Super Summer Reading Guide

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Summertime is made for reading, and we're so excited to share these 20 titles which are sure to delight you. 

*****

Bunny, by Mona Awad

About the book: Samantha Heather Mackey couldn't be more different from the other members of her master's program at New England's elite Warren University. A self-conscious scholarship student who prefers the company of her imagination to that of most people, she is utterly repelled by the rest of her fiction writing cohort—a clique of unbearably twee rich girls who call each other "Bunny," and are often found entangled in a group hug so tight it seems their bodies might become permanently fused.

But everything changes when Samantha receives an invitation to the Bunnies' exclusive monthly "Smut Salon," and finds herself drawn as if by magic to their front door—ditching her only friend, Ava, an audacious art school dropout, in the process. As Samantha plunges deeper and deeper into Bunny world, and starts to take part in the off-campus "Workshop" where they devise their monstrous creations, the edges of reality begin to blur, and her friendships with Ava and the Bunnies are brought into deadly collision.

Why we're taking notice: Because everyone's talking about this one! Awad (whose 13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl was a finalist for the Scotiabank Giller Prize and won the Amazon First Novel Award) continues her singular take on what a novel can do and be. 

*

A Dance of Cranes, by Steve Burrows

About the book: Newly estranged from his girlfriend, Lindy, Inspector Domenic Jejeune has returned to Canada to the news that his brother, Damian, has gone missing in Wood Buffalo National Park while conducting field research on Whooping Cranes. But even if Jejeune can find Damian in the vast, remote wilderness, staying alive afterward may prove a far greater challenge.

Back in the U.K., Sergeant Danny Maik is on a missing person search of his own. Maik must try to track Lindy down after Jejeune's plan to protect her fails and she is abducted by a sociopathic killer. The disturbing circumstances of Lindy’s disappearance mean that even if he finds her, the danger will not be over.

Across two continents, the lives of Domenic and Lindy are spiralling toward a shared fate. And it seems there is nothing anyone can do to help them.

Why we're taking notice: We've been fans of the series since it launched in 2014, and look forward to a new instalment every spring—and we're a little worried about Lindy, to be honest. 

*

The Melting Queen, by Bruce Cinnamon

About the book: Every year since 1904, when the ice breaks up on the North Saskatchewan River, Edmonton has crowned a Melting Queen—a woman who presides over the Melting Day spring carnival and who must keep the city's spirits up over the following winter. But this year, something has changed: a genderfluid ex-frat brother called River Runson is named as Melting Queen. As River's reign upends the city's century-old traditions, Edmonton tears itself in two, with progressive and reactionary factions fighting a war for Edmonton's soul. Ultimately, River must uncover the hidden history of Melting Day, forcing Edmonton to confront the dark underbelly of its traditions and leading the city into a new chapter in its history.

Why we're taking notice: Todd Babiak writes, "This naughty love-and-hate letter to an imagined version of Edmonton is fabulous, whether you know every corner of the actual place or you’ve never been there." 

*

Mahoney's Camaro: A Crime Novel, by Michael J. Clark

About the book: It’s the summer of 1985 and mechanic Steve Mahoney is dreaming big about owning his own shop. He’s getting there as slowly as possible, working one night shift at a time for a local towing company. One night, called to retrieve a car from the murky Red River, Mahoney finds the replacement body to his prized but damaged ’67 Camaro. There’s also a body inside the car, handcuffed to the steering wheel. Mahoney’s able to snap the Camaro up cheap at a salvage auction, but once he’s restored the car to its former glory, he discovers that its last driver is standard spectral equipment on his new ride, and she’s not leaving until she finds out who sent her to a watery grave.

Mahoney’s Camaro is a gritty, fast-paced crime novel that will appeal to fans of Ron Corbett and Stuart MacBride. Combining expertise in the automotive world and a passion for storytelling, Michael J. Clark delivers an action-packed joyride that will grip you until the last page.

Why we're taking notice: Haunted cars FTW! Retired automotive journalist Clark got great reviews for his first book, Clean Sweep, and we're looking to see what he gets up to next. 

*

The Western Alienation Merit Badge, by Nancy Jo Cullen

About the book: Set in Calgary in 1982, during the recession that arrived on the heels of Canada's National Energy Program, The Western Alienation Merit Badge follows the Murray family as they struggle with grief and find themselves on the brink of financial ruin. After the death of her stepmother, Frances "Frankie" Murray returns to Calgary to help her father, Jimmy, and her sister, Bernadette, pay the mortgage on the family home. When Robyn, a long-lost friend, becomes their house guest old tensions are reignited and Jimmy, Bernadette and Frances find themselves increasingly alienated from one another.

