Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Review, Guest Post, and Giveaway: After September by Stephanie Smith

To purchase your copy, click here.

About the Book
Click to purchase.

From the outside, Rose Davis had the perfect life: a long marriage to a successful politician, two grown children away at college, and respect within her community. When she suddenly finds herself divorced, she turns her back on God.

In an effort to reclaim her life and pride, she spends the summer in the Caribbean. Her plan does not include meeting Patrick, the charismatic local doctor with a tragic past who ignites a passion both unexpected and thrilling.

As she begins to open up to love, doubt and fear creep in. Once again she finds herself broken hearted, left on her own to pick up the pieces. It’s only when she experiences the unmistakable love and grace from the very One she turned away from that Rose realizes what she needed most was there waiting for her all along.

My Review

After September is the debut novel of Stephanie Smith and I was unprepared as to how much I was going to enjoy this one.  This story shows life as gritty and sad, yet there is hope and love that can be found when we seek God’s will.  Rose is a 45 year old woman, still reeling from her divorce a year ago and living with an empty nest as her two children are in college.  Deciding to just do something for herself, she makes an impulsive decision to sell her home and spend the summer at Saint Croix Island.  This proves to be a vacation she really needed as she meets her new best friend Wendy, David a little orphan boy whom she adores, and Patrick the widowed doctor and caretaker of the local orphanage. 
All these people she meets have deep hurts that life has thrown them.  As Rose begins to live again and let’s go of her past, she realizes that her life may not be as lifeless as she once thought.   She and Patrick begin a relationship that quickly turns into love and begins to spin everything she knows out of control.

This book was just the story I was looking for: a little bit edgy, one that I could not put down (finished it in a day), and had me thinking about it when I wasn’t reading it.  It also showed a glimpse of true faith versus generic Christianity.   I look forward to more of Stephanie Smith’s stories as this one goes in my favorite’s category for 2016.

I received this book for free.  A favorable review was not required and all views expressed are my own.

About the Author

Stephanie’s love of the written word began long before she could read. As a child she would hold a newspaper in hand and move her fingers along the page, pretending to read along.

By the time she was a teenager, she dreamed of writing stories that would touch people’s lives, much like hers had been by so many authors.

She lives in the Pacific Northwest and enjoys listening to Christian rock music while she writes, spending time with her family, watching British television, or reading YA fantasy novels.

Guest Post from Stephanie Smith

I’m so excited to work with Sandra and Celebrate Lit to launch my debut novel AFTER SEPTEMBER which I’ve come to see as a labor of love and trust in the Lord.

You see, becoming a published author has always been my dream, but every time I’d try to write a novel, the inner critic would kick in and stop me in my tracks. I’d write a few paragraphs before giving up, unhappy with all my written imperfections. So, I continued my day job and the idea of writing a novel, let alone publishing it, became less and less realistic. For some reason I never lost that kernel of hope that it might happen one day. God was speaking to me then, I just didn’t realize it.

In 2010 I was diagnosed with Stage IV Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. After six months of intensive chemotherapy, I was in remission and had the strongest desire to write a novel. At first, the idea was to write a fictional story based on my experience. As I started to write, it just didn’t feel right. I then switched to writing a memoir, but that too fell flat. Frustrated, I gave up on writing once again.

Fast forward to 2013 and the idea of AFTER SEPTEMBER came to me. The premise was about a woman who goes through a divorce, spends a summer in the Caribbean and has a summer fling. The idea was so strong I began to write. I couldn’t help but write. As the story spoke to me, I kept this mantra in my head: “Just write. Just write.” I was finally able to quell my inner critic and nine months later, completed the first draft. Boy did I feel accomplished! Well, the feeling didn’t last very long. After getting feedback from a few beta readers, I re-wrote the entire story in a different point of view.

When I finished I realized I had to put this story in a box. A genre box. Was it women’s fiction? A romance? Christian or secular? After reading more about these genres I realized I’d made a big mistake. I hadn’t identified my brand from the get-go and the story didn’t really fit in any genre. Too secular for the Christian market; too Christian for the secular. It makes sense to me now why the first round of agent queries were declined.

