CeeCee’s Countdown to Christmas! The Mistletoe Inn by Richard Paul Evans


I’m not ashamed to admit that the Hallmark Channel movie inspired me to read this holiday-infused romance. The movie wasn’t half bad and I like a plot centered around aspiring romance novelists. Also, I love the idea of spending a week at a writer’s retreat nestled in a snowy, Christmassy village replete with roasting chestnuts, twinkling lights and snow-capped mountains. Oh how sweet would it be to pound away at my keyboard in a cozy little room amidst a winter wonderland backdrop….sigh.

But I digress..lets’ get back to the story, shall we? Do I need to tell you that the book is better than the movie? Didn’t think so. While reading the book, I really connected with Kimberly because she’s a total daddy’s girl and a struggling aspiring writer. We’re basically soul sisters.  Her only flaw is her taste in men. How could such a smart, big-hearted girl waste her time on so many cads with blatant personality disorders? I just don’t get it. Either way, she’s a girl after my own heart, but maybe that’s because I, too, am a hapless, aspiring novelist.

I also really loved the sweet father-daughter relationship. Without a mother, Kimberly’s world revolves around her dad, who would sacrifice just about anything to make sure she fulfills her lifelong dream of becoming a novelist. The movie sort of touched on this, but of course Hallmark has to keep a laser focus on the contrived romance. Plus there were a few pointless silly antics thrown in the works, like Zeke lugging around a ginormous antique typewriter. Why? Is this a ploy to make him look like an authentic writer? Don’t even get me started on their first romantic encounter. In true Hallmark Channel fashion, Kimberly and Zeke mindlessly tumbled over each other and started bickering like an old married couple. Thus begins the love-hate relationship antics…snore. Also, why did the movie have to paint Kimberly as a blundering idiot? Are women more lovable when they’re constantly tripping all over themselves? I don’t get why this is a thing.

Thankfully, Kimberly is much more poised in the book. My only gripe is that this grown-ass woman turns into a crybaby when someone has the gall to critique her writing. When Zeke, her writing group buddy—and love interest—told her in the kindest way possible that she needs to develop her characters, she just about lost it. Does she not know the definition of the word “critique?”

Aside from that little snafu, I still rooted for Kimberly all the way. Whether or not she ended up with Zeke, I could care less. But I was pulling for her writing career and hoping that her father was right when he kept saying “our best years are still ahead of us.” 

As for the “surprise twist,” I’m a little confused. Was this really meant to be a surprise bombshell? Eh, whatevs. I was mildly amused nonetheless. I highly recommend the audiobook to anyone who needs a light, brainless distraction while wrapping presents or battling that zany holiday traffic.

Plum Pudding Murder: Hannah Swenson Book/Movie Comparison

25387684I’m not going to mince words here. This book was BAD! Let me put it in perspective for you. The Hallmark move was better. A HALLMARK MOVIE, YO! That’s says it all right there. I don’t mean to disparage Hallmark Mysteries and Movies because it’s my go-go channel for all things brainless and fluffy. But when has a made-for-TV movie ever done a book justice?

So hats off to Hallmark for taking the world’s most boring cozy mystery series and turning it into something fun and whimsical. I’m impressed that anyone bothered to pick up movie rights for this stink-tastic books series. Where do I even begin with the book-movie comparison? I’ll break it down for you like this.

Five reasons why the Hallmark movie rules and the book drools:

    1. 1. Hannah Swenson (played by Alison Sweeny) is waaaay more interesting. In the book, I kept picturing a gray-haired, mousey woman knitting socks on her time off. Aside from baking, what else is there? At least in the movie, Hannah is played by a gorgeous ex-soap star with fabulous hair and a twinkling smile. Away from the bakery, she’s out jogging and going on hot dates with two super cute dudes. I would totes hang out with the movie-Hannah (mainly to swindle her out of free cookies). As for the book Hannah, I think I’d rather join my grandma on an agonizingly long trip to the commissary.

2. The love triangle is so much more fun. OK, so in the book there is a hint of a love triangle, but clearly it is going to move along at the speed of molasses. I’d have to suffer through at least five more books until it actually goes somewhere. NOT GOING TO HAPPEN.  Yes, Norman is safe and practical. It’s a no-brainier he’ll get dumped, which is VERY evident in the movie. However, in the book he and Hannah are the world’s most boring non-married couple. As for the movie, I love Hannah, but the woman needs to quit stringing these poor dudes along. Clearly she’s all about the cop bad-boy Mike, so let poor Norman go already! Personally, I would choose Norman in a heartbeat. He’s hot, he’s a dentist (ching ching $$$) and he’s clearly smitten with Hannah. If it were up to me, I’d pick the safe, good guy every time. I married an accountant. Need I say more?