Part family drama, part queer coming-of-age story, The Western Alienation Merit Badge explores the complex dynamics of a small family falling apart.

Why we're taking notice: Award-winner Cullen's debut novel has something for everyone, and a story that will break your heart in the best kind of way. 

*

Simon & Louise, by Max de Radiguès, translated by Aleshia Jensen

About the book: It all begins with a relationship update on social media. Summer vacation is about to begin, and Simon discovers the change just as his supposed girlfriend leaves to spend two months in a seaside village. Determined to find out what went wrong, Simon decides to hitchhike 520 kms to find her. With just his backpack and a few snacks, he sneaks out of the house and hits the road—but he quickly discovers that he isn't quite prepared for the journey. But that's only half the story. Unaware of the miscommunication, Louise is dealing with social challenges of her own. Written and illustrated from both points of view by the award-winning creator of Moose (nominated for an Eisner Award for Teens), and perfect for fans of This One Summer, Simon and Louise is a story about two people in love and the chaos that happens when technology gets in the way.

Why we're taking notice: We're here for This One Summer comparisons ALL SUMMER LONG!! 

*

Treed: Walking in Canada's Urban Forests, by Ariel Gordon

About the book: With intimacy and humour award-winning poet Ariel Gordon walks us through the streets of Winnipeg and into the urban forest that is, to her, the city's heart. Along the way she shares with us the lives of these urban trees, from the grackles and cankerworms of the spring, to the flush of mushrooms on stumps in the summer and through to the red-stemmed dogwood of the winter. After grounding us in native elms and ashes, Gordon travels to BC's northern Rockies, to Banff National Park and a cattle farm in rural Manitoba, and helps us to consider what we expect of nature. Whether it is the effects of climate change on the urban forest or foraging in the city, Dutch elm disease in the trees or squirrels in the living room, Gordon delves into our relationships with the natural world with heart and style. In the end, the essays circle back to the forest, where the weather is always better and where the reader can see how to remake even the trees that are lost.

Why we're taking notice: Even if you can't get out of the city this summer, Gordon's essay collection will take you right back to nature and have you taking notice of our amazing natural world. 

*

The Chai Factor, by Farah Heron

About the book: Thirty-year-old engineer Amira Khan has set one rule for herself: no dating until her grad-school thesis is done. Nothing can distract her from completing a paper that is so good her boss will give her the promotion she deserves when she returns to work in the city. Amira leaves campus early, planning to work in the quiet basement apartment of her family’s house. But she arrives home to find that her grandmother has rented the basement to . . . a barbershop quartet. Seriously? The living situation is awkward: Amira needs silence; the quartet needs to rehearse for a competition; and Duncan, the small-town baritone with the flannel shirts, is driving her up the wall.

As Amira and Duncan clash, she is surprised to feel a simmering attraction for him. How can she be interested in someone who doesn’t get her, or her family’s culture? This is not a complication she needs when her future is at stake. But when intolerance rears its ugly head and people who are close to Amira get hurt, she learns that there is more to Duncan than meets the eye. Now she must decide what she is willing to fight for. In the end, it may be that this small-town singer is the only person who sees her at all.

Why we're taking notice: A perfect novel to get lost in while lying on the beach. Don't forget the sunscreen! 

*

Heat Wave, by Maureen Jennings

About the book: July 1936 and Toronto is under a record-breaking heat wave. Charlotte Frayne is the junior associate in a two-person private investigation firm, owned by T. Gilmore. Two events set the book’s plot in motion: an anti-Semitic hate letter is delivered to Gilmore, who up to now has not acknowledged his religion, and Hilliard Taylor, a veteran of the First World War requests the firm’s assistance in uncovering what he believes is systematic embezzlement of the Paradise Café, which he owns and operates with three other men, all of whom were prisoners of war. The two events, although seemingly completely unrelated, come together in this wonderful novel that brings to life characters who are as real to the reader as those of the Murdoch series.

Why we're taking notice: Well, that title, for starters. And a new Maureen Jennings book is always a literary event for Canadian mystery lovers and fans of Murdoch Mysteries

*

Every Little Piece of Me, by Amy Jones

About the book: "The first time they met, Mags saved Ava's life. The second time they met, Ava saved Mags's."

