Wednesday, December 31, 2014

2014 Is Nearly Over, Can You Believe It?

Can you believe 2014 is nearly over? What an up and down year it has been for me both professionally and personally.  But today I'm choosing to focus on the good things that happened this year.


I just found out I made Meridian Magazine reviewer Jennie Hansen's Top Ten Favorite Books of 2014 list.  Woohoo! You can see that list here.

Ring Around the Rosie was nominated for a Whitney Award and a Swoony Award.

From the Ashes was nominated for a Swoony Award.

Pocket Full of Posies won Honorable Mention for Best Suspense

I started a street team (Julie's SWAT Team) and have had a blast getting to know all the people on my team.

I've received some wonderful reviews and fan letters that I keep in a special place to pull out when I need them most.


My oldest son got married to an incredible woman that I'm so proud to call my daughter!

My oldest daughter earned a Bachelor's degree.

I'm so blessed and grateful to be a mom to eight great children!

And I hope you know how much I appreciate all of your encouragement and comments. Especially to Debra and Jon who have been my blog cheerleaders for a really long time.

Happy New Year! Maybe 2015 be fantastic!

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

New Year's Eve Eve

Well, I've been getting ready for the Bellon Family New Year's Eve Party today. I am so excited! The board games and movies are ready, the chocolate fountain and stuff to dip in it are purchased.  Chips and dip, homemade cheeseball and crackers, shrimp, sparkling cider, I've got it all! It's going to be a fun-filled and yummy New Year's Eve.

I've also been working on my Goal List for 2015.  I've decided to choose specific goals to work on each month for 2015 instead of just make the same resolutions I made last year.  We'll see how that goes.

What are your New Year's Eve plans? And are you making resolutions this year?

Monday, December 29, 2014

Book Review: Duty

Today's book review is Duty by Rachel Rossano.  I wasn't sure if I would like this book because while it's billed as a medieval historical romance, it also has elements of fantasy in it, and well, the fantasy genre isn't really my thing.  But man, this story sucked me in from the first page, and there's not that much fantasy in it at all, beyond a religious belief system and different names for people and places. (Which I chalked up to the medieval time period, actually.) I really enjoyed this book and read it every chance I got.

We are first introduced to our heroine, Brielle, when she is chosen from a crowd of invaders who are taking over the village and choosing new wives.  This could be a horrifying scene, (and sort of is, but it isn't, you just have to read it!) but the commander in charge, the Earl of Irvaine, is pretty humane about everything.  He's mysterious and brooding, yet definitely honorable.  Which is good, since the King has made a deal with Brielle's treacherous cousin and so Brielle is about to become the Earl of Irvaine's new wife.  Of course, the new couple is immediately thrust into a world of chaos as the new Earl is trying to claim his newly awarded properties, figure out a relationship with his new wife, and he learns the hard way who he can and cannot trust.

I have to say this book was really great with the romance.  It was a nice build between the two of them, with her being more of a warrior to be by her husband's side.  The new Earl of Irvaine wasn't born to nobility, but has worked his way up as a warrior for the king and the Earl is really an awesome hero.  Our heroine is no shrinking violet, either, and holds her own in a world of men and dangerous situations all around her.

I loved the pacing of the book between the swordfights, political intrigue with the king and robber barons, and of course, the romance.  Very well done.  There was a couple loose threads with some secondary characters, but I'm assuming there are going to be more books in the series that will tie those up. The ending was definitely satisfying, though, no cliffhangers here.  I thought the setting was believable, the characters memorable, and I would definitely like to read more of this series!

Here's the back copy:

Duty to King

Tomas Dyrease, the newly made Earl of Irvaine and the village of Wisenvale, owes his good fortune to his king and the recent civil war. When his benefactor demands Tomas marry the cousin of a noble, he obeys. However, no one warned him that she wasn’t a typical noblewoman.

Duty to Others

Brielle Solarius struggles to keep her village from starvation under the new Lord Wisten, her cousin. The men rode off to war and never returned. The remaining women and children face a dire winter if they do not find a solution soon. When she learns her cousin sold her into marriage to save his life, she isn’t surprised. However, she is taken aback by Lord Irvaine’s unpolished ways. Was this man a noble or a foot soldier?