3. The sister sucks in both versions, but she’s downright intolerable in the book. I’m not a fan of the fashionable, fast-talking, Type A sister. But at least the movie-version isn’t a helicopter mom…yet. I cannot deal with these control-freak soccer moms – in books and real life.

4. The plot moves soooooo much faster in the movie. I can’t believe that the murder didn’t happen until I slogged halfway into the book. HALFWAY, people! Here’s a fun analogy for you. You know that deflated feeling when you order something delicious at a restaurant and all you get is a few morsels atop a mountain of cheap French fries? Well that’s how I felt when the murder mystery was only sprinkled into this crapfest in small doses. At least in the movie, the dead body pops up right at the get-go and our intrepid sleuth sets forth on her crime-solving expedition.

5. In the movie, you get a sense of atmosphere and local color. The bickering elderly sisters are mainstays at Hannah’s adorable bakery and the local yokals drop in on a routine basis to gossip over a plate of delicious brownies. Plus there’s a lot of flirting going around between Hannah and her two boy-toys. Surprisingly, the movie does a better job painting the cozy small town scene and giving the viewers a sense of place. As for the book, it’s heavy on a lot of inane dialogue – and recipes galore. What good is a book without atmosphere? Especially a cozy mystery? I ask you.

So tell me, Hallmark movie fans, what do you think of the Hannah Swenson mystery movies? I’d love to know your book-movie comparisons!

Top Five Best TV Christmas Movies

3383250-pink-christmas-balls-in-snowMade-for-TV holiday fluff isn’t exactly chick lit, but how could I not offer up a listing of the best Lifetime/Hallmark Christmas movies ever made? Admit it – you know you can’t resist those cloyingly sappy holiday specials filled with romance, paint-by-the-numbers storylines and subpar acting.

Considering the dozens of new movies that crop up each year, I have a feeling the networks are more interested in quantity over quality.  I don’t mean to sound like a film snob, but come on – how many tired versions of a Christmas Carol are they going to make? And how many times have they recycled the “I’ll pay you to be my boyfriend for the holidays with my family” plot?

Like shopping at TJ Maxx, you have to weed out a lot of baddies in order to find some quality stuff. That’s why I decided to make it easy for you and splotlight a list of my most favorite holiday TV movies. If you’re a fan of romance, fluffy animals, or just a good tear-jerker, do yourself a favor and save these on your DVR.

seasonmiracles_xlg_615x346A Season for Miracles

I watch this tear-jerker at least twice a year and it never fails to fill my heart with the warm fuzzies. The picture perfect ending is somewhat preposterous – but you know what – sometimes we have to suspend our beliefs in order to imagine that miracles really do happen. The movie revolves around a devoted aunt who goes on the run with her deadbeat sister’s two kids in order to keep them from the snares of the foster care system. Lo and behold her sad little car breaks down and she conveniently gets stuck in a quaint little Norman Rockwellesque town called Bethlehem. How stinking cute is that?!? With some help from a guardian angel, she ends up squatting in a gorgeous Victorian mansion and captures the hearts of the townsfolk, especially the super cute sheriff.  The romance, the random acts of kindness, the rags to riches ending – everything about it makes my heart sing!

stealing-christmas-02Stealing Christmas

I have a small-time crush on Tony Danza, and boy does this Italian stallion look mighty fine in a Santa suit! Raging hormones aside, this is a quality flick chock-full of witty dialogue and really good acting. Let’s face it, when it comes to Lifetime movies, those important cinematic attributes are hit or miss. Tony does a fine job playing a fugitive bank robber with his New Jersey accent and street-tough attitude.  After an ill-fated mall heist, he disguises himself as a mall Santa and ends up working at a small town Christmas tree farm run by Lea Thompson. They both had such great chemistry – and the romantic tension was quite palpable. Oh and did I mention that Betty White also makes an appearance? This movie is crazy good – and I highly recommend that you just buy the DVD because Lifetime hardly ever runs it on the holiday playlist anymore.  

