To celebrate the festive season, we're featuring books that showcase the holidays or set the mood for the upcoming frosty winter months. ☃️❄️
Enjoy excerpts from Julebord: The Holiday Season by David Øybo; Winners and Losers: Tales of Life, Law, Love and Loss a collection of short stories by Darlene Madott; Getting Huge a romp of a novel by John Young; the rollicking The B-Side of Daniel Garneau; In Bruno's Shadow, an international novel brimming with incidents at once magical and wholly plausible; and the spellbinding Toronto-set novel Love and Rain by Carmela Circelli.
Our first excerpt is from crime fiction/Nordic Noir Julebord: The Holiday Season by David Øybo.
As some of us know, a Julebord (translated—politically correct—as ‘The Holiday Party’) is an important and lively event to socialize once a year on a December evening with your colleagues, deeply rooted in the working culture of organizations and employers in Norway.
Occasionally, people even call it ‘the event of the year’.
For those of us, who don’t know:
skirts and blouses,
suits and ties,
high heels and smart shoes,
mascara and cufflinks.
pinnekjøt and ribbe,
julepølse and potatoes,
followed by riskrem. Always riskrem.
mugs full of gløgg and glasses filled with wine.
It often means:
bubbly champagne and colorful cocktails,
and sometimes—only sometimes—a little too much akvavit.
It’s always the damn akvavit.
celebration and speeches,
music and dance.
releasing pent up frustrations and, for some:
It has only ONE rule:
What happens at the Julebord stays at the Julebord.
Just like Vegas.
But it’s freezing cold and pitch-dark outside.
This is Norway.
In the middle of winter.
Learn more about Julebord.
Our second excerpt is from is a collection of linked short stories that turns a dazzling searchlight on the inner workings of the legal profession, told from the viewpoint of a feisty narrator finding her way through a hostile and competitive law environment.
“Pasta With The Priests,” Winners and Losers, by Darlene Madott
Father Mercutio takes Francesca on a backstage tour of the Choir School. Francesca is particularly fascinated by the cloistered area with stained windows above the auditorium – a cozy Victorian interior lined with books and stacked with music scores and a dusty assortment of wingback chairs and Jacobean straight-backs, unused fireplace, and lead-plated windows that open out onto Bond Street.
“It’s magical when snow falls onto Bond Street at night, capping the street lights. You know the movie, Miracle on 42nd Street? Well, there should be a Miracle on Bond Street, because that’s what we’ve got here, a little miracle,” says Father Mercutio.
Francesca has found a way of being in the world and is successful at it in the ways of the world. She has a boy at the Choir School. This is the unspoken preamble to some request she knows is coming, and come it does – directly after dinner, in the small Victorian sitting room above Bond Street to which Francesca, Father Mercutio and the Deacon retire with the remains of the wine.
Would she be the benefactress of a Christmas Carol specifically written for St. Michael’s Choir School?
What a wonderful idea!
So, they begin to converse about the essence of an enduring Christmas Carol. Francesca has her own favourite precedents: What Child is This, I Saw Three Ships, and her favourite of all time, the English 16th century Coventry Carol. It is the simplicity of the lyrics wedded to the music – a simplicity which echoes the humbleness of the birth in a manger, the nakedness with which we are born and die. We come from a silence before the womb into a hollering, cacophonous, terrifying, confusing, harmonious, mystical, evil, glorious world and, no sooner sung and cadenced, return to silence again.
The evening ends with a knock at the Victorian sitting-room door. Father Mercutio answers still holding a wine glass in his hand. Francesca hears him giving some guidance on a repair that workmen had volunteered to do, after hours. The Deacon has long ago stopped talking and is snoring loudly from his chair, his little hands entwined, fingers folded clerically above his stomach. His empty glass is at the foot of his chair, tucked safely beneath, like one practiced at avoiding spillage.
“That couldn’t have looked very good,” Father Mercutio says to Francesca, just before they adjourn for the night, “a priest answering the door with a glass of wine in his hand.” To say nothing of the woman in the room, their chaperone asleep.
On the cab ride back to her empty home, knowing her son is exercising his infrequent access to his father that night, Francesca mulls over the commission, which she will fund.