Ava Hart is the most reluctant cast member of a reality TV show based on her big city family's (mostly staged) efforts to run a B&B in small-town Nova Scotia. Every family has its problems, but Ava has grown up seeing her family's every up and down broadcast on national television, after the show becomes an unexpected success for reasons that will take a heavy toll on the Harts. 

Mags Kovach is the charismatic lead singer of a struggling Halifax rock band hoping to be the Next Big Thing. For years she's managed to contain her demons and navigate the uglier aspects of being a woman in the music world, but after a devastating loss, she turns her anger on the only person she can: herself. 

As their private tragedies continue to set social media and tabloid headlines on fire, their every move subjected to an endless stream of public commentary, it will be their unexpected friendship that will save them. They will push back against the roles they've been forced to play, and take back control of something they thought they'd lost forever—the right to their own stories.

Why we're taking notice: So much buzz for Amy Jones new novel, which is an absorbing drama and celebration of female friendship at once. 

*

Book Cover Natalie Tan's Book of Luck and Fortune

Natalie Tan's Book of Luck and Fortune, by Roselle Lim

About the book: At the news of her mother’s death, Natalie Tan returns home. The two women hadn’t spoken since Natalie left in anger seven years ago, when her mother refused to support her chosen career as a chef. Natalie is shocked to discover the vibrant neighborhood of San Francisco’s Chinatown that she remembers from her childhood is fading, with businesses failing and families moving out. She’s even more surprised to learn she has inherited her grandmother’s restaurant. 

The neighborhood seer reads the restaurant’s fortune in the leaves: Natalie must cook three recipes from her grandmother’s cookbook to aid her struggling neighbors before the restaurant will succeed. Unfortunately, Natalie has no desire to help them try to turn things around—she resents the local shopkeepers for leaving her alone to take care of her agoraphobic mother when she was growing up. But with the support of a surprising new friend and a budding romance, Natalie starts to realize that maybe her neighbors really have been there for her all along.

Why we're taking notice: Romance AND recipes? Check out the excerpt (and recipe for "drunken chicken wings") that we featured on our website a few weeks ago

*

Bad Ideas, by Missy Marston

About the book: Trudy works nights in a linen factory, avoiding romance and sharing the care of her four-year-old niece with Trudy’s mother, Claire. Claire still pines for Trudy’s father, a St. Lawrence Seaway construction worker who left her twenty years ago. Claire believes in true love. Trudy does not. She’s keeping herself to herself. But when Jules Tremblay, aspiring daredevil, walks into the Jubilee restaurant, Trudy’s a goner.

Loosely inspired by Ken “the Crazy Canuck” Carter’s attempt to jump the St. Lawrence River in a rocket car, and set in a 1970s hollowed-out town in eastern Ontario, Bad Ideas paints an indelible portrait of people on the forgotten fringes of life. Witty and wise, this is a novel that will stay with you a long time.

Why we're taking notice: Missy Marston had us at, well, aliens and Margaret Atwood (but not that one, the other one) in her debut novel The Love Monster. Her follow-up is every bit as delightful. 

*

Queer as Camp: Essays on Summer, Style, and Sexuality, edited by Kenneth B. Kidd and Derritt Mason

About the book: To camp means to occupy a place and/or time provisionally or under special circumstances. To camp can also mean to queer. And for many children and young adults, summer camp is a formative experience mixed with homosocial structure and homoerotic longing. In Queer as Camp, editors Kenneth B. Kidd and Derritt Mason curate a collection of essays and critical memoirs exploring the intersections of “queer” and “camp,” focusing especially on camp as an alternative and potentially nonnormative place and/or time.

Exploring questions of identity, desire, and social formation, Queer as Camp delves into the diverse and queer-enabling dimensions of particular camp/sites, from traditional iterations of camp to camp-like ventures, literary and filmic texts about camp across a range of genres (fantasy, horror, realistic fiction, graphic novels), as well as the notorious appropriation of Indigenous life and the consequences of “playing Indian.”

