Skip to main content Skip to search Skip to search

Interviews, Recommendations, and More

Quick Hits: Incredible Debuts and Award Winners

From fiction to poetry and YA, these books deserve a place on your nightstand.

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.



Easy to Like, by Edward Riche

Genre: Fiction

Publisher: House of Anansi

What It's About

"C"-list screenwriter and wannabe vintner Elliot Johnson's life is growing more ruinous by the day—his writing career is on the rocks, his struggling vineyard is being investigated by the feds, and his son, a former child star, is in prison—Elliot decides to do what any self-respecting wine lover would do: escape to France.

Alas, fate has other things in store. Stranded in Canada by an expired passport, he is strongly encouraged to remain there due to his bit part in a growing Hollywood scandal. Deciding that Toronto may just be the perfectly engineered city in which to lay low, Elliot kills time by bluffing his way to the top of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.

What People Say

"Easy to Like lives up to the promise of its title ... Riche [has a] gift for withering turns of phrase."—Globe and Mail

"Hilarious ... laugh-out-loud funny ..."—Maclean's



Sitting Practice, by Caroline Adderson

Genre: Fiction

Publisher: Dundurn

What It's About

Three and a half weeks after his wedding, Ross Alexander is driving home from a tennis game with his new bride when a wayward tennis ball rolls under his feet. As his wife Iliana removes her seatbelt to retrieve the ball, a truck slams into the car, and she ends up paralyzed and in a coma.

So begins this extraordinary portrait of a fated marriage. Ross struggles with the guilt over the consequences of his wife’s paralysis and for the imagined life that is now forever lost. He turns to an exploration of Buddhist principles to ease his pain. He must also contend with his codependent twin sister, Bonnie, mother of his adored nephew, who is jealous of the other woman in her brother’s life.

Iliana must deal with her new existence as a wheelchair-bound wife, her husband’s feelings of alienation, and their aching and growing lack of intimacy.

What People Say

"Sitting Practice is far from bleak. The writing is whip-smart and amusing."—Bookworld

"The beauty of Sitting Practice lies in its conviction that true love can endure the unendurable ... [Adderson's] book, rich in healthy empathy, leaves us with the sobering realization that no partnership remains forever equal."—Montreal Gazette



Midnight at the Dragon Café, by Judy Fong Bates

Genre: Fiction

Publisher: McClelland & Stewart

What It's About

Set in the 1960s, the life of a young girl, the daughter of a small Ontario town’s solitary Chinese family, is changed over the course of one summer when she learns the burden of secrets. Through Su-Jen’s eyes, the hard life behind the scenes at the Dragon Café unfolds. As Su-Jen’s father works continually for a better future, her mother, a beautiful but embittered woman, settles uneasily into their new life. Su-Jen feels the weight of her mother’s unhappiness as Su-Jen’s life takes her outside the restaurant and far from the customs of the traditional past. When Su-Jen’s half-brother arrives, smouldering under the responsibilities he must bear as the dutiful Chinese son, he forms an alliance with Su-Jen’s mother, one that will have devastating consequences. Written in spare, intimate prose, Midnight at the Dragon Café is a vivid portrait of a childhood divided by two cultures and touched by unfulfilled longings and unspoken secrets.

What People Say

"In Midnight at the Dragon Café, Judy Fong Bates has created a novel that does what the very best fiction can do—take us into a world we could not have otherwise entered, put us among people we could not otherwise know. As quintessentially Canadian as Alice Munro, and equally delightful to read.”—Shyam Selvadurai

"Judy Fong Bates is an accomplished storyteller ....The tragic events that form the plot of this novel are in no way restricted to the Chinese experience. Betrayal, human frailty, lost hopes, and shattered dreams belong to all of us .... The quintessential good read.”—Edmonton Journal



Short Haul Engine, by Karen Solie

Genre: Poetry

Publisher: Brick Books

What It's About

Karen Solie takes risks with perception and language, risks that pay off in such startling ways that it's hard to believe this is a first book. Short Haul Engine is one great twist of fate and fury after another. The writing is clear, striking and open to all sorts of possibilities. Even at their most playful, these poems dive much deeper than initially expected. There's a remarkably dark sense of humour at work here, but tempered with a haunting vulnerability that makes even the sharpest lines tremble.

From "Signs Taken for Wonders":

"Too delicate for these dog-days, small, clover-blonde, my sister sews indoors. I ask her to fashion me into something nice, ivory silk. I am a big girl, sunburnt skin like raw meat, sweating two pews in front of the Blessed Virgin...."

What People Say

"There is toughness here, as well as grace. Often in her pages we encounter wisdom of a severity that we would almost rather not know. A cold person is a different species; there is a dismal companionship in grief, the water stays in the fish, even when the fish is out of water. Short Haul Engine is not just an exceptional debut, it is an exceptional book."—From the Judge's Citation, Griffin Poetry Prize, 2002

"Solie's voice is polished and original ... An enviable, accomplished collection."—Lynn Crosbie, Globe and Mail



True Confessions of a Heartless Girl, by Martha Brooks

Genre: YA (older YA)

Publisher: Groundwood Books

What It's About

In the midst of a heaven-rattling summer storm a young stranger blows into a small prairie town. On the run after taking her latest boyfriend's truck, with a pocketful of stolen money and a heart full of pain, seventeen-year-old Noreen Stall seems to invite trouble.

And trouble comes soon enough, as Noreen's new mistakes trigger calamities that shake the lives of the residents of Pembina Lake. An unforgettable and award-winning story about a terribly complex heroine and the effects she has on those around her.

What People Say

"...reaffirms Brooks' position as Canada's premier writer for the older adolescent ... Highly recommended."—CM Magazine

"Grace, insight and transcendence are three words this book brings to mind."—Globe and Mail

Comments here

comments powered by Disqus

More from the Blog