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A New Blog! The Bibliotaphe Closet Is Closing and Moving to Zara’s Closet

Welcome to Zara’s Closet!

A Place Worth Rummaging Through

blue stencil door

02.22.2016

By Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez

A closet is a wonderfully, small, enclosed space one can rummage through—or hide in. Now, what you find there, ranges in varying styles and tastes depending on which closet you happen to fall (or sneak) into.

The closet bears for us, a place to house our clothes, our bags, our shoes, our knick-knacks, our dirty laundry, even our metaphorical “skeletons” and secrets: perhaps old photographs, the ones which exist as hardcopy prints in black and white as old testimonies to an oral past told to us by our grandmothers, and those photos yellowing with age from the vintage 70’s in which our parents listened to the Bee Gee’s on an eight-track and snapped instant pictures with a Polaroid camera.

Closets are more than a highly acclaimed storage space, but can be a place of refuge in a game of Hide and Seek, a place of solace when tears require solace, or a place where men and women decide who they will be for the day by the clothes and shoes they wear—at least to the rest of the voyeuristic world.

As a seasoned blogger, I spent some time building a book blog called, The Bibliotaphe Closet, with the intent of encouraging literacy through the review of new books, the announcement of literary events, and the support of a vibrant, enthusiastic, reading community.

But, while my lifestyle has taken a passionate change to include a number of other interests on top of literature— it was suggested to me by a friend to perhaps begin a new blog that could showcase these new interests under one umbrella, rather than attempt to host multiple blogs at one time.

Good friends are worth listening to. And so here I am…opening another door to a new closet.  And I’m excited to share its contents with you!

Family

What better way than to share some advice on my experience with young children when I have two youngin’s of my own? Anything from play dates, to crafts, to places that are not only kid-friendly, but kid-loved.

Beauty

Or showcase the latest and greatest cosmetics that I come across when I’m craving for a new lipstick that we all know we don’t really need, but would be so disappointed to live without…right, ladies?

Books

There are books, too, lining my staircase waiting to be read and reviewed; stories that not only speak to the intimacies of our own fears and challenges, but also speak to a larger consciousness in our society. I would love to talk about that with you.

Coffee

And since I’m an avid Starbucks, coffeehouse rat, there are gift cards to hunt for and collect, as well as coffee-based drinks to taste and review for the masses. Maybe you’re obsessed with Starbucks like myself? Or maybe you’d much rather drink mud-water than buy from a trendy corporation that charges a buck per coffee bean…plus the namesake of your first-born child? (I’m kidding.)

Cooking

While I confess I’m not a natural in the kitchen, I do need to eat and eat healthy—which means, like you, I’m always on the lookout for a great-tasting, uncomplicated, yet nutritious recipe to fill my tummy and impress my husband and kids—a recipe that potentially doesn’t blow my budget or take me 10 hours to make before I change my mind and run off to a fast-food restaurant just because I don’t have the time!

Fitness

This goes hand-in-hand with living an active and healthy lifestyle. For those that don’t know, I weighed more than 200 lbs.  six months ago and have successfully shed the unwanted pounds in lieu of a lean, strong body through hard work, dedication, a balanced diet, and tons of exercise.

If you’ve ever struggled with poor body image or would like to shed a few pounds in order to get a little bit healthier—no matter what state your body is in now—I’m here for you as an advocate of fitness and healthy life choices. (I’m also here when you feel like eating everything in your kitchen, plus your neighbour’s kitchen—at 11:30 p.m.—because I, too, have been there!)

Paper

But, I’m not always at the gym either. I also like to spend time penning words to paper—literally—sending correspondence to penpals across the globe. If you like all-things paper and know what washi tape is (or would like to), there’s information on that here, too.

I’m also a writer. You can get all the juicy details about that on my bio page, but aside from hosting this blog, I’ve been known to publish a few pieces here and there, as well as pull all-nighters begging my muse to give me the right words (and stamina) to finish a chapter in a prose-fiction piece, or utter the eloquence and hidden metaphors bellied into a poem that I’m compelled to pluck onto paper.

If you’re a story writer or a poet, or simply love words and language, there will be a cranny of stories and poems for you to enjoy here while you visit.

Fashion

Or perhaps you’re keen on keeping yourself well put-together? (Because, really, who doesn’t want to look good?) Or perhaps you are innately drawn to beautiful things and luxurious brands?

