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Showing posts with the label Lindsay

Book Review: Season of Wonder

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Season of Wonder Various Authors, 2012, edited by Paula Guran I'm always looking for fantasy and sci-fi Christmas content, so I'm stupefied that this short story collection escaped my notice until now.   To be clear, I almost didn't read it this year either - my local library doesn't have it, and I am reluctant to pay money for any book with Orson Scott Card's name prominently on the cover, just on principle. The rest of the book is pretty good, though. Like other holiday short story collections I've reviewed, the introductions range from boring to misleading to outright undermining my enjoyment of the stories, so I tried to skip them when I could.  Reactions to individual stories follow. My favorites are starred. The Best Christmas Ever by James Patrick Kelly This atmospheric/bleak dystopian story is fine, if a bit heavy to open with. The last humans are being cared for by some sort of artificial being which is never actually explained. The nature of the techn

Book Review: A Kiss for Midwinter

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A Kiss for Midwinter Courtney Milan, 2012 To start, a heads-up: this romance novella contains discussion of statutory rape, miscarriage, senility, compulsive behavior, and historically accurate levels of sexism and bad healthcare. Sound Christmassy yet?  You might not think so, but in fact, the Christmas setting isn't just for contrast with the stress the characters are under. It underlines the Dickensian time and tone of the setting - the poverty and strife the characters witness. Also, there are a few humorous asides where the hero looks askance at the "newfangled" tradition of decorating a tree , of all things.  Jonas is a young doctor fresh from school, full of new ideas but also deeply cynical about the world. He is in love with Lydia. However, Lydia is afraid that Jonas will reveal her dark secret: she was briefly pregnant as a teenager.  I really liked how complex each of their flaws were - nothing obvious or easy to move past. She covers her feelings with cheer an

Book Review: Tudor Christmas Tidings

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Tudor Christmas Tidings Blythe Gifford, Jenni Fletcher, Amanda McCabe, 2020 This is a new book, but I did not get a copy through NetGalley for review, because Harlequin's standards for reviewers are apparently higher than this website.  Three holiday-themed historical romance novellas. I decided to give this a try when I saw it was available through my local library. I've been more interested in romance this year than previously, but my time could probably have been better spent.  Christmas at Court by Blythe Gifford I did not expect this to go into history as fast and hard as it did. The novella provided very little background information about the politics of the time, but the plot hinged on those same politics. Eventually, I was driven, ashamed, to Wikipedia to refresh my knowledge of Richard III and Henry Tudor.  The main characters in this one (Alice and John) are heirs to important noble houses, and they are semi-secretly betrothed by their parents to seal an alliance bet

Book Review: The Great Treasury of Christmas Comic Book Stories

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The Great Treasury of Christmas Comic Book Stories Multiple authors, originally printed 1944-1962, editor Craig Yoe, collection released 2018 I stumbled across this ahead of the season this year, and I'm glad I did. Now I can warn you. It's not bad for what it is, but it is not for "children of all ages."  This book is for: Comic strip historians Adults with a specific interest in vintage/historical comic books Adults with a specific interest in vintage illustration/illustrators Grandparents (really, great-grandparents) looking for a gift that their grandchild will neither like nor understand.  It's a fairly wide-ranging collection, but none of it is great. A few of the stories are not bad: one about some polar bears who want to help Santa but keep messing up is fine. One about Santa visiting an animal Christmas party where there is a Santa costume contest is pretty cute. Another stars a gnome and the Easter Bunny and they create ice cream snow to save a magic wea

Book Review: We Are Santa

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We Are Santa Ron Cooper, 2020 New Release! A digital copy of this book was provided by Netgalley for the purpose of review. Wow. WOW WOW WOW. This might be "just" a coffee table book, but it charmed my socks off.  The premise is simple. Photographer Ron Cooper recruited fifty professional Santas (talking to and interviewing even more) and took gorgeous photographs of them both in and out of costume. The book includes quotes, profiles of some Santas, and background information. The additional info is enough to establish some context for readers who might not be familiar with the history of Santa's look or the reality of the professional Santa gig, but it's not tedious even for those of us who know this world fairly well already.  The variety is fantastic. Santas in red but also other colors, in robes and coats and pajamas and kilts and cowboy boots and military camo and a pirate-theme and... Of course, there are lots of lovely fur trimmings, but also Hawaiian shirts, o

