Tag Archives: “Erin Morgenstern”

Top 20 Bookish Memories

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Top 20 Bookish Memories

02.06.2013

By Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez / @ZaraAlexis

1. Winning my very first short story prize.

first prize ribbon

When I was seven-years-old, I wrote a three-page short story about a boy who was accidentally locked in the basement. I submitted it to my teacher as a writing assignment for English and was surprised to be asked to read it aloud in front of my class and then received a First Place prize for it. It was a wonderful affirmation of my joy in writing and reading and my first experience in reading in front of an “audience,” even if they were only a group of my seven-year-old peers.

2. Getting accepted into the Creative Writing Program at York University.

vanier residence
I lived at the Vanier Residence for my first two years of study at York University in the Creative Writing Program. Photo from: http://www.yorku.ca

The best Creative Writing Program in the country is known to be the program at the University of British Columbia (UBC). The next best program is the Creative Writing Program at York University. Since I received a York University Entrance Scholarship and was living in the GTA at the time, attending York University in Toronto made a lot of sense. It was a relief and privilege to finally receive my acceptance letter to the Creative Writing Program at York after I submitted my writing portfolio—an achievement that gave me a great sense of pride and fulfilment.

3. Seeing my work in print when published for the first time.

(c) "The Worm" by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.
(c) “The Worm” by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.

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It’s quite an experience to see your work, which began as a simple idea, become a draft and then again into perhaps a number of drafts after many revisions, finally come off press and in print. When if first happened to me, I was filled with pride and disbelief.

4. Seeing my son learn how to read for the first time.

My son, Michael---the Book Worm (like Mommy).
My son, Michael—the Book Worm (like Mommy). (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.

I remember the first time the meaning of words in print were finally revealed to me and the feeling I had when I finally understood what it meant to be able to read. When I witnessed my son read his first words off the page out loud, I was extremely proud to see him pass such an important milestone and nostalgic of my own memories of reading as a child. The picture above is a picture of Michael already eight-years-old and able to read chapter books!

5. Meeting Barbara Gowdy in person, having a conversation with her, and a glass of red wine.

Barbara Gowdy
Barbara Gowdy

One of my professors for the Prose Fiction Workshop course I took as part of my studies in the Creative Writing Program at York was published poet and author, Christopher Dewdney, who also happened to be the long-term partner of author, Barbara Gowdy. Barbara Gowdy also just happens to be one of my favourite authors! Because of her connection with my professor, I was able to meet her personally during her reading of her new book at that time, White Bone, with a special introduction from Christopher Dewdney. She gave me writing advice while we both sipped red wine. It’s one of my all-time favourite bookish memories.

6. Being asked to join Random House of Canada’s Blogging Team.

Random House logo at front reception. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.
Random House logo at front reception. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.

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When I was asked to officially join the Blogging Team for the prestigious and largest publishing company in Canada, Random House of Canada, I was absolutely thrilled. They have always published an excellent quality of literary fiction, which is my preferred genre, and their books have published many of my own favourite Canadian authors such as Margaret Atwood, Leonard Cohen, M.G. Vassanji, etc. Reviewing books for Random House of Canada continues to give me great joy and privilege!

7. Becoming an editorial assistant for the literary journal, Existere.

existerelogo

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When I was accepted as an editorial assistant for the literary journal, Existere, I was extremely excited to be able to work alongside peers of the same creative interests. My experience there taught me to sharpen my critical and editorial eye and have a first-hand peek at the publishing world. Not to mention, I was able to make great friends who also happened to passionate about reading and creative writing.

8. Reading my poetry for a Poetry Night reading at the Grad Lounge.

The Grad Lounge Bill. I was first up that night! (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.
The Grad Lounge Bill. I was first up that night! (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.

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Writers tend to be introverts. Who else could tolerate hours of writing in solitude? So, when I was slotted to read one of my poems for Poetry Night at the Grad Lounge, it was not only an honour, it was a nerve-wrecking experience. I’m naturally a shy and introverted person, but to be able to share my work with others in this type of venue meant getting up and reading my work out loud…in front of an audience…live! While I was perhaps self-conscious of that fact, I read through my poem with ease (since it was of course, so familiar), and was elated to receive a good response from the audience. When I left the stage, the bartender actually complimented me on my work, “That was a really good poem, good job!” While it made me blush, it helped to reaffirm my motivation to continue writing.

