Review: Ally Carter’s and Laini Taylor’s stories from My True Love Gave to Me

My True Love Gave to MeHi guys, I’m so sorry about my absence the past few days, but I was spending time with family, watching Once Upon a Time, and sleeping. It was nice. 🙂 I hope that all of you had an absolutely wonderful Christmas (if you celebrate) or a few lovely days with lots of reading.

Today I’m finishing up my mini reviews of My True Love Gave to Me with Ally Carter’s “Star of Bethlehem” and Laini Taylor’s “The Girl Who Woke the Dreamer.” I’ve already reviewed Rainbow Rowell’s “Midnights”“The Lady and the Fox” by Kelly Link, and Matt de la Peña’s “Angels in the Snow”Jenny Han’s “Polaris is Where You’ll Find Me”Stephanie Perkins’ “It’s a Yuletide Miracle, Charlie Brown”David Levithan’s “Your Temporary Santa”Holly Black’s “Krampuslauf”Gayle Forman’s “What the Hell Have You Done, Sophie Roth?” and Myra McEntire’s “Beer Buckets and Baby Jesus” (in one review).

Make sure you come back to tomorrow if you liked my reviews of My True Love Gave to Me. You might like what you find. 🙂

STAR OF BETHLEHEM

IMG_20141228_105301It’s only been a few days since I read this story, and I honestly could not remember what it was about. I had to flip through the story to remind myself. So obviously that isn’t a good sign. Liddy is at an airport and doesn’t want to go back to New York. So when she hears another girl trying to get on her flight, she swaps tickets with her. Apparently the girl she swapped with was on her way to Oklahoma to visit a boy she was supposed to be in love with but she was actually in love with a boy in NY. Liddy takes the girl’s, Hulda’s, place to spend a semester with the boy’s family in Oklahoma. But why was she running away from New York?

This story was stupid, you guys. It was absolutely ridiculous, from the story, to the characters, to the ending. It was like a cheesy Disney Channel movie. I don’t really have anything to say about it, other than to remind you that I completely forgot what it was about in less than a week.

THE GIRL WHO WOKE THE DREAMER

IMG_20141228_105405Neve lives on the island, where she is a poor girl who was brought there as a child. Her two best friends recently died, so obviously she’s sad and alone. On this island, it is a tradition that on the first of December, male suitors deliver a gift to the porch of the girl they like. The girl can either accept or decline (with a dead rose in the present’s place) and on Christmas Eve, the man reveals himself at a party with the last gift: a ring. Neve has unfortunately drawn the attention of the island pastor, who’s already had three wives, who are all now dead. Though Neve tries to reject his advances, he doesn’t relent. But then she gets some spiritual help.

Okay, so I had high hopes for this one. I’ve never read anything by Laini Taylor, but a lot of bloggers were loving this story. For the most part, I wasn’t disappointed. If I wanted to give an easy review, I’d say I love this one, but if I delve into it farther, it’s a little harder.

This story was an epic, sweeping fantasy romance, which I enjoyed. I loved Taylor’s writing, which was impressive, fast-paced, and pretty. The story was interesting and different from all of the others. On the other hand, there was little to no focus on Christmas, which is what I went into this book expecting. There’s a huge use of a Deus ex-machina to get a happy ending, instead of letting Neve figure out and resolve her problems on her own, which I would’ve enjoyed. Who doesn’t love a strong character? On the other hand (yep, I totally have three hands here), the romance was really cool, and the Dreamer (the spiritual help Neve gets) was so interesting and lovely.

Overall, one of the stories I loved the most for the epic fantasy aspect, but it did have its problems.

So if you enjoyed my twelve mini reviews or if you didn’t get a chance to read My True Love Gave to Me but would like to (hint hint), make sure you come back by the blog tomorrow!!

