Monday, September 8, 2014

Author Interview and Giveaway: Yesterday's Tomorrow by Catherine West

Welcome to Christian Book Review Blog, Catherine! Thank you for being here! Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

Sure! I’ve been writing longer than I can remember and I can’t imagine doing anything else. I was born and raised on the beautiful island of Bermuda, which is about 700 miles off the coast of North Carolina, in the Atlantic. We’re a British colony, so I’ve always had a yen for all things British and I went to boarding school in the UK. My pediatrician husband and I have been married for 27 years and we have two grown children and a wonderful son-in-law. 

When did you first discover that you loved writing? 

Probably in primary school, when we first began to write short stories. Mine were always read out in class.  

Why do you write the type of books that you do?

My tagline is “Stories that Resonate” and that’s the goal with my writing. I write contemporary romance and women’s fiction, and I believe in keeping things real. I write about characters with real struggles, real-life issues that everyone can relate to, and I don’t sugarcoat. I don’t think we can hope to point people to the cross without revealing why we need it. Sin and temptation are all around us, and nobody is immune, not even Christians. Especially not Christians, actually. While I hope my stories entertain, I also want readers to come away feeling changed and challenged in some way. And I always want to leave them with hope. Because even when things seem impossible, we must hold onto hope. 

What was your greatest obstacle in writing and how did you overcome it?

Probably really believing in myself. That I could do this. That I’m good enough to do this. It’s hard to keep going in the face of rejection, and the publishing world is pretty crazy right now. It’s difficult to get new contracts, and for authors like myself who don’t have a huge fan base yet, it’s discouraging. I keep going though because I believe this is the path God has me on, and I trust him to take my writing to the places and people that need it most. 

From a craft aspect, the greatest obstacle is always finishing the story. I tend to get to the middle and seem to get stuck. But somehow I muddle through and I’m usually quite pleased with the end result. 

Has writing changed your life in any way?

I’ve made a lot of great friends through my writing, so in that regard, yes, my life is all the better for being part of the writing community! I’m constantly challenged to step out of my comfort zone, go deeper and stretch myself as a writer. I love that. I’ve been at this so long that I can’t say it’s really changed my life per se, but rather challenged me. 

What Bible scripture has impacted your life the most?

Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
I’ve had to hold onto that verse, claim it for myself and truly believe that God will work things out. No matter what the struggles are, I know He’s in the middle, holding onto me, and going before me to smooth the waters. Sometimes it’s not easy to believe that, but God has proven faithful too many times for me to doubt that He will ever not come through. 

Is there a book you’ve read that has been truly spectacular?

Hmm. I can’t say spectacular. A lot of books have stayed with me over the years, particularly the classics like Dickens and Austen. Lately I’ve read a lot of Jojo Moyes, and I love her writing. I also enjoy big family saga type stories. Those are the kind of books I love to write, but haven’t found a lot of them in the CBA market yet. 

What’s the funniest/quirkiest thing you’ve ever done?

I’m not sure. I’m a bit of a scatterbrain so I’m always doing silly things. I can’t think of one particular thing that stands out unfortunately. 

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Please tell us about the featured book.

Vietnam, 1967. 

Independent, career-driven journalist Kristin Taylor wants two things: to honor her father's memory by becoming an award-winning overseas correspondent and to keep tabs on her only brother, Teddy, who signed up for the war against their mother's wishes. Brilliant photographer Luke Maddox, silent and brooding, exudes mystery. Kristin is convinced he's hiding something. 

Willing to risk it all for what they believe in, Kristin and Luke engage in their own tumultuous battle until, in an unexpected twist, they’re forced to work together. Ambushed by love, they must decide whether or not to set aside their own private agendas for the hope of tomorrow that has captured their hearts.

Can you please give us the first page?

Prologue 
February 1954.

Didn’t they know they were shouting so loud the neighbors could
hear?
Twelve year-old Kristin Taylor huddled in bed, drew her knees to her
chest and clapped her hands over her ears. Through the thin wall she heard Daddy’s voice rise and Mom burst into tears. It was past ten o’clock. She was supposed to be asleep, but they’d woken her. Kristin gritted her teeth and began to hum her favorite song, “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.”
A moment of peace settled over the brownstone apartment. Kristin smiled and wiped her eyes. It worked every time, even if she couldn’t hit the high notes.
Dad started yelling again.
Something smashed against the other side of her wall and shattered. More yells. No way to sleep with this racket going on. She sat up and turned on her bedside table lamp.
Kristin hopped off her bed and pushed her arms through the sleeves of her thick flannel robe. Cold air chased her as she quick-stepped across the faded rug to her dresser. She ran her fingers along the stack of books squashed between two hand-carved wooden bookends The frayed bindings of Heidi, Jane Eyre, Great Expectations and Pride and Prejudice and the Bible she’d received at her confirmation shared space with all the Agatha Christie novels Kristin could get her hands on. Every once in a while Mom came in to clean, found them, and threatened to throw them out in favor of books she felt more appropriate, but Daddy wouldn’t let her.
“The child has an inquisitive mind, Val. We should encourage that.”