9. Attending my very first Canadian Book Expo.

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When I worked as an editorial assistant for a small publishing house, UCPH, a few of us were granted the opportunity to attend the Canadian Book Expo event in Toronto. It’s an event that hosts Canadian publishers an opportunity to showcase their publications and their authors by providing members of the publishing and book world with free copies of books, ARCs, galleys, and book signings. For a book lover like myself amongst the many hundreds of people who attended that particular weekend, The Book Expo was a forum to be able to completely immerse myself in book mania. Both my husband (who was a book buyer at the time) and I attended, which made it even more meaningful.

10. Attending the Random House Blog Fest and meeting Erica Ehm and authors Ami McKay, Erin Morgenstern, and Paula Mclain all in one day.

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

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Me and Erica Ehm. Random House Blog Fest, Feb. 2012. (c) Photo Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.
Me and Erica Ehm. Random House Blog Fest, Feb. 2012. (c) Photo Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.

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As a book addict and potential author worshipper, to be able to attend an elite event such as The Random House Blog Fest in February 2012 meant that I was privileged enough to meet not one favourite author, but three! I was not only able to meet them, but I was able to chat, take photos, and receive personally signed books! What more could a bibliotaphe ask for? Not to mention, I was surprised to also meet Erica Ehm, the former V-Jay of Muchmusic, who I had watched religiously as a teenager!

11. Receiving a personal tweet from Margaret Atwood.

Margaret Atwood
Margaret Atwood

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As most of my readers know, Margaret Atwood is not only a Canadian literary icon, but one of my favourite authors. I had written a review on her book, Cat’s Eye, and published on my blog as well as shared it online on Twitter. Margaret Atwood actually read my review and tweeted me personally in response!

12. Receiving my very first book for review from a publisher—and it was signed!

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. My signed copy! (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.
The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. My signed copy! (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.

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The first book I received for review was The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. I not only thoroughly enjoyed reading the novel, I was so happy to have coveted a copy that was personally signed by the author. Imagine my surprise, when I was able to meet her later in person at the Random House Blog Fest later that year!

13. Receiving news that other publishers would like me to review a book(s) for them on a regular basis.

Slowly, but surely, other publishers came through in deciding to put me on their book blogging distribution list. It certainly is flattering to be asked to review books for more than one publisher on a regular basis. It’s also a great opportunity and privilege to work with creative people in the industry who, though don’t pay me monetarily for my reviews, pay me in kind with free books and collegial, working relationships.

A special thanks goes out to the Trisha at House of Anansi, Corey at Goose Lane Editions, Emily at Constable & Robinson, and Anneliese at Simon & Schuster!

14. Creating my book blog, The Bibliotaphe Closet

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When I created my book blog, The Bibliotaphe Closet, for the very first time, the achievement of learning how to publish a posting in itself was rewarding. Prior to The Bibliotaphe Closet, I was completely unfamiliar with the blogosphere and the working of WordPress. It was wonderful to create a forum to advocate literacy, share my thoughts about books I’ve read, and to be a part of an online reading community—all with my personal branding!

While many of those who don’t blog merely consider blogging as a “nice, little (and perhaps useless) hobby,” book bloggers themselves know the amount of time and effort it takes to create — and maintain a book blog.

I am happy to see The Bibliotaphe Closet survive and pass its first year bloggoversary. The Bibliotaphe Closet is now a-year-and-two-months old!

15. Receiving a personal tweet or blog comment from Eugenia Kim, Benjamin Wood, and Scott Fotheringham in response to my reviews of their books.

I had written a review of Eugenia Kim’s novel, The Calligrapher’s Daughter. It was an absolute pleasure to discover she had read my review and left a comment to thank me personally for my work. She was the first author who contacted me in response to a review I had written and it made me realize that, yes, authors do indeed read the reviews book bloggers write and appreciate the thought and work put into them.

Since then, I have received personal tweets and comments from authors like Benjamin Wood for his novel, The Bellwether Revivals, and Scott Fotheringham for his novel, The Rest Is Silence.

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@zaraalexis So pleased you connected so strongly with the book, Zara. Thanks for the thoughtful review.

— Benjamin Wood (@bwoodauthor) March 22, 2012

Hey! Thanks @zaraalexis for the review in your blog. Glad you liked it.

— Scott Fotheringham (@SFotheringham) May 1, 2012

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16. Winning and receiving a personally signed copy of Haruki Murakami’s limited edition novel, 1Q84, by winning the Haruki Murakami Writing Contest.

