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13 Fiction Faves

My personal theory, one I've developed after years of being steeped in the world of CanLit, is that there's no such thing as "CanLit." Instead, I think that CanLit is everything—rich and literary, fun and commercial, regionally focused with universal appeal, hilarious, heart-wrenching, gripping, sweeping, popular, obscure, genre-pushing, and fantastic. These 13 fiction releases run the gamut!

*****

I Am Billy the Kid, by Michael Blouin

About the book: What if Billy the Kid not only didn't die, but was saved by a woman?

History tells us that the short and violent life of William Bonney, better known as Billy the Kid, ended at the hand of Pat Garrett on the moonless night of July 14, 1881. But I Am Billy the Kid tells a different story, straight from Billy himself. This revisionist history seen through the lens of a twenty-first century sensibility features the picaresque hero we thought we knew and the unexpected one that we don't; a fearless and determined young woman who is in no mood to be saved and would much prefer exacting her own revenge. Billy has been in an alcoholic haze since a failed attempt to escape notoriety by faking his own death. By 1915, his fame has only increased, and when word of a possible ruse leaks out, Billy finds himself once again on the …

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On Our Radar: Quests and Journeys for Survival

"I think the role of the writer is the same as it has always been—to connect with another person in a way that makes them feel less alone in the world."

Outside, by Sean McCammon

Interviewed on rob mclennan's blog in the 12 or 20 questions series

About the book: Emotional and uplifting, Outside is the story of a teacher's escape to Japan from classroom, country, and self in the wake of a small-town Ontario tragedy.

David Woods, a first-year teacher, shares his Grade 4 students' passion for nature and their reluctance to be hemmed in by classroom walls. He pushes the boundaries of risk and the constraints of school board policy, leading his class on outdoor adventures with hooting owls, curious stream creatures, and maple syrup making.

Then, during a seemingly innocuous field trip, a fateful decision leads to disastrous consequences, not just for himself but many around him. Consumed by guilt, and desperate to make sense of the seemingly random incident, David flees to Japan, going to ground with a group of Western ESL teachers in a Kyoto boarding house.

As the tragedy is recalled, a parallel narrative finds David drawn into the chaotic lives of his boarding-house companions. The group, including a food-connoisseur deejay, a crude karate student, and an Israeli draft …

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On Our Radar: Internet Trolls, Black Histories, Mental Illness, and Hawaiian Shirts

"Each story holds a mirror to the sociology of now."

Wave Forms and Doom Scrolls, by Daniel Scott Tysdal

Reviewed by Lisa de Nikolits on Goodreads

About the book: In this heart-twisting collection of short stories, Daniel Scott Tysdal delves deep into the human experience. From the middle-aged man involved in a suicide cult to the young woman trying to write a poem for a friend who has recently died, to the daughter of a man who loses everything on a theme park, these stories are filled with beautifully drawn and often profoundly flawed characters. Throughout the collection, Tysdal looks unflinchingly at the darkness of society, at suicide, at internet trolls, at violence, but the powerful empathy of his writing brings significance to even the most tragic moments. These stories have intricate and unexpected plots, filmic descriptions and crisp writing, but what will stay with the reader is the way Wave Forms and Doom Scrolls breaks the reader's heart and then puts it back together again filled with compassion for these lost souls.

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"But she clarifies that her lectures are not rooted in stories of Black hardship."

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On Our Radar: Dancing Chickens, Pregnancy Loss, Powerful Poetry, and Pandemic Days

"Dumont employs her signature razor-sharp wit and impeccable comedic timing to this wildly entertaining novel."

The Prairie Chicken Dance Tour, by Dawn Dumont

Recommended by Iron Dog Books' Hilary Atleo at CBC British Columbia

About the book: The hilarious story of an unlikely group of Indigenous dancers who find themselves thrown together on a performance tour of Europe

The Tour is all prepared. The Prairie Chicken dance troupe is all set for a fifteen-day trek through Europe, performing at festivals and cultural events. But then the performers all come down with the flu. And John Greyeyes, a retired cowboy who hasn't danced in fifteen years, finds himself abruptly thrust into the position of leading a hastily-assembled group of replacement dancers.