(A Christmas Carol in 4/4 time)
The first time ever I see your face
I weep at your nativity
I see the babe with hands up-reached,
I see the man with arms outstretched.
Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia.
I feel your face with little hands
I taste the salt of your fears
I taste my own humanity,
Swaddled in a love of tears.
Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia
What can I give this babe of mine?
With straw for bed, and roof so low?
What can I do for him divine?
That he himself knows not to sew?
Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia.
The first time ever I hear your voice
I seek you with these eyes so blind,
Your song first heard from inside
Sound of Mother Creator mine.
Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia.
I see the lamb yet to be,
Rejoice for all humanity.
My peace, my love, I give to you
My love for all eternity.
Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia.
Up next, a humorous and touching tale, Getting Huge by John Young, following John Crackstone's pursuit of success and sense of belonging, which culminates on an unforgettable Christmas evening.
When Christmas Eve came, I was leaving early to check on everything and to go over my sermon. Nancy and the kids were getting ready. I turned to say good-bye, and there stood Nancy next to the Christmas tree, waiting for me. Oh my, she wore an emerald-green wool dress with a cream yoke across the shoulders which came together in a V-neck and formed a tapering panel down the front where it parted again to encircle a high-low hem. (She had to tell me it was called a high-low hem.) Nancy also wore pearl earrings and a pearl necklace, and her blonde hair had grown out to shoulder length. I’d never seen her look more beautiful. I went to her and said, “You look gorgeous.”
Learn more about Getting Huge.
Our fourth excerpt The B-Side of Daniel Garneau by David Kingston Yeh, concludes David's big-hearted three-book series set in Toronto featuring the misadventures of boyfriends Daniel and David, their eccentric family and friends.
In December, I arrived at Nathan Phillips Square in front of Toronto City Hall. The snow was gently falling and the Cavalcade of Lights in full glory. This year, the white spruce Christmas tree was almost twenty metres tall, presiding over a dazzling wonderland of ice sculptures and sparkling wreaths. Half-a-million LED lights illuminated the plaza with changing hues. People ate hot fries out of paper cartons with wooden forks. I caught the delicious aromas of maple syrup and hot chocolate. As I approached the skating rink, Charles and Megan shouted and waved from the ice, promptly falling over each other in a tangle of red mittens and scarves. I settled on a bench, and sipped from my thermos. Nearby, a woman in a hijab was helping two children lace up their skates. Luke in his bomber jacket glided past with Ai Chang, now three months pregnant. Across the rink, I spotted Parker performing a two-foot spin before kicking into an arabesque. When Kyle patted his shoulder and pointed my way, I raised my arm and waved back at them. Pat came to a hockey stop in a spray of ice. “Bro, you made it!” Nadia and Karen sat down on either side of me.
“Did you get it?” Karen asked. When I pulled it out, everyone cheered. Both women kissed me on the cheeks and jumped back onto the ice. Tonight, a DJ was hosting a free skating party and the music was thumping. Sleigh bells rang out. By the bandstand, I spotted Marwa enjoying her cigarette, laughing as Ghazwan petted the enormous ushanka on her head. Marcus would be in Berlin by now. Who knew when he might return? Jaydee and their art school friends were lined up by the rental booth. With rosy cheeks, David stepped up off the rink. He gave me a hug, rummaged in a hockey bag and handed me my skates.
“Don’t wait for me,” I said. “I’ll catch up.”
The clock tower of Old City Hall chimed. I laced up carefully, taking my time. It’d been eight years since I’d put on skates. Lucky number.
I finally stood, walked forward and paused at the edge of the rink. There was still so much to do and so little time.
“Hey.” David skated up to me. “You good?”
“C’mon.” He reached out, smiling. “Everything’s going to be okay.”
“I know,” I said.
I stepped down onto the ice, and took his hand.
Learn more about The B-Side of Daniel Garneau.
Our fifth excerpt, set at the Piazza Navona in Rome, is from In Bruno’s Shadow by Tony Ardizzone.
The sun was high and bright, the late December day so clear and crisp that nearly everyone other than Agostino and the North American couple from Boston was smiling. Throughout the Piazza Navona there was the sound of water, splashing, surging, rushing, popping, hissing – a tumbling and shifting kaleidoscope of sound so pervasive that after a while the ear took the sounds for granted and no longer heard them.