I love the art and style, clothing and accessories afford me in presenting myself to the world and I’m more than happy to share the latest trends (and the best deals) with friends!

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If you’ve ever rummaged through a closet, it’s always a delight to discover something you never realized was there before. At Zara’s Closet, there’s going to be piles of things to look at, go through, and think about.

And because it’s an entirely new closet, it’s moving to an entirely new address, too!  Please come and follow me there as The Bibliotaphe Closet will soon become inactive.

And you’re welcome to stay as long as you like.

I have no qualms if you find something that interests you and by browsing, reading, and commenting, you get a little joy, too–or even a little help along the way.

This is, after all, my closet—but I promise my readers to always leave the door wide open.

Welcome—and come on in!

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Zara

zara - grey black fedora

Canada DOES Read! See the Shortlist for 2016

01.22.2016

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

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

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

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

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

book - birdie***

Bruce Poon Tip will be defending Birdie by Tracey Lindberg.

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BoneAndBread_interim.indd

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

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book - the illegal

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Clara Hughes will be defending The Illegal by Lawrence Hill.

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book - minister without portfolio

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

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book - heros walk

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

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

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

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

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

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Until next time, happy reading!

zara - grey fedora

Stuffing the Bibliotaphe Closet

08.11.2014

By Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez / @ZaraAlexis

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

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

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

Books for Review:

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

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

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lucky usLucky Us by Amy Bloom

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luminariesThe Luminaries by Eleanor Catton

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

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Books Won:

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

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

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

distanceThe Distance by Helen Giltrow

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

karate chopKarate Chop: Stories by Dorthe Nors

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belmontBelmont: Poems by Stephen Burt

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Books I Bought:

 russian winterRussian Winter by Daphne Kalotay

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slammerkinSlammerkin by Emma Donoghue

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known worldThe Known World by Edward P. Jones

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how it all beganHow It All Began by Penelope Lively

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mercyMercy by Jodi Picoult

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

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Books Borrowed:

 innocentsThe Innocents by Francesca Segal

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wisp of a thingWisp of a Thing by Alex Bledsoe

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splinteredSplintered by A.G. Howard

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unhingedUnhinged by A.G. Howard

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

Which book do you think I should read next?

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Crazy for CanLit 2014: My Book Cover Poem

08.08.2014

By Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez / @ZaraAlexis

I’m Canadian. And while I’m not necessarily crazy, I am absolutely mad for Canadian Literature—and the annual Scotiabank Giller Prize festivities that honour the best in Canadian fiction.

Which brings me to this book cover list. While I’m keen on making lists in of themselves for almost everything I do (Post-It notes are my go-to organizational tool), the CanLit book covers eligible for this year’s Giller Prize have inspired me to create a poem made entirely of its book titles. While I didn’t use every book on the list, I was pretty close.

Let me know what you think of my “book cover” poem that reads from left to right:

can lit poem verse 1For today I am a boy

shallow enough to walk through

wallflowers.

can lit poem verse 2The world before us

just beneath my skin

between clay and dust:

can lit poem verse 3frog music, wonder—

all the broken things.

 can lit poem verse 4The road narrows as you go,

the breaking words,

the filthy few,

moving forward sideways like a crab.

can lit poem verse 5The eye of the day,

the opening sky,

the freedom in American songs…

can lit poem verse 6all my puny sorrows

tell

the hole in the middle,

I’m not scared of you or anything.

van lit poem verse 7The river burns

sweet life,

visions,

wild justice.

can lit poem verse 8I don’t know how to behave

consumed

where the air is sweet:

can lit poem verse 9sweet affliction,

the age,

a sudden sun.

can lit poem verse 10When is a man,

man?

The cuckoo’s child

can lit poem verse 11up in smoke,

the fledglings’

fire in the unnameable country,

can lit poem verse 12little bastards in springtime

foxed—loddy-dah!

can lit poem verse 13The answer to everything:

American innovations,

infidelity,

can lit poem verse 14prairie ostrich,

the tiny wife,

some extremely boring drives,

can lit poem verse 15all my sins

(Vienna nocturne),

proud flesh,

polyamorous love song.

can lit poem verse 16My October,

mating for life

the girl who was Saturday night

can lit poem verse 17will

a second chance—

my suicide.

can lit poem verse 18

Whatever Lola wants:

the afterlife of stars,

the location of unknown possibilities,

blood on a saint,

can lit poem verse 19I’m not scared of you or anything

Planet Lolita.

can lit poem verse 20Tell the broken hours,

the ghosts of Smyrna:

can lit poem verse 21the wind is not a river

based on a true story;

the wind is not a river

up in smoke.

can lit poem verse 22Watch how we walk

the incomparables—

how does a single blade of grass thank the sunHow does a single blade of grass

thank the sun?

