Tag Archives: Random House of Canada

MaddAddamites Came Out of Hiding to Meet and Greet Their “Eve”

events avatar

MaddAddamites Came Out of Hiding to Meet and Greet Their “Eve”:

In Person: Margaret Atwood at Indigo, Bay and Bloor

09.17.2013

By Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez / @ZaraAlexis

If you’ve read the first two books in the Oryx and Crake trilogy, you were most likely at one of the largest literary events at Indigo, Bay and Bloor, this past Sunday. I was. And so were a number of other Margaret Atwood devotees and fans of her latest novel, MaddAddam, which hit the bookshelves three weeks ago and made its way to the Indigo Bestseller list even before its publication based on pre-order numbers alone.

What’s all this buzz about, you ask? Well, aside from the messages we could potentially send or receive from bees in speaking with them, should we have that particular gift as the Eves do in the books, The Year of the Flood, and MaddAddam, the bees have spoken loud and clear—we, as readers would not be rejected, nor stung, but instead receive a bona fide appearance of our very own, Canadian, and much beloved, prolific writer, Ms. Margaret Atwood at the Manulife Centre in Toronto.

Okay, and yes, the book itself is quite good, too.

Which is why, for a simple purchase of a copy at any Indigo, Chapters, or Coles location, you could get the privilege of not only listening in on an interview with Margaret Atwood by Mark Medley of the National Post (who, by the way, if you’re following him on Twitter, you’ll know that he just had a haircut in perfect time to interview Margaret. Coincidence? Perhaps not.), but also get multiple copies of MaddAddam signed, as well as one to two back copies of Atwood’s books, with one title personally inscribed to you or whomever you choose.

That’s the thing. Out of a full, personal library of her work at home, how can you choose? Which is why my husband and I made the trek early to Toronto to secure a relatively good spot in line. I was expecting or (perhaps hoping for) long lineups, mania, large Atwood billboards, an activist sit-in in support of the fictional, environmental theology of the God’s Gardeners, covert spies of our modern-day CorpSeCorps equivalent, or blue-skinned Craker-inspired costumes minus the large, wagging penises (okay,…I’ll admit I wouldn’t mind seeing a replica of blue wagging penises—it would certainly be a sight).

But, because we were wise and patient enough to come early in the day, we were lodged in a group of the lucky few. We were close enough to the beginning of the line to actually see its event poster, and when it came down to being seated in the first-come-first-serve sitting area where the interview was to be held, my husband and I were quaintly seated in the third row from the front. Waiting time? A devoted two hours. We earned it.

***

Indigo, Bay & Bloor, Toronto. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.
Indigo, Bay & Bloor, Toronto. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.

***

In Person: Margaret Atwood Indigo event poster. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.
In Person: Margaret Atwood Indigo event poster. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.

***

And since I’m not necessarily shy, plus I was jittery with excitement in attending my first Indigo book signing event in Toronto to also meet the-one-and-only-Margaret-Atwood-who-I’ve-bought-and-read-almost-every-book-that-she’s-ever-written-and-published—well, yes, I thought it important to make a few bookish friends to pass the time.

***

Bookish friends at the Margaret Atwood book signing, September 15, 2013. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.
Bookish friends at the Margaret Atwood book signing, September 15, 2013. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.

***

Christa, a fellow book blogger was there and was productive enough to work on a book review while waiting; Jessica, a publishing intern was keen to share upcoming author events around town; two women who I’ve irresponsibly forgotten to ask their names while chatting, buzzed about their plans to attend the book festival, Word on the Street, in Toronto, next week. Yes, I was definitely amongst my favourite kind of people, the faithful (and fanatic) fans of the written word. I thought, “Finally. People who understand me.”

We were kind enough to play line tag, taking turns saving spots for one another while one went to take a pee break, grab a Starbucks coffee, peruse the Hot and New Fiction tables, or pound a few keys on the piano on the second floor. Otherwise, we shared our common love for books and not-so-secret-fandom of the author we were so anxiously waiting to see. We even posed for photographs. Time went faster this way and thankfully so.

***

Esly and I waiting in line---yes, sitting on the floor. We arrived two hours early before Margaret Atwood's scheduled interview and worth every minute of our time. (c) Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.
Esly and I waiting in line—sitting on the floor. We arrived two hours early before Atwood’s scheduled interview, but it was worth every minute of our time. (c) Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.

***

Much like crazed fans of famous musicians in concert, we book nerds have our own form of mania—as quiet and introverted as it is, it does exist, and passionately so. Okay, yes, we didn’t push and shove fellow patrons in the lineup. We were respectful enough to follow Indigo’s black rope guideline and signing policy. We whispered in giddy gossip of the literary stars we’ve met in the past. We sipped our coffees like we would our red wine at wine & cheese parties that host elusive poetry readings.

We even refrained from screaming at the sight of Ms. Atwood when she glided into the room behind Mark Hedley onto the Indigo stage. And yes, we even refrained from bombarding her with embarrassing tears of adoration. And, no, I absolutely promised myself, I would above all things, not faint. If any book nerd will confess, it is of a passionate, yet restrained decorum in showing authors we love, some well-deserved respect and grace.

Besides, Margaret Atwood is the type of individual, I think, who would have none of that silliness. Who can really know Atwood as Atwood herself, other than “Atwood-the-Writer,” of whom we wish her to portray, and of whom she’s admitted to impersonating—no, let me correct that—perhaps, showcasing. There is and always will be the private self and the persona. And the one readers are privileged to see in the context of promoting her work is the persona of “Atwood-the-Writer.”

Don’t get me wrong, that doesn’t mean she was less genuine nor less interesting. I simply mean, that in seeing her in person, hearing her interviews, reading her books, and even writing this blog post article, by in no way means that I know her anymore than anyone else can know her in a true and intimate way—that privilege is reserved for her close friends and family. (Lucky bunch, those guys.)

But, it does mean, I, along with others present at the Indigo event, were able to “bask in the limelight” of her literary stardom. If not bask, at least actively participate in its peripheral—there—and within the black rope seating area reserved for those devoted enough to come early.

In addition to our privileged seating, those who lined up early enough to snag a spot within the roped-off area were also privileged to choose a MaddAddam button, courtesy of Margaret Atwood (and I suspect, the wonderful marketing group at Random House of Canada). My husband and I chose a button each though I was extremely tempted to grab the entire bucket and make a run for it—thanks Ainsley, I only took one button for myself—(I am a hoarder of anything remotely bookish including swag and particularly of books written by Margaret Atwood, which are definitely high on my nabbing list!).

