Look at me, kicking off my resolutions right with my first book review! Technically, it was December's book, but po-tae-to, po-tah-to.
Title: My True Love Gave To Me
Authors: Holly Black, Ally Carter, Matt De La Peña, Gayle Forman, Jenny Han, David Levithan, Kelly Link, Myra McEntire, Stephanie Perkins, Rainbow Rowell, Laini Taylor, and Kiersten White
Editor: Stephanie Perkins
I've never reviewed a collection of short stories and I'm not sure how to do it effectively. I do know that if I wait until I've finished the entire book, I'm sure to forget what I thought of earlier stories. So here's a compilation of my thoughts for each story, recorded as I read each one. (Note: stories marked with a "*" are my favorites.)
Midnights by Rainbow Rowell *
"You're like a kaleidoscope. You change every time I look away."
"'You guys really fell asleep against Michigan.' 'I'm not actually on the football team,' Noel said. 'That's no excuse,' Mrs. Porter said." :)
LOVE. I'm obsessed with this story and the main characters Mags and Noel and their series of New Year's Eves. Especially Noel. This entirely too-short, short story made me laugh, swoon, aww and gasp all within the span of 22 pages. I hadn't read a Rainbow Rowell novel in a while, and although I knew I loved her work so much, I couldn't pinpoint why. Then I read Midnights and a page in I'm face-palming myself because, hello, she just tells such a wonderful story in such a wonderful way. Rainbow is most definitely still my homegirl. I read it again before continuing on to any of the other short stories in the book #sorrynotsorry #notatall.
Polaris Is Where You'll Find Me by Jenny Han
It was a very cute story with an interesting premise - the only little girl in the North Pole surrounded by Santa and his elves. However, it felt a bit rushed, launching into a new idea two pages before the end, so it feels like an afterthought. I did really liked her character voice, and the writing style sucks you in. It's my first Jenny Han story (although I have two of her books) and it makes me anxious to pick up her novels.
Your Temporary Santa by David Leviathan
I'm torn about this one. I could sense there were deeper issues that got glossed over in this very short (10 pages!) short story. I did really like how it featured a homosexual relationship in a way that was ancillary to the story and therefore, equated it with any other relationship, instead of setting it apart.
The Lady and The Fox by Kelly Link
If I thought I was torn about the last one, than I'm being tormented by this one. In a word: Weird. Really weird. I felt like I was in a haze while I read this story, but I couldn't put it down. The premise started out really interesting, a girl who spends each Christmas with the family of her mother's close friend, but then it spins off into these paranormal aspects that I wasn't sure what to do with. Hmm.
Angels in the Snow by Matt De La Peña *
I hate to admit it but I did not expect to like this short story. I don't read many things from a male point of view and the story of a college boy, house sitting for a wealthy friend and starving over the holidays doesn't sound like something that belongs in a holiday collection of short stories. But I loved it! The protagonist's voice was real and funny, and the interactions in the story were honest and heart-warming at times. What I thought was a story about starving for the holiday turned out to be one about getting your fill.
It's A Yuletide Miracle, Charlie Brown by Stephanie Perkins *
"A thrill went through her, hearing his voice again at such a close range. Superior and aloof, but definitely with that paradoxical underpinning of friendly amusement. It probably allowed him to get away with saying all sorts of rude things. "
Eeee, all the feels! I knew Stephanie Perkins was going to bring them (of course!) but I didn't expect so much from 20 pages. North rivals Noel in crushable male characters, for sure. Perkins just knows how to write such interesting characters in the most unlikely situations and make you eat it all up. Like Midnights, I could have used about 200 more pages of this story. The Perkins "girl meets boy + adventure = the feels!" never misses!
Krampslauf by Holly Black
Reviews says that this short story was one of the worst and they couldn't even read it. I can't figure out why for the life of me. I really, really enjoyed it! It's mostly based in reality, but there's an element of paranormal and it's a darker story for sure. The characters were great (like Wren) and the story was really intriguing and creative. Overall, cool is the best way I know to describe it.
