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Top 10 Books on My Winter TBR

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Top 10 Books on My Winter TBR

12.10.2013

By Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez / @ZaraAlexis

Bears must hibernate in the winter. I’m not saying I’m a bear, but when it comes to winter, hibernation seems pretty appealing. There’s nothing more that I’d like to do in the winter than snuggle under the covers and well…sleep. But, of course, as a book lover, a wonderful treat in the winter is also snuggling up with a good book. That’s the thing though. I won’t know if a book is a good one, if I don’t open it up and read it, which is the best plan a bibliotaphe can have over the winter holidays.

While I must rush about in crowded malls picking up the last gifts on my long list of shopping; attend obligatory social gatherings in the name of political correctness,  a sign of interest, and pledge against severe introversion; cook and bake for parties I’d much rather eat at; and battle the snow squalls that are expected to hit the GTA this winter—I’d also like to pledge my commitment to reading more than a few, old, and new books.

Here are my top 10 hopefuls this winter:

1. The Orenda by Joseph Boyden

the orenda cvr

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2. Joseph Anton by Salman Rushdie

jospeh anton a memoir

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3. The Shoemaker’s Wife by Adriana Trigiani

shoemaker's wife

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4. This Burns My Heart by Samuel Park

this burns my heart

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5. Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

miss peregrine

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6. A House in the Sky by Amanda Lindhout and Sara Corbett

Print

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7. The Free World by David Bezmozgis

the free world

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8. Americanah by Chimanda Ngozi Adichie

americanah

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9. The Unchangeable Spots of Leopards by Kristopher Jansma

uncheangeable spots

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10. The Immortal Rules by Julie Kagawa

immortal rules

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What will you be reading this winter?

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December: The Tree Is Up and Santa’s Checking His List. What’s on Yours?

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December: The Tree Is Up and Santa’s Checking His List

What’s On Yours?

12.04.2013

By Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez / @ZaraAlexis

The Halloween costumes have been put away, the candy all eaten, and we’ve all burped the last remnants of our leftover Thanksgiving dinners, rubbing our bellies in satisfaction, remembering to be grateful for all we have. It’s then and just then, the first snowfall hits the city and retail stores pile up not only on mountains of merchandise in pretty gift box sets, but saturate our senses with metallic ornaments, bright tree lights, and perpetual jingles that speak of snow, reindeer, gifts.

I realize then, like most do, that it’s that time of year. The year’s end culminating in the last month to celebrate the joys (and sometimes hardship) of tinsel, truffles, and gift-giving. Whether you celebrate the holiday of Christmas, it’s a season one can hardly avoid.

For my family, it’s an especially exciting time. With two young children, the wonder of Christmas is still very much alive. Not only do they anticipate receiving and opening gifts on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, they look forward to writing endearing letters to their favourite annual elf, Santa—and of course, sitting on his lap, meeting him in person, and pleading their case of “good” vs. “naughty” regarding his watchful eye and what could potentially be a detrimental list.

There are those who would argue that Christmas has become far too commercialized to be authentically enjoyed, but while this may be partially true, those who usually confess this with fervor are those often most influenced by Charles Dickens’ far-from-sentimental fictional character, Ebenezer Scrooge. Christmas and consumerism? Sure. But it doesn’t have to be, if those that celebrate it choose to celebrate it otherwise.

 As for my little elves, they are extremely pleased that our Christmas tree is up and lit and that some presents have sprung up under the tree—even if they’re not for them.

My little elf is so pleased that our Christmas tree is now up! (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.
My little elf is so pleased that our Christmas tree is now up! (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.

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But that doesn’t mean they haven’t made their own lists.

