Dance in the Meadow by Cathay O. Reta

Dance in the Meadow by Cathay O. Reta
Publisher: Keep Walking Publications
Genre: Contemporary, Inspirational, Non-Fiction
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Xeranthemum

What do you do when you become widowed, leave your church family of 45 years, retire from your job and move halfway across the country? You get real with yourself. Emerging from a season of loss and the unraveling of every belief and certainty she had so carefully cultivated, Cathay began to sit in conversation with God. With God, not to God. Listening to the still, small voice of her spirit, their conversations went deep and released a well-spring of life and wisdom. These musings will leave you feeling inspired to reflect on your own life and to find answers to questions you didn’t know to ask. They will leave you knowing that you are not alone.

This book took me a while to review because I kept making notes, re-reading certain passages or chapters and brought the book with me on trips. For people who are aghast at readers who mark pages in books, they’d explode because I have chapters, pages and sentences underlined (in pencil) and I have post-it notes sticking out all over the place and weird items being used as bookmarks. I found many references I could relate to in my own life. I found inspiration and experienced more Aha! moments than I expected while reading Cathay O. Reta’s journey with God as she navigated the dark times that followed upon becoming a widow. For the first time, she was defined not by the person she married or the job she had and what she did during it, but as her own person. Thing is, after identifying herself as part of everything outside herself, how does she see herself when all she has is … herself? All good questions.

There are many chapters and sections in the book so at first it might look overwhelming. The chapters are short, like baby-steps on a journey. Each one tackled a perception of self that needed to be torn down and re-written with the focus on how God sees and loves us. There is strength to be gained when we get out of our own way and let the good Lord lead us where we are meant to go. Dance in the Meadow is a year’s journey in the life of the author; what she learned, the internal conversations she had during meditation that led her to self-awareness, and their results. It may sound a bit woo-woo-ish, but meditation is practiced all over the world as part of many religious rituals and practices. The concentration needed to accomplish deep meditation is hard. Our world is inundated with distractions, noise and problems, and they affect the mind to the point it’s as busy as the world. At times, it is almost impossible to shut out. The author found a way to escape from the chaos, but it was not an overnight thing. Again, baby steps.

Elvis Presley was a distraction at one point (I do that kind of thing), the realization that rain isn’t an enemy, it’s adulting that makes it so, and the idea that certain foods weigh you down in unexpected ways (Chapter 25), was eye-opening. In Chapter 27 I learned that clutter isn’t restricted solely to our homes, but our souls and hearts, and is just as distracting and burdensome. What was interesting to me was the explanation of how love works. Not the love we read in romance books, but a healthy, non-commercial, spiritual, and profound love that is hard to put into practice. We’re actually out of touch with its true application in our lives. The author discovers that and more on her relationship journey with God. I even found it fascinating that we really do jump to negative interpretations. When we hear our boss say, I’m going to give you a challenging project, or if you are told, ‘here’s something to challenge you’, our response is most often negative, and we jump into self-protection mode. Yeah, I relate to that. But there’s another way to look at it, and Chapter 31 offers up that way. All I know is, that chapter is me.

There were a few observations and sections I didn’t agree with, some parts I gave the side-eye to, but overall, this book really does deliver an insightful, positive, and uplifting look at healing after the upheaval of becoming a widow after decades of being married and being part of a couple. Healing is not easy or quick, but with the right focus, it can happen.

Dance in the Meadow was a book I savored slowly. It’s going on my keeper shelf, mostly because of all the markings and notes I made, making it a book I’ll revisit for reference and to be reminded of what is and should be important in my life. To remember that I’m loved, not because of anything I’ve done or will do, but just because God loves me, unconditionally, unceasingly, and unswervingly. People can’t help but put conditions on it, whether they realize it or not. This book helped me to remember how it’s supposed to be. I’m glad I read it.