***

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

***

My partner, in his repulsion and refusal to eat pork, as well as his great sense of irony or perhaps subtle activism, chose the bright, pigoon button. Smart man, my husband, and potentially a donor to the future pigoon-gene-spliced-phenomena. I dug for the simple and sacred God’s Gardeners button as I secretly aspire to become an Eve, should our potential dystopian future demand it.

And while Ms. Atwood said so herself, “…everyone loves a good secret,” my husband and I, both refrained from choosing the Secret Burgers button in a clear stand against unknown dietary substances, which Atwood emphasized are indeed unknown as compared to lab meats, which are not unknown, and written about in her novel.

And as ancestors of the potential Craker blue-breeds, we also didn’t want to presume to be as innocent, nor gifted as those originally hatched in the “Egg,” of Crake’s original vision and creation, so we passed over the MaddAddam egg button.

And in my excitement and the availability of free Wi-Fi on site, I was able to tweet my real-time whereabouts and feelings within 140 characters, including, but not restricted to a clever hashtag and/or (in)direct contact with Margaret Atwood online! (For those of you yet to follow her, she can be found in the Twitterverse as @MargaretAtwood. Go ahead. Follow her now. All 427,079 of us who already do, will wait for you. And I’m sure by the time you finish reading this blog post, that number will have already risen. Betcha five bucks.)

I was ecstatic to discover that my tweet had somehow warranted a connection, however minute, with the humorous Atwood herself (which, by the way, I will enlarge, print, and frame for wistful dinner party conversation—the tweet, not Atwood):

***

***

And that promise was dutifully kept. The Margaret Atwood we were all waiting to see, did arrive in a black ensemble with a red, butterfly printed scarf. (If it was indeed her secret clone or body double, it was surely difficult to tell. It certainly looked like her and sounded like her.) Her red eyeglasses were missing (I’ve seen her wear those before, but they’re most likely reserved for her lectures and readings)—but not her intelligent, articulate,  and sometimes cryptic answers that lashed out a sharp wit by an even sharper tongue.

You have to remember, Ms. Atwood is good at this. She’s been around long enough in the public eye providing a number of interviews in support of the work she’s created (all 59 books of them, as quoted by Mark Medley in the interview, though she made it clear that she didn’t count books that she’s published on her own without the help of a publishing house as part of that tally), as well as in support of the thoughts and opinions she has on society, and the clarifications and rebuttals she’s had to make in an act to ensure that she’s not misunderstood. It’s a big bill.

***

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

***

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

***

When asked if she thinks the future is a “hopeful” one in light of MaddAddam’s story being hopeful since characters and nature are able to survive the epidemic of the “waterless flood,”—bear in mind, I’m paraphrasing here; it’s not as if I actually took notes since I was too busy being starry-eyed while snapping photographs—Margaret Atwood agreed that like the percentage survival of the Black Death epidemic in the 1930’s, survival of the human race can be hopeful, as shown in the natural environment’s response in thriving as it must, and as it had in her novel, MaddAddam, should the human race cease to exist or not.

When asked what she thought made readers resonate with Zeb’s character in the book (a topic that spun off the tidbit that the German title of the book was changed to “The Story of Zeb,” since its original title didn’t translate well in the German language), Atwood’s reasoning was depicted in an honest example of why children like and are fascinated by large, toy dinosaurs. (My nine-year-old son would have applauded her right then and there!)

***

toy dinsosaur

***

While Atwood also chided that she’s busy “working on her own immortality” as we all are or would like to do, Mark Medley denied his own need to do so, and she blatantly refuted him, teasing him about being a “kid.” That kid is 32.

But, I have to agree with her. We, young pups, in the protection and sometimes naivety of our youth, often feel the bravado of facing the idea of our own deaths, since, in our minds, it’s still so deceptively far away.

I’m 38-years-old, but in a recent response to a serious Supraventricular Tachycardia (SVT) episode where my heart rate sped away at 200 beats per minute and I was forced to face the thin precipice between life and death with the possibility of no return—I wasn’t brave at all. I pleaded with the doctor as well as with God as who I understand God to be, to prolong whatever time I could get away with. Immortality? Yes, please.

When asked if she thought the character, Crake, was right (and for those of you who have not read the trilogy, well, now, you’ll have to, to guess), Ms. Atwood didn’t feel she could be presumptuous enough to know the psychology of her readers and would leave it up to us to decide. (In my opinion, Crake was right and wrong. And there’s no fence in sight. I may write an essay on it, should I feel so inspired.)

And when positioned with the same power of Crake and asked what she would do in his place, well, she teased again, refusing to share that with Mark Medley by answering back, “Well, I’m not telling you,” while smiling mischieviously back at him and the audience—because remember, she has choices. It’s her interview and she has no qualms about making them. If anyone is familiar with Ms. Atwood’s public personality, they’ll know that she’ll sometimes dodge any question that doesn’t interest her and will only speak to those that do. Good for her. (I’ll have to ask her to teach me how to do that the next time I meet her.)

***

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

***

There was also talk of the Intestinal Parasites app, a game created to mimic the game that Zeb, the character in MaddAddam plays in the novel, available for purchase through iTunes. And for you enthusiastic MaddAddamites, you’ll be excited to discover that the app is designed for both iPad and iPhone, and for a limited time, has a special launch price of only $0.99! For less than a buck, you’ll be charged with a mission as a MaddAddamite operative that could result in the agonizing death of millions of people. And no, I don’t believe you have to be a bio-geek to play. (Apparently, Margaret Atwood has reached Level 4—I recall reading this on her Twitter feed—but seems adamant in mastering the game. And like I said, I aspire to be an Eve, not a Zeb, so I don’t think I’d get very far.)

She also discussed the “battle” she had in fighting for a less “flowery” cover design of her book to not only better represent the story and context in which it was written, but to also appease the male readers who have also enjoyed the Oryx and Crake trilogy, of whom may be disgruntled by a more feminine, flowery cover design. How does she know this aside from being crowned our “literary prophet?” Well, she told us that she receives mail. A lot of it. From disgruntled readers and that she would most likely receive mail complaints from men who potentially wouldn’t like flowers on the MaddAddam book cover. When Mark Medley stated that she made a good “choice,” she refuted that, insisting that, no, she didn’t have a choice, but that it was a “battle.” We certainly have to pick and choose the ones we fight. And in this case, it’s clear Margaret Atwood, won.

