Extend Your Summer with These Dundurn Books.

It doesn’t matter how long removed I am from returning to school, when Labour Day comes, in my mind, it signals summer is over. And I am never ready for it.

This month I am inspired to stay in Canada and visit Toronto and the remote backwoods of Alberta, where, funnily enough, we experience winter through an Arizona woman’s eyes.

Back of a man wearing a grey suit walking into a foggy siloutette.

The God Game offers a closer look at Toronto.

The God Game, A Dan Sharp Mystery

In Jeffrey Round‘s fabulous book The God Game ($16.99, Dundurn), we see Toronto through the eyes of Dan Sharp, a longtime Torontonian and private investigator hired to search for the husband of a Queen’s Park aide who runs off to escape his gambling debts. Through it, we learn more about Canada’s political system at all three levels of leadership including the former crack-smoking mayor to its terrifying former prime minister.

Beyond politics, we see parts of Toronto people may not see beyond its typical tourist destinations, although the CN Tower does get a mention:

“The CN Tower was the single most prominent building on the city’s horizon, rising 553 metres above abandoned railway land, yet its actual whereabouts remained shrouded in mystery. Getting there was like finding the end of the rainbow. But it wasn’t North America’s tallest phallic symbol Dan had come to visit. Rather, it was an aluminum-clad labyrinth of aquatic showcases he was headed for” (Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada).

We also find lesser know places within in the pages of this mystery including Queen’s Park, where the effigy of Queen Victoria, along with more than a dozen other famous people reside; the changing neighbourhood of Rosedale; the Confederation Life Building “a marvel of two-tone red sandstone and Romanesque Revival, one of the city’s remaining treasures after the great fire of 1914”; the Don River “the divide between the east and the west”; and even a restaurant recommendation: “Vesta Lunch had been open on the corner of Bathurst and Dupont, night and day, for as long as Dan had lived in Toronto. It never closed and never seemed to change. Not the servers, not the clientele, not the menu. As greasy spoons went, it was one of the best.”

Round also nails Toronto traffic: “Don got in his car and headed to Little Portugal…Long gone were the days when a cross-town trip lasted 15 minutes. Now a simple journey to the grocery store took nearly that long, and all major outings had to be planned well in advance.”

Silhouette of a mother and a child walking into beautiful orange sunset.

Wildwood shows the beauty of Canada, and Alberta specifically, through the eyes of an American.


From the moment Molly Bannister arrives from Arizona to the backwoods of northern Alberta with her four-year-old daughter, Bridget, Wildwood author Elinor Florence ($19.99, Dundurn) inspires me to travel to this beautiful part of our world and attempt living off the grid for a year.

Because that is the condition Molly’s great-aunt left in her will – in order to receive her inheritance, Molly must live in the abandoned farmhouse for that period of time. Molly teaches herself basic homesteading skills while battling the “brutal wilderness itself, from blizzards to grizzly bears.”

There is so much beauty in this book. The author did a fabulous job of letting us see that beauty in a new way – through the eyes of a person who was born and raised near the desert.

“I admired the overarching sky. It was deeper shade of blue than in the desert and looked as solid as marble. A chest-high field of emerald grain stood on both sides of the trail. The air was thick with the yeasty scent of ripening wheat. Occasionally an unfamiliar sweet fragrance rose from a cluster of wildflowers. When we crested the rise, I saw a stand of trees that formed rough rectangle, floating like a dark-green island in a lighter-green sea, backed by a solid wall of forest to the north.”

Wildwood is the name of the homestead Molly is attempting to live on for the year. Part of it is farmed, but bordering are some woods, that Bridget gets lost in, as well as a creek: “The sun still glowed behind the horizon, as if reluctant to leave. I could still see the lazy curve of the creek, the water reflecting the fading light like liquid gold.”

Molly helped me be excited about winter.

“It was snowing – not the few flakes that drifted down earlier in the month, but a heavy fall like lace curtains. We sat in front of the bay window all morning, watching as if hypnotized. The snow silently transformed the bleak landscape, covering each blade of grass, weighing down the naked branches, topping the stumps with white cones…The next morning we looked out at a world that was supernaturally bright. The sun was shining, but the sky was cold and hard as blue diamonds, and the snow had transformed the panorama outside into a dazzling fairyland.”

Winter was harsh for Molly and she likely experienced what even the most die-hard Canadians do – too much winter and the desire to pack it all in and go somewhere hot and tropical. But then: “I heard an unfamiliar sound, and strained my ears. It was the trickle of running water…I rose and pulled (the curtains) aside, expecting to see the usual frozen desolation. Instead, the landscape looked blurry. There was a sheet of water rippling down the panes. Water.”

And just like that winter was over and spring came again to Wildwood: “The naked poplars dressed themselves in pale-green gowns and sticky buds appeared on every twig. The breeze carried the scent of resin from the Green Forest, which was turning greener by the day. ‘Mama, even your hair smells like spring.’”

“Energy rose out of the earth and through the soles of our feet. We had been surrounded by death and now we were embraced with bursting new life.”

A copy of these books was provided by Dundurn for an honest review.
The opinions are my own.

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