Soul Ryder by Nita Lapinski

Soul Ryder by Nita Lapinski
Publisher: Self-Published
Genre: Paranormal, Contemporary, Inspirational Fiction
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Lavender

“Am I dead?” the young girl, Leah asks. Addie, a Clairvoyant Medium struggling with her own horrific loss, is compassionately hesitant to reveal the truth.

Join Addie and her insightful dog, Roka as they work to untangle the unimaginable tragedy that has left Leah bewildered and confused. They must race against time and Addie’s own unforeseen challenges to guide Leah to a very important crossroad.

This book is an interesting look into the life of a clairvoyant medium. Addie gets visions of dead people, all the while dealing with her own pain, the loss of a child. Leah visits Addie often, trying to give her a message.

Addie experiences people on the other side of the veil, and it affects her deeply. She must figure out how to help Leah, but it is taking her toll on her.

Soul Ryder is a short and easy-to-read story. This paranormal tale unfolds quickly and tugs at the emotions. Hopefully the author will write more stories, giving readers an inside view into her protagonist’s gift and how she helps others.

As a Little Child by Catalina Siri

As a Little Child (Come Into the Agape Boat) by Catalina Siri
Publisher: Tellwell Talent
Genre: Children’s, Inspirational
Review by Rose

I was inspired by Jesus to write this book. In combining nature and the sacred word of the Bible, my intention is to take the reader into a place of contemplation of the wonderful things God has created for the care, nourishment, and enjoyment of His creation, especially humanity. This book’s central theme is the character of love of our heavenly Father and His Son Jesus Christ. Furthermore, this book is an introduction to young children to the knowledge of the God of the Bible, who is unknown to most of the Christian circle and the world at large. God is the source of Agape and He is inviting all to receive Agape from Him through His Son Jesus.

I loved the illustrations in this book, and I feel just those would be an excellent way for parents to use this book in expressing the message…that God loves all children. It expresses agape (pure love) as a river that all people can access.

I found the wording itself to be a little on the old side for the target audience of small kids, but it would be a good start for parents to put the message in their own words. The author also includes Bible verses that back up the text and the message of the story, as well as a glossary in the back to also help parents explain the story to their kids.

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The Scarred Santa by Lee Ann Sontheimer Murphy

The Scarred Santa by Lee Ann Sontheimer Murphy
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Genre: Romance, Inspirational, Holiday, Contemporary
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Once handsome Rafe Sullivan is left scarred, injured, and with PTSD from his Marine Corps service in Afghanistan, returning to civilian life is far from smooth, and the burn scars on his right side are extensive. Although he lives close to family, he lives a solitary life and changes jobs more often than most people change their socks. A temporary job as Santa at the mall is presented, but Rafe first rebels, then relents. His Santa gig affects his PTSD. Then he meets Sheena Dunmore. When she doesn’t run from his scars or issues, she intrigues him. An unmasking by some rowdy children is a test of his stamina and spirit. His greatest fear is fire. Will Rafe conquer the fear so he can move forward into the new life he desires?

Kindness is for everyone.

Some of the most interesting scenes were the ones that showed how difficult the Christmas season can be for certain people. There are many reasons why someone might avoid crowds, be wary of celebrations, or not want to spend time with anyone. It made me happy to see how often the people around Rafe understood his limitations and encouraged him to do whatever he was able to do without pressuring him to do things that were too painful for him physically or emotionally. Their empathy for him was lovely and really embodied what Christmas should be all about.

There were a few plot holes in this novella that were never explained. For example, Rafe explored the idea of becoming a police officer but never fully answered the question of whether or not his PTSD and permanent leg injury would prevent him from pursuing that line of work. There was also a scene at the end involving another character being in terrible danger. It appeared to me that this person could have walked or crawled away from the threat, so I was confused by the fact that they stayed put. I wish these things had been explained better!

With that being said, I did appreciate the author’s realistic descriptions of what daily life as a civilian would be like for someone with Rafe’s extensive injuries. He struggled to do things as ordinary as go to the mall or have dinner at the homes of his relatives due to his many triggers and deep shame about his scars and missing ear. I never stopped rooting for him and hoping that he’d find a way to heal. If the author ever decides to write a sequel, I’d like to know what this character’s life was like five or ten years after the events of this tale.