Where can readers learn more information about you?

Catherine West is an award-winning author who writes stories of hope and healing from her island home in Bermuda. Her first novel, Yesterday’s Tomorrow, released in 2011 and won the INSPY for Romance, a Silver Medal in the Reader’s Favorite Awards, and was a finalist in the Grace Awards. Catherine’s second novel, Hidden in the Heart, released in September 2012, was long listed in the 2012 INSPY’s and was a finalist in the 2013 Grace Awards.
When she’s not at the computer working on her next story, you can find her taking her Border Collie for long walks or tending to her roses and orchids. She and her husband have two grown children. Catherine is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers and Romance Writers of America, and is represented by Rachelle Gardner of Books & Such Literary. Catherine loves to connect with her readers and can be reached at Catherine@catherinejwest.com 


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GIVEAWAY!
(This giveaway is only open to followers of Christian Book Review Blog, so be sure you are a follower!) 
Catherine has generously offered to giveaway a print copy of Yesterday's TomorrowPrint giveaway is available to U.S residents only. Giveaway ends on Saturday September 20, 2014 at midnight (Eastern time). Thanks for coming by to enter!

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Author Interview and Giveaway: Mountain Rescue by Hope White AND Safe Harbor by Hope White

Welcome to Christian Book Review Blog, Hope! Thank you for being here! Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

Thank you so much for inviting me to participate in this awesome blog!

Okay, a little about me…

I’ve been making up stories in my head ever since I was a little kid.  As an adult I became a journalist and PR manager, then took some time off to freelance when I had my sons.  At that time, life was challenging managing the needs of two little boys, especially since my husband travelled a lot for work.  So a friend dropped off a stack of books on my front doorstep and said, “Lose yourself in a good story and relax!”   Up to that point I’d only been reading non-fiction on how to be the best mother possible.  <G> 

So I dove into a Judith McNaught contemporary romance, then a Jude Deveraux historical, and then a Nelson DeMille thriller.  I was hooked!  A little voice inside of me whispered, “You should do this!”  Needless to say, that little voice got louder and louder.  I discovered a fabulous writing group in Chicago, where I lived at the time, and my fiction career was born!

When did you first discover that you loved writing? 

In junior high school I’d space out during class, stare out the window and make up stories in my head.  These characters were not only distracting, but seemed WAY more interesting than what I was supposed to be learning in class.  Then our teacher had us write and illustrate a book – what a rush!   I still have that book around here somewhere…

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Why do you write the type of books that you do?

I enjoy writing highly emotional books, and suspense heightens the emotional impact all the way around.  Puzzles have always fascinated me, the why’s and how’s of a story.  I’d spend hours watching Law & Order marathons and realized I only enjoyed the ones where justice was truly served.  In a Love Inspired book I can make sure everyone gets a happy ending, while eluding the bad guys, and embracing their faith!  

What was your greatest obstacle in writing and how did you overcome it?

That obstacle would be setting boundaries.  When you write from home everyone thinks you sit around and watch TV all day, play with the puppy, or just generally goof off.  It’s challenging to express to others that although you have a flexible schedule, you’re still working. I’ve learned to overcome this challenge by turning off all phones before diving into story.  That way I can’t be distracted, and it makes it clear to those calling that I have a work schedule just like everyone else, and I will eventually get back to them.

Has writing changed your life in any way?

Absolutely.  It’s made me consider my own personal conflicts and emotional development.  Plus, writing Christian suspense novels has helped me focus on love and forgiveness even more in my everyday life. 

What Bible scripture has impacted your life the most?

 “Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.”
1 John 4:8

Is there a book you’ve read that has been truly spectacular?

There are so many amazing books out there.  Truly spectacular?  Let’s see, I guess I’d put Jay Asher’s YA, “Thirteen Reasons Why” in that category.   Also, the classics, “The Scarlet Pimpernel” and “To Kill a Mockingbird.”  I never get tired of reading those!  