1Q84 by Haruki Murakami. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.
1Q84 by Haruki Murakami. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.

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My signed copy of 1Q84. Limited edition. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.
My signed copy of 1Q84. Limited edition. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.

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It’s one thing to receive a free book from winning a giveaway contest; it’s quite another thing to win a free book that happens to also be signed in a limited edition because you’ve won a writing contest! One of the most treasured books in my entire book collection is Haruki Murakami’s signed novel, 1Q84 because of how I received it and, of course, the opportunity I have to own it personally, and the pleasure I have to read it someday.

17. Chatting with Esi Edugyan, author of Half-Blood Blues, online.

Half-Blood Blues by Esi Edugyan.
Half-Blood Blues by Esi Edugyan.

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esi edugyan
Esi Edugyan. From: http://www.esiedugyan.com/images/author.jpg

The novel Half-Blood Blues by Esi Edugyan won the Scotiabank Giller Prize in 2012. It took Esi Edugyan eight years to write her debut novel and the time was well spent since its debut not only put her on the longlist and shortlist of the $50,000 Giller Prize, but actually won her the Big Kahuna!

To chat with her live online was a pleasure. Here’s a portion of that conversation I had with Esi Edugyan through the CBC Book Club Chat event on January 27, 2012:

As an award-winning writer and a friend in the craft, what’s the best advice you can give to aspiring writers out there (okay, by this, I mean: me)?

by you 3:41 PM

My advice to aspiring writers is first, to read everything, and secondly, to keep going. When the rejections are pouring in, keep going. If you’re advised to stop, keep going.
by Esi Edugyan 3:42 PM
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18. Buying my very first book from my school Book Fair.

My original copy of "Charlotte's Web" by E.B. White that I bought as a child from my school Book Fair. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.
My original copy of “Charlotte’s Web” by E.B. White that I bought as a child from my school Book Fair. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.

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My first inscribed signature at eight-years-old. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.
My first inscribed signature at eight-years-old. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.

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I didn’t get allowance as a child so I had no means of buying myself a copy of any book at my school Book Fair. I did, however, convince my mom and dad to give me money so that I could place an order through Scholastic Inc. I remember wanting only one book at that time: Charlotte’s Web by E.B.White.

When the book arrived at school and my name was called so I could pick it up from the library’s Book Fair, I was so happy. When I received it, I simply stared at it in awe. My very first purchased book! I remember inscribing my name inside the front cover just to make it official. While it’s a little tattered, I still own the original copy I bought as a child.

19. Listening to Gordon Korman read in my school auditorium when I was eight-years-old.

gordon korman book cvr

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Aside from reading books by Beverly Cleary, Judy Blume, I also read a lot of books written by Gordon Korman when I was a kid. When I heard the news that my school was hosting a special reading by him in the school auditorium, I was starstruck. I couldn’t believe the person who had written all the books that I spent all my time reading at that time would be in my school gymnasium! Though I didn’t have a camera to capture this moment, this bookish memory has stayed with me for a very long time—it would have to—I was only eight.

20. The times I have cried in response to being deeply moved while reading a wonderful book.

There is nothing more wonderful than being deeply moved by a story you’ve read. While I’ve enjoyed reading many different kinds of novels, there are those that I remember that have simply moved me to tears, or rage, or both! And those are the best books and bookish memories one can have—how books and their stories make such an emotional impact on one’s life.

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Thanks to the Broke and the Bookish blog for providing and hosting this weekly meme!

How many wonderful bookish memories can you recall?

Which books have you read that moved you to tears? Or rage? Or both?

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zara alexis blog signature

Fashion Fridays: The Night Circus. 06.22.2012

Fashion Fridays

Fashion Match for The night circus

06.22.2012

By Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez / @ZaraAlexis

Fashion Friday is a weekly meme created by FireStarBooks in order for book lovers to post any fashion related idea or image that they think would be a great match for books on Friday.

Here are my fashion choices for the book, The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern:

 

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How has literature influenced fashion, architecture, and decor?

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The Random House Blogger Fest: February 11, 2012

By Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez

I’m a writer. I’m an editor. I’m a book-crazy person. I have mine in every room of my house. I have them on bookshelves and on my floor. Even in my kitchen. I’m also a very opinionated person. I like my opinions. I agree with them. They are mine. They belong to me. And I read a lot. As often as I can. And I’m not afraid to type, nor am I afraid of technology or the super-boom of social media, which led me to begin my own blog.

