Note: Free copy obtained via Amazon Vine program in exchange for an honest review.
As with any collection of short stories, My True Love Gave to Me has...moreNote: Free copy obtained via Amazon Vine program in exchange for an honest review.
As with any collection of short stories, My True Love Gave to Me has its hits and misses. The collective power of the authors included will no doubt drive sales of the book and their are a few, when added together, certainly make this collection worth considering. There truly is a nice mix of issues and character backgrounds to say that this is pretty inclusive with something to appeal to most if not all readers. To review this properly, I'm including a one sentence summary of each story along with some of my thoughts about each.
“Midnights” by Rainbow Rowell The story of Mags and Noel over the course of four New Year’s Eves as well as some tree nuts, strawberries, and allergies. I can see why people love Rainbow Rowell's YA so much through this story. Good, not quite great in my opinion, but just because I figured out where it was going halfway through.
“The Lady and the Fox” by Kelly Link A mysterious man who only appears when it snows at Christmas catches Miranda’s attention. Bit of a bore, this one, in my opinion as it seemed more old-timey but was supposed to be newer-timey. The interesting bits got lost in the underdeveloped ones. Might make for a better novella if drawn out properly.
“Angels in the Snow” by Matt de la Pena Shy and Haley come from very different backgrounds, but they find something in common when everyone in a New York City apartment complex has left for the holidays except them. I've admired how de la Pena expresses the in-between of the Mexican American experience in other books and this story really follows in that vain. I enjoyed it a lot even if I was a bit annoyed at the ending.
“Polaris Is Where You’ll Find Me” by Jenny Han Natalie learns that being the adopted Asian daughter of Santa is even more difficult when her crush on elf Flynn becomes a bit more public than she would have liked. Short, so it gets out of the way quickly, but not a highlight for me. I did like how it ended, but I felt like plot b was underdeveloped.
“It’s a Yuletide Miracle, Charlie Brown” by Stephanie Perkins Marigold and North discover that there is more to appearances courtesy of his voice, her cluttered apartment and a Christmas tree. This is a story worth the price of admission. Perkins crafts some truly intriguing characters and finds a way of drawing them unexpectedly. I have to admit, kinda got a crush on North and his, I guess, hipsterishness.
“Your Temporary Santa” by David Levithan After being talked into playing Santa for his boyfriend, the unnamed narrator makes some unexpected and grown up realizations about his relationships. Levithan has the most grown up of the stories included. The denseness of the prose just falls flat. And though I don't doubt the unnamed narrator would do anything for his boyfriend, I just never felt the connection between them. Feels oddly forced.
“Krampuslauf” by Holly Black A New Year’s party has some unexpected guests and happenings – and magic. This qualifies as the weirdest story in the collection. Not my favorite though Black has written some truly wonderful shorts in the past. There are some nice unexpected moments but this one flounders a lot before finding its way.
“What the Hell Have You Done, Sophie Roth” by Gayle Forman College freshman Sophie feels out of place until she meets the equally different but in different ways Russell while attending a caroling concert. Another fish out of water tale, of which there seem quite a few in this book, but still good. I had doubts at the start of the story, but, like Perkins, Forman finds ways of making the characters unexpected and gives them a place and situation in which to grow and learn while also being relatable.
“Beer Buckets and Baby Jesus” by Myra McEntire Troublemaker Vaughn learns the meaning of Christmas and second chances while helping with the church Christmas Pageant as part of his community service after accidentally burning down the church’s barn. McEntire's story could be hit or miss depending on how you look at it, but it really comes down to the ability to look for the good in people, so it fits the holiday message quite well. I enjoyed it more than I thought and the end of the story was pitch perfect.
“Welcome to Christmas, CA” by Kiersten White Maria wants desperately to leave the tiny “census-designated place” she lives until Ben, the cook with the uncanny ability to guess what food will make people happy, helps her realize all the good things in her life. Hit or miss here again. Spent much of the first half of the story trying to get my bearings and then had to make a quick turnaround by the end. I like the message if not always the getting there.
“Star of Bethlehem” by Ally Carter A case of switched and mistaken identities helps Liddy rediscover her voice and the importance of families. My least favorite story in the collection by far. The only interesting character gets tossed in the first several pages never to really be seen again. I can appreciate what Carter was going for (If you read the story title and think of stars in a more celebrity sense, you'll figure it out), but the relationships between characters never come off as believable.
“The Girl Who Woke the Dreamer” by Laini Taylor To escape an unwanted courtship, Neve summons the spirit of an ancient god. Well, we've started on a good note, had some really good in the middle, and now we end strong. I think the title is one of the best in the book as well as the premise and it was executed as well as could be hoped. This one feels truly original and really is the kicker of the book.
The fish out of water type stories are common along with a general theme of being happy with what you have or finding that thing that makes you truly happy. My True Love Gave to Me is a pretty solid collection. Some stories just never really come together. This book sort of feels like a teenager. Clunky at times, totally with it at others, and full of surprises, some good and some bad. Try it or don't. (less)
First Impressions takes the original title of Pride and Prejudice and turns it into a light mystery with a side of romance and the tiniest bit of intr...moreFirst Impressions takes the original title of Pride and Prejudice and turns it into a light mystery with a side of romance and the tiniest bit of intrigue. There are two stories in play. In present day, Sophie Collingwood is a recent college graduate trying to figure out what she wants to do with her life when, out of the blue, two people ask after the same book that only she, apparently, has the ability to find. The second story takes place largely during 1796 and follows Jane Austen and her struggles and successes in trying to, perhaps, compose the story that will become her most beloved. The chapters alternate between both Sophie and Jane's stories.
This book could have been a muddle if not for the fact that there is a sense of balance between the two stories. As Sophie uncovers more about the mysterious book, we see some parallels and events in the life of Jane. In a sense the reverse is true as well. What isn't true is that there is a complete balance. Jane's story is the more realized and even handed. Sophie's gets more absurd as the story moves on. Basically, remove the mystery book element and Sophie's story is basically which guy will she choose in this romantic triangle. Some readers will have no problem with that. I, however, kind of did because most of the time her actions felt chosen for her rather than her making a decision. She's certainly the sort of person who is book smart but maybe not street smart as it were.
Fans of Jane Austen will no doubt lap up her portion and deservedly so. Lovett seems to have a passion and ability to keep the writing from straying too far and manages to hit just about all the right notes throughout those sections. I just wish the whole book had been that way. I did truly love the talk of old books though and there's some interesting info about how books were printed in the early days that comes up through Sophie's sections, but they weren't quite enough for me to fall in love with the book. Enjoyable so long as you don't think on any one point of contention too much. If First Impressions are important, then, for me, it's generally favorable with a side of annoyance that I'm mostly willing to forgive.
Note: Free copy obtained via Amazon Vine program in exchange for an honest review.(less)