These accessible, engaging essays examine, variously, camp as a queer place and/or the experiences of queers at camp, including Vermont’s Indian Brook, a single-sex girls’ camp that has struggled with the inclusion of nonbinary and transgender campers and staff; the role of Jewish summer camp as a complicated site of sexuality, social bonding, and citizen-making as well as a potentially if not routinely queer-affirming place. They also attend to cinematic and literary representations of camp, such as the Eisner award-winning comic series Lumberjanes, which revitalizes and revises the century-old Girl Scout story; Disney’s Paul Bunyan, a short film that plays up male homosociality and cross-species bonding while inviting queer identification in the process; Sleepaway Camp, a horror film that exposes and deconstructs anxieties about the gendered body; and Wes Anderson’s critically acclaimed Moonrise Kingdom, which evokes dreams of escape, transformation, and other ways of being in the world.

Why we're taking notice: Um, because this sounds like the coolest book ever, and how did it take so long for someone to think of it? Editor Derritt Mason is a Calgary academic, and Joshua Whitehead is a contributor. 

*

Dirty Work: My Gruelling, Glorious, Life-changing Summer In the Wilderness, by Anna Maxymiw

About the book: When Anna Maxymiw accepts a summer job as a housekeeper at a fishing lodge in Northern Ontario, she has little idea what to expect. At twenty-three, she has decided to step away from her master's degree and city life to board a floatplane bound for the remote boreal forest.

For sixty-seven days, Anna will be working and living alongside twelve strangers. Together this group of young men and women will keep the lodge running. While the fishing guides head out on the water with the fishermen who are the lodge's guests, the women stay on land to clean and serve. Against the backdrop of a vast lake, wild storms, and hot days and eerily still nights, Anna encounters bears, bugs, and the lore surrounding the lake's legendary pike. As the summer progresses, complex (and sometimes fraught) bonds form between the men and women who work at the lodge, the ownership of the lodge changes hands, and tensions build. And Anna notices a shift in her outlook, too: she finds herself letting go of fears and insecurities and welcoming surprises and possibilities, both good and bad, with a willingness to be changed by them.

Warm, funny, vulnerable, and wise, Dirty Work offers a singular perspective on the age-old impulse to leave familiar surroundings behind. This memoir is for anyone who has ever felt the urge to test themselves and wondered how they'd fare and who they'd be when they come out on the other side.

Why we're taking notice: There's been ecstatic praise for this memoir, including this from Stacey May Fowles: “Dirty Work is a sparkling gem of a book, showcasing the enduring, complex magic of this country’s unforgiving yet rewarding terrain. 

*

I'll Never Tell, by Catherine McKenzie 

About the book: What happened to Amanda Holmes?

After the sudden death of their parents, the MacAllister children return to the run-down summer camp where they spent their childhood. The four sisters and their elder brother haven’t all been together at Camp Macaw in over twenty years—ever since a tragic and mysterious accident.

Over the course of the Labour Day weekend, the siblings must determine what to do with the property, now worth millions. But a stunning condition of their father’s will compels them to face their past—and come to a decision that threatens to tear them apart forever.

A sharp and engrossing novel of suspense, I’ll Never Tell reveals what happens when the secrets and lies that hold a family together are finally exposed.

Why we're taking notice: The latest title by bestseller McKenzie is sure to delight her fans. 

*

Found Drowned, by Laurie Glenn Norris

About the book: Based on a true unsolved crime from 1877, Laurie Glenn Norris's debut novel tells the story of two small towns linked by the disappearance of a teenage girl. Mary Harney is a dreamy teenager in Cumberland County, Nova Scotia, whose ambitions are stifled by her tyrannical grandmother and alcoholic father. When Mary's mother becomes ill, an already fragile domestic situation quickly begins to unravel until the September evening when the girl goes missing.

Across the water on Prince Edward Island we meet Gilbert Bell, whose son finds a body washed up on the beach below the family farm. As the community is visited first by the local coroner and then by investigators, Glenn Norris paints a fascinating and darkly comic picture of judicial and forensic procedures of the time. At once tightly plotted and pensive, the novel travels back to the circumstances that led to Mary's disappearance and then back further to the circumstances of her parents' marriage, all the while building toward a raucous courtroom finale.

Why we're taking notice: An endorsement by award-winner Carole Bruneau, who writes, "Found Drowned exposes the underbelly of rural life in scenarios rife with family feuds, domestic abuse, and madness. With its near-forensic attention to detail, this suspense-filled tale rubs away the blush of romanticism which often tints views of our past." 

*

Your Life is Mine, by Nathan Ripley

About the book: Blanche Potter never expected to face her past again—but she can’t escape it.