Blogs are everywhere (okay, not everywhere, but spread out enough on the Web to get some hits of curiosity and sometimes some applause.) A comment or two might even make you smile. I don’t know. I don’t have a large “following.” I’m no Blog Leader in the Blogging World. But I love to read, to share my very opinionated opinions, and to type exceptionally fast on my computer. It feels a lot more productive than talking to myself or trying to evangelize non-readers to join a book club.

My blogging adventure began in December 2011 when I was still asking the question, “What the heck is a widget?” And what’s this about “picking up buttons?” Huh? Okay, so I’m not a professional. But I was willing to start from scratch, which is how I suspect most bloggers do it. Or did it. And are continuing to do it.

And then I became an online contest junkie. I won my first giveaway book. When it arrived in the mail and my book was beautifully wrapped in a Jiffy envelope with its publisher’s mailing address on the left-hand corner, I was smitten. Yes, smitten!

I read. I reviewed. I followed other bloggers to see “what was out there,” what the literary community might be buzzing about, and also to figure out blogging etiquette, and if I could finally find the answer to what a widget was. I didn’t even know what an “ARC” was. I had to Google that to find out:

 ARC: Advance reader copy.

Oh my Great-God-of-Books-and-All-Things-Writing! My insatiable need to read was further enticed by the idea that I could get my hands on books before they hit the shelves at the bookstores. This is a special privilege and not just a financial one. It’s an honour really. It says, “I can see you’re an avid reader. What do you think about this book?”

Authors are the word scribes that commit themselves to writing from a place that compels them and provides for the rest of us with the stories, poems, and fictions (sometimes non-fictions) that we love.

The publishers work hard in editing, packaging, and distributing these beauties to our bookstores, schools, libraries, and the reading public.

Book bloggers, (and I speak for myself here) are the fanatical readers who are willing to stand in the rain in a two-hour lineup to meet a beloved author during a book signing because they love the printed word.

Justin Bieber? Who’s that?

You want inner-frenzy? Loud, excited chatter about new titles, cover design, and book launch dates? You want to know who rules The RaffleCopter in giveaways? Or who’s part of the Book Depository? Or do you want to know who owns the most “swag?” Ask a book blogger. That’s me—who is part of a very large “Us.”

Two months later, I “officially” christened myself as a book blogger when I received a special invitation from Random House of Canada to attend their Random House Blogger Fest Party.

That’s right. The Random House of Canada. The Big House. One of Canada’s leading publishing houses. The Publishing Honcho.

So, what did I do? I RSVP’d with a resounding yes (cartwheels not included in the email). And you thought the reading types weren’t a wild bunch. Pshh-shaw! It was a fest alright. I was so excited to attend, one of my morning tweets said,

“Being especially invited by @RandomHouseCA to attend The Blog Fest Party feels like being asked to the prom.”

But, it was better. It was not only held in downtown Toronto at the Random House of Canada head office, but the room was filled with book bloggers like myself, and the thing that we’re all mad about: books! It was like going to SWAG (Stuff We All Get) Heaven. (Believe me, I didn’t know what that meant either at one point in time!)

Look at Random House’s beautiful book and mug display.

(I was extremely self-controlled in not taking more than one mug! Those beauties are colossal. They are perfect for the caffeine-drinking-writer/editor type or for those who choose to eat clam chowder soup.)

Okay, okay. So, it wasn’t just the books. Aside from the Random House staff being so open and hospitable (let’s remember, they did come into “work” on a Saturday) and the chance to meet and greet people who share my same interests (who I might add, were an intelligent, kind, and enthusiastic bunch)—literary stars took time out of their busy, Saturday schedule to meet us, talk to us, and sign their books.

And when I say literary stars, I mean:

Ami McKay, author of The Birth House and The Virgin Cure

Ami spoke to us about her beginnings as a blogger, which was a great surprise to me personally, as well as an inspiration.

What do you say, book bloggers? It just might be you up there one day.

(Or me. I hope it’s me. It better be me. Okay, let’s stop talking about me…)

Ami was so personable, I actually didn’t faint when I sat down and talked to her. Ami, I appreciate both your books and now I can cross, “Meet Ami McKay in person!” off my Bucket List.

