This is my second time to read a holiday-themed book for Christmas (the first was A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens which I read a few years back before I started book-blogging), and I must say that I really enjoyed the experience. Reading My True Love Gave To Me in the days leading to Christmas was a perfect introduction to the holiday season because of all the feels. I really liked most of the stories in this collection, and it is an eclectic collection at that. There’s a mix of fantasy and contemporary, and even though I am not huge on fantasy, the magic felt perfect and very Christmas-y to me, and I therefore welcome the play on my imagination. Most of the authors were firsts for me, and aside from Rainbow Rowell whose story I really looked forward to reading (it is no secret that I am a big Rainbow fan), I didn’t have any high expectations for the stories in this book. Which is all good because I was surprised with how good the stories turned out to be and I look forward to reading more works from these authors, especially Holly Black of whom I have been sufficiently intrigued about based on the good things I read about her books on Twitter.
Of the 12 stories in this collection, here are my top favorites, in the order they appear on the book:
- Midnights by Rainbow Rowell. This is the perfect opener for the book, in my opinion. It is sweet and cute and everybody can totally relate to the story of two young people who are best-friends and who grow to fall in love with each other. The scenes take place several minutes before midnight of the New Year, which, in my opinion, added to the holiday feels of the story. Although the storyline is not new but just the same, it can still evoke so much feels each time, and Rainbow Rowell is known for such feels in her witty dialogues and flawed but real characters. This story makes me look forward to the coming of the new year.
“You can have all those things” he said carefully. “You can have me, Mags, if you want me.”
“I’ve always wanted you,” she said, mortified by the extent to which it was true.
- Angels in the Snow by Matt de la Peña. This is my first time to learn about this author and to read his works. Shy is spending Christmas away from home, cat-sitting for a friend, and starving. The lady upstairs comes down to ask him to look at her faulty plumbing and they bagan an unlikely friendship based on frowzen waterpipes and leftover dinner. I love that this story has a male POV and how sympathetic this main protagonist’s voice is. I had a lot of awww moments with this one, not to mention laugh out loud moments too. Admittedly, the getting-to-know-you questions were kind of corny and very juvenile but I found my self indulging in my young-adult self this time because the narrative was engaging and Shy was pathetic and funny and sweet and loves cats. What was there not to like?
“Here’s a question,” I told her. “Would you rather be great at something you like, or just okay at something you love?”
- Polaris Is Where You’ll Find Me by Jenny Han. I’ve been hearing about Jenny Han from the YA world but it’s the first time I’ve read her work. In this short story, Natalie lives with Santa and his elves in the North Pole. Left in the care of Santa Claus since she was a baby, she knew she was special and the other elves do not fail to make her feel she’s different. It’s difficult for a human to live among elves more so that she fell in love with one. I love the element of fantasy in this story and reading it revived my fascination with Santa again. This is such a bittersweet story but one I’d gladly read over and over again if only for the message of hope and love that it sends. Elves do love to give gifts, even if it means that the giving will hurt them.
I hold out my gloved hand, and he drops a piece of paper inside, and then he’s gone. Leaving me to wonder if I imagined the whole thing. Living where I live, it can sometimes be hard to tell the difference between magic and make believe.
- It’s A Yuletide Miracle, Charlie Brown by Stephanie Perkins. I’ve read Stephanie Perkins’ Anna and the French Kiss and Lola and the Boy Next Door, and though I didn’t like them very much, I agree that Stephanie Perkins writes beautiful narrative and it’s true with this short story. What is more, I loved this story more than her full length works because of Marigold and of course, North. Despite the limit in length, Perkins was able to create characters which are not one-dimensional. I loved that this story involves an Asian protagonist and a mysterious and interesting male counterpart. This is such a cute story of new beginnings, coming home, and falling in love in the most unlikely places.
“You can tell a lot about a person by looking at the state of their surroundings.”
“If that’s true,” she mused, “then my life is looking significantly better.”
“But does it feel any better?”
Marigold met his gaze. She smiled. “Without a doubt.”