My nine-year-old son would like a:

1. Perplexus Rookie

perplexus rookie

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2. LEGO Star Wars Elite Clone Trooper and Commander Droid

 lego star wars elite clone trooper and commander droid

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3. LEGO Chima Speedorz Whirling Vines Set

lego chima speedorz whirling vines

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4. LEGO Chima Leonidas Jungle Dragster Mini Figure 

lego chima leonidas jungle dragster minifigure***

5. Sonic Blasting Iron Man 3

iron man 3 song blasting figure***

6. Angry Birds Rise of Darth Vader Board Game

angry birds rise of darth vader game***

7. Anakin to Darth Vader Figure

anakin to darth vader figure

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While my four-year-old daughter would like:

1. Play-Doh Perfect Twist Ice Cream Parlour

playdoh perfect tiwst ice cream parlour***

2. Our Generation Horse with accessories

our generation horse***

3. Bubble Guppies Swim-Sational School Bath Toy

bubble guppies swim school***

4. Pete the Cat books and stuffed toy

pete the cat bk

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5. AquaDoodle

aqua doodle

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6. Toy shopping cart with Groceries

shopping cart

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7. Hungry Hippos Game

hungry hippo

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Since Santa has quite a bit on his hands this year, the kids will have to make do with whatever Santa’s little helpers can come up with. They have, at best, been taught to appreciate any gift they do receive at any time of the year.

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What’s on your Christmas list this year?

Any bookish goodies?

***

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Waiting on Wednesday. 10.23.2013

 

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Waiting on Wednesday

10.23.2013

By Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez / @ZaraAlexis

Even if I already own more than 3000 books in my personal library and have only read a small portion of them, the seduction of a new book still compels me to check hot lists and visit bookstores on an impromptu basis. Can I buy them all? Um…no. But, I can certainly wish for them, wait for them, or put them on hold at my local library. Here are a couple of books I’m looking forward to next month.

Week of November 4:

The Valley of Amazement by Amy Tan, published by HarperCollins.

valley of amazement cvr

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This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage by Ann Patchett, published by HarperCollins

this is the story of a happy marriage

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The Rabbi Who Found the Messiah by Carl Gallups, published by WND Books

rabbi who met the messiah

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Week of November 11:

Loud, Awake, and Lost by Adele Griffin, published by Random House Children’s Books

loud awake and lost

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Lion vs. Rabbit by Alex Latimer, published by Peachtree Publishers

lion vs rabbit

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The Secret Garden: Deluxe Hardcover Classic by Frances Hodgson Burnett, published by Penguin Young Readers Group

secret garden deluxe

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Week of November 18:

Someone Else’s Love Story by Joshilyn Jackson, published by HarperCollins

someone elses love story

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Report from the Interior by Paul Auster, published by Holt, Henry & Company

report from the interior

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Paris: Portrait of a City by Jean Claude Gautrand, published by Taschen America

paris portrait of a city***

Acorn by Yoko Ono, published by Workman Publishing Company

acorn

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Paper Daughter by Jeanette Ingold, published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

paper daughter

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What books are you waiting for?

Out of the books listed above, which are you most interested in reading and why?

What are your book recommendations?

***

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Stuffing the Bibliotaphe Closet. 10.21.2013

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Stuffing the Bibliotaphe Closet

10.21.2013

By Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez / @ZaraAlexis

This meme “Stuffing the Bibliotaphe Closet” was inspired by the original meme that I participated in and which many of you may be familiar with: “Stacking the Shelves” hosted by Tynga’s Reviews. My posts will take the format of books and bookish items (including SWAG) that I have:

  • received from publishers and/or authors for review
  • purchased
  • received as a gift or prize through winning a contest

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Books for Review:

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

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A special thank you to Random House of Canada for:

I’m Your Man: My Life of Leonard Cohen by Sylvie Simmons, published October 29, 2013

The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri, published September 24, 2013

The Harem Midwife by Roberta Rich, published October 29, 2013

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Books I Bought:

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

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Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel, published September 16, 2009

A Good Man by Guy Vanderhaeghe, published May 29, 2012

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

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Brief Interviews with Hideous Men by David Foster Wallace, published April 1, 2000

The Film Club by David Gilmour, published September 13, 2007

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

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Dreams of Joy by Lisa See, published February 7, 2012

February by Lisa Moore, published February 1, 2010

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

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Little Bird of Heaven by Joyce Carol Oates, published November 20, 2012

The Folded Earth by Anuradha Roy, published April 24, 2012

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Books I Won:

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

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The Midwife of Venice by Roberta Rich, published March 26, 2013

Worst. Person. Ever. (Galley) by Douglas Coupland, published October 8, 2013

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

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Disappearance of Emily Marr by Louise Candlish, published August 1, 2013

Faking Normal by Courtney C. Stevens, coming February 25, 2014

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

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The Cartographer of No Man’s Land by P.S. Duffy, coming October 29, 2013

Chasing the King of Hearts by Hanna Krall, published by Peirene Press

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What bookish goodies did you get this week?