Derry Girls: The President

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Derry Girls is a charming, hilarious sitcom set in Derry, Northern Ireland, in the '90s. Because it's set during the Troubles, a lot of the unique character of the show comes from how a constant threat of public violence is usually just background noise to the everyday lives of the characters. An example from the first episode: having to take a different route because of a bomb threat is just annoying to them, not anything weird. The other unique thing about Derry Girls is the characters. It's a show about teenage girls doing teenage girl things - school and friendship and family and mad schemes that escalate in exceedingly dramatic fashion. Erin (my husband, Erin - get ready for some confusion, because that's also the name of this show's main character) said that he appreciates that the main characters aren't "likeable" - that they're allowed to be extreme in a way teen girls on TV usually aren't. On the other hand, I do find them likeable - b

Book Review: Ming's Christmas Wishes

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Ming's Christmas Wishes Susan L. Gong, 2020 New Release! A copy of this book was provided by Netgalley for the purpose of review.  I had to read through this children's book twice to understand it, but it definitely grew on me.  This short, beautifully illustrated children's book follows a few days in the life of a young Chinese-American girl in the 1930s. Ming wants a Christmas tree (this is related to a larger desire to fit in at school), but her mother won't hear of it.  The next day, Ming's father takes her to visit some family friends and some places his father took him when he was young. The trip connects her with her heritage, and they even come back with a tree to decorate - not a fir tree to cut down and discard, but a Chinese pine to keep in a pot.  That all sounds simple enough, but there's something distinctive about the way this book is written, and it's somewhat unsettling if you're expecting a standard children's story. For one thing,

Guardians of the Galaxy: Jingle Bell Rock (2016)

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My continuing quest for more science fiction holiday content led me to this episode of the Guardians of the Galaxy animated series. The series uses the team from the movies, but as far as I know, it isn't in continuity with anything else. The episode opens with the team tracking down a fugitive alien. Peter Quill is in a bit of a funk because it's Christmas back on Earth (how or why he knows this isn't clear from this episode), but he still gets the drop on their bounty. The alien begs for mercy and claims that the charges against him aren't fair, but they set off for their reward. The other team members do some research on Earth Christmas in the meantime, but other than briefly decorating Groot, this doesn't come to much. Quill claims that everything is fine, Christmas isn't worth being upset about anyway. When they deliver the fugitive to a snowy planet, he asks once more for their help, then asks them to at least tell his family where he's gone. T

How the Toys Saved Christmas (1996)

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I have to start this review by explaining a big, giant, caveat. I was unable to obtain a version of this holiday special in the original Italian (or even verify that a subtitled version exists). In Italian, this special is called La freccia azzurra (The blue arrow) and the story is apparently somewhat different. Hopefully, it's better in Italian. I knew that we would be watching a kludgy anglicization, but I held out some hope. I sought out this special because I knew it featured Befana, who is a character we'd love to see more of. Befana is a witch who brings gifts to Italian children on Epiphany (Jan 6). In the English version, this character is nonsensically renamed "Granny Rose" and is demoted to being one of Santa's helpers. At least she's still a witch. The following description is based on the English version. For some reason, Granny Rose has a shop where children can come to drop off their wish lists. One boy (Christopher, your requisite virtuo

A Cosmic Christmas (1977)

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I stumbled upon this early Nelvana production and immediately knew we had to watch it. (I’m mostly familiar with Nelvana because they produced all the Care Bears material in the 80s, but they’re a prolific children’s media production company based in Canada.) Apparently, when the young studio was trying to break into commercial animation, market research indicated a need for new Christmas television specials . Given a UFO sighting in Toronto and excitement for a then-upcoming movie about some wars in the stars, a sci-fi tinted holiday story must have seemed like just the ticket. And it worked! According to Wikipedia, the popularity and sale of this special put Nelvana on the map. It's hard to imagine, now in the era of Peak TV, that long-ago time when networks were so starved for content that this quirky, hit-and-miss piece would cause a stir. Our main character is Peter, a totally generic kid except for the fact that he has a pet goose. Why? We’ll get there. Peter and Lu