After the interview, the floor was opened to audience questions:

When asked what advice she could give to aspiring writers, Ms. Atwood ‘s recommendation was to, rather than wait and think about writing, one should write and write often since the work of the writer is to do just that, “write letters on the page.” The person who asked the question was interested in writing commercial fiction and so, Margaret Atwood directed him to the website, Terrible Minds, a blog by Chuck Wendig, and warned him of the profanity used on the site.

Students of Victoria College, where Ms. Atwood is prestigious alumni, asked her when she would return to attend plenary, an existing weekly session where guest professors, visiting artists, writers, and ambassadors come to discuss points of interest with students and then offer their time afterwards in allowing students to speak with them informally and personally over coffee. Now, I see why these students were trying to hook Ms. Atwood into it. I’d like to have coffee with her, too! Instead, Ms. Atwood joked about “not being invited,” but also mentioned that should the students ask her publicist, she would most likely say no in consideration of her already busy schedule. Sorry, guys. *Feel free to insert, sad face here. *

When asked which book of hers and/or which character(s) in those books, does she favour the most, Margaret Atwood’s humor and ingenuity shined through her unwillingness to answer the question in order to protect the feelings of those in her books by saying she wouldn’t be able to tell us since her “books would overhear [her],” but that she could only say as most people do, “that [she] loves them each differently.” Ah, the personification of her books meant, too, that as their Creator, she was also unwilling to play favourites. No wonder she’s been so successful. Her books are healthy, and happy, and don’t bicker about who’s the best like most siblings do. (I would have chosen Zenia, from The Robber’s Bride because I found her to be equally sensual as she is frightening.)

But, don’t make any presumptions or judgements about Ms. Atwood when reading her books like one person did in stating that she was “negative about bio-geeks” and presumably about bio-engineering in light of the topic found in her book, MaddAddam. Ms. Atwood was keen to answer back quite sharply, “I’m not negative,” almost as if scolding a child who unfortunately misbehaved.

In posing his question, Ms. Atwood clearly spoke against her readers’ potential misjudgment and presumptions about her in the writing of her work and clarified by giving examples of bio-genetic work that she would welcome. One example she gave was some form of internal “insect repellant.” I forget the other example, but wholeheartedly agree with her on supporting the success of that particular project, should it exist or come into existence. How to mask our carbon dioxide output or imprint, which is how mosquitoes identify its prey through smell, would be a spectacular feat indeed. I know, since I went camping at the end of July this summer.

Thankfully, I braved a question myself by raising my hand and was privileged enough to be chosen from the audience to speak. I asked Margaret if she were a God’s Gardener and an Eve, what would be her particular speciality aside from speaking to bees? I had forgotten to expand on that by asking her what kind of message would she like to send or receive when speaking to bees, should she share that gift with her characters, Pilar and Toby? Or should she fail at completing her task of attaining her own immortality, what kind of tree would she like planted in her honour? See what happens when you get nervous? O, Mo-Hair, Liobam, and Firkin-Pigoon! I wasn’t as “swift” as Swift Fox in bedding her blue Craker-friends in sheer form of heightened libido and heightened curiosity. Bloody Painballer!

But, even more thankfully, when Margaret Atwood did attempt to answer my question, she not only gave it thoughtful consideration, I wasn’t bludgeoned for asking what I thought might come across as a silly question. (Phew.) And yes, I made eye contact with one of my favourite authors and spoke to her directly in a public event that gave me the privilege to do so! She told me that in that particular context, she would most likely be an Eve who specializes “in survival,” and joked about already having experienced enough with “mushrooms.” If you’ve read The Year of the Flood or MaddAddam, you’ll understand these references. If you haven’t, well, by all means, go out there and buy the books already!

We could be nearing a dystopia any day now. If I were to survive, I might just have to ask Margaret Atwood the secret to writing 59 books in a lifetime with a career that doesn’t look like it’s near any end any time soon. That, and how the heck can I make a great tasting coffee from dandelion root? Or befriend a blue Craker without becoming a mother or prophetess to the birth of an entirely new species? Also, how to kill a Painballer, as well as find out the best recipes for mushrooms that don’t necessarily mean I die or hallucinate into a dream-like Fallow State for more than 48 hours? Or—I could just ask her to sign my book… *Zara smiles sheepishly.*

***

After the interview and question period with the audience was over, we were treated to a personal book signing. It was enough to want to bodycheck your peers as hockey players do in order to gain advantage on the ice. Security detail was watchful and available, but I was surprised Ms. Atwood didn’t have a personal entourage to accompany her.

While Indigo staff volunteers took photographs, her publicist intelligently played quality crowd control by wedging herself between you and the author for signing. She took your books from you and passed them onto Margaret as a way of quickening the pace, as well as protecting our beloved writer from unexpected and possibly embarrassing forms of adoration and invasion of space.

Simply said, if her publicist wasn’t there, we would have mowed her down with stifling hugs and unwanted gushing, idiotic small talk, and a slew of paparazzi photographs. Okay, correction. There was a slew of paparazzi photographs. It’s not easy being a literary star. (I’d say, “Canadian literary icon,” but I hear Ms. Atwood doesn’t like that.)

***

Margaret Atwood signing her book for my partner, Esly. September 15, 2013. (c) Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez.
Margaret Atwood signing her book for my partner, Esly. September 15, 2013. (c) Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez.

***

Margaret Atwood signing the Oryx and Crake trilogy for me. September 15, 2013. (c) Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.
Margaret Atwood signing the “Oryx and Crake” trilogy for me. And me, smiling, ready to burst. September 15, 2013.               (c) Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.

***

Margaret Atwood’s poise and patience is all part of her experience as a writer who has gained worldwide recognition. And we were so pleased to be able to meet her in person, as well as take home our tokens: personally signed books by the Canadian author we love.

***

"Oryx and Crake" signed. September 15, 2013. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.
“Oryx and Crake” signed. September 15, 2013. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.

***

"The Year of the Flood" signed. September 15, 2013. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.
“The Year of the Flood” signed. September 15, 2013. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.

***

"MaddAddam" signed. September 15, 2013. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.
“MaddAddam” signed. September 15, 2013. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.

***

"The Door," the latest collection of Margaret Atwood's poetry, signed. September 15, 2013. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.
“The Door,” the latest collection of Margaret Atwood’s poetry, signed. September 15, 2013. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.

***

To read my book review of MaddAddam, you can visit here.

Also a special thanks to the event coordinators at Indigo, Random House of Canada, and the kind and patient patrons in line who made my wait an entertaining one, and to Margaret Atwood for giving us the privilege of meeting her in person.

Are you looking for upcoming events hosted by Indigo? Check out their website.