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What kind of thematic list can you create from the list of Can Lit books eligible for the prestigious Giller Prize?

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Book Review: Elizabeth Is Missing by Emma Healey

07.15.2014

By Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez / @ZaraAlexis

 elizabeth is missing***

Category: Literary Fiction

Author: Emma Healey

Format: Hardcover, 284 pages

Publisher: Knopf Canada

ISBN: 978-0-3458-0830-1

Pub Date: June 10, 2014

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Summary from Publisher:

An internationally heralded debut novel of extraordinary warmth, insight and humanity that will appeal to readers who loved The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry and Still Alice: Elizabeth Is Missing is at once a page-turning mystery that takes us from post-war Britain to the present day and a piercingly honest portrait of love and memory, families and aging through the lens of an unforgettable protagonist who will seize your heart–an elderly woman descending into forgetfulness, as she embarks alone on a quest to find the best friend she believes has disappeared.


Maud, an aging grandmother, is slowly losing her memory–and her grip on everyday life. Notes fill her pockets and dot the walls of her home, increasingly crucial reminders of the immediate world. Most crucial is the fact that she can’t find her only friend–Elizabeth has disappeared: she isn’t answering the phone and doesn’t seem to be at her house. Maud, convinced Elizabeth is in terrible danger, refuses to forget her even if her frustrated daughter, Helen, her carer, Carla, and the police won’t listen and won’t help. Armed with an overwhelming feeling that Elizabeth desperately needs her help, Maud sets out to find her. And, unexpectedly, her search triggers an old and powerful memory of another unsolved disappearance–that of her sister, Sukey, who vanished more than 50 years ago, shortly after the Second World War.

     As long-ago memories emerge, Maud begins to uncover forgotten clues to her sister’s disappearance and to piece together the mystery that has haunted her family for decades, discovering new momentum in her search for her friend. Could the mystery of Sukey’s disappearance hold the key to finding Elizabeth?

– From Goodreads

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Book Review by Zara

from The Bibliotaphe Closet:

Elizabeth Is Missing by Emma Healey is an extraordinary novel spoken through the stark narrative of Maud, now an elderly woman whose battle with Alzheimer’s has over time, disconnected her memories, misplacing them throughout a wavering timeline, one that Maud desperately yearns to grasp and recollect.

It is truly an evocative book, one that perceptively showcases the incessant self-doubt and self-questioning that takes place during the internal dialogue of someone who suffers memory loss and the ramifications of how disruptive such a loss can be in daily life.

But, the narrative is not by any means demeaning, nor arbitrary. Maud is a fully realized character, one with complex emotions and intelligence, which is how well this novel was written. The narrative not only gives the reader a microscopic view of what it can mean to be elderly, but what it can mean to be held hostage by one’s own mind.

But, Maud is not alone on her narrative journey. There are those in the novel who must, out of love, and others necessity, move to surround her with as much care and routine as can be afforded.

Carla, one of her carers, while paid to make her a daily sandwich or boil her a kettle of water for tea, also provides some empathetic humour.

Helen, her daughter, while not without the frustration that accompanies taking care of an elderly parent, must for most of the novel, not only be the primary caregiver for her mother and her daily affairs, but also bear witness to the bewildering rate in which her mother’s mental capacity and daily, independent functioning, slowly, but certainly diminishes over time.

Katy, Maud’s granddaughter, is wonderfully understanding as the youth can sometimes be, treating her grandmother’s illness more as an interesting quirk, rather than a lifelong detriment and burden to Maud herself or to the family.

What is wonderful about this book aside from how surprising and almost unbelievable it is that it’s a debut novel because of how well it is written, is how brilliant the writer, Emma Healey is, in conjuring not only a story from a collection of what first appears to be disjointed memories—into a hybrid of parallel stories that gently, yet powerfully weave themselves quite naturally into a gorgeous tapestry of true events and a detailed mapping of Maud’s thought process.