The Scarred Santa was a heartwarming read.

Will on the Inside by Andrew Eliopulos

Will on the Inside by Andrew Eliopulos
Publisher: Quill Tree Books
Genre: Middle Grade (8 – 12 y.o.), Inspirational, LGBTQ, Contemporary
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

After dedicated soccer player Will is sidelined from the season—and his friend group—due to complications from his newly diagnosed Crohn’s disease, he finds himself figuring out who he really is on the inside in this heartfelt and thoughtful middle grade novel that’s perfect for readers who love books by Maulik Pancholy and Christine Day.

Will loves playing center midfield on his middle school soccer team. This year, though, Will hasn’t felt like himself; his stomach has been bothering him, and he has no energy at all. When his new doctor diagnoses him with Crohn’s disease, Will hopes that means he’ll start feeling better soon and he can get back to playing with his team before the season ends.

But Will’s new medicines come with all kinds of side effects, Forced to sit out afternoon practice, Will finds himself hanging out with a kid at school, Griffin. This could be a real problem, seeing as Griffin just asked Will’s best friend to the spring dance. As in, guy friend. What would Will’s teammates say if they knew the whole story? Not to mention Will’s friends at church.

With all these changes happening faster than he can process them, Will knows that he has a lot to figure out about who he really is on the inside.

Andrew Eliopulos’s novel is a memorable, affecting story that will have wide appeal.

Growing up isn’t always easy.

What an achingly realistic depiction of middle school angst! Some of the most memorable scenes were the ones that explored how quickly things can change for kids that age. Will’s friendship group was evolving just as rapidly as his relationships with his parents and older sister were. No sooner did he think he had everything figured out than another growing pain would appear as he or someone around him tested the boundaries of what people their age should say or do. It was so interesting to see how Will showed glimpses of his younger, more playful self in some scenes and bursts of maturity in others. The author captured the preteen years wonderfully there.

I would have loved to see more attention paid to the dietary aspect of Crohn’s disease. When I was Will’s age, I was diagnosed with a different illness that includes food restrictions and know how difficult it can be for a kid to suddenly not be able to eat all sorts of dishes their friends and family members can still enjoy. Food plays such a major role in socialization and bonding that it can be painfully isolating to be left out of those rituals, especially if it’s due to something completely out of your control. Had Will’s food restrictions and his thoughts about what he could and couldn’t eat been given more attention, I would have chosen a full five-star rating.

This was one of the first, if not the very first, books I’ve ever read that include both inspirational and LGBTQ+ themes. While the main storyline was focused on Will’s difficult adjustment to his diagnosis and his struggles as a young athlete with a life-threatening illness, I enjoyed seeing how his faith and his questions about his sexual orientation shaped his life as well. People’s identities can be complex sometimes, and it was refreshing to see how much nuance was included every time these topics came up. There was no preachiness to be found anywhere, only honest questions about Will’s relationships with God and the people around him.

Will on the Inside was a hopeful, encouraging, and dare I say inspiring read.

The Little Things by M. Jean Pike

The Little Things by M. Jean Pike
Publisher: White Rose Publishing, Pelican Book Group
Genre: Contemporary, Romance, Inspirational
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Chamomile

A decade ago, Rochelle Delany made a decision that changed her life forever.
Wanting more than just football games and potluck suppers, she boarded a bus for California and didn’t look back. But instead of a glamorous life, she became trapped in a nightmare of labor trafficking. Now, she’s made a daring escape and returns home to Ohio.

Sandy Fairbrother has a problem with trust.
Twice betrayed, he now puts his faith only in God. He’ s a single dad doing his best to grow his construction business and raise his young son. But haunted by an impulsive kiss Rochelle gave him fifteen years ago, her unexpected return has him rethinking things. He’ s been given a second chance to win her heart. And this time, he plans to succeed.