Review: Welcome to Christmas, CA by Kiersten White (My True Love Gave to Me)

It’s almost the end of my “Twelve Days of Christmas” in which I review one story per day of My True Love Gave to Me. 😦 Sad face. So far I’ve reviewed Rainbow Rowell’s “Midnights”“The Lady and the Fox” by Kelly Link, and Matt de la Peña’s “Angels in the Snow”Jenny Han’s “Polaris is Where You’ll Find Me”Stephanie Perkins’ “It’s a Yuletide Miracle, Charlie Brown”David Levithan’s “Your Temporary Santa”, Holly Black’s “Krampuslauf”, Gayle Forman’s “What the Hell Have You Done, Sophie Roth?” and Myra McEntire’s “Beer Buckets and Baby Jesus” (in one review).

Today’s story is “Welcome to Christmas, CA” by Kiersten White.

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I was completely surprised by the wonderful originality of this story. There are so many cool ways to interpret Christmas for a good story. Maria lives in Christmas, CA, a town (okay, you can’t really call it a town. It’s a census-designated place) that is always in the Christmas spirit. She can’t wait to leave. Well, until she meets Ben (short for Benedict? Benjamin? Bennett?), the new cook at the diner where Maria works for tips (her mom is the manager). Ben loves Christmas and is able to bring some Christmas cheer into a town that’s losing it.

I’m going to need Santa to bring me a Ben for Christmas, okay? He’s sweet and happy merry and can cook and yeah, that’s what I want for Christmas. Thanks, Santa. I’ll be waiting.

This story made me so happy. Not only for Ben but for the fact that it was so original. It isn’t just a story set during Christmas, but in a town named for it. The story was clever and witty and so very sweet. I thought the main character was a little bit of a brat though, whiny and rude at times, but Ben more than made up for it. The story definitely put me in the Christmas spirit – with the decorations, references, merriment, and an elf over the door with a knife in his hand.

Overall, one of the good ones.

Review: Gayle Forman’s and Myra McEntire’s stories from My True Love Gave to Me

My True Love Gave to MeOoops. I forgot to post a My True Love Gave to Me review yesterday! Okay, mostly I just did nothing yesterday and I didn’t even open my laptop. So, as a result, I’ll be posting a review of two stories today from My True Love Gave to Me. So far I’ve reviewed Rainbow Rowell’s “Midnights”“The Lady and the Fox” by Kelly Link, and Matt de la Peña’s “Angels in the Snow”Jenny Han’s “Polaris is Where You’ll Find Me”, Stephanie Perkins’ “It’s a Yuletide Miracle, Charlie Brown”, David Levithan’s “Your Temporary Santa”, and Holly Black’s “Krampuslauf”.

Today I’m reviewing Gayle Forman’s “What the Hell Have You Done, Sophie Roth?” and Myra McEntire’s “Beer Buckets and Baby Jesus”.

WHAT THE HELL HAVE YOU DONE, SOPHIE ROTH?

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So I know that a lot of people love Gayle Forman. Like, everyone, it seems. I read If I Stay, and I just wasn’t a fan. At all. I’m sure you can guess that I wasn’t really looking forward to Forman’s story in My True Love Gave to Me. You should have seen the look on my face when I finished this story. It was probably a mix of genuine shock, confusion, and happiness. I actually liked Gayle Forman’s story!

Sophie Roth has a lot of moments in which she questions her actions and words, but she comes to change her mind about one of them: she decides to go to a caroling performance at her university (in a middle-of-nowhere, pastoral town) but she ends up meeting a boy there who she at once has a lot in common with and a lot of differences.

I liked the diversity and the genuinely cute story. I liked Sophie and Russell together. They’re different but similar and they have a lot of great banter. The characters felt realistic and developed. Also, the ending was just beautiful. I quite liked this one.

BEER BUCKETS AND BABY JESUS

IMG_20141222_201134First page of this story and you get these two quotes:

“The whole mess started when I lit the church on fire.”

“Put this on your list of things to know: the combination of tinsel, baby angel wings, and manger hay burns like weed at a Miley Cyrus concert.” – both from page 203

Started off this story laughing. A lot. Vaughn is the class clown; he likes pranks and creating chaos, but sometimes he goes too far, like when he accidentally lit the church barn on fire. This causes a chain of events that lead to him volunteering to help run the church Christmas pageant. Fortunately for Vaughn, the pastor’s daughter is not too bad on the eyes and not what you’d first think, sort of like Vaughn.

