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Dog Days of Summer Reading Blog will be back in June 2018. Please check back and read with  me!


Dog Days of Summer Turns to the Harvest Moon of  Autumn

In my part of the world, it seems like a curtain is drawn every Labour Day weekend. On one side is the all too short string of summer days, while on the other is the inevitable time of darkness, snow, and cold.
First will come autumn, though, a season which I love. There are fall days where the sky is a breathtaking brilliant blue, especially when juxtaposed against the lacy framework of saffron, ochre, amber, and pumpkin hued leaves. The freshness of the air puts a march into your step, while leaves crunch underfoot, scuttle with a faint scraping sound on the sidewalk, and the wind blows them about overhead like confetti.
Here, the air is very dry; yet fall feels juicy to me. Put your nose up against a plum or a peach at this time of year and you can inhale the scent of ripeness. Fall’s like that: before the withering is the harvest, the abundance, ripeness that matures and mellows. If winter is darkness, then autumn is the evening, a magic time when the light is in-between, not quite one thing or the other. It’s this feeling of the ‘what if?’, or the excitement of the possibilities that stirs and motivates me. (And then, naturally, in winter I hibernate!)
Autumn is full of good, juicy reading like War and Peace, or A Fine Balance, or A Tale of Two Cities, perhaps Middlemarch. It’s the season to introduce hygge and sink into a deep story or two.
I took a little hiatus from blogging in August and enjoyed a few days at the lake. Fires were still burning out of control in the mountains around us, and smoke hung over the valleys, obscuring the distant views of the Kootenay range. I dipped into a memoir, Only In Spain, and then sauntered through Sense and Sensibility, by Joanna Trollope, a re-telling of the Jane Austen novel. 
Trollope’s novel is fun, while also being a comment on modern manners and sensibilities (and insensitivities). While I read, I constantly pictured Kate Winslet and Emma Thompson delivering the dialogue, a casualty I guess of my having watched the movie version a million times. And having read the Jane Austen original more times than I can count, you might suppose that the plot would have bored me. But Trollope, a personal long-time favourite author, skillfully draws out the new dimension to the characters. While they are recognizably based on those in the Austen, they live, interact, and react in a modern world. Robert Ferrars, for example, appears overly concerned with fashion and society in Austen’s book; in Trollope’s era, his sexuality isn’t disguised from the reader. In fact, Trollope calls his wife, Lucy, his ‘beard’. And, where in the Austen novel, ‘social media’ was, in fact, all those country dances and balls, in Trollope’s version everyone texts and posts on Facebook. (No need to have your sister tighten  your corset, or have the maid singe your hair with heated tongs: no need to get dressed at all, since no-one can see you sending a message in your jammies and with your bedhead.)
My other beach read was a travel guide to Greece, and it felt like the perfect complement to sun and sand. Of course, I could feel the heat of the sun on my skin, and the cadence of the waves on the shore, so it wasn’t a stretch to look at the luscious photos of Santorini and make the imaginative leap. Beyond the gorgeous scenery, though, it was thoroughly interesting dipping into the text here and there, and learning about the history and the fabric of Greek society.
Inspired, I have picked up Frances Mayes’ A Year In the World for another read. Some books offer up new facets of themselves with every reading, and I think this is one of them. I’m early on, just starting the section on their travels through Andalusia, but reading this book is like opening up a little treasure chest of satisfaction and delight: so beautiful!
With this, I wrap up the Dog Days of Summer Book Club for this year. I hope you will join me again next year to contemplate our summer book selections. In the meantime, I’ll be blogging on my website, so please check my home page for new musings and writing. 
Tell me your recommendations for big, juicy, fall reading, and may you have an inspiring, creative, and colourful fall!