Blanche, an up-and-coming filmmaker, has distanced herself in every way she can from her father, the notorious killer and cult leader, Chuck Varner. In 1996, when she was a small child, he went on a shooting spree before turning the gun on himself.

Now, Blanche learns that her mother has been murdered. She returns to her childhood home, where she soon discovers there’s more to the death than police are willing to reveal. The officer who’s handling the case is holding information back, and a journalist who’s nosing around the investigation is taking an unusual interest in Blanche’s family.

Blanche begins to suspect that Chuck Varner’s cult has found a new life, and that her mother’s murder was just the beginning of the cult’s next chapter.

Then another killing occurs.

Why we're taking notice: Ripley's first novel Find You in the Dark was creepy and terrific, and this follow-up promises to be another perfect summer read. 

*

The Last Resort, by Marissa Stapley

About the book: The Harmony Resort promises hope for struggling marriages. Run by celebrity power couple Drs. Miles and Grace Markell, the “last resort” offers a chance for partners to repair their relationships in a luxurious setting on the gorgeous Mayan Riviera.

Johanna and Ben have a marriage that looks perfect on the surface, but in reality, they don’t know each other at all. Shell and Colin fight constantly: after all, Colin is a workaholic, and Shell always comes second to his job as an executive at a powerful mining company. But what has really torn them apart is too devastating to talk about. When both couples begin Harmony’s intensive therapy program, it becomes clear that Harmony is not all it seems—and neither are Miles and Grace themselves. What are they hiding, and what price will these couples pay for finding out?

As a deadly tropical storm descends on the coast, trapping the hosts and the guests on the resort, secrets are revealed, loyalties are tested and not one single person—or their marriage—will remain unchanged by what follows.

Why we're taking notice: Get a load of Stapley's amazing recommended reading list, "Fierce Feminist Fiction." 

*

Crow, by Amy Spurway

About the book: When Stacey Fortune is diagnosed with three highly unpredictable — and inoperable — brain tumours, she abandons the crumbling glamour of her life in Toronto for her mother Effie's scruffy trailer in rural Cape Breton. Back home, she's known as Crow, and everybody suspects that her family is cursed.

With her future all but sealed, Crow decides to go down in a blaze of unforgettable glory by writing a memoir that will raise eyebrows and drop jaws. She'll dig up "the dirt" on her family tree, including the supposed curse, and uncover the truth about her mysterious father, who disappeared a month before she was born.

But first, Crow must contend with an eclectic assortment of characters, including her gossipy Aunt Peggy, hedonistic party-pal Char, homebound best friend Allie, and high-school flame Willy. She'll also have to figure out how to live with her mother and how to muddle through the unsettling visual disturbances that are becoming more and more vivid each day.

Witty, energetic, and crackling with sharp Cape Breton humour, Crow is a story of big twists, big personalities, big drama, and even bigger heart.

Why we're taking notice: Because Crow is one of the best Canadian books out this year, and if you haven't read it yet: WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR? 

*

A Deceptive Devotion, by Iona Whishaw

About the book: A wedding is on the horizon for Lane Winslow and Inspector Darling. As one of the few Russian speakers in her community, Lane is obliged to act as translator and hostess for Countess Orlova, an elderly Russian woman who has tracked her missing brother to the Nelson area. Nelson PD investigates, but then the murder of a lone hunter in the hills above King’s Cove takes top priority.

Darling works the case with a Constable Oxley—a newcomer to the area, assigned in Constable Ames’ temporary absence—and a British agent contacts Lane to warn her to be on the lookout for a fleeing Russian defector. Bound by the Wartime Secrets Act, Lane is conflicted about keeping the information from Darling, especially when it begins to put a strain on their relationship.

Why we're taking notice: It's never too late to get hooked on Iona Whishaw's amazing mystery series. Try it and you will NOT be disappointed. 

June 25, 2019
Books mentioned in this post
Treed

Treed

Walking in Canada's Urban Forests
edition:Paperback
More Info
The Chai Factor

The Chai Factor

A Novel
edition:eBook
also available: Paperback Paperback
tagged : humorous
More Info
Dirty Work

Dirty Work

My Gruelling, Glorious, Life-changing Summer In the Wilderness
edition:Paperback
More Info
Crow

Crow

edition:eBook
also available: Paperback
tagged : literary, humorous
More Info
A Deceptive Devotion

A Deceptive Devotion

edition:Paperback
also available: eBook
More Info
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