Out of the titles listed above, which ones would you be most interested in reading and why?

***

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15-Day Book Blogger Challenge: Day 8

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15-Day Book Blogger Challenge:

Day 8

07.23.2013

By Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez / @ZaraAlexis

15-Day-Challenge***

10 Things that Appeal to Me on Blogs

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

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

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

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

***

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Top 10 Tuesday: Top 10 Books at the Top of My Summer TBR List

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Top 10 Tuesday:

Top 10 Books at the Top of My Summer TBR List

06.19.2013

By Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez / @ZaraAlexis

I love summer because its gorgeous weather allows me the freedom to take my books outside, have a picnic, and perch myself under a big oak tree to read. The next best thing to soaking in the sun, is soaking in a good book. Here are my top 10 choices that I plan on reading over the summer:

1. MaddAddam by Margaret Atwood

maddaddam

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2. And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini

and the mountains echoed

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3. Ru by Kim Thuy

ru - book cvr

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4. Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo

behind the beautiful forevers

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5. Aftermath by Rhidian Brook

the aftermath

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6. Touch by Alexi Zentner

touch

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7. Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

americanah

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8. The Selector of Souls by Shauna Singh Baldwin

the selector of souls

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9. The Magic of Saida by M.G. Vassanji

the magic of saida

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10. The Lion Seeker by Kenneth Bonert

 the lion seeker

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What’s on your hot list this summer?

***

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Top 10 Tuesday: Top 10 Beach Reads

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Top 10 Tuesday:

Top 10 Beach Reads

06.11.2013

By Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez / @ZaraAlexis

I’m not sure I understand the true premise of this topic. What’s the difference between reading a good book at the beach or on your porch or in a café? To me, a good book is simply that—a good book—regardless of where you read it. What then could I possibly use as my criteria for choosing books to read at a beach?

That, too, is a little difficult for me. Reading at a beach. If I’m at a beach, I’m there to swim, not necessarily to read. And I care far too much about my skin to try to get a tan. I leave toasting to champagne and freshly sliced bread.

Nevertheless, since this is the topic for today and if perhaps under the following circumstances:

  • I have a huge umbrella to provide me with shade
  • it’s not extremely hot outside
  • the beach isn’t over-crowded with exhibitionists
  • and I’m afforded the quiet I like when reading a book—

then yes, I’d pack these trade paperbacks that I already own into my beach bag (in any order):

The World We Found by Thrity Umrigar, published by HarperCollins Publishers

world we found cvr

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An Atlas of Impossible Longing by  Anuradha Roy, published by Free Press, imprint of Simon & Schuster

atlas impossible longing cvr

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Ru bu Kim Thuy, published by Vintage Canada

ru - book cvr

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The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes, published by Random House of Canada

sense of an ending

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Alif the Unseen by G. Willow Wilson, published by Grove Press

alif the unseen

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This Burns My Heart by Samuel Park, published by Simon & Schuster

this burns my heart

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We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver, published by HarperCollins Publishers

we need to talk about kevin

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The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman, published by Simon & Schuster

light between oceans

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The Unchangeable Spots of  Leopards by Kristopher Jansma, published by Penguin Canada

the unchangeable spots of leopards

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Magnified World by Grace O’Connell, published by Random House of Canada

magnified world

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Any of these books look like wonderful reads and I’d trek around with these to the beach, an outdoor patio, or café any day!

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Have you read any of the above books? If so, which ones?

Which books from above did you enjoy the most?