To connect with Margaret Atwood, you can find her online at a number of social networks:

Margaret Atwood’s Official website

Margaret Atwood on Facebook

Margaret Atwood on Twitter

***

Have you had the opportunity of meeting Margaret Atwood in person?

If not Margaret Atwood, which authors have you been privileged to meet so far?

Given the opportunity to ask Margaret Atwood a question, what would you ask her?

What did you think of the book, MaddAddam?

***

Until my next post, happy reading fellow bibliotaphes!

zara bird autograph

Book Review: Kiss Me First by Lottie Moggach

zara wallpaper avatar - book reviews

Book Review: Kiss Me First by Lottie Moggach

08.26.2013

By Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez / @ZaraAlexis

kiss me first cvr

***

Category: Contemporary Fiction

Author: Lottie Moggach

Format: Trade Paperback, 312 pages

Publisher: Doubleday Canada

ISBN: 978-0-385-67986-2

Pub Date: July 9, 2013

***

Summary from Publisher:

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

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

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

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

***

Book Review by Zara from The Bibliotaphe Closet

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 ***
Characters:  4 stars

Pacing: 4 stars

Cover Design: 2.5 stars

Plot: 4.5 stars

***

Zara’s Rating

z ring - smallz ring - smallz ring - smallrsz_three_quarters

***

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

***

About the Author:

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

***

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

– From the Goodreads website.

***

Links:

Like Lottie on Facebook

Become a fan of Lottie on Goodreads

***

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

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

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

***

zara bird autograph

Back-to-School Random House Giveaway Contest! Is Your Little One Nervous for September?

giveaway avatar

Back-to-School Random House Giveaway Contest!

Is Your Little One Nervous for September?

08.23.2013

By Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez / @ZaraAlexis

Only one more week until summer vacation is over and then the kids return to school.

For some of those kids, it’s not only going to be the First Day of School, but the First Day of School Ever—and that can be pretty daunting for children and/or their parents.

I should know, my daughter just turned four last week and will be going into junior kindergarten in a little more than a week!

While parents have quite a lot to shop for and also think about before the school season hits like:

  • new clothes for fall
  • indoor and outdoor shoes
  • backpacks
  • lunch bags
  • and school supplies

children can have their own form of anxiety about going to school for the first time.

While my daughter, Mercedes, has been somewhat exposed to the Ontario Early Years Centre close to our home, which is a drop-in environment for pre-schoolers to learn through play for as little as a half-hour to as long as half-a-day, she still has her reservations. If anything, she only wants to play if she knows that I’m right there beside her.

***

Mercedes with her Easter Bunny craft, (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.
Mercedes with her Easter Bunny craft, (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.

***

Is your little one nervous about going to school in September?

Well, Random House of Canada can help a little bit with that! They’re hosting a Back-to-School Giveaway!

Here’s what you can win!

The Pocket Mommy

pocket mommy

***

Saying goodbye to Mom at the kindergarten door can be tough. Samuel hates it and wishes he could have a tiny, pocket-sized mommy to carry around with him all day. His mom slips a pretend mommy into his pocket, and when she comes to life, Samuel is delighted… at first. But he soon discovers that having a mom along in kindergarten isn’t as much fun as he thought it would be. Sure, she helps him remember the words to songs and keeps him company. But she also rearranges the bookshelf, corrects his artwork, and tries to clean out the guinea pig cage—all with disastrous (and comic) results. An energetic romp with a sweet core, The Pocket Mommy follows one little boy as he navigates the age-old conflict between the comfort of the familiar and the joy of letting go.

***

* The contest is open to US and Canadian residents (excluding Quebec).

To enter, click on the link below and fill in the Rafflecopter.

enter to win

***

a Rafflecopter giveaway

***

Good luck in not only winning this great Back-to-School Giveaway, but in getting your little ones off to school (especially if it’s their first time)!

I know I’ll definitely need it!

***

A special thanks to Cass and Random House of Canada for hosting this great back-to-school giveaway, but also allowing me to share this giveaway with you!

***

zara bird autograph

Stuffing the Bibliotaphe Closet. 07.09.2013

stuffing the bibliotaphe closet avatar - wallpaper

Stuffing the Bibliotaphe Closet

07.09.2013

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

***

Books for Review:

Sisterland

***

the village kiss me first

***

A special thanks to Random House of Canada

for the following books for review:

Sisterland by Curtis Settenfeld

The Village by Nikita Lalwani

Kiss Me First by Kottie Moggach

***

with all my love a house in the sky

***

lost luggage

***

A special thanks to Simon & Schuster Canada

for the following books for review:

With All My Love by Patricia Scanlan

A House in the Sky by Amanda Lindhout and Sara Corbett

The Great Calamitous Tale of Johan Thoms by Ian Thornton

Lost Luggage by Jordi Punti

***

Books and Prizes I Won:

Thanks to Little Brown & Company for The Feud as my Father’s Day prize on Twitter.

the feud

***

Thanks to Harper Teen for In the After by Demitria Lunetta for my prize from Twitter.

in the after

***

Thanks to Razorbill Canada for Creeps by Darren Hynes for my prize from Goodreads.

creeps

***

Thanks to CBC Canada Writes for my Canada Writes leather journal for my prize as a Strong Beginning Twitter Challenge winner.

canada writes journal

***

And thanks to HarperCollins Canada for the HCC coffee mug for my prize as one of the winners of the HCC Facebook Fan contest.

harper collins mug

***

What bookish goodies did you win this week?

***

zara alexis blog signature

Book Review: The Hungry Ghosts by Shyam Selvadurai

zara wallpaper avatar - book reviews

Book Review:

The Hungry Ghosts by Shyam Selvadurai

06.06.2013

By Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez / @ZaraAlexis

hungry ghosts

***

Category: Fiction

Author: Shyam Selvadurai

Format: Hardcover, 378 pages

Publisher: Doubleday Canada

ISBN: 978-0-385-67066-1

Pub Date: April 2, 2013

***

Summary from publisher:

In Buddhist myth, the dead may be reborn as “hungry ghosts”-spirits with stomach so large they can never be full-if they have desired too much during their lives. It is the duty of the living relatives to free those doomed to this fate by doing kind deeds and creating good karma. In Shyam Selvadurai’s sweeping new novel, his first in more than a decade, he creates an unforgettable ghost, a powerful Sri Lankan matriarch whose wily ways, insatiable longing for land, houses, money and control, and tragic blindness to the human needs of those around her parallels the volatile political situation of her war-torn country.

