Celebrate the joys of togetherness during the holiday season with your friends, your family … and your pack. Let’s face it, whether you’re facing awkward family dinners, supernatural brawls, or the terrors of online dating, your pack always has your back.
Werewolves, hell hounds, and other canines take centre stage in these nineteen stories by Angèle Gougeon; Sarah Hersman; Rhonda Parrish; JB Riley; Louis B. Rosenberg; Robert W. Easton; Jennifer Lee Rossman; Lisa Timpf; Rachel Sharp; Sarah L. Johnson & Robert Bose; Krista D. Ball; Rebecca M. Senese; Lizz Donnelly; Adam Israel; E.C. Bell; Melanie Marttila; J. Y. T. Kennedy; Rebecca Brae; and V. F. LeSann.
Because it is an anthology it is a bit harder to talk about since it has 18 short stories and I am not going to talk about all of them. But I will say this anthology contains all types of stories from heart warming to bittersweet. I felt the joy of the holidays and cried and laughed out loud while reading this. So here's some highlights.
The opening story Yule Moon is a very cute story of crossing cultural boundaries that sets the tone well for the rest of the book.
The Twelve Days of Dating by Krista D Bell would have gotten a shout out no matter what since she is the one that brought the anthology to my attention. But this story is hilarious and perfectly captures what online dating is like (miserable). But you add in cute weredogs and put it all on a space station. Also the idea of what a spa day would look like for a werewolf was something I had never thought about before.
The Teeth Have it by Rebecca Brae is an adorable f/f romance with a vet willing to brave a blizzard to help out. But it is also melancholy and addresses dealing with loss during the holidays in a healthy way.
There's also stories of the Yule Wolf, Hell Hounds, and wolves having to replace the reindeer for Christmas night as well as many others. While I didn't love every story in here on the whole it was a good collection and one that I think I will re-visit and in my opinion the best book with the title Home for the Howlidays.
First book of the year! Lovely uplifting anthology, of canines and holidays. Even though a vast majority of the canines are werewolves, and sometimes it seems the stories are steering into horror, the overall mood is optimistic and heart warming, just the right thing right now.
My favorite was "Two Loyal Dogs (And a Hornhead in an Apple Tree)", with an interesting mix of mythologies and a fun snarky main character. "Playing the Odds" was very imaginative, and so was "Where the hearth is". "The Twelve Days of Dating" was lovely, and it is an interesting world to further explore. Also really enjoyed "The Teeth Have It".
The marketing category, “Holiday Collection”, conjures up heart-warming stories about families getting together for Christmas dinner, Hallmark romcoms featuring mistletoe, and perhaps some stories about puppies. Well, okay, this holiday collection actually has all of that. But you might not have been expecting coyotes, werewolves, hellhounds, or a variety of non-Christian winter solstice celebrations. On the other hand, A Christmas Carol is undeniably a ghost story, A Wonderful Life is about suicide and angels, and Gremlins is apparently as much a Christmas movie as Die Hard, so who is to say Christmas specials shouldn’t include the occasional werewolf?
Take, for example, the opening story, “A Furtastic Gathering” by Angèle Gougeon. It’s a charming depiction of every family’s Christmas dinner: kids under foot, cousins crowding round, and meeting the daughter’s boyfriend for the first time. That the family happens to be werewolves, and the new boyfriend a vampire, merely emphasises the universality of the experience.
Krista Ball’s “The Twelve Days of Christmas” provides the romcom. A young woman tries a dating app to meet someone for the holidays, with predictable but entertaining results. This is pretty much everyone’s awful dating experience, with “werewolf” standing in for whatever body image issue you once feared disqualified you from finding that special someone.
There were several stories about alternative holidays, of which my favourites were J.Y.T. Kennedy’s “Apple Night” and Sarah Hersma’s “Yule Moon,” both lovely examples of communities striving for peace on Earth.
My two very favorite stories of the collection both stood out for their perfect depiction of rural life. “Corn Dogs,” by the writing duo of Sarah L Johnson and Robert Bose evoked such a strong sense of place that the slide from the ordinary into ancient Slavic curses became almost imperceptible. Pitting werewolves against a John Deere combine harvester in a Taber corn field may be the definitive prairie horror story. Similarly, Rebecca Brae’s “The Teeth Have It” is a completely accurate description of driving alone in a blizzard and therefore a completely logical encounter with a coyote.
Not everything in the collection works quite as well as the above. A few took longer to get to the point than I thought necessary. If you have a clever horror concept, then a short, sharp jab is usually what’s needed. Louis B. Rosenberg’s flash piece, “The curse of Christmas Present”, is an excellent example of matching length to concept, an engagingly short delivery to a delightful punchline. In contrast, there were two or three stories that could have used a bit more editing to tighten the pacing and raise the tension.
And while I really enjoyed Lizz Donnelly’s “Bark! The Harold Angels Sing”, others may find the partly ambiguous ending annoying. (I am prepared to argue that endings that leave at least part of the story unresolved are a particularly Canadian thing, but not everyone is into Canlit.)
Overall, I recommend the collection, the good far outweighing the few stories that were kind of ‘meh’. No anthology is ever a perfect match for all readers, and “Corn Dogs” alone is worth the price of admission. If you’re looking for a slightly unusual Christmas gift, you could do worse than introduce friends and family to a refreshingly different take on the season.
*****Marvelous collection. A Furtastic Gathering Angèle Gougeon Just your normal everyday Christmas dinner with kids and mayhem. (chuckle) Yule Moon Sarah Hersman Friendship blooms under the decorated Yule tree. Two Loyal Dogs (And a Hornhead in an Apple Tree!) Rhonda Parrish This is told in the first person and involves the apple of immortality. Most interesting. Playing the Odds JB Riley The things that happen when you loose a bet. The Curse of Christmas Present Louis B. Rosenberg An old box with a sad red bow Makes Mugsy very happy. Rex Invictis Robert W. Easton A wizard, cursed to be a dog, makes everyone's Christmas happy. O Howly Night Jennifer Lee Rossman Bella of the Wild Hunt delivers Christmas to a little girl and her siblings. Where the Hearth Is Lisa Timpf When you have been traveling in space for a long time where is home? All Bark Rachel Sharp Solstus is a time for change. This time it was very interesting. Corn Dogs Sarah L.Johnson and Robert Bose Upon arriving home Sol finds all is not what he thought it would be, what with hellhounds, a dead grandfather giving instructions and a crazy bunch of relatives. The Twelve Days of Dating Krista D. Ball After trying to have a decent date for twelve days the new year starts off well. The Yule Wolf Rebecca M. Senese Jola, the Yula Cat, can't do her usual job on Christmas Eve. Lupa, the she-wolf, takes over for this year and with pleasure does things a little differently. Bark! The Harold Angels Sing Lizz Donnelly A little girl gets her dog. Bark! The Harold Angels Sing Lizz Donnelly A fox and a racoon appear on the first shift of two cousins on Christmas. Their fathers join them i the back yard. The Dead Tree Gift E.C. Bell To leave a place where death has happened is one thing but to return with a friend is another better thing. The Wolf You Feed Melanie Marttila Feed a starving wolf and you get a gift. Apple Night J. Y. T. Kennedy The gathering happens once a year and can be very dangerous if you have deserted. The Teeth Have It Rebecca Brae Tess rescues a dog that was hit by a truck in a blizzard and takes it to her cabin. Surprise, not a dog - a coyote! Wonderful story. Shifting Gears V. F. LeSann Things start changing when the holiday dinner coincides with the full moon.