Sunday, November 27, 2016

Counting Down to Christmas with Books from Cider Mill Press Book Publishers -- Includes Twain, Austen and the Nutcracker (Review)

Disclosure: I was sent review copies from the publisher in order to write up an honest review.  All views shared are mine and mine alone.

I recently stumbled across a new book publisher and just had to share some of their book offerings with you.  Have you heard about Cider Mill Press Book Publishers?  My Christmas book advent search led to me to their website, and I am so happy to now know about them as they have an amazing selection of books, all which have breathtaking illustrations.  Illustrations really make a book and keep you engaged, and all the books from this publisher, of both children's and adult book, have just that -- simply stunning illustrations, as well as content that will make it hard for you to put down the book.

Here are a few books I was recently sent to review and have fallen in love with. The first two books are geared towards adults or older children who love to read and learn about literary figures, and the last two are perfect for the holidays and to be read while snuggling up on the couch together as a family.


About this Book:

"Filled with the remarkable wit and humor of America's favorite storyteller, A Mark Twain Christmas gives readers insight into Twain's life through little known stories about how he and his family celebrated this treasured holiday. 

“If my boot should leave a stain on the marble…leave it there always in memory of my visit…and let it remind you to be a good little girl.” When Market Twain penned this enchanting letter from “Your loving Santa Claus” to his daughter Susy in 1875, a holiday tradition was born inside the Twain family home. And while Twain is celebrated as the sharpest satirist in American letters, he always had a soft spot for Christmas.

A Mark Twain Christmas is in turns charming, heartwarming, and heartbreaking, and it ultimately reaffirms the magic of the Christmas spirit. Looking in on three holiday seasons with Twain, we learn more about the man than we ever knew before, and we discover fascinations from gifted elephants to burglar letters to Santa’s bootprints. But most of all, we regain an understanding of what is most important in our own lives, and that is the greatest gift of the Christmas season."

My Thoughts:

One of the perks of living in CT is that there are so wonderful attractions and educational landmarks we can visit with the girls.  One such place is the Mark Twain house in Hartford, CT.  And, this time of year they decorate this house, along with the Harriet Beecher Stowe house which is right next door with time-period holiday decorations.  It really is a sight to see, if you are planning to visit New England this holiday season.  

In a given year, we try and make a few stops to the Mark Twain house, as they do fun cultural/educational events for the kids, and it is a great way to introduce the girls to famous literary figures, including Twain, who is one of my favorites.  I was excited to find the folks at Cider Mill Press Book Publishers published a book, "A Mark Twain Christmas: A Journey Across Three Christmas Season," by Carlo Devito.  While this book is geared towards the older crowd and not my girls, I had fun reading this book cover to cover after everyone was in bad after a great Thanksgiving dinner with family and friends.

I have toured the Mark Twain house over a dozen times since we moved to CT years ago, but was surprised to find out more about Twain that wasn't shared in one of my house tours, many which were heartbreaking.  The book itself is 124 pages in length, but being small, there are probably like 100 words, if that, per page, which makes for a quick read.  And, once you start reading this fascinating book, it is hard to put it down.

For those that know Twain and his back story, then you know about the heartbreak he encountered in his life.  But, you also know about Twain's wit that must have made for wonderful gatherings at his home, listening to Twain tell his humorous stories or crack jokes.  He must have had the whole room laughing.

While the book is not really Christmas-themed, it is a wonderful book for fans of Twain who want to learn more about him including his fascination with elephants, which when you visit his home in Hartford you will see a lot of.  I highly recommend this book, as well as other books by the author for those who love learning more about their favorite literary figures.  This and the next book about Jane Austen's Christmas would make for great gift ideas for book lovers this holiday season.

About this Book:

"Filled with the remarkable wit and insight of one of the world's most cherished authors, A Jane Austen Christmas gives readers insight into Austen's life through little-known stories about how she and her family celebrated the treasured holiday season.

Carlo DeVito provides an intimate portrait of Austen's most cherished Christmas memories with her family: from the gift of her first writing desk, to her first love and heartbreak, to her brewing mead and beer in time for the holidays. Along the way readers will spend a holiday in the Austen house, celebrate Jane's birthday, meet the inspiration for more than a dozen characters, attend the Christmastide series of balls, and learn how to make family's favorite recipes and dedicate a novel to the Prince Regent. Remarkably fresh and supremely entertaining, A Jane Austen Christmas brings Austen's world to life as never before."

My Thoughts:

I was first introduced to the author, Carlos DeVito, when I read "A Mark Twain Christmas" shared above.  After reading this book, I was eager to read more books by this author as I loved his writing style and the content that he shared when talking about popular literary figures.  I couldn't wait to dive into the "A Jane Austen Christmas: Celebrating the Season of Romance, Ribbons and Mistletoe," which is also from the folks at Cider Mill Press.  

This book is similar to the Mark Twain book in that it is written for the holiday season.  The small book has 188 pages, which also makes for a quick read.  I ended up reading it over two days, as I was tending to Bella the other night with a head cold.  As I was reading this book, I loved seeing how some of Jane Austen's family members were quoted in the book.  The author did a wonderful job in sharing the family's personal accounts of Jane Austen, as well as how the season was celebrated.  The book spans years of celebrating the holiday and not just one particular Christmas, which I found interesting.  Decorations and holiday foods like the kissing bough, Yule log and plum pudding were talking about, which as you read the book, gets you excited about the season, as well as gets your mind going as you think about how some of your favorite literary authors like Jane Austen celebrated the season with their family back in the day.  
Similar to the Mark Twain book, this book also shared heartache and is not really a cheery holiday book, but if you really think about it, the holiday seasons are usually filled with ups and downs and there are years that you would rather not relive.  But, these years become memories and ones that shape you and move you or your family in a new direction. And, the author does a wonderful job in sharing more about Jane Austen that you may otherwise not know as it relates to the holidays and personal family experiences.

