Saturday, November 30, 2013

Christmas Movie Review: A Dog Named Christmas

A Dog Named Christmas - About the Movie

When Todd, a developmentally-challenged 20 year-old with an affinity for animals, hears that the animal shelter is looking for families to foster a dog for Christmas, he’s eager to sign up.  But Todd's father George says “no adoptions” – even temporary ones – claiming he wants to protect Todd from disappointment.  Mary Ann, Todd's mother, knows better.  Something else is troubling George – something he doesn’t want to face.

With Mary Ann’s support, Todd’s persistence pays off.  He chooses a friendly yellow lab and names him “Christmas.”  Bringing Christmas home proves to be a life-changing event for the whole family, allowing Todd to show that he can care for the dog on his own, and inspiring George to love a new member of the family.

Stars Bruce Greenwood, Linda Emond & Noel Fisher.

Alleluialu's Review
This is the best Christmas movie I have seen so far this season. The story is unusual. The characters are well-played and inspiring. The actor who plays Todd is fantastic. You just fall in love with him. The summary really doesn't do the movie justice, so I will. It is the story of Todd who is challenged, but can work alongside his father on their farm feeding and taking care of the animals because it is what he loves to do. He hears about an "adopt-a-dog for Christmas" program on the radio and is determined to participate. He finally convinces his father, who had a dog when he was young whom he loved. That dog died while he was serving in Vietnam, but he found another one in one of the destroyed villages. When he got injured, the dog disappeared and that, along with losing his pet back home, broke his heart. He didn't want his son to have to go through that pain - or maybe he didn't want to go through the pain of losing another pet himself. Anyway, Todd convinced him to participate in the "adopt-a-dog for Christmas" program and they got a dog they named "Christmas." Then Todd felt bad for the other dogs - all 33 of them - that were left in the shelter. He singlehandedly found homes for those dogs for Christmas. He even called the television station to come out and do a story on it. This is only part of the story of the movie. It has depth to it and it really makes you feel good when it's over. I highly recommend it because I'm sure it will be shown again before Christmas comes.

I gave this movie 5 stars because it is excellent!

Movie Review: Trading Christmas

About the Movie - Debbie Macomber's Trading Christmas

Emily (Faith Ford) misses her daughter Heather (Emma Lahana), who is attending college in Boston. Since her father died, Heather is sensitive to her mom’s dependence on long-standing holiday traditions. This Christmas, Heather has planned a trip to Phoenix with her boyfriend, but tells her mother she is staying on campus to study.

After Emily arranges a house-swap with Charles (Tom Cavanagh), an English professor from Boston who wants Washington State’s solitude in order to finish his novel, Emily hops on a flight to Boston to surprise Heather for Christmas. Unaware of the house swap, Emily’s best friend, Faith (Gabrielle Miller) walks in on Charles at Emily’s house and in Boston, Ray, Charles’ brother (Gil Bellows) responds to a 911 call only to find Emily at Charles’ condo. Will Christmas travel calamities lead to cross-country romances? Or have there been one too many surprises already?

Alleluialu's Review
I have already watched this movie twice this season and liked it each time. I don't always like reading Debbie Macomber's books, but apparently when they make them into movies I like them a lot better. I don't know why that is, but oh well. This movie has one couple who meet and enjoy each other and you feel they deserve it because of all they have been through or missed. Another couple is the classic "I hate you, I hate you, I love you" scenario which is entertaining and fun. The third couple is a pair of young college students trying to escape together but ending up wanting to be with family and continue their traditions at Christmas. Watching, you could put yourself in to each of those couples and relate to what they were experiencing. It was a fun, heartwarming movie. Oh, and I also liked that, even though they could have, you never saw any of the couples getting in to bed together or anything racy. They did normal, everyday things. Refreshing!
I gave this movie 4 stars because I liked it, it was clean and funny, but I watched it twice because it was on. I wouldn't have searched it out - as a matter of fact, I didn't know the title until I looked it up on the Hallmark Channel website.

Book Review: The Shoe Box by Francine Rivers

Title: The Shoe Box
Author: Francine Rivers
Hardcover: 102 pages
Published: October 1, 1999
Publisher: Tyndale House Publishers

From Goodreads:

In this beautiful gift book, Francine Rivers tells a poignant Christmas story about a foster child, Timmy, and his very special shoe box. Includes special notes from the author about the story and her family's Christmas traditions and recipes.

