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Quick Hits: 5 Gems You Don't Want to Miss

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.

 

Annie Muktuk and Other Stories, by Norma Dunning

Genre: Short stories

Publisher: University of Alberta Press

What It's About

I woke up with Moses Henry’s boot holding open my jaw and my right eye was looking into his gun barrel. I heard the slow words, “Take. It. Back.” I know one thing about Moses Henry; he means business when he means business. I took it back and for the last eight months I have not uttered Annie Mukluk’s name.

In strolls Annie Mukluk in all her mukiness glory. Tonight she has gone traditional. Her long black hair is wrapped in intu’dlit braids. Only my mom still does that. She’s got mukluks, real mukluks on and she’s wearing the old-style caribou parka. It must be something her grandma gave her. No one makes that anymore. She’s got the faint black eyeliner showing off those brown eyes and to top off her face she’s put pretend face tattooing on. We all know it’ll wash out tomorrow.

— from "Annie Muktuk"

When Sedna feels the urge, she reaches out from the Land of the Dead to where Kakoot waits in hospital to depart from the Land of the Living. What ensues is a struggle for life and death and identity. In “Kakoot” and throughout this audacious collection of short stories, Norma Dunning makes the interplay between contemporary realities and experiences and Inuit cosmology seem deceptively easy. The stories are raucous and funny and resonate with raw honesty. Each eye-opening narrative twist in Annie Muktuk and Other Stories challenges readers’ perceptions of who Inuit people are.

What People Say

"Inuk writer Norma Dunning’s debut collection passed under the radar of the big awards despite being the year’s best short fiction collection. The stories infuse Inuit myth with reality, explore the effects of colonialism, and delve into settler-writer portrayals of Inuit, all told with heart and humour that is infectious."—Michael Melgaard, writing in the National Post on his No. 1 book of 2017

"A successful short story takes us to unfamiliar places, and the 16 stories in this collection certainly fill that bill. It’s a journey deep into Inuit life, with tales of Inuk of all shapes, genders and ages. The title story is at turns funny, violent and cunning: Jimmy tries to convince best friend Moses to stay away from the glorious Annie Muktuk, an arnaluk (naughty woman, according to the glossary) who will cause him grief."—Toronto Star

**

The Midnight Bargain, by C.L. Polk

Genre: Historical Romance

Publisher: Erewhon Books

What It's About

From the beloved World Fantasy Award-winning author of Witchmark comes a sweeping, romantic new fantasy set in a world reminiscent of Regency England, where women’s magic is taken from them when they marry. A sorceress must balance her desire to become the first great female magician against her duty to her family.
Beatrice Clayborn is a sorceress who practices magic in secret, terrified of the day she will be locked into a marital collar that will cut off her powers to protect her unborn children. She dreams of becoming a full-fledged Magus and pursuing magic as her calling as men do, but her family has staked everything to equip her for Bargaining Season, when young men and women of means descend upon the city to negotiate the best marriages. The Clayborns are in severe debt, and only she can save them, by securing an advantageous match before their creditors come calling.

In a stroke of luck, Beatrice finds a grimoire that contains the key to becoming a Magus, but before she can purchase it, a rival sorceress swindles the book right out of her hands. Beatrice summons a spirit to help her get it back, but her new ally exacts a price: Beatrice’s first kiss . . . with her adversary’s brother, the handsome, compassionate, and fabulously wealthy Ianthe Lavan.

The more Beatrice is entangled with the Lavan siblings, the harder her decision becomes: If she casts the spell to become a Magus, she will devastate her family and lose the only man to ever see her for who she is; but if she marries—even for love—she will sacrifice her magic, her identity, and her dreams. But how can she choose just one, knowing she will forever regret the path not taken?

