Content/Trigger Warnings: Death/loss of a loved one, domestic abuse/toxic relationships, scene/talk of terminal illness, minor homophobia, scene of attempted rape
This was the perfect books to finally put me in the mood for the holidays! This year it felt like I was lacking a little holiday cheer whether it was due to stress or many the pressure of not doing enough. But after reading this book, I can say that I feel that spark of holiday magic again! I also wish I had mapped this out a little better because you could read a story a day up to whatever holiday you celebrate so I’m kind of kicking myself in the butt for not thinking about that sooner.
My True Love Gave to Me is an anthology of Twelve holiday stories by some big named authors like Laini Taylor, Jenny Han, and Holly Black! Full of holiday romance, struggles, and even finding your family. We also need to take a moment to talk about the cover for this book! Upon first seeing it you would think it just fits the holiday vibes, but if you look much closer you’ll notice all the couples from within the various stories in this book! This was such a delightful Easter egg and it’s the cutest thing ever!
“He says presents aren’t important, but I think they are – not because of how much they cost, but for the opportunity they provide to say I understand you.”
As always, whether it’s a a graphic novel bind-up, an anthology, or even two stories bound in the same book, I like to do a spoiler free breakdown (to the best of my ability). The next portion may contain spoilers, but I will do my best to keep it as spoiler free as I possibly can.
🎄Midnights by Rainbow Rowell | ⭐⭐⭐
Meet Mags and Noel, both have been best friends after Mags saved Noel’s life. Told in flashbacks, we follow Mag and Noel on each New Years Eve and what happens between them when the clock strikes midnight. Starting from sophomore year in high school to the end of freshmen year in college, readers will be hit with nostalgia and the reminiscence of growing up, and feeling like everyone around you is changing. While I really did like the writing of this story and the way Rowell can make sentences flow, there were a few things that made me feel a bit awkward and uncomfortable in the story-line. Not to mention it felt a bit odd that this book would start off with a New Years Eve story instead of a Winter Solstice or Christmas story instead.
🎄 The Lady and the Fox by Kelly Link | ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
If you’re familiar with the folk-tale of The Snow Queen then you will absolutely fall in love with this story! I know I instantly did! Meet Miranda and Fenny. Miranda is a young girl who’s mother has been sent to prison for life. Every Christmas she spends it with her Godmother and her Godmother’s son. Constantly throwing big, elaborate parties, the Honeywells aren’t ones to shy away from a good time. But one year changes everything for Miranda when she spots a man outside the widow, looking in at the party, and decides to investigate. I adored many this with my whole heart and soul. It was so beautifully woven and the connection that Miranda and Fenny share was something I couldn’t stop thinking about even after I had finished this story. Miranda has this unspoken devotion and determination, and I found myself rooting for her even though I suspected what the outcome would be like. I also really appreciated the symbolism of the fox in this story. If you’re not familiar, before bear traps were outlawed and deemed inhumane, farmers and hunters would use them to catch foxes and wolves, and once the trap closes it’s nearly impossible to reopen. I’ve seen a lot of readers give this story a one star and I think I could understand if it revolved around not being familiar with the folk-tale this story is a retelling of, but I’m shock not many readers recognize how wonderfully written this tale truly is and how beautifully these two main characters were written.
🎄 Angels in the Snow by Matt de la Peña | ⭐⭐⭐
I wasn’t ready for an incredibly sad story! This story had me choking on breaths and while I truly do love a good story or book that can rock or shake me emotionally, I just wasn’t prepared for this reality to hit out of nowhere. Plus, I never felt like there was any real closure for the heavy things happening. This is a story about a boy named Shy who has traveled from his poor family back in California to go to college in New York. While many of his fellow students have traveled home for the holidays, Shy has stayed behind to cat sit for his boss, and that’s how he meets Haley. They also end up snowed in together. The main character and the situation hit too close to home for me and this wasn’t something I wanted to read about for the holidays. While I did enjoy the writing and how well everything was brought together, this was too heavy of a story and the ending didn’t add too much relief for all the heaviness.
🎄 Polaris is Where You’ll Find Me by Jenny Han | ⭐⭐⭐⭐
This was super cute and original! This is the first story in this whole book that features elves and our setting takes place at the North Pole. We also see more of a real Santa presence in this story! If you’ve ever seen the movie Elf then you’re definitely going to fall in love with this story and our main character Natalie. This story isn’t that romantic as some of the other stories in this anthology. Actually it’s a little sad and it’s more about Natalie trying to find the boy, Lars she met one fateful Christmas. This story leaves on a table gripping cliffhanger and honestly, I wouldn’t mind if the author actually released a novella or a Christmas book continuing this story-line. I still wonder if Natalie went to see Lars and what Lars reaction would be.
🎄 It’s a Yuletide Miracle, Charlie Brown by Stephanie Perkins | ⭐⭐⭐
Oh boy, this was kinda cute, but somehow it missed a few marks for me. For starters, I loved the names of the main characters in this story. We have Marigold and we have North, the love interest. Both have beautifully enchanting names that you hear too often. I also love that we get two different family dynamics; we have Marigold’s family which is a single parent household (ouch, my heart) and then North has a family own business background with family tears between siblings and their parents. I loved it, I craved it. However, despite a lot of good elements that I found in this story, I truly believe this would have been better written as a novella or even a full length book so we as the readers had more time to explore them as characters, them forming a relationship, and really going more into depth of why Marigold needed North’s voice and what the final outcome would be.
🎄 Your Temporary Santa by David Levithan | ⭐
This was my least favorite story out of the entire book. It felt very awkward, very forced, and a lot of the times reading it I felt really uncomfortable. Basically, a boy dressed up as Santa for his boyfriend’s little sister, which it sounds sweet and could have been sweet, but it was incredibly forced especially with how much the main character was stressing over the whole situation. He even has a confrontation with the older sister when he tries to leave and for my reading experience it rubbed off as a little homophobic and overly aggressive to borderline harassment. That whole scene just didn’t sit right with me. I’m extra disappointed because I would have loved a good cute, romantic, or even sexy holiday LGBT story, but this was just awkward and uncomfortable.
🎄Krampuslauf by Holly Black | ⭐⭐⭐⭐
If you thought this was going to be a Christmas read, guess again because you got Krampus! Can I just take a moment to pass around all the high fives that we finally get a Krampus story that not only has some fun sprinkled in, but a great kissing moment too?! I loved that Holly Black took Krampus and made him into this guy who rights the wrongs that have been done to people. I loved it. How often do we see Krampus’s tale be turned into one of good? Not to mention that there were some really powerful quotes in this story as well. Once again, Holly Black has mesmerized me with her writing and she truly has a great talent for writing.
“Sometimes I felt like I was waiting for my life to begin and more than anything, in that moment, I wanted to force some kind of beginning. I wanted things to be different than usual. I wanted to bend reality.”
🎄 What the Hell have You Done, Sophie Roth? by Gayle Forman | ⭐⭐⭐
This was such a sweet story and such a breath of fresh air because this is a Hanukkah story! Basically, this is a story about two people trying to find themselves while they’re also finding each other. While I did like the writing of this book and the way the two characters were getting to know each other, I felt disconnected by some of the things said or happening in this story. However, the minute they mentioned apple pie with cheese, I was hit with some nostalgia of childhood memories. That alone made this a three star instead of a two star for me.
🎄Beer Buckets and Baby Jesus by Myra McEntire | ⭐⭐
I was pretty convinced I was going to dislike this story on some incredible level, but I’m glad I didn’t hate it as much as I thought I would. It was insanely cheesey and sometimes cringey, but there some really sweet and heartwarming moments. I feel like this might have been better written as a novella or a three-hundred paged book. We follow Vaughn who’s a notorious troublemaker with a good heart, but has a rough home life and Gracie who’s a reserved pastor’s daughter. Even though they’re polar opposites, they connect and find the good in each other.
🎄 Welcome to Christmas, CA by Kiersten White | ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Okay, I bawled my eyes out with this one. This is everything a true holiday story should be! This was everything I wanted from this anthology and so much more. It was perfection and if this story ever gets released as a novella or a series then I will be investing some serious time into this. And the way some of the quotes hit, they land right on their mark! This story was heartwarming, emotional, had a happy ending, some romance mixed in, a little magical element sprinkled in, and was wonderfully written. This story is about a girl who’s trapped in a small town. Her mother runs a Christmas themed diner, which she begrudgingly works at, and just got a new cook who doesn’t follow the recipes! My best advice, go into this one blind and let the power of this short story overtake you!
🎄 Star of Bethleham by Ally Carter | ⭐⭐⭐⭐
This one took me by surprise and I was even more surprised that this had a lot of The Holiday vibes to it. I really loved the way the whole “trading the plane ticket with a random girl” came full circle near the end and we saw the real reason Lydia was so secretive about things. I also really appreciated the theme of finding one’s family after you’ve lost yours. I got really choked up and emotional near the end because it hit so close to home on my own beliefs. I definitely believe this would benefit a lot more as a novella because there are some important details missing, but I think many readers will be surprised by this story.
“Sweetheart, when you lose someone, you lose a little bit of yourself, too. And that missing piece? Sometimes you have to lose the rest of yourself to find it.”
🎄 The Girl Who Woke the Dreamer by Laini Taylor | ⭐⭐⭐
First time reading anything by Laini Taylor and she took me for a ride! This story threw me for a loop and I truly wished this story alone had been a physical book because I have no doubt that I would devour this story all over again. Don’t get me wrong, I had some issues with the content of this story, but wow, what a ride, what a story, what a talent Laini Taylor. The way Laini weaves sentences and gives details. My imagination went full scale with this story. Basically, if you’re a single lady on this island (which is nearly impossible to leave from), on December 1st through December 24th a suitor can leave you a gift on your porch. After the last day, the island has a ball, where you find your betrothed, and seal the marriage with a dance. One thing I will say and why I docked it by a star was the scene where the pastor attempted to sneak into our main character’s cabin and have his way with her. I cringed, I nearly ripped my book, it was an unnerving time. Not to mention, the pastor character conveyed a lot of Frollo vibes and I wasn’t here for it. Basically a lot of my issues with this story revolved around the pastor and that this story would have benefited more as a novella or a full book. There’s too many missing pieces, things left unsaid, and too much ominous vibes that were still lingering at the end of the story.
Overall this book receives a very low four stars. Out of the 60 stars possible (5 stars for one story each), this book receiving 40 stars our of the 60.
Aside from this book, I hope all my friends, family, fellow book lovers reading this are having a wonderful holiday filled with lots of love, laughter, good health, and many holiday filled reads!