Dog Days of Summer and the Week Ahead in Reviews

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Canis Major Dog StarHere it is mid – August and the Dog Days of  Summer are almost over.  I know many of you have heard the term but do you really know where it came from?  I know that some of you are looking at your four pawed companions panting away the summer heat beside you, whether on shared walks or just sitting together in the backyard. One look at how the heat is affecting them, and I am sure you think “ah, dog days indeed.” But to understand where the term Dog Days of Summer, you must look to the sky.  The night sky that is and the Dog Star, Sirius, the brightest star above (no, we are not talking about the Sun right now).

Osiris

The Egyptians called Sirius the dog star after their god Osirus, whose head in pictograms resembled that of a dog.  In Egypt, and in ancient Rome, Sirius was in conjunction with the Sun in the summer (ie. it was up in the sky at the same time as the Sun) and ancient Egyptians and Romans argued that it was responsible for the summer heat by adding its heat to the heat from the Sun. Those in ancient times called the period of time from 20 days before to 20 days after the conjunction “the dog days of summer” because it coincidentally fell at the time of year when it was very hot.

The Dog Days of Summer start around July 7th ( I have also seen July 3rd at the start date as well) and runs until August 18th, normally the time in the Northern Hemisphere when it is the hottest.  It is the time we head for the beach, the air-conditioning, anywhere but the office.  It is also a great time to catch up on your reading and make headway on your “to be read” pile. Here are some books and one great series (Wicked’s Way by Haven Fellows) that you will want to add to the list.

Monday, Augusts 12, 2013:                   Nischal by Bailey Bradford

Tuesday, August 13, 2013:                     Wicked Incarceration by Haven Fellows

Wed., August 14, 2013:                           Wicked Guidance by Haven Fellows

Thursday, August 15, 2013                   Guest Blog by Haven Fellows

Friday, August 16, 2013                          Fall For Me by Ann Lister

Saturday, August 17, 2013:                   Home Sweet Home by TA Chase

Sirius

I will leave you all with two quotes about the dog days of summer.  Both perfection in tone and ability to paint a portrait of this time of year.

“Sophia and Grandmother sat down by the shore to discuss the matter further. It was a pretty day, and the sea was running a long, windless swell. It was on days just like this–dog days–that boats went sailing off all by themselves. Large, alien objects made their way in from sea, certain things sank and others rose, milk soured, and dragonflies danced in desperation. Lizards were not afraid. When the moon came up, red spiders mated on uninhabited skerries, where the rock became an unbroken carpet of tiny, ecstatic spiders.”
― Tove Jansson, The Summer Book

“The first week of August hangs at the very top of the summer, the top of the live-long year, like the highest seat of a Ferris wheel when it pauses in its turning. The weeks that come before are only a climb from balmy spring, and those that follow a drop to the chill of autumn, but the first week of August is motionless, and hot. It is curiously silent, too, with blank white dawns and glaring noons, and sunsets smeared with too much color. Often at night there is lightning, but it quivers all alone. There is no thunder, no relieving rain. These are strange and breathless days, the dog days, when people are led to do things they are sure to be sorry for after.”
― Natalie Babbitt, Tuck Everlasting

Review of Isaiah (Leopards Spots #4) by Bailey Bradford

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Rating: 4.25 stars

Snow Leopard shifter Isaiah Trujillo has always felt like the dumb brother of his family.  He isn’t smart like his brother Timothy, the PhD investigating shifter history and genetics.  Isaiah never wanted more than to be a good mechanic, own his own business and be happy.  And maybe, just maybe find a mate of his own, like his brother and cousins have. When a customer mentions he volunteers at a GLBT youth center that could use Isaiah’s help, Isaiah volunteers and changes his life forever.  At the volunteer dinner, he meets Dr. Bae Allen Warren, a mobile veterinarian and fellow cat shifter.  Bae is an Amur Leopard shifter and Isaiah’s mate. But Bae runs from Isaiah at first sight.  Confused and hurt Isaiah chases after his mate only to learn that Bae carries with him a truckload of trouble.

