One Small Donkey (Thomas Nelson, 2016)

A New Christmas Story for Little Ones {book review}

One Small Donkey (Thomas Nelson, 2016)

About the book (from the publisher):

One Small Donkey by Dandi Daley Mackall, illustrated by Marta Alvarez Miguens (Thomas Nelson, 2016)

Little ones can do big things for God!

Your family will love this heartwarming Christmas story told from an unlikely perspective: a donkey carrying Mary to Bethlehem. Though the donkey wasn’t the biggest, fastest, or strongest of all the animals, he had an important job all the same. Adults and children alike will love the message about how God has big plans for little ones.

My Kids’ Thoughts:

My son says: “I like it! I like at the end that there are children in the illustration with the animal and donkey and baby Jesus. I also liked the sound words like clip, clip, clop and knock, knock, knocks.”

My daughter says: “I like that it’s a Christmas story. I like that the donkey’s halter is red. I like that the donkey’s master is Joseph. Even though the donkey wasn’t as big or as fast as the other horses, he still had an important job to carry Mary. I like that other animals come along on the journey and then all together at the end and Mary gets to have a baby with Joseph and hold him.”

My Thoughts:

This story offers a sweet fictional look at Mary and Joseph’s journey to Bethlehem and Jesus’s birth. We first meet the small donkey without Joseph and Mary, and we’re introduced to donkey wanting to be like the big, fast, sleek horses instead of his own donkey self. We don’t actually see anyone excluding the donkey in these pages before Joseph calls for him, but this idea of poor self-esteem can be relatable.

I stumbled reading parts of this out loud at times. I feel like some of rhythm in these rhyming lines didn’t flow as well as others I’ve read from this author. I almost wondered if this particular story needed to be told in rhyme. Some of its lovely phrases would have remained lovely in the prose form, too.

That said, it’s an enjoyable read aloud and captures another perspective of the Christmas journey. Plus it offers an age-appropriate focus on how everyone — no matter how fast, slow, big, or small — has an important job and a way to help. (The author’s note gives an inside look to the inspiration for the story, too.) The illustrations are sweet, colorful (though maybe their skin was a little too whitened for what’s probably historically accurate?), and show a blend of textures that are pleasing to look at while reading. My kids (as noted above in their review) were drawn to many aspects of the illustrations.

We own the author’s Listen to the Silent Night (another fictional retelling of the birth story) and absolutely love it. The rhyme and rhythm there are smooth and so beautiful. One Small Donkey is a sweet story, but if you can choose only one, we highly recommend Listen to the Silent Night.

What is one of your family’s favorite Christmas picture books?

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

I am an affiliate for Amazon Associates. If you click on an Amazon 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.

The Long Journey to Jake Palmer by James L. Rubart (Thomas Nelson, 2016)

Book Review – The Long Journey to Jake Palmer by James L. Rubart

The Long Journey to Jake Palmer by James L. Rubart (Thomas Nelson, 2016)

About this book (from the publisher):

The Long Journey to Jake Palmer by James L. Rubart (Thomas Nelson, 2016)

What if there was a place where everything wrong in your life could be fixed?

Corporate trainer Jake Palmer coaches people to see deeper into themselves—yet he barely knows himself anymore. Recently divorced and weary of the business life, Jake reluctantly agrees to a lake-house vacation with friends, hoping to escape for ten days.

When he arrives, Jake hears the legend of Willow Lake—about a lost corridor that leads to a place where one’s deepest longings will be fulfilled.

Jake scoffs at the idea, but can’t shake a sliver of hope that the corridor is real. And when he meets a man who mutters cryptic speculations about the corridor, Jake is determined to find the path, find himself, and fix his crumbling life.

But the journey will become more treacherous with each step Jake takes.

My thoughts:

I enjoy magical realism and love that this author incorporates pieces of magical realism into several of his novels. This novel also deals with deep themes of healing, trust, perseverance, and choosing the truth even if it’s different from what we want.