What’s the funniest/quirkiest thing you’ve ever done?

I’m really shy, so that’s a tough one.  Probably singing karaoke with writer friends to a full room of strangers who were trying to eat dinner in peace.  We probably caused a lot of indigestion that night! 

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Please tell us about the featured book.

The book is titled “Mountain Rescue” and it’s the first book in my Echo Mountain search and rescue series.  A little about the characters…

Quinn and Billie share a history.  About a year ago, Quinn rescued her from a mountain ledge during a search-and-rescue mission, but her husband died in the fall.  Seeing how lost she was after her husband’s death, Quinn offered her a job and place to live.  When she started developing feelings for him, Quinn pushed her away, finding her a job at Echo Mountain Resort, which he owns.  He felt it was the honorable thing to do, that she was falling for him because he’d rescued her.  Quinn knew she deserved better than a rogue like Quinn.

Fast forward to present day:  Billie is hunted by a stranger in the mountains and takes a fall while trying to escape.  When the search and rescue call goes out, Quinn discovers its Billie and races to the rescue.  Again.  Apparently Billie’s dead husband’s criminal associates think she has information they need, and they’re not giving up until they get answers!  

Quinn assigns himself her protector until the case is resolved and the threat is gone.  But will Quinn survive losing his heart yet again to a woman he can never have?  

Can you please give us the first page?  Sure!

Her husband was dead.
Billy stood on the Cascade Mountain trail overlooking the steep drop down the side of the mountain.  She took a deep breath and finally released the pain weighing heavy on her heart.
Pain.  Anguish.  Dread.
There, she’d finally admitted it.  She’d been living under a cloud of dread during the last year of her marriage, nervous about Rick’s volatile moods and erratic behavior.
She tugged her fleece hat down to cover her ears.  It felt as if the temperature had dropped ten degrees since she’d started out on her hike.  But she had to finish this, had to visit the site where Rick had spent his last hours in her arms. 
It had taken her a year to get to this place emotionally, the place where she accepted that what she needed most was closure.  Closure and forgiveness. 
“And I do forgive you,” she whispered, hugging herself.  Forgiveness was a step toward grace, and it would help her heal.
Still, there were those occasional moments when she’d lie awake at night wondering if she could have done something to stop him from his downward spiral.
She glanced at the plateau below where Rick had shivered and groaned as she’d portioned out food to sustain them both until help had arrived. 
If only they hadn’t argued; if only he hadn’t stormed off and tripped, falling over the edge and hitting his head on a rock below.  But you can’t rewind the past, no matter how much you want to.
A sudden flash of Quinn’s blue eyes and confident smile haunted her thoughts.  No, she wouldn’t think about search-and-rescue volunteer Quinn Donovan, not today.  He may have rescued her from the mountains and helped her get back on her feet by giving her a place to live, but he was another lost soul like Rick, running from his pain.
“It’s good that I left,” she whispered.  
She’d only seen Quinn sporadically since she’d started her new job at Echo Mountain Resort.  They’d agreed it was the best thing to do, the right thing, because they both had suspected she was leaning on him a little too much after he’d rescued her.
She was falling for him.
But she wouldn’t make the mistake of thinking what they had was anything more than an emotional condition brought on by trauma.  Billy was smarter than that.  
A sudden gust of wind whipped through the mountain pass.  If she were so smart, she wouldn’t have gone hiking by herself.  Although her friend Bree had offered to join her, letting go of the past wasn’t something you did with an audience.  She interlaced her gloved hands and closed her eyes.  She said a prayer in an effort to completely let go.
“Lord, please help me make peace with Rick’s mistakes, with my own failures as a wife and--”
SNAP!
She spun around and peered into the mass of trees to her left but saw nothing, no wild animal or hiker.  The hair pricked at the back of her neck.

Where can readers learn more information about you?

At my website:  hopewhiteauthor.com
Or Facebook: facebook.com/hopewhiteauthor

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GIVEAWAY!
(This giveaway is only open to followers of Christian Book Review Blog, so be sure you are a follower!) 
Hope has generously offered to giveaway a print copy of Mountain Rescue AND a print copy of Safe HarborPrint giveaway is available to U.S residents only. Giveaway ends on Saturday September 20, 2014 at midnight (Eastern time). Thanks for coming by to enter!

