Some of you may be scanning the shelves of your independent bookstores for all the Best Ofs of 2019 and wondering for whom will you gift the joy of a fantastic #CanLit book? Others (like me) may have long lists of holds at the library, desperately hoping the 70 other people could just read a little faster, already!!
If you’re looking for a great gift, look no further than here. I am going to lay out Junction Reads’ 2019 readers (with my own little personal reviews…there are links for more detailed synopses).Because I am not a fast reader and have been immersed in my own writing, some of these reviews have been extracted from conversations with friends and family. I am also not a great reviewer of books!
Check them out and consider this our very own Top 22 with a few added bonus stories thrown in at the end!!
Priya Ramsingh’s Brown Girl in the Room is a book about first generation Canadians and how that corporate ladder to the top means different things to everyone. The characters in this book have to find a way to succeed against the silence of unspoken racism (the worst kind).
Adrian Michael Kelly’s The Ambassador of What from ECW Press is a collection of haunting stories that you’ll remember for a long time. Each one provokes and engages the reader and will have you asking what you might do in any one of the characters’ situations.
Full disclosure, I have not yet read Kyp Harness’ The Abandoned, but my husband has and he loved it! Partly because it is set close to his hometown, husband says this book was a very up close and personal look at a dysfunctional family and how it can really mess a kid up, but also make them the best people you’d ever want to know….or read.
Jan Rehner’sAlmost Trueis about the bond of friendship. Set in France during WWII, this book is full of mystery and discovery. Discovering who these women are, and how despite their differences, their shared secrets will keep them tied together forever.
Jen Chen’sSuper!is a book full of young super heroes, but the main character, Beata, proves that you don’t actually have to have super powers to take down a villain. My son loved this book!
Aparna Kaji Shah’s The Scent of Mogra and Other Stories. For a debut collection, this book will have you in awe of the talent and skill with which each story is crafted. Each and every female narrator is powerful and daring. Have I mentioned how much I love the short story?
Sky Curits’ TRAPS, a third in her Robin MacFarland mystery series. I have to say, Robin MacFarland is the funniest, most honest and curious woman you’ll meet in a book. Along with her BFF and crime reporter friend, Cindy, Robin struggles to solve another murder (or prove there is a murder) while also trying to love herself.
Rebecca Higgins’ beautiful collection of short stories, The Colour of Birds, is a gift for anyone who loves the short story. I feel so blessed to have been able to read some of these stories before they got pressed into this lovely book. Rebecca’s writing is lyrical and her characters are emotional and intelligent.
Catriona Wright’s collection of short stories, Difficult People is full of weirdos and egos and you know what? We all know someone just like any one of these people. Each one of these stories is a fun dive into the world of one misfit or another. If you don’t already love the short story, you will after reading this.
Mary Lou Dickinson’s The White Ribbon Man is a fantastic mystery! A dead body is found in a bathroom stall in a church basement! An incredible setting and who’d kill someone in a church!?
Loren Edizel’s Days of Moonlight was a finalist for the 2019 International Book Award and shortlisted for the Fred Kerner Book Award. Set in Turkey, Crete and Canada, it is a story of unspoken truths, love unfulfilled and how a past can be experienced through the written word.
There are no happy endings in John Miller’s Wild and Beautiful is the Night. Focusing on two sex workers, both addicts, we follow them as they struggle to navigate the dangers of the street and the joys in close friendships.
It was such a pleasure to meet SK Dyment’s and hear them read from Steel Animals. This book is full of punk rock eccentrics, motorcycles and a dose of queer magic realism. You will not meet a cooler bunch of folks in any other book this year!
Tim Conley’s Collapsible was a very fun read. I picked it up and put it down a lot because I got so much joy from so many of the stories, I spaced it out between a couple of other heavier novels. Get this for the smart, funny short story lover in your life.
Alex Boyd’s Army of the Brace and Accidental is one of those books that got us talking. A retelling of The Odyssey, it got me wondering how had I read Homer as a young person. It might make you want to go back and re-read those epic poems!
Pratap Reddy’s Ramya’s Treasure is an immigrant story that takes you on a journey of self-discovery. The narrator is so honest and engaging. It made me questions who I might be given the same circumstances.
Victoria Hetherington’s Mooncalves was fascinating and gripping. I love a good story about cults and doomsdayers, but this takes you on that journey and pulls you deep! It’s kind of scary to think this is based on real events!
Erika Rummel is the kind of writer I aspire to be! The Painting on Auerperger’s Wall is a book that is both mystery and history lesson and a story that challenges you to think of truth in a different way. When everyone’s living with their own version of it, how do you know what’s real or fake?
Lisa de Nikolits is pure joy in person and on the page. Her writing is funny, engaging and so well-paced you’ll marvel at how quickly you get sucked in. Rotten Peaches has some of the funniest characters I have ever read. It’s a noir novel and not going to lie, anybody on your list will love it.
Cracker Jacks for Misfits , by Christine Ottoni, is a collection of short stories near and dear to me. I met Naomi, Marce, Jake and Joanne in workshop, long before they truly came to life in this super fun collection of stories. Get this book for a twenty-something in your life, then buy a copy and leave it on your dad’s bedside table. They’ll both thank you!
Melissa Bull’s The Knockoff Eclipse is all I want my own writing to be. All of these stories get away with some challenging endings. If you’re looking for a happily ever after kind of delivery, stick with Grimm, you won’t find any in this incredible collection.
Anthony De Sa‘s readings are so engaging and fun, I am always left just desperate to get home and read his books. Children of the Moon is a novel that explores De Sa’s own family’s experiences with war through the eyes of three very different characters. As the mum of a kid with a facial difference, I am always in search of a great book that provokes readers to think of the experiences of the outsiders in the world. Get this one!