Book Review: “My True Love Gave To Me: Twelve Holiday Stories”

This anthology of young adult fiction is compiled with short stories written by some of the most popular YA authors of our time. A quick read, this book is perfect for any teen (or adult!) who likes a good holiday romance, but recognizes how cliché it sounds. Edited by Stephanie Perkins, author of Anna and the French KissLola and the Boy Next Door, and Isla and the Happily Ever After this collection is current and vibrant and perfect for the holiday season.

Midnights by Rainbow Rowell
Miss Rowell has certainly made a name for herself with books like Eleanor & Park and Fangirl. This story is another brilliant addition to her collection of YA fiction. Told over the course of several New Year’s, it tells the story of two best friends who admit their love to each other. It’s a perfect way to start the anthology.

The Lady and the Fox by Kelly Link
The book took a sharp turn into the weird with this one. Fox is the story of a girl in Thailand whose mother is in prison. She celebrates the holidays with her godmother and meets a mysterious man she falls in love with. I’m sure there is some sort of literary brilliance in here somewhere but I just couldn’t find it.

Angels in the Snow by Matt de la Peña
This is probably one of the best stories in this book. From the beginning, it’s obvious Peña’s two main characters will get together in the end, but the story is much more than that. Homesickness is a key theme here for both characters.

Polaris is Where You’ll Find Me by Jenny Han
Han plunges full-on into Christmas town with this story. A girl (another Asian girl, could these authors be screaming about diversity any more? — yet they all seem to celebrate the western, pop culture version of Christmas) is Santa’s adoptive daughter who falls for one of his elves. It’s an interesting concept, but that’s about the extent of this story. It’s a concept and not a full-fledged story.

It’s a Yuletide Miracle, Charlie Brown by Stephanie Perkins
The editor herself steps in for this love story. It’s a cute tale of two people who are victims of circumstance, but I couldn’t help but be distracted by all the uneventful events. There was a lot of “we moved the furniture,” “he carried the tree,” “I made cocoa.” It was a nice story, but too much detail in some areas.

Your Temporary Santa by David Leviathan
Diversity is prominent once again in this story about a gay boy who asks his Jewish boyfriend to be Santa Claus for his little sister on Christmas Eve. It’s a nice, sweet story, but the boy who dons the Santa suit is a little too clingy for a teenager in his first relationship. But that doesn’t distract from the story too much.

Krampuslauf by Holly Black
This story starts off strong. While diversity is once again shown, it’s represented in a way that acknowledges what other cultures celebrate alongside Christmas. Hanna and her friends decide to throw a New Year’s Eve party to out her friend’s cheating boyfriend, but the ending and the boy that Hanna ends up with is drastically different than how to story starts.

What the Hell Have You Done, Sophie Roth? by Gayle Forman
This one was a good one. City girl Sophie Roth is displaced into the middle of nowhere (“Bumfuckville,” according to the story) for college and finds that she’s the outsider. She meets another outsider and the result is beautiful. The only negative thing I have about this story is that the romance seemed a bit forced.

Beer Buckets and Baby Jesus by Myra McEntire
The title alone is great. Vaughn is a trickster who lets one of his tricks go too far by burning down a church’s barn. While paying for his mistakes, he gets to know his crush better and discovers that she’s not everything she seemed. 

Welcome to Christmas, CA by Kiersten White
Imagine celebrating Christmas in the desert. That’s what you basically have with this story. It’s dreary and depressing, but lightens up toward the end as Maria discovers your hometown is only as good as you make it. This story could’ve been expanded into a longer piece of fiction. White brought in minor characters that had strong storylines and the vague resolutions to their problems left me questioning how they were coping with the choices they’ve made.

Star of Bethlehem by Ally Carter
If you like a nice southern Christmas, this is the story for you. Carter touches on so many themes here and the story keeps building to the eventful (albeit a little exaggerated) ending. The resolution to the story seemed like too easy of a fix and once again, it left me questioning what happened to the character after the “deadline” of Christmas. Surely, life goes on.

The Girl Who Woke the Dreamer by Laini Taylor
This was the only story I couldn’t finish. It was such a stark difference between this and the other stories in the book. What I did read wasn’t an easy read. It sounded very much like Franz Kafka and I repeatedly questioned if these characters were actually beetles or some other bugs. It was a horrible way to cap off a delightfully pleasant book. If you were able to finish it, bravo. If you actually enjoyed it, you are out of this world!

Book Review: “The Book of (Holiday) Awesome”

This season’s holiday reading has begun!

I know I’m not the only one who is so enamored with Christmas that it consumes everything: music, movies, dinner plates, sweaters, lights, toilet seat covers, and even books. The Book of (Holiday) Awesome by Neil Pasricha is proof that I’m not alone.

For those of you who don’t know, Neil Pasricha is a blogger, running 1000awesomethings.com, counting each of life’s simple pleasures like The Parking Lot Pull Through, Hitting a Bunch of Green Lights in a Row, and The First Scoop Out of a Jar of Peanut Butter. These things are small, but significant when they’re added up together.

Pasricha started the blog at a time when he was feeling down and used these small reminders that life can be awesome if we choose to see the silver lining. The blog took off (it has since garnered over 55 million views) and was eventually published into a book, The Book of Awesome, in 2010. The Book of (Even More) Awesome and The Book of (Holiday) Awesome followed in 2011.

Even though Holiday isn’t devoted entirely to Christmas, a good chunk of it is. Other holidays that share in the awesome magic are Thanksgiving, Easter, Kwanza, Mother’s Day, and Diwali. This book really is for everyone. It’s a quick read (only 179 pages) and can be enjoyed any time of the year.