If you haven’t yet read the books above, which one do you think you might like to take with you to the beach?

What’s on your top 10 beach reads?

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Stuffing the Bibliotaphe Closet. 05.27.2013

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Stuffing the Bibliotaphe Closet

05.27.2013

By Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez / @ZaraAlexis

This meme “Stuffing the Bibliotaphe Closet” was inspired by the original meme that I participated in and which many of you may be familiar with: “Stacking the Shelves” hosted by Tynga’s Reviews.

My posts will take the format of books and bookish items (including SWAG) that I have:

  • received from publishers and/or authors for review
  • purchased
  • received as a gift or prize through winning a contest

***

It’s been a while since I’ve posted about my latest book haul, so I’ve been fortunate enough to let my book piles grow. Here are the latest additions to my reading closet:

Books for Review:

the aftermath

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constellation

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americanah

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A special thanks to Random House of Canada

for providing me with copies of:

The Aftermath by Rhidian Brook

A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

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mrs poe

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A special thanks to Simon & Schuster Canada

for an Advanced Reading Copy (ARC) of Mrs. Poe by Lynn Cullen

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Books I Bought:

book haul 1

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The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes, winner of the Man Booker Prize.

A Secret Between Us by Daniel Poliquin, a Scotiabank Giller Prize finalist.

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Books I Won:

everything is perfect when youre a liar

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A special thank you to HarperCollins Canada

for my prize, Everything Is Perfect When You’re a Liar by Kelly Oxford, through a Twitter contest!

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invisibility

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invisibility signed

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A special thank you to Penguin Books Canada

for my prize, a SIGNED copy of Invisibility by Andrea Cremer and David Levithan!

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What great book titles did you add to your collection this week?

Of the titles listed above, which book are you most interested in reading and why?

***

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Waiting on Wednesday. 05.22.2013

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Waiting on Wednesday

05.22.2013

By Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez / @ZaraAlexis

As book lovers know, once you complete one book, 20 more are published! And so, our collections and our love for books are never quite satiated—which is a good thing because it means the livelihood of the publishing world continues to thrive and the gift of literacy continues to be passed on.

It’s Wednesday again, which means this bibliotaphe is waiting (im)patiently for a few upcoming releases. Here are my choices for this week:

Maya’s Notebook by Isabel Allende, available April 23, 2013

mayas notebook

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A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra, available May 7, 2013

constellation of vital phenomena

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Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, available May 14, 2013

americanah

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And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini, available May 21, 2013

and the mountains echoed

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The Son by Philipp Meyer, available May 28, 2013

the son

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Of the titles above, which ones are you most interested in reading?

What books are you waiting for this Wednesday?

***

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Top Ten Words or Topics that Instantly Make Me Buy or Pick Up a Book

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Top Ten Words or Topics that Instantly Make Me Buy or Pick Up a Book

04.30.2013

By Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez / @ZaraAlexis

Every reader has a preference as to how he/she chooses a book to either read or buy. Book lovers can be quite particular. Sometimes it’s a specific genre, author, topic, or cover. Sometimes it’s due to someone’s recommendation or the strength of the publisher’s marketing. Whatever it is, it’s always a joy to add another book to a book lover’s collection.

Here are my top ten words or topics that instantly make me buy or pick up a book:

1. A book that takes place in another cultural setting other than Canada or a book that is heavily embedded or focused on a different culture other than my own.

While I haven’t had much opportunity to travel worldwide, I’m fascinated with the similarities and differences between other cultures and my own. I love being able to experience the uniqueness of a culture through its language, food, geography, religion, and day-to-day practices and interactions found not only in life, but also in the stories told beautifully in books. Some examples of books that I’ve been drawn to because of its rich examples of culture are:

the namesake cvr

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joy luck club cvr

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2. A book that expresses the struggles and tensions found in attempting to live out a reverent, authentic, religious and/or spiritual life.