Duty to Each Other

Bound by the words of their vows, they face a rough future. They must forge a marriage while battling betrayal, accusations of treason, and villains from the past. Survival depends on their precarious trust in each other. Failure could mean death.

You can buy your Kindle copy herefor $4.99

Friday, December 26, 2014

Freebie For My Writer Friends

If you have used the Emotion Thesaurus (and almost every writer I know loves that book. You can get it here for $4.99 and it is worth its weight in gold!) then you definitely need the companion book to it---and it's free today!

The companion book is called Emotion Amplifiers by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi. Here's the back copy:

When writing fictional characters, it’s hugely important to convey their emotions effectively so readers will be drawn in and become invested in those characters. The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Character Expression was written to help writers convey the quality and depth of their characters’ feelings through their thoughts, body language, and visceral reactions. But there are also ways to amplify what a character is feeling, thereby heightening their emotional responses.

In Emotion Amplifiers, a companion guide to The Emotion Thesaurus, we explore 15 common states that naturally galvanize emotion. States like exhaustion, boredom, illness, pain, and extreme hunger can push characters to the limit, compromising their decision-making abilities and decreasing the likelihood of them reaching their goals. Emotion Amplifiers is a great tool for any writer wishing to tighten the screws on their characters and amp up the tension in their stories.

If you write, you want this book! Download your free kindle copy here

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Christmas Eve Freebie

I know everyone is super busy (I still have wrapping to do!) but I thought I'd put this Christmas short story freebie out there for those of you who are all done! Reading is the best reward!

It's Twelve Days: A Story of Christmas by Cheri Chesley.

Here's the back copy:

Workaholic Joe thought that he'd provided a good life for his wife and young daughter, until the night of his daughter's Christmas Concert when his wife whispered that she wants a divorce. Joe revives an old holiday tradition with the hope of changing her mind, but it's his heart that changes most.

Click here to download your free Kindle copy!

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

My Top Five Must-See Christmas Movies

There are so many great Christmas movies out there, but there are five that are on my must-see list to watch every Christmas season.

1.  National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation--I laugh so hard at this show every time.  Chevy Chase is perfect as Clark.  Here are two of my favorite quotes:  "Oh, Eddie... If I woke up tomorrow with my head sewn to the carpet, I wouldn't be more surprised than I am now."


2.  How the Grinch Stole Christmas--Now this is just a classic. No one should ever go through a Christmas season without seeing this one. I couldn't give a favorite quote, I love this whole movie!

3. The Santa Clause--I love Tim Allen in this movie, just how he handles becoming "the big guy." So funny..  One of my favorite quotes:

"Charlie: It's Santa! You killed him!"
Scott:  "I did not! And he's not Santa!"
Charlie: "Well, he was . . ."

4. A Christmas Carol--Everyone has to see this movie every Christmas season just to remind ourselves what Christmas is truly about and how we can miss the everyday meanings of just noticing and caring about the people around us.  I love the message and there are way too many favorite quotes to list!

5.  Elf.  This is probably my all-time favorite Christmas movie.  I laugh every single time I watch it.  I have so many favorite quotes.  SO MANY!  But here are my top ones:

"You sit on a throne of lies."

"He's an angry elf."

"The best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear."

Just reading these makes me smile! I hope you're all watching your favorite Christmas movies this week. What's on your must-see list?

Monday, December 22, 2014

Christmas Freebies!

I know, I've been doing freebies for the past few blogs, but I just can't help it! These are even Christmas freebies! And who doesn't like a free Christmas book, right?

The first one is Christmas Jars, Snow Cones, and Dimes by Jason Wright.

Here's the back copy:

What is the Christmas Jars tradition?

“ by one, family members will empty their pockets and delight at the cling-clang of change hitting the empty glass bottom. Most days will yield a quarter, a dime, perhaps two nickels and a stray penny. Occasionally Mother will make change for herself by drop- ping in a worn dollar bill and pulling out an appropriate combination of cool silver coins. Over the months that follow, the gathering change will leave no recognizable void. Occasionally the temptation to borrow for laundry, a movie, or the ice-cream truck will float through the house, over the jar, and out the back door. But it never lands. The money is spoken for.” (Excerpt from Christmas Jars, copyright 2005, published by Shadow Mountain.)

