Book Review: “My True Love Gave to Me” edited by Stephanie Perkins (ARC)

My True Love Gave to Me: Twelve Holiday Stories edited by Stephanie Perkins 20309175
Stories written by Stephanie Perkins, Holly Black, Ally Carter, Gayle Forman, Jenny Han, David Levithan, Kelly Link, Myra McEntire, Matt de la Peña, Rainbow Rowell, Laini Taylor, Kiersten White

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Publishing Date: October 14
Genre: young adult, romance, holiday
ISBN: 9781250059307
Goodreads: —
Rating: ★★★★

If you love holiday stories, holiday movies, made-for-TV-holiday specials, holiday episodes of your favorite sitcoms and, especially, if you love holiday anthologies, you’re going to fall in love with MY TRUE LOVE GAVE TO ME: TWELVE HOLIDAY STORIES by twelve bestselling young adult writers, edited by international bestselling author Stephanie Perkins.

From New Year’s Eve parties to last-minute Hanukkahs, supernatural creatures from dreams to fantastic parallel universes, and down to your usual Christmas holiday story — twelve great YA authors bring wonderful new sets of characters this holiday season for some cozy, warm-feeling cheer that would go perfectly with a soft blanket and hot cocoa.

I’ll admit I read only the short stories written by the authors I already enjoy (Perkins, Forman, Han, Rowell, Taylor) and those I’ve heard praise for but hadn’t read yet (Black, Carter, Levithan). Because I loved those short stories — such variety! — so much, I’m going to go back and read the ones by the authors I haven’t heard anything about.

Rowell and Forman were my favorites, followed closely by Perkins. Rowell’s characters Mags and Noel went to the same New Year’s Eve party across all of high school and freshman year of college. They change with each passing year, grow closer, and their friendship is so beautiful and solid you can’t help but cheer at midnight. Forman’s Sophie is hilarious and witty, extremely sarcastic, and it intensifies when she meets Russell, the first person she views as her equal. Perkins’s story is heartfelt and authentic, Han’s was a surprising twist of her usual writing, Taylor’s was lush as usual, and Black’s was fun and quirky.

This is an adorable winter holiday read, perfect to get you into the spirit!

Thank you, Edelweiss, for providing this book from St. Martin’s Press for review!

Book Review: “Dragonfly in Amber” by Diana Gabaldon

1068825Dragonfly in Amber by Diana Gabaldon 

Publisher: Seal Books
Published: July 1992
Genre: historical fiction, fantasy, romance, adventure
ISBN: 9780440215622
Goodreads: 4.31

For twenty years Claire Randall has kept her secrets. But now she is returning with her grown daughter to Scotland’s majestic mist-shrouded hills. Here Claire plans to reveal a truth as stunning as the events that gave it birth: about the mystery of an ancient circle of standing stones …about a love that transcends the boundaries of time …and about James Fraser, a Scottish warrior whose gallantry once drew a young Claire from the security of her century to the dangers of his ….

Now a legacy of blood and desire will test her beautiful copper-haired daughter, Brianna, as Claire’s spellbinding journey of self-discovery continues in the intrigue-ridden Paris court of Charles Stuart …in a race to thwart a doomed Highlands uprising …and in a desperate fight to save both the child and the man she loves…

Scotland, 1968. Claire brings her daughter Brianna to Scotland to visit the place Frank studied with such depth and devotion. Claire introduces Brianna to Roger Wakefield, the adopted son of the reverend Frank corresponded and shared academic stories with during and after his second honeymoon with Claire. But Roger and Brianna are set in store for more than nostalgia and acquaintance reunions — little do they know they’ll learn of the years Claire spent away from Frank, and what it means for them.
Scotland & France, 1744-1746. Claire and Jamie flee Scotland for France, and work their way into Charles Stuart’s court in Paris in an attempt to thwart his efforts to reclaim the Scottish throne. Leading the life of a double-agent, Jamie’s political leanings and pride in his country war in his heart, and Claire attempts to navigate court life to help in his efforts. Soon enough their work is needed in Scotland once more, and it appears that fate has a different plan set in store for the Frasers, the MacKenzies, and Scotland.

