giovedì 31 dicembre 2015

Christmas Reads: My True Love Gave To Me: Twelve Holiday Stories

This is the last of the Christmas-y books I chose to read this year. I am already looking forward to next year and I think I have found what my choices will be. Anyway, I really enjoyed reading books with this theme during the holidays and I highly recommend it if you love Christmas or you just want to find your lost Christmas spirit.

Okay, let's start by saying that I am that person who starts listening to Christmas music in November. As December approaches, I become quite obsessed with everything red, gold and dark green, I turn into a walking Christmas impersonation. (That's not entirely correct, but I hope you get the idea.)
So, this year I decided to transfer my Christmas spirit needs into a bookish form. What does that mean? Not only I did listen to Christmas music and watched every movie with a hint of festivities in it, but I also dedicated part of this moth to read a few books with a Christmas theme. And the third one was My True Love Gave to Me: Twelve Holiday Stories 

My True Love Gave To Me is a YA anthology, in which there are twelve stories from authors of different genres. Stories aren't usually my go-to reads because if i like them I want more, but it's a good way to discover new authors. Also, the illustrations made for each story were absolutely beautiful and perfectly represent the theme of the story, in a subtle or in a not so subtle way.
I am not sure if I should write a short summary of each story while writing my opinion or if I should leave it to discover for anyone who wants to read the book.
Anyway, let's start with the fun part.

Midnights by Rainbow Rowell ★★★★★

Two friends spend New Year’s Eve together at the same party for four years. How will the time affect them and their relationship? 
This story was the sweetest ever, I adore it. We get to actually see two people fall in love, isn't it just the best? My answer: yes. I am also really looking forward to read something else by Rainbow Rowell (I know, I know, I haven't read anything by her, shame on me. But it will change soon.) It was a very beautiful story. It is nostalgic and we experience New Year's Eve. Megs and Noel were absolutely perfect. 

“You're a kaleidoscope, you change every time I look away.” 

The Lady and The Fox by Kelly Link ★★

A stranger stands outside the Honeywell holiday gathering, watching under mysterious circumstances which our heroine, Miranda, is determined to discover. Over the years, Miranda discovers herself too.
I was actually perplexed after reading this story. What was it supposed to mean? It was confusing and I am not even sure I understood everything. I appreciated the Christmas feeling which invaded the plot line, but it wasn't well developed. There was a good element that could have had the power to light up the story. However it was poorly explained. About the ending... mmm what?? Yeah, it was confusing and more confusing.

“She knows, every part of her knows, that she wants to kiss him. That he wants to kiss her. All of her skin prickles with longing. Her insides fizz.” 

Angels in the Snow by Matt De La Peña ★★★.75

While cat-sitting for his manager, a starving NYU student meets a neighbor whose apartment has plumbing problems. Will Christmas be as miserable as Shy predicts?
There was food involved and that was amazing. My stomach was starving along Shy's one and my mouth was watering while the neighbor Haley prepared lunch and dinner. Overall the story was sweet, a bit simple, but that's what short story are about in the most part. I was very pleased with the characterization of the two personalities. Even if there wasn't a lot of space to develop the characters, the author managed to do it. The story was cute and delicious. I loved the ending too.

“I guess I don't really know what I want to do, either. Sometimes I feel like a shook-up bottle of soda. Like, I have all this passion that wants to explode, but I don't know where to aim it yet.” 

Polaris Is Where You Will Find Me by Jenny Han ★★.75

A human is adopted by Santa Claus but remains an outsider among his elves. Does this year’s Snow Ball hold the promise of true love?
Okay, I liked the plot if seen from afar. However if I start analyzing every detail in my head, it doesn't make a lot of sense to me. Most characters annoyed me, the protagonist Natalie was too whiny and the ending leaves with nothing. There should have been a lot more of development of the plot line, we can't be left with that supposed ending, we want to know more. How will it end? Nobody knows. Anyway I was very very pleased by the location of the story and its originality. I love elves, magic and a first love story. I appreciated the Lars's aspect of the story, but the conclusion was so wrong.


It's a Yuletide Miracle, Charlie Brown by Stephanie Perkins ★★★★.5

A girl needs help with a side project from the boy who sells Christmas trees with his family. Will their time together spark into something more?
In this story we see a boy and a girl fall in love. It all happens naturally and it doesn't looked forced at all. It was sweet and lovely. Marigold's shyness and North's adorableness were the cutest. I loved those two together and I truly hoped their dreams and aspirations all come true. I really enjoyed this metaphor: not only North organized the girl's apartment, but he also seemed to put in order her life too.

“Would you rather be great at something you like, or just okay at something you love?” 

Your Temporary Santa by David Levithan ★★★

A boy is asked to dress up as Santa Claus and save the magic of Christmas for his partner’s little sister.
I didn't feel a particular connection with the story at all. It was cute and the love between the two boys was tender. The writing was fluid and what the boy does is very sweet, but this story left me almost nothing. The family members were actually very well detailed in their personalities. Anyway, it was just okay.

“He says presents aren't important, but I think they are - not because of how much they cost, but for the opportunity they provide to say I understand you.” 

Krampuslauf by Holly Balck ★★★★

Fairmont’s second annual Krampuslauf in which Wren and our main character try to get justice for their friend by confronting her jerkwad boyfriend leads to our MC being forced to host a New Year’s party. Will all be revealed then and will our heroine get to talk to the hot Krampus boy?
I really enjoyed the story. It was different from the other ones and the fantastical details were very well described. The romance wasn't the only aspect of the plot and I really appreciated it. Also, magic and friendship were involved and they were my favorite part. However I have to admit I found some things a little bit too rough. 

