My May Reads


The irises are in full bloom, the Rhodos are putting on a show, and the peony buds are swollen and poised to open. Spring took its time getting here, but then it seemed to arrive almost overnight, bringing hotter-than-normal temperatures and a rush of garden-related tasks. Everything seemed to sprout at once, including the weeds. I’ve been busy pulling them out (not all of them; I love to harvest nettles for tea), spreading five yards of fish compost and getting all the seedlings into the ground. Luckily, I can work in the garden after dinner these days. Or at least I can until the mosquitos come out (they seemed to arrive overnight too!), but by the time they show up, I’m ready to come inside and pick up a good book. Here’s what I’m reading this month.  

All Signs Point to Paris by Natasha Sizlo

The Dog I Loved by Susan Wilson

He Said/She Said by Erin Kelly

Number of Books I’ve Read in 2023: 29

My April Reads

Spring is flirting with us this year. Today, as I write this, it’s cool and drizzly. Last week we had hail! This week, I’m only now harvesting wild nettles to eat fresh and to dry for tea, something I normally do in mid to late March. And here it is virtually the end of April. However, the forecasters are calling for a warming trend, so by the time you read this, I could be heading to the garden and leaving my books behind. In the meantime, though, here’s what I’m currently reading.

The Man Who Came and Went by Joe Stillman

Moon Gardening by Matt Jackson

The Great Reclamation by Rachel Heng

Books read to date in 2023: 24

Canada Reads 2023


Canada Reads, organized and broadcast by the CBC, is an annual ‘battle of the books’ competition that’s been running since 2002. During the multi day event, five personalities champion five different books based on a theme chosen for the year and the debate is broadcast over a series of five programs. At the end of each episode, the panellists vote one title out of the competition until only the winning book remains.  

This year’s theme was ‘one book to shift your perspective.’ And the winning book, announced this year on March 30th, set a precedent. For the first time ever, a graphic novel was declared the winner. ‘Ducks: Two Years in the Oil Sands’ by Kate Beaton was declared the book that all of Canada should read.

In putting forth her pick, Jeopardy! champion Mattea Roach said everyone is implicated in the story Ducks tells. “Ducks is one woman’s story, but it’s the story of an industry we all rely on in some way,” Roach said during the Canada Reads finale. “Whether we’re people living in Alberta who go to work in the sands . . . whether we’re people that live in central Canada who benefit from the wealth this industry creates, we are all implicated.”

Along with taking the 2023 win for Canada Reads, Ducks was also named a top Canadian comic by CBC Books in 2022, and it was one of two Canadian books on Barack Obama’s list of favourite books for that year too.

Congratulations to Kate Beaton!

My March Reads

Spring officially arrived earlier this week, and after an unusually cold February, there are hints of warmth in the air. The daffodils are blooming, we’re starting to see more sunshine, and my seeding flats are prepped and ready to go. I even spent time last weekend at a yoga solstice retreat . . . trying to break myself free of hibernation mode. It worked. Sort of. I’m still enjoying quiet stretches curled up with a good book and a cup of tea. Soon, though, the garden will demand more of my free time. Meanwhile, here’s what I’m reading this month.  

What a Dog Knows by Susan Wilson

How to be Sad; Everything I’ve Learned About Getting Happier by Being Sad by Helen Russell

Dear Writer, You’re Doing it Wrong by Becca Syme

Books read to date in 2023: 18

Happy International Women’s Day


My mind is on power, my home electrical power and also the power of women. Here at home, we’re losing our power at breakfast on March 8th and we won’t  have it back until dinner (our local hydro authority has to replace a pole).  At the same time, March 8th is also International Women’s Day, a time to celebrate and honor powerful women. And what better way to do that than by reading a book written by or featuring powerful women? There are so many, though, that it’s hard to choose. So, rather than listing out just a few titles, I’m listing out a few links to give you more choice.

The titles selected by Off the Shelf highlight themes of resilience, friendship and family:

Over at Tolstoy Therapy, the titles are chosen to inspire courage:

And last but definitely not least, the Vancouver Public Library has curated a list of books (fiction and non-fiction) that address the issues of women’s rights from past to present:

Happy International Women’s Day!

It’s Going to the Dogs


Today, February 22, is National Walk the Dog Day. Our Luna doesn’t always chomp at the leash to head outside – she’s slowed down quite a bit the last little while – but we still take her for a morning walk every day. Or an early morning stroll, if I’m being honest. It’s one of my favourite things to do. It gives me a chance to connect with nature . . . with the other dogs who live around me (and with their humans!) . . .  and it deepens my connection with my sweet girl too. On a more pragmatic note, walking almost always shifts something in my mental hard drive, giving me a fresh perspective on life or on my current work in progress. Knowing I was coming home to write a blog on dog walking this morning, I began thinking about dogs in literature. There are many!

Lassie in Lassie Come-Home, written by Eric Knight, was the first to come to mind. Then Toto in The Wizard of Oz. by L. Frank Baum. And Clifford, The Big Red Dog by Norman Bridwell. Buck in Jack London’s Call of the Wild and Nana in Peter Pan. More recently, young readers bonded with Winn-Dixie in Kate DiCamillo’s Because of Winn-Dixie and Brodie in Dan Gemeinhart’s Good Dog.