Note: All Outlander books will be filled with spoilers. If you haven’t read Outlander yet, do not read on!

This would’ve received five stars if it weren’t for France. Not that Gabaldon’s writing was poor in France, or that the history wasn’t fascinating — nothing like that. And it’s not that it was the setting that put me off (France versus Scotland…mmm, I’d take Scotland). The slow pacing and political intrigue was just like in Outlander, except that this time we’re set in the opulence of a French court, with too many characters and too much gossip and too much scheming and it not only took a toll on me but also on Jamie and Claire. They love each other deeply and they care about their cause, but it clearly disrupted their life, being double agents and attempting to change the course of history. It created a rift, in a way. I promise you, if you’re reading Dragonfly in Amber right now and you’re not back in Scotland yet, keep reading. It’ll be worth it! Soon our lovers are back on home land and even they admit France was tedious!

At first I was slightly put off by the twenty-years-into-the-future part of the story — including the switching perspectives — but after a while I genuinely liked it. We see how Claire struggled to maintain a secret, read her mind as she flashed back to the difficulty in her marriage with Frank post-return, felt her love for her daughter Brianna and all that she meant. We can sense how heartbreaking it was for her to come back to the twentieth century and have a child. And then to tell the child about her years away from Frank and hope against all hope she’d believe Claire. That’s tough. Although I still find it hilarious that the most logical of men in this series still believe Claire faster than any woman has (first Jamie, then Anselm, then Roger).

I know that everyone is okay. It’s clear, reading the summaries of the other books, that everyone is okay. But that still didn’t stop the feeling of dread once we were back in Scotland, once you realize Claire really did return to the future, once Jamie and Claire have to say goodbye. So many tears. So. Many.

And the cliffhanger? Good Lord.

There’s a reason this series is successful. It’s not a romance about how two people come together and live happily ever after. It’s about a marriage. About following these two people across time and space, about all the hardships they’ve encountered together and apart, how they work with one another and make decisions and still come out loving one another so deeply and fully it makes your own heart shatter. It’s beautiful.

Advance Excitement at a Glance IX + September Book Haul

arc posts

This year, in an effort to blog more, to become more involved with the blogging community, and to keep up with the latest publications, I thought I’d create a monthly post about the ARCs I’ve received. These ARCs will be read and reviewed a month prior to the publishing date. The Advance Excitement at a Glance posts will feature one or two (or more!) books to look forward to.

Last month I previewed four ARCs I’d hoped to get to, but was only able to read and review one, The CallerLark Rising, though, is now available in stores, and I highly suggest you dash after it, especially if you’re a Juliet Marillier fan.

October is another big publishing month, and I was once again overwhelmed with the number of fantastic ARCs. I can assure you you’ll see far more reviews this upcoming month, so be on the lookout! Here are two of the billions I’m really excited to share with you.


My True Love Gave to Me edited by Stephanie Perkins and written by
all your favorite YA authors ever 

(October 14, St. Martin’s Press)

A collection of holiday/winter-themed short stories for your enjoyment. Rumor has it there are twelve illustrations inside as well, one for each story! Just looking at the cover makes me think of the Rainbow Rowell cover art trend (surely there’s a more formal name for it, but her covers are so iconic now), which I’m a huge fan of. I’m usually not much of a collection/anthology reader — I prefer my stories long — but this seems so perfect, like little bits of peppermint candies.


Snow Like Ashes by Sara Raasch 
(October 14, Balzer + Bray)

Sixteen years ago the Kingdom of Winter was conquered and its citizens enslaved, leaving them without magic or a monarch. Now, the Winterians’ only hope for freedom is the eight survivors who managed to escape, and who have been waiting for the opportunity to steal back Winter’s magic and rebuild the kingdom ever since.

Meira has lived her whole life as a refugee, raised by the Winterians’ general, Sir. Training to be a warrior, she would do anything to help her kingdom rise to power again. When scouts discover the location of the ancient locket that can restore Winter’s magic, Meira decides to go after it herself. But the mission doesn’t go as planned, and Meira soon finds herself thrust into a world of evil magic and dangerous politics – and ultimately comes to realize that her destiny is not, never has been, her own.