The novel centres around Shivan Rassiah, the beloved grandson, who is of mixed Tamil and Sinhalese lineage, and who also-to his grandmother’s dismay-grows from beautiful boy to striking gay man. As the novel opens in the present day, Shivan, now living in Canada, is preparing to travel back to Colombo, Sri Lanka, to rescue his elderly and ailing grandmother, to remove her from the home-now fallen into disrepair-that is her pride, and bring her to Toronto to live our her final days. But throughout the night and into the early morning hours of his departure, Shivan grapples with his own insatiable hunger and is haunted by unrelenting ghosts of his own creation.

The Hungry Ghosts is a beautifully written, dazzling story of family, wealth and the long reach of the past. It shows how racial, political and sexual differences can tear apart both a country and the human heart-not just once, but many times, until the ghosts are fed and freed.

***

Book Review by Zara from The Bibliotaphe Closet:

The Hungry Ghosts by Shyam Selvadurai is an exquisitely rich story about Shivan Rassiah, a young boy born from poverty and the weight of a burdened past that originally stems from an abrasive grandmother that poisons her lineage to create a wilful and eventually rebellious daughter—and the fate of her belief in her own terrible karma.

Amidst the turmoil of a divided Sri Lanka where the tensions between the Tamils and Sinhalese people are a vivid and violent backdrop to the tensions between Shivan’s estranged grandmother and mother and the sides he is forced to choose from in order for his family to survive—Shivan also grows, discovers, and explores his own sexuality as a gay man and battles against the intolerance of his homosexuality by his Sri Lankan culture and community.

Between his grandmother’s controlling dominance and astute ambition for power and money; his mother’s depression and devastation at the failure of a western country, Canada, whose expectations she held towards were far too high in estimation compared to her real immigrant experience; and his sister’s radical extremism in feminist theory and racial equality—Shivan is often a victim of emotional liminality and displacement, marginalized in his culture and experience not only by being both Tamil and Sinhalese, but more importantly a Sri Lankan-born boy who immigrates to Toronto, Canada as a refugee and eventually becomes a westernized Torontonian and later, a Vancouver resident, open and active in the LGBT community.

The richness in this novel is found in the author’s ability to write with an eloquence and ease that give his characters resounding depth, authenticity, and a vulnerability, which readers can eagerly connect to and appreciate.

And the emotional landscape of the novel’s characters are not static, nor linear, but like life, mimic the fluctuation of people who change their minds over time and over a number of experiences.

The cultural translations of Buddhists stories also enrich the novel in metaphor and Sri Lankan culture, as well as intensify the substance of the novel’s characters.

But, the novel is not just entirely character-driven. The plot, too, is rich as it is turbulent and engaging. The capacity in which characters can love is just as passionate as their ability to hate and condemn, which drive them to illogical and unthinkable acts of cruelty.

The plot, filled with the torment of conflict and anguish, create an emotionally charged and gripping tale that will move readers to empathy and reflection about the importance of resisting exclusivity, answering the issues of cultural displacement, and advocating racial and gender equality, while defining the ideas of love and home.

Overall, The Hungry Ghosts by Shyam Selvadurai is a beautifully written book, full of substance and dichotomy, tenderness and heartache, tension and cruelty—a book that is so gloriously good, I couldn’t put it down—and still mourn the loss I feel in turning its very last pages.

A book like this is one is one in which you befriend its fictional characters in your reading and then miss them severely, feeling a loss at having to accept that though the story does not end, the book itself, has to. The Hungry Ghosts by this gifted and mature writer will inevitably leave its readers hungering for more.

***

Characters:  5 stars

Pacing: 5 stars

Cover Design: 3.5 stars

Plot: 5 stars

 ***

Zara’s Rating

z ring - smallz ring - smallz ring - smallz ring - smallz ring - small

***

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

 ***

About the Author:

shyam selvadurai

From the Shyam Selvadurai Official Website.

***

Shyam Selvadurai was born in Colombo, Sri Lanka, in 1965. He  came to Canada  with his family at the age of nineteen. He has studied creative writing and  theatre and has a BFA from York   University, as well as an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of British Columbia.

Funny Boy, his first novel, was published to acclaim in 1994 and won the WH Smith/Books  in Canada First Novel Award and in the US the Lambda Literary Award. It was also named a Notable Book by the American Library Association, and was translated into 8 languages.

His second novel, Cinnamon Gardens, was published in Canada, the  UK, the US and translated into 9 languages. It was shortlisted for Canada’s Trillium Award, as well as  the Aloa Literary Award in Denmark  and the Premio Internazionale Riccardo Bacchelli in Italy.

Shyam is the  editor of an anthology, Story-Wallah: A  Celebration of South Asian Fiction, published in Canada and the US, and his  novel for young adults, Swimming in the  Monsoon Sea, was shortlisted for the Governor General’s Award and is the  winner of the Lambda Literary Award in the US, the Canadian Library  Association Book of the Year Award and Silver Winner in the Young Adult  Category of ForeWord Magazine’s Book of the Year Award.

His articles have  appeared in numerous publications, including The New York Times, Time Magazine, Toronto Life, Walrus Magazine, Enroute Magazine, The Globe and Mail and the Toronto Star. He served as Festival Curator for the Galle Literary Festival for  2 years. His fourth novel, The Hungry  Ghosts, was  published   April 2, 2013 in Canada, India and  Sri Lanka.

– From the Shyam Selvadurai Official Website

***

Links:

Shyam Selvadurai’s Official Website

Connect with Shyam on Facebook

***

Have you ever faced cultural displacement before? Where and how?

What unfulfilled desire do you “hunger” for the most?

Have you read Shyam Selvadurai’s book, “The Hungry Ghosts” yet? If so, what did you think of it?

***

zara alexis blog signature

Top 20 Bookish Memories

top 10 tuesday avatar wallpaper

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.

***

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.

***

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

***

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.

***

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.

book-expo-canada-5352-1

***

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.

***

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.

***

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

***

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.

***

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

cropped-banner.jpg

***

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.

***

@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

***

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.

***

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.

***

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.

***

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
 ***

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.

***

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.

***

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

***

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.

***

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?

***

zara alexis blog signature

Book Review: The Sweet Girl by Annabel Lyon

A Review: The Sweet Girl by Annabel Lyon

09.27.2012

By Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez / @ZaraAlexis 

***

Category: Literary Fiction

Author: Annabel Lyon

Format: Hardcover, 246 pages

Publisher: Random House of Canada

ISBN: 978-0-307-35944-5

Pub Date: September 18, 2012

***

The Sweet Girl by Annabel Lyon is a historical fiction novel in the time of ancient Greece, a story focused on the beloved and only daughter, Pythias, called Pytho, of the philosopher, Aristotle.