The reader is not only able to piece together the fragments of Maud’s version of events into a fairly cohesive plot and form of understanding, but also decode a subtle movement and pacing of events that divulge themselves seamlessly into the mystery that is the foundation of the novel.

The disconnect between memories also act as a transformative time loop in the story where the narrator, Maud, flows in thought from her present to her past quite fluidly, unaware that her mind has unconsciously shifted from a present moment to a historical one. This ever-present narrative accentuates not only the severity of the character’s illness, but emphasizes the strong, emotional reality these memories pose for the character, and the direct intimacy readers are invited in to witness firsthand through its traumatic drama and first-person narrative.

As readers are consistently bewildered by the disorientation and anxiety felt by Maud as she desperately tries to retrace her thoughts into some kind of cohesive understanding and certainty, the loss of her memory is the battle that dictates and demands the constant disruption of her daily life and those she affects by her perpetuated wanderings, her verbal errors, her uprooting of plants, and painful memories.

But, Maud’s lamentations aren’t without logic. They make perfect sense to her. And it’s often revealed to the reader that the characters who support her also do a great job in misinterpreting what she means when she speaks. If only her internal dialogue would voice itself out loud, rather than betray her by remaining silent, which could essentially give others a better understanding of how one of her thoughts leads to another especially to those who dismiss her mind as one that is hopelessly broken.

Her memory of the past is often intricately detailed that the reader may wonder how the true nature of Alzheimer’s actually works. Maud’s recollection of her past without her awareness of it, propels the reality and trauma of it to the forefront of the story, regardless of whether or not her supporting cast is aware of it.

And what reaches the present is a revealing history indeed. One in which the reader is introduced to Maud’s tolerant, yet heartbroken parents, who at the trauma of the sudden disappearance of her older sister, Sukey, overwhelms the dynamic of their relationship to one another.

There is Douglas, their young lodger whose friendship with Sukey rivals Sukey’s passionate and shady husband, Frank. Between the two characters, Maud is young and coy enough at the time to keep a close eye on both of them in relation to her sister’s disappearance during post-war Britain. But, Maud’s recollection, though vividly haunting, shift randomly into questionable half-truths partly because of her perception and adamant personality—partly because of her diminishing memory.

Added to this cast of real characters, is the woman in black, better known as the Mad Woman, whose restless wandering, peeking into windows, and picking at bushes with nothing more than her babbling and black umbrella (according to Maud), is the intriguing and mysterious woman who greatly resembles Maud herself in future tense.

Together these characters spell out for Maud, a traceable line to the traumatic events that haunt her—the disappearance of her sister, Sukey, and her close friend, Elizabeth, for which this novel is named.

The narrative and Maud’s internal dialogue is an enlightening, yet haunting stream of consciousness that rushes out at the trigger of a thought and flows and ebbs as a tide does in returning and leaving its shore, a mental diadem that seduces its reader to not only care about this character and her plight, but to also easily navigate through the story’s clues, much like the scraps of paper Maud must collect for herself as written clues that propagate her next, vital step. The result? Content that is beautiful, endearing, and literary.

The pacing of the novel is perfectly timed, a story that lays down its foundation in the richness of Maud’s narrative and displacement, and then easily moves into a depth that uncovers more truth about Maud’s story surrounding the disappearance of her sister, Sukey, and her close friend, Elizabeth, even while Maud’s own memory dissipates and her condition worsens. It is as if the story must climax and come full-circle as does Maud’s mind needs to completely unravel.

As eloquent as the writing is, it’s the plot that will beguile its readers into misdirection as much as perhaps does Maud’s own memory pathway that diverges into a fringe of intimacy and vividness, yet skepticism. But, by the end of the novel, the mystery of Sukey, of Elizabeth, of each character’s role in the mystery surrounding their absence, will compel readers to applaud Emma Healey’s deft pen and ingenuity.

Elizabeth Is Missing is a masterful elegy to beloved victims, to the fascinating myriad of the mind, and the ruthless power of the gain and loss of autonomy—and memory. This book is absolutely riveting, a novel literary enthusiasts will not want to miss, nor forget.