Meira, orphaned as an infant, has only ever heard stories of the beautiful, frozen Kingdom of Winter. She’s heard so many that sometimes she feels these stories are her own memories. But when she goes on a mission to recapture the lost locket, a conduit for the royalty’s magic, she accidentally sets in a motion a future she never thought possible.

If you haven’t noticed by now, I’m a huge Balzer + Bray fan. I’ll read just about any YA they publish. Gimme gimme. Apart from that, I really like the idea of a set of kingdoms based on the seasons. Throw in a girl who can fight, who’s playful and funny and passionate, who fights for a cause she doesn’t fully understand but feels should be part of her blood, and I’m ready to read.

Which ARCs did you receive for October? What books are you looking forward to reading?


September Book Haul

Because this month’s spending was way out of control and totally violated Resolution #4.


If you’re following me on instagram, you would’ve noticed several things: 1) I’m obsessing over Outlander, and 2) there’ve been more book purchases than book reviews this month. And I’m blaming it on Outlander. I’d owned the book for months, watched the first episode when it aired, and then devoured the book. Which then prompted the intense desire to purchase Dragonfly in Amber…and Voyager and Drums of Autumn. All of Gabaldon’s books are massive, which means if I have wandering attention I end up turning back to the ARCs that need to be read or the books that look so gosh darn pretty and I want to read right now but can’t because Gabaldon’s taken my soul. So that prompted The Caller (already read and reviewed!), This is What Happy Looks LikeWinterkill, Summer & Bird, The Swallow, Jackabyand The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place. I can’t explain myself. I just can’t. I’m ashamed and at the same time I just don’t care — breaking resolutions for books is acceptable in this community, right? Right.

Top Ten Tuesday: Fall TBR List

Top Ten Tuesday, a concept started by The Broke and the Bookish, is a themed post that connects bloggers to bloggers, bloggers to readers, and readers to readers. Every Tuesday has a special topic, and this Tuesday is Top Ten Books on My Fall TBR List.

top ten tuesday

The question is…will they all be read? So many books! Here are ten that, at this moment, I want to read this fall.

Snow Like Ashes by Sara Raasch (October 14), because Balzer + Bray rocks and I’ve fallen into the hype over this book!

Ravencliffe by Carol Goodman (December 2), the sequel to Blythewood, which I loved. Anyone who enjoyed Libba Bray’s A Great and Terrible Beauty would like this too.

Stray by Elissa Sussman (October 7), a fairytale-esque story that promises to be absolutely amazing. I won it from Greenwillow in a Goodreads giveaway!

Voyager by Diana Gabaldon, the book I’ve been told is completely worth the drag of the second book (almost done with Dragonfly in Amber).

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein, which technically I’m reading right now. Enjoying it so far!

Winterkill by Kate Boorman caught my eye, and when I read a review that said, “The Village and Oregon Trail created a love child,” I grabbed it.

Frostfire by Amanda Hocking (January 6), a huge case of cover love. I’m not even sure what I’m getting into!

Jackaby by William Ritter, a genre-bending YA that’s like Doctor Who and Sherlock. ALL THE YESES.

The Swallow by Charis Cotter, a middle grade ghost story that I’m really excited to start! It grabbed my attention immediately.

Dream Boy by Mary Crockett & Madelyn Rosenberg sounds so intriguing and frightening. Dreams coming true — all the good ones and bad ones? Done.


What books are on your fall TBR list? Do we have any overlap? 


Top Ten Tuesday: One Book, One Author, and Needing to Read More

Top Ten Tuesday, a concept started by The Broke and the Bookish, is a themed post that connects bloggers to bloggers, bloggers to readers, and readers to readers. Every Tuesday has a special topic, and this Tuesday is Top Ten Authors I’ve Only Read One Book From but NEED to Read More.

top ten tuesday

I feel like this is just going to turn into “top ten authors whose books I own but haven’t read more of” or “top ten authors who are one-hit wonders and where’s that next book gosh darn it.” Once I find an author I adore I tend to follow them to the ends of the earth.

Charles Finch — His semi-autobiographical novel The Last Enchantments was apparently vastly different from his usual style in his mystery series. Considering his series is set in Victorian Oxford, I’m surprised I’m not already drooling over them. Gotta step up and read them!

