi Thorpe


lucky usLucky Us by Amy Bloom


luminariesThe Luminaries by Eleanor Catton


colorless tsukuru tazakiColorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage by Haruki Murakami


Books Won:

A special thanks to Penguin Canada for sending me the following prize through a Twitter contest:

third plateThe Third Plate: Field Notes on the Future of Food by Dan Barber


A special thanks to Doubleday Canada for sending me the following book as a prize from a Twitter contest:

distanceThe Distance by Helen Giltrow


A special thanks to Graywolf Press for sending me two books as my prize from a Facebook contest:

karate chopKarate Chop: Stories by Dorthe Nors


belmontBelmont: Poems by Stephen Burt


Books I Bought:

 russian winterRussian Winter by Daphne Kalotay


slammerkinSlammerkin by Emma Donoghue


known worldThe Known World by Edward P. Jones


how it all beganHow It All Began by Penelope Lively


mercyMercy by Jodi Picoult


alice hartle's happinessAlice Hartley’s Happiness by Philippa Gregory


Books Borrowed:

 innocentsThe Innocents by Francesca Segal


wisp of a thingWisp of a Thing by Alex Bledsoe


splinteredSplintered by A.G. Howard


unhingedUnhinged by A.G. Howard


Out of all the books listed above, which ones are you most interested in reading?

Which book do you think I should read next?


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Eureka! TD Summer Reading Club 2014


By Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez / @ZaraAlexis

For my children, June 27 was the last day of school—the day when the bell marks one of the most anticipated moments in a child’s memory—the transition from end-of-school-year to the full freedom of summer vacation.

Xara on the last day of school with her favourite JK teacher, Mr. Vilku. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.
Xara on the last day of school with her favourite JK teacher, Mr. Vilku. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.


The whole family with Michael's Grade 4 teacher and friend, Mr. McCutcheon. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.
The whole family with Michael’s Grade 4 teacher and friend, Mr. McCutcheon. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.

And now we’re here, a full two months of summer freedom, the opportunity to sleep late and sleep in, endless events to choose from, activities and crafts, and lots of free play. As a parent, it can be daunting to try to plan an entire summer that will not only entertain your children, but also keep education involved in their activities without making them feel like they’re back in school.

One great opportunity is to participate in the Eureka! TD Summer Reading Club 2014, hosted by a number of public libraries within the GTA.

Parents can sign their children up online at their local library, receive a membership ID number for future login, an activity booklet, a reading log book, a page of stickers, and the encouragement to keep reading throughout the summer.

For every two books read and logged online, equals an entry into a ballot to win a number of prizes hosted by the local library running the summer reading club. Members can win a Chapters Gift Card and an ice cream scoop from Baskin Robbins. A prize is also awarded to each club member who completes the 15 book challenge.

At the end of the summer, club members who have logged at least two books will be entered into the final grand prize draw for a chance to win a Kobo Arc!

Eureka Summer Reading Club 2014. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.
Eureka Summer Reading Club 2014. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.


It’s a great motivator to keep your children eager and interested in reading all summer long with an opportunity for them to create their own, personal reading goals. It’s also a great way to keep record of the books your children have read.

As of today, both my children have been logging in the books they’ve read so far (my son tallies at six books and my daughter tallies at five) since they have both signed up for the program.

Here’s to summer—and all the great books to be read!


If you have children, are they participating in a summer reading program?

Which books are you looking forward to sharing with the children in your life?

Have you heard of the Eureka! TD Summer Reading Club? Do you think you will enroll your children in the club?


zara cat stamp

Stuffing the Bibliotaphe Closet


By Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez / @ZaraAlexis

It’s been a few days into our official summer, which means as the summer vacation nears as does the higher temperatures, we’re all afforded the privilege of being outside.

Wherever I am, especially when I’m out, I rarely fail to bring a book with me—just in case. For those moments I’m left waiting—waiting for a bus, waiting in line, or waiting in a reception room. Or for that unexpected moment when I spot a quiet place like a corner table at my favourite cafe, or a bench under a large oak tree. These are not bookish clichés, but real places in which I savour reading.

And so, summer really is the best time for me to stock up on my personal book collection. Even if it means bursting my budget to its already-tight-and-stretched-out-seams.

That said, I, nor this blog would exist, nor be called bibliotaphic if this wasn’t my compulsion—I mean, disposition.

Here’s how The Bibliotaphe Closet has been stuffed this week:

Books for Review:

A special thanks to Random House of Canada for providing me with a copy of The Quick by Lauren Owen for review.

The Quick by Lauren Owen


A special thanks to Simon & Schuster Canada for an Advanced Review Copy (ARC) of A Girl Is a Half-Formed Thing by Eimear McBride.

A Girl Is a Half-Formed Thing by Eimear McBride

a girl is a half-formed thing***

Books I (Busted My Wallet Out For) Bought:

Plain Truth by Jodi Picoult

plain truth***

My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult

my sister's keeper***

Waking the Dead by John Eldridge

waking the dead***

The Salesman by Joseph O’Connor


Who By Fire by Diana Spechler

who by fire***

Astrid & Veronicka by Linda Olsson

astrid and veronicka***

The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers

heart is a lonely hunter***

The City of Falling Angels by John Berendt

city of falling angels***

At the Full and Change of the Moon by Dionne Brand

at the full and change of the moon

Open City by Teju Cole

open city***

Mr g by Alan Lightman

mr g***

The Secret Book of Frida Kahlo by F.G. Haghenbeck

secret book of frida kahlo***

The Fecund’s Melancholy Daughter by Brent Hayward

fecund's melancholy daughter***

Entice by Jessica Shirvington


Children of the Jacaranda Tree by Sahar Delijani

children of the jacaranda tree***

Books I Won:

A special thanks to Penguin Canada for a copy of The Truth About the Harry Quebert Affair by Joel Dicker, which I won through a Twitter contest.