Christmas Jars, a New York Times Bestselling novella by Jason Wright, first became a phenomenon during the 2005 holiday season. Readers across America reacted to the message of daily giving and sacrifice by creating their own Christmas Jars.

Today, thousands of glass jars rest on kitchen countertops, slowly collecting the spare change generated each and every day. On Christmas Eve, each jar, now overflowing with both money and goodwill, will anonymously find a new home. In turn, the grateful recipients will put the money to good use in their lives and begin their own jar. Thus hearts and lives are changed and the cycle continues.

This short story follows in the tradition and spirit of Christmas Jars. If you've read the original, you'll love this sweet addition to the Christmas Jars family.

If this looks good to you, download your free Kindle copy here

The second one is Risking It All For Love--A Christmas in Snow Valley Romance by Kimberley Montpetit.  Here's the back copy:

Clean Romance with a humorous bite by Amazon #1 Best Selling Author for Christian Romance Kimberley Montpetit

Ever since her high school boyfriend's death from a car accident three years earlier, Jessica Mason and her hometown of Snow Valley, Montana with all its awful memories have NOT been compatible. Running away to New Orleans on a ballet scholarship, Jessica cringes when she thinks about confronting Pastor John and the community church--she doesn't want to talk about God, not after He took Michael, the boy she was going to marry ever since third grade.

In the local scene of funky New Orleans, Jessica seeks out Madame LaBlanc, hoping Michael will absolve her of her guilt the night of the car accident in a seance, but the spirit world is silent and she fears the grief will drown her.

Finally succumbing to family pressure, Jessica reluctantly returns for Christmas - and the little town of Snow Valley does Christmas BIG. When she visits Michael’s grave in the church yard, Jessica is shocked to meet handsome James Douglas, Pastor John’s nephew, who’s studying for the ministry. No, she is NOT going to be attracted to someone who wants to be a preacher! Definitely not compatible! But James Douglas is unlike any minister-in-training she's ever met. James can not only dish back Jessica’s finely-tuned sarcasm but understands grief all too well, turning Jessica’s world upside down.

Can Jessica forgive herself for that terrible, fateful night? Can she take another risk on love?

A fast-paced romance with humor, family dynamics, Christmas, and kissing.

If this looks good to you, download your free Kindle copy here

And then snuggle in with some hot chocolate and these two books and read some fun Christmas stories!

Friday, December 19, 2014

Friday Freebie---Beauty and the Beast

Today's Friday Freebie is Beauty and the Beast---the first in a YA series of fairy tale retelling stories by Jenni James.

Here's the back copy:

A prince by day and a wolf by night—

Prince Alexander has been turned into a werewolf and has one year to find someone to love the beast and break the spell, or he will be a wolf forever. He has nearly given up achieving the impossible, knowing no girl would ever fall in love with such a monster.

Just when he is about to abdicate the throne to his cousin, he meets Cecelia Hammerstein-Smythe, while a wolf, and begins to hope for the first time in months. Can he balance both worlds as a human and beast, gaining the love and trust of a girl who has every reason to despise him?

Cecelia detests the prince. She only knows Alexander as the arrogant monarch—the tyrant who has made her life miserable—though perhaps he's changed right before her eyes. He's not as full of himself as he once was. The prince is gentle now... but then again, so is the beast.

If this looks interesting to you, you can download your free Kindle copy here

Thursday, December 18, 2014

A Thursday Freebie---Just Because!

I know, I know, it's not even Friday. But I've been lazy today, taking things easy, and when I saw that there was a free book and a nearly free book by one of my favorite authors, I thought I'd share with you!

You can download this free Kindle Book here

 One Chance by Heather B. Moore

Here's the back copy:

Welcome to the Aliso Creek Novella Series...

Liz, Gemma, Arie, Jess, and Drew have been best friends since creating “the Five” at Aliso Creek High School. But that was over ten years ago, and each is still trying to find that perfect someone... if perfect is even possible.

Valentina is the odd woman out. She was part of “the Five” when she dated Drew for a couple of years, and she remains friends with the women, but with her traveling schedule as a runway model, it’s impossible to maintain a real relationship. When Valentina attends her cousin’s wedding in LA, she runs into Cesar, who she was a school friend with in Puerto Rico. Cesar is not the young, skinny boy she remembers but a grown man who seems interested in what’s beyond her model appearance. Back in New York, Valentina can’t get him out of her mind, but she also can’t deny the fact that they’re separated by well over a thousand miles.