The main character endures relatable struggles with universal themes of never feeling like he’s enough and trying to fix things rather than lean into God for healing (such a good theme to include!). But I did find myself detached from almost all of the characters throughout most of the book. Most of the side characters seemed a bit too banter-y, though I did like small glimpses of Andrew and Susie and Ari. While I wanted healing for Jake, I never felt truly attached to him as a character. I also felt the motivational speaker scenes didn’t feel as realistic as the scenes in the corridor or even with Leonard. We learn a lot of deeper issues and situations about many characters late in the book; perhaps more glimpses of these characteristics earlier in the book would’ve increased my attachment.

A totally subjective issue: I find that I’m a bit thrown off when an author writes in incomplete sentences often throughout a book. Once in a while or with good reason makes sense. But when a sentence can easily be started with “He” instead of “Was,” I find that it makes me pause my reading. I understand that it can be a voice choice, but my brain wants to read a complete sentence, so when a novel uses incomplete sentences too frequently (particularly the kind that just drops off the subject word), I find myself pulled out of the story.

Some readers will love this style of narrative as well as the lake setting, and the themes are worth reflection.

I also read and reviewed James L. Rubart’s book The Five Times I Met Myself last year. Read that review here.

What are your favorite books with journeys of healing?

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

I am an affiliate for Amazon Associates. If you click on an Amazon 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.

A Tapestry of Secrets by Sarah Loudin Thomas (Bethany House, 2016)

Book Review – A Tapestry of Secrets by Sarah Loudin Thomas

A Tapestry of Secrets by Sarah Loudin Thomas (Bethany House, 2016)

About the book (from the publisher):

A Tapestry of Secrets by Sarah Loudin Thomas (Bethany House, 2016)

Third book in the Appalachian Blessings series.

Now in her eighties, Perla Phillips has carried a secret since she was eighteen years old. When she sees her granddaughter, Ella, struggling for perfection, she decides to share her secret to show that God can use even the biggest mistakes for good. But before she can reveal what happened during that summer sixty years ago, she has a debilitating stroke.

Carrying a secret of her own, Ella arrives back in Wise, West Virgina, to help her aunt Sadie care for Perla. Both know the woman wanted to tell them something, but she’s now locked in silence. Together they begin looking into the past, but they may learn more than they expected.

Will they have the courage to share their hearts? Or will the truth remain buried forever?

My thoughts:

I’ve read each book in this series. You can read my review of Book 2 here and see my rating for Book 1 here.

As with the other books in this series, I had a hard time relating overall to the main characters. Perla (who shows up in each of the books and is a main character in book 1) is possibly the most relatable, perhaps because she has spunk, individuality, and we immediately know (from Book 1 and on) that she isn’t perfect. Seth is also likable and I found myself rooting for him, and, oddly enough, Keith Randolph is fairly likable from the start other than how Ella views him. He is presented immediately with depth and relatable faults, which Ella blinds herself from seeing because of her preconceived judgments. This ‘judge not’ also ends up being one of the most realistic themes since we all do this and can all grow from it and others’ examples of it. But Ella, Sadie, and nearly all of the other side characters were hard to like and sometimes outright confusing and harmful in their choices (like Margaret!).

I generally love stories with Appalachian settings, but I felt like I was missing out on the setting with each of these books, including book 3 here. I wanted more of the setting and definitely a more active setting since mountain life adjusts and depends so much on its surroundings. I wanted to feel, see, and hear the setting more.

This book focuses more on one small sect of culture within mountain life, particularly a limiting one that didn’t want to change (especially from Ella’s viewpoint). Lack of communication between characters drives most of the conflicts. Ella was often referred to as having a gift of understanding others, but we only see that with her grandmother (which is a lovely relationship), but see rather poor communication and understanding with all others. We all have our moments of pettiness and immaturity, but Ella’s seemed too frequent, especially for 29 years old. There’s way too much focus on “finding a man” as a signal of ‘completion’ and fullness rather than seeking God, and many side characters seem to support Ella’s love triangle, which felt odd. If this was historical fiction, it might fit as ‘old fashioned,’ but it’s basically contemporary (set in 2008, except for the few flashbacks to 1948). I was also shocked at one comment that written off as a character not knowing “political correctness” but, in being presented as it does, perpetuates harmful false stereotyping of native cultures.