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Monday, August 18, 2014

Author Interview and Giveaway: Radically Normal by Josh Kelley

Welcome to the Christian Book Review Blog! Thank you for being here! To begin, can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

Thanks for inviting me! 

How and when did you come to know the Lord in a deep and intimate way?

Someone once asked what I was like before I met Jesus. I responded (somewhat facetiously), “I cried a lot and messed my diapers.” I have no memory of life without Jesus, rather I had an ongoing process of learning about him from my parents. When I was in Jr. High, I began the vital transition from “mom and dad’s faith” to “my faith.” 

What person has had the greatest impact in your spiritual walk with Christ?

After my parents, C. S. Lewis deeply impacted (and continues to impact) how I think about God, life, and writing. 

What inspired you to write this book?

This is the book I wished I’d had as a young teenager – I really loved God and wanted to follow him with my whole heart, but didn’t want to be a Jesus freak. I needed someone to tell me how to be fully committed without being obsessive. 

What is the main message in the book and what is the greatest lesson you want readers to learn?

The world tells us to live for today and the church tells us to live for eternity. They are both wrong...and they are both right. The life that pleases God and brings us joy finds the middle ground between complacently focusing on the things of earth and obsessively denying them. 

What Bible scripture has impacted your life the most?

Just one? I can’t narrow it down! Can I just say “Proverbs”? I read Proverbs almost daily and it has shaped how I view everything. 

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What book, besides the Bible, has greatly influenced your life?

Does “The Collected Works of C. S. Lewis” count as one book? 

Okay, now for a fun question. What is the funniest/quirkiest thing you’ve ever done?

Bringing the fire department to school during chemistry class. My friend and I wanted to make gun powder and...if you look closely at my senior class pictures, I don’t have eyebrows. 

Please tell us about the featured book.

Radically Normal weaves stories of my time as a bi-vocational pastor working at Starbucks with lessons on how to discover the God-honoring and joy-filled path between complacent and obsessive faith. My goal was to create a book that was fun and easy to read while conveying deep, Biblical truths. 

Can you please give us the first page?

Starbucks is a big part of my life. I hold most of my meetings at Starbucks and write my sermons there. I have my monthly father-daughter dates at Starbucks. I’m at Starbucks as I write this. But in the spring of 2011, I had no idea the role Starbucks would play in my story.
I had been an assistant pastor at one of the biggest churches in Skagit Valley (about an hour north of Seattle). When I became the lead pastor of one of the smallest churches in the area, I was filled with dreams of all I’d do. In the first three and a half years, I grew the Gathering from about 100 people to about 75—not the sort of thing that one brags about at pastors’ conventions.
This is the story of the lessons God taught me through Starbucks over the next 18 months. It’s also the book I wish I had when I was growing up. All the books I read back then seemed to imply that following God with my whole heart meant enjoying this life less and less.
This book tells how I discovered that the opposite is true.

Going to Extremes

One day when I was about ten years old, my family arrived early at our pastor’s house for a Bible study, and I saw Pastor Arnie sitting in front of the TV watching a football game. Apparently, his team wasn’t doing well, because he was kind of grumpy and was shouting quietly at the TV. “What? Come on! Are you blind?”
Seeing my pastor watch football was unsettling, but I wasn’t sure why. I didn’t think TV was wrong (I watched Star Blazers every morning before school), and I didn’t have a problem with football (my mom loves football). But it seemed so unspiritual. In my ten-year-old logic, I assumed my pastor must do only spiritual stuff.
So many of us have a deep-seated fear that we have to choose—do we want to be obsessive Christians who don’t enjoy this life, or do we want to be complacent Christians who have a lot of fun here? We feel as if those are our only two options. Should we give up football, sell all of our possessions, and become missionaries to India? Or should we have nice houses, be well liked, and climb the corporate ladder? We know those aren’t really the only options, but we’re still haunted by the feeling that God must be happier when we read our Bibles than when we watch football. I wonder how many Christians remain lukewarm primarily because they think that being on fire would be miserable.

(The entire first chapter can be found at www.RadicallyNormal.com.) 

Where can readers learn more information about you?

My website is www.RadicallyNormal.com and I’m on Twitter at @joshkelley. I’d love to hear from you!  

Join the discussion (Don't forget to click "I commented!" in the Rafflecopter giveaway below for three extra entries): Radically Normal contains "lessons on how to discover the God-honoring and joy-filled path between complacent and obsessive faith." In your opinion, what is that path? (Providing Bible verses would be great!)