Other Books in the Aliso Creek Novella Series:
PICTURE PERFECT--part of A Timeless Romance Anthology: Spring Vacation Collection

Nearly Free Kindle Book

Beneath by H.B. Moore
(I loved this novella)  You can download it here for only .99 cents!

Here's the back copy:

Chalice Stratford’s hands won’t stop shaking. Since the serial killer who tortured her is still at large, she’s had to enter the witness protection program and give up the medical practice that required her steady hand. Now she is working in a museum in Bordeaux, France, and doing her best to keep a low profile.

On the first day of her new job, the last thing she expects is to be abducted in a theft gone wrong. But Omar Zagouri, the man behind the heist, is more than he appears, and Chalice soon discovers that he might be the one man who can put her demons to rest.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

You Deserve Some Pampering

Since this is generally one of the busiest months of the year, and as women, we sometimes put ourselves last, I was so happy to see that for Flylady this month (a home organization group that I follow) the monthly mission was to do something to pamper yourself every day.

I love this idea because pampering always seems like it has to be something big or expensive, but it doesn't really have to be.  So far I've done things like:

Made myself some hot chocolate and sit at the table for fifteen minutes without my to do list or anything else except sitting and relaxing.

I have a whole cupboard full of nice smelling candles, so I light one every day to make my house smell good.

Take a hot bubble bath.

Paint my nails.

Put some nice-smelling lotion on.

Call a friend I haven't talked to in a while.

Go to my favorite park on my way home from errands and roll down the window while I listen to Christmas songs and just breathe for a few minutes of solitude.

So, as you can see, they aren't big things, but they have made a world of difference in how peaceful I'm feeling this holiday season.

What are some small and simple things you do that pamper you?

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Christmas Traditions---What Have You Got?

I was talking to a friend today about their Christmas traditions.  She has one where their family all decorates a gingerbread house and they have a neighbor come over and judge who had the best decorated one.  That would be hard to choose, I think! But it sounds like lots of fun, too.

Another friend does a Christmas challenge with her family, so, for the month of December, they all read a special book, or do a service project together, write in journals, read to the elderly, stuff like that, then they talk about what they did Christmas morning.

For us, some of our favorite traditions are when we gather all of our children on our bed Christmas morning and read the Bible story of Christ's birth before we go down to do presents.  We've also done a service advent calendar (which my little ones have really loved this year.) What we've done is for each day leading up to Christmas, we have a service assignment.  For example, one day our assignment is to make someone laugh, (even if you have to resort to telling a knock knock joke!) and then another day we do a secret service for someone and so on.  Then we all talk about the things we did at the dinner table. That has been fun.

One thing I've done this year is to make some Christmas tree ornaments.  As you all know, I'm not a crafty person, and I haven't had much luck on Pinterest, but I found this baking soda recipe for a homemade handprint Christmas ornament that I tried and it has turned out so far! (and it didn't look too bad either!) So I'm recommending this one for a fun family activity making handprint Christmas tree ornaments.  And especially because it has glitter on it and every tree needs a little glitter and glam right?  Get all the details here  (And the picture below is the finished product they showed on the blog, not mine.  Although I might post a pic of mine when it's done. I'm really liking it!)

I hope you're having a wonderful Christmas season.  I'd love to hear what some of your Christmas traditions are!

Monday, December 15, 2014

Book Review & Giveaway!

Rough Around the Edges

I'm really excited to be part of the blog tour for Rachael Anderson's new book, Rough Around the Edges Meets Refined. (Now that's a mouthful!)  It's about two people who have been widowed, yet are left with different scars and feelings about marriage and relationships in general.

Cassie was in a restrictive marriage to a man who presented himself as the perfect fiancee, but after they were married, he pretty much told her who she was and what she wanted.  Now that he's gone, Cassie is trying to find herself again and figure out why she didn't see what her husband really was before she married him.  She's distanced herself from everyone she loves and is trying to find her way back, even though she's not sure she really can.  I loved how realistic Cassie seemed while she struggled and sorted through her feelings as she tried to rebuild her life.