What People Say

“The author’s penetrating social critique and deeply felt depiction of one woman’s struggle for self-determination are balanced by her charming take on classic Regency romance…. An expertly concocted mélange of sweet romance and sharp social commentary.”—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“Polk’s (Witchmark) foray into a society of magic and politics places the woman in the secondary role, but neither Beatrice nor Ysbeta will stay in place. Fans of romantic fantasy set in a multicultural world will find this a fascinating read."—Library Review (starred review)

**

26 Knots, by Bindu Suresh

Genre: Fiction

Publisher: Invisible Publishing

What It's About

A crackling debut, 26 Knots starts with a fire and never stops smouldering.

Grand in scope, spare in execution, and lush in language, 26 Knots is a fable-like tale of love, obsession, and everything in between. Araceli loves Adrien. Adrien loves Pénélope. Pénélope marries Gabriel, who is tormented by the search for the father he never knew. Set in Montreal, but spiralling out across Canada, Bindu Suresh’s debut novel deftly reveals the devastating consequences of betrayal and commitment, of grief and hope.

What People Say

“Such a good read. Fast. And rich and dark and passionate. SO MANY FEELS.”—Jael Richardson, CBC Radio's Q Book Columnist

"One of the most striking Canadian literary debuts of the year."—Montreal Gazette

**

The Youth of God, by Hassan Ghedi Santur

Genre: Fiction

Publisher: Mawenzi House

What It's About

The Youth of God tells the story of Nuur, a sensitive and academically gifted seventeen-year-old boy growing up in Toronto’s Somali neighbourhood, as he negotiates perilously between the calling of his faith and his intellectual ambitions. Trying to influence him are a radical Muslim imam and a book-loving, dedicated teacher who shares his background. In its telling, this novel reveals the alienated lives of Somali youth in an environment riddled with crime and unemployment, while still in the grip of bitter memories of a home left behind. This intensely moving novel is also a powerful allegory of the struggle for the soul of Islam in modern times.

What People Say

The Youth of God is a story about love, and how the lack of embodied love can starve a young person’s ability to make choices in their best interests. It is a painful reminder of the immense vulnerability of promising third-culture kids who navigate a double exile. While nominally a work of fiction, The Youth of God should be read as a cautionary tale of what can transpire when at-risk youth are allowed to slip through the cracks.”—Quill & Quire, starred review

 “Santur has written a clear-eyed, compassionate, and informative vision of what drives our brothers, sisters and children into extremism. He breaks my heart wide open, as all great novelists do”—Lauren B. Davis, author of Our Daily Bread, The Empty Room, and The Grimoire of Kensington Market

**

Song of Batoche, by Maia Caron

Genre: Historical fiction

Publisher: Ronsdale Press

What It's About

Louis Riel arrives at Batoche in 1884 to help the Métis fight for their lands and discovers that the rebellious outsider Josette Lavoie is a granddaughter of the famous chief Big Bear, whom he needs as an ally. But Josette learns of Riel's hidden agenda—to establish a separate state with his new church at its head—and refuses to help him.

Only when the great Gabriel Dumont promises her that he will not let Riel fail does she agree to join the cause. In this raw wilderness on the brink of change, the lives of seven unforgettable characters converge, each one with secrets: Louis Riel and his tortured wife Marguerite; a duplicitous Catholic priest; Gabriel Dumont and his dying wife Madeleine; a Hudson's Bay Company spy; and the enigmatic Josette Lavoie. As the Dominion Army marches on Batoche, Josette and Gabriel must manage Riel's escalating religious fanaticism and a growing attraction to each other. Song of Batoche is a timeless story that traces the borderlines of faith and reason, obsession and madness, betrayal and love.

What People Say

"This passionate retelling uses women's eyes to reveal the hidden history behind Riel and Gabriel Dumont. Deeply researched, and rooted in the soil of Batoche."—Marina Endicott, author of the Giller-nominated Close to Hugh

"Combining fine research and engaging storytelling, Song of Batoche is a stirring fictionalized account of events in and around the 1885 North-West Resistance. Josette Lavoie is an intriguing and memorable heroine.—Katherena Vermette, author of the The Break and winner of the Governor General's Award

 

 

 

 

 

September 2, 2021
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