Comic Book Review: Klaus (1-7)

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Note: Image not actually a good representation of the story. Klaus (Issues #1-7) Grant Morrison and Dan Mora, 2015-2016 I remember seeing this title about a reimagined Santa hit stores. I've always been intrigued but also very tentative about it. A big part of why I never read this book before now is that I've been burned before on Santa retellings, and the cover art was fairly realistic/Conan in style, making me think it would be too dark. I have strong opinions on what is appropriate Santa behavior and what is not. I have a history with this character that I'm protective of. In short, I have FEELINGS about this topic. Now I've read it, and... y'all, this might be a new favorite. I love the ridiculous line the book tries to walk from the first page. It's not actually realistic in any sense, but it's treating ludicrous situations and characters seriously. It's practically pulling from Santa Claus Is Coming to Town , with a town under the t

Klaus (2019)

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Last year we were big fans of Netflix's entry into the family-friendly fray , but this new movie fell flat for us. The plot follows Jesper, the spoiled rich son of the Postmaster General. His behavior and attitude are cribbed so closely from The Emperor's New Groove that we thought the voice actor was David Spade (it's actually Jason Schwartzman). To shock him into acting like an adult, Jesper's father banishes him to a remote city on a far north island, tasked with re-establishing the post office there and stamping at least 6,000 letters over the next year. When he gets there, he discovers the town is home to two feuding clans, and everyone is only interested in making each other miserable. After trying and failing to encourage anyone in the town to send a single letter, he ends up at a solitary house on the far end of the island. Here he is terrified to meet Klaus, a huge woodsman with a house full of mysterious toys. He flees but drops a drawing he had been try

Aggretsuko: We Wish You a Metal Christmas (2018)

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Aggretsuko is an anime series I quite like based on a Sanrio character. Yes, that's the Hello Kitty company, but with this character they are shifting their target consumer fairly significantly - from young girls to adult women dissatisfied with the modern world. The lead character, a red panda named Retsuko, has a boring job with a chauvinist jerk for a boss, annoying co-workers, and no romantic prospects, so she releases her rage at the world through singing death metal at a karaoke bar. This Christmas special is an extra-long episode that doubles as an epilogue for the first season, so I'm not sure how enjoyable it would be to watch without that context. The main plots of the special are Retsuko's attempt to seek validation by becoming popular on social media and her coworker Haida's continuing crush on her. At the beginning of the special is a missing scene from the end of the prior episode that reveals that Haida did ask Retsuko out, but she turned him down,

Cupcake Wars: The Nutcracker, Hollywood Christmas Parade (2011)

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Cupcake Wars is a food competition show. I watch, let's be honest, a decent number of food competition shows, and I place this one squarely in the lower-middle tier of such fare. It’s fine background noise that’s somewhat entertaining, but it lacks the theatricality of shows like Cutthroat Kitchen or Beat Bobby Flay, the impressive flexibility and talent on shows like Chopped or Iron Chef, or the personal drama of shows with a continuing cast like Great British Bake Off or even Next Food Network Star. Even so, it is amusing enough to pass the time with when tied to the couch under a feeding baby. On my maternity leave earlier this year I watched a lot of reality shows, including two Christmas-themed episodes of Cupcake Wars. In this show, people who make cupcakes professionally (most either own a cafe or do catering) try to outdo each other to win a cash prize and a contract for a specific fancy event. In these episodes, said events were the opening night of the New York City B

Book Review: The Christmas Card Crime and Other Stories

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The Christmas Card Crime and Other Stories Edited by Martin Edwards, compilation 2019 (US release) New Release! I received a copy of this book from NetGalley for the purpose of review. Premise: A new collection of little-known stories with a holiday twist from the classic age of crime fiction from British Library Crime Classics. Like most short fiction collections, this one is hit and miss. Some of these stories are fun, but none of them are exceptional. Several introductions mention that the author rarely wrote short stories or seldom wrote mysteries. Apparently, this is the third collection from this publisher collecting unknown British crime stories on a wintry theme. What I'm trying to say is, they might be scraping the bottom of the barrel at this point. The first story is by Baroness Orczy of Scarlet Pimpernel fame, and the characters are a lot of fun, although the plot is somewhat lacking. Two of the best stories in the volume follow: “By the Sword,” a tale in wh

