Gizzy’s Christmas Reading Roundup!

gizchristmas3_zpsf679dc40Christmas is s almost here and I’m scrambling to get all of my holiday reading done before the fat man in red drops down my chimney with a bag full of more books! I love the holidays, I really do, but December is becoming a dizzying month of nonstop rush, rush, rushing.  Can you believe I haven’t even had time to get a stinking tree? But don’t fret, my dear readers. I do have  priorities, and I vow to never let the holiday chaos interfere with precious reading time. If you’re looking for something Christmassy to read by the fire after battling it out at the mall, here are some hits and misses.

The Twelve Clues of Christmas by Rhys Bowen

13542533I scored this on Audible for a mere five bucks, and it’s worth every penny and more! The narrator is top notch, and the characters are highly amusing.  This is my first venture into the the Royal Spyness mystery series, and I assure you it won’t be my last! Set in the Great Gatsby era, the irrepressible Lady Georgiana is stuck in Scotland with her bumbling brother and his odious family. Seriously, these creatons could give the Dursleys a run for their money.  As luck would have it, she gets hired as a holiday party hostess at stately old manor in a picturesque English village. It all seems too perfect, until the dead bodies start stacking up. From the moment she arrives, people drop off like flies in a series of “accidental deaths.” Do these freak accidents have something to do with a long-standing witchy curse? Or are escaped prisoners to blame? You’ll have to read the book to find out!  If you like jigsaw puzzle mysteries with a dash of humor and romance, this book’s for you.

13586680Elvis and the Blue Christmas Corpse by Peggy Webb

I must confess, the cover is the reason why I bought this book. How can you go wrong with a dog detective who might just be the reincarnation of Elvis Pressley? The slapstick humor is front and center of the mystery, so this should appeal to those who like their whodunits loaded down with zany hijinks and slapstick banter.  Amidst the silly shenanigans, there’s a mystery involving a murderous Ebenezer Scrooge with a vendetta against mall Santas. The mystery begins when Callie’s beloved uncle Charlie almost dies in an “electrical accident” while sitting in Santa’s throne.  The hijinks ensue when she teams up with her binge-eating cousin/BFF to ferret out the killer. Complete with a cast of eccentric Southern women, this series is somewhat of a mashup of Steal Magnolias and Janet Evonovich’s Stephanie Plum series. The off-the-wall antics got a little tiresome, but I’d be lying if I said that some of the girls’ ill-fated escapades weren’t amusing. Plus there’s some romantic intrigue going on between Callie and her soon-to-be ex hubby.

Call Me Mrs. Miracle by Debbie Macomber

7957814I don’t typically read Debbie Macomber books because they tend to be a little too sugary sweet. I also shy away from any story that revolves around a struggling mother with needy little children. Sorry to be a total grump, but I don’t like whiney kiddos muddling up a romantic moment. But when Christmas rolls around, I turn into a softy and end up reading one of her cozy little romance novels. To be honest, the Lifetime movie version of this book was more entertaining, mostly because the kid was a lot less annoying. Yes, the movie was contrived and somewhat silly, but Lauren Holly really stole the show as the over-the-top dragon lady boss. She was HILARIOUS!  Oh and Doris Roberts is just the perfect master manipulator/guardian angel. I loved how she seamlessly moved things in the right direction while completely befuddling people in the process. In the book, however, the stoic Mrs. Miracle takes more of a backseat to the paint-by-the-numbers love story. My advice: skip the book and watch the movie. I know that seems very backwards, but I’m just being honest!

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!