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Exploring Sister Bonds

One of our most anticipated debuts of the season, Bryn Turnbull's The Woman Before Wallis, tells the true story of the American divorcée who captured Prince Edward’s heart before he abdicated his throne for Wallis Simpson. But it's also the story of a pair of sisters, and in her recommended reading list for us, Turnbull explores other titles that illuminate this bond.

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The bonds between sisters can be loving, fraught, conflicted, and challenging—often, they’re all four at once. Compared to books about brothers, sister bonds may seem like a seldom-explored familial bond, but as the books below show, they’re an incredible source of inspiration for authors and readers alike.

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The Quintland Sisters, by Shelley Wood

The Dionne Quintuplets were a media sensation in the 1930s—the first five identical sisters to survive past birth, they were a symbol of optimism in depression-era North America, so much so that thousands of visitors would flock to North Bay to see the girls in their purpose-built nursery-cum-tourist-attraction. As doctors, politi …

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Summer Reading Starts Here

Summer is not cancelled, and summer reading isn't either. We've got thrillers, epics, drama, historical fiction, and so much more. There is something for every kind of fiction reader on our 2020 Summer List.

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Ridgerunner, by Gil Adamson

About the book: November 1917. William Moreland is in mid-flight. After nearly twenty years, the notorious thief, known as the Ridgerunner, has returned. Moving through the Rocky Mountains and across the border to Montana, the solitary drifter, impoverished in means and aged beyond his years, is also a widower and a father. And he is determined to steal enough money to secure his son’s future.

Twelve-year-old Jack Boulton has been left in the care of Sister Beatrice, a formidable nun who keeps him in cloistered seclusion in her grand old house. Though he knows his father is coming for him, the boy longs to return to his family’s cabin, deep in the woods. When Jack finally breaks free, he takes with him something the nun is determined to get back—at any cost.

Set against the backdrop of a distant war raging in Europe and a rapidly changing landscape in the West, Gil Adamson’s follow-up to her award-winning debut, The Outlander, is a vivid historical novel that draws from the epic tradition and a literary Western brimming wi …

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10 Unapologetically Twisted Reads

Hannah Mary McKinnon's latest thriller is Sister Dear, a twisted story of family and obsession. It's been called "a thrill-ride through a family mired in secrets, with a satisfyingly villainous ending!” Perfect for relaxing on the the deck with, no?

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It’s common knowledge winter in Canada can be long, cold, snowy and brutal ... but maybe that’s why there are so many stellar novels written in this country—we have plenty of time to hunker over our keyboards with endless cups of Tim’s fuelling our creative minds. Here’s a list of ten crime reads to help you discover why authors in Canada have their own hashtag (#ReadTheNorth), and deserve a place on anybody’s reading shelf.

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Recipe for a Perfect Wife, by Karma Brown

Alice Hale leaves her career and follows her husband to the burbs, where she finds a vintage cookbook. When she becomes captivated by its previous owner, 1950s housewife Nellie Murdoch, she starts to question not only the foundation of her marriage, but also what it means to be a wife fighting for her rightful place in a pat …

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Summer Gone: Amazing Reads from Past Years

While looking ahead to summer is a delightful experience, there is something in the nature of summer itself that invites nostalgia, and not just for the season, but also for the books that help to make the season so memorable. And so before we start talking summer reads and 2019 new releases, we wanted to take a moment and recall the summer books that we've loved from years gone by, books that are definitely worth picking up if you haven't read them yet and which will always be good for a reread. 

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The Last Woman, by John Bemrose

About the book: In the heart of cottage country in Ontario, bordering on a native reservation, Ann and Richard are confronted with the abrupt reappearance after ten years of a local man, Billy. His presence once again in their lives brings back powerful memories and rekindles old conflicts, love, and a betrayal, as each of their past and present stories gradually unfolds during one 1980s summer.

Containing all of the elements for which The Island Walkers was celebrated, The Last Woman envelops us in Bemrose’s flawlessly crafted and complete world, where each character is unforgettably alive and real, and the land itself breathes its own story into our hearts.

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Get Out Of Town: 11 Literary Getaways

Last summer we brought you The 13 Worst Holidays in Canadian Literature, and let me tell you, they were pretty traumatic—children drowned, parents were eaten by bears, another kid threw up in a box of comic books. This year, however, we're going for a more feel-good vibe, or at least aiming for none of our literary journeys to be compared with Lord of the Flies—which we totally failed at by the way, see Kim Fu's novel below for a case in point.