Welcome to Christmas, CA by Kiersten White *
"The door opens with a rusted jingle, and an animatronic Santa insults my moral virtue three times. Ho, ho, ho."
"And there - when he smiles, his whole faces lights up. It's like his other expressions are placeholders."
If I thought I loved Noel and North, Ben might just be my soulmate. This story, about a little town named after a joyous holiday, told by a less-than-joyous teenage girl, ends up being one of the most heart-warming of the collection. White's characters are realistic and lovable, and her prose is fantastic, I love the ease with which she writes. Also, White is a whiz at dialogue, using witty, funny and charming banter to break up heavier themes. I smiled through the story, laughed out loud a few times and even teared up a little bit. After reading this short story, I only have one regret: not reading a Kiersten White story sooner.
What the Hell Have You Done, Sophie Roth? by Gayle Forman *
"Of all the things and people she missed lately, it was odd to find herself at the top of that list."
Oh. This. Was. Good. And so relatable for me. Sophie Roth is a Brooklyn girl attending college in the middle of west bumble, where her classmates call her "big city" and she has to clearly indicate when she being sarcastic which is most of the time. Hello, Kari circa 2006! I smiled, giggled and laughed my way through this entire story. So much banter! And mixed in with a few tender moments and another male of the crushable variety. Six foot five, tall, dark and handsome male lead? Yes, please. (Clearly, this collection has made me boy crazy.)
Beer Buckets and Baby Jesus by Myra McEntire
This is a very cute story told from the point of view of the boy who ruined the Pastor's Christmas pageant and is covertly pining after the Pastor's daughter. Classic bad boy likes the good girl but a cute read nonetheless.
The Girl Who Woke The Dreamer by Laini Taylor
After reading the first few pages, I wanted to put this one down, which is ironic because I've heard it takes a few chapters to get into Taylor's phenomenal novel Daughter of Smoke Bone as well. The story was just a bit strange and kind of uncomfortable. Not that it was bad or boring, but it just didn't feel like a story that belonged in a holiday collection. And after completing it, it still doesn't feel like it belongs, but it's less weird and more wonderful. I kind of wish I'd read it separately because expecting it to be cheery and bright is what stopped me from fully appreciating it. One thing was clear: Laini Taylor's writing is wonderful. It's full and luscious and a blend between the easy writing of most YA authors and the complexity of classic novelists.
Star of Bethlehem by Ally Carter
I feel bad. This was the last short story I read, and I feel like by the time I got to it, I was all burnt out on cutesy holiday stories and ready to plunge into the novels of the authors I'd just discovered. Something about the story felt rushed and like a network Christmas movie to me. It kind of felt like a whirlwind of unlikely, followed by impossible, succeeded by no-freaking-way.
The skaters on the front cover represent the couples in all 12 stories, which proved to be way too exciting for me as I flipped to the cover after every story to i.d. them. I was almost right - I was so sure the "Laini" couple was Mags & Noel from Rainbow's story because they're dancing :)
Here's my rating for the collection as a whole. (Btw, I'm rating with bows now. Not that it's particularly significant to books or my blog. I just really like bows!)
This collection may have been the perfect way to end the new year with. Now, I have new authors I'm excited to read! What did you think of My True Love Gave To Me? Got a favorite short story of the bunch? If you reviewed the book along with us, please link up below!
Note to self: deceptively short stories = long reviews :)
With a new year comes new books for our book club! And a new genre of books as well. Kay suggested this month's book and I'm glad she did because we've never read a non-fiction novel. January's book of the month is:
Orange Is The New Black by Piper Kerman
If the novel is anywhere near as hilarious as season 1 of the show, we are all in for a treat! A ten year old decision becomes Piper Kerman worst nightmare when it lands her in jail for a year and a half. Pick up this memoir to find out what landed her there and all the hilarious and heartbreaking stories she has to share about it. As you read, you can take a look at these discussion questions to get you thinking about the book. I hope you'll be joining us this month, and sharing what you thought come Tuesday, February 3rd in a review!