Aristotle

***

When I first opened the novel to the formal list of the Cast of Characters, as I might in reading a Shakespearean play, I was a tad intimidated with the ancient Greek names: Pythias, Herpyllis, Nicomachus, Tycho, Pyrrhaios, Glycera, Euphanor, and Nicanor. As beautiful as they sounded as they rolled off my tongue, I was hesitant in turning the page to read further in anticipation and assumption of a verbose reading—but I’m glad I did and ever so relieved that my assumption, too, was wrong.

The voice of the main character, Pythias, known as Pytho is directly intimate and perfectly written in the tone of an inquisitive, intelligent, yet young, and innocent girl born into privilege and prestige on account of her famous father.

A certain highlight in this novel is the humanized portrayal of Aristotle, the deep and forward thinker, the natural egotism and elitism sometimes awarded to men and women of genius, but especially, the endearing and tender love he has as a family man and father towards his household including those of his servants, and the special bond he has with his highly praised and beloved daughter.

What one would normally know of Aristotle is his philosophical discourse, but it is in this novel, The Sweet Girl, that readers are enlightened to his special pedigree, temperament, and soft inclination and social exception to his daughter, Pythias, who he unconventionally raises to read, think, explore, dissect, and study in so much that she is inclined to a deep reservoir of intelligence, logic, and wit that cannot contain her from the surprise of  men of her father’s tutelage and peers and the scoffing irritation and jealousy of their wives as well as the women of the small garrison town, Chalcis.

***

What’s interesting to note is the ritualistic and relationship dynamic between Macedonian and Athenian cultures at the time of ancient Greece between the privileged wealthy and the destitute poor; the educated and the uneducated; the men and the women; the master and the slave.

The propriety of women as talented weavers, market hagglers, family chefs, and elegant forms of visual beauty come at a high price of illiteracy and social hypocrisy.

***

“Slaves,” too, are indentured workers obligated to accompany, guard, and serve their “masters” in exchange for accommodation, food, and associated protection by household name, which shows a mimetic example of cultural, ancient Greece.

Annabel Lyon does well in transporting her readers into a classical time with the necessary backdrop of its lush settings from  its home gardens and backwoods to the famous, switchback tides, and its extravagant homes of the wealthy as described of Plios’s house during a welcome party in honour of Aristotle’s arrival to Chalcis.

***

But the gift the author has, too, is to re-engage the relevance of modern-day issues concerning the battle of the sexes, the advocacy of justice on behalf of the poor and the marginalized, the hidden, social corruption found in the underbelly of survival and greed, and the continual argument of sexual taboo.

Each character, too, is perfectly realistic in his or her role in the story, well-written enough for the book to be naturally paced and easy to read:

Pythias, known as Pytho: Aristotle’s daughter by his dead wife, also named Pythias is intelligent,  inquisitive, an independent thinker, and fiercely loving and loyal to her father and his needs; a survivor by instinct and led more by logic and reason than passionate emotion.

Aristotle: a famous philosopher and teacher, culturally and intellectually elitist, but a true lover of knowledge and study with an exceptional sense of justice towards others especially his own household, and a profound love and tenderness towards his only daughter.

Herpyllis: Aristotle’s concubine and formerly a servant is a woman of grace who runs the family household with tenacity and efficiency. She has a kind and vast capacity to love both Aristotle and her stepdaughter.

Myrmex: a poor relation and adopted son of Aristotle, inclined to self-pity, jealousy, gambling, and thievery.

Glycera: a widow of natural, yet practiced grace with a stern sensibility towards financial survival, perfect, social etiquette, and strict discipline.

A priestess of Artemis: beautiful, graceful, sombre—and hard as the goddess statue she serves.

Euphranor: a cavalry officer gifted with wealth and sensual charm.

Nicanor: Pythias’s cousin who is diligent as he is dutiful, serious, and reserved.

***

The Sweet Girl is a testament to Annabel Lyon’s natural ability to bring depth and intimacy to an elusive and ancient past. And she does so with an easy eloquence and impartial narrative that the reader can can better empathize with the desires and the plight of her characters as they do in reflecting on the moral and philosophical questions that plagued ancient Greece and continue to be explored today.

The Sweet Girl is both despairing and sweet indeed: a personal story, a social discourse, and a novel easily deserving of its 2013 Giller Prize longlist nomination.

***

Zara’s Rating

***

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

***

What is it about ancient Greece that you find most fascinating?

Are you familiar with Aristotle’s philosophical teachings? Do you agree with them?

What do you imagine it would feel like to be Aristotle’s daughter, Pythias?

***

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

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

09.23.2012

By Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez / @ZaraAlexis

It was a fantastic book and magazine festival in Toronto yesterday. Queen’s Park was strewn with white tents filled with books, authors, publishers, and registered charities all advocating literacy and a crowd of avid readers and writers that visited each tent with a buzzing fervour.

I was so glad to be able to get there relatively early at 11:30 a.m and make it a fun, full day for the family. We actually left Queen’s Park at 5:00 p.m.

Here are some of the highlights of the festival that made our experience worthwhile:

The WOTS 2012 Enthusiasts at The Clarica Centre at Islington Station on the way to downtown, Queen’s Park.

***

For those of you who don’t know, this is on site where I used to work as an editorial assistant for UCPH! I used to walk these halls with a coffee in my hand, readying myself for an upcoming Resource Coordination meeting. And here I am, now, with my kids on a weekend ready for the adventure of The Word on the Street at Queen’s Park! Let’s go!

The Simon & Schuster Canada Tent.

***

Simon and Schuster Canada

And what tent did we hit right out of the Queen’s Park subway Station? One of my favourite publishers that I just started to review books for: Simon & Schuster Canada! And while my children scored Olivia the Pig tiaras, I bought super-cheap, but super-great books:

“The Taker” by Alma Katsu published by Simon & Schuster Canada.

***

And while the kids missed seeing Olivia the Pig, in “pig-son,” they weren’t ashamed to show-off their Olivia paper tiaras. Here’s Michael helping Mercedes adjust her crown.

The kids fixing their Olivia the Pig paper crowns from Simon and Schuster Canada.

***

First Book Canada

And how timely it was that one of our first stops was the registered book charity, First Book Canada. I had a conversation with Wayne Cochrane, Director of Operations, who told me about their great work in putting new books in the hands of children from low-income families. Today alone at The Word on the Street, First Book Canada was able to distribute 750,000 books alone! That’s exciting, especially if you’re a true advocate of literacy. I certainly am! For more information on how you can help foster literacy through First Book Canada, be sure to visit their website.