Just as cultures are diverse, so are there a myriad of religions that express a reverent, authentic spirituality. As a Christian, I’m interested in reading stories about the struggles and tensions found in trying to live out an authentic faith in a mainly, secular world. Some books that I’ve been drawn to that express these kinds of stories are:

i am forbidden

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the butterfly mosque

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3. A book that expresses the political or social oppression of a country, people, religion, or sex—and through its story, emancipates not only the thoughts and preconceptions of its readers, but also its characters.

As a post-graduate of Women’s Studies and Minorities in Canadian Society, I’ve always been interested in the stories of marginalized peoples and the injustices they face. One way to identify these injustices as well as identify with those who experience them is to read about them in literature. Here are a few examples of books that have specifically stereotyped and oppressed its women characters, but also emancipate them as well as the preconceptions of its readers:

the dovekeepers3

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thousand splendid suns cvr

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4. An apocalyptic book that is just as creative as it is well-written and instructive.

Apocalyptic books are wise stories that warn us against living irresponsibly and immorally against the values we hold to be significant as a society. They are also wonderfully creative and instructive. Here are two excellent, apocalyptic novels that could very easily become a reality, should we not heed its message of environmental sustainability, corporate power, and questions of morality surrounding genetic manipulation, to name a few:

year of the flood2

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oryx and crake book cvr

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5. A book that resists and expands the definitions of love. A great love story.

What book reader doesn’t love a love story? I easily fall in love with books not only filled with passion, but stories that resist and expand on the definitions of love. They don’t necessarily have to be controversial, but I certainly prefer them to be rich, authentic, non-superficial, and stretch our thinking and ideas about love. Some examples of love stories that express this that I’ve been drawn to are:

memories of my melancholy whores cvr

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monsieur

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6. Short stories.

It’s never quantity as much as it is quality. Short stories tend to be undervalued by many readers, which is unfortunate because short stories can be just as rich, if not richer than its longer counterpart novels that span 400 to 500 pages. Sometimes less is more and I applaud writers who can craft a great short story. It isn’t easy to do. A collection of well-written short stories is always high on my list. Here are some examples of short story collections that I love:

say you're one of them

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this will be difficult to explain

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7.  A book that is highly creative and imaginative that it not only stretches our way of thinking, but it’s either classified as fantasy or a science-fiction novel.

Have you ever read a book that makes you think, “How did the author come up with that? WOW!” Well, those are the kinds of books that usually end up on my shelves. Here are some examples of books that are highly creative and imaginative:

night circus

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1Q84

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8. Paranormal Young Adult book.

No, I’m not a young adult. But, say the words, “vampire” and “book” in the same sentence and something in me just lurches forward in excitement. Or how about “fae?” Fine, I confess: I read the entire Twilight series in five days. And I know who Julie Kagawa is, even if I’m over the age of 30.  If it isn’t a normal, it’s most likely interesting, right? There’s something wonderful about fantasy, mystical powers, and those inevitable cliff hangers. Though, I haven’t read a lot of paranormal young adult books, they certainly find themselves magically on my shelves. Here are a few examples of paranormal young adult books that I just had to pick up and buy:

immortal rules

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discovery of witches

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9. Poetry.

For me, poetry is a deep image that resonates an equally deep truth. It’s a lyrical or beautiful expression in any stylistic form that attempts to capture what is withheld or unknown—and then becomes known in a startling moment. It’s a dialogue of absence and otherness, a sort of secret map that is intrinsically powerful in its ability to connect us through language, image, and understanding. For me, poetry is a subtle epiphany that resonates in a real and true way to its reader. Here are some of the best poetry books that I’ve read and am privileged to own:

blizzard of one cvr

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best american poetry 2011 cvr

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10. Publisher, author, or cover.

Yes, yes. Scold me. Sometimes I simply pick up a book because I trust its publisher, respect its author, or simply adore the aesthetic of its cover design. It makes for a light-hearted and spontaneous way to choose a book. Not always the wisest, but sometimes the most fun. Here are examples of publishers that I trust, authors I respect, and book covers that I had to add to my personal collection:

McClellandStewartLogo

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elizabeth hay books - collage

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vanessa and virginia

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What compels you to pick up and buy a book?

From the above list, are there any there that you and I share in common?

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