So this is probably one of the most cliché plots out there: bad boy turns good and good girl has some edge. But despite that, I thought this one was pretty good. I don’t think it quite lived up to its first page, but I had several more laughs and I wasn’t bored. I liked Vaughn’s character quite a bit and was happy he had a second chance.

Not one of my favorites but still enjoyable and cute.

Review: Krampuslauf by Holly Black (My True Love Gave to Me)

It’s day seven of my “Twelve Days of Christmas” – reviewing one story per day from My True Love Gave to Me. So far, I’ve reviewed Rainbow Rowell’s “Midnights”“The Lady and the Fox” by Kelly Link, and Matt de la Peña’s “Angels in the Snow”Jenny Han’s “Polaris is Where You’ll Find Me”, Stephanie Perkins’ “It’s a Yuletide Miracle, Charlie Brown”, and David Levithan’s “Your Temporary Santa”.

Today’s story is Holly Black’s “Krampuslauf”.

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I liked this one. Quite a bit. It was weird and different and dream-like. I’ve never heard of Krampus, but apparently he basically looks like a satyr – goat legs, horns, human torso – and he punishes the children who are bad versus rewarding the children who are good. Hanna and her friends decide to go to a Krampus celebration (well, really, it’s just a hipster-ization of Krampus including hot chocolate and a charity run) to spy on the guy who screwed over Penny, one of the friends. They end up inviting the guy and his real girlfriend and their friends – as well as a cute boy who has a seriously realistic Krampus costume – to a New Year’s Eve party. Fighting, drinking, kissing, and laughing ensue.

I really, really like this one. I’ve only ever read/listened to Holly Black’s Doll Bones, but this story confirmed I seriously like Black’s clever and smart writing style. This story is really different from what you’d probably expect from a holiday story. There’s magic and mythical creatures. It doesn’t center on Christmas and it’s got Krampus – who’s kind of a more interesting version of Satan. I mean, what? I felt a little like I was dreaming while reading this and that’s actually a cool feeling to have while reading. I liked the characters, the story, the magic, the uniqueness, the writing style, everything. One of my favorites so far. Looking forward to reading more Holly Black and researching Krampus some more.

Review: Your Temporary Santa by David Levithan (My True Love Gave to Me)

Alright, today is David Levithan’s story for my “Twelve Days of Christmas” – reviewing one story per day from My True Love Gave to Me. So far, I’ve reviewed Rainbow Rowell’s “Midnights”“The Lady and the Fox” by Kelly Link, and Matt de la Peña’s “Angels in the Snow”Jenny Han’s “Polaris is Where You’ll Find Me” and Stephanie Perkins’ “It’s a Yuletide Miracle, Charlie Brown”.

David Levithan’s story is called “Your Temporary Santa”.

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The story is about an unnamed narrator who dresses up as Santa Claus as a favor for his boyfriend Connor. The narrator does it out of love for his boyfriend and so that Connor’s little sister Riley will continue to believe in Santa and magic after what we can imagine has been a rough year.

It’s a really short story – 15 pages – but it’s pretty succinct. It feels like a complete story with character development and a, sort of, conflict between the unnamed narrator and…well, really himself. He feels as if he is unwanted, like he doesn’t belong.

I enjoyed this story even though it is somewhat sad. Not all relationships are easy and swoony. Sometimes they are simple, and I don’t mean simple as in easy, but more like unpretentious, not needing to be extravagant and in your face. Sometimes you can just SPOILER get in bed and cuddle and let that be enough.

This story kind of made me feel melancholy even though it’s about Santa and Christmas. Glad it had an uplifting and hopeful ending. Not the best story so far, but not the worst.

Review: It’s a Yuletide Miracle, Charlie Brown by Stephanie Perkins (My True Love Gave to Me)

Today is the Stephanie Perkins’ day of my very own “Twelve days of Christmas” – reviewing one story per day from My True Love Gave to Me. So far I’ve reviewed Rainbow Rowell’s “Midnights”“The Lady and the Fox” by Kelly Link, and Matt de la Peña’s “Angels in the Snow” and Jenny Han’s “Polaris is Where You’ll Find Me”. Stephanie’s story is called “It’s a Yuletide Miracle, Charlie Brown.”

