Thursday, October 23, 2014

Interview & Giveaway! Steven South ~ Author of The Queen of Steel and Fire!

Welcome to Christian Bookshelf Reviews, Steven!! Will you tell us a little about yourself? 

Thank you so much for having me.  I really like your blog, and it’s an honor to be interviewed on it! 
I’m 33, and originally from Minnesota.  I mostly grew up in upstate New York (not New York City, like most people think when I tell them I used to live in New York!).  I now live in Wisconsin with my wife Stephanie.  We have no children, but we do have two very spoiled guinea pigs.  By day I’m a police officer, and by night I’m a writer.  I have a bachelor’s degree in Human Resources, and I would eventually like to get a job in that field (unless the dream of making a living as full-time writer ever works out!). 

I was raised in a strong Catholic household, but I kind of drifted away from faith in my late teens and college years.  In my mid-twenties, I decided that I was being intellectually dishonest with myself, having one foot in religion, and one foot in a kind of lukewarm agnosticism.  I took some time to “wander in the desert” and really wrestle with religion and my beliefs, did a lot of studying of different religions and Christian denominations, and as a result of that, found myself really strongly drawn back to the Church. is your novel, The Queen of Steel and Fire, about?
When her father is murdered, sixteen-year-old princess Claire Erinn must become the first female ruler of Keldaren.  As soon as Claire takes the throne, enemies arise on her borders—and from within her own court.  

Claire knows she's not ready to rule.  But that’s a secret she has to hide—from her enemies, and from her own people.  Claire must act like a strong queen if she hopes to survive long enough to become one.  

As war looms, Claire struggles to save her kingdom, and herself.  A rival queen and Claire's half-mad brother are both coming for her crown—and her head.

With Death herself hunting her, Claire must become the warrior her kingdom needs.  She's willing to face Death to save Keldaren.  But the price of victory may be even higher than Claire’s life. 

That’s a brief plot summary.  But there are a lot of underlying themes in the book—the struggle between faith and doubt, the struggle to reconcile faith and reason, and how to be good in a world awash with amorality—or, as Joseph Ratzinger so elegantly put it, “the dictatorship of relativism.” 

When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?

 I’ve always loved to read.  In high school, I started writing short stories, and really enjoyed that.  In college and my early working years, I didn’t have a lot of time to write, but when my wife went back for her Master’s degree, I decided to try to write a novel when she was busy with school.  That’s how I got back into writing, and decided to try to become a “real” writer. 

What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk? 

I get distracted easily.  I’ve tried writing outdoors in state parks, and in other scenic places, but it takes me out of the story in my mind.  I’ve found I have to have an almost total focus on the writing to be efficient.  If I could build my own writing room, it would be a totally blank, white room with a single desk and a computer (with no Internet connection!) to help keep me inside my head, and in the book without any distractions. 

Where do you like to write? 
I usually write in the office, which is the place where there’s the least distractions in the house.  One of my favorite places to write (but not the most productive) is in the backyard on a laptop, when our guinea pigs are out eating grass. 

What do you like to do when you're not writing? 
I love to read—it’s one of my favorite things to do.  I also like to go hiking, play with our guinea pigs, hang out with my wife, go boating, and play computer games.  I also love to travel! 

What is your favorite genre to read and why?
I’d have to say literary fiction—I really like books that make a deep emotional impact on me.  Books like A Light Between Oceans and Claire of the Sea Light, which I read recently. 

What is your least favorite genre to read? 

I’d have to say romance is probably my least favorite. 

Is there a place you'd like to visit, but haven’t yet? 

There are way too many places I’d like to visit to list…a few would be…Belgium, Monaco, Greece, Turkey, Iceland, Croatia, Montenegro, Switzerland, Austria, Malta, Slovenia, Estonia, Tahiti, Vancouver, Hawaii, Taiwan, Fiji, Australia, Japan, Thailand, St. Lucia, Grenada, Aruba, Anguilla, Turks and Caicos, Guadeloupe, Korea,  Costa Rica, New Zealand, Ecuador, Peru, Mexico City, San Miguel de Allende, Barcelona, The Gambia, Tanzania, Belize, Egypt, Israel, Botswana, India, the Maldives, and Bhutan.  I definitely have a long list of places I’d like to go! 

Do you have a favorite Bible verse? 
Hard to pick one.  But I’d have to say Matthew 28:20—“And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age”.  This verse really resonates with me because in it, Jesus isn’t promising that there won’t be struggles, and failures, and pain in our lives—but he is promising to be there with us through it all, no matter what comes our way.  

Do you have a favorite song and/or movie? 

I’d have to say that “Black Balloon” by the Goo Goo Dolls is probably my favorite song, although lately, “Chocolate” by Against the Current has been a very close second.  

My favorite movie is probably “Lost in Translation”.  It’s such an interesting movie—Bob and Charlotte are both searching for meaning in their lives, both at such different times in life, Bob being in late middle age, and Charlotte being in early adulthood.  While they don’t find what might really give them the depth of meaning that they’re searching for—faith in God, they nibble around the edges of it enough that I think that it’s almost an implied theme by the end of the movie—that there’s something higher that they are still searching for, something still left for them to find.  I think it’s also a movie about the beauty of friendship. is your favorite holiday? 