Podcast Review: Household Name: Kentucky Fried Christmas (2018)

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When I heard an ad for a podcast from Business Insider , I wasn't initially interested. Then the ad mentioned that there was an episode about the connection between KFC and Christmas in Japan, and I was immediately searching for the download button. Unfortunately, the episode didn't tell me much that I didn't already know, but the story was told well and the episode was overall a lot of fun. If you aren't interested in Japanese culture or the minutiae of the holiday, you might not know that Kentucky Fried Chicken is closely associated with Christmas in Japan. While that might seem strange to Americans at first, the surface-level reasons are those that you might come up with if pressed: Western holiday - Western food, chicken is close to the traditional (i.e., Dickensian) turkey, and Colonel Sanders bears a decent resemblance to Santa Claus. I was hoping for some deeper revelation or twist, but the reporter on the podcast says that's most of it, although how

Book Review: A Cup of Holiday Fear

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A Cup of Holiday Fear Ellie Alexander, 2019 New Release! I received a copy of this book from NetGalley for the purpose of review. Premise: Jules runs a bakery in charming artistic tourist town Ashland, Oregon, where she is kept busy preparing for the Christmas rush and snooping around after an out-of-towner ends up dead. I've read quite a few Christmas-themed cozy mysteries by now. Most of them are readable but nothing special. It wasn't immediately clear from the publisher's description that this takes place well into a series, but it was obvious from the first page. Backstory and past relationships are recapped at length, even when they have nothing to do with the plot of this book. I have two fairly substantial issues with this book, and in the end, I can't give it a pass. The first is the mystery itself; it's just uninteresting. The killer is the obviously mean character, the victim was a horrible person, and the resolution takes place entirely

Let It Snow (2019)

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Netflix has been trying for a few years to encroach on Hallmark’s dominance of the disposable holiday rom-com. One of this year’s attempts is this adaptation of a set of YA short stories. The film starts and ends with narration by Joan Cusack. She is, of course, awesome, but the narration itself is so corny and obvious that I was literally laughing out loud, and not in a good way. Taking place over December 24, the movie follows four and a half separate stories and features an array of attractive young actors, many of whom have history working for Netflix or Nickelodeon. I have already forgotten all the characters' names. Many major plot moments take place at a restaurant called Waffle Town. The plots each fall into a basic romance trope or two: Pining for the girl next door Too-practical girl has meet-cute with celebrity in search of "something real" One-night stand (maybe one-night hangout, it's ambiguous) turns out to be true love Girl dumps cheating b

Welcome Back

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Welcome back for the tenth season of Mainlining Christmas! If you're a long-time fan, you might recall that we made some changes last year . We didn't push ourselves to post so often so that we could concentrate on quality. At the end of the season, we also announced the impending arrival of our assistant , who was born in due course this past summer. As you may have guessed, while we will continue to consume large amounts of seasonal fare, we have other ways to challenge our sanity this year. And this is for the best. Because we have been doing this for so long that we've begun to build up an immunity. It's no longer hard to listen to only Christmas music for a month or more; in fact, I've been turning it on in the summer when I need to relax. Few Christmas episodes and movies hold surprises for us, for we are masters of holiday tropes; we can see a last-minute Santa reveal coming before the first hint of snow clouds. In short, the mental and physical c

Tidings of Comfort and Joy

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Thanks so much for spending another season with Mainlining Christmas. Whether you read every word, listen to the occasional podcast, or just click Like on Facebook, we appreciate you. So far, I think this year's changes were a success. Once we backed off from the constant flood of posts, we had time to choose our content more thoughtfully and do research for more podcasts and other analysis. We also had more time to actually enjoy the season. December is a very busy time in my current job, so I personally needed the respite. In fact, it's been such a success that we're planning on bringing on an unpaid intern next summer. Rather than go through the headache of posting an ad or something, we've decided to grow them. We're expecting them to arrive in late June of next year. I expect this person to take up incredible amounts of time and energy, but provide an all-new perspective on holiday media. And life. Hopefully, we'll be back next year, although th