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Characters: 5 stars

Plot: 5 stars

Language/Narrative: 5 stars

Dialogue: 5 stars

Pacing: 5 stars

Cover Design: 3.5 stars

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Zara’s Rating

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A special thanks to Random House of Canada on behalf of Knopf Canada for providing me with a copy of Elizabeth Is Missing Swimming in exchange for an honest review.

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About the Author:

emma healey***

Emma Healey grew up in London, England, where she completed her first degree in bookbinding (learning how to put books together before learning how to write them), which she followed with an MA in Creative Writing at the University of East Anglia. She now lives in Norwich. Elizabeth Is Missing is her first novel.

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Links:

You can find more information on Emma on her official website.

You can connect with Emma on Twitter.

You can be her fan on Goodreads.

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Do you know someone who is affected with or by Alzheimer’s?

How do you think you would feel if you started to lose your memory?

Is memory a fundamental part of our identity? Without it, do we then lose our identity?

What do you think is the most frightening thing about losing your memory?

If you have not yet read, Elizabeth Is Missing, by Emma Healey, what do do you think happened to Elizabeth?

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Book Review: Summer House with Swimming Pool by Herman Koch

07.07.2014

By Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez / @ZaraAlexis

 summer house with swimming pool***

Category: Literary Fiction

Author: Herman Koch

Format: Hardcover, 394 pages

Publisher: Hogarth

ISBN: 978-0-8041-3881-9

Pub Date: June 3, 2014

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Summary from Publisher:

When a medical procedure goes horribly wrong and famous actor Ralph Meier winds up dead, Dr. Marc Schlosser needs to come up with some answers. After all, reputation is everything in this business. Personally, he’s not exactly upset that Ralph is gone, but as a high-profile doctor to the stars, Marc can’t hide from the truth forever.

It all started the previous summer. Marc, his wife, and their two beautiful teenage daughters agreed to spend a week at the Meier’s extravagant summer home on the Mediterranean. Joined by Ralph and his striking wife Judith, her mother, and film director Stanley Forbes and his much younger girlfriend, the large group settles in for days of sunshine, wine tasting, and trips to the beach. But when a violent incident disrupts the idyll, darker motivations are revealed, and suddenly no one can be trusted. As the ultimate holiday soon turns into a nightmare, the circumstances surrounding Ralph’s later death begin to reveal the disturbing reality behind that summer’s tragedy.

– From Chapters-Indigo website

Book Review by Zara

from The Bibliotaphe Closet:

Summer House with Swimming Pool by Herman Koch is a dark, family drama that centers its story around the events that take place during a hesitant, yet preplanned family vacation between Dr. Marc Schlosser, his striking wife, Caroline, and their two lovely daughters, Julia and Lisa, with newly made friends: a famous actor, Ralph Meier, and his attractive wife, Judith, a successful film director, Stanley Forbes, and his young and pretty girlfriend, Emmanuelle, at the Meier’s summer home on the Mediterranean.

The strength of this novel is largely based on the pessimistic realism voiced in the first-person narrative by its main character, Marc Schlosser, who in his brutal honesty entices the reader into a relationship of interest and trust, as well as infuse the novel with a dark humour and a surprising psychological insight into the thoughts of a general male practitioner in the medical field. While doctors are held accountable by the Hippocratic Oath they take as healthcare professionals, what’s eerily disturbing about the reader’s discovery while delving deeper into the novel is the nature in which Dr. Marc Schlosser’s logic and discernment stems from a complete lack of integrity for the oath which he and other doctors are bound to by ethical and moral standards. While this seems on the surface, uncomfortably funny, the underside of this kind of psychology is quite terrifying. It begs the fearful question posed by vulnerable patients—“Is this what my doctor really thinks about?”

While the novel isn’t as largely character-driven as other books, readers get enough of a glimpse of personality through the book’s plot and dialogue. The characters themselves aren’t nearly as substantial as I would like as a reader, but the dialogue in the book is excellently convincing, which helps to make the book extremely readable.

Characters like Caroline, Marc’s trusting wife, is a camping enthusiast, the obvious worrier between both parents, and deemed the more natural disciplinarian towards their two young daughters, Julia and Lisa. Caroline is also physically attractive, enough to unintentionally claim the voyeuristic attention of the famous actor and new friend, Ralph Meier.

Judith, on the other hand, Ralph’s wife, while seemingly more uptight in the way she believes her household should be run, or how her husband and children should act, is surprisingly more open when it comes to her beliefs on monogamy.