Erin Morgenstern — One of those “one-hit wonders” I mentioned, because why isn’t there another book by her? Seriously, Night Circus is still one of my top favorite life-changing books of all time. All. Time.

David Nicholls — Another top favorite life-changing book of all time, One Day, was by this man and yet I haven’t read anything else. Does he have anything else? I know another book is coming out (Us, October 2014) and I’m planning on reading it.

Victoria Schwab – I’ve only read The Archived, such a brilliantly slow-building book. I own The Unbound (signed, too!), and I’ve read fantastic reviews of her adult SFF books. Basically, I need to hop to it.

Maggie Stiefvater – Once again, I’ve only read Raven Boys, and I’m genuinely curious to see how this series pans out. The quasi-King Arthur plot feels so mythical, and I enjoy that.

Natalie Standiford — She writes for many age levels, but I’m mostly curious about future YA titles. Her Boy on the Bridge book was so simple, yet it brought such strong memories of my time in Russia that I really want to see what else she’s write (or even if they were along that vein! I really enjoy Russian themes).

Rachel Hartman — Because Seraphina holy WOW! If she writes like this all the time, I’ll follow her books to the ends of the earth. Love her style, her voice, her plotting and construction. It’s brilliant. She’s brilliant.

Elizabeth LaBan — MOAR BOOKS PLZ! Her writing style and plotting and storytelling was so wonderful in The Tragedy Paper.

Ruta Sepetys — Simply because I own Out of the Easy and haven’t read it yet. I’m curious to see if I’d like it as much as Between Shades of Gray!

Jessica Brockmole — Because, hello, Scotland and epistolary writing style and war romance. Come on. I need more books from her! She’s excellent! Go read Letters from Skye if you haven’t already!


Which authors made it to your list? Do we have any overlaps?

Book Review: “A Little Something Different” by Sandy Hall

A Little Something Different by Sandy Hall 20757526

Publisher: Swoon Reads
Published: August 26
Genre: young adult, romance
ISBN: 9781250061454
Goodreads: 3.84

Lea and Gabe are in the same creative writing class. They get the same pop culture references, order the same Chinese good, and hang out in the same places. Unfortunately, Lea is a little aloof, Gabe is shy, and it looks like they are never going to work things out.

But something is happening between them, and everyone can see it. Their creative writing teacher pushes them together. The baristas at the local Starbucks watch their relationship like a TV series. The bus driver tells his wife about them. The waitress at the diner automatically seats them together. Even the squirrel who lives on the college green believes Lea and Gabe were meant to be together.

Fourteen points of view, and none of them are Lea and Gabe’s. Like watching a TV show or living vicariously through friends, join a barista, bus driver, bench, brother, three friends, two classmates, a squirrel, a professor and her wife, a Chinese take-out guy, and a waitress as they observe the nervous Lea and shy Gabe circle around one another for an entire year. Mixed signals, misunderstood words and body language, and near misses capture the hilarity and innocence of first love.

I have to admit, I read this book at just the right time. I needed something light and quick and adorable — this was just the ticket. (Plus, seriously, there’s a squirrel’s POV in this book. Bingo!)

While at times it seemed ridiculous these two could be so shy and awkward around one another, the friends and observers were incredibly understanding to their situation. Here’s this freshman girl, excited and nervous about college but ready for something new — and along comes this tall, awkward older guy who seems interested in her but incredibly shy. She has next-to-no experience, so her friends offer words of encouragement and advice that backfire when Lea puts it into action. Now, here’s this shy older guy, once a baseball star but no longer on the college team and without a scholarship. He seems to have trouble hearing the people around him, and has gone through some tough stuff in the last year that’s pulled him out of school. Top it off with being a shy, quiet guy, and his friends completely understand why he’s not making any moves.

What I loved most about this book was the fact it’s never — not once! — told through Lea or Gabe’s perspective. The reader is forced to be a third-party observer just like everyone else. I loved that! It felt just like watching my friends (and complete strangers!) tip-toe around one another, the small steps towards love. Each section was just long enough to get a good scene in, and just short enough to make you want to read more and into another’s perspective. I blew through this, I enjoyed it immensely.