Into the (smokey) dog days and daydreams of  beaches

When you’re a kid, summer seems to stretch on forever, one languorous day following the other. Looking back, I was luckier than many of my classmates, since my family had a cottage at one of the nicest beaches on Lake Huron. 
The beach at Amberley was always sandy; I don’t remember ever having to pick my way over rocks and stones or wade through weeds when swimming.
Long, hot, humid days were followed by warm nights falling asleep listening to the waves crash on the beach, then the swishing sound as the water pulled back out from shore. 
As I get older, summer seems to speed up. The days are packed with details, errands, tasks, things to get done. Instead of the lullaby of the waves, I fall asleep with a to-do list for the next day clamoring in my head, “don’t forget! Better write this down, you’ll forget!”
Luckily, I have a couple of antidotes when my mind gets overactive, reading being one of them. I picked up Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly and A Dip in the Ocean: Rowing Solo Across the Indian Ocean by Sarah Outen, and The Rough Guide to Greece.
The Rough Guide was a little bit of a whim,  but I’ve become obsessed reading about the best places to eat in Santorini, and where to find the best beaches on Crete.
 I can hardly put it down and a plan is forming for next summer: the hypnotic rhythm of the ocean waves, long stretches of white sandy beaches dotted with colourful sun umbrellas, that unbelievable mediterranean blue…
As I’m writing this, a storm system from the southwest pushed in a shocking amount of smoke from the forest fires that are devastating British Columbia. I’m headed that way for a few days later this week and I can’t help but feel concerned about how people have been living in that smoke for these past few months. I
don’t know what to expect; the plan was to enjoy the beach in Invermere. I’ve packed a new book to take along, a memoir about taking up flamenco in Spain. I’ll pack the Rough Guide to Greece, too.
Fires are wreaking destruction in parts of Greece, France, and Spain, too. I found the photo above on the internet (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/picturegalleries/worldnews/9488070/Forest-fires-in-Greece-Spain-and-France.html)
We're into the dog days of summer, and perhaps this will turn into a staycation right here at our own lakeshore, but I’ve got a good stack of books as an antidote - or bonus! - to whatever this week brings.




A Map for the Armchair  Traveller

This afternoon I laced up my flamenco shoes and challenged myself to do some fandango footwork on the little practise floor in my basement. Doing the rythm in triple time was really difficult, but I stuck with it until it felt smooth and in time with the music. I knew if I didn't discipline myself to work past the burn I felt in my legs that I would regret giving up.

Not so with the book I started last weekend.

Although I remember being captivated by Madeleine L'Engle's A Wrinkle In Time, I was disappointed with The Other Side of the Sun. After about a hundred pages, I set it aside, because although I think there's virtue in completing most things, I never make myself finish a book once I lose interest. There's millions of books, and life is short - I'll never get to them all in my lifetime, so it's my firm practise to NOT feel obligated to stick with a book for the sake of saying I read it to the end.

I have never been a fan of the American Gothic, or Flannery O'Connor and the dark southern noir genre. With the themes of racism and disenfranchisement, you would think this book would appeal to me, considering my reading selections so far this summer.

No-one needs me to say what a great writer L'Engle was, but what didn't I like? The characters were constantly running out of the scene, after delivering mysterious, cryptic references which frustrated me after a while. "Oh gosh, here comes Ron again, and he'll be all moody or hostile and then ride off into the stormy night on his horse" (yes, he really does ride in and out of scenes on his trusty steed, Thale!); and then the protagonist will get accosted and assaulted by a crazy voodoo queen, but then return back to the mansion and explain her 'scratches' from having a run-in with the pet kitten. Yikes! I can only suspend my disbelief so far, and for so long...and then, THUNK (book hitting the floor).

Actually, no violence was enacted by me, ever, on a book. I promise. Instead, I hit the 'return now' button on the Hoopla app on my IPad. (And that reminds me how grateful I am for technology and the Parkland Library system that I'm able to download books so easily for the cost of a yearly membership.)

Now I've taken up The Yellow Envelope: One Gift, Three Rules, and a Life-changing Journey Around the World. What are you reading right now? Are you an armchair traveller like me, and what would you recommend for a fussy (although I prefer to think of myself as discerning) reader?



If you don't read that...read  this!

Earlier this week, I started a novel by Madeleine L'Engle. I remember liking a Wrinkle In Time, but I coldn't finish The Other Side of the Sun. Instead, I kept putting it down and restlessly looking for something else to immerse myself in. I guess I'm just not one of those readers who wants to read a few pages in the evening to help them drift off to sleep. No, I don't choose my books as an antidote to sleeplessness, and I certainly don't judge anyone who does. Books can be a wonderful elixir for whatever ails you! Like coffee, wine, and chocolate, I'm fussy about the books I ingest. Hopefully, not a snob, just particular about the purpose. 

Browsing my shelf with the idea I might revisit a favourite, I found a couple of recommendations for you:

A Year in the World by Frances Mayes (of Under The Tuscan Sun fame, Mayes is a poet and her writing is lovely), and Dreaming in Hindi by Katherine Russell Rich. 

Sweet dreams and happy armchair travelling!