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Stephanie’s story was the one I was the most looking forward to (duh) and I wasn’t disappointed. At all. I mean, what can I really say? Obviously, I loved this story. It’s my favorite one I’ve read so far.

Marigold Moon lives in an apartment full of the boxes of their previous life with her mother, who works nights at a restaurant she owns. Across the street from her apartment is a Christmas tree lot, where a boy with an amazing voice works. When Marigold goes to ask him if he’ll narrate her video (okay, she kind of stalks him), she accidentally buys a Christmas tree. Amazing-voice-boy carries it to her apartment where he finds the hoarder-looking mess that’s inside. He decides to help and you can probably guess the rest.

Perkins has the uncanny ability to make me swoon with her stories and her characters and her words. I just love everything she writes. It’s sweet and lovely. This story was just perfect for the holiday season. I really like Marigold, too. She wasn’t whiny or annoying, but rather funny and a little awkward. And, of course, you know I liked North (yep, all the kids in his family have Christmas-y names). He’s big and strong and you wouldn’t expect him to like NPR, but he does. He’s nerdy and sweet aka swoon-central.

Alright, I’ll stop gushing. Here’s a quote I really liked:

It was nice to think that she might have a superpower, even a dumb one, hidden inside of her. What might it be?

Got me thinking. What’s mine? 🙂

Overall? Love, love, love.

Review: Polaris is Where You’ll Find Me by Jenny Han (My True Love Gave to Me)

It’s day four of my very own “Twelve Days of Christmas”, during which I’m reviewing one story per day from My True Love Gave to Me. So far I’ve reviewed Rainbow Rowell’s “Midnights”“The Lady and the Fox” by Kelly Link, and Matt de la Peña’s “Angels in the Snow”.

Today I’m reviewing Jenny Han’s story, “Polaris is Where You’ll Find Me.”

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This story is about a human girl named Natalie (or Natty) who is being raised at the North Pole by none other than Santa Claus. She lives and works with the elves, who have a much ruder attitude than you’d probably associate with elves. She’s been crushing on one of the elves for a long time, but she also met a human boy last year while delivering presents with her dad.

The story was cute though I can’t say there was much substance to it. It’s really just a fluffy story. It’s also really short, like 13 pages short. To me, it read more like a first chapter than an entire story with beginning, middle and end, which is how even a short story should read, at least to me.

The main character is a little whiny and spoiled. On the other hand, I did enjoy reading about how she got to live at the North Pole and the festivities that happen there in the lead up to Christmas. Overall, a cute story with a sweet, hopeful ending.

Tomorrow I’ll be reviewing the story I have a feeling I’m going to love the most: Stephanie Perkins’ “It’s a Yuletide Miracle, Charlie Brown”, which I’m heading to read right now!

Review: Angels in the Snow by Matt de la Peña (My True Love Gave to Me)

Today is day three of my very own “Twelve Days of Christmas”, during which I’m reviewing one story per day from My True Love Gave to Me. So far I’ve reviewed Rainbow Rowell’s “Midnights” and “The Lady and the Fox” by Kelly Link.

Today’s story is Matt de la Peña’s “Angels in the Snow.”

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I’m not sure how I felt about this one. I enjoyed the writing style but it felt a little weird. I liked the story but I didn’t connect with the characters as much as I would’ve liked. I thought the romance was cute but the SPOILER cheating really irritated me.

I did enjoy the writing style for the most part. I would be interested in checking out some of Matt’s books. One thing that I’m not sure how I feel about is the fact that you can tell a dude wrote it. I hope this makes sense. Obviously, I read books written by men, but this one was a dude. Probably doesn’t make sense. Moving on…

I didn’t connect with the characters all that much. On the other hand, I connected with some of the things they said. I’ve been giving at least one quote from each book, so here’s today’s:

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.

That’s me. I feel like that. That’s such a perfect description of what being passionate feels like.

Overall, this one kind of felt like a Lifetime made-for-TV movie. Just kind of cheesy and lots of drama and all that jazz. The end was really wonderful though. The last paragraph was really poignant.