I began to pray in earnest, seeking God’s will for this story. I felt He’d led me to write Rose’s story and realized my agenda had gotten in the way. Why would God have me write a story with pre-marital sex? The answer is He wouldn’t. Once my heart was satisfied I knew the direction He wanted me to go, I was back to the drawing board. Once again, I re-wrote AFTER SEPTEMBER. This time I kept my Christian viewpoint in mind and after the third re-write the final version was born.

Well, life has a funny way of stopping you in your tracks. I’d begun querying agents for the second version, and in June 2014 my cancer came back. You’ve got to be kidding me!

Okay, Lord. I trust you. I put my faith in You.

Another six months of intensive chemo put me back in remission. PRAISE GOD! I resumed my agent query and again met with rejection after rejection. This didn’t stop me. By this point I was bound and determined AFTER SEPTEMBER would be released. My hopes were raised when a small publisher I’d have given anything to work with wanted to read the entire manuscript. With baited breath I waited. When the disappointed rejection came, I nearly gave up. But God had other plans. See, when I placed my trust in Him, I had to accept His will, not mine. His time, not mine.

The last on my list to query before going the self-pub route was Desert Breeze Publishing. I submitted my story with the expectation of another rejection. Around January 1st of 2016 I received THE e-mail I’d dreamed about: an offer for a contract. I was in shock. THANK YOU LORD!! Nine months later, AFTER SEPTEMBER has been published. I want to pinch myself. I feel it’s all a dream and I’ll wake up.

A dream that began in my early teens took until my mid-forties to come to fruition. What I’ve realized is writing isn’t a dream but a calling. God knew this and remained patient with me as I finally figured that out. A calling to give women hope while reading a romance novel. Such became my tagline: “stories of life…love..hope”

What I’ve learned from this is to never give up on your dreams. Never stop believing God has something in store for your life, even when it seems like you are living one struggle after another. He is faithful to His promises!

Blog Stops

October 15: Back Yard Reads
October 17: Daysong Reflections
October 18: A Greater Yes
October 19: Pause for Tales
October 20: Quiet Quilter
October 22: Bigreadersite
October 23: Carpe Diem


To celebrate her tour, Stephanie is giving away a $50 Amazon gift card!Click here to enter:

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Review, Guest Post, and Giveaway: Wrapped in God's Grace A Life Rediscovered by Barbara Bras

To purchase your copy, click here.

About the Book
Click to purchase. 

The crushing pain of seven years of unanswered prayer for a child. A miraculous adoption story, followed by unforeseen challenges and heartbreak.

Barbara Bras begins her memoir by sharing God’s answer to her prayers and the difficult times that followed. Although God does not provide an easy fix, the intricacies of God’s plans reveal themselves to her, and she relives her life in a new light.

Bras then recounts the stories of her grandfather Arshag and her grandmother Gulle, survivors of the atrocities of Armenia in 1915. Arshag, sent to South America for his protection, returns as a soldier of the Armenian Legion to fight for his country. Gulle is the only member of her family to survive the death march into the desert. Through God’s grace they find each other, marry and move to America in 1921. Bras is their first grandchild.

The final section of the memoir follows Bras as she marries and moves to Hawaii, only to return as a single mother to teach school in a small town. It is there she finally realizes that God has provided her with protection and direction. Bras discovers that once we truly surrender our will to God, His plan always produces blessings beyond our wildest dreams!

My Review

Barbara Bras has opened up about her past mistakes, her pain, and her family past in her memoir Wrapped in God’s Grace.  This book is divided up in three sections: the first deals with her longing for a child, the second deals with her grandparents and their survival of the Armenian massacre, and the third is more about Barbara and her life up to and when she meets her husband.

