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Review Part 2: Celebrate! 2014 Advent Calendar by Various

Review Part 2: Celebrate! 2014 Advent Calendar by Various

Publisher: Dreamspinner
Publish Date: December 1, 2014
Reviewed by: Heller
How I got this book: E-Arc from Publisher

Celebrate“Buone Feste, Felices Fiestas, Frohe Feiertage, Joyeuses Fêtes, Happy Holidays! The end-of-the-year holidays bring celebrations of all kinds, and romance is at an all-time high. Take a trip around the world and enjoy these stories of life, love, and happiness. Your Christmas present to yourself!”

I’ve always loved the Dreamspinner Advent calendar. I enjoy holiday stories a lot so I thought that I’d tackle the complete set this year. The calendar is 31 stories I’ve broken up the review into three parts.

Last of Summer by Genna Donaghy B-

Although Rowan Stormbringer was raised Wiccan, he’s never felt a connection to magic. That changes on the eve of Yule, when he encounters a magical creature, a phoenix, that needs his help getting to Stonehenge before the sun sets that day. Hiding a magical creature in the mortal world is tricky at best, but partnering with a good-looking, snarky taxi driver may be just the ticket Rowan needs. As they explore their instant attraction to each other, Rowan and Martin must learn to trust one another if they hope to deliver the phoenix home in time.

This was an odd one. Just flirting as a cab driver takes Rowan and his phoenix to Stonehenge. Chemistry saved it for me. I love snarky characters and Martin was fabulous. Too bad it ended right before the smexy times, I would have enjoyed seeing those two hit the sheets. Loved the phoenix and how it communicated.

The Light of Winter by Jana Denardo D

Dr. Gareth Evans and his medical doctor partner, Warun Jones, are having trouble making time for each other between end of term craziness for Gareth and holiday-related injuries pouring into the hospital for Warun. Gareth has planned what he hopes will be the perfect recipe for relieving the tension and bringing them back together. While Warun wants Gareth to partake in Plygain, a traditional dawn service of hymn singing for Christmas, Gareth plans to take Warun to Bryn Celli Ddu and introduce him to the Druid ritual of Alban Arthan, the celebration of the winter solstice.

Lost me on the details in this one.

Love Light by Jane Darius A

Nick, a bartender, and Ben, a hotel reviewer, have been together two years. Though he hates the paperwork involved, Nick agrees to accompany Ben to a beautiful lodge on the Mozambican side of Lake Malawi. Over a bottle of wine, they trade Christmas horror stories from their pasts. But memories of hurt and loss only serve to remind them how lucky they are to have found each other. It might be time to try out the showerhead built into the tree outside….

I found this whole story wonderful. Really connected with the characters and their story. I’d love to read more about them. I’d like to know why Ben calls Nick, duck. I’m sure there’s an adorable backstory there!

The Magic of Weihnachten by Bru Baker C

American Walsh Brandt is happy when a promotion lands him his dream job and a quiet new life in Germany. Until December rolls around, when he realizes it’s almost impossible to hide from the holiday season in Germany.Dierck Reiniger is fascinated by Walsh’s hatred of Christmas and makes it his personal mission to help Walsh enjoy Weihnachten and the German traditions he grew up with. Walsh has a great time getting to know Dierck—but he still isn’t sold on Christmas, despite Dierck’s efforts. Dierck’s on the rebound, and he’s determined to develop their physical relationship slowly, much to Walsh’s frustration. It isn’t until they’re alone in a secluded cabin—hiding from the traditional trappings—that Walsh finally recognizes what the magic of the season can bring when spent with someone special.

Walsh is kind of dick for most of this story. He comes across as very Sheldon from the Big Bang Theory. I’m not on board with that. I felt Dierck could have done much better, he was a great character just trying to spread some holiday cheer.

Minstrel’s Solstice by Nicole Dennis A-

A wasting plague swept over the Four Quadrants, changing how folks view the traveling guilds. Most travelers now make permanent contracts and settle in villages instead of continuing on the road. Needing to alter his lifestyle, Kerryll MacGhylle rides deep into the Northern Quadrant
in search of a place to belong.

The Northern Duke, Cullan Gryffyn D’Antuono, accepts the contract of the frozen minstrel arriving during a powerful ice blizzard. He nurses Kerryll through the ravages of the sickness. Though they live at opposite ends of society, they have more in common than they realize.

