Sunday 14 December 2014

Review: My True Love Gave to Me - Anthology

On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me . . .

This beautiful collection features twelve gorgeously romantic stories set during the festive period, by some of the most talented and exciting YA authors writing today. The stories are filled with the magic of first love and the magic of the holidays.

Here is a list of all the stories included in the anthology:
(links take you to the author's websites)
1. Midnights by Rainbow Rowell
2. The lady and the Fox by Kelly Link
3. Angels in the Snow by Matt de la Pena
4. Polaris is Where You'll Find Me by Jenny Han
5. It's a Yuletide Miracle, Charlie Brown by Stephanie Perkins
6. Your Temporary Santa by David Levithan
7. Krampuslauf by Holly Black
8. What the Hell Have You Done, Sophie Roth? by Gayle Forman
9. Beer Buckets and Baby Jesus by Myra McEntire
10. Welcome to Christmas, CA by Kiersten White
11. Star of Bethlehem by Ally Carter
12. The Girl Who Woke the Dreamer by Laini Taylor

Firstly I have to comment on how special the UK hardback of this book is, I'm not usually a fan of hardbacks and prefer to buy my books in paperback or as ebooks but this is one hardback that will happily be displayed on my bookshelves. It has a beautiful blue cover with a gold foil title and design, the edges and end papers are hot pink and it comes with a gold ribbon bookmark. It's the kind of book you want to treasure and I'm happy to say that the contents more than live up to the outer packaging.

I love reading anthologies because they can be a great way of trying new authors but I do tend to find that they are a bit hit and miss, often there will be a couple of stories I love along with a bunch of mediocre entries that were okay but nothing special. I had high hopes for My True Love Gave to Me though because it has contributions from so many well known and popular YA authors and I have to say this is probably one of the best anthologies I've read. It includes 12 holiday themed stories and I thoroughly enjoyed each and every one of them. Obviously I have a few favourites but the quality was consistently high and there wasn't a single story that missed the mark or bored me.

Midnights by Rainbow Rowell is a story spanning four years in the lives of best friends Mags and Noel, we only get to see one night of each year - New Years Eve - but we get a real sense of how close the two of them are and how strongly they feel for each other. Will one of them ever be brave enough to make the first move to take things further though? A very sweet contemporary romance with likeable characters who I would have loved to spend more time with.

The Lady and the Fox by Kelly Link has a real fairytale feel to it, Miranda spends every Christmas staying with her Godmother's family and she meets a mysterious boy in the garden but he will never come into the house and she only ever sees him when it's snowing. This is a sweet and magical story that I completely fell in love with and I definitely plan to check out more stories by Kelly Link in the future.

Angels in the Snow by Matt de la Pena is about Shy, a young man who is flat sitting for his boss over Christmas and the friendship he develops with a girl in the flat upstairs. Matt de la Pena is another new to me author but I loved his writing style and will be looking out for more of his books, this is a feel good story and one that left me with a smile on my face.

Polaris is Where You'll Find Me by Jenny Han is set in the North Pole and features Santa's adopted daughter Natty, she is the only human there and feels left out because she doesn't have a date to the Christmas Ball. I hate to say it but this was probably my least favourite story in the anthology, purely because it ended so abruptly. I was thoroughly enjoying it but then it just seemed to stop half way through, I turned the page looking for more and nothing. I think this could have been excellent if it had just been a tiny bit longer.

It's a Yuletide Miracle, Charlie Brown by Stephanie Perkins is an incredibly sweet and heart warming romance and it was definitely one of my favourite stories in the anthology. Marigold is in desperate need of a holiday miracle and she gets a lot more than she expected when she goes to buy a Christmas tree from North. I've heard so many great things about Stephanie Perkins's writing and if this is what she can do with a short story I can't wait to read one of her full length novels!

Your Temporary Santa by David Levithan is the story of a boy who dresses up as Santa and sneaks into his boyfriend's house just to help a young girl believe in magic for another year. This was incredibly sweet, it focuses more on family relationships than romance but I loved it.

Krampuslauf by Holly Black brings us the darker side of Christmas and introduces readers to the legend of Krampus. A group of friends decide to throw a New Years Eve party and think it will be the perfect opportunity to get revenge on one of their cheating boyfriends. I really enjoyed this one but would definitely have liked it to have been longer, the characters were great but I wanted to see more of Krampus and his friends.

What the Hell Have You Done, Sophie Roth? by Gayle Forman is a very humorous story about a girl from a big city who is having trouble settling in at a very rural college until she meets Russell who makes her realise that things could be very different if only she was willing to make a bit more of an effort. This was another favourite story with just the right balance of comedy and romance.

Beer Buckets and Baby Jesus by Myra McEntire was a bit of a strange story but I absolutely loved Vaughn, the town prankster who accidentally set fire to the church hall just a few weeks before Christmas and is now trying to make things right by making sure the nativity play still goes ahead. This had a strong theme of redemption and not playing up to people's expectations of you but instead learning to follow your own path.

Welcome to Christmas, CA by Kiersten White is about a tiny little village in the middle of nowhere that does everything it can to live up to it's name. Maria is desperate to escape the dead end town and move away but Ben, the new chef at her family's diner, makes her see things in a different light. I really enjoyed the family relationships in this one, Maria doesn't feel like she has anything in common with her mother and step-father but there are a lot of things that she doesn't realise and once she finds out the truth she finally understands how much they care about her.

Star of Bethlehem by Ally Carter is about a young girl who is desperate to get away and have a fresh start, so desperate that she willingly swaps plane tickets with another girl even though she has no idea where she's going to end up. This story was full of surprises but really sweet and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Again it's one where I loved the characters so much that I want to be able to spend more time with them but we still get a satisfying ending.

The Girl Who Woke the Dreamer by Laini Taylor ended up being my favourite story in the anthology. Neve is an orphan who has very little choice about what will happen to her when she turns 18, she either finds a man to marry her or she will be forced to live out a very harsh, and likely very short, existence alone in a very inhospitable environment. When she realises which man has come to court her she is horrified enough to pray for help and her prayers wake a sleeping god who decides to offer her assistance. Laini Taylor has such a beautiful writing style and she hooked me into her story from the very first page, this was completely magical and I loved every minute of it.

My True Love Gave to Me really is a fabulous anthology, one with a diverse range of stories so that there is bound to be something to suit everyone. It's a perfect read for this time of year and one I think I'll be dipping back into each December from now onwards.

Source: Received from Macmillan in exchange for an honest review

Other Reviews:
If you have reviewed this book on your blog please leave a link to your review in the comments & I'll add the link here.

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