These stories were heartfelt and bittersweet, all painful yet held in God’s hands.   I mean who of any of us has not made a mess of our lives at some time or another and have had to live with the consequences?  This book is open and honest and gives an example of a child of God, at times wayward and other times seeking, looking to Him for the answers.  From the life changing decision of divorce to the pain of an empty wound and then the pain of a difficult child, the author shows that God was and is in control all the time and He wants what is best for His child, even if that best is sometimes difficult and hard to accept.

Then there was the story of her grandparents that was really tough to read, as mankind shows its ugly inhumanity to others.  However, through it all her grandparents persevered and were saved out of that horrible situation.  This story was a quick read and I thank the author for giving her testimony.

I received this book for free.  A favorable review was not required and all views expressed are my own.

About the Author

In 2015, Barbara Bras left her career to pursue her dream of serving God. She believed that her first step would be to share the amazing ways God had blessed her. As she wrote of her son’s miraculous adoption and the challenging years that followed, it led to the rediscovery of her entire life, including the history of her grandparents’ remarkable survival in Armenia and her search for purpose and love. Her memoir led to her first novel, which she hopes readers will find engaging and memorable.

Guest Post from Barbara Bras

An Unanswered Prayer

I struggled for many years with one unanswered prayer. It was my “go to” request every time I came before the Lord.

Convinced that with God nothing is impossible, I also knew that the Lord may say “Not now” many times, even before he says no. I acknowledged that the Lord probably had a much bigger and better plan in mind for me, but none of that offered any comfort. As I struggled year after year with my unanswered prayer I found more questions than answers.

Was I fooling myself and ignoring God’s “No”? Could my lack of faith be the reason I couldn’t hear the Lord? And if not now, then when dear Lord?

Then I discovered that the Lord said “Not now.” because he had a miracle waiting for me, more amazing than I could have ever imagined. Like Hannah, God finally answered my prayer for a child. And through that miracle I learned that surrendering my will to God allows Him to bless me beyond my human understanding.

To my further surprise, I discovered that the miracle didn’t mean the end of the story. Experiencing a miraculous adoption didn’t come with a guarantee or a promise that the rest of my life would be free of heartache.

After all of those years of unanswered prayer, I found myself back on my knees with a new daily prayer request. The Lord had something else to teach me through this new struggle, a lesson that took me another fifteen years to learn.

Not only did those fifteen years lead me right back to where I started, surrendering my human will to His and trusting in His greater plan, but it convinced me that the Lord wanted me to share my story.

Wrapped in God’s Grace, a Life Rediscovered begins with my unanswered prayer for a child, but as I wrote it, God’s plan for me became clear. The second section of the book recreates the events surrounding the survival of my grandparents through the Armenian Genocide of 1915. Their immigration to America in 1921 led to my existence. The book closes with the Lord blessing me with a loving husband in spite of the many missteps I made directing my own life. A reviewer found this nonlinear sequence of events unusual, and I am fine with that, since that’s how the book unfolded before me.

Captured by St. Paul in 2 Corinthians 1:3-4, I now view my writing as a tribute first to the God who comforts and strengthens all of us in hardships and trials, and second as my mission to encourage others.

A photo gallery for Wrapped in God’s Grace, a Life Rediscovered can be found on my website Click here to view the Photo Gallery.

Blog Stops

October 14: Book Love
October 15: A Greater Yes
October 16: Carpe Diem
October 18: Pause for Tales
October 19: A Reader’s Brain
October 20: Bigreadersite
October 22: Mary Hake
October 22: Simple Harvest Reads (Spotlight)


To celebrate her tour, Barbara is giving away a $100 Amazon gift card! Click here to enter:

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Review: Ask Me to Marry You by Heather Blanton

Ask Me to Marry You is my first read by Heather Blanton and it certainly has whetted my appetite for more.  This was a cute twist on the mail order bride and the marriage of convenience story lines Two complete strangers, Audra and Dillon, decide to marry for a year to each gain what they think is most important: Audra respect and Dillon his freedom and money.  Unfortunately neither has really thought through this crazy scheme and they are quite unprepared for the lashing out of a very evil man who will stop at nothing to control Audra’s ranch and Audra herself.  My only complaint: I wish this was a full length novel.  I would so much like to read more about this very unconventional couple and their romance. 

