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Quick Hits for Summer 2023

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 include books published this year, last year, or any year. They are from any genre. The best books are timeless, and they deserve to find readers whenever and wherever.


What Is Written on the Tongue, by Anne Lazurko

Genre: Literary fiction

Publisher: ECW Press

What It's About

For readers of Anthony Doerr’s All the Light We Cannot See and Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried, a transportive historical novel about finding morality in the throes of war and colonization.

Released from Nazi forced labor as World War II ends, 20-year-old Sam is quickly drafted and sent to the island of Java to help regain control of the colony. But the Indonesian independence movement is far ahead of the Dutch, and Sam is thrown into a guerilla war, his loyalties challenged when his squad commits atrocities reminiscent of those he suffered at the hands of the Nazis. Sam falls in love with both Sari and the beautiful island she calls home, but as he loses friends to sniper fire and jungle malady, he also loses sight of what he wants most—to be a good man.

What People Say

"Teeming with life and drama, What Is Written on the Tongue is an ambitious, sweeping, riveting story of war, immorality, love and family. Spanning The Netherlands, Germany, and Indonesia during and after the Second World War, Anne Lazurko's novel serves as a grim reminder that the oppressed sometimes become oppressors. The novel hooked me on the first page and captured me to the last." —Lawrence Hill, author of The Book of Negroes and The Illegal

"What Is Written on the Tongue is a gripping story of frailty and resilience. Anne Lazurko’s novel is a fully engaged, deeply researched study of one man’s struggle to retain his humanity amid the many tragedies of war." —Helen Humphreys, author of Field Study: Meditations on a Year at the Herbarium



The Broken Places, by Frances Peck

Genre: Literary (disaster) fiction

Publisher: NeWest Press

What It's About

Vancouver. A day like any other. Kyle, a successful cosmetic surgeon, is punishing himself with a sprint up a mountain. Charlotte, wife of a tech tycoon, is combing the farm belt for local cheese and a sense of purpose. Back in the city their families go about their business: landscaping, negotiating deals, skipping school. It’s a day like any other—until suddenly it’s not.

When the earthquake hits, the city erupts in chaos and fear. Kyle’s and Charlotte’s families, along with two passersby, are thrown together in an oceanfront mansion. The conflicts that beset these wildly different people expose the fault lines beneath their relationships, as they question everything in an effort to survive and reunite with their loved ones stranded outside the city.

Frances Peck’s debut novel examines the unpredictable ways in which disaster can shake up lives and test personal resilience.

What People Say

"In her debut novel, Frances Peck masterfully brings together a cast of complex characters, each broken in their own way, and weaves a compelling story set against the backdrop of a catastrophic earthquake. It beautifully reminded me that none of us are ever on solid ground, especially when it comes to our human, and fragmented, hearts." —Brian Francis, author of Fruit and Missed Connections

"Frances Peck's wonderfully sophisticated and razor-sharp novel takes dead aim at Vancouver's tenuous decadent dreams against an ensemble of mesmerizing characters. The Broken Places casts an unwavering eye on a city of glass and its inhabitants who must respond to a savagely cruel event that shatters some families while bringing others closer together. It's Balzacian in its ambition and wit, raising ineluctable questions about family and wealth, love and lust, resignation and resilience, and offers hard-earned truths about the death of dreams and how we'll fight fiercely to keep them intact regardless of the cost. A well-crafted, affecting debut." —John Vigna, author of No Man's Land



Decoding Dot Grey, by Nicola Davidson

Genre: YA Fiction

Publisher: Nimbus Publishing

What It's About

A heartfelt YA coming-of-age novel set in an animal shelter from the award-winning author of In the Wake, exploring grief, first love, and growing pains.

Eighteen-year-old Dot Grey doesn't hate people; she's just not especially fond of their company. It's 1997, and she's just left home in favour of a dank, cold basement, where she lives with several small animals, including a chorus of crickets, a family of sowbugs (they came with the apartment), a hairless rat, and an injured crow.