Dr. Bae Allen Warren comes from a lepe or clan almost cultlike in its actions and outlook.  Amur Leopards are becoming extinct, both as animals and shifters.  Bae’s lepe has kept its shifters isolated to keep their bloodline pure, demanding that each contributes by mating with as many other clan members as possible to produce offspring. These children are promptly sent off to other lepes to live in hopes they enlarge the gene pool. No one has ever questioned their leader or the manner in which the lepe live their lives until Bae brings home his mate, Isaiah.  Bae is gay and has refused to mate with the females of his or any other clan. That is the only reason his father has allowed him the freedom of an outside education and life. Isaiah changes Bae’s perspective on his clans lifestyle to his father’s disapproval and threats by his grandfather, the lepe’s leader. Even as Bae finds Isaiah, his mate, the lepe closes in around them, threatening their bond and their future together.

Isaiah (Leopard’s Spots #4) is the best of the series so far.  Bradford introduced the idea of a spiritual connection between animal and human in the last book, Timothy, that I felt was jarring at the time.  But clearly this idea or story thread is becoming a major theme for the series.  Isaiah is a spiritual man, good and decent.  Only he feels insecure when he puts himself next to his brother’s achievements, never seeing himself as others do.  Bae is a shifter forced to fight for his right to live his own life, while feeling the guilt and pressure brought on by his father and clan.  Both shifters bring to each other a shift in perspective that each desperately needs, along with the message of accepting who you are.

Bradford also brings back the focus on endangered cat species by including Amur Leopards also known as Korean Leopards.  Look them up, they are stunning in their beauty. Snow Leopards remain a center species and the author brings in a hybrid species known as pumapards, which actually existed earlier in the century.  Bradford has clearly done her homework on big cat species and wildlife conservation. Timothy and Otto from the 3rd book are back to help Isaiah and his mate, Bae,  with several of the mysteries running throughout the series.  One is the low shifter population within species as birthrates are at an all time low.  Is it due to inbreeding, like Bae’s lepe?  The fact that none of the isolated clans are finding their mates?  Or something more ominous, that their animal/spiritual side must be nurtured, treasured or they will lose their animal part of themselves, remaining forever damaged.  Bradford obviously has a plan with her series that is just now becoming clearer with each new book.

I loved the characters here.  I find Isaiah and Bae to be the most captivating of the group so far.  And Isaiah with his spirituality and humble outlook charmed me immediately.  I really like where Bradford is taking this series which leads me to my main quibble all around.  These stories are way too short for the goals Bradford is trying to accomplish with each book.  That was my problem with Timothy, which I will now have to reconsider given this story.  She set out so many new plot lines in Timothy (Leopard’s Spots #3) that the main story suffered under the lack of space for its development.  Here she comes close to doing it again but still pulls off her agenda.  If these books would be enlarged even a little, I think the series would benefit as new ideas could be more richly explored.

Another thing about the series is the huge amounts of sex contained within.  I find that realistic as the sexual activity helps in the bonding and if you have ever heard the neighborhood cats yowling during their nocturnal activities, well, let’s just say Bradford has that right too.  There is one section concerning the pumapards that is left completely unsettled here but I suspect that a future book will find that resolved.  At any rate, I am onto the next in the series, Gilbert (Leopard’s Spots #5) with renewed enthusiasm about the series and the vision behind it.  I promise I will let you know how it goes.

Cover by Posh Gosh.  The glorious covers just keep getting better with each book.  Nominated for the best series covers.

Here are the books in the series in the order they were written and should be read to understand the characters and storylines:

Levi (Leopard’s Spots #1) read my review here

Oscar (Leopard’s Spots #2) read my review here.

Timothy (Leopard’s Spots #3) read my review here.

Isaiah (Leopard’s Spots #4)

Gilbert (Leopard’s  Spots #5)