The First Books Canada tent. A great book charity with the aim to get new books to children from low-income families. Wayne Cochrane, Director of Operations, and children’s author, Helaine Becker.

***

Helaine Becker, author of The Haunted House That Jack Built

And while I chatted with Wayne, my husband took the children to meet the children’s author, Helaine Becker who graciously inscribed her book to Michael and Mercedes while Michael turned extremely shy at meeting his very first “author” in person that he could barely speak when she asked him his name!

Michael and Mercedes’ first book signed by an author! THE HAUNTED HOUSE THAT JACK BUILT by Helaine Becker, illustrated by David Parkins.

***

Dani Couture

At the Vibrant Voices of Ontario Tent, we took the time to listen to Dani Couture read a few passages from her novel, Algoma.

Dani Couture reading a few passages from her book, ALGOMA.

***

And since it was still early in the afternoon, we, like the book enthusiasts of Toronto and the GTA, excitedly walked the streets of the festival to find our next great book!

Walking through the WOTS 2012 festival.

***

The Penguin Pavilion

Another great highlight at the festival was dropping by The Penguin Pavilion where I chatted with a WOTS volunteer about the work surrounding the planned event. She was helpful, and patient, and like much of the event itself, positive, and energetic! She was even kind enough to let me take a picture of her shirt! Thanks to all the volunteers who stood for hours, passing around pamphlets, maps, and answering excited festival-goers’ questions.

***

And because Penguin Books of Canada is an awesome publisher, they gave out AMAZING goodies to those who tweeted promos about Penguin at WOTS. And I tell you, I’m glad I stopped by. (OF COURSE, I’D STOP BY! I review books for Penguin Books of Canada!).

Thank you, Penguin Books! I absolutely LOVE my new Classics Penguin tote bag, my Classic Penguin mug (The Invisible Man by H.G. Wells), and my bookmarks, stickers, and posters!

Penguin Books of Canada SWAG!

***

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

***

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

***

Chef Mark McEwan

And then we dropped in on Chef Mark McEwan speak about his work as a Food Network TV host and his books, Great Food at Home and Fabbrica.

Chef Mark McEwan

***

With all this book love and excitement, even the best of us have to take a break. Here’s the gang taking a rest with Bear Paw snacks and juice boxes before our next tent hop.

***

David Suzuki

And it appears, I’m not the only author groupie around! Here’s my daughter, Mercedes, checking the Author Signing Tour Schedule for details. And because she’s so smart and is a green activist like Mommy, she just happens to be pointing at David Suzuki’s time slot.

Mercedes checking out the Author Signing Schedule. She’s keen on meeting authors, too, like her Mommy!

***

Here are other tents we visited:

Book Thug.

***

I was happy to see Book Thug at WOTS. I happily subscribe to their email for updates on their latest news of excellent literary work.

This Is Not the Shakespeare Stage Tent

***

House of Anansi

***

House of Anansi T-shirt.

***

I was happy to see one of the other publishers I review for at WOTS: House of Anansi. And “A List” is right! P.S. I WANT THAT “A List” t-shirt!

The Remarkable Reads Tent (Random House of Canada)

The Remarkable Reads Tent, Random House of Canada.

***

I dropped by the very popular Remarkable Reads Tent hosted by my friends at Random House of Canada. I kept my eye out for one of my favourite marketing teams: Lindsey and Cass, but didn’t catch them as I was thoroughly distracted by the number of speakers, readings, and books were on hand at the festival! Missed you guys!

I did, however, catch some author sightings and while I couldn’t see everyone I had hoped to see, to see one author in person is more than a book lover and blogger, and author groupie like myself could ask for.

Eva Stachniak

Eva Stachniak, author of the new release, THE WINTER PALACE.

***

And if it wasn’t talented and famous authors to swoon at, it was every other kind of “bird.” Especially this one! She was promoting The Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood at the Nightwood Theatre. She was good enough to pose for me in all her feathered glory! (Do you see what we do for you, Margaret Atwood?)

I love theatre! I love drama! I even love Margaret Atwood! But, I absolutely love The Word on the Street!

***

Megan Crewe

And before I forget my YA followers and readers, can you guess who I saw at WOTS? Megan Crewe, author of the YA book, The Way We Fall, published by Hachette Book Group Canada.

Megan Crewe, author of YA novel. THE WAY WE FALL.

***

And for even our younger readers, I wanted to share the buzz of the Kid Street Festival! Literacy can and should start at a young age. And to be able to see the joy of my own children reading makes me nostalgic of when I, too, fell in love with books for the very first time.

Though Michael and Mercedes were unable to snatch a Hobbit poster like most of the children, they were more than happy to shack up at the Children’s Activity Tent to join Debbie Ridpath Ohi and her interactive storytelling of her book, I’m Bored.

Michael taking a break at the Hobbit promotional tent. No poster, but still a great attitude!

***

Kids Activity Tent

Here he is with his sister in the Kids’ Activity Tent giving me his best I’m Bored face, a new children’s book.

Michael’s best pretend face for the book, I’M BORED.

***

Debbie Ridpath Ohi

And here’s the illustrator of the book, I’m Bored, Debbie Ridpath Ohi, encouraging the children to interact as she tells the story.

Debbie Ridpath Ohi, illustrator of the children’s book, I’M BORED.

***

Here are other fun spots we visited:

***

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

***

And here’s Michael wondering where all the books went? I told him, it’s great news when the shelves are empty. It means more people have bought and received more books!

Michael at Mabel’s Fables.

***

Arthur

Here the kids are posing with Arthur, one of their favourite book and television characters. They do own and have read all his books!

The kids posing with Arthur.

***

The Children’s Book Bank

But most importantly, I had a conversation with the host of The Children’s Book Bank Tent and was pleased to discover their charitable work in providing free books to children from low-income neighbourhoods. My son even joined in the conversation and gladly offered his own books saying,

“I’ve read a lot of books and I’m done with them.”

How can you help? You can bring your new or gently-used books for children up to grade six to the Children’s Book Bank! And they are always in need of dictionaries!

Check out their website for details on hours of operation and other ways you can help by donating money or your time. If you love reading as much as I do, give the gift of literacy to those that need it most: children.

The Children’s Book Bank. An important book charity that places free books into children’s hands. Donate your books now!

***

Kids Street Festival

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

Chirp

Michael and Mercedes hanging out with CHIRP. Yay!

