Monday, April 28, 2014

Author Interview and Giveaway: Katia AND For Maria by Bruce Judisch

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

Well, there’s really only a bit to tell.    First things first:  I’m 41 years married to my high school sweetheart, Jeannie, a father of three, and a grandfather of fourteen.  In a second career after retiring from the Air Force, I’m just sorting out how this writing thing fits into everything.

When did you first discover that you loved writing? 

When Jeannie told me I did.  (See, I told you I was 41 years married…)  Seriously, I was developing and teaching a course through the Old Testament minor prophets, and, when I introduced the study on Jonah to my class, I said, “If I were ever to write a novel, it would be on Jonah.”  I had no intention of writing a novel, but Jeannie elbowed me in the ribs—gently, of course—after class and said, “Well…?”  From that, “A Prophet’s Tale” was born.

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

I love historical fiction; the research, going back in time, getting a sense of what things were like during that era.  I particularly love the “hybrid” contemporary-historical genre, where there’s a modern-day storyline that either parallels or complements the historical tale.  Susan Meissner is a master of this (The Shape of Mercy, Lady in Waiting).  Both Katia and For Maria are written in the contemporary-historical genre.

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

I’m not sure I can nail it down to just one, nor am I sure that have overcome it yet.    I’m a seat-of-the-pants writer, with all the joy and frustration that entails.  Paired with a full-time job that inhibits a regular writing schedule, there are obstacles galore.

Has writing changed your life in any way?

Writing enhances my life, but it doesn’t define me.  I’ve read some authors who started much earlier in life than I did say they can’t imagine not writing, that they have stories they just must tell. And that’s great; more power to them. But that’s not really me. Having said that, with the vast amount of time and energy it takes to produce a manuscript, the emotional investment in the story, learning the craft, marketing the final product, collaborating with other authors—and so much more—writing can’t help but change your life, if taken seriously.

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What Bible scripture has impacted your life the most?

Oh, my.  To say there is only one would be to admit that I’ve spent very little time in Scripture.  Current life circumstances nudge various passages closer to the top of the list.  This may sound odd, but I use Scripture references for my computer passwords (very secure), and it’s always of interest to me to discover, when prompted to create or change a password, which passages first come to mind.  That’s telling of what might be going on in my life at that particular time.

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

Oh, my.  To say there is only one would be to admit that I’ve spent very little time reading.  (Oops!  Sorry, I think I already said something like that …)  “Truly spectacular” you say?  How can the Bible not be at the top of the list?  But then what?  Fiction?  (Depth of the storyline?  Quality of the prose?  Memorable characters?)  Nonfiction?  (Impact of the events?  Inspiration of the subject?  Again, quality of the prose?)  Wow, I can’t even begin to decide which one would come in second.
What’s the funniest/quirkiest thing you’ve ever done?

Wow, where do I start? I suspect that a list of un-quirky things I’ve done would actually be shorter than a list of my quirky ones. Being a seat-of-the-pants writer, you have to have some quirkiness to surrender the manuscript so the characters will write the story for you. That way you can blame them if the book flops. There, is that quirky enough? (Hint: ask a writer who outlines…)

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Please tell us about the featured book.

Lost Loves of WWII is a Barbour Publishing collection of three novels, two of which are mine: Katia and For Maria (click hyperlinks for reader reviews). Katia is perhaps my favorite of the books I’ve written (it’s certainly my wife’s favorite), and, although it deals more with the Cold War than WWII, it does have roots in that war. It’s a contemporary-historical novel with one storyline in the present and the other in the  mid-20th century. For Maria is the sequel to Katia, also a contemporary-historical, and the historical storyline is definitely WWII. There’s also a third novel in the collection: The Train Baby's Mother by Sharon Bernash Smith, which promises to be a great read. Three novels for the price of one, I think, is a pretty good deal.

Can you please give us the first page?

Since there are two of my stories in this collection, I get two pages, right?    Okay, we’ll compromise; a page and a half. I’ll give the prologue to For Maria, since it’s a complete chapter.