Along with aforementioned theme of not judging first, Perla’s strokes and subsequent recovery efforts provided relatable conflict. Perla struggles to heal and wavers in keeping her motivation up later in the story, and, from my experience with folks who have suffered strokes, I feel like this was presented fairly realistically and with hope, too.

What are some books you’ve read recently with active setting you can see, hear, and feel?

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

I am an affiliate for Amazon Associates. If you click on an Amazon 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.

Prayers for a Hurting World at Do Not Depart

Praying about a Hurting World and Modern Day Slavery

This month at Do Not Depart, we’re looking at ways we can pray for various hurts our world is enduring right now.

I’m at Do Not Depart today raising awareness about modern day slavery, three big ways we can pray, and lots of links to ideas on how we can act today and organizations doing big work to eradicate modern day slavery.

Please join me at Do Not Depart, share your ideas, and join us in praying today.

Prayers for a Hurting World at Do Not Depart

Fetching Sweetness by Dana Mentink (Harvest House, 2016)

Book Review – Fetching Sweetness by Dana Mentink

Fetching Sweetness by Dana Mentink (Harvest House, 2016)

About the book (from the publisher):

Fetching Sweetness by Dana Mentink (Harvest House, 2016)

Standing between Stephanie and her dream is one hundred pounds of lovable trouble.

It should have been so simple for Stephanie Pink: Meet up with Agnes Wharton in a small town in California, retrieve the reclusive author’s valuable new manuscript, and be promoted to a full-fledged literary agent.

But Agnes’s canine companion, Sweetness, decides to make a break for it before Stephanie can claim her prize. Until Agnes has Sweetness safely back at home in Eagle Cliff, Washington, Stephanie will never set eyes on the manuscript she needs to make her dreams come true.

When Stephanie tracks the runaway mutt to a campground, she meets Rhett Hastings—a man also on the run from a different life and a costly mistake. Rhett agrees to help Stephanie search for the missing dog . . . thus launching a surprising string of adventures and misadventures.

Once Sweetness gets added to the mix, it’s a recipe for love and loss, merriment and mayhem, fun and faith in the backwoods of the Pacific Northwest.

My thoughts:

I read and reviewed the first in the author’s Love Unleashed series, Sit, Stay, Love, and loved the book’s well-written, realistic characters and fun action, and I’m glad to say Fetching Sweetness continues that trend.

In Fetching Sweetness, the author begins with ample action and pumps up the conflict right away. Unlike the first book in the series, it took me a little bit longer to relate to Stephanie, one of the main characters. She’s a bit unlikable at first, but we need to see this ‘beginning’ point in her to witness the change that occurs as the journey progresses.

As with the first book, the dialogue in this book is overall very realistic, fun, quick-paced, and interesting. All of the characters (even side characters) have faults (helping them be realistic and relatable, too), and this book focuses a lot on doubts, past hurts, not knowing the future, and trying to trust and grow. Genuine, non-hokey faith conversations are so hard to write in fiction, and this author does a fairly decent job of these conversations throughout, though there were a few spots that seemed a touch unrealistic coming from the characters as they were presented.

This author incorporates other unique analogies throughout that add to the quality of writing, and as a writer, I enjoyed several of the writing and reading analogies used. The dogs involved become some of the most dynamic side characters and increase the reading enjoyment. The ending wraps up a bit too quickly and almost-perfectly, but it’s still a sweet, enjoyable ending to another fun fiction read.

“That’s why people love novels. Fiction tosses up the truth about life that we’re too blind or preoccupied to see.” – p. 178, Fetching Sweetness

To read more about the book, the author, and check out other reviews, check out the Litfuse page here.

You can also enter Fetching Sweetness prize pack at the Litfuse site between now and August 24th for a chance to win a copy of this book and other fun prizes!

Fetching Sweetness Dana Mentink

Since this is a theme of this book, How have you learned about God through failure? Share in the comments below.

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

I am an affiliate for Amazon Associates. If you click on an Amazon 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.