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I listened to this audiobook over the course of two runs, on 23rd and 24th December. I wanted something Christmassy, but nothing too long, so this fit the bill. It’s narrated by Rebecca Courtney, who did a fine job.

Milly Arnold has always loved Christmas, but when she is dumped just before December, she loses enthusiasm and the last thing she feels like doing is the yearly tradition of helping her young nephews write their Christmas list. But she does so anyway and writes one of her own, asking for flowers, chocolates and shoes. When all of these things come her way, she wonders if she has tapped into a way of making all her dreams come true…

What can I say about this? It’s a bit fantastical, a bit humorous and an enjoyable enough listen, peppered with likeable characters. It’s not the most groundbreaking book, and neither is it meant to be – but if you want something short, festive and a bit chicklit-ty (but with an unusual twist) then maybe give this one a whirl.

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Christmas Eve in New York and there is a power outage resulting in six separate groups of people getting stuck in lifts. Throughout the night, tensions rise to the surface, bonds are forged and they learn a lot about themselves and each other.

As Christmas movies go, this is a new favourite for me. I love movies set all in one location, and this is kind of in that genre. It’s set in six locations but all very small and exactly the same people in each setting. A great cast including Patrick Stewart, James Roday, Cheryl Hines and Gary Cole all do a fantastic job. A great, sweet and heartwarming story.

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Year of release: 2015

Director: Mitch Davis

Writers: Mitch Davies, Tyler McKellar

Main cast: Patrick Stewart, James Roday, Cheryl Hines, Gary Cole, Jon Heder, Julianna Guill

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Genre: Drama, Christmas

Highlights: Loved the shoppers and the boss and recently laid off employee. Didn’t actually dislike any of the groups

Lowlights: None. If I absolutely had to nitpick, I’d say I wished Patrick Stewart’s character had been trapped with someone rather than on his own (this happens right at the beginning of the film so it’s not a spoiler) but I imagine this was done to highlight his isolation and how he had cut off the important people in his life. But it’s a tiny niggle.

Overall: Possibly my new favourite Christmas movie, and a staple on my holiday rota from now on

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Paul Maddens (Martin Freeman) is a primary school teacher with a failed ambition to be an actor. His girlfriend Jennifer (Ashley Jensen) left him five Christmases earlier to become a producer in Hollywood, and Paul hates Christmas as a result. So he is distinctly unhappy about being tasked with creating the school nativity play, and in an attempt to win one over his former best friend Gordon Shakespeare (Jason Watkins) tells Gordon that Hollywood are coming to see the nativity play. The rumour spreads and things start to get out of hand.

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Year of release: 2009

Director: Debbie Isitt

Writer: Debbie Isitt

Main cast: Martin Freeman, Ashley Jensen, Jason Watkins, Pam Ferris, Marc Wootton

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Genre: Comedy

Highlights: Lots of humour, lots of pop up roles from the likes of Ricky Tomlinson and Alan Carr. Freeman’s role was made for him, and even the kids were really cute without a sugary overload of sweetness

Lowlights: None really

Overall: A thoroughly enjoyable Christmas movie. Very British and clearly pretty low-budget, but all the more charming for it

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I like to try and read a Christmas themed book at Christmas time, and having previously enjoyed ‘Love, Nina’ by Nina Stibbe, I was really happy to get my hands on this. Essentially it is a collection of observations, memories and a few short stories all – obviously – based around a Christmas theme.

Stibbe discusses such things as how to cook a turkey without it being dry (she has chops instead!), the art of Christmas gift giving, spending Christmas with your parents despite being well into adulthood and more. Just as in Love, Nina, she is an engaging and amusing narrator and provided lots of smiles and giggles while I was reading this.

It’s lighthearted and undemanding – I read it over two days but only because I was stretching it out – and because those two days were Christmas Day and Boxing Day and we had places to be – I would think that it would be an easy book to polish off in one sitting.

I will be keeping this book and revisiting it at future Christmas times. I definitely recommend it.

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As it is the season to be jolly (fa-la-la-la-laaaaa-la-la-la-la) I thought I would give this festive comedy a watch. It stars Matthew Broderick as Dr Steve Finch, an uptight but well-meaning family man, who organises Christmas like a military operation in his determination to make sure his children enjoy it. His more laid-back wife Kelly (Kristin Davis) bemusedly but loyally supports his efforts to manufacture new Christmas traditions and his need to control everything.

Trouble starts when new neighbours Buddy and Tia Hall (Danny DeVito and Kristin Chenoweth) and their twin teenage daughters Ashley and Emily (Kelly and Sabrina Aldridge) move into the house across the road. Buddy – in a somewhat ridiculous plot leap – decides to decorate his house with so many Christmas lights that it will be visible from space (literally not metaphorically!)