The Truth About the Harry Quebert Affair by Joel Dicker

truth about the harry quebert affair***

Of all the books listed above, which ones are you most interested in reading?

What does your Summer TBR book list look like?

Did you receive any new books for your collection this week?


zara cat stamp

Waiting on Wednesday


By Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez / @ZaraAlexis

Week of June 23, 2014

The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert

signature of all things***

Fairy Tales from Around the World by Andrew Lang

fairy tales from around the world***

Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng

everything i never told you***

Week of July 7. 2014

Four: A Divergent Collection by Veronical Roth


Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands by Chris Bohjalian

close your eyes hold hands***

Week of July 14, 2014

The Book of Life (All Souls Trilogy #3) by Deborah Harkness

book of life***

The Bone Orchard by Paul Doiron

bone orchard***

The Valley of Amazement by Amy Tan

valley of amazement***

Which of the above books are you most interested in reading?

If you could choose only one book to buy this month, which book would it be?

What’s on your Beach Bag TBR List?


zara cat stamp

Stuffing the Bibliotaphe Closet


By Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez / @ZaraAlexis

After a long weekend without the privilege of receiving any mail from the post, I was happily surprised to receive a large package in the mail yesterday from one of my favourite book publishers—Random House of Canada!

While I’ve refrained from purchasing any books for this week, I was also lucky enough to receive one of my previous winnings from Twitter in the mail.

Here’s how The Bibliotaphe Closet has grown this week:

Books for Review:

A special thank you to Random House of Canada for providing me with a number of Advanced Readings Copies (ARCs) and galleys for my review:

moving forward sideways like a crab - arcMoving Forward Sideways Like a Crab by Shani Mootoo,

on sale April 29, 2014.

the lobster kings - galleyThe Lobster Kings by Alexi Zentner,

on sale May 6, 2014.

the book of unknown americansThe Book of Unknown Americans by Cristina Henriquez,

on sale June 2014.

the extraordinary journey of the fakir who got trapped in an ikea wardrobeThe Extraordinary Journey of the Fakir Who Got Trapped in an IKEA Wardrobe by Romain Puertolas,

on sale August 5, 2014.

arctic summer

Arctic Summer by Damon Galgut,

on sale August 12, 2014.

Books I Won:

A special thank you to Penguin Books for sending me my prize through their Twitter contest for a copy of:

my wish list

My Wish List by Gregoire Delacourt


Of all the new books listed above, which one are you most interested in reading?

Of all the new books listed above, which book do you think I should read next?


zara cat stamp

Happy Belated Easter to Christians and Every-“Bunny”


By Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez / @ZaraAlexis

For Christians, Easter is the most important celebration in the Christian faith.

It commemorates the resurrection of the Savior, Lord Jesus Christ, from the grave, the centre in which the Christian faith rests its beliefs—that Jesus was crucified on the cross, having died on behalf of humankind’s sins, instead of humankind itself (thus saving humankind from the wrath of God, sparing them instead to a chance at a fulfilling relationship with God and eternal life)—to rise back to life three days later, proof of not only His deity, but of His power over evil and death.

Easter, for Christians, is more than an Easter-Egg-Hunt, but a deep reflection on the magnitude of Jesus’ sacrifice on behalf of humankind out of endearing love and compassion.

It is a day to not only honour God specifically for the damnation mankind has been spared from, but the life mankind has been lovingly given—a gratefulness that springs up from the heart of every Christian in his or her trust, faith, and love in God.

That said, it is my belief there is no harm in giving children an opportunity for fun and treats in the act of an exciting Egg Hunt for colourful surprises including delectable chocolate.

Here are some great Easter books especially for children to celebrate with:

Jesus Rose on Easter Morn


easter story


god gave us easter


pete the cat big easter adventure


pinkalicious eggstraordinary easter


happy easter curious george


veggie tales easter collection


This year, my children and my husband and I enjoyed a quiet, but eventful Easter weekend, enjoying the blessing God has given us in the birth of wonderful and long-awaited spring weather and an opportunity to purchase bicycles for our family’s recreational use to travel to our local grocery store, doctor’s office, or city park.

Me FIRST bicycle ever. (c) Photo by Esly R. Alvarez. All rights reserved.
Me FIRST bicycle ever. (c) Photo by Esly R. Alvarez. All rights reserved.

From my little bunnies, to yours—we hope you had a blessed and happy Easter not only filled with chocolate eggs or chocolate bunnies, but also quality time to spend with loved ones, and a relaxing opportunity to enjoy a good book!

My Easter Bunnies. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.
My Easter Bunnies. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.


Do you celebrate Easter?

Is there a special way you celebrate Easter with your family?

What did you do over this Easter long-weekend?

What’s your favourite Easter recipe or treat?


zara cat stamp