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Quick Hits: Cranky Dads, Angsty Teens, and Love Letters

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.

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.



The Home Stretch: A Father, a Son, and All the Things They Never Talk About, by George K. Ilsley

Genre: Memoir

Publisher: Arsenal Pulp Press

What It's About

A moving, honest memoir about a man who returns to his rural hometown to take care of his cranky elderly father.

George K. Ilsley explores his complex relationship with his aging father in this candid memoir full of sharp emotion and disarming humour. George's father is ninety-one years old, a widower, and fiercely independent; an avid gardener, he's sweet and more than a little eccentric. But he's also a hoarder who makes embarrassing comments and invitations to women, and he has made no plans whatsoever for what is inevitably coming over the horizon.

Decades after George has moved four time zones away, he begins to make regular trips home to help care for his cranky and uncooperative father, and to sift through the hoarded fragments of his father's life. In doing so, George is forced to confront some uncomfortable family secrets and ugly personal truths, only to discover that the inexorable power of life's journey pulls everyone along in its wake.

The Home Stretch is a beguiling, moving book about aging parents who do not "go gently," and their adult children who must reckon with their own past before helping to guide them on their way.

What People Say

The Home Stretch is a wonderful book—witty, tender, and lucidly written—about the caregiving of sons and the complicated inheritances of fathers. It is about finding through the challenges of elder care the parent you've never really known. Lifegiving and bracingly honest, George K. Ilsley's writing is a welcomed punch to the heart.—David Chariandy, author of Brother

Absolutely gorgeous. Reading The Home Stretch I laughed and cried, and, like all the best journeys, as I neared home, I laughed and cried at the same time. In fact, the tears are still fresh on my skin, and something as wide open as laughter remains in my chest. I know the father of this story. And the son. It's my father. It's me. George K. Ilsley is a writer of profound grace and equanimity. —Matt Rader, author of Visual Inspection and Desecrations



Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up with Me, by Mariko Tamaki, illustrated by Rosemary Valero-O’Connell

Genre: YA Fiction

Publisher: Groundwood Books

What It's About

All Freddy Riley wants is for Laura Dean to stop breaking up with her. The day they got back together was the best one of Freddy’s life, but nothing’s made sense since. Laura Dean is popular, funny and SO CUTE … but she can be really thoughtless, even mean. Their on-again, off-again relationship has Freddy’s head spinning — and Freddy’s friends can’t understand why she keeps going back.

When Freddy consults the services of a local mystic, the mysterious Seek-Her, she isn’t thrilled with the advice she receives. But something’s got to give: Freddy’s heart is breaking in slow motion, and she may be about to lose her very best friend as well as her last shred of self-respect. Fortunately for Freddy, there are new friends, and the insight of advice columnist Anna Vice, to help her through being a teenager in love.

Mariko Tamaki and Rosemary Valero-O’Connell bring to life a sweet and spirited tale of young love that asks us to consider what happens when we ditch the toxic relationships we crave to embrace the healthy ones we need.

What People Say

"A triumphant queer coming-of-age story that will make your heart ache and soar."—Kirkus Reviews

"After a run of well-received superhero comics for Marvel and DC, award-winning author Tamaki (Skim; This One Summer) makes a triumphant return to the YA graphic novel form with a narrative that feels louder and prouder than her previous genre works."—Quill & Quire



Always Brave, Sometimes Kind, by Katie Bickell

Genre: Fiction

Publisher: TouchWood Editions

What It's About

Set in the cities, reserves, and rural reaches of Alberta, Katie Bickell’s debut novel is told in a series of stories that span the years from 1990 to 2016, through cycles of boom and bust in the oil fields, government budget cuts and workers rights policies, the rising opioid crisis, and the intersecting lives of people whose communities sometimes stretch farther than they know.

We meet a teenage runaway who goes into labour at the West Edmonton Mall, a doctor managing hospital overflow in a time of healthcare cutbacks, a broke dad making extra pay through a phone sex line, a young musician who dreams of fame beyond the reserve, and a dedicated hockey mom grappling with sense of self when she’s no longer needed—or welcome—at the rink.

Always Brave, Sometimes Kind captures a network of friends, caregivers, in-laws, and near misses, with each character’s life coming into greater focus as we learn more about the people around them. Tracing alliances and betrayals from different perspectives over decades, Bickell writes an ode to home and community that is both warm and gritty, well-defined and utterly complicated.

What People Say

"[Reminiscent] of the recent CBC Reads contender Small Game Hunting at the Local Coward Gun Club by Megan Gail Coles, but blunter in tone."—Broken Pencil

"In the tradition of Jennifer Egan's A Visit from the Goon Squad, Katie Bickell presents Always Brave, Sometimes Kind—a collection of tight and insightful short stories that come together with the impact of a fully realized novel."Angie Abdou, author of This One Wild Life



Little Blue Encyclopedia (for Vivian), by Hazel Jean Plante

Genre: Fiction

Publisher: Metonymy Press

What It's About

Playful and poignant, Little Blue Encyclopedia (for Vivian) sifts through a queer trans woman's unrequited love for her straight trans friend who died. A queer love letter steeped in desire, grief, and delight, the story is interspersed with encyclopedia entries about a fictional TV show set on an isolated island.

The experimental form functions at once as a manual for how pop culture can help soothe and mend us and as an exploration of oft-overlooked sources of pleasure, including karaoke, birding, and butt toys. Ultimately, Little Blue Encyclopedia (for Vivian) reveals with glorious detail and emotional nuance the woman the narrator loved, why she loved her, and the depths of what she has lost.

What People Say

"At the end of Little Blue Encyclopedia (for Vivian), I found myself in awe of the book’s author. Not only has Plante imagined an incredibly complex TV show from scratch, she’s written an entire encyclopedia about said show, and somehow told a deeply heartfelt story of mourning, love, and friendship in the process."—Mira Braneck, who chose Little Blue Encyclopedia as a Staff Pick for The Paris Review

"Little Blue Encyclopedia (for Vivian) is a strange and wonderful hybrid that uses the creation of an encyclopedia about a fictional 2001 television show, Little Blue, to pay tribute to the narrator’s closest friend Vivian Cloze after she’s gone. In the process, it casts beautiful insights onto its many themes: queer and trans living, unrequited love, ongoing mourning, joyful friendship, and the powers of (obscure) pop culture to help us cope."—Jacob Wren, reviewing the novel in Montreal Review of Books


fallsy downsies

Fallsy Downsies, by Stephanie Domet

Genre: Fiction

Publisher: Invisible Publishing

What It's About

Lansing Meadows has one last shot to get it right. With the clock ticking, he sets out on the road one last time, to sing his songs to anyone who’ll listen, and to try to right his wrongs, before it’s too late.

Fallsy Downsies is a novel about aging, art, celebrity and modern Canadian culture, told through the lens of Lansing Meadows, the godfather of Canadian folk music; Evan Cornfield, the up and comer who idolizes him; and Dacey Brown, a young photographer who finds herself along for the ride.

What People Say

“Domet’s aptly titled novel… is a tender portrayal of aging and an entertaining, compassionate story of an unlikely crew negotiating fraught and complicated friendships and finding meaning in each other.”—Quill & Quire

“By the time I finished reading this book I was not only a little in love with Domet’s characters, but with the writer herself. You will be too…”—Andrew Kaufman, author of All My Friends Are Superheroes











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