And while Ralph is the most gregarious character in the novel, a man who doesn’t shy away from openly objectifying women, he is sexually confident and open as he is considered naturally extroverted and charming.

Stanley, a well-known film director is overly confident about his influential power and is able to easily woo a young girl nearly 35 years his junior into being his partner. His confidence, too, reveals his tendency for aggression, hypocrisy, and perversion when faced with getting what he desires.

Like most of Koch’s work, his characters usually appear to be quite different than they actually are and reveal themselves to be deeply flawed when faced with serious conflict.

While the plot is not as harsh or as controversial as his previous novel, The Dinner, its internal dialogue reveals a dark and disturbing truth, one that explores the lengths in which someone is willing to go in harming another person in retribution. Koch’s works are compelling in that his plots together with his dialogue and narrative, work together to provoke his readers into shock, even repulsion at the lack of at least one of his character’s empathy and ethical compass.

And while readers may tend to judge one character over another, in Koch’s work, the true culprit is usually the one readers believe to be the least guilty.

And what is most surprising about the plot is the cause of one of the character’s call to violence when readers may be led to believe the source to be quite different. This is what makes this novel not only readable, but interesting.

But, the novel does not only question the ethical motives of its characters, it also in its intelligent way, undermines the presumptions of its readers and poses even broader questions:

  • What is worse—the doctor with a poor bedside manner, but ethical standards who cares deeply about the welfare of his/her patients?
  • Or the doctor who is superficially social and understanding, yet a hypocrite, and could care less about the health and care of his/her patients?
  • Who is worse—the man who openly and lustfully looks at a woman and/or a number of different women, or the man who commits adultery?
  • Who’s more at fault when a sexual conflict arises? The sexual predator or the seducer?
  • Who is worse—the rapist or the murderer?
  • What are the boundaries of family? Friendship? Forgiveness? Revenge?

Summer House with Swimming Pool is a book that exemplifies how the judgement of another can be made far worse when a sobering look at oneself is dismissed entirely, and how a bad and misinformed attitude can only lead to even worse choices—ones that can undoubtedly, if unchecked, bring about the most harm.

This book at most is a testimony to passion running amuck and pride racing itself to dangerous power, one that escalates into violence and deception—a vacation most parties would rather blot out of their itinerary altogether.

Its dark humour will bring you at odds with your own presumptions. The calculated, immoral precision of one of its characters will terrify you—and may warn you against the danger of how taking one small step in the wrong direction can lead you quite quickly into a number of steps that delve you right into the quicksand of immorality.

And unfortunately, there is no such doctor, nor prescription that can save anyone that suffers that affliction. At least, not in this novel anyway.

As for me, I’m best reminded to mind who I decide to become friends with, which vacation I should or should not plan nor participate in—and when visiting my family physician for a serious ailment, ensure I’m wise enough to get a second opinion.

 

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Characters: 3.5 stars

Plot: 3.5 stars

Language/Narrative: 4 stars

Dialogue: 4 stars

Pacing: 3.5 stars

Cover Design: 3.5 stars

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Zara’s Rating

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A special thanks to Random House of Canada on behalf of Hogarth for providing me with a copy of Summer House with Swimming Pool  in exchange for an honest review.

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About the Author:

From: http://sprakeloosverhalen.wordpress.com/2011/02/23/het-diner-herman-koch/
From: http://sprakeloosverhalen.wordpress.com/2011/02/23/het-diner-herman-koch/

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Herman Koch is the author of eight novels and three collections of short stories. The Dinner, his sixth novel, has been published in 25 countries and was an international bestseller. He currently lives in Amsterdam.

– From bio found in novel.

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Links:

You can learn more about Herman Koch on Wikipedia.

You can become Herman Koch’s fan on Goodreads.

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Have you read any of Herman Koch’s novels? If so, what do you enjoy the most about them?

How wise is it, do you think, a family should go on vacation with newly made friends?

Do you ever wonder what your own family physician really thinks when you visit him or her?

How far do you think people should go in protecting their family?

Is revenge ever the right answer? If so, when? And who decides?

Answer one of the questions I provided in my review.

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Eureka! TD Summer Reading Club 2014

07.03.2014

By Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez / @ZaraAlexis

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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zara cat stamp

Happy Birthday Canada—and Michael!