Come back tomorrow when I’ll be reviewing Jenny Han’s story “Polaris is Where You’ll Find Me”.

Review: The Lady and the Fox by Kelly Link (My True Love Gave to Me)

Yesterday I told you that I’ll be reviewing one story a day from My True Love Gave to Me until Christmas, sort of like my own “twelve days of Christmas.” I thought it’d also be fun to review one story a day as well. I reviewed Rainbow Rowell’s “Midnights” yesterday.

Today I’m reviewing Kelly Link’s story, “The Lady and the Fox.”

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This one was weird, you guys. Probably two pages in I wrote this note: “Writing style might kill me.” I’ve never read anything by Kelly Link – I don’t think I’d actually heard of her until I saw her name in the book, so I didn’t know what to expect. Let me give you an example of the writing style:

The room is full of adult Honeywells talking about the things that Honeywells always talk about, which is to say everything, horses and houses and God and grouting, tanning salons and – of course – theater. Always theater. Honeywells like to talk. When Honeywells have no lines to speak, they improvise. All the world’s a stage. – page 24

The reason it bothered me is it’s a mix of super long sentences and really, really short ones. It was strange to read and took a while to get used to, but by the end, I didn’t even notice it anymore.

On the other hand, there were some descriptions I really liked, such as “Unnaturally natural” (page 25), which is just really fun to say, and “Snow is predicted, snow falls” (page 27), which is simple and straightforward.

The story is also strange, but in a good way. Miranda is the goddaughter of Elspeth Honeywell, and as her mother is in jail, she spends every Christmas with Elspeth and her son Daniel. The Christmas they are both 11, they see a man standing outside the window, watching. Through the years, Miranda continues to meet with the man – Fenny – but only when it snows and only on Christmas. He never ages, and she finds out that he’s stuck with “the Lady.” I’m sure you can predict what happens – which wasn’t nearly as annoying as you’d think. I enjoyed the story and was as charmed by Fenny as Miranda was.

I wasn’t expecting the fantasy aspect to the story, but I just really loved the magical bits. The scene near the end when everything comes to a head was really cool. So: somewhat annoying writing style but really cool story.

Review: Midnights by Rainbow Rowell (My True Love Gave to Me)

When I bought My True Love Gave to Me (edited by Stephanie Perkins and including short stories by wonderful authors like Rainbow Rowell, Holly Black, and Stephanie herself), I knew I wanted to read one of the twelve stories each day until Christmas. You know, have my own “twelve days of Christmas.” 🙂 Then I thought you guys might enjoy mini reviews of each of the stories, instead of one review of the whole book, which might exclude some of the stories. At least, I hope you’ll enjoy that. Because that’s what I’m going to do. That’s what I’m doing. Yeah… I hope you’ll stick around and read all twelve – one a day until Christmas.

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The first story in My True Love Gave to Me is by Rainbow Rowell. It’s called “Midnights” and it documents several New Year’s Eves at “almost midnight” between Mags and Noel – from the beginning in 2014 when Mags is apparently hiding from Noel, back to when the met in 2011, and then through the New Year’s Eve parties for the next two years until we find ourselves back in 2014.

This story is very evidently by Rainbow Rowell. Okay, I’ve only read one book by her (Attachments, which I loved), but the writing was Rowell – hope that makes sense. She’s got wonderful descriptions that I just love, like this one:

He looked like his teeth were too wide for his mouth, and his mouth was too wide for his face. – page 4

Maybe it isn’t super beautiful or anything, but I can just picture Noel perfectly. In my opinion, that’s the mark of a great writer. The story is also funny in Rowell’s somewhat dry and not overly obvious way. An example:

Mags felt it when Noel walked in. (He came in through the back door, and a bunch of cold air came in with him.) – page 13

My only complaint with this story is that it was too short. Because of that, it felt rushed in parts and it was harder to see the growth that occurred in the characters. Mostly, I just really wanted this to be a much longer story – you know, a book. I could’ve read a lot more about these characters.

Check back tomorrow when I’ll be reviewing the second story in the book, Kelly Link’s “The Lady and the Fox.”