A group of expert dancers they are not. There's a middle-aged woman with advanced arthritis, her nineteen-year-old niece who is far more interested in flirtations than pow-wow, and an enigmatic man from the U.S.—all being chased by Nadine, the organizer of the original tour who is determined to be a part of the action, and the handsome man she picked up in a gas-station bathroom. They're all looking to John, who has never left the continent, to guide them through a world that he knows nothing about. As the gang makes it …

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Tough Like Mum: An Essential Picture Book for Kids *and* Adults

Written by York Region District School Board Teacher Librarian Geoffrey Ruggero

Picture books are often written with young children as their intended audience. In Tough Like Mum, Lana Button provides adults with important messaging that we need to be reminded of.

Kim’s mum is tough. She works hard to provide for her daughter and keep her happy. But sometimes, Kim can tell her mum is not feeling well, as Kim must step up and take care of them both. Other parents in the neighbourhood say that Kim is strong just like her mother, even though she is just a child. Whether it’s making meals, getting ready for school, or just putting on a brave face, Kim shows that she can handle it.

Educators and parents often say they know how children are feeling. But do we? Sure we were once that age, but a lot has happened since then. Do we really remember what it was like to experience things for the first time? Do we really remember what it was like to deal with adult problems at such a young age? The world is different, how can we truly say that we know how the children of today are feeling?

Lana Button writes most of her picture books to “show the perspective and situation of a child that might be going unnoticed.” For educators, we try our best to get to know each one of ou …

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Launchpad: NOOPIMING, by Leanne Betasamosake Simpson

Launchpad Logo

Last spring—as launches, festivals and other events were cancelled across the country—49th Shelf helped Canadian authors launch more than 50 new books with LAUNCHPAD. And now we're back this fall, but with a twist.

LAUNCHPAD 2.0 features new releases selected by great Canadian writers who've chosen books that absolutely deserve to find their way into the hands of readers.

Today we're launching Noopiming: The Cure For White Ladies, by Leanne Betasamosake Simpson, which is being championed by Megan Gail Coles, who writes: 

"Noopiming: The Cure for White Ladies is likely the most admirably audacious novel of the year. With each publication, Leanne Betasamosake Simpson re-establishes herself as a revolutionary writer willing to take innovative risks in order to communicate bold intentions that challenge damaging colonial narratives.

"In her most recent book, she centres relationality so thoroughly as to destabilize even the reader's limiting preconception of how words must be laid out upon the page. This is bold storytelling drawing upon a rich history to present a possible future. Simpson is generously gifting readers, Indigenous and non-Indigenous, with an opportunity to engage in the necessary difficult work of further decolonizing our minds.

"I have decided t …

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Most Anticipated: Our Fall 2020 Books for Young Readers Preview

New books for young readers...and readers of all ages!

*****

Picture Books

Told in rhyming verse, The Old Man and the Penguin (October), by Julie Abery and illustrated by Pierre Pratt, is the touching true story of an oil-soaked penguin, the man who rescues him and an unlikely friendship. Cakes, cookies or pie? A rivalry among local bakers is the basis for the deliciously sweet, off-the-wall picture book It Happened On Sweet Street (July), by Caroline Adderson, illustrated by Stephane Jorisch. Bed has something to say. Bed knows you do not like bedtime. Bed gets it. But look ... YOU are not so great, either: Monica Arnaldo provides the other side of the story in Time for Bed's Story (September). And a young girl discovers nature’s surprising beauty in The Most Amazing Bird (November), from renowned Inuit storyteller Michael Arvaarluk Kusugak, illustrated by Andrew Qappik.

Book Cover Princesses Vs Dinosaurs

Two popular storybook titans, princesses and dinosaurs, battle to determine who should star in Linda Bailey's new laugh-out-loud picture book, Princesses Versus Dinosaurs (September), …

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Most Anticipated: Our 2020 Fall Poetry Preview

Our Fall Preview continues with poetry, with an intriguing selection of debuts, selected/collected works, and other excellent new releases.

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(Re)Generation (January) contains selected poetry by Anishinaabe writer Kateri Akiwenzie-Damm that deals with a range of issues: from violence against Indigenous women and lands to Indigenous erotica and the joyous intimate encounters between bodies. Susan Alexander’s Nothing You Can Carry (September) is rooted in a keen, even holy, sense of place within the natural world. Text Messages (September) is the first multi-genre collection by Montreal-based Iraqi hip-hop artist, activist, and professor Yassin “Narcy” Alsalman. And Dearly (November) is Margaret Atwood’s first collection in over a decade, bringing together many of her most recognizable and celebrated themes, but distilled.