Noah was in a great marriage, but lost his wife, leaving him a single father with two sweet little girls. He's not looking to date since he's not sure he could love anyone like he loved his wife. But he has well-meaning neighbors and friends who want him to be happy and play matchmaker for him.  And they know Cassie would possibly fit the bill if he can give her a chance.  Noah is the hero you love to read about and the scenes between him and his girls were adorable.  I loved how unsure he was of himself at times, and yet he was confident, too.  Just the right mix of swoon and swagger.

I loved the growth I saw in both characters as they try to overcome their fears and hangups and slowly come to trust and love again.  Their romance was just the right pace, slow and sweet.  I laughed at the "upgrade" dates and sighed at the ice cream date.  If you want a sweet romance that will leave you with a smile on your face, this is the book for you.

(Be sure to scroll all the way down and enter the rafflecopter giveaway of $25 Paypal cash or Amazon gift card!)

Here's the back copy:
For Noah Mackie, life is finally back on track. He has a great support system, a promised promotion is on its way, and he's finally getting the hang of this single father thing. But when the job falls through and his neighbor's matchmaking efforts become more aggressive, Noah is in for yet another unwanted detour. With his career and two spirited daughters to worry about, he doesn't have time for dating—especially not someone like Cassie Ellis, his girls' beautiful and sophisticated dance instructor, who is about as open and approachable as a brick wall. Rough around the Edges Meets Refined is about two people who think they know exactly what they want but who have no idea what they really need. It's about learning that people aren't always what they seem and that sometimes life’s detours take you exactly where you need to go.

Purchase Your Copy from

Rough Around the Edges

add to goodreads new


Author Rachael Anderson USA Today bestselling author, Rachael Anderson is the mother of four and is pretty good at breaking up fights, or at least sending guilty parties to their rooms. She can't sing, doesn't dance, and despises tragedies. But she recently figured out how yeast works and can now make homemade bread, which she is really good at eating.


$25 Blog Tour Giveaway Enter to win an Amazon Gift Card or Paypal Cash Ends 1/19/15 Open only to those who can legally enter, receive and use an Gift Code or Paypal Cash. Winning Entry will be verified prior to prize being awarded. No purchase necessary. You must be 18 or older to enter or have your parent enter for you. The winner will be chosen by rafflecopter and announced here as well as emailed and will have 48 hours to respond or a new winner will be chosen. This giveaway is in no way associated with Facebook, Twitter, Rafflecopter or any other entity unless otherwise specified. The number of eligible entries received determines the odds of winning. Giveaway was organized by Kathy from I Am A Reader and sponsored by VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Freebie Friday And An Amazing Review!

My novel Ring Around the Rosie got a Crowned Heart for Excellence and an amazing review in InD'Tale Magazine today! Woohoo! I'm so excited about this one.  Some of my favorite things they said were:

"Ms. Bellon has created a well-rounded, suspenseful novel . . .the plot has a steady pace and is deftly written . . .the suspense built up by hostage situations will keep readers engaged in this story until the very end which ties up all the threads nicely. This wonderful tale has a soft but poignant romance that will bring new light to old passion. Make this author a favorite on your shelves and search for the rest of the series."  ---Julie Calcco, InD'Tale Magazine

I think that last line of that review is my favorite part of all.  *big grin*  You can read the whole review here

Today's Freebie Friday is Rebecca Belliston's Augustina (Book 2 in the Sadie series).  Here is the back copy:

Against the odds, Sarah Augustina Dawson (Sadie) survived the wrath of Guillermo. But not without a price. Forced to leave her beloved Montana behind, she and Josh are on the run. Within the warmth of the South, she's determined to find peace and conquer her past, even if only in her mind. But Guillermo can't let go. He's still orchestrating, hunting, and devising ways to exact his own kind of justice. When the law swings in his favor, he's ready to end the feud that started the moment Josh walked into Sadie's life.

If this looks interesting to you, click here to download your free copy.

Luckily, Book 1 of the series Citizens of Logan Pond is on sale for 99 cents.  Here's the back copy of this one:

The economy crashed, the country is floundering, and Carrie Ashworth struggles to keep her brother and sister alive. She has two jobs in her newly-formed, newly-outlawed clan: growing crops to feed thirty-six people and keeping Simmons, their local patrolman, happy. Carrie’s life settles into a simple rhythm and is almost content when Greg Pierce shows up, a man with the ambition to help them survive. A man determined to hate her.