1 March 1940 
Frau Mahler, 
I hope this letter finds you well. I have received no response to my letter of last December regarding your sister’s baby girls. I can only hope it reached you, and that your response is en route. I fear, though, that there may not be time to await its arrival. 
Our apartment is being watched, as are so many others in this district. Rósa and I leave for Salzburg tomorrow evening… 
* * *
“Stay back from the window, Rósa. If they see you, they may come before we’re ready.” 
Rósa Dudek eased the curtain closed and rubbed her thin arms against the damp cold permeating the front room of their tiny second-floor apartment. The chill crept inward from the tips of her frail fingers and numbed her bony hands, triggering a dull ache in her arthritic joints. She shivered and pulled a threadbare woolen shawl tighter around her shoulders. Her wistful gaze flicked to a small fireplace, empty but for the powdery residue of last month’s coal, now too costly to replace. 
“What are you writing, Gustaw?” 
Her husband laid his pen onto the table and ran his fingers through thinning black hair. Cupping his hands around his mouth, he blew into them, then flexed his stiff fingers next to three stubby candles sprouting from a triple brass candle holder on the table. A weary halo shrouded the sickly yellow flames and cast weak shadows across peeling floral wallpaper and a pockmarked tabletop. The jaundiced glow accented the deep creases in Gustaw’s lean tired face. He coughed. 
“I write again to the Mahlers in Berlin.” 
“But why? They didn’t respond to your first letter.” 
“I know they didn’t respond, but I don’t know why. The post is slow since the Germans invaded. There could be many reasons.” He lifted his gaze. “And we must do everything we can to return the girls to their family.” 
Rósa clutched her arms around her slight waist. “Perhaps they’ve left Berlin. Or maybe they don’t want the children.” 
Gustaw paused, then rose from his chair and took his wife into his arms. He kissed her forehead. “You understand we must return them, don’t you?” 
Her eyes brimmed as he caressed her cheek. 
“God has withheld children from us for reasons only he knows, Rósa, and lacking a son or a daughter does not lessen my love for you, you know that. I’m becoming attached to the twins, too, but we cannot take another family’s children for our own. God would never honor such a thing.” 
“Of course I know this,” she sniffled. “But they’re so beautiful, and they look at me as though…” Her chest convulsed, and she rested her forehead on her husband’s shoulder. He let her release, as he had so often over the past twenty-five years at yet another month’s reminder that motherhood had eluded her. 
“Rósa, it’s time we must—” 
They stiffened at a tapping on the wall. Three taps, followed by two. Then silence. 
Gustaw rushed to the table and blew out the candles. He stuffed the unfinished letter and envelope into his jacket pocket. “Get the children. Now!”

Where can readers learn more information about you?

I have a website at If you click on one of the book covers, it will take you to a page dedicated to that book. The exception to that is the cover of Lost Loves, since it’s a compilation. Click on the Katia and For Maria covers for their respective pages to see what’s in Lost Loves.

I’d love to hear from any of your readers through the Contact Me link at the bottom of each of my Web pages. I give discounts for signed copies cheaper than the cover prices.

Thanks so much for hosting me, Aizess. It’s been fun.

Thank you for being with us today!

(This giveaway is only open to followers of Christian Book Review Blog, so be sure you are a follower!)
  Bruce has generously offered to giveaway TWO (print copy) sets of both Katia and For Maria to two special winners! Print giveaway is available to U.S. residents only. Giveaway ends on Saturday May 10, 2014 at midnight (Eastern time). Thanks for coming by to enter!

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Monday, April 14, 2014

Author Interview and Giveaway: Shadows of the Past by Patricia Bradley

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

I live in Northeast Mississippi and have been writing for 34 years. Yes. Thirty-four years. I presented abstinence and healthy relationship programs here in Mississippi for 8 years and loved working with the kids. I am also a potter and used the clay and the wheel as a visual to show how to build a good foundation for your life and what could happen if you didn’t.  I also design and make jewelry from porcelain.

When did you first discover that you loved writing?

It was 1980, and I was 35 years old. These people came to live in my head, which was a very good thing for me since I couldn’t sleep. They kept me entertained until I could finally fall off to sleep. But then they demanded that I write their story down. I did and Woman’s World published it in their mini-mystery in 1981.

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

Romantic suspense is what I like to read. I’ve always liked trying to figure out who did it.

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

Trying to figure out what I was doing wrong. Sometimes I think we are too close to our own work to see what’s wrong. I met Susan May Warren, and she critiqued my work and showed me not only what I was doing wrong, but what I was doing right. I attended 4 of her Deep Thinkers retreats and learned the craft of writing.

Has writing changed your life in any way?

It has helped my ADHD.  I feel God created me to write, and feel most satisfied when I’m writing.

What Bible scripture has impacted your life the most?

Isaiah 43:1 Fear not for I have redeemed you, I have called you by name. You are mine!

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

I read Exodus by Leon Uris when I was in the 10th grade and that book has stayed with me all these years.

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

Most of the funny things I do involve getting lost. Just this week I got lost trying to find a cabin where I was meeting a few of my friends for a retreat and ended up on a sand road straight out of the movie Deliverance. 