I received a free copy of this book from the author.  The views and opinions expressed are my own. 

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Review, Guest Post, and Giveaway: Time Trap by Danele J. Rotharmel

Click here to purchase your copy.

About the Book
Click to purchase.

When problems arise during a field exam, Director Peter Matthews and Dr. Laura Nelson are sent through a time portal to investigate. While they search for their missing cadets, they encounter an enemy who is calculating and brutal—a mysterious nemesis who is holding a grudge against the TEMCO program. As Peter and Laura race to unravel clues directing them to their kidnapped cadets, their own survival comes into question. A deadly trap has been set, and they are forced to pit their wits against a serial killer who is intent on playing a deadly chess game through time itself.

My Review:

Time Trap is a story with a lot of moving parts to it.  At just over 450 pages, we are swept up into this team of time counselors that are made up of friends and family members.  There is a large cast of characters, even some duplicate from other time lines; however all were important and essential to the team and the story.  At times I dislike such large sets of characters in my books, but author Rotharmel made this work and I felt like I was watching a season of a well written and thought out TV series. 

We did not just watch one romance develop, but several, and since this is the second book in the series, we were caught up with previous storylines.  I did not read the first book but that did not affect my reading enjoyment of this second one nor was I confused in anyway.  I just had missed out on probably a great story.

This was really a character driven story, the time travel was important, but the people is what made the story move forward.  The time travel mythos was interesting to watch, and as a fan of time travel shows like Dr. Who and enjoying the new one Timeless, I really enjoyed this author’s take on time travel and if it was possible what a team of professionals could do with it to help others.

This story has a really sadistic villain as well, and he is shrouded in mystery.  Boy is he ever evil and relentless in his drive to hurt TEMCO (the company’s name) and the things he does to these people was cringe worthy and so inhumane that he had me looking over my shoulder.  So be prepared for some violence and scary parts, but the author does give us lighter moments of romance and humor.

This book I would definitely recommend if you are in for a story that reads like a series.  It ended well and we were given some clues as to what would happen in the future for these characters; however they have a huge battle that is taking shape for them.  I very much look forward to continuing this series.

I received this book for free.  A favorable review was not required and all views expressed are my own.

About the Author

Danele Rotharmel grew up with a love of the literary word, and by age five, she knew she wanted to be a writer. However, her life took an unexpected turn when a mysterious illness brought her close to death. Eventually, she learned that a low-level carbon monoxide leak from a faulty furnace in her home was slowly poisoning her. This poisoning triggered severe Multiple Chemical Sensitivity and partial amnesia.

During this time, the hardest thing she faced was a crisis of faith. She had to quit her job and stop going to church. She couldn’t write, couldn’t drive, and could barely remember who she was. To say she was upset with the Lord was an understatement. She began reexamining her faith in light of her illness, and eventually, she came to the firm conclusion that God is real, God is good, God is interested and involved, and God is trustworthy regardless of tragedy.

When her illness became even more severe, she was put into quarantine and could only talk to friends and extended family through the glass of a window. This quarantine lasted for seven years. During this time, she wrote the first six books in The Time Counselor Chronicles.

Danele currently lives in Colorado where she continues to write. Although her journey back to health was long and difficult, it provided her with the opportunity to grow closer to God and to write her books. For that, she is forever thankful.

You can learn more about Danele by visiting her blog at

Guest Post from Danele Rotharmel

I’ve always loved to read, but I hate that horrible moment when a good book comes to an end. It’s torture saying goodbye to characters I’ve come to love. One of the best things about being an author is having control over your own stories. I wrote The Time Counselor Chronicles while I was extremely ill and enduring seven years of quarantine. During that time, I didn’t have control over many aspects of my life, but I did have control over my fictional characters. I found extreme pleasure in the fact that since I was the author, I didn’t have to say goodbye to the TEMCO crew—I could just write them another story.