Easter.  The Resurrection is such an awesome even to be able to celebrate.  Also, it’s the end of Lent, and by that time of year, after a long winter, it’s great to be able to anticipate spring coming. 

What is your favorite season and why is it your fav? 

Fall.  There’s just something invigorating about the crispness of the air and a bittersweetness  

This-or-that questions:
Snowstorms or Thunderstorms? 
Chocolate or Vanilla?
Tea or Coffee?
Tea.  But only with lots of sugar and milk. 
Call or Text? 
Cats or Dogs?
Dogs…not that I have any!
Early-bird or Night-owl? 
Up until I started running, I’d definitely have been a night owl.  But now I’d have to say I’m an early bird.        
Introvert or Extrovert?
Facebook or Twitter? 
Mystery or Romance?
Sneakers or Sandals?

Are you currently working on any new novels? If so, could you give us a hint? 

Yes, I’m working on the sequel to The Queen of Steel and Fire.  The working title is The Queen of Storms.  

The Kirosian Queen’s sister has been kidnapped, and Claire joins her in a war against the pirate clans to save the princess, and to end the pirate threat once and for all.  But a hidden power is behind the pirate attacks, and forces are moving to again engulf all of Eris in war. 

Thank you so much for being here! Is there anything else you’d like to tell readers and where can we find you on the web? 

Thank you for having me!  

For any readers who are aspiring writers, I think the most important thing about writing is to never give up—to keep pushing yourself to finish that draft, and then to push yourself even harder to keep editing and polishing it until your writing is the absolute best you can make it!  It’s also really important to get someone else to beta read and edit your work as well.

I’d also recommend reading Immediate Fiction by Jerry Cleaver—it’s the best and most helpful writing book I’ve ever read.  It really changed my perspective on writing.

Never stop reading!

I’d love to hear from people with questions or comments about my book, or suggestions on good books!  You can reach me on facebook at:

You can also check out my own book reviews on goodreads:

Enter for a chance to win a copy of The Queen Of Steel and Fire by Steven South! Giveaway is open internationally and winner can choose print or eBook format. Ends 11/6

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Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Review: Thunder by Bonnie S. Calhoun

About the book:
The Time of Sorrows is long past.
The future of Selah and her people is shrouded in mystery.
And the clock is ticking.

Hidden in the tall grasses along a shore littered with the rusted metal remnants of a once-great city, a hunter crouches. It is the eve of her eighteenth Birth Remembrance and high time she proves to herself and her brothers that she can stand on her own two feet. Selah Rishon Chavez waits not for game but for one of the small boats that occasionally crash against the desolate shoreline. Because inside one of these boats she will find her quarry—a Lander.
These people from an unknown land across the ocean are highly prized by the Company and bring a good price—especially if they keep the markings they arrive with.
Everything falls to pieces when the Lander whom Selah catches is stolen by her brothers, and Selah wakes the next morning to find the Lander's distinctive mark has appeared on her own flesh. Once the hunter, Selah is now one of the hunted, and she knows only one person who can help her—Bodhi Locke, the Lander her brothers hope to sell in the Mountain.
My rating:
(View my rating system)
My thoughts:

Review: A July Bride by Beth Wiseman the book:
In a moment of total panic, Brendan left Alyssa at the altar. What will it take for him to win her back?
When Brendan Meyers became a “runaway groom,” Alyssa Pennington’s heart broke. But she’s returned the unopened gifts, exchanged the dress, and is ready to get on with her life…and forget Brendan.   

The problem is, Brendan can’t forget. He can’t forget the love he and Alyssa shared and can’t forgive himself for what he put her through on their wedding day. He can never undo his actions, but at least he can try to win Alyssa’s forgiveness. And maybe, someday, another shot at her love.

Dalton Landreth was the only person not disappointed about that botched wedding. He had been eyeing Alyssa since high school—with his gorgeous, magnetic blue eyes—and when Brendan ran out the church doors, Dalton heard opportunity knocking.

Within months of being jilted at the altar, Alyssa finds herself being simultaneously wooed by the love of her life and the best-looking man she’s ever seen. Not bad for a small-town girl with a broken heart.
My rating:
(View my rating system)
My thoughts:

Review: A June Bride by Marybeth Whalen the book:
The reality show ended with an engagement, so why doesn’t this feel like the fairy tale she thought it would be?

The Rejection Connection hardly sounds like the place to fall in love, but Wynne Hardy walked off the reality-TV set with an engagement ring. And in the whirlwind of publicity and preparation that follows a TV-bride-to-be in her fifteen minutes of fame, Wynne barely has time to consider how she really feels about her new fiancé . . . to say nothing of how she still feels about her ex.

As the wedding plans develop, so too do Wynne’s doubts: Is she in love with Andy? Or is this really about Callum—the ex-boyfriend who sent her onto Rejection Connection in the first place? A nationally televised snub might be the best revenge . . . but is it a good reason to get married?

When Callum resurfaces at the worst possible moment, Wynne can’t help wondering if she’s made a huge mistake. Is her marriage a publicity stunt? And what happens when the cameras stop rolling, and she has a husband she barely knows?
My rating:
 (View my rating system)
My thoughts:

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