Friday, February 22, 2019

Leaving Darkness by Greg Schaffer Book Review and Amazon Gift Card Giveaway


Long-haul truck driver Lowell Ferguson is on the brink of suicide. He is haunted by the guilt of a horrible secret from his senior year of high school. Therapy and antidepressants aren’t able to lift him out of depression. At twenty-eight years old, he believes his life has dissolved into a meaningless annoyance. Only the strong bond with his lone friend—a Chihuahua named Rufus—keeps him from choosing death. But when Lowell learns Rufus may have cancer, he fears there will be no reason left to live if his beloved dog dies.
While awaiting the diagnosis, he comes across a flier for a Christian support group promising hope and freedom. A skeptic and an apatheist, he nonetheless reluctantly decides to join the group. Through this joining, he finds what he has been yearning for—a path toward leaving the darkness of depression. This first step provides Lowell the courage to do what he must to escape his guilt and finally confront his past.
Title: Leaving Darkness
Author: Greg Schaffer
Genre: Christian Fiction
Release date: October 31, 2018
 Click here to purchase your copy.


Leaving Darkness touches on dark topics including suicide and depression.  The story is about Lowell Ferguson, a 28-year-old truck driver, who is dealing with the guilt of a secret event from his senior year in high school. Nothing is helping him get out of his dark depression. He has tried everything, but nothing is working. The only person keeping him alive is his Chihuahua named Rufus but learns that Rufus might have cancer. While waiting for the diagnosis, he comes across a flyer for a Christian support group. Ferguson doesn’t believe in the whole God and Jesus things but still decides to go. Throughout the book, we see Ferguson's journey from the darkness of his depression to the light of God.

It is hard reading stories about suicide and depression especially if you know someone who is struggling or who have died from depression. I believe our society does not look at these topics in the correct way. Suicide is a symptom of depression it isn’t something people just do. Depression messes with the chemistry in your brain and makes you think things that aren’t true. Suicide isn’t a bad thing. For example, we don’t blame people who are chain smokers and died from lung cancer as bad.
Suicide isn’t always the answer, but sometimes the disease of addiction and/or depression causes the symptom of suicide to become very strong.  Then there are people who suffer from severe debilitating chronic pain. We don’t make our animals suffer. Just food for thought.
This story really hit home to me because I have recently been dealing with a good friend who tried to commit suicide. I don’t agree with Christians saying people who commit suicide will go to Hell. That is 100% false. As someone who sees the other side and has been to the other side (not because of suicide) knows for a fact that there is no Hell especially for people who commit suicide. I think it is 100% cruel telling their love ones their daughter or son, mother or father, grandmother or grandfather will be going to Hell because their depression killed themselves. Therefore, I get really frustrated with religion.
Another topic Leaving Darkness talks about is forgiveness. We need to let go of things from the past and move forward. We spend so much time on our failures of the past we lose out on the time we have now.
Greg Schaffer did an amazing job of telling Lowell Ferguson’s journey of dealing with depression, forgiveness, loneliness, anxiety, and fear. It has shown how important friendships, relationships, and family are in helping you get through tough times in life.
I enjoyed this book even with dark topics, but it sure did show there is light at the end of the tunnel.


Greg Schaffer participated in a small Christian-based group ministry in 2011 and became a facilitator with the ministry to help others find their direction toward a purposeful life. His firsthand experiences of lives transformed through such healing groups led him to write Leaving Darkness, hoping the tale of transformation through God’s grace may encourage those lost in their own darkness to reach out for help. The author of two previous novels, Greg lives in Franklin, Tennessee, with his wife and three rescue dogs.


As first a group participant and then a volunteer for Restore Small Groups for many years, I’ve seen firsthand the healing power of small group ministries. Many want to change but don’t know how. Leaving Darkness tells the fictional story of one lost in depression to the point of contemplating suicide who happens upon such a Christian-based ministry. Although he is reluctant at first, he gives the process a chance, and through it leaves his darkness, finds his faith, and becomes the person God meant for him to be. I was called to write this story in hope that someone with similar struggles may read Leaving Darkness and realize that there is a way out of the darkness when everything else has failed.