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Atomic Road, by Grant Buday

Where to? An artists' colony in Emma Lake, Saskatchewan. 

About the book: Art critic Clement Greenberg, champion of abstract expressionism, is more interested in silencing his rival Harold Rosenberg than with the threat of nuclear destruction.

Greenberg is driving from New York to the Emma Lake artist colony in Saskatchewan, where he intends to silence Rosenberg once and for all. With him is infamous Marxist Louis Althusser, who escaped prosecution for strangling his wife in France on an insanity plea. Althusser is heading to a Saskatchewan hospital for LSD therapy.

Pursuing them is Jean Claude Piche, a veteran of the conflicts in Indochina and Algeria, contracted to execute Althusser for the unpunished murder.

The 1950s were Greenberg's decade. Yet by 1962, everywhere Greenberg looks he is b …

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If You're Going to Read Just ONE Book This Summer....You Will Be Making a Terrible Mistake

If you're going to read just one book this summer....you'll be making a terrible mistake! Because with all the amazing new books out right now, you should be probably reading at least two, or even eighteen. And so to get you started, check out this spectacular list of gripping titles that will make for perfect reads for the deck chair, the hammock, the dock, the beach, under a tree, on a city rooftop—wherever you're getting your summer on.  

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When the Flood Falls, by J.E. Barnard

About the book: With her career in tatters and her marriage receding in the rear-view mirror, ex-RCMP corporal Lacey McCrae trades her uniform for a tool belt, and the Lower Mainland for the foothills west of Calgary. Amid the oil barons, hockey stars, and other high rollers who inhabit the wilderness playground is her old university roommate, Dee Phillips. Dee’s glossy life was shattered by a reckless driver; now she’s haunted by a nighttime prowler only she can hear. 

As snowmelt swells the icy river, threatening the only bridge back to civilization, Lacey must make the call: assume Dee’s in danger and get her out of there, or decide the prowler is imaginary and stay, cut off from help if the bridge is swept away.

Why we're taking notice: This one won the 2016 Unhanged Arthur A …

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Andrea Curtis: The Weight of Water

Big Water is Andrea Curtis's debut novel, and she marks its release with this fantastic list of books that will make for riveting dockside or beach reading. 

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Big Water is a young adult novel inspired by the true story of one of the worst shipwrecks in the history of the Great Lakes. The main characters are the only two survivors, teenagers Christina and Daniel, stuck in a lifeboat, corpses at their feet. But the water—horrible and beautiful all at once—is equally a protagonist. Its fickle moods and outrageous power shape the plot and arc of the other character’s experience. 

My own life has also been defined by this water. Georgian Bay, known as the sixth Great Lake, is the landscape of my heart and imagination. I have grown up there, sung into the wind, swum, paddled and skimmed over its surfaces and explored its depths. I love and fear it in equal measure.

In a country like Canada, so rich in water (inland and coastal), it’s hardly surprising that many other writers have also felt its formidable weight on their psyche. The list below includes both adult and young adult novels that treat water not as incidental colour or backdrop, but as a defining force in their character’s lives.

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All Books Are Beach Books: Get Your Summer Reads Locked In

Just as all bodies are beach bodies, all books are beach books—it just depends on the reader—and in compiling this list, we're assuming that readers are looking for books that are rich, enveloping, and formula-defying. From this eclectic selection, you're sure to find a book or two (or three) that fits you perfectly. 

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Document 1, by Francois Blais, translated by JC Sutcliffe

About the book: Tess and Jude live in small-town Quebec and spend their time travelling all across North America—using Google maps—which provides them the luxury of adventure while remaining in the comfort of their own home. But Tess and Jude are dreamers, and their online adventures eventually give rise to a desire to actually travel somewhere. They settle on Bird in Hand, Pennsylvania, and begin scheming to raise the cash they'll need for the trip. 

After a series of hilarious ideas that never pan out, they turn to a local experimental author (who has a major crush on Tess) and convince him to apply for an arts council grant on their behalf. But when they actually receive the grant money, can the pull it all together for a real adventure?

Funny, smart and wonderfully human, Document 1 is a tragicomic tale of two dreamers and their quest for adventure, as well as a satirical take on …

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Summer Eats: Apricot Curd Tart

Apricot Curd Tart

Canada is never more delicious than it is right now, summer at its peak, delicious produce ripe and in season from the Annapolis Valley to the Niagara Region, all the way west to the Okanagan—and so many places in between. Possibly pitted fruit is the thing that unites us? We'll give it a try, in particular with these apricot curd tarts from the gorgeous new cookbook The Okanagan Table, by Rod Butters and Kerry Gold. 