Her job at the animal shelter is her refuge—so long as she can avoid her father's phone calls. He's trying to get Dot to visit her mother, but Dot knows there's no point. No one ever understood her like her mum, who helped Dot channel her vibrating fingers into Morse code, their own private language. But her bright, artistic mother was terribly injured a year ago and Dot can't reach her, even with her tapping fingers. Left with only a father who refuses to face the truth, she focuses on saving the little lives at the shelter.

When Joe starts working there, everyone thinks he has a crush on Dot. Dot thinks he's just awkward and kind. He shows his good heart when they rescue an entire litter of puppies together, and Dot finds herself warming up to him. But Joe waits too long to tell her his deepest secret, and soon she is forced to deal with two losses. In the end, Dot's weird way of looking at the world is the one thing that will, against the odds, help her connect with it.

With breakneck wordplay and the most motley of crews—human and otherwise ̬ Decoding Dot Grey is a tender and delightful novel from the award-winning author of In the Wake.

What People Say

"With precise, deliberate prose and deft characterizations, Davison’s first young adult novel is a masterful exploration of grief and resilience and finding one’s way. It is quietly powerful, and the relationships are understated but intricate and true to life in their imperfection." —Lisa Doucet, writing in Atlantic Books Today

"Decoding Dot Grey, Nicola Davison’s beguiling novel (after the suspenseful and moving In the Wake), takes the reader into the chaotic world of an unusual young woman on the cusp of adulthood, facing tragedy and learning how to cope with profound loss." —Ian Colford, writing in The Miramichi Reader



Going to Beautiful, by Anthony Bidulka

Genre: Crime

Publisher: Stonehouse Publishing

What It's About

Winner of 2023 IPPY Award, and CWC Best Crime Novel 2023

International chef Jake Hardy has it all. Celebrity, thriving career, plenty of friends, a happy family and faithful dog. Until one day when a tragic accident tears it all apart. Struggling to recover, Hardy finds himself in a strange new world—a snow-swept prairie town that time forgot--a place where nothing makes sense. Cold is beautiful. Simple is complex. And doubts begin to surface about whether Jake's tragedy was truly an accident after all. As the sun sets in the Land of Living Skies, Hardy and his glamourous, seventy-eight-year-old transgender neighbour find themselves ensnared in multiple murders separated by decades. In Bidulka's "love letter to life on the prairies" he delivers a story of grief and loss that manages to burst with joy, tenderness and hope. Redolent of his earlier works, Going to Beautiful brings us unexpected, under-represented characters in settings that immediately feel familiar and beloved. Beautifula place where what you need may not be what you were looking for.


Winner, Crime Writers of Canada Best Crime Novel
Winner, Independent Publishers Book Award


All the Shining People, by Kathy Friedman

Genre: Short stories

Publisher: House of Anansi Press

What It's About

All the Shining People explores migration, diaspora, and belonging within Toronto’s Jewish South African community, as individuals come to terms with the oppressive hierarchies that separate, and the connections that bind. Seeking a place to belong, the book’s characters—including a life-drawing model searching the streets for her lover; a woman confronting secrets from her past in the new South Africa; and a man grappling with the legacy of his father, a former political prisoner—crave authentic relationships that replicate the lost feeling of home. With its focus on family, culture, and identity, All the Shining People captures the experiences of immigrants and outsiders with honesty, subtlety, and deep sympathy.

What People Say

"Kathy Friedman takes a stirring, up-close look at where our many identities intersect in this short-story collection … Deeply moving." —Apple Books

"Remarkable in its scope and its multiplicity of voices, All the Shining People is a dazzling debut from an immensely talented writer. With astonishing compassion and insight, Kathy Friedman has conceived a cast of characters so real they leap off the page. These exquisite stories reveal the fragilities of human connection and our desperate need for redemption. This is a stunningly assured collection that is at once fiercely political and intensely intimate, darkly comic, and devastating." —Ayelet Tsabari, author of The Art of Leaving


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