Rochelle barely remembers Sandy, but she’s drawn to his goodness. But just when she thinks she’s found peace, her past catches up with her, and she finds herself in danger of losing the only safe haven she’ s ever known.

Returning home to a small down in Ohio isn’t Rochelle’s first choice, and things quickly take a surprise turn!

I loved reading Ro and Sandy’s story! They live in a small town, giving the story that fun small-town charm, while keeping me glued to the pages with plenty of surprises! Sandy is a great character, and a wonderful father. I adored seeing him with Jace his young son, and seeing Jace with Gus! Gus is a bulldog and the bond Jace shares with him in this story is precious!

While this is a fun small town read, it does deal with the tough topics, include labor trafficking and broken families. I enjoyed seeing how the author wove these difficult yet daily issues into the story. It worked well in this one, and as Ro’s story unfolds I found myself drawn into the story more with each new twist! Author M. Jean Pike does a good job of talking about difficult issues with finesse and tact, keeping it subtle and with minimal detail will still alerting readers to the situation. I appreciated her efforts to both bring awareness to these issues while still providing readers with a clean and delightful read!

The romance was also wholesome and heartwarming in this one! It isn’t easy for either of them to trust after the bad hand life has dealt them, so seeing Sandy and Rochelle both overcome there past mistakes and betrayals, learning to work together. Their relationship is sort of a second chance romance, paired with the ‘girl-who-got-away’, so I enjoyed seeing them reunite early on the the story, and loved getting Sandy’s side of things, and especially loved seeing how he regarded his feelings for Jace when considering pursuing a relationship, wanting to be sure Jace has a good life as well. The blooming relationship in the story is a sweet one, and I enjoyed getting to meet these characters!

Chubbs: A Blind Cat Learns to Trust by Sandra Sorenson-Kindt

Chubbs: A Blind Cat Learns to Trust by Sandra Sorenson-Kindt
Publisher: Lean In Books
Genre: Contemporary, Childrens (8+ yrs), Inspirational
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

A mangy alley cat isn’t at the top of anybody’s adoption list.

Nevertheless, when Grandma Sandy scoops it up into her arms, her heart nudges her to take it home, and she listens. Grandma always trusts her feelings.

Lots of tender care soon transforms the mangy cat into beautiful, round Chubbs. But when she loses her sight, will she listen to her feelings like Grandma and learn to trust the one who loves her most?

Chubbs: A Blind Cat Learns to Trust is a faith-based, inspirational story about a cat who learns to trust her rescuer. The relationship between Chubbs and Grandma Sandy is a comparison to the relationship we can have with God.

Literally blind, Chubbs must learn how to navigate her world just like how we must learn to depend on God’s Spirit to help us navigate our lives.

Chubbs, the cat who gets a second chance…again.

I picked this book up because the main character was a cat called…Chubbs. I mean, how could I pass that up? I couldn’t. I’m glad I didn’t. This was a cute story with a faith-based slant. It’s a good story.

I did have some issues with the situation with Grandma’s first cat. It seemed like she could’ve looked a bit more for the cat and that rubbed me the wrong way that she didn’t. Yes, cats run away, but you never stop looking and it felt like she did. It could be me and the time in which I read the book, but that rankled me.

I did like that Grandma adopted (Not shopped!) Chubbs from the animal shelter. That was great. I also liked how the relationship between the woman and the cat resembled the faith relationship between followers and God. Sometimes you need a helping hand. It’s a good lesson for readers.

This was a cute story and I’m glad I read it. I couldn’t pass up Chubbs—in the book and probably not at the shelter, either.

Better Together: Life Is Best with a Friend Like You featuring Warren Photographic

Better Together: Life Is Best with a Friend Like You featuring Warren Photographic
Publisher: Zondervan
Genre: Inspirational, Non-Fiction, Contemporary, Photographic
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

Do you need an inspirational coffee table book that everyone will enjoy? Better Together combines adorable photos of unlikely animal pairs alongside poignant quotes about friends of all stripes on subjects such as love, respect, and compassion. This book is great for children and adults.