When a government raid nearly wipes out their clan, Greg realizes the true reason behind their safety. Patrolman Simmons has fallen for Carrie. Greg takes it upon himself to give the socially-awkward patrolman what he wants. Only Carrie doesn’t like Greg throwing her in Simmons’s path, especially when Greg’s brusque exterior melts, and she catches a glimpse of the real man underneath. As Greg and Carrie strike a truce, an unlikely friendship forms and threatens to move beyond. Carrie’s forced to choose between the unthinkable: following her heart or saving her clan. Life won’t let her choose both.

If you'd like to download the first book in the series, click here

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Pinterest is a Self-Esteem Killer

Do you know how many times I've been on Pinterest and seen pins with "Super Easy!" or "No Fail Recipe" in the headline?  And it looks like this super cute, extremely easy thing to do?

As a craft-challenged person, but at the same time, an adult woman who can follow directions, I fall for those headlines a lot and think I can do it. It's like when you're trying to deal with your chocolate addiction, but you're standing in line at the grocery store where the chocolate bars are displayed and you think I can resist temptation.  But the longer you linger there, the more the chocolate calls your name, breaking down your defenses, and then when your will crumbles you think, well, one more couldn't hurt, right?


Pinterest draws me in with cute kid projects and the longer I linger there, the more my will to never attempt another project gets.  But look, I tell myself, it says only four simple steps! It looks so easy! One more try couldn't hurt anything, right?

Wrong again.

This week I was making kids' hand ornaments for the Christmas tree.  The pinner assured me she'd done it dozens of times and nothing had ever gone wrong.

Obviously, she's not as craft-challenged as I am.  It just didn't look anything like her cute picture.

At all.

It's just such a downer when I fail at the no fail recipes and can't do the "Super Easy" projects. Dang you, Pinterest, and your self-esteem robbing ways!  *shakes fist*

(But I have to say, these pics of Pinterest projects gone wrong made me laugh and feel a bit better!)

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Word Count Wednesday (Sort Of)

I didn't get to work very much this week on my writing project.  I've mostly been getting stuff ready for Christmas, decorating, cards, and gift-giving. I'm performing in a musical number for a live nativity, so I've been practicing for that.  I also received tickets to the Mormon Tabernacle Choir Christmas concert and I am so excited to go to that!  love the spirit that comes along with Christmas. Everyone just seems happier! I hope you're feeling that, too.

The other thing that has struck me this week is the organization bug. With Christmas gifts coming in soon, I've been de-junking some of our more gently used toys that still have lots of life in them, but aren't played with as much.  Boy, does that feel good to see extra things we don't need going to charity to others who can hopefully use it.

What did you do with your time this week?

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Castle's Christmas Episode

Last night I was finishing up addressing my Christmas cards and when the Castle family came on and the first thing they were talking about was how everyone had to come up with a poem for their family Christmas card, I thought what a great idea! But it was too late for my family card.  Maybe next year. Of course, Kate hadn't gotten around to hers because she thought it wasn't a big deal.  Shouldn't she know by now that most stuff like that in the Castle household is a big deal?

Well, the first scene was actually of some guy (who could run really fast!) running away from a car.  The car has several advantages on the runner, the first being speed, and the second that the driver shoots the runner.  The victim crashes through a storefront window and the driver gets out (in a Santa suit! Yeah, I was glad none of my kids were still up.) and shoots the victim one more time for good measure.  Yikes.

The team is on it and figure out that the victim was an ER doctor named Eric Mercer.  His co-workers tell the team that he missed work to help his uncle, only he doesn't have an uncle.  When they track down the address that Eric was secretly going off to, they find out that he was actually moonlighting as a mob doctor for the Carlucci family.  Not surprisingly, Castle has a connection to the now head guy of the Carlucci family, Dino, (he sure knows a lot of mob guys from his research. I found that a little unbelievable, but I digress.)  They go to Dino's headquarters, which is a strip joint.