Naturally the repressed Dr Finch is not overkeen on this idea, nor on the idea of having the loudmouthed and uncouth Buddy as a neighbour, and his attempts to curb Buddy’s project cause a feud of epic proportions. Meanwhile their wives become great friends and are both exasperated at the childish behaviour of their respective husbands.

As I always do when I finish a film (or book or television show) I went to look at what other people thought of it and WOW! – the reviews for this film are pretty brutal! Suffice to say it probably won’t become a Christmas classic…and while it was a bit daft and not as heavy on the laughs as you might hope, it’s not that bad. I actually thought it was a passable way to spend an afternoon, although if you scratch below the surface of the plot it all falls apart pretty quickly. But there were a few moments that made me giggle, and even though I normally dislike seeing houses that are lit like…erm…a Christmas tree, I had to admit that Buddy’s display was nothing if not impressive.

I will say that I thought Matthew Broderick was perhaps miscast. Admittedly he was supposed to be the straight man to DeVito’s comedic character, but I think Broderick might have toppled over into dull, although I love Kristin Davis and Kristin Chenoweth, and of course Danny DeVito is always good for a few laughs. If you don’t mind a bit of daftness, give it a go – you never know, you might enjoy it!

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Year of release: 2006

Director: John Whitesell

Writers: Matt Corman, Chris Ord, Don Rhymer

Main cast: Matthew Broderick, Danny DeVito, Kristin Davis, Kristin Chenoweth, Alia Shawcat, Dylan Blue, Kelly Aldridge, Sabrina Aldridge

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I like to try and read a Christmas themed book during the Christmas season, and this collection of classic mysteries by various authors – some well-know, some less so – fitted the bill perfectly for this year.

Like all short story collections, and especially those with various authors, it’s slightly uneven and some stories resonated more with me than others but overall the standard was very high, and I don’t think there were any stories that I really disliked.

The collection contains (my personal favourites are in bold)

The Blue Carbuncle by Arthur Conan Doyle (a Sherlock Holmes story)

Parlour Tricks by Ralph Plummer

The Happy Solution by Raymund Allen

The Flying Stars by G K Chesterton (a Father Brown story)

Stuffing by Edgar Wallace

The Unknown Murderer by H C Bailey 

The Absconding Treasurer by J Jefferson Farjeon

The Necklace of Pearls by Dorothy L Sayers (a Lord Peter Wimsey story)

The Case is Altered by Margery Allingham

Waxworks by Ethel Lina White (this was my favourite and I could totally see it being adapted into a television film or mini-series)

Cambric Tea by Marjorie Bowen

The Chinese Apple by Joseph Shearing

A Problem in White by Nicholas Blake

Beef for Christmas by Leo Bruce

 

If you like short stories or like me, you like to read Yuletide themed stories at Christmas (and often being a busy time of year I find that short stories are the perfect type of reading for the Christmas season) I would recommend this book. In fact, if you are a fan of mysteries in general, you can’t go far wrong with this collection.

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I watched Noel at Christmas time (Christmas Eve in fact) because it is indeed a Christmas film, and honestly it was just what I wanted to see.

With an impressive cast, including Susan Sarandon, Paul Walker, Penelope Cruz, Alan Arkin and an uncredited Robin Williams, this film tells the story of a number of strangers who are all affected by events that happen over the Christmas season. Sarandon is Rose, a divorced single woman, who divides her life between work and visiting her Alzheimers afflicted mother in hospital. She is lonely and frustrated with her life but help appears where she least expects it.

Walker plays Mike, a New York cop who is madly in love with his fiancee Nina (Cruz) – but his love borders on possessiveness, and his jealousy threatens to ruin their relationship. His life is further complicated by the appearance in it of Artie (Arkin), a cafe owner who seems to know a lot about Mike and becomes fixated on him – but his reasons will not be what you think (I promise!)

Robin Williams plays one of his more tempered and poignant roles as a man who Rose meets while visiting her mother in hospital. A former priest who has lost his faith both in God and in life, he and Rose provide support for each other.

And then there’s Jules (Marcus Thomas) a young man who is haunted by an unhappy childhood and goes to desperate lengths to recreate the one perfect Christmas that he had.

Into the lives of all these people comes a little beauty and a little Christmas magic. I don’t want to post any spoilers in this review, so I won’t say more than that, but I will  say that while this film is undeniably smaltzy in places and you will definitely need to suspend your disbelief in parts, it was also lovely viewing for the Christmas season and definitely left me with a warm fuzzy feeling inside. I will be adding it to my regular Christmas viewing.

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Year of release: 2004

Director: Chazz Palminteri

Writer: David Hubbard

Main cast: Susan Sarandon, Penelope Cruz, Robin Williams, Alan Arkin, Paul Walker, Marcus Thomas

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