For a first Swoon Reads publication, this is incredibly fun, adorable, lovely, and sweet! Well done!

Book Review: “Outlander” by Diana Gabaldon

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon 10964

Publisher: Bantem Dell
Published: 1991
Genre: historical fiction, romance, adventure, fantasy 
ISBN: 9780440212560
Goodreads: 4.14

In 1945, Claire Randall, a former combat nurse, is back from the war and reunited with her husband on a second honeymoon–when she innocently touches a boulder in one of the ancient stone circles that dot the British Isles. Suddenly she is a Sassenach—an “outlander”—in a Scotland torn by war and raiding border clans in the year of our Lord…1743.

Hurled back in time by forces she cannot understand, Claire’s destiny in soon inextricably intertwined with Clan MacKenzie and the forbidden Castle Leoch. She is catapulted without warning into the intrigues of lairds and spies that may threaten her life …and shatter her heart. For here, James Fraser, a gallant young Scots warrior, shows her a passion so fierce and a love so absolute that Claire becomes a woman torn between fidelity and desire…and between two vastly different men in two irreconcilable lives.

Claire and her husband Frank and finally reunited after years of separation during WWII. They decide to have a second honeymoon in the Highlands, and traipse about the countryside to learn more about Frank’s ancestry and the local botany. One afternoon, Claire travels to an ancient stone circle she and Frank visited previously, and ends up traveling back in time to 1743. She’s stunned beyond belief and struggles to comprehend what has happened to her, especially when her life is in the hands of the MacKenzie clansmen at Castle Leoch. She takes on the role of healer in an effort to fit in, and is drawn to an unlikely friendship with Scots warrior Jamie Fraser, who has a tumultuous history of his own. Before long, Claire is torn between her life in the Highlands, set in a time of turmoil for Scotland, and her comfortable life in 1945 to a man she loves yet hardly knows.

Why? Why did I read this before the TV show came out? I was told time and again I should read these books as I’d love this series, but it wasn’t until I saw the first episode of Outlander on Starz that I convinced myself to pick it up and read ahead of the episodes. It’s so well written and completely indescribable. It’s accurate historical fiction. It’s romance (steamy, too). It’s adventurous (and bloody and terrifying and a whole host of other suitable words). It’s fantasy (time travel!). It’s philosophical. It’s spiritual. It’s so many things!

I’ve shared my thoughts with booksellers and bloggers privately (and extensively) on this book, and I’m quite excited to read the rest. But I’ll stick to two major points I felt I should include in the review.

The violence. Particularly to Claire, and between Claire and Jamie. All the men versus Claire: it seems historically accurate. Women were treated like scum and furniture and property. The general devil-may-care attitude and violence towards Claire bothered me but I went in knowing that was common. She knew too. She hated it, and she’d lash out, but she also had to adapt to the times in order to save her neck. On the other hand, there’s a scene between Claire and Jamie I did not like one bit. I wasn’t sure if it was because it seemed slightly out-of-character for Jamie, or because I’d put him on a pedestal (or Claire did), or because of my own personal history — but it certainly tore me to pieces and broke my heart. It certainly shook things up. It revealed the times even more, that Claire’s situation was a real one, not play-acting, and that not everyone is perfect. But still. It bothered me. That one scene.

Claire. Talk about an intelligent woman! Even while her mind was jumbled and afraid and confused, she was able to step back and observe her surroundings. She adapted quickly to this war-torn era, and put her combat nursing skills to good use while she tried to make sense of her situation. I would not have been able to hold my head if I were in her shoes. I was also thrilled to read about her independence, her progressive thoughts, and her sexual empowerment. She knew she didn’t belong in 1743 and stuck out like a sore thumb in many ways, but she still asserted her feminist beliefs in every available opportunity. She is warm and witty and loving, deeply philosophical and immensely brave. Bravo. (And bravo to Gabaldon for writing such wonderful and intimate love scenes between Claire and Jamie. It wasn’t instantaneous, it wasn’t rushed; it built upon trust and friendship and camaraderie, making Claire’s decision between Frank and Jamie all the more realistically difficult.)

I’m really looking forward to reading the next book!