I have a couple of dog-centric books on request from the library. One of them, London’s Number One Dog-Walking Agency – a Memoir by Kate MacDougall, seems fitting for this week’s theme. I’m looking forward to reading it. I’m also looking forward to What the Dog Knows, a juvenile novel by Canadian author Sylvia McNicoll that came out late last year.

Who’s your favorite dog in literature? Or in life?

My February Reads

The snowdrops are in bloom, and the daffodil foliage has started to break ground. It feels too soon! The days are still cold and wet, darkness still comes early, and I’m still very much in winter hibernation mode, enjoying mugs of steaming tea, woolly socks and books. Lots and lots of books. Here’s what I’m reading this month.  

Wrong Place, Wrong Time by Gillian McAllister

Driving Over Lemons: An Optimist in Andalucia by Chris Stewart

The Hotel Nantucket by Elin Hilderbrand

Books read to date in 2023:  12

My January Reads

 The volume of my reading last year was on the low end of average. I read about 85 books, slightly lower than my usual two books a week. I’m aiming to boost that number in 2023 but we’ll see. I want to increase my writing output, I have an overhaul in mind for a section of the garden, and I have plans to study and travel this year too. So many opportunities . . . and so many books to read! In fact, six of the books I’d requested from the library arrived all at once last week, so the year is off to a good start that way. Here’s what I’m reading this month:

Bruno, Chief of Police by Martin Walker

Mastering the Art of French Eating: Lessons in Food & Love From a Year in Paris by Ann Mah

Sensitive is the New Strong by Anita Moorjani

Books read to date in 2023: 4



“Plants and animals don’t fight the winter; they don’t pretend it’s not happening and attempt to carry on living the same lives that they lived in the summer. They prepare. They adapt. They perform extraordinary acts of metamorphosis to get them through.

Winter is a time of withdrawing from the world, maximizing scant resources, carrying out acts of brutal efficiency and vanishing from sight, but that’s where the transformation occurs.

Winter is not the death of the life cycle, but its crucible.”

Katherine May

Last weekend, I went on a yoga retreat, one focused on honouring Winter Solstice. The women running the event decided to hold the retreat in January even though Winter Solstice is the third week in December. Their reasoning? December is an extremely busy month, and early January felt more appropriate somehow. My busyness lasted well into January, so retreating at the end of that first week was the perfect fit for me.

The day was about letting go, slowing down and getting still, something that doesn’t always come easily to many of us. Katherine May talks about this in her book, Wintering: The Power of Rest and Retreat in Difficult Times. While I’ve only just started reading it, the book encourages us to find joy in the quiet of winter and accept life as cyclical, not linear. She writes: In winter, I want concepts to chew over in a pool of lamplight – slow, spiritual reading, a reinforcement of the soul. Winter is a time for libraries, for the muffled quiet of book stacks, and for the scent of old pages and dust.

I’m not so sure about old pages and dust, but the idea of slow, spiritual reading and libraries definitely resonates. As I write this, the wind is howling and the rain is lashing at the skylight; it’s a day to curl up inside. Writers – probably most artists when I think about it – are comfortable with solitude. I certainly am; I need it to do my work. For the last six months or so, though, I’ve been out in the world far more than usual, and it upended my natural rhythm and definitely negatively impacted my writing. So, for me, ‘wintering,’ pulling the metaphorical shades and getting back in touch with the cyclical nature of life and of my creative muse, feels appropriate.

Not everyone likes winter; I realize that. For those of you who find this season difficult, I leave you with this quote from John Geddes:

Buy a Book, Any Book


In December, over the last few years, I’ve recommended book titles on my blog to help people choose gifts. Because I love books – I love giving and receiving them – I always look forward to compiling the blog posts. This year, though, time and life conspired against me. My blog has been sorely neglected over the last few weeks. And here it is, December 14th, and my to-do list is longer than my arm.   

So, my only recommendation this year is to gift someone a book they will love reading.  And that might mean putting your own biases aside.

I mentioned before that I’ve been working part-time at a bookstore. Over the last little while, customers have been buying books for gift-giving, and they sometimes ask for help. One of the first questions I generally ask is, ‘what does your recipient normally like to read?’ If that question doesn’t yield ideas, my follow-up is, ‘what are their interests? What are they passionate about?’ Sometimes that gives us something to go on. But not always. Sometimes the customer has an agenda of what they want to give. A classic or a mystery because they themselves love them. A work of historical fiction or the latest award winner because they deem them worthy of time and attention. One woman wanted to buy her grandchildren a ‘serious work of non-fiction to stimulate their minds.’ I wish I were kidding.

It reminds me a little of when my kids were growing up and reading widely. We were reprimanded on more than one occasion by teachers for ‘allowing’ our kids to read what the teachers deemed as fluff (Our daughter loved a genre fiction series and our son learned to read with graphic novels). Our decision to let our kids find their own reading path stemmed from my belief that instilling a love of reading meant letting the reader choose – even if that meant they sometimes read genre fiction – and my husband’s experience as a kid of being given a classic every Christmas and concluding that he didn’t like books. That’s no slag against classics whatsoever, but they didn’t engage him, and it wasn’t until he was a teen and discovered science fiction that he realized he liked books. He’s an avid reader today, and so are our kids. They read all over the place – fiction and non-fiction, genre and literary. They read what grabs them at that moment because they love the places books take them.

Books are, as Stephen King said, a uniquely portable bit of magic. Sometimes we need to remind ourselves that we all see magic a little differently. And that’s more than okay!