Alleluialu's Review
This is another one of those little hardcover books I took out of our local library to read for the Christmas Spirit Reading Challenge. Again, it was predictable but sweet - just the kind of book you want to read at Christmastime. The author wrote an introduction about how she came up with the idea for "The Shoe Box" and among the pages are little stories about how she remembers her mother whenever she makes chocolate chip cookies including the recipe! There are other little stories and recipes for apple pie and the fixings for turkey dinner; singing "The Messiah" and purchasing Nativity sets for every room in her house. I liked how the little stories were handwritten and the main story was typewritten. The illustrations were what looked like pencil drawings and they were beautiful. The book ends with the Nativity story from the Bible. A lovely Christmas book!

I gave this book 5 stars because it was a lovely Christmas story and book! You can get your copy at your local library or here or here from Amazon.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Book Review: Giovanni's Light by Phyllis Theroux

Title: Giovanni's Light
Author: Phyllis Theroux
Hardcover: 128 pages
Published: October 22, 2002 by Scribner

From Goodreads:
Ryland Falls wasn't paradise, but there was a certain storybook quality about the town that made visitors catch their breath. As in a book, the order of the stories never changed. On December first, the Chamber of Commerce always hung out the "Yuletide Greetings" banners, the plastic Santa Claus went back on the top of the firehouse roof, and grumpy Diane at Elwood's Market started wearing her set of imitation reindeer antlers. Yet on this particular Christmas, there were signs that the order of things would change. And when it did, the people in Ryland Falls never celebrated Christmas the same way again.

The Christmas spirit is alive and well in this inspiring story about the redeeming power of the imagination and the true nature of compassion. 
Alleluialu's Review:
I took this little book out of our local library with several other Christmas books to read for the Christmas Spirit Reading Challenge. It is a good story about a town at the bottom of a mountain that learns to slow down and appreciate what they have and the gifts they have been given. It gave me a nice warm feeling when I finished it which is what you expect from a Christmas novel. Very good!

I gave this Christmas novel 5 stars and you can get your copy at your local library or here on Amazon.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Book Review: The Bridge by Karen Kingsbury

Title: The Bridge
Author:  Karen Kingsbury
Publisher: Pocket Books
Published: October 29, 2013 (first published January 1, 2012)
Paperback, 336 Pages

Description from Goodreads:
The dazzling bestseller- a powerful tale of Christmas miracles from America's #1 inspirational novelist...

Molly Allen lives alone in Portland, Oregon, but she left her heart in Tennessee with a man she adored in college, a man she forced herself to walk away from five years ago.

Nashville-based guitarist Ryan Kelly can still hear the voice of the girl he can't have but can never forget. Time only intensifies his memories of Molly especially of the happy hours they shared at The Bridge.

For three decades, Charlie and Donna Barton have kept the historic Franklin, Tennessee, bookstore afloat. But after a catastrophic flood, the bank pulls their lease, leaving Charlie despondent at The Bridge's demise. Driving through a blinding snowstorm, alone with his desperate thoughts, Charlie hits black ice and crashes.

Suddenly, in the face of tragedy, miracles and second chances begin to unfold for those whose lives have been touched by The Bridge.
Alleluialu's Review
I really liked this book. I cried at least 4 times while I was reading it. Of course it has a happy ending - I mean, it's a Christmas novel - don't they all have happy endings? Anyway, the idea of a bookstore where one could go and just hang out and read books to your boyfriend/girlfriend and become so involved with the owners that you were considered family is heartwarming. I would love to go there. To even go to a bookstore where the owners actually worked there and knew the books that they sold enough to make recommendations to their customers seems unusual. I love the way Charlie Barton kept his faith in God, loved his wife and loved books. I loved the relationship between Molly and Ryan, too. I just loved everything about this book. I have read some of Karen Kingsbury's books before and she always gets to my heart. Great book! Loved it!
You can get this book at Wal-Mart or through Amazon here.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Christmas Book Review: The Angel Doll by Jerry Bledsoe

Title: The Angel Doll: A Christmas Story
Author:  Jerry Bledsoe
Hardcover edition: 112 pages
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Release Date: November 23, 1999

From Goodreads:

If even a small part of a child still lives within your heart, you can't help but be captivated by this deeply moving novella based on bestselling author Jerry Bledsoe's childhood memories.

Set in a North Carolina manufacturing town during the 1950s, it is the poignant story of two ten-year-old boys and their search for an angel doll, a search that turned into a lesson of love.

Every day Whitey Black reads The Littlest Angel to his sister Sandy, a four-year-old stricken with polio. Now she wants just one thing for Christmas: an angel doll. Unfortunately, in this small North Carolina town, no one has ever heard of such a thing. Nevertheless, Whitey Black and his best friend set out to find her one, at great cost and for even greater reward.