- Krampuslauf by Holly Black. I have heard a lot about Holly Black and I have even entertained the idea of reading her works but I just didn’t know which one to start with. It’s a good thing she has a story in this collection so I was able to sample her writing and see for myself whether the raves aren’t baseless. And I am convinced. I have never heard about Krampus until I read this story and I liked that despite the ‘dark” element, I thoroughly enjoyed my introduction to this alter-ego of Santa Claus. I will not say more about the plot because the story is highly spoilery, but I want to point out that the thing I liked most about this short is that it is about making your dreams come true and believing that all bad things will eventually come to an end.
…maybe I was wrong about the things I thought I couldn’t have, that weren’t for me. Maybe it was okay to imagine greater things. Maybe it was all for me, if I wanted it.
With dawn of the new year on the horizon, I resolved to exert my will on the world.
- Welcome to Christmas, CA by Kiersten White. This is another first time for me, author-wise, and I loved this new discovery. Maria lives in Christmas, CA and she is looking forward to her graduation where she can finally leave home and go to a place which is more promising than this census designated place. She meets Ben, the new cook in her mom’s diner, and they form a friendship bound by gingerbread and eggnog-chocolate-chips. This short had my mouth watering and my eyes teary and I loved every bit of it. I like Maria and how real she is, despite her conflicted emotions. Ben is a mysterious character and the subtle magical element (I’d like to think Ben has superpowers) make the story even more interesting. This is a story of family and finding one’s way back home.
“Christmas Eve is my favorite,” I say. “I think the anticipation is more fun than anything else. I kind of lost that. The idea that something — food, traditions, an arbitrary date on the calendar — can be special because we decide it should be. Because we make it special. Not just for ourselves, but for others…And you’ve been working so hard to make life special for everyone…So…who is making it special for you?”
- Star of Bethlehem by Ally Carter. This is also a first time author read and a pleasant new discovery. I love Hulda and I love the ticket mix-up. I love Ethan and his big, welcoming family and large farm. The element of mystery is something that kept me intrigued all throughout although I must admit that the ending was quite anticlimactic and a bit hurried but I consider it due to length constraints. Nevertheless, I love the Hallmark-y feeling about it and again, because it’s all about belongingness and family. There is nothing like a story about family that can’t make me teary-eyed. And isn’t Christmas all about having a family and of making room for hope and love in your heart?
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 when I am being the best possible version of me. I sang because I wasn’t alone as I held Aunt Mary’s hand.
I sang because it was Christmas.
- The Girl Who Woke The Dreamer by Laini Taylor. From a feel-good, swoony beginning, My True Love Gave To Me ended with something magical and fantastical, and for me, this was just the perfect conclusion to this enchanting anthology. Neve Ellaquin is going to spend Christmas alone, what is worse, she is pursued by the town minister with whom she doesn’t want anything to do with, in the first place. She doesn’t want anyone in her life, period. She isn’t looking forward to gifts and flowers and marriage. She doesn’t know what to do with her life now that her two best friends are dead, and it seems that she has no other way out, except to look forward to dying as well. But she whispers a prayer to the god of the black hill…and woke the Dreamer. My imagination ran wild with this story with its vivid depiction of gods and fantasy. The narrative is fantastical in itself and my heart soared and hoped with Neve as she discovers the power of miracles and new beginnings. This is a story of hope and redemption and love.
All evening long, real snow would fall from the ceiling to glitter on the lashes of dancing girls and ardent boys, but Neve and the Dreamer didn’t linger.
They had other things to do: all of them. All the things, dreamed and undreamed, in the depth and breadth of the whole spinning world.
My True Love Gave To Me is a perfect holiday read and it is also a perfect introduction to the authors who contributed their works to this collection. If you were curious about an author but did not know which book to read first, just like me, the short stories here may just be the fitting sample that you need. Or, if you feel that you just have to read every work of you favorite author, just like me with Rainbow Rowell and Gayle Forman, then this book is also for you. I never regretted putting this book on my wishlist and I can’t thank Meliza enough for giving me my copy.
My rating: 4/5 stars.