“Sometimes I felt like I was waiting for my life to begin and more than anything, in that moment, I wanted to force some kind of beginning. I wanted things to be different than 
usual. I wanted to bend reality.” 

What The Hell Have You Done, Sophie Roth? by Gayle Forman ★★★.75

Sophie Roth is a sarcastic big city smart mouth at her small town college who feels like she does not belong until she meets a fellow outsider and begins to question her assumptions about her surroundings.
I liked the two characters and really enjoyed the story. However there were some details that left me wondering why that was supposed to be realistic? A girl getting into the car of a boy she barely knows and she just met.. mmm. The plot was okay and the story was cute to read, but in the end I was left with nothing. I mean, I really enjoyed and really liked the characters, but it was meaningless. Hope it does make sense.

“You can't undo loss. You can't unmake a mistake.” 

Beer Buckets and Baby Jesus by Myra McEntire ★★★★

After nearly setting the local church on fire, Vaughn is forced to do forty hours of community service, including putting on the Christmas production along with the pastor’s nice daughter. Chaos ensues – will Vaughn truly help if given the proper motivation?
Maybe I am an hopeless romantic, but I can't help but love a story when a bad boy is saved by the good girl. And at the end we discover that the bad boy isn't bad at all. Everyone has a good heart and this story lets us see that. Call it cheesy and stereotypical, but I really enjoyed it. But it is just my personal opinion. The plot is also really enjoyable and the characters are realistic.

“We all love and we all lose and we go on loving just the same.” 

Welcome to Christmas, CA by Kiersten White ★★★★★

Maria saves all her tip-money so that she can escape her small town. The new cook in her mother’s Christmas-themed restaurant will challenge Maria’s perception of her family and Christmas (town and holiday).
This story was both so sad and heartwarming that it will make you wish for hot cocoa and kleenex right away. Also, there is again food involved, and I am so happy about it. Loved the plot and the characters and the unexpected events. I adored the fact that there seemed to be an almost magical aspect in the story. I loved the characters and how they truly were sweet and kind. I loved the plot development and I almost cried more than once. It was that good. Also, I totally imagined the new cook like Zachary Levi, which didn't hurt at all. There was an happy ending for everyone in this story and it is one of my favorite things. (I told you I am an hopeless romantic.)

“But people don't need to remember how it felt to be happy and safe in the past. They need to have hope that they can get there again in the future.” 

Star of Bethlehem by Ally Carter ★★★

A girl switches airplane tickets with an Icelandic stranger and is then forced to pretend that she’s an exchange student in small town Bethlehem, Oklahoma. Can she escape her past for long?
One of the positive aspects was the plot twist. I didn't see it coming at all. However the plot line was a bit flat even though the premises were very good. At the end the story was a bit unrealistic and needed more development, it didn't make a lot of sense. But I have to add that it was also both sad and heartwarming at the same time. Anyway the plot seemed to go on too quickly. I would have like it more if I had more background information about the characters.

“I sang because that is what I do when I am happy and when I'm sad. I sang because it is who I am when I am being the best possible version of me.” 

The Girl Who Woke The Dreamer by Laini Taylor ★★.5

On the Isle of Feathers, girls have limited choices when they reach the Age, so many choose marriage as defined by a prolonged twenty five days during Advent in which they receive gifts from their suitors. Neve’s courtship might hold a few surprises.
I loved the writing style and how it was both poetic and rich. It blends really well with the story itself, which has a mythological aspects. However I am not sure how I feel about this story. It was weird, but I appreciated the differences from the other stories. I have to admit though that Laini Taylor not only did give magic to the story, but also managed to create in a few pages a world on its own. I would have like to read more of it, it just looked like a great beginning for a book. I was more interested in an after than in the story itself.

“She wanted to be free, and if she could never be free, at least she wanted to be brave - brave enough not to sell herself, no matter what the payment, or the cost of refusing.” 

Okay, I am done writing about every single story and man I didn't know it would take me so long. Anyway, i really enjoyed doing this.

Not all twelve stories move you in the same way, but there are some which are worth reading every Christmas.
I have my favorites and I am eager to read proper books by those author: Rainbow RowellKiersten WhiteStephanie PerkinsMatt de la Pena and Holly Black. i am curious to see if what I liked in their stories is reflected in their books.
I also really appreciated the diversity. This anthology does a pretty good job of including diversity in class, race, religion, and sexuality and exploring various issues related therein. Some stories go so far as to address racial and religious stereotyping outright, which is a nice change in pace from other books that I’ve read.
I loved that the stories dealt with same themes but had unique premises. I thought that all twelve stories would be contemporary romance around the holidays. I don’t know if that was just me, but I thought it might be worth mentioning. There are actually a few that don’t quite fit that description because they include magical realism elements, but all of them do include a holiday of some sort, whether fantastical or real. Most of the stories are also tied together by similar themes of finding your home, reconciling with or trying to understand more of their broken or non-traditional families. I was particularly impressed with the level of character development that these authors managed in such a small space.

Overall I was quite satisfied with this book/anthology and it left me with the desire to read more of some authors I discovered here. I highly recommend it as a Christmas read, but I think it is also enjoyable year long.

Final Rating: ★.75

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