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My chef de cuisine Robyn Sigurdson, who has worked with us since Fresco, came up with this simple and yummy tart, showing off the tasty union that is apricot and thyme.

Makes 8 (4-inch) tarts

 

APRICOT CURD FILLING

2 tsp gelatin powder

2 cups apricot purée (divided)

1 tsp thyme leaves

6 egg yolks

½ cup granulated sugar

 

ALMOND PASTRY

½ cup almonds

2 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature

¾ cup brown sugar

1 egg

 

MERINGUE

1 cup granulated sugar

¼ cup water

4 egg whites

 

APRICOT CURD FILLING Combine gelatin powder with 1 cup of apricot purée. Set aside for 2 minutes to let the gelatin bloom.

In a heatproof bowl, combine the remaining 1 cup purée, thyme leaves, egg yolks, and sugar and place over a pot of simmering water. Stir continuously until it starts to thicken. Add the gelatin mixture and stir u …

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"Love Song," by Theresa Kishkan

Book Cover the Summer Book

Theresa Kishkan weaves a gorgeous narrative out of light and time in her beautiful essay, "Love Story," which opens the newly-released non-fiction collection The Summer Book, edited by Mona Fertig. Reviewer Howard Stewart calls the The Summer Book "a masterpiece collection of finely crafted and evocative reminders of why summer is such a special season"; read this essay for a taste of just how right he is. 

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On an early summer morning, I wake to the sound of Swainson’s thrushes. Beyond my bedroom window, beyond the house, they sing where the woods begin. And there are robins, vireos, the long whistle of a varied thrush. My curtains are rough white linen, and they filter light, the light at dawn, coming from the east, pink and golden as the sun finds its way over Mount Hallowell. My husband sleeps closest to the window, and he pulls the curtains aside to let in more song. There is honeysuckle blooming, and dog roses, trumpet vines. Hummingbirds bury themselves in the flowers. The pink throats of the tree frogs inflate, a loud vibrato close enough to touch. A face peers in the window through the lattice of vines, and it’s a weasel, as surprised to see me in a bed with pillows and a log-cabin quilt as I am to see a weasel among the dog roses. That’s what I …

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Notes from a Children's Librarian: Graphic Novels for Summer

Book Cover The Silver Six

Our Children's Librarian columnist, Julie Booker, brings us a new view from the stacks every month.

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An orphan-spy-gang-sci-fi thriller. A fantasy novel as allegory. A series of funny First Nations stories. A poetic portrait of death. A guide to making movies. Each delivers its own take on the graphic form and makes for easy reading during these summer months.

Being an orphan is a crime in The Silver Six, by Al Lieberman and Darren Rawlings, and 12-year-old Phoebe's parents have died in a shuttle explosion. She survives in a futuristic urban society, where natural parks are movie sets and her domestic robot, Max, plays pre-recorded voices of her mom and dad when the landlord comes a-knocking. Phoebe's also on the run from bad-guy, Mr. Craven, who's after a secret file of her parents'. Phoebe gets nabbed by the Child Welfare Services where she meets five other orphans whose parents' deaths are suspiciously similar to Phoebe's. Together they form the Silver Six and head out of their artificially controlled world to solve the mystery. (Grades 3 to 6)

Book Cover Gottika

In t …

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Summer Holiday #ReadLocal Special: Read Where You Are

A few years ago, 49th Shelf blew up the Internet with our amazing #ReadLocal map, a map that allows users to pin books to geographic locations. Avid Canadian readers leapt at the chance to connect their favourite reads with the actual settings where these stories take place, which was a lot of fun at the time but also a feature with lasting value. The appeal of reading where you are is not just simply a one-season affair. And now when you plan your summer vacation, you can plan place-appropriate reads along with your itinerary. Here are some of the highlights, from coast to coast. 

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If your summer vacation destination is Vancouver Island, check out The Woefield Poultry Collective, by Susan Juby.

About the book: Woefield Farm is a sprawling thirty acres of scrub land,complete with dilapidated buildings and one half-sheared,lonely sheep named Bertie. It’s "run"—in the loosest possible sense of the word—by Prudence Burns, an energetic,well-intentioned twenty-something New Yorker full of back-to-the-land ideals, but without an iota of related skills or experience. Prudence, who inherited the farm from her uncle, soon discovers that the bank is about to foreclose on Woefield Farm, which means that Prudence has to turn things around, fast. But fear not! She’l …

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