The couple from Boston, Ben and Elena, moved past it all, past the booth selling lottery tickets and the candy and torrone and ciambelle stands, past the carnival game stalls and the merry-go-round topped by a leaping horse, past the towering Babbo Natale in his red cloak teetering about the square on his obvious pair of stilts. Forced by the crowds to walk single file, Ben and Elena were doing churches before deciding on a place for lunch. Behind them, the pretty organetto player who sat beside the fountain swung her wild black hair from side to side as she skipped her way through a tarantella. A white-faced mime in a red beret imitated a tourist talking on her cell phone, trailing her step by step, holding one hand up his ear, nodding whenever the unaware woman nodded. With his dirty plastic boot, Santa crushed the butt of his cigarette on the ground and posed for a photograph with a reluctant child, her parents cooing like pigeons in an attempt to make the frightened girl stop crying. The puppeteer from Palermo pulled skirted fishnet gloves onto the first two fingers of each \ hand and danced the can-can, kicking his fingers higher and higher with each step, as a vendor from Senegal, his complexion the soft color of rain-splashed teak, sprayed the air with arcs of rainbow-flecked soap bubbles popping from the mouth of the plastic toy in his hand.
Learn more about In Bruno’s Shadow
In our last except from Love and Rain by Carmela Circelli, Carmela sets the scene of what we’re sure most Canadian can relate to…winter!
It was after the world was supposed to end, after they discovered the 'God particle', after hurricane Sandy wrecked the Jersey shore, after Lhasa de Sela died. That's when the Thing entered my life, cracked it, then reconfigured it in a whole new way. It was like a collision of fate and chance, and then, a crashing wave from an unknown past.
From this vantage point, it all seems foreshadowed by a series of storms. The first was in mid winter, the night I decided to leave my boyfriend Daniel and move back to my own apartment. He was out that night at his martial arts class. I gathered a few things, my CD's, some clothes, my copy of Being and Time, and I left without explanation. Because the truth was I didn't know why I was leaving.
Walking up Sorauren towards Dundas Street, to catch the streetcar, I realized I'd walked into a blizzard but somehow couldn't turn back. I kept going, the whirling wind whipping me forward, then lashing back at me. Stinging with rebuke. As if to say “What the fuck do you think you're doing?”
When I got to the bus shelter there was no-one there, not a good sign. I waited for about an hour, the shelter shaking and clanging, threatening to collapse on me. My scarf was wrapped all around my head so I could hardly see. The snow kept falling as the wind scattered the world into a cold, white oblivion.
Waiting in the thick of the blizzard, I got a text from my friend Jo, vacationing in sunny Italy. “Why go to Italy in winter?” I had said when she asked me to go with her. But she was intent on taking a trip to her late father's birthplace, no matter the time of year. Surely there were no blizzards in Italy I was thinking, just as the bus heaved its way towards visibility.
I made it home though my nose had turned white as snow. The next day the city streets were littered with devastated trees, wreckage of wood and ice, electrical chaos which left the city in darkness for nine days. I had no heat in my apartment, so I had to sleep in the community center of the co-op where I lived. My phone kept beeping with texts from Daniel. I turned off the phone because there was nothing I could say, no reason I could give.
There was no power at the flower shop where I worked either so I didn't have to go in. I slept most of those nine days, curled up on a yoga mat in the corner of a large room alongside other temporarily, homeless neighbors. Rows and rows of flat mats with sleeping bags strewn across them. Little sleep was had, but at least we were warm.
Learn more about Love and Rain.
We hope you’re feeling festive!
This month we have some special holiday offers.
- We’re offering 15% off ALL our titles.
And we have some fabulous bundles:
- David Kingston Yeh’s The Boy At The Edge Trilogy AND Brian van Norman's Against the Machine trilogy.
Buy 2 and Get 1 FREE with Free Shipping
Add all items to your shopping cart and the discount will automatically be applied at checkout. To get free shipping, enter the promo code at checkout.
PROMO CODE: FS2023BUNDLE
- The full 6-instalment Canticles epic by George Elliott Clarke for the price of 4 (get 2 FREE!).
Add all items to your shopping cart and the discount will automatically be applied at checkout.
To get free shipping, enter the promo code at checkout.
PROMO CODE: FS2023BUNDLE