This month, The Arc team is all set for summer fun and good reads! Find some inspiration for your TBR or library list with the ideas below.
Under Scottish Stars by Carla Laureano
It’s always fun to find personal interests woven into a fictional story; the setting and the protagonist’s interest in both art and marketing earned Under Scottish Stars a place on my nightstand this month. The final installment in Carla Laureano’s MacDonald Family Trilogy follows Serena, a widowed single mom who makes a sudden move to help run the family business—a luxury hotel on the Isle of Skye. What she doesn’t anticipate is both the friction and attraction between herself and the handsome hotel manager, Malcom.
Though the angsty dynamics common to romance fiction sometimes test my patience, I am curious to see how the subplot plays out and what Serena decides to do with her long-buried artistic dream. (OK, I’m also curious to see if and how Serena and Malcom find their happily ever after!)
To Read: Under the Magnolias by T.I. Lowe
The Candlestone (Dragons in Our Midst, Book 2) by Bryan Davis
Many years ago, I was intrigued to find a dragon book in my church’s library because of how dragons are usually mentioned in a negative light in the Bible. Encountering a Christian novel where the two heroes are part-dragon was a surprise. I didn’t read Raising Dragons at the time, but I remembered the book enough to contemplate reading it later. Once I learned these books were getting new covers and also received a couple suggestions from others to read the series, I finally picked them up! There are four in total, and I am currently working my way through the second.
Dragons in Our Midst is what I call 110% overt Christian fantasy. Bible verses abound, and characters often find themselves in situations that teach Sunday school lessons akin to how Bible stories are mixed into the plots of VeggieTales. The result is a uniquely interesting read. Perhaps what I enjoy most about the series is how involved the parents are in the battles against gunmen and evil knights! Billy’s mom is a force to be reckoned with and even Billy’s best friend’s dad, an attorney, is actively involved. Bringing adults into the dire circumstances that teenaged protagonists of YA novels frequently face results in greater energy, an additional sense of plausibility, and a fuller cast. I seriously wish I’d see more YA books make use of the parents as characters: the effect is really rewarding.
To Read: Circles of Seven (Dragons in Our Midst, Book 3) by Bryan Davis
Keep Christianity Weird by Michael Frost
Borrowing from the slogan that was used to rebrand Austin, TX, Australian author, pastor, and speaker Michael Frost is calling churches back to their strange Savior and other-worldly values, in his book, Keep Christianity Weird.
I’m just finishing up Chapter 2: What Are Weird Cities Telling Us? This chapter is dealing with the dichotomy of suburban, planned, and “bland” environments, with the trend of the millennial generation seeking out urban, more connected, “authentic”, creative, and sustainable settings. Frost looks to the economic demise of malls, chain stores, parking lots, country clubs, and the like, challenging churches-as-usual and what this could mean for how churches engage—and perhaps change—given these influences. He quotes missional pastor and author Alan Roxburgh, saying: “Our culture does not need any more churches run like corporations; it needs local communities empowered by the gospel vision of a transforming Christ who addresses the needs of the context and changes the polis into a place of hope and wholeness.” (p.43). Some big statements, big ideas, and all kinds of weirdness. Can’t wait to read more!
Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo
I decided to give Shadow and Bone a read after hearing that the book was being made into a Netflix series. Many have recommended Leigh Bardugo over the years, so it seemed worth a shot! I wasn’t in awe of this book; however, it was a fun, quick-paced, and entertaining read. It follows the main character, Alina Starkov, as she makes the startling discovery that she has lived her whole life with unimaginable power dormant within her. When her abilities finally surface, she realizes that they may be the key to solving a centuries-old blight on her country. . . if she can master them. I wouldn’t recommend this book to someone who is looking for a complex novel. The characters and story (thus far, at least) are very straight-forward. Fantasy series can sometimes be too gritty, even in the YA category, but Shadow and Bone maintained much of its focus on the progression of the plot, exploration of Alina’s abilities, and (of course) the love interests. If you’re even mildly curious, it’s worth giving a chance!
To Read: Siege and Storm by Leigh Bardugo