To celebrate his tour, Greg is giving away a grand prize of a $50 Amazon gift card!!


Be sure to comment on the blog stops for nine extra entries into the giveaway! 

Godly Book Reviews, February 16
Bukwurmzzz, February 18
Power of Words, February 19 (Spotlight)
Maureen’s Musings, February 21
Bibliophile Reviews, February 23
Janices book reviewsFebruary 24
Carpe Diem, February 25
Texas Book-aholic, February 26
Just the Write Escape, February 28
Bigreadersite, March 1
Artistic Nobody, March 1 (Spotlight)

Monday, February 18, 2019

Brunch at Bittersweet Cafe by Carla Laureano Book Review and Giveaway


Baker and pastry chef Melody Johansson has always believed in finding the positive in every situation, but seven years after she moved to Denver, she can’t deny that she’s stuck in a rut. One relationship after another has ended in disaster, and her classical French training is being wasted on her night job in a mediocre chain bakery. Then the charming and handsome private pilot Justin Keller lands on the doorstep of her workplace in a snowstorm, and Melody feels like it’s a sign that her luck is finally turning around.
Justin is intrigued by the lively bohemian baker, but the last thing he’s looking for is a relationship. His own romantic failures have proven that the demands of his job are incompatible with meaningful connections, and he’s already pledged his life savings to a new business venture across the country—an island air charter in Florida with his sister and brother-in-law.
Against their better judgment, Melody and Justin find themselves drawn together by their unconventional career choices and shared love of adventure. But when an unexpected windfall provides Melody with the chance to open her dream bakery-café in Denver with her best friend, chef Rachel Bishop, she’s faced with an impossible choice: stay and put down roots with the people and place she’s come to call home . . . or give it all up for the man she loves.
Title: Brunch at Bittersweet Cafe by Carla Laureano
Genre: Christian Romance
Release date: February 5, 2019
Publisher: Tyndale
Click here to purchase your copy.

This was the first book I read from Carla Laureano . Brunch at the Bittersweet Café is the second book in The Saturday Night Supper Club series.  I wish I read the first book, but this book can be read as a stand-alone.  

 Melody, the main character is relatable. We read her insecurities and struggles, but we also see her confidence too. We are taken into her life journey of making her dream of opening up her own restaurant in Denver come true. I love seeing how close she is with her friends.  Her chemistry with Justin Keller, the private pilot, is amazing but their careers complicate their relationship. While reading this book I couldn't help finding myself yelling out loud saying, “Screw the careers be together. You can do both!!”. Will these two end up together and work things out? Or will their careers get into the way?

Every character in Brunch at the Bittersweet Café is relatable. I found myself connecting with each of the characters in the story in one way or another.
Throughout the story, Laureano puts in many spiritual truths. 
She doesn’t overdo the spiritual beliefs and makes it sound preachy. I love how Laurano’s put some hard topics in the book. For instance, there is an open conversation about sex in their past relationship outside of marriage, drinking and cursing. Christians aren't perfect they all deal with temptations. We all have flaws and textures. We all strive to be someone.  Food helps grow relationships. We learn a lot about a person during meals, as well as cooking/baking.  I would advise not reading this book on an empty stomach because Laureano has amazing descriptions on the baked goods. 

I don't know much about running a restaurant, bakery and flying but see Laureano went above and beyond with research on these topics (How bake, aviation and the business side of opening a bakery). I felt this book to be inspirational and powerful especially for women. It shows how important it is to make a priority list by determining what is most important to you. I learn it is really important to find time for yourself, family, career, friendships, and relationship. I would recommend this series.  