Fans of Jane Austen will want to add this book to their Jane Austen collection.  It is definitely one book I will pull out and read again.  And, it would make for a great coffee table read or book to display at the holidays.

About this Book:

A stunning new heirloom edition of the beloved holiday story that inspired the classic Christmastime ballet, reimagined for children with lavish illustrations by Christina Hess.

This beloved children’s classic promises to be the must-read bedtime book for your family this holiday season. Featuring whimsical artwork by Christina Hess, fantastical characters will dance across the pages as you read along, and a breath-taking gatefold awaits! Create new traditions together as you read and reread this stunning tale every night! Children, parents and grandparents alike will love this new addition to the family bookshelves!


A gorgeous new reimagining of the holiday classic for families to treasure. 

My Thoughts:

We had bought tickets to a local ballet performance of the Nutcracker to bring the girls to, as they have never seen or even heard of the Nutcracker.  Now that they are getting older, I am trying to expose them to as much cultural events and performances as I can, as they both have developed a love of the arts.  And, my hope is that by exposing them to the different mediums and genres out there, that it may spark an interest in a particular thing that they can pursue further.

I was looking for a book to share with the girls prior to the Nutcracker performance, and fell in with "The Nutcracker: The Classic Edition," from E.T.A Hoffman, and put out by Cider Mill Press.  Out of all the Nutcracker books we have, this is by far my favorite, not just for the way the story of the Nutcracker is told, but also for the beautiful illustrations that fill the pages, and bring the story to life.  I knew my girls would love the story and get excited about the upcoming Nutcracker ballet we would be seeing, after we read this book.  And, they are.  They keep asking when we will be going.  And, now when they see The Nutcracker in person, they will know the back story and will be able to enjoy it more. :-)

This was the first time I was introduced to illustrator, Christina Hess, and couldn't get over her talent.  Then, I read her bio and found out she was self taught, which is even more impressive once you see her work.  What caught my eye and got me excited to flip to the next page was that the illustrator was able to capture expressions with each person she illustrated through the facial features.  You could see the sorrow, happiness and even rage in the different people, which I have not seen in other books I have read or shared with the girls.  

The Nutcracker is a timeless story that we all know and love, but with the stunning illustrations from Christina Hess, the story of Nutcracker takes on a whole new feel, and makes for a must have for families, especially during the holidays. The girls loved the book and have had me read it a handful of times since we received last week. And, when we are not reading it together, they are taking it from the coffee table to sit on the couch and admire the illustrations, as they retell the classic story to their stuffed animals.  

Once you see this book in person, you will see why I and so many others love this book, and are so happy to have it in our holiday book collection, to treasure for years to come.

About this Book:

"In this charming new edition of TWINKLE TWINKLE LITTLE STAR, the beloved rhyme is presented like never before in an innovative and exciting pop-up book format, with a dazzling little star that twinkles and spins as you turn each page.

Never before has the classic lullaby been presented in such a dazzling pop-up book. Turn the page and watch the little twinkling star dance and twirl, sparkling as it spins. A surprise on the final page will delight you every time you read this enchanting new edition of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star!"

My Thoughts:

This hardcover book is only a few pages in length and not a retelling or unique spin on the popular "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star."  But, it does have a unique feature that we have not seen in children's books before....a pop-up spinning star.  The first page of the book contains a large sparkling star that children' can spin as you read "Twinkle  Twinkle" to them.  And, once you get to the last page, you are greeted with 5 small silver sparkly stars that also pop up and spin.  Both of my girls thought this was the coolest thing ever.  They already knew "Twinkle Twinkle" so weren't listening to me reading it.  Instead, they were busy spinning the star and watching it catch the reflections of the sun making the star glisten and twinkle more.  I have to say, I was even mesmerized by this unique pop-up star, and it added to the "Twinkle Twinkle Star" read.  

I would recommend this book for toddlers and preschoolers, but but be careful as they could spin too hard and break the delicate pop up spinning stars.  This book would make for a great holiday gift idea or a fun new bedtime book to snuggle up and share together. 


There are so many wonderful books available from the Cider Mill Press Book Publishers, many which would make great gift ideas this holiday season, or be a welcoming addition to your family's book advent countdown.  I ended up picking up "The Twelve Days of Christmas Cats" for Savannah, who is a huge fan of cats. 

I know she will love this cute tale based on the classic "Twelve Days of Christmas" story -- instead this book is all about cats. :-)

Again, look at the breathtaking illustrations -- this is what you get when you purchase books published from Cider Mill Press Book Publishers.  Illustrations really make a book, especially when you are reading then with young children. My girls get lost in the story and illustrations and ask time and again for me to read the book over as they can't get enough of it.


To learn more about the books I shared above and others available from Cider Mill Press Book Publishers, visit their website --

Disclosure: I was sent review copies from the publisher in order to write up an honest review.  All views shared are mine and mine alone.

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