07.01.2014

By Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez / @ZaraAlexis

The first of July is always a special day for our family, not only as proud Canadians, but as grateful parents.

Ten years ago to the day, I had my own set of fireworks—in labour. My son was born at 6:18 p.m. at 25 weeks and fought to survive at a mere 1 lb. and 8 oz. It was for him, a full three months in hospital, full intubation, and a number of life-threatening close calls.

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

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For the first four years of his young and fragile life, he suffered chronic lung disease, battling an incessant case of severe asthma attacks, having to visit our local hospital with a worrying amount of frequency and unfortunate familiarity. He had at his disposal a number of neonatologists and specialists interested in his care, a miracle baby who could provide statistics and current results to their medical and neonatalogical studies.

Ten years later, while the frequency in which he visits the hospital has largely decreased, colds and influenza still pose a threat as a main trigger to my son’s asthma.

Yet, he’s thrived as a young boy and we’re grateful that he’s reached this important milestone.

He’s a recent graduate from Grade 4; a thoughtful, creative, and active boy; one who loves to read books everyday; one who cares enough about the environment to help protect and care for it by actively reminding others to recycle products or participate in conserving energy; an obedient boy, but a talkative and extremely social one, too; one who loves to greet people he sees in passing, or to make new friends he meets at the park.

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

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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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Aside from loving to ride his bicycle, or playing with his younger sister outside, he’s obsessed with collecting LEGO minifigures and creating LEGO structures inspired by his active imagination.

(c) Michael's LEGO creation. Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.
(c) Michael’s LEGO creation. Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.

It’s with great pride and gratefulness that we wish our son, our miracle baby, a very happy 10th birthday—one he shares with Canada every year!

Michael's 10th Birthday cake. (c) Photo by Esly R. Alvarez. All rights reserved.
Michael’s 10th Birthday cake. (c) Photo by Esly R. Alvarez. All rights reserved.

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(c) Photo and collage by Zar Deenas. All rights reserved.
(c) Photo and collage by Zar Deenas. All rights reserved.

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 Do you know anyone who was born at high risk and extremely premature?

Are you Canadian? How did you celebrate Canada Day on July 1st?

If you are Canadian, what do you love most about being Canadian?

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zara cat stamp

 

 

 

Stuffing the Bibliotaphe Closet

06.23.2014

By Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez / @ZaraAlexis

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

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

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

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

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

Books for Review:

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

The Quick by Lauren Owen

quick***

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

A Girl Is a Half-Formed Thing by Eimear McBride

a girl is a half-formed thing***

Books I (Busted My Wallet Out For) Bought:

Plain Truth by Jodi Picoult

plain truth***

My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult

my sister's keeper***

Waking the Dead by John Eldridge

waking the dead***

The Salesman by Joseph O’Connor

salesman***

Who By Fire by Diana Spechler

who by fire***

Astrid & Veronicka by Linda Olsson

astrid and veronicka***

The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers

heart is a lonely hunter***

The City of Falling Angels by John Berendt

city of falling angels***

At the Full and Change of the Moon by Dionne Brand

at the full and change of the moon

Open City by Teju Cole

open city***

Mr g by Alan Lightman

mr g***

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

secret book of frida kahlo***

The Fecund’s Melancholy Daughter by Brent Hayward

fecund's melancholy daughter***

Entice by Jessica Shirvington

entice***

Children of the Jacaranda Tree by Sahar Delijani

children of the jacaranda tree***

Books I Won:

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

The Truth About the Harry Quebert Affair by Joel Dicker

truth about the harry quebert affair***

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

What does your Summer TBR book list look like?

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

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zara cat stamp

Waiting on Wednesday

06.18.2014

By Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez / @ZaraAlexis

Week of June 23, 2014

The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert

signature of all things***

Fairy Tales from Around the World by Andrew Lang

fairy tales from around the world***

Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng

everything i never told you***

Week of July 7. 2014

Four: A Divergent Collection by Veronical Roth

four***

Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands by Chris Bohjalian

close your eyes hold hands***

Week of July 14, 2014

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

book of life***

The Bone Orchard by Paul Doiron

bone orchard***

The Valley of Amazement by Amy Tan

valley of amazement***

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

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

What’s on your Beach Bag TBR List?

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zara cat stamp