Carla Laureano is the RITA® Award-winning author of contemporary inspirational romance and Celtic fantasy (as C.E. Laureano). A graduate of Pepperdine University, she worked as a sales and marketing executive for nearly a decade before leaving corporate life behind to write fiction full-time. She currently lives in Denver with her husband and two sons, where she writes during the day and cooks things at night.
Her website: Click Here
Her Facebook: Click Here
Her Twitter: @CarlaLaureano Click Here
Her Instagram: Click Here @carlalaureanoauthor
Her Pinterest: Click Here
Her Goodreads: Click Here


“Confessions of An Erstwhile Baker”
Like most females, baking is encoded somewhere deep down in my DNA. Call it nature or call it nurture, but at the earliest age, I figured out that the cute boy in my English class would talk to me if it involved chocolate chip cookies. Got my heart broken or had a friend betray me? I grabbed the mixing bowl and went for the brownies (even better if they’re served à la mode.) My friend was having a birthday? I made a cake drowned in pounds of buttercream.
I quickly graduated from the boxed mixes to the real thing when I got married and had a kitchen large enough to roll out dough. I would comb magazines for the best recipes and spend my weekends trying them out. I quickly became known for bringing beautifully iced Christmas cookies and delicious homemade cakes to work.
Then my husband and I moved our young family from Los Angeles to Denver, a relocation that was about 1000 miles northeast and 5000 feet up. Suddenly, every recipe I’d perfected in the previous eight years failed. Cookies burned to crisps, cakes fell, and don’t get me started on candy making. Gradually, I adapted my recipes (my beloved never-fail Toll House recipe took eight tries to get right) and even became an avid artisan bread-baker.
Then disaster. Or at least, what a baker would consider a disaster. After developing chronic health problems, I discovered that among other things, I was sensitive to gluten. The horror! In order to heal, I turned to the paleo diet, which eliminates all grains (there goes most gluten free recipes) and all processed sugars (there goes everything else). I’ve tried baking paleo-style, and while I can now make cakes that even my gluten-fiend family enjoy, it’s just not the same.
So what’s a once-obsessive baker do when she can’t eat her creations? She bakes for other people and goes on faith that they actually taste good… considering she can’t taste them herself.
It struck me that there was a spiritual lesson in that, and an obvious tie to Brunch at Bittersweet Café, which deals in large part with Melody’s faith journey. There are times when we have no idea if things are working out the way they’re supposed to, in which case we just have to trust the “recipe” and the input of friends and family who love us. Sometimes our instincts tell us when we’re off track, and sometimes we need that outside nudge from our “taste-testers” to put us back on course.
In any case, what Melody and I have in common is that we both bake to show our love for the people around us. And the process of baking my favorites, even knowing that I can’t enjoy them myself, can still be a selfless way to show people they’re important to me.
Fortunately, macarons, which happen to be made with almond flour, are still on the menu.
To celebrate her tour, Carla is giving away a grand prize package of a:
- macaron baking mat, 
- a macron book, 
- a paperback copy of Brunch at Bittersweet Café!!
Be sure to comment on the blog stops for nine extra entries into the giveaway! Click the link below to enter. 

Blog Stops

Quiet QuilterFebruary 12
Among the Reads, February 12
Lighthouse Academy, February 12
By The Book, February 12
The Power of Words, February 13
As He Leads is Joy, February 13
Cultivating Us, February 13
Blossoms and BlessingsFebruary 13
Fiction Aficionado, February 14
The Lit Addict, February 14
All-of-a-kind Mom, February 15
100 Pages per Hour, February 15
Splashes of JoyFebruary 15
Bibliophile Reviews, February 16
Texas Book-aholic, February 16
C Jane Read, February 17
Moments, February 17
Back Porch Reads, February 17
Cordially Barbara, February 18
Genesis 5020, February 18
Simple Harvest Reads, February 18 (Guest post from Mindy Houng)
Livin’ Lit, February 19
Kat’s Corner Books, February 19
Life with the Tribe, February 19
Remembrancy, February 20
Vicky Sluiter, February 20
2014 and Beyond!, February 21
Daysong Reflections, February 21
Inklings and Notions, February 21
Pause for Tales, February 21
Cafinated Reads, February 22
Ashley’s Bookshelf, February 22
Two Girls and a Book, February 23
For the love of booksFebruary 23
God is Love, February 24
Book by Book, February 24
Lukewarm Tea, February 25
Carpe Diem, February 25
Bigreadersite, February 25

Reentry by Peter Cawdron Book Review and Giveaway

SYNOPSIS After almost dying on Mars, astronaut Liz Anderson returns to Earth, but not to a hero’s welcome. America is in turmoil...