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9 Delicious Reads

The Holiday Swap is a feel-good, holiday-themed romantic comedy about identical twins who switch lives in the days leading up to Christmas.

"An utterly adorable, pitch-perfect romance with just the right amount of Christmas cheer. The Holiday Swap is a pure delight, I couldn’t stop from smiling."-- Taylor Jenkins Reid, NYT bestselling author of Daisy Jones & The Six

*****

Frying Plantain, by Zalika Reid-Benta

Since the plot of The Holiday Swap turns on delicious—and often highly competitive—holiday baking, our minds were full of thoughts of food and family as we wrote the novel. We would often share recipes with each other that were part of our family’s holiday traditions, and it got us thinking about how food and identity are so closely linked. Traditional family recipes almost always serve to tie us to our family’s past and origin.   

These stories are about coming of age, class, culture—and, as the title suggests, food plays a huge role. Its prevalence in the narrative was just one reason we loved this book so much. 

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Fiercely Feminist Fiction

In her third novel, The Last Resort, Marissa Stapley channels her feminist rage into a gripping thriller that reaches for justice, and in this recommended reading list, she finds solidarity with authors of other excellent recent books. 

*****

Last year, a distant cousin sent me an email about my novel Things to Do When It’s Raining. “It was lovely and heartwarming,” she wrote. “But . . . where’s your rage?” 

But I had just finished my novel, The Last Resort. In writing that book, I had poured all the rage I was feeling onto the page—about politics, about human rights violations, about the simple concept of love between two humans that's so often being complicated by small-minded bigots, about the #MeToo movement, and about my fear that the kind of future I had always imagined for my children was not going to be possible unless I did something about it myself. The result was a dark thriller unlike anything I had written before. The result was a furious book. 

I’ve noticed that many other authors are feeling just as furious as I was, and still am. Here’s a list of my favourite recent fiction reads. All of them have fierce female leads and a bone to pick with the patriarchy. I can’t get enough

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Marissa Stapley on Commercial Fiction in Canada

Book Cover Mating for Life

My first encounter with Marissa Stapley was through her bestselling novel, Mating For Life, which I adored for its smarts and abject bookishness—not enough novels have references to Lauren Groff's debut, The Monsters of Templeton, I think. Since then, I've also come to admire Stapley as a reader and a critic, particularly in her role as commercial fiction columnist for The Globe and Mail. Her work and literary championing has made me curious about commercial fiction as a genre, and also how it fits into the Canadian literary scene.

In this Q&A, Stapley delivers the lowdown.

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KC: So let’s start with the hardest, biggest question: what is commercial fiction? Where do its boundaries blur? Are there boundaries at all?

MS: There are some books that fall firmly into one category or the other—but most books don’t. When I pressed myself to try to come up with an answer for you, one that seemed to reflect the opinion of many, all I could come up with was: commercial fiction is focused on plot and entertainment and less on the craft of writing; literary fiction is less focused on plot and doesn’t care if it’s entertaining, because it’s art.

Oh, how I hate that answer! It’s too general. It marginalizes and excludes. And while I do understand the need to lab …

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Marissa Stapley's Perfect Dock-Side Reads

Book Cover Mating for Life

Looking for your big summer read? Then look no further than Marissa Stapley's Mating for Life, an absorbing novel of tangled family ties, with a Joni Mitchell soundtrack and a perfect cottage setting. It's a novel in which characters get up to their own summer reads, characters perching on the ends of their docks, paperbacks in hand. It's a ritual that Stapley knows something about, as she tells us here, sharing her own favourite setting for summer reading and some books that would make for great reading there.

*****

Every July we rent a cottage in Muskoka. It’s a place my husband and I have been visiting since before we were married, and it’s the place I modeled the cottage in Mating for Life after. There are many ideal reading spots here, but my favourite is the end of the dock. (I sometimes imagine I’ll look up and over at the dock next door and my character Laurence will be sitting there, reading Junky, by William Burroughs.)

I know there are many other beautiful places in the world, but none touch me quite the way this property does. It feels accessible, like I belong in it, like I don’t have to leave it to go home because I already am home. Also, being Canadian, I understand how important it is to savour these moments of warmth under the sun. Too soon, …

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