Monday, October 05, 2015

A Jane Austen Christmas: Review and Giveaway!

When a representative from Cider Mill Press approached me a few months ago asking if I'd like to host a review and book giveaway for a new Jane Austen book, my heart skipped a beat! Knowing that many of you share my love for Jane Austen, I didn't hesitate to send an affirmative response. I received my own copy of the book a little while back, and without further ado, will share my observations with you! If you'd like your own copy, have a try at the giveaway (below), or find it at Amazon here!


A Jane Austen Christmas: 
Celebrating the Season of Romance, 
Ribbons, & Mistletoe 

by Carlo DeVito





First off -- not to judge a book by its cover -- but this is a lovely little book! Bound attractively in red and green (you can see it peeking out in the photo), and jacketed festively, it's a well made book that's the perfect size for reading.

It's difficult to classify this book. It includes a bit of biography, a bit of historical info, and even recipes (mostly for festive holiday beverages, some of which are from the Austens themselves). Mr. DeVito tracks the Austens through the years, writing primarily about their Christmas-time activities. Each chapter/part focuses on a different year, starting in 1786.

One of my favorite aspects of the book was the connections between Jane Austen's experiences and the people she knew, and specific passages in her books. The infamous play from Mansfield Park? Jane had a similar experience when her own brothers vied for a young woman's attention during their own theatrics. Mr. Collins shows up, too, and Jane's unfortunate early romance with Tom Lefroy is detailed, as well as her exceedingly brief engagement to Harris Bigg-Wither.

DeVito draws from a variety of sources -- historical accounts, Austen family letters, etc. -- to paint a portrait of Christmas festivities in the Georgian and Regency eras. The bibliography is quite hefty for such a small tome. Including so many sources can result in a very choppy, cobbled narrative, but Mr. DeVito handled it quite well and the result is an easy read. Since I personally know very little about Christmas celebrations from that era of history, I found it quite informative! I also appreciated that he "suggested" how the Austens might have done things based on the traditions of the times, since we don't have exact accounts of all of their holiday activities.

As I mentioned, the book includes several recipes of the time period (mostly for alcoholic beverages, which is a bit of a specialty for the author), and gives some insight into how the Austens ran their kitchen -- Jane and Cassandra were actually quite involved, owing to their family's constrained finances. A Jane Austen Christmas certainly gave me a better sense of the time in which Jane Austen lived, especially the societal climate that influenced her books.

My only caveats with this book are relatively minor -- first, that a handful of grammatical errors were overlooked. None were very glaring, but it does make me wince to see such errors in print! The second, is that there are a few brief thematic elements that make the book suitable for slightly older audiences. There is nothing "very shocking," but I don't think I would have given this to myself at 12 (which is when I first started reading Jane Austen). Then again, I would most certainly be considered a prude by modern standards, so don't think that there is anything racy!

I felt that the book painted a pleasing vignette of Jane Austen's life, detailing some of the experiences that most shaped her development as an author. This is really the perfect book for a chilly afternoon by the fire, with a steaming cup of tea at one's elbow.



And now, for the giveaway! Cider Mill Press has generously offered to give a copy of A Jane Austen Christmas  to a "Thoughts and Thimbles" reader! Let's keep this simple, shall we? No liking, no following -- just leave a comment with your favorite Jane Austen novel, and enter the giveaway by clicking below!


The giveaway is open only to residents of the United States and Canada


The giveaway is now closed! Congratulations Hannah H!


a Rafflecopter giveaway




All opinions expressed in this review are my own -- I did receive a complimentary copy of A Jane Austen Christmas for the purpose of this review. Consider yourself informed! *wink*




21 comments:

  1. How could I possibly choose a favorite? Does saying it's a a three-way tie between "Emma," "Persuasion," and "Sense and Sensibility" disqualify me from entry? ;-)

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    1. Ah, yes, I had not considered the futility of trying to pick a favorite! Maybe my only entry requirement isn't so "simple" after all. :-) Since you included Persuasion in your list, you still qualify. *wink*

      Blessings,
      Shannon

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  2. Ha! Picking a favorite Austen book is supposed to be simple? :) Pride and Prejudice introduced me to Jane and is consequently special, but I rather like the hilarious wit of Sense and Sensibility. But Captain Wentworth's letter...*sigh*. Thanks for the chance to win!

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    1. I think Pride and Prejudice has a special place in every Jane Austen lover's heart -- it's just such a marvelous book!

      Blessings,
      Shannon

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  3. This book sounds delightful! It may be cliche, but Pride and Prejudice is the favorite--I'm just so fond of Lizzie. Emma is a pretty close second, though.

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    1. Who wouldn't be fond of Lizzie? :-) Apparently C.S. Lewis was very fond of P&P, too, so you're in good company!

      Blessings,
      Shannon

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  4. I'm not sure whether or not the fact that I live in New Zealand would be a problem, but never mind. I can still take the opportunity to tell you that "Emma" is my favourite :)

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    1. Oh bother, Jill! I totally forgot that the giveaway was limited to the US and Canada -- I'm so sorry! But, if you'll send me your mailing address, I'd love to post a little Jane Austen goody to you to make up for my mistake! :-)

      thoughtsandthimbles@gmail.com

      Blessings,
      Shannon

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  5. Oh, the book sounds like a delightful read! I am a huge Jane Austen fan and started reading the books in my teens and am now becoming reacquainted with them. I think Pride and Prejudice is my favorite just because it was the book that introduced me to Jane Austen and Elizabeth Bennet is a favorite character of mine. I recently read Northanger Abbey for the first time and really enjoyed it. I have yet to read Persuasion and Mansfield Park.

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  6. What a fun giveaway! And I love the simplicity, other than having to choose a favorite! I think Pride and Prejudice and Persuasion are my favorites...with Mansfield Park in close second!

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  7. Hi! I haven't commented in a while, but a giveaway helps pull me out of the lurking shadows! :)

    I actually don't know what my favorite Jane Austen would be--I would start with Persuasion, then Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility would be close behind, probably tied closely with Mansfield Park and Emma and Northanger Abbey (though not necessarily in that order). There. I kind of did pick a favorite--but it's a rotating favorite! :D

    Krista

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  8. All of Austen's novels are excellent, but I do favor Emma. Thank you for this giveaway :)

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  9. "Pride and Prejudice" is my favorite. : )

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  10. Pride and Prejudice is my absolute favorite! Thanks for hosting this giveaway!

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  11. Pride and Prejudice and Persuasion are most assuredly my top picks! Thank you for hosting the giveaway :)

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  12. How to pick? It certainly is NOT Emma, but I like different aspects of the others although the only one I have read recently is Northanger Abbey, and Henry Tilney is the most my "type." But Captain Wentworth wins on the proposal. I think perhaps for overall tone Pride and Prejudice? At least it used to be, but I am kind of sick of hearing about it.

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  13. I truly love so many.... but one of my favorites is `Persuasion".

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  14. Hmmm...... so hard to chose!! I love them all!! But if I had to chose I think I would go with Pride and Prejudice!

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  15. My favourite is Sense and Sensibility with Persuasion a close second.

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I'd love to hear your thoughts! Thank you so much for stopping by!