Erin Morgenstern, author of The Night Circus

Erin is as wonderful as her creative book. I apologize profusely, Erin, for antagonizing you with questions, gleeful outbursts, and fan worship.

This photo is also quite blurry due to my quivering hands and Erin’s animated introduction.

Giddiness is not good for taking photographs of famous authors.

Paula McLain, author of The Paris Wife 

Paula was graceful and composed (unlike myself) as she spoke to us about her writing process.

Thank you for sharing a little about The Book Lover’s Ball, Paula. I’m so jealous I wasn’t there!

 These authors were exceptionally lovely and patient especially with me considering I spoke loudly, gushed, blushed, and coerced them into taking photographs. Often.

From left to right: Paula McLain, Erin Morgenstern, and Ami McKay

(Okay, it’s official. I just fainted. Again.)

And I made a fool out of myself, too. I’m usually articulate, intelligent—even composed. I’ve been called, “the mature one.” Oh, but not so today. My usual “cool demeanor” was quickly removed as soon as I saw them sitting only a few chairs away from me. I’m glad I didn’t faint, cry, or sweat profusely. (Okay, so I sweated a little. And cried inside. It was more like a surprised, hidden shriek!) I had just finished reviewing The Virgin Cure by Ami McKay and The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern! This was my kind of party and definitely an early Valentine’s Day gift.

(This is what I did as soon as I met my husband after the Random House Blog Fest. Oh, yes, I did. Simply imagine SWAG, too, in the background.)

And then after the introductory speeches were made, who walks into the room? I don’t know, I was trying to pay attention to the slideshow. But then my neighbour-and-new-found-blogger-friend, Lindsay of Turning the Pages whispers to me, “That’s Erica Ehm!”

Oh. My. God.

Or in blogging language: OMG!!!!!!!!

Erica Ehm is much more than the Much Music queen.

She’s the CEO of  The Yummy Mummy Club.

I’m a YummyMummy member! Join if you haven’t already done so. It’s a great online community of intelligent, passionate, and independent women who also happen to be yummy mummies, too. I’ve got two little ones: a seven-year-old son and a two-year-old daughter, so this was a special treat for me.

Aside from hoarding books (this is A Bibliotaphe’s Closet, after all), I’m also a frequent Twitter bird. Through the Yummy Mummy Club, I’ve been following its book section: Bookalicious, by freelance writer and bloggette, Wanda Lynne Young. (I actually stalk her. Her page has great giveaways. No, on second thought, don’t go there. I want to win!!!) And all this time, she was sitting a few chairs beside me. I was beside myself, thank you very much, when I learned this. I also dragged her into a photo opportunity (as well as Jaclyn—because I was so excited, I interrupted their conversation. It’s obvious now, I have no manners).

Me, Wendy, Jaclyn

Need I say more? Well, yes, but then we’d be here until tomorrow. And I have some Random House books to read and review.

A special thank you to the hospitality of Lindsey, Cass, and Kat (I really regret not being able to take pictures with you!) at Random House for opening their doors to little-‘ol-me. It was honour enough to step inside the Random House building (ahh…*sigh*). Really. It was. And I didn’t even have to go to the washroom!

Q: What do you get when you put 25+ passionate book bloggers into a room with three famous authors, one famous T.V. personality/CEO, hosted by one of the leading Canadian publishers?

A: A whole-lotta-book-loving-crazy.

(I kept saying, “Writers are introverts.” I didn’t see any introverts?!)

 And for the patient graciousness of Ami, Erin, and Paula who have been working hard on their book tours and also just attended The Book Lover’s Ball, two nights before, it was exceptionally wonderful to connect, and to find that all of them were so personable even given their literary success. So, in that, I’m even more humbled.

And to my fellow bloggettes: If I didn’t get to chat it up with you, it’s because I was overcome with the SWAG in the room, the literary stars by my side, and the mere realization that, yes, today, I really feel like an “official” blogger. I even got my own name tag:

          For those I did get to meet, I hope you have my “homemade” (chuckle) business card. I was glad to be able to match a face to a blog especially when it’s one that I follow. (Yes, you know who you are!) And for those I haven’t been following, you may now consider me your newest fan. I also hope to join the ever-growing fun of the Ontario Blog Squad sometime soon, but if uniforms are required, I must tell you, I will only agree to wear jeans. And the only weapon I’ll bring to the table is my sharp, red lipstick and a good book.