Quotes from George Washington to Bono focus on friendship, unity, strength, and harmony between people with diverse viewpoints, lifestyles, or beliefs. Inspiring quotes include:

“Do I not destroy my enemies when I make them my friends?” – Abraham Lincoln
“Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: ‘What! You too? I thought I was the only one.'” – C. S. Lewis
“I would rather walk with a friend in the dark than walk alone in the light.” – Helen Keller
Better Together is full of reminders of the very best things about friendship and is the perfect way to tell someone you love: “Life is best with a friend like you.” This coffee table book is perfect for:

Anyone who loves animals
Birthdays, just because gift purchases for him or her, and as a housewarming gift
All ages, 0-100

Cute, comforting and quirky.

I wanted a book that would serve well as a graduation present and picked up this book. For those who like animals, especially baby animals, it’s adorable. The quotes are wonderful and inspirational. The variety is great, too. It’s just an all-around nice book.

The photographs are wonderful, illustrating the quotes well. I zipped right through this book and recommend it for anyone who wants to give an animal lover a nice gift or for someone who needs a little inspiration.

Pick up a copy today.

The Mouse in The Tabernacle by Myrtle Brooks

The Mouse in The Tabernacle by Myrtle Brooks (Author), Sidra Mehmood (Illustrator)
Publisher: Self-Published
Genre: Children’s, Inspirational
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Lavender

A timeless, inspirational tale of faith, determination, and listening to the heart.

Kettie is just a mouse. And small, even for a mouse. But her faithful, obedient heart and fearless spirit have caught the attention of her Creator.

Traveling as a stowaway in a donkey cart with Shem, a Levite traveling to Shiloh to serve at the tabernacle, she tells a fellow mouse: “I don’t know why I’m going.”

“Maybe,” he answers, “it’s because you’re supposed to go there first before you understand why.”

Once there, she discovers that the tiniest pinpoint of light can tend a fire. For, as one priest observes, “It is our thinking that needs to grow bigger. The rest of the mystery will unfold as the days come.”

Come, make the journey with her.

This story has adorable vividly colored illustrations. It takes readers back on an adventure to the ancient world. We are immersed there with well-written mundane details of everyday life.

There is a sense of suspense, as the cute mouse character, Kettie, does not know what lays ahead for this adventure to a new place. Complex concepts are brought down to a level children could understand through the technique of the little mouse asking her parents questions.

Little Kettie forges ahead with faith giving her courage. She meets human characters, and interesting concepts come up. This is not a book for beginners learning things but rather comes across as an entertaining and thoughtful read for families of faith.

Things take a dangerous turn for Kettie, and humans will learn a thing or two. The themes of patience and faith underline this cute story. This is a good story for families of faith.

The Artist’s Page by Debra Rufini

The Artist’s Page by Debra Rufini
Publisher: Paragon Publishing
Genre: Inspirational, Children’s (0 – 6 y.o.)
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Chamomile

What would your response be to a group of small people, overlooking you,

to look at the masterpiece you’d lovingly made for them?

How would you feel by their admiration of your magnificent creation,

as they ignore your wonderfully creative hands?

Would you feel sad? Frustrated? Angry?

Imagine your relief when they leave your invisible side.

Picture your joy and gratitude with their replacement –

and appreciative group marvelling at your masterpiece,

undoubtedly produced by your love.

Would you feel glad,

grateful, relieved, believed,

like the Artist in this story felt?

The Artist’s Page by Debra Rufini is a wonderful children’s picture book that can be enjoyed with readers both young and old! Beautifully illustrated by Dina Kalo, this story tells of God’s love and His incredible gift. Rufini takes readers on a journey of looking at how different people might see of respond to this magnificent gift, and how sometimes they also choose to reject it.

This story is suitable, but the focus of the story might be slightly lost on younger children, and will have more meaning for those who read it more than once and over time.

I loved reading this story, and really felt it brought the story and lessons to life in a unique and beautiful way! Filled with creative imagery and enticing colors, The Artist’s Page is a pleasure to read!