Along the way they learn much about sadness and heartbreak, but most important, they learn about the transformative power of love.

The Angel Doll is about childhood reaching out in later life and grabbing hold-never to be forgotten or remembered exactly as it was. Timeless and touching, The Angel Doll is sure to become a family favorite and a tradition for years to come.

Alleluialu's Review

Last Monday, I borrowed several Christmas books from my Library. This was one of them. It was short and sounded poignant. It was. It is the story of two little boys, age 10, who shared a paper route. One of the boys had a sister who had contracted polio and had an avid interest in angels. Most of all, she liked the story of "The Littlest Angel." Her brother and his friend looked all over their town for an angel doll for her for Christmas. Finally, her brother realized he could buy a regular doll and have it transformed into an angel doll by changing her dress and giving her wings and a halo. They asked one of their other friend's mother who had a sewing machine, if she could help them. Of course she said yes. I won't spoil the ending, but I will say that this book sends me back to a different time when life was simpler. There was real love in the boy for his sister and he just wanted to make her happy. The author never mentioned anything the boy wanted for Christmas, just that he wanted an angel doll for his sister. I also like the way all that happened affected the boys in their adult lives. This book does what you expect a Christmas book to do - it reminds you of love and the goodness of people. A nice start to my Christmas reading this year. 
You can get this book at your local library or here at

Happy Reading!

Friday, November 8, 2013

Christmas Movies - Pete's Christmas

Summary from the Hallmark Channel website:
At 14, Pete Kidder (Zachary Gordon) is sick of being the middle child in his family, always overlooked by his mother and father (Pamela Parker and Rick Roberts). Unlike his brothers, jock Jake (Wesley Morgan) and bookworm Kenny, (Peter DaCunha), Pete hasn't yet developed a distinct personality that sets him apart and he often feels left out. With the kids' grumpy grandfather (Bruce Dern) unexpectedly in town for Christmas, the pressure is on to make the day as great as Grandpa remembers with his late wife, but the holiday is filled with disastrous moments.

Just when things can't get any worse, Pete wakes up the next day and realizes he's reliving December 25th all over again. Stuck repeating the day over and over, Pete panics, but slowly realizes, with the help of his new friend and next door neighbor, Katie (Bailee Madison), that he can use his unique gift for good and give this Christmas day the do-over it deserves. Will Pete eventually have a holly jolly Christmas?

Alleluialu's Review
This movie started out like those other crazy reliving day-after-day-after-day movies - like "Groundhog Day" but with lots of sad things happening to Pete. I mean his parents forgot to buy his Christmas present! He lived through more days than I expected he would have to before he realized what he had to do. The part I liked the best was the time he spent with his grandfather. He said it was really great but his grandfather never remembered it the next day. That reminded me of when my Mother had altzheimer's disease and she didn't remember me. Sad, but in the movie the time they spent together was sweet. Pete found all kinds of things he could do to make it a great Christmas for many of the people around him. Another part I liked was when his father had that lightbulb moment about his father - Pete's grandfather. It was well-played. I felt happy when the movie was over - even though I probably shouldn't have been watching a Christmas movie on November 8th. I have decided I am going to watch as many Christmas movies as I can this year. This is number one! I'll give this movie:

Christmas Spirit Reading Challenge 2013 & kickoff Read-a-thon

Finally! It's here! The Christmas Spirit Reading Challenge 2013 starts November 22, 2013, and ends January 6, 2014. The rules and levels are pretty much the same as last year: crossovers are permitted AND encouraged, you must read CHRISTMAS novels, books about CHRISTMAS lore, CHRISTMAS short stories and poems, books about CHRISTMAS crafts, and **new this year** children's CHRISTMAS books!

The levels are:
Candy Cane - read 1 book
Mistletoe - read 2 to 4 books
Christmas Tree - read 5 or 6 books
Additional levels:
FaLaLaLaLa Films - watch Christmas movies - a few or a bunch
Visions of Sugar Plums - read books with your children!
The additional levels are optional, but you have to complete one or more of the first 3 levels. You can sign up for this challenge here!
The Christmas Spirit Read-a-Thon will be the kickoff event of the Christmas Spirit Reading Challenge! It starts on Friday, November 22, 2013 and continues through Sunday, November 24, 2013. Details and sign-ups for the Read-a-Thon are on the Seasons of Reading blog, HERE!
I'm planning on starting out with the Mistletoe level. I know I have a few Christmas books around here that I didn't get to last year. Now if only I can find them. I've been noticing a lot of Christmas books on the shelves at Walmart, so I may have to venture out and buy a couple or head to the library. I can't wait to get started!