I met some great women today who love reading, reviewing, and blogging as much as I do. And everyone was so nice. I don’t usually like using that word since there are many other descriptive ones to use, but I can’t help myself. They were. I was truly impressed by everyone’s willingness to mingle, chat, and shriek in unison.

I was amused to meet the Mocha Latte Queen that I blurted out, “It’s me! It’s Cupcake! Cupcake Zara!” I’ve been following her blog and often look forward to her “Morning Cupcakes!” greeting on  Twitter as part of my daily regime. And I always identify myself as “Cupcake” when I comment on her blog. It only felt natural to introduce myself as such, though I’m not much of a cupcake. I’m more of the cheesecake variety.

Me and Wendy, Miss Mocha Latte Queen

And meeting Just a Lil’ Lost was a delight! She put up with my shenaningans even when I personally accused her of “Rafflecopter not working” because I have never won any of her giveaways! And she struck back with, “I don’t use Rafflecopter.” Uh-oh. My bad. Needless to say, I begged to be chosen sometime in the next millennium! Here’s to crossing my fingers and toes all over again. (But,  now that she’s met me in person, how can she say no?) 😛

Me and Michele, of Just a Lil’ Lost.

She’s obviously not lost. I, on the other hand, did not smile as widely as I hoped and my hands were all a flutter.

Here’s a better picture of my fellow bloggettes:

Wendy, Christa (Hooked on Books), and Michele

And to the ladies from Brampton: Who would have thought we would be brought together in such a way? I happily discovered Lindsay of Turning the Pages used to attend the public school my son goes to now. The one I only live five minutes away from. We grew up in the same area, most likely reading books! Lindsay, please be my BFFFB (Best-Friend-Forever-from-Brampton)!

Lindsay and me

As kids, Lindsay and I were most likely neighbours since we attended schools right beside each other.

We were also wondering whether or not to pick up the “dropped winter glove” that was picked up and put on the table in front of us. We highly suspected it might belong to another Random House famous author!

(I was tempted to put the glove in my purse. But didn’t.)

I also  found myself a new book-shopping-partner: Giselle, of BookNerd. Yup, we’re gonna hit the bookstores together. In Brampton! (You know which one! The one on Bovaird and Main!)

Giselle and Jaclyn (Literary Treats)

Yes, only book bloggers will tweet like mad during an event.

I didn’t tweet. I was busy taking photos and swooning.

          It was a great day for marketing, book-loving, and for connecting with the book blogging community. How many times did I say “book” in this post? I don’t know. A lot.

Thanks to all for giving my Valentine’s weekend a great start.

Which book will you be reading this weekend? I’ve got to go through my new, beautiful pile from Random House and choose.

(Ah…*blissful sigh*)

 

My goody bag.

Until the next Blog Fest, happy reading!

Zara Alexis

You can follow me on Twitter: @ZaraAlexis

Email: zgarcia(dot)alvarez(at)gmail(dot)com

 

Book Review: The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

Book Review:

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

02.05.2012

By Zara Alexis D. Garcia-Alvarez / @ZaraAlexis

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Author: Erin Morgenstern
Format: Hardcover, 400 pages
Publisher: Doubleday Canada
Pub Date: September 13, 2011

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The Night Circus is an intricate tale of creativity with a rich cast of characters who, with their specific gifts and talents help showcase the magical realism that moves throughout the book.

It is about Le Cirque des Rêves aptly translated as The Circus of Dreams not only because of its hours of operation that only takes place nocturnally in the evening until dawn, but also because of its dreamlike and fantastical effect on its patrons.

A circus is usually attributed to magic and feats of wonder as a form of entertainment. This circus, rather than only a collection of good showmanship skills of deception and tricks that audiences can enjoy simply as voyeurs, instead becomes an organic house of multiple tents, pathways, and magic that invites and seduces its patrons to not only visit, but also participate in and experience.

Image from:     http://matchbookclub.blogspot.com/2011/10/enchanted.html

So much so, there are those avid followers of the circus in the book who themselves become a cultist group of lifetime worshippers, a secret society that dubbed its name from the whisperings of rumour later known as the réveurs. The réveurs, a fanatical, creative group reveal themselves to each other by a colour coded uniform: black, white, grey, and a “splash of red” in honour of Le Cirque des Rêves’ own colour theme throughout its grounds: black, white, and black and white stripes.