The concerns of Swivelmount (September)—the collapse of subject and world, eros and law, knowledge and bafflement—gain new urgency as Ken Babstock fiercely reimagines and reassembles the remnants into a viable order. A b …

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5 Cool Books to Order Right Now

Turn off that weird-ass tiger show, guys. Books are still happening. Order these titles from your local indie, as e-books or audio-books, from the library, or from online retailers. You will be happy you did.

*****

Stay Where I Can See You, by Katrina Onstad

About the book: Does good fortune always change things for the better?

The Kaplan family has just won 10 million dollars in the lottery. But haven’t they always been lucky? Gwen thought so. She’s carefully curated a perfect suburban existence with a loving husband and two children. For over a decade, she’s been a stay-at-home mom, devoted to giving her kids the quiet, protected adolescence she didn’t have. But the surprise windfall suddenly upends the family, allowing them all to dream a little bigger and catapulting them back to the city that Gwen fled years ago.

As the Kaplans navigate the notoriety that the lottery brings and try to adjust to their new lives in the upper class—Seth launches a dubious start-up, Maddie falls headfirst in love at her elite prep school—a tightly held secret is unlocked. Along with the truth come long-buried memories from Gwen’s troubled youth, forcing her to confront her painful past and threatening to unravel the incredibly tight bond between her and Maddie. Her meti …

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Launchpad: The Kissing Fence, by B.A. Thomas-Peter

Launchpad Logo

This spring we've made it our mission (even more than usual) to celebrate new releases in the wake of cancelled launch parties, book festivals, and reading series. With 49th Shelf Launchpad, we're holding virtual launch parties here on our platform complete with witty banter, great insight, and short and snappy readings to give you a taste of the books on offer. You can request these books from your local library, get them as e-books or audio books, order them from your local indie bookseller if they're delivering, buy them direct from the publisher or from online retailers.

Today we're launching The Kissing Fence, by B.A. Thomas-Peter, which Genevieve Graham calls "A compelling story of faith and loyalty, abuse and adversity, and the hope for a better tomorrow."

*****

The Elevator Pitch. Tell us about your book in a sentence.

The Kissing Fence uses a fictional account of real events in BC, following the struggle of two generations of Doukhobors to explore what happens when culture, values, and identity are lost, and what causes someone to change course …

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Launchpad: Polar Vortex, by Shani Mootoo

Launchpad Logo

This spring we've made it our mission (even more than usual) to celebrate new releases in the wake of cancelled launch parties, book festivals, and reading series. With 49th Shelf Launchpad, we're holding virtual launch parties here on our platform complete with witty banter, great insight, and short and snappy readings to give you a taste of the books on offer. You can request these books from your local library, get them as e-books or audio books, order them from your local indie bookseller if they're delivering, buy them direct from the publisher or from online retailers.

Today we're featuring award-winning writer Shani Mootoo whose new release is Polar Vortex, an intense, propulsive read about a love triangle that turns out to be even more complicated than that, a novel that's gorgeously wrought and excruciatingly (in the best way!) unputdownable. 

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The Elevator Pitch. Tell us about your book in a sentence.

Priya has not come clean with her partner Alexandra about her old university friend Prakash, with whom she had a long push-and-pull relat …

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Launchpad: The Union of Smokers, by Paddy Scott

This spring we've made it our mission (even more than usual) to celebrate new releases in the wake of cancelled launch parties, book festivals, and reading series. With 49th Shelf Launchpad, we're holding virtual launch parties here on our platform complete with witty banter, great insight, and short and snappy readings to give you a taste of the books on offer. You can request these books from your local library, get them as e-books or audio books, order them from your local indie bookseller if they're delivering, buy them direct from the publisher or from online retailers.

Today we're featuring Paddy Scott, whose debut novel is The Union of Smokers, described as "an entirely new kind of story told by a gutter-mouthed, chain-smoking twelve year old, who announces in the opening paragraph that he’s going to die today."

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Book Cover The Union of Smokers

The Elevator Pitch. Tell us about your book in a sentence.

The Union of Smokers is a day in the life and a life in the final day of narrator Kaspar Pine, a young man who takes it upon himself to use his last hours on earth to educat …

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