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 

Where can readers learn more information about you?

My website is 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!)

(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. 


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.

(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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Monday, July 21, 2014

The Liebster Award and The Sunflower Blogger Award

CBRB has been nominated by Sharon (at Sharon Lee Hughson's World). Thank you for choosing CBRB, Sharon! I am honored!

The following portion are the guidelines for accepting the award, as presented in my nominator’s blog:
The Liebster Award is very unique in the fact it brings recognition to the smaller blogs of the ‘verse.  With that in mind, all of the nominated blogs will have less than 200 followers.
The rules:
1. Thank the Liebster Blog presenter who nominated you and link back to their blog.
2. Post 11 facts about yourself, answer the 11 questions you were asked and create 11 questions for your nominees.
3. Nominate 11 blogs who you feel deserve to be noticed and leave a comment on their blog letting them know they have been chosen.
4. Display the Liebster Award logo.
5.  No tag back thingys.

CBRB has also been nominated by Shannah (at Book Reviews by Shannah). Thank you, Shannah! I appreciate that you thought of CBRB!

The rules:

  1. Share 11 facts about yourself
  2. Answer the 11 questions the previous blogger asked
  3. Tag 11 bloggers and ask them 11 new questions

Here's my attempt to kill two birds with one stone. I'll list 11 facts about myself (such a cheat, I know, but I could barely come up with 11 facts about myself––imagine 22!). I'll answer the individual 11 questions (no cheating here) and create 11 new questions (clears throat;-)). And I'll nominate a total of at least 11 blogs. Okay, here it goes . . .

11 Facts About Myself:

1. I am a Christian--praise Jesus!
2. I am Hispanic

3. I understand spanish, but can use some practice speaking it
4. I have easy-to-manage-yet-really-curly hair
5. My favorite Bible verse is Matthew 6:33 "
But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you."
6. I play drums at my Church
7. I'm in the beginning stages of writing a novel (shhh . . . ;)
8. I really enjoy reading Christian fiction and blogging about it and the authors who write it (obviously!)
9. I was in public school until 6th grade and home-schooled from 7th grade and beyond (so if any home-school Moms need some great curriculum recommendations, let me know. I'll be happy to recommend my favorites!)
10. I can manufacture a great dinner of stuffed shells:-)
11. My dream career is to be a Christian fiction publicist (surprise, surprise;-))

My Answers to Sharon's Questions:

1. If you were a book, what genre would you be?
Hmm . . . Comedy. "A joyful heart is good medicine . . . ." ( Proverbs 17:22) I love laughter--so much so that my family already has a term for my moments of silly, continuous laughter (usually when I'm overly tired): The laughing bug:-)

2. If you were a book, who is your author?

Jesus Christ. "Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them." (Psalm 139:16)

3. Where in the world would you travel if time and money were unlimited?

Wow. First on my list is Israel. From there the list goes on, beginning with sites of historical importance--battlegrounds, Rome, France . . . .

4. Your favorite food in the world is...

Pasta with Alfredo sauce--or is it ice cream?

5. What is your favorite flavor of ice cream (please don’t say vanilla!)?

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough . . . you know you want some;-)

6. What’s your favorite season and why?

Spring. The climate's perfect--not too hot or cold (although spring didn't seem to get the memo this year). Plus, my birthday is in spring:-)

7. Name the teacher that most deeply affected your life.

Besides my parents . . . my Pastor. His dedication to teaching the Word of God--only the Word of God--has profoundly impacted my life. I thank God for my Pastor!

8. The most important quality in a friend is...


9. Describe your comfy clothes.

Besides my pajamas? A flowy jean skirt with my loose fitting "Princess, Daughter of the King" t-shirt designed by my father.

10. Do you prefer it warm or cool in the room when you sleep?

Cool--except I loathe the result: sniffles (a runny nose)

11. What would the title of your autobiography be?

Written In the Stars. God told Abraham in Genesis 22:17-18, "I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies, and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me.”

Because Jesus is the descendant of Abraham who completed the prophecy "through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed"--which includes me--my story begins with God's promise to Abraham that his descendants will be "as numerous as the stars in the sky." Therefore, it's a story Written In the Stars.

My Answers to Shannah's Questions:

15. Where is your favorite place to read?

My Grandfather's patio/balcony in Puerto Rico. Pure Bliss.

16. What are you looking forward to doing this summer?

Hmm . . . Church trips. I love the joy of fellowship with Believers!

17. Do you prefer e-books or paperback/hardback books?

You know, a couple months ago I would have said paperbacks, hands down. Now, as I've been reading more on my kindle, I've come to appreciate the minimalism of e-books. I have enough paperbacks glaring at me from my desk, night stand, and bookshelves. Of course, if it's an author I really enjoy . . . nothing beats a paperback.

18. If you could meet one historical person, who would it be?

Besides Jesus, David, the Apostles, and the Prophets? Probably a World War II hero. Or one of the Founding Fathers.

19. You are on a desert island. You can have wish for three things. What would they be?

My family (that counts as one thing, right?). A Laptop--with Internet (I'm stretching, I know). And the Tree of Life (wish you would've thought of that one, huh?;)

20. Who is your favorite fictional character of all time?

It's a tie between Camilla Fox from the Stister-Wife series by Allison Pittman and Elisa Lindheim from The Zion Covenant series by Bodie and Brock Thoene. Or Trudy from the Shiloh Legacy series by Bodie and Brock Thoene. Or--oh, I don't know!