Time Trap is the second book in my series. It can be read as a sequel to Time Tsunami, or it can stand alone. Time Trap was written for one reason only—I was enjoying myself, and I didn’t want to say goodbye to the people I’d created in Time Tsunami. And that’s why the other books in my series were written as well. By the time I finally sought publication, I’d completed six books. Writing, for me, was an act of pure enjoyment. When I began, I wasn’t thinking about publishers or reading audiences, I was simply thinking about what type of adventure I wanted to write next. My books brought me joy, and that was all that mattered. For years, I didn’t let anyone know I was writing. TEMCO was my personal world—my escape hatch from illness and pain. I was afraid that if I let others into my imaginary world, it would crumble away. As it turned out, the exact opposite was true. Knowing that people were enjoying my stories filled my life with incredible happiness!

I always fill my books with suspense, romance, action, faith, and comedy. I keep them clean, and I work hard to make them full of page-turning fun. Communication is such a wonderful thing. I love that fact that we can relay our ideas, hopes, and dreams to each other. My books are more than just stories, they symbolically chronicle the way I stood up to my illness and fought it. They speak about the value I place on love and friendship. They show that humor can be found even in the midst of great difficulty. And most of all, they demonstrate that a crisis of faith isn’t the end—it’s simply the first step to understanding God on a deeper level. Life isn’t easy, but I’ve learned that even in the middle of tragedy, God is faithful and trustworthy. That’s what each of my characters eventually learn, and that’s what I hope my readers will take away from my books.

Blog Stops

October 6: A readers brain
October 10: CTF devourer
October 12: Pause for Tales
October 13: Blogging With Carol
October 14: Donna’s BookShelf
October 15: Carpe Diem
October 16: Petra’s Hope
October 17: henry happens
October 18: Vic’s Media Room


To celebrate her tour, Danele is giving away a package that includes an autographed paperback copy of both Time Tsunami and Time Trap, a Proverbs 3:5 “Trust in the Lord” journal, a lovely coffee cup, and a 4X4 picture frame. Click here to enter:

Review: The Tea Shop Folly by Carrie Fancett Pagels

Click to purchase.

Almost destitute, Lilly has run out of hope when she inherits her great-aunt’s home -- but it’s not the Tea Shop that a handsome young gentleman thinks it is. Lilly’s inherited house is crammed full of tea cups. Theo, a Soo Locks engineer, visits frequently in the hopes he will find the perfect antique teacup for his mother and is charmed by the lovely 'Shoppe owner.’ Lilly can’t turn the bachelor away when he persistently peruses her aunt’s collection, which she’s trying to pack up and remove from the house. Is the man only interested in the teacups, or in her? When Theo begins referring people to Lilly, and the genuine Tea Shoppe owner sets the police on Lilly for her lack of a business license, sparks fly!

My Review:

The Tea Shop Folly by Carrie Fancett Pagels is a novella with heart.  I have enjoyed previous novellas by author Pagels and she certainly knows how to tell a complete story packed in just a few pages without the readers feeling like we are missing something.  With a heroine who has lost hope and a hero who has made assumptions that are not true, we are given a lighthearted story about two wayward souls finding love and bringing kindness and goodness to their families.  I look forward to more of this author’s work, especially her full length novels.

I received this book for free from The Book Club Network and the opinions and views expressed are my own honest ones.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Review: Mattie's Pledge by Jan Drexler

To Purchase

When she feels the pull of both home and the horizon, which will she choose?

Mattie Schrock is no stranger to uprooting her life. Even as her father relocated her family from one Amish community to the next, she always managed to find a footing in their new homes. Now as the Schrock family plans to move west from Somerset County to a fledgling Amish settlement in Indiana, she looks forward to connecting with old friends who will be joining them from another Pennsylvania community--friends like Jacob Yoder, who has always held a special place in her heart.