old_fashioned_christmas_hallmark_1An Old Fashioned Christmas

Every year I scour the Hallmark Channel guide for this fine holiday film set on-location in a picturesque Irish castle. From the intricate Edwardian costumes to the gorgeous Irish countryside, this movie transports me back to a time when people celebrated the holidays by singing carols by the piano and knitting Christmas stockings. The beauty of these period films is that I get to escape the dizzying digital age and imagine myself at a writing desk crafting longwinded love sonnets under the soft light of a candle. The story, which is a sequel to An Old Fashioned Thanksgiving, begins when Tilly and her high-society grandmother pay a visit to Castle Shannon to celebrate Christmas with the Earl of Shannon. Tensions rise when they discover the scheming Lady of Shannon has an agenda of her own. They’re fortune is gone and she needs to marry her son Cameron off to a highfalutin society lady STAT! But little does she know, Tilly is already engaged. Romantic tension ensues when Tilly is unable to resist Cameron’s flirtations – and who can blame her – he’s smoking hot!

536586_320A Heartland Christmas   

I can’t even begin to tell you how much I love this Canadian TV series. Based on a young adult book series by Lauren Brooke, the show centers on a young girl who is gifted with her late mother’s ability to rehabilitate emotionally wounded horses.  Like a steaming bowl of chicken soup, this show soothes my soul with the gorgeous splendor of Canada’s mountain landscape. The horses, the acting, the sweet romance between Amy and Ty – everything about it is perfect. While watching the Christmas special, I wistfully imagined myself helping Amy and her family save wild horses from a treacherous avalanche, trimming the Heartland Ranch Christmas tree, and sitting around the hearth with Grandpa Jack. Oh how I wish that was my life!

hhof_resources_movie5A Dog Named Christmas

Since I spend most of my free time at an animal shelter, I’m a tad biased about this movie. In addition to addressing the critical need for shelter fosters and volunteers, this movie shows how dogs rescue their owners right back. When a mentally challenged farm boy hears a radio advertisement pleading people to take a home a shelter pet for the holidays, he jumps at the chance to bring home a dog. When his reluctant father finally relents, he visits the local shelter and decides to do more than just give one dog a home for the holidays. He launches a big campaign and eventually convinces the entire community to get involved. This wonderful movie not only touches on the need for more pet rescue efforts, it also shows the therapeutic benefits of a dog’s unconditional love.

What’s your favorite TV Christmas movie? Post a comment and tell me about it.  I promise not to judge!

An Old Fashioned Christmas

December has reared its red-and-green tinseled head again. Time to string the lights, deck the halls, brave the malls and make an appearance at those obligatory holiday parties. After that dreaded episode involving a flaming eggnog at my husband’s office party, I think I’m going to lay low this year. There will be no mall madness, gridlock traffic or awkward small talk with strangers for this girl! I vow to relish the holidays in the comfort of my own home with a 14-lb cat on my lap. And what better way to enjoy the holidays than to watch those Christmassy Hallmark and Fa-La-La-La Lifetime  flicks? Come on ladies, you have to admit, they’re so bad they’re good!

My absolute favorite Hallmark movie is – hands down – is An  Old Fashioned Christmas, which is based on a short story by Louisa May Alcott.  Everything about this movie – from the picturesque Irish castle to high-quality acting to the hot male lead – had me completely enthralled!  If you’re a fan of atmospheric gothic romances, set this one up on your DVR.

The story, which is a sequel to An Old Fashioned Thanksgiving, begins when Tilly and her high-society grandmother Isabella

Cameron Shannon (played by Leon Ockenden) and his coniving mother, Lady Shannon

pay a visit to Castle Shannon to celebrate Christmas with the Earl of Shannon. In hopes of becoming a great writer, Tilly is excited to meet with the Earl, who happens to be a renowned poet. And unbeknownst to her grandmother, who scorned her own daughter for marrying a poor farmer, Tilly has plans to meet with her long-lost paternal grandfather.

Tensions rise when they discover the scheming Lady of Shannon has an agenda of her own. They’re fortune is gone and she needs to marry her son Cameron off to a highfalutin society lady stat! But little does she know, Tilly is already engaged. Romantic tension ennsues when Tilly is unable to resist Cameron’s flirtations – and who can blame her – he’s smoking hot!

After Tilly’s control-freak grandmother catches on to the undeniable chemistry between her starry-eyed grandaughter and the ill-mannered party boy, she does everything in her power to keep them apart. I won’t give away anymore because you HAVE to watch the movie! For more details, go here.

Happy holidays fellow chick lit lovers!

P.S. Just say NO to flaming eggnogs!