21. What is the greatest lesson you have learned from reading a fiction book?

Things are never as they appear--whether it be a guy, a situation, the government . . . . No wonder I have such an active imagination;)

22. Do you love your job?

I'm a full-time student, but I enjoy reviewing books, interviewing authors, and hosting giveaways here on CBRB and look forward to my future career as a Christian publicist.

23. What is your favorite quote?

"Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!" ~ Patrick Henry

24. Do you like to buy new books or are you ok with used?

I like to buy used books that look like new:)

25. What have you learned about yourself lately?

I can easily become complacent when I should be constantly striving for more--more of God and His Word.

For the Liebster Award I'm Nominating:

Jennifer ~ WordSmith
Shannah ~ Book Reviews By Shannah
Faith ~ Found A Christian by His Grace
Kav ~ Best Reads
Rachelle ~ Inspiring Daring

For the Sunflower Blogger Award I'm Nominating:

Rachel ~ Rachel Coker
Melanie ~ Christian Bookshelf Reviews
Rel ~ Relz Reviewz

My Questions:

1. What is your least favorite genre?
2. What is your all time favorite book?
3. What would be your ideal Christian fiction novel?
4. What is your favorite Christian artist/band or song?
5. Do you have a hobby (besides reading;)? If so, what is it?
6. What is the funniest/quirkiest thing you’ve ever done?
7. What Bible scripture has impacted your life the most?
8. What is your dream job?
9. How and when did you come to know the Lord Jesus in a deep and intimate way?
10. What three adjectives would you use to describe yourself?
11. What five things do you love/like the most?

Monday, July 7, 2014

Author Interview and Giveaway: Captured By Love by Jody Hedlund

Welcome to Christian Book Review Blog, Jody! Thank you for being here! When did you first discover that you loved writing? 

Like many writers, I’ve been writing since my childhood days. I always loved telling stories. When I was in junior high, I entered my first writing contest for a Biblical fiction story. And when I won, I realized God had indeed gifted me. I think that was when I became more serious about wanting to be a writer when I grew up.

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

I love reading historicals, so naturally that’s what I’m drawn to write. I’m fascinated with all of the things that happen in other times and places that seem so foreign to us now. I really appreciate when historical facts are woven into books seamlessly so that I’m learning but don’t really realize I am. And I hope that I can do that in my books too.

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

My biggest challenge at this stage in my life is dividing my time between writing and being a mom. Since I'm a work-from-home mom, there are many special issues that arise around setting boundaries, time management, as well as teaching my children to respect my work time.

Has writing changed your life in any way?

We have five children and homeschool our crew. Between homeschooling and writing I feel like I have two very full time jobs. It’s definitely not easy. But like any other writer trying to balance dual careers or multiple responsibilities, I’ve had to look for ways to make it work. I’ve scaled-back on outside commitments and simplified home life as much as possible. I also stick to a very strict writing schedule when I’m in first draft mode. I block out writing time and don’t let myself go to bed at night unless I get in my daily word count.

What Bible scripture has impacted your life the most?

One of the many verses I treasure is "I can do everything through Christ who gives me strength." Phil. 4:13 That verse has held me in good stead through many trials.

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

I've read a lot of spectacular books over the past year. I can't name one particular book or author because I've read so many that I've enjoyed and learned from. If I had to pick just one book, though, I'd go back to one of my childhood favorites,  Anne of Green Gables.  It played a role in developing my creativity as a writer. (Followed closely by A Little Princess and Little Women because they also featured strong, creative girls.)

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

Buy At Amazon
During my sleep deprived days when all of my five children were under the age of ten, I went shopping for clothes at Kohl's. As I was walking through the store pushing the double stroller and corralling my other kids, I happened to look down at my feet. I realized I was wearing two different shoes! 

Please tell us about the featured book.

Captured by Love is set on Mackinac Island, Michigan during the War of 1812. The book portrays all the hardships that came during the British rule of the island–starvation-like conditions, blockades, threats by the British captors, and an impending battle against the Americans who wanted to retake the island. As the story unfolds, I weave in real details of the war using the names of many generals and the actual circumstances leading up to the battle that took place on the island.

Can you please give us the first page?

Michilimackinac Island, Michigan Territory May 1814
The dawn mist swirled around Angelique MacKenzie and shrouded the forest trail. She didn't need the light of day to guide her. She knew every path of her beloved island and could run them blindfolded if need be.

Even so, something in the damp foggy air sent a shiver up the back of her neck and forced her bare feet to move faster. The cold mud oozed between her toes, squishing and squelching with each step. She glanced at the dark tangle of bramble surround her as if a loup-garou would leap out at her and bare his sharp wolf's teeth. 

She knew nothing of the sort could happen. Werewolves belonged only in tales, like the one she'd overheard the raconteur tell the night before. But she couldn't keep from seeing the hairy hunched back, long tail, and pointed ears in every flitting shadow.

Where can readers learn more information about you?

I hang out on Facebook here: Author Jody Hedlund
I also love to chat on Twitter: @JodyHedlund
My home base is at my website:
Or you're welcome to email me at:

(This giveaway is only open to followers of Christian Book Review Blog, so be sure you are a follower!) 
Jody has generously offered to giveaway a print copy of Captured By LovePrint giveaway is available to U.S residents only. Giveaway ends on Saturday July 19, 2014 at midnight (Eastern time). Thanks for coming by to enter!

a Rafflecopter giveaway