Since Mattie last saw Jacob, they've both grown into different people with different dreams. Jacob yearns to settle down, but Mattie can't help but dream of what may lie over the western horizon. When a handsome Englisher tempts her to leave the Amish behind to search for adventure in the West, will her pledge to Jacob be the anchor that holds her secure?

Tender, poignant, and gentle, Mattie's Pledge offers you a glimpse into Amish life in the 1840s--and into the yearning heart of a character you'll not soon forget.

My Review:

Mattie’s Pledge by Jan Drexler continues the saga of a group of families headed to new land in Indiana to begin anew.  This time around we have the viewpoint of Mattie Schrock who is very much looking forward to seeing again her childhood friend and first love Jacob Yoder.  There is adventure along the trail for these families; difficult pregnancies, homesickness (as some families had to part ways with loved ones), disease, and the threat of horse thieves and kidnapping.  

What I really related to in this story was how Mattie longed for something more, something different.  She excitedly assumed that this move would bring her adventurous heart the thrill she was seeking.  Sadly, the reality was lacking in her eyes, causing her to continue to long for an unforeseen dream and to step into possible temptation.  She fortunately finds out that sometimes what we most long for cannot be found on this earth and the dream we want most to come true is standing right before us, waiting patiently for us to say yes.  I have at times felt that sense of longing as Mattie had, and have almost felt trapped as she did.  I also realized, thankfully, it was a heart problem with contentment.

I look forward to her sister, Naomi’s story and the hope for a love match for her in the next book.  I received this book free of charge from the publisher.  The opinions and views expressed are my own.

Friday, September 30, 2016

Review: This Road We Traveled by Jane Kirkpatrick

About the book:

Tabitha Brown refuses to be left behind in Missouri when her son makes the decision to strike out for Oregon--even if she has to hire her own wagon to join the party. After all, family ties are stronger than fear.

Along with her reluctant daughter and her ever-hopeful granddaughter, the intrepid Tabitha has her misgivings. The trials they face along the way will severely test her faith, courage, and ability to hope. With her family's survival on the line, she must make the ultimate sacrifice, plunging deeper into the wilderness to seek aid. What she couldn't know was how this frightening journey would impact how she understood her own life--and the greater part she had to play in history.

With her signature attention to detail and epic style, New York Times bestselling author Jane Kirkpatrick invites you to travel the deadly and enticing Oregon Trail. Based on actual events, This Road We Traveled inspires the pioneer in all of us.

My Review:

I have always admired and have been awed by stories of our ancestors who left everything known and stable and set off for parts unknown in a wagon train following the Oregon Trail.  I certainly do not think I would have had the stamina and I am very thankful that I live in the time period I do.  In author Jane Kirkpatrick’s latest, This Road We Traveled, we are given a glimpse at what brave and adventurous pioneers those emigrates were.  Based on historical figures, the author gives us a story that will take us along with Tabitha Brown and her family down that road they traveled to help make this country great. 

We are treated to three viewpoints in this story, Tabitha (in her 60’s), her daughter, and her granddaughter.  We see through their eyes this often times harsh and dangerous trail and get to experience their hopes, fears, and feelings.  Tabitha was a strong woman, lame in one foot since childhood; she was a resilient character who did not think she was too old or too crippled to go along with her family when her children decided to emigrate to Oregon.  I cheered on her and John, her brother-in-law (in his seventies), as they faced that road fearlessly.

Her daughter Phernie, was not as adventurous as her mother as she liked where she and her husband and children lived.  She questioned and doubted and grieved over the decision to move to Oregon.  I felt for her as she had to decide what to keep and what to leave behind, thus showing her struggle with letting go of the comforts of her current life.  Again, I am not so sure I could be that brave.

This was a fascinating look of one family’s resilience and survival as they traveled that Oregon Trail.  I have not read anything by Jane Kirkpatrick before and her attention to detail and history had me feeling I was right there with that pioneer family.

I received a copy for an honest review from Revell Publishing and the opinions are my own.