Image from: http://www.flickr.com/photos/b-randy/6327494925/

But the story goes further than providing simple entertainment to its patrons or to its readers. The true premise of the night circus as a venue is its stage for a duel competition between two gifted adversaries, Celia Bowen, daughter of famous and renowned illusionist, Prospero the Enchanter, and Marco, orphan-turned-student to The Man in the Grey Suit, Alexander H.

Together, they simultaneously study under the tutelage of their magician masters, honing in on strengthening their natural gifts—Celia, who is able to move, dismantle, and return objects to their natural form, and Marco, who is able to create illusions within the minds of his chosen audience—until each in turn must learn to outdo the other in the competition of their lives.

Though I found the romantic dialogue and narrative to be somewhat exaggerated, I believe the author was attempting to showcase the lovers’ passion and strong connection to one another through their magic. It is highly unrealistic, but then what story of deep, passionate love ever is? The two lovers are intrinsically a different type of breed altogether.

Image from: http://manbehindthecurtain.ie/2012/01/22/carnival-of-fear/

As the gifts of the competitors strengthen and expand, so does the complication of the circus. The characters that belong to or are involved with the circus are:

  •  Chandresh Christophe Lefèvre, a wealthy eccentric gifted in hosting elaborate parties called Midnight Dinners, who also has an inherent talent with knife-throwing.
  • Mme. Ana Padva, a retired Romanian prima ballerina with an impeccable sense of style who is revered for her fashion design and seamstress skills.
  • Mr. Ethan W. Barris, a gifted engineer and architect.
  • The Burgess twins, Tara and Lainie, dancers, actresses, who provide consultation on various subjects due to their keen sense of observation.
  • Alexander H., the man in the grey suit who is best known to wear a top hat and carry a cane.
  • Tsukiko, the tattooed contortionist.
  • Herr Friedrick Thiessen, a gifted artisan and clockmaker commissioned to create a showcase piece for the circus.
  • Isobel Martin, tarot reader and fortuneteller.
  • Bailey Alden Clarke, a young circus enthusiast.
  • Winston Aiden Murray nicknamed Widget, a twin born on the opening night of Le Cirque des Rêves.
  • Penelope Aislin Murray called Poppet, the second of the twins to be born on opening night.

As these characters become more deeply embedded in the circus’ magic and its danger, the effects on its members and its patrons, as well as its own magic, slowly becomes darker.

As fantastical and wondrous as magic can be, there is always an undercurrent of dark that runs within it because its mysteries are not readily understood, accepted, revealed, nor practiced. An array of magical practice is showcased in the book as homage to the art of the occult.

Image from: http://pinterest.com/wovendumpster/the-night-circus/

Yet, they far stretch the limits of what we normally understand as magic. Erin Morgenstern has moved beyond the boundaries of what we are familiar with and has created a new world of richly, imaginative ideas.

The beauty of this book is in the literal magic that takes place within its pages. Where our imagination has failed to carry us further than what we yearn to experience and understand, Morgenstern has supplied a richly imaginative story, plot, and magical realism that inspires us to believe not only in her authoritative writing powers, but also her fantastic and creative imagination.

Image from: http://pinterest.com/pin/18577417182599118/

Reprinned by Morgan Koch

If Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland is deemed a rich classic, Erin Morgenstern’s Night Circus is its modern and magical counterpart.

Image from: http://geoffarcher.wordpress.com/

The cover design is intelligently made to match the colour themes found in the book from its starlit front cover, to its black and white striped first pages, right down to its red stitched hardcover binding.

It’s a wondrous, intoxicating book that needs to be thoroughly read more than once, over and over. A naturally born skeptic myself, Erin Morgenstern has been able to magically convert me to becoming one of her night circus’ devoted rèveurs. The mysterious pages of the book continue to be turned in Friedrick Thiessen’s clock: tick, tock, tick, tock…and poof!

Image from: http://homeiswheretheboatis.wordpress.com/2012/01/20/the-night-circus/

For the addicted réveur, it will always become dawn too soon.

Where will you be when Le Cirque des Rêves comes to the outskirts of your town?

As for me, I’ll be in the black and white striped tent wearing my blood-red scarf, looking out for The Man in the Grey Suit in the shadows, Prospero the Enchanter amongst the stain-glass windows, and Celia and Marco in the Ice Garden, bound by magic and love. 

Image from: http://pinterest.com/pin/18577417182602219/

Pinned by Linda D.

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Zara’s Rating

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A special thank you to Random House Canada for providing me with a signed copy of The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern for review.

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