Our Last Christmas Together by Matt Mikalatos

Book reviews are subjective. I tend to rate books not according to how “perfect” they are, seem to be, or are said to be in general but rather to how perfect they are to me.

Our Last Christmas Together: A Sunlit Lands Christmas Tale by Matt Mikalatos

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

(Click the title to find the book description/blurb.)

There’s war in the Sunlit Lands, but once a year, the young people there set aside time to celebrate Christmas, as they do in Our Last Christmas Together by author Matt Mikalatos.

Admittedly, I didn’t finish the first novel in the Sunlit Lands fantasy series, The Crescent Stone, but that takes nothing away from the characters. A multicultural cast of ’em, by the way.

Especially the hilarious and caring (in a guy-like, “no biggie but ride or die” kind of way) Wu Song, a.k.a. Jason Wu. My concerns about that teenaged boy’s hygiene aside, yes indeed, I’m a big Wu Song fan. He’s again in fine form in this Christmas tale about Christmas tales.

As much as I enjoyed revisiting the characters though, there’s still a lot to appreciate about this story of stories even if it’s your first time to the Sunlit Lands. So much about comradeship, family, life, and love comes together in these relatively few pages. It’s truly amazing.

I was laughing toward the beginning and the middle, having no idea I’d be crying after while.

Gee. I may have to go back and try The Crescent Stone again…

_____________

The Sunlit Lands Series

 

Ruth: A Refugee Story

Book reviews are subjective. I tend to rate books not according to how “perfect” they are, seem to be, or are said to be in general but rather to how perfect they are to me.

Ruth: A Refugee Story

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

(Click the title to find the book description/blurb.)

“I know how you left behind your mother and father, your relatives and your homeland, and came here to live among strangers… You have come to Yahweh, the God of Israel, seeking refuge.” (GSV)

I often hear people (especially women) refer to the biblical book of Ruth as a love story. That makes sense, not only in regard to Ruth’s relationship and marriage to Boaz but also in light of Ruth’s devotion to her mother-in-law, Naomi.

However, Ruth the Moabite wasn’t only a daughter-in-law and a widow seeking a new husband. The thought of her as a foreigner in Bethlehem, in need of refuge, was what drew me to read Ruth: A Refugee Story, the book of Ruth as retold by Matt Mikalatos.

I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve read this book in different versions of the Bible. While reading the Good Story Version this time around, I did a little extra pondering on Ruth as an immigrant. And as it was when I read Jonah: A Comedy, another GSV retelling, I found the storyteller’s notes at the end to be of particular interest.

Worth checking out for readers and studiers of biblical themes—the story and its corresponding notes in the back.

No one wants to be a refugee.
Leaving your home because of famine, or violence, or war, is a painful decision.

 

Jonah: A Comedy

Book reviews are subjective. I tend to rate books not according to how “perfect” they are, seem to be, or are said to be in general but rather to how perfect they are to me.

Jonah: A Comedy

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

(Click the title to find the book description/blurb.)

Countless people are familiar with the biblical account of Jonah, the prophet who ran from his sacred duty and got himself swallowed by a big fish for his trouble. While I’ve always found enough in the story to take seriously, I’ve seen enough in there to shake my head at, too. But this may be the first time I genuinely chortled at it, reading Jonah: A Comedy, retold by Matt Mikalatos.

The Bible isn’t immune to the way that various ideas get lost in translation when writings in one language are written into another. So it was cool to read someone’s take on the book of Jonah in a version that brings out the humor that tends not to fully translate all the time.

That is, I’m not sure I would necessarily call this a translation, as I think there’s a difference between a translation and a paraphrase. Still, the storyteller’s notes on the matter are as interesting as the story itself.

For me, the experience was like a cross between reading the biblical book, reading an ancient tale in my World Lit class back in college, and reading a historical short story written in contemporary times. If you’ve got a few minutes and an interest in biblical themes, check this little book out—and don’t skip the notes in the back!

Oh, and, yeah. Don’t be like Jonah, either. In general.

 

The Crescent Stone by Matt Mikalatos

Book reviews are subjective. I tend to rate books not according to how “perfect” they are, seem to be, or are said to be in general but rather to how perfect they are to me. Tyndale House provided me with a complimentary copy of this book for an honest review.

The Crescent Stone by Matt Mikalatos

(Click the title to find the book description/blurb.)

…for the first time in many months she felt a flutter of hope. Every book she had read in her entire childhood, every book she still cherished, had prepared her to believe in a moment like this.

Madeline Oliver, a lover of fantastical stories, is dying from a lung disease. Jason Wu (Wu Song, really) is a jokester coping with a tragic past. And both of these teens will be off to a virtual war zone in the Sunlit Lands in The Crescent Stone by author Matt Mikalatos.

Since reading all of C.S. Lewis’s Narnia books as an adult and remembering how much I enjoyed fantasy books as a child, I’ve been incorporating a little more of the genre in my reading the past few years.

I was drawn by this YA novel’s cover and the basis of the story. It took me about two seconds to become a Wu Song fan, though I worry about that boy’s hygiene. Tsk, tsk, tsk. And I can appreciate a contemporary tale with a multicultural cast of main characters. (In the case of a fantasy novel with a different world involved, I should probably specify: a multicultural cast of human characters.)

Even so, my interest in the story steadily waned as I went along. More than 100 pages in, I just wasn’t connecting with it, and given the density of the read, I’d have a lot more to wade through. So I decided not to continue.

Still, it’s not my first time reading this author, and I may try something else from him in the future.