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GIVEAWAY!
(This giveaway is only open to followers of Christian Book Review Blog, so be sure you are a follower!) 
Josh has generously offered to giveaway a print copy of Radically NormalPrint giveaway is available to U.S residents only. Giveaway ends on Saturday August 30, 2014 at midnight (Eastern time). Thanks for coming by to enter!


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Monday, August 4, 2014

Author Interview and Giveaway: Out Of Hiding by Rachel Dylan

Welcome to Christian Book Review Blog, Rachel! Thank you for being here! Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

Yes, I’m a Georgia girl who has a wonderful husband and five amazing furkids—3 cats and 2 dogs. I write inspirational romantic suspense. 

When did you first discover that you loved writing? 

I started writing in elementary school. I especially loved writing poetry. But not until I was in my thirties did I write a novel. 

Why do you write the type of books that you do?

I write inspirational romantic suspense because I love writing edge of your seat stories filled with suspense and intrigue. I especially like to write characters who are in law enforcement.  

What was your greatest obstacle in writing and how did you overcome it?

I think getting used to your work being reviewed and judged is difficult. But I’m learning not to take it personally, and that not everyone will like every story. All I can do is write from the heart. 

Has writing changed your life in any way?

Writing has given me a much needed creative outlet. I find so much fulfillment in writing that I have been unable to find in other things I’ve done. It’s truly a blessing to be able to write.

What Bible scripture has impacted your life the most?

This is a tough one! But I always come back to Psalm 23. 

Is there a book you’ve read that has been truly spectacular?

Wow, this is a difficult one. There are so many wonderful books out there. I just recently started re-reading This Present Darkness by Frank Peretti. I read the book when I was in high school, and it had a huge impact on me. It’s been fascinating to revisit all the years later. 

What’s the funniest/quirkiest thing you’ve ever done? 

While I’m generally shy, I do love to karaoke every now and again. 
Please tell us about the featured book.

Sure! Here’s the blurb. 

TRUST NO ONE

This vow has kept P.I. Sadie Lane safe ever since she saw her parents murdered and then entered Witness Protection. But when she gets a lead on the long-ago killer she can't forget, Sadie joins forces with a dashing FBI agent leading his own investigation into the crime boss. Kip Moore makes her yearn to trust, but protocol demands Sadie keep her true identity hidden. Secrecy is all that has kept her alive. As they venture deep undercover into her target's syndicate, Sadie finds herself in over her head. Kip is her only hope as she comes face-to-face with a killer from her past. A deadly past that now threatens her future…and Kip's.

Can you please give us the first page?

Sadie felt the bullet whiz by her head as she crouched down in the wet dirt. Darkness surrounded her, but she wasn’t alone. Her gut screamed loudly that something was terribly wrong. And she always trusted her gut. She had company, and if that bullet was any indication, they meant business. The sound of the crackling leaves told her someone was moving quickly in her direction.

Dressed in all black, she lay flat on the ground in the dark woods. No one was going to see her. That bullet wasn’t meant for her but was intended for someone else. Who? She didn’t want to stick around long enough to find out. She prayed that Megan wasn’t out here in the woods tonight—alone, scared and with bullets flying. It was no place for a sixteen-year-old girl.

She checked her gun and kept her position low against the damp, muddy ground. Her night vision goggles were a blessing. It was then she saw what she dreaded the most. The letters FBI on a dark-colored flak jacket as an agent trounced his way through the woods. Why the FBI was involved in whatever was happening in these woods she didn’t know, but she didn’t like it. They were invading her turf.

Sadie had her first solid lead on the Vladimir network in El Paso, and she didn’t want to give up the opportunity. She’d been on stakeouts for weeks, desperately trying to determine if Igor—the man who had taken everything from her—was in El Paso. Her intel had been that something related to the Vladimir crew was going down in the woods tonight. She had hoped that whatever it was wasn’t going to involve Megan—the missing girl she was looking for. Sadie knew that Vladimir’s crew was responsible for her disappearance. That’s why she’d sought out the job just days ago.

Where can readers learn more information about you?

I’m active on social media. You can find me on Facebook, Twitter, and on my webpage.
www.facebook.com/RachelDylanAuthor
@dylan_rachel

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GIVEAWAY!
(This giveaway is only open to followers of Christian Book Review Blog, so be sure you are a follower!) 
Rachel has generously offered to giveaway a print copy of Out Of HidingPrint giveaway is available to U.S residents only. Giveaway ends on Saturday August 16, 2014 at midnight (Eastern time). Thanks for coming by to enter!

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