Ranger Station Haven by S.A. Stovall
Todd’s rating: 4.25 of 5 stars
This short, 42-page story was by far my favorite of the three 2016 Advent Calendar holiday stories that I read this year.
Carter and Owen are a happily established couple, content to work side-by-side as park rangers in a remote area of Minnesota.
However, when gruff, child-hating, Christmas-hating Carter has to take charge of 6 runaway foster children that they rescued and keep his injured husband awake until help arrives, what happened was a bit magical.
There were both feels and humor in this story and I *loved* how Carter gave each of the kids nicknames, refusing to learn their names. Because he hates kids, remember?
Seabiscuit. *snort* I'll never, ever forget that one, trust.
Parts of the story were tiptoeing up to the corny threshold, but never fully went there, so this one really worked well for me.
4.25 highly-recommended stars here.
Matthew's Present by Sarah Hadley Brook
Todd’s rating: 3.5 of 5 stars
This short, 23-page story was pretty darn cute, with a nosy, caring niece and an unemployed Santa finally gathering his courage to do what he'd truly wanted to do for years.
Yes, it felt a bit insta-lovey, but I really didn't care, as the story kept me engaged and dying to see where it would go.
I love a good 'missed opportunity / chance to reconnect' story, so this one fit the bill pretty well for me.
I would have liked for the story to have been a bit longer, but I enjoyed it for what it was, so I'd rate this one a solid 3.5 stars.
Of Mooning Santas and Penis Lights by Thianna Durston
Todd’s rating: 2.75 of 5 stars
The one thing that will usually put me off holiday stories is when they get corny, which this one didn't do too badly, but still enough that made me roll my eyes from time to time.
My favorite part of the story was the three young nephews, but when they weren't around, I found my interest waning.
I also think I would've enjoyed the story much more if there had been *any* type of resolution behind the mystery of the 'mooning Santas' and the thieves, but alas...
I didn't get very many actual feels from this one, so I'd rate it around 2.75 stars.
Anyplace Else by Kim Fielding
Dani’s rating: 3 of 5 stars
I am a huge Kim Fielding fan and especially adore her fantasy stories. Brute is a classic.
This story falls under the urban fantasy umbrella, which basically means the fantastical happens in the here and now. In this case, the here and now is Hawaii and the fantastical is an ordinary man meeting not one but several ancient gods.
Grant's twin brother is marrying the man of his dreams in paradise, but Grant is all mopey and sad because he's 36 and has never known love (plus, he hates his job). One day, while lounging on the beach, Grant drinks a magical cocktail made by a very special waiter and runs into an ancient god under an oak tree. Yes, an oak tree. In Hawaii. Don't question it.
Grant wants to break the cycle of violence, death, and despair, but the god stops him: to die is to live, he says.
The next section of the story begins in Croatia, where Grant's brother-in-law's family lives. On a hope and a prayer (or maybe just instinct . . . or pure dumb luck), Grant meets his god again.
I wouldn't call Anyplace Else a holiday story, nor would I call it a romance. While both parts of the story take place around Christmas, there is no holiday celebration. And I'm fine with that; joy isn't exclusive to the holidays.
But while the mythology aspects of the story are pretty cool, I would have liked to see Grant and his love interest spend time together. I didn't feel their connection at all. It seemed conjured out of magic and delusion. Forget the steam (there's none); they barely talk.
Plus, the ending was, frankly, kind of creepy. I wouldn't call it a HEA, not even a HFN, just a continuation of a myth (or perhaps a dream).
Kim Fielding is an incredible story teller. I love her work, but this Dreamspinner 2016 Advent Calendar story isn't one of my favorites.
The ARC copies of the stories were provided by the publisher in exchange for fair, unbiased reviews.
Find the entire Advent Calendar here: