Thousands of Canadian-authored kids and YA books


Quick Hits: 5 Books with Awesome Reviews

In Quick Hits, we look through our stacks to bring you books that, when they were published, elicited a lot of reaction and praise. Our selections will include books published this year, last year, or any year. They will be from any genre. The best books are timeless, and they deserve to find readers whenever and wherever.


The Dark, by Claire Mulligan

Genre: Fiction/Mystery

Publisher: Doubleday Canada

What It's About

In the deep of winter 1893, a briskly practical physician named Mrs. Mellon arrives at a New York tenement and takes up her duty to care for the aged, the indigent and the dying. Her patient in the garret, she decides, fits all three categories nicely—that is, before she realizes she is in the presence of a most unusual lost soul: the charismatic Maggie Fox.

Part mystery, part ghost story, part riveting historical fiction, The Dark ushers the reader into the shadowy border between longing and belief as it unfolds the incredible story of the famous and controversial Fox Sisters, Maggie, Katie, and Leah. In their heyday, the sisters purported to communicate with ghosts and inspired the Spiritualist Movement, a quasi-religion complete with mediums and séances and millions of followers.

Now only Maggie is left alive, and Mrs. Mellon is her lifeline to the …

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Jennifer Quist on Edmonton as a Literary City

Jennifer Quist's third novel is The Apocalypse of Morgan Turner, the story of a woman struggling to move on after her sister's brutal murder. It's a novel with an unabashed Edmonton setting—watch the trailer (and the city!) here. In this list, Quist features other Edmonton authors, books, and literary institution, shining a spotlight on a city wholly deserving of all its bookish glory.


In the legend, Leonard Cohen writes “Sisters of Mercy”—its lyrics and tinkling 1-2-3, 1-2-3 waltz tune—in a single night. It’s an Edmonton night full of snow. I know what the light outside his Jasper Avenue hotel window would have looked like: snow and ice crystals suspended and lit up like gold dust, in the days when streetlights were deep yellow sodium vapor lamps. 

This is Edmonton writing, and it exists even when there is no traveling cosmopolitan poet standing over our beds. It’s set in streetscapes, not farm-scapes. The weather is part of Edmonton writing but it’s outside the hotel glass, opposite stories set in warm rooms of people who “have been where you’re hanging [and] think [we] can see where you’re pinned.” 

Two million of Alberta’s three million residents live in either Calgary or Edmonton, the fourth and fifth largest cities in Canada. The …

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Great Families in CanLit

Don't you love escaping into a book where brothers, sisters, moms, and dads—not to mention freaky aunties and uncs—are crazier than yours? Where they fight more, philander more, commit more crimes, get sadder, and have their hearts broken even more than than you do? The best families in literature are wonderful because they are somehow utterly familiar—but strange enough—and thus cathartic. Here are a few greats. Of course there are many more (Larry's Party anyone? Fall on Your Knees?) so we want to hear suggestions from you. Tweet us @49thShelf with the hashtag #CanLitFamilies.


The Flying Troutmans, by Miriam Toews

“Toews’s writing is a unique collision of sadness and humour. . . . The Flying Troutmans is a dark story but it is also a never-ending series of hilarious adventures.”—Ottawa Citizen

Days after being dumped by her boyfriend Marc in Paris—"he was heading off to an ashram and said we could communicate telepathically" —Hattie hears her sister Min has been checked into a psychiatric hospital, and finds herself flying back to Winnipeg to take care of Thebes and Logan, her niece and nephew. Not knowing what else to do, she loads the kids, a cooler, and a pile of CDs into their van and they set out on a road trip in search of the childre …

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Jennifer Quist on the Family Saga

Book Cover Sistering

Jennifer Quist's novel, Sistering, was just published, and it's already buzzing with great reviews and suggestions that it's a contender for the Leacock Award for Humour. This the second novel by Quist, whose first book, which won her an Alberta Lieutenant Governor’s Emerging Artist Award, was longlisted for the 2015 International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award and was a finalist for a 2013 Whitney Award. Sistering is the story of five admirable but slightly deranged sisters, each with her own peculiar morbid fascinations, and while it's funny—"a romp," as the cover says—it's also part a genre less inclined toward hilarity: the family saga.

In this guest post, Quist breaks down what the family saga is all about. We've also made a list of some of our favourites here


Complaining about being sorted into categories by booksellers, libraries, and anyone else has become the trite stuff of clunky interviews where authors desperately explain how their books are so much more than their labels. Categories are hated but necessary. Little orients an idly-browsing reader to a new literary find like a good label. That’s a good label—all categories are not equally meaningful. Some may be too vast and diverse to be useful. For instance, what, exactly, is a "family s …

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