Fantastic world building here, I’d love for this to be an expanded story. I could definitely read a number of books set in this land, the magic created here is so interesting and unique. For me, this story best encompassed the theme of the anthology, Celebrate! Even with the awesome world, I did find the relationship between Kerryll and Griff a bit thin, which is why I would love something longer. They do have wonderful chemistry though.

My You by Tamer Lorika A-

Adrian Delgado’s time in the Peace Corps has been rewarding, but with Christmas around the corner, he is starting to get homesick. Life in Mongolia is very different from Texas, from the holiday celebrations to… dating. Take his coworker Batbayar, for instance—they’ve slept together several times and spend most time outside of work in each other’s houses. But are they “together,” or friends with benefits? Maybe a Mongolian Christmas and a sheep’s head in the bathtub can lead to the answer.

Even though I’m not sure where Batbayar and Adrian are going to end up I thought their story was tremendously sweet. I loved the Mongolian setting!

Neighhbors by Emma Wilson B+

Ever since he moved to London, shy editor Eric has been watching his neighbor, Crooked Smile, jog every morning. Aspiring restaranteur Rhys eats breakfast by the window so he can see his neighbor, Bed Head, help the old woman downstairs clean off her car. When Eric’s roommate unexpectedly returns home for the holidays, she realizes their idiocy and, with the help of Rhys’s business partner, Andreas, tries to help both men see there might be more in their futures than they’re seeing through their windows.

I’m a sucker for stories like this one. Just a quiet story with two guys crushing on each other and strong secondary characters who help them along the way. I had a lot of fun with it.

A Night Never Forgotten by SJD Peterson B-

After a one night whirlwind romance, Braylon returns to Toronto on the first of December every year in the hopes of seeing the man of his dreams again. Instead Braylon meets a strange man who tells him Christmas is a magical time, and one never knows what unexpected gifts he’ll receive. Braylon takes a chance and makes a Christmas wish, but instead of getting what he wants, he contracts an infection, leaving him dependent on dialysis and unable to make the journey the following year. But the stranger just might be right; an unexpected gift may be the miracle Braylon needs most of all.

A huge coincidence at the 3/4 mark but I went with it. I found the men had a tremendous amount of chemistry together and that pulled me through to the end. I adored Braylon.

Quite a Spectacle by Meg Harding A-

Max moved away from his family to be with Michael, and his family never got over it. Now, for the first time in almost a decade, he’s going to return to London for the Christmas celebrations. He’s confident his family will welcome Michael with open, loving arms. At least that’s what he tells himself.

Michael doesn’t have his head buried in the sand. He knows he has a lot to prove this Christmas, and he’s not sure if he’s up to the task. All these years and he’d never considered having to spend a holiday with Max’s family. Now that it’s happening he’s not scared to admit it—he’s terrified.

Michael is having a tough Christmas trying to win over his husband’s family. I enjoyed the dynamic here and how things were more than a bit tense throughout. Great story.

Saint Martin’s Day by Kim Fielding A

Five years ago, Neno Kovac fled California, graduate school, and his lover, Toby Cowan, to return to his native Croatia. Since then, he’s led a quiet life as a librarian—until one November afternoon when Toby, who has never stopped loving Neno, shows up in Zagreb. When he left the United States, Neno wasn’t ready to give up his home and family to take a chance on a long-distance relationship. But Saint Martin’s Day has arrived, the day pressed grapes turn to wine and autumn turns to winter. Perhaps it will be a day when other changes are possible as well.

Neno and Toby break my heart. They haven’t seen each other in five years but the love between them was still so strong and beautiful. Zagreb was a great back drop for this story as well. I love everything Kim Fielding writes and this is no exception. The ending was fantastic.

By Heller

In the United Nations of Book Pushers I represent the Canadian contingent. I've known Has, Lou, E and Minn for a few years now and I've discovered many a new author from them for which I will be forever grateful. New to me often translates to "Where has this book been all my life?" and leads to endless re-reads.

The majority of my childhood was spent with my nose in a book (not that it's any different now) and I always carried at least one with me wherever I went no matter whatever trouble I was up to. My e-reader is something I could never give up now, despite my initial resistance to it. I love my books but carrying around a library in a small electronic device is a thrill that never gets old.

I read anything and everything that strikes my fancy: Regency, Retro-Romance, Sci-fi/Fantasy, Graphic Novels, Urban Fantasy, Post-Apoc...the list is pretty much endless. I tend to cycle through interests so it really just depends on my mood at the time. I would say that right now M/M books have me firmly in their grasp and they've been the majority of my reads for the past couple of years. I think there's nothing better than headjacking into a story and characters created by an author, I'm always up for a ride to a place I've never been before.

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