It's time to share reviews of the best ARCs I received this month. The following all received 3 stars or higher.
I loved the premise of this YA novel, while also hoping it never comes to pass: no one can own books and Scholars control the Library. It makes for a fascinating world where things aren't necessarily as they seem and our hero must figure out who he can trust. When I finished, I was anxious to read the follow up and irritated about having to wait a whole year to read it. Then I discovered Ink and Bone came out last year! Paper and Fire was released July 5. It's downloaded and waiting for me to get caught up on all my other reading. I've heard nothing but good reviews so far.
Good Christian Sex: Why Chastity Isn't The Only Option- And Other Things Bible Says About Sex- Bromleigh McClenaghan (July 5)
"Most of us want to love and be loved, to find relationships in which we can be ourselves and also experience the thrill of desire...As a pastor, as a Christian, I hope the simple acknowledgment that there may be more than one acceptable- holy and just- way to live as sexual beings is a blessing an invitation to those who have been taught that God's way is singular and exclusive."
I am so grateful McCleneghan decided to write this book. I appreciate her care with language, definitions, and applications as she lays out her theology, particularly the chapters on desire and singleness. I wish this book had been around 15 years ago! I would have framed some of my experiences- and lack thereof- in such a different light. The last few years my thinking has evolved toward much of what McCleneghan lays out but I couldn't have explained why. There is so much I want to say about how liberated and affirmed I feel after reading this. McCleneghan makes space for us to go beyond purity culture and examine how we truly respect and love our potential romantic partners before and/or after marriage. This isn't anything I've seen discussed before but it's the discussion I've longed for, especially in my "advanced" single state. I'm sure there are plenty who will question her approach but I for one find it to be a refreshing call for grace and freedom. It is a call to lay down any shame. It is a call for joy and self-acceptance. It is beautiful.
One Week To Score (Tall, Dark, And Texan #3)- Kate Meader
Kate Meader has quickly become one of my favorite romance authors this year. She has outdone herself with the conclusion to her Tall, Dark, And Texan trilogy. We got an inkling of Olivia and Flynn's potential in the previous book but since Olivia was engaged to be married, only a wedding day implosion could bring these two together at last. And by implosion, I mean explosion. Olivia dumps her cheating fiance and Flynn finagles his way onto her honeymoon-for-one and all kinds of sparks ensue. Meader deftly manages a bunch of tropes (best friend's sister, childhood friends turned lovers, etc.) by turning them into something delightful and new. My favorite part was the quick and witty banter. Olivia in particular can sure turn a phrase. These two are stubborn and hard-headed and neither of them want to give into their true feelings but the payoff was more than worth it.
The Light Of Paris- Eleanor Brown (July 12)
I adored Brown's The Weird Sisters and was curious to see what she'd come up with next. I'm delighted to say The Light Of Paris was worth the wait. The book alternates between Madeleine in 1999 and her grandmother Margie in the early 1920s. Madeleine's life has progressed according to her parents' expectations: she does not go to art school despite her wishes, she works at the "right" place and attends society functions, she marries a man who will be a good business connection for her father. She feels trapped and her frustration builds until she decides to take a break from it all by decamping to her mother's house. While there, she discovers her grandmother's journals and begins to piece together who she thought her grandmother was from the woman who takes advantage of a perfectly timed trip to Paris instead of marrying the vastly unappealing man her parents chose for her. The parallels are uncanny and yet Madeleine knows her grandmother did come back from Paris and started a family. Was there hope for Margie and could there be hope for her?
Through the course of the novel, we see Madeleine take steps both big and small toward reclaiming her life. It does not come easily for a people pleaser and I confess I was often frustrated by both her and Margie. Just go after what you want, ladies! But then again, I'm not a people pleaser and I'd never marry someone out of convention or desperation. Their lives are completely foreign to me but I could sympathize with how trapped they felt and, for Margie, how very few options she had at that time. Women do not always have an easy go of things, even if they are raised in the lap of luxury. The beauty of this novel was seeing just what it took for both women to embrace the fullness of who they were and then live into that freedom. Not all their decisions paid off but seeing them become active participants in their lives was incredibly inspiring. The writing itself was stunning- I wrote down a number of lines to tuck away for when I need them.
The Singles Game- Lauren Weisberger (July 12)
Light and fluffy, this was a fun introduction to the world of tennis pros. The main character's actions didn't always make sense to me (how dense can one person be?) but it helped to think of her as emotionally stunted because of the way her whole life, since childhood. has revolved around playing tennis professionally. With that vantage point, of course she's not going to be able to properly discern people's true motives or understand when people are hiding something from her. At least not until much later than most people. Once I framed her in that light, I was able to enjoy the ride. The tennis setting was unique and interesting and I'm glad Weisberger chose to center her story around it.
Fearless (Rescue Squad #2)- Kimberly Kincaid (July 26)
I thoroughly enjoyed the first book in this series and Fearless was no exception. It was fascinating to see what a new female firefighter's experience would be like in the predominantly male environment and how the crew responded to Savannah. Cole needs Savannah to succeed as a rookie so he can be promoted to the squad but he's well aware of the potential obstacles. Although neither of them are prepared for romance. Add a potential in-house arsonist into the mix who happens to be sexist and therefore opposed to Savannah and an interesting plot is born. Kincaid keeps the story moving along and allows her characters to take valid risks and make realistic mistakes and I was never quite sure how it would ultimately play out. Savannah and Cole have a lot to learn from each other and it was heartwarming to see this happen. Looking forward to book 3!
To Have And To Hold (The Wedding Belles #1)- Lauren Layne (July 26)
This romance series is off to a promising start! Brooke is ready for a fresh start in NYC after losing her fiancé and her wedding planning business right as she arrived at the altar and witnessed the cops arresting her con man husband-to-be. NYC is a big change from LA but she's more than up to the task. She hits the ground running with her first client at The Wedding Belles, Maya whose brother Seth accompanies her to the first appointment. Seth doesn't trust Maya's fiancé and since their parents are no longer around, it's up to him to look out for her. He'll do what it takes for the truth to come out.
Brooke and Seth have amazing chemistry, even if- or maybe because- their goals are at odds. I did find it odd Brooke wasn't immediately on Seth's side, since she almost married a con man herself. Wouldn't she want to make sure her client didn't marry a con man herself? But upon reflection, it made some sense as Brooke hasn't dealt with any of her feelings about the debacle, preferring instead not to think about it and take a more Pollyanna approach. Layne did a great job pitting these two characters against each other and then wearing down their defenses as their true feelings emerged. Seth and Brooke both grow in their understanding of themselves and each other in such natural ways. And then they do get together- whew! *fans self* I also loved the side plot with Maya and a certain someone- it was lovely to see Maya weigh the risks and rewards of relationship and then make a decision. All in all, a delightful read. I'm looking forward to book 2 (out August 30!), especially because of what we learn about Heather in this first installment.
Disclosure: Affiliate links contained in this post. I received an ARC of Ink and Bone, The Light Of Paris, Fearless, and To Have And To Hold from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. I received an ARC of Good Christian Sex from HarperOne in exchange for an honest review. I won a copy of One Week To Score from the author's giveaway.