The Christmas Matchmaker by Laura Hile

Book reviews are subjective. I tend to rate books not according to how “perfect” they are, seem to be, or are said to be in general but rather to how perfect they are to me.

Fan art by Nadine C. Keels: not an official book cover

The Christmas Matchmaker by Laura Hile

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

(Click the title to find the book description/blurb.)

Yes, I used to steer clear of all literary retellings and fan fiction based on iconic classics that were done so well. Even so, I jumped in to read A Very Austen Christmas collection and found a favorite in it.

What do you get when you mix Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, Emma, and Mansfield Park for the lead-up to Christmastide? You get The Christmas Matchmaker by author Laura Hile.

Wow! I wasn’t expecting to like this Austen World mash-up so much, but I found the novella to be a refreshingly clever reimagining of paths for classic characters I know. (And, yes, you do have to know Austen’s original characters already to truly appreciate what this read means.)

It all started out nicely enough, and I expected mild entertainment, but once a certain mysterious relative and the touch of the fantastical came into play… And, my, I even had some real laughs here and there, and then a little conspiracy began to heat up, and…

Well! Suffice it to say I was in for some surprises. I’ve not tried many, but so far, this is the most I’ve ever enjoyed a tale based on Austen’s work.

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The Holiday Calendar (2018)

Film reviews are subjective. I tend to rate films not according to how “perfect” they are, seem to be, or are said to be in general but rather to how perfect they are to me.

The Holiday Calendar (2018) from Netflix
Rated TV-G. 
Drama, Christmas, Romance, African American Actors
My rating: ★★★1/2

Description (from Netflix): A talented photographer stuck in a dead-end job inherits an antique Advent calendar that may be predicting the future—and pointing her toward love.

My thoughts: Here we have a story that’s warm, lighthearted, and magical with no big surprises, and yet the path to the ending isn’t a straight shot.

Some biggish plot points are kind of rushed, though. And I’d personally go for a milder but natural story climax over cases like the one here, where in the effort to create necessary conflict for a turning point later, the conflict goes too overboard to really match the characters in question. You don’t have to take it that far, all of a sudden, to make a conflict work.

Nevertheless, this flick is plenty Christmassy without being too corny, with friendship, family, career dreams—and romance, of course. (Romance with a little more comfort than chemistry, but that’s okay. It’s still sweet.)

Oh, and the clips of characters in this Netflix movie watching Netflix movies? So obvious a thing to put in there. Too easy. But I got a kick out of it anyway.

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The Christmas Angel by Abbie Farwell Brown

Book reviews are subjective. I tend to rate books not according to how “perfect” they are, seem to be, or are said to be in general but rather to how perfect they are to me.

The Christmas Angel by Abbie Farwell Brown

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

(Click the title to find the book description/blurb.)

“You are so unimaginative!… You judge the tale finished while the best has yet to be told.”

Those are two of my favorite lines from the classic, Christmas-Carol-esque tale The Christmas Angel by author Abbie Farwell Brown. Here we find a bitter, lonely old woman occupying herself on Christmas Eve with earnest tasks: burning toys in her fireplace and conducting covert little experiments on the public to prove to herself that the Christmas spirit is a humbug.

Oh, I didn’t eat it up quite like the Dickens classic this fantastical work resembles in different ways, but I still found it worth the time. I got a little nervous at the appearance of two Jewish boys in the story, wondering how the author would handle them in this tale from 1910—and a Christmas tale at that. But I breathed easier after while. What’s more, my heart nodded in agreement with one character’s sentiments about people who supposedly know so much better than others and wind up miserable.

This old-fashioned read is a fairy tale, but its messages ring true, and not just for Christmas.

 

Arthur Christmas (2011)

Film reviews are subjective. I tend to rate films not according to how “perfect” they are, seem to be, or are said to be in general but rather to how perfect they are to me.

Arthur Christmas (2011) from Columbia Pictures, Sony Pictures Animation
Rated PG. Animated, Christmas, Comedy, Family Film

My thoughts: It’s complicated. But basically, there’s a Christmas Eve screw-up at North Pole Mission Control, and Santa’s eager but accident-prone younger son, Arthur, races against the clock in an effort to save one little girl’s Christmas from near-certain ruin.

How did I go nearly ten years without knowing this merrily daring holiday adventure exists? Well, I’ll admit I passed it up when I first caught a glimpse of it last Christmas season. I was so full of the sheer and utter wonder that is Klaus, my soul didn’t have room for another animated Christmas picture so soon.

Thank you for your patience, Arthur. You were worth coming back for.

No, he’s not American, but the awkward hero of this movie has about as much heart as Steve Rogers has even before anyone knows him as Captain America. Arthur’s dogged and almost crazy determination is something to see.

Such a fun story full of clever and imaginative nuggets, great characters, and plenty to laugh or chuckle about as it delivers a resounding message to echo around the globe: Every child matters!

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