February 2016 - Picture Book and Middle Grade new releases mini-review series on Instagram

New Book Review Series on Instagram

So, every February for the past couple of years, I’ve done a little mini-review series over on Instagram where I feature one KidLit book per day. (Last year was #PictureBookBiographies!) Each day this month on Instagram, I’ll feature one amazing picture book or middle grade novel published between January 2015 and February 2016, and share a 1-4 sentence review along with it.

February 2016 - Picture Book and Middle Grade new releases mini-review series on Instagram

2015 was an amazing year for high-quality children’s literature that makes us think, grow, expand our experiences, hope even in darkness and brokenness, and spread love. And 2016 is looking astounding.

I won’t be able to share all of my favorites, but I can share 29 superb books to share with the young readers in your life (and enjoy yourself!). We’ll share on Instagram with the hashtag #PBandMGNewReleases.

Join me over on Instagram for one daily post, and please share some of your family’s favorites in the comments! After the series is over, I’ll post a round-up of all the books and reviews here on the blog.

What are some of your family’s favorite new releases last year and this year so far?

Stars Over Sunset Boulevard by Susan Meissner (New American Library, 2016)

Book Review – Stars Over Sunset Boulevard by Susan Meissner

I’m a big fan of historical fiction. And Susan Meissner is one of my favorites for adult historical fiction. (One of my very favorites of hers is Secrets of a Charmed Life, which came out last year. You can read my review here.)

Susan’s newest novel, Stars Over Sunset Boulevard (New American Library, 2016) just released this month.

Stars Over Sunset Boulevard by Susan Meissner (New American Library, 2016)

Susan employs a dual-perspective format in this novel, as she so successfully does in several of her previous novels. In this particular novel, rather than have one present timeline and one past timeline (as she does in Secrets of a Charmed Life), we follow both Audrey and Violet in time together. Both women work as secretaries at a famous Hollywood movie studio, and instantly bond as they become roommates and work on the ground-breaking movie, Gone With the Wind. Each woman desires something different in life and career, yet forge a friendship to last over the joys and challenges of decades, snippets of which are covered in the book. This book also weaves in themes of trust, deceit, adoption, societal pressures, feelings of wholeness (or lack thereof), broken families, and more.

I know I’m in the minority here, but I actually haven’t seen the movie, Gone With the Wind (or read that particular book). I still enjoyed reading Susan’s work, but readers who have read Gone With the Wind or seen the movie will likely be ecstatic about the historical details Susan weaves throughout this story. Susan researches deeply for each of her books, and those historical details, societal aspects, and setting notes create a richer read.

Read more from Susan about this book here.

Have you seen Gone With the Wind or read the bookIf you have, you’ll enjoy this novel!

Disclosure: I received a free copy of the book in exchange for my honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.

I am an affiliate for Amazon Associates. If you click on a Amazon and then make a purchase, I receive a small commission. This does not affect your final cost at all. Thank you for supporting this blog and my family!

This site is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.

The Bronte Plot by Katherine Reay (Thomas Nelson, 2015)

Book Review – The Bronte Plot by Katherine Reay

The Bronte Plot by Katherine Reay (Thomas Nelson, 2015)

About the book (from the publisher):

The Brontë Plot by Katherine Reay (Thomas Nelson, 2015)

When a rare-books dealer goes to England, she discovers more than just the famous writing haunts—she discovers how to love and be loved in today’s modern world.

Victoria Seward makes a living finding rare books through means that aren’t always on the up-and-up. But if it makes the clients happy, who is she really hurting? After all, everything always turns out all right in the end. At least it does in her favorite books, the ones her absent father sends every year on her birthday, no matter where he is.

When her unorthodox behavior ruins her relationship with her boyfriend James, Victoria knows something has to change—she has to change. Enter Helen, a wealthy client seeking a companion for her trip to England to purchase antiques, and who just happens to be James’s grandmother. Helen has secrets of her own, secrets that help her relate to Victoria more than anyone can guess.

As Victoria and Helen travel across England, Victoria suspects there is more to this trip than Helen lets on. When Helen’s health falters, Victoria reaches out to James, reigniting feelings that were never truly extinguished.

Everything comes to a head at Haworth, home of the Brontë sisters, when hidden offenses rise to the surface. Victoria’s happy ending is within reach—if she can step out of the literary world and into the life that’s been waiting for her all along.

My Thoughts:

I’m a fan of Katherine Reay’s writing. In the books I’ve read of hers so far (read my review of Lizzy and Jane here, which I loved), she always includes real characters who are broken, need growth, and therefore very relatable.

She includes such characters in her newest novel, The Brontë Plot, too. Besides heavy doses of Austen, Dickens, and C.S. Lewis (love!) references, Katherine Reay includes intriguing, literary-inspired locales in this book, as well.

Like many classic British novels, this book includes a large amount of dialogue, at times favoring dialogue over action. I don’t mind this at all and think it works well for this book, and for the type of book it aims to be. Katherine Reay also regularly includes varied relationships. There’s a romantic plot line, yes, but it doesn’t always take the focus of the book, a choice I enjoy. In Lizzy and Jane, one of the main plot lines centered on the relationships between two sisters. In this newest novel, The Brontë Plot, we see an interesting and intertwined friendship of growth between Helen (James’s grandmother) and Lucy.

I did find that it look me three-fourths of the novel to actually come to like Lucy, the main character. She has many faults, as we all do, but I found myself unable to care about her as much as the other characters because of disconnection formed from some of her choices. That said, Lucy’s growth provides a great opportunity to grow in liking her. All of Reay’s characters experience reflection and some measure of both challenge and growth, which makes for an interesting read.

Many readers may also find themselves willing to give certain classics a chance after how Reay’s characters discuss them in this book, which is a great benefit. I’ve added a couple of classics to my to-read list, too!

What’s one of your favorite novels that includes other literary quotes/influences?

Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher as a part of the BookLook blogger program in exchange for my honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.

I am an affiliate for Amazon Associates and GrapeVine Studies. If you click on an Amazon link or a GrapeVine Studies link and then make a purchase, I receive a small commission. This does not affect your final cost at all. Thank you for supporting this blog and my family!

This site is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.

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When We Need a Little Help Remembering to Celebrate

Christmas is to remember joy, peace, love, grace.

But, sometimes, depending on varying circumstances, it can be a difficult time. For you, it might be strained or toxic family relationships. Or her, it might be a reminder of loss. For him, it might be a too-busy time.

Whatever it may be, sometimes we all need a little help remembering that Christmas is a time for celebrating Heaven come down for us, for love.

I’m at Do Not Depart sharing a little about what a children’s storybook Bible reminded me about celebrating at Christmas. Join me there and share your favorite ways to remember, too.

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