***

Mercedes wasn’t shy! She went straight up to Chirp and gave him a great, big hug. And then she said,

“Chirp is wearing my red boots!”

She was in awe and so pleased that they were both wearing their red rainboots at WOTS.

And then other children flocked to Chirp!

***

Kids Think About It!

***

TVO Kids

And before we decided to go for a late lunch, Michael wanted to reaffirm that yes, he’s indeed a TVO Kid!

Michael, a TVO kid!

***

Polkaroo

And if you’re as OLD as I am, you’ll get as excited as I was in meeting…yes, that’s right…POLKAROO!!

Michael giving Polkaroo a HUGE hug!

***

Mercedes’ turn for a hug with Polkaroo!

***

A special thank you to TVO Kids for bringing these characters to life for my children. It was surely a highlight of the day for them. (I was EXCITED to see my old friend, Polkaroo, too!)

Here’s the Polkaroo Gang at McDonalds for a late lunch. POLKAROOOOOOO!

The Polkaroo Gang.

***

After lunch, the kids sat down for the TVO Kids show: Beatboxing! They had a really good time and even Daddy was impressed with the youth on the stage. Thanks TVO Kids!

The kids are excited. It’s a TVO Kids concert!

***

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

***

Vincent Lam

But it wasn’t just an amazing time for the little ones, it was also a great day for me personally. I was able to catch a glimpse of Vincent Lam signing his new book, The Headmaster’s Wager. And I kept hitting myself, thinking,

“Why, oh, why, did I NOT bring MY copy to get signed?!?” Arghhh!

Vincent Lam signing SOMEONE ELSE’S book! I really should have brought my copy!

***

Susan Swan

And a meaningful meet was when I accidentally ran into Susan Swan! I had planned on seeing her read at 3:15 p.m., but here she was, quietly signing her new book, The Western Light.

 She was my Prose Fiction professor at York University while I studied Creative Writing and English Literature many, MANY years ago!

I was excited to see her again in this context and she humoured me with a lovely photograph opportunity and asked for my blog’s business card. Thanks Susan, for always being a true lover of the writing craft and for remembering me.

Susan Swan, author of the new release, THE WESTERN LIGHT.

***

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

***

Thanks to Susan Swan for her patience and her gracious criticism of my work. She was extremely helpful, yet not unkind in showing me and others how to improve our writing. If you have a chance to purchase her new book, please do so! She’s a great writer and an excellent professor!

***

SWAG

What a full day of author sightings, readings, interviews, SWAG, and book purchases. If you love reading and you love books, you’re not going to want to miss next year’s event. Look at all the fun stuff I was able to find on behalf of everyone’s promotion of literacy!

The Word on the Steet SWAG!

***

Time to go home…and well…READ! Happy Word on the Street Day! And hope to see you all next year!

The kids (coerced) to show-off their activity artwork at WOTS.

***

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

***

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

***

Did you attend The Word on the Street 2012 Festival at Queen’s Park?

What did you enjoy the most about it?

Which authors would you like to see featured next year?

***

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

A Review: Red House by Mark Haddon

A Review:

The Red House by Mark Haddon

08.22.2012

By Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez / @ZaraAlexis

***

Category: Fiction

Author: Mark Haddon

Format: Hardcover, 264 pages

Publisher: Doubleday Canada

ISBN: 978-0-385-67692-2

Pub Date: June 12, 2012

***

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

***

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

***

Zara’s Rating

***

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

***

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

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

***

Book Review: The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce

Book Review:

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce

08.10.2012

By Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez / @ZaraAlexis

***

Category: Fiction

Author: Rachel Joyce

Format: Hardcover, 326 pages

Publisher: Bond Street Books, Doubleday Canada, imprint of Random House of Canada

ISBN: 978-0-385-67769-1

Pub Date: July 24, 2012

Longlisted for the Man Booker Prize.

***

 

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce is a clearly written book of effortless prose about a man who spontaneously decides to walk cross-country from Kingsbridge, England, his home, to the northern town of Berwick-upon-Tweed at the border of Scotland, after receiving a devastating letter from his friend, Queenie Hennessy, who is bedridden at a hospice having been diagnosed with Cancer.

Kingsbridge, England

***

Berwick-upon-Tweed

***

Harold’s original plan to walk to the corner post office to mail is penned response slowly unravels as he forgoes mailing his letter, passes the post, and then another, only to walk with what first begins as an unexpected and new curiosity of his surroundings to a full-fledged emotional and spiritual “pilgrimage.”

***

The writing is phenomenal in its simplicity and clarity, which eases the reader into the depth and revelation of the story as inevitably and continuously as Harold Fry’s personal walk.

The narrative is filled with thoughtful and philosophical optimism about the beauty and grandeur found in nature and its self-sufficiency, reward, and lack of complication when one discovers how to harness it, appreciate it, and cooperate within its means.

***

But, this book is more than a topographical nature walk. It not only becomes a lifeline of hope to a dying character found in Queenie Hennessy, but a lifeline of recollection and reconciliation for the timid and reclusive character if Harold Fry as he must confront the emotional demons and scars of his past.

While a number of other characters are sprinkled throughout the book—those he meets in passing during his walk—they form a diverse collective that creates help or obstacle on his quest to reach Berwick-upon-Tweed.

But, it is the secondary characters that root him to his cause:

Maureen, his nagging, anal-retentive wife who finds repressive control and coping in incessant keep and cleaning of her household amidst an anesthetized and almost dead marriage.

Rex, his widowed, yet friendly, and concerned neighbour.

And the Girl from the Garage, who provides Harold with his first taste of a microwaved burger and the key advice that inspires him to recklessly take risk to action, one that is the catalyst that propels him on what becomes a physical and more importantly, an emotional six-hundred-mile-walk towards Berwick-upon-Tweed and a deeply personal, internal journey.

But, like every quest, each step is not necessarily optimistic, but a deep and dark unconsoling delve into private fears and unrelenting personal challenges that Harold Fry must fight to overcome or concede to in failure.

Harold Fry’s openness and acceptance of others at risk to his own self-sacrifice is both his challenge and his gift, one that will not only inspire the nation of fictional characters he meets until he is convoluted into a sensationalized hero—but also inspire the readers of the book to reflect upon the importance of acceptance, change, and the willingness to try.

***

Zara’s Rating

***

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

***

How far would you be willing to travel by foot to reach a personal goal?

Do you think the character Harold Fry is a fool or a hero for walking a six-hundred-mile pilgrimage?

Have you ever gone on a pilgrimage of your own, religious or non-religious?

***