Please tell us about the featured book.

I think the back cover says it best:
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Psychology professor and criminal profiler Taylor Martin prides herself on being able to solve any crime, except the one she wants most desperately to solve—the disappearance of her father twenty years ago. When she finally has a lead on his whereabouts, Taylor returns home to Logan Point, Mississippi, to investigate. But as she is stalking the truth about the past, someone is stalking her.

Nick Sinclair pens mystery novels for a living, but the biggest mystery to him is how he can ever get over the death of his wife—a tragedy he believes he could have prevented. With his estranged brother the only family he has left, Nick sets out to find him. But when he crosses paths with Taylor, all he seems to find is trouble.

Join the chase as this determined duo search the murky shadows of the past for the keys to unlocking the present and moving into a future filled with new hope and love.

Can you please give us the first page? 

               Death unfolds like a budding flower,
               Tentatively, sweetly.
               Unfurling in majestic power.
               Until then, my love . . . until then.

        Black roses last week, now spidery words scrawled on a scrap of paper with “Meade Funeral Home” printed across the top. Someone was stalking her, and they wanted her to know it.
        Taylor Martin sucked in a sharp breath and tried to ignore the icy shiver traversing her body.
        He was here.
        Hair raised on the back of her neck. She turned in a circle. Heavy clouds hung low, shrouding the tall firs with their mist. An air ambulance waited in the clearing to lift off for Seattle as soon as Beth Coleman’s vitals stabilized. Only a few members of the search and rescue team remained at the crime scene, packing their gear.
        Whether he was one of the men who came out to comb the woods for the kidnapper and his victims, or he’d simply followed her here to this remote area southwest of Seattle, it didn’t matter. What mattered was that he’d been close enough to touch her, to put the note in her pocket.
        To kill her.

Where can readers learn more information about you?

They can find me at:
FaceBook at
Twitter: @patriciabradley1

Thank you for being with us today!

(This giveaway is only open to followers of Christian Book Review Blog, so be sure you are a follower!)
  Patricia has generously offered to giveaway a print copy of Shadows of the Past! Print giveaway is available to U.S. residents only. Giveaway ends on Saturday April 26, 2014 at midnight 
(Eastern time). Thanks for coming by to enter!

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Thursday, April 3, 2014

Book Review: Love Comes Calling by Siri Mitchell

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A girl with the best of intentions.
A heart set on Hollywood.
An empty pocketbook.

That's all it takes for Ellis Eton to find herself working as a telephone operator for a look-alike friend. For Ellis, this job will provide not only acting practice but the funds to get her a start in the movies. She's tired of always being a disappointment to her traditional Boston family, and though she can't deny the way he makes her head spin, she knows she's not good enough for Griffin Phillips, either. It's simple: avoid Griff's attentions, work, and get paid. But in typical Ellis fashion, her simple plan spirals out of control when she overhears a menacing phone call...with her very own Griff as the target.

With an endearing heroine as her lead, Siri Mitchell takes readers on a madcap tale of love and discovering one's true desires!

This is the second book I've read by Siri Mitchell; I do believe that it won't be my last. I immensely enjoyed how the roaring 20's sprang to life in this book. I caught a glimpse into the life of a 1920s college girl, became immersed in the life of a 1920s "hello" girl (a working class telephone operator), and sniffed a whiff of Boston's seamier quarter.

And I experienced all of this through the eyes of Ellis Eton, who the author stated would be classified as having ADHD (I didn't know of this till after I'd finished the book). As a result, Ellis is definitely a fun, quirky character whose thought process and actions are quite hilarious. To put it simply, there is never a dull moment with Ellis Eton.

In contrast to the light, humorous personality of the heroine, Love Comes Calling deals with a variety of serious issues: Can morality be regulated? Should I fight for what's right even when wrong is not affecting me? Can I be myself? among others. Siri managed to gracefully balance these weighted themes with the overall humorous tone of the book--although there was one morose scene that was especially... morose;-)

Since this is Christian historical romance, I found the spiritual thread rather lacking. The history, however, was vibrant. I especially liked the author's notes at the end of the book concerning the 1920s and its influence on the present. The romance was dainty and sweet and the mystery was engaging, suspenseful.

A light read infused with humor and directed by a capricious heroine, Love Comes Calling is a fun read with serious underlying themes and a dash of mystery. I give this book 4 out of 5 stars. It can be bought at Amazon.

** Much thanks to Bethany House Publishers for providing a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review, which I have given. **