Oddly, they show Rick enjoying the strippers dancing while he's with HIS NEW WIFE.  Beckett tells him if he doesn't quite staring he'll have to get the two drink minimum and he doesn't even hear her.  I didn't like that part actually. He's a newlywed for Pete's sake.  Why do they have him doing that in front of her? Yuck.  But, anyway, one of the stripper's touches Castle's shoulder on her way by and Beckett is all, really? Yeah, that's what I was saying, too.

They get to talk briefly to Dino, but things get a little chilly when Castle introduces his wife (I still love that he can say that now) and she informs them she's NYPD.  His head of security (Rocco) and number two guy (Christopher) join the meeting, but Dino says he has no info for them.  Beckett is continuing to try to question the guy when she gets a call from Ryan.  They found Dino's number two guy Christopher's car with a Santa suit and blood on it.  She brings Christopher in for questioning.

Christopher isn't talking and even the mob crimes detective they bring in to consult (who was oddly a very stiff actor) doesn't really have a lot to add to the circumstantial evidence.  Dino calls Castle to a meeting and after a discussion with Beckett about being careful about mob people, Castle goes.  This was a very strange meeting. Dino is giving his daughter Jane a wad of money when Castle comes in.  And Dino then tells Castle he knows Christopher is being set up, that he raised Eric as his own, and wants to find out who is behind all of this.  Well, he wants Castle to find out who's behind all of this.  And in order to make sure that happens, he quickly cuts his own hand and cuts Castle's, then swears a blood oath. Ew.

Beckett gives the okay for Castle to keep investigating their closed case (why did they close that so quickly? They sure didn't have much) and Castle goes to talk to Christopher who now sings like a bird.  Eric needed some surveillance equipment and Christopher sent him to his friend, Rita. Rita actually provided Eric with a bunch of stolen credit cards.  Which the team try to track, but no joy. They do get something from the lab, Lainey found out that the crystals on him came from rock salt. Surprise! There's a rock salt warehouse near where Eric was killed.  Caskett goes there and finds Eric's backpack filled with bloody clothes with bullet holes in them.  Dun, dun, dun. The plot thickens.

The oddly stiff mob crime detective tells them that the owner of the bloody clothes could be Luka Tessaro, a guy from a rival mob.  He disappeared a few nights ago after gunfire was reported in his neighborhood. The team goes out to the underpass where the gunshots were supposedly fired, and find a slug and a bloody bracelet that the crime scene unit missed. Yikes.  Somebody getting fired over that I wonder?  Anyway, they match the blood on the bracelet to Jane, Dino's daughter.

Castle goes to Dino to tell him what he's found, but as soon as Castle points the finger in Jane's direction, Dino loses it and gets out a gun to shoot Castle. Luckily, Jane rushes in at the last minute and tells her father that she was there, that she was in love with Luka, he'd called her when he'd been shot and she'd tried to get him in her car to bring him to Eric to save.  But he couldn't be saved.  Hey, maybe the Tessaro family found out about that and killed Eric in retaliation? Hmmm...

Since Jane doesn't know who was after Luka or who killed Eric, the case is at a standstill until someone uses the stolen credit card.  Caskett follow it up and find Luka holed up in a warehouse with Jane. Seems they were faking his death to get out of "the life" and be together.  Eric was helping them and got the stolen credit cards to help them get away.  Luka talks about how before he was shot, he was supposed to be finding out who was moving in on their family territory.  Store owners were getting email demands for protection money and if they didn't pay up, their store was burned down.  No one knew who the guy was.  But Rita ends up helping the team track the anonymous guy's Cayman island account and it all leads back to . . . the odd mob crimes detective! I totally called that one since the guy was just so random.

Dino accepts his daughter and her Tessaro love and tells Castle he owes him one.  I'm sure that will come into play later this season.  Or, maybe not.  Anyway, Captain Gates comes up to tell Castle that while he was being transferred the mob detective guy (McBride I think his name was?) was killed and since Castle is connected to organized crime now, he can't work with the NYPD anymore. (I guess the mob killed him, so . . . that makes Castle guilty by association?)  The look on Castle's face was SO SAD. When Beckett comes up to him all happy with her poem, he puts on a brave front and doesn't tell her.  He just says nothing's wrong because she's there and goes over to the police station's Christmas tree and watches everyone dancing and happy.  *sniffle*

The other unhappy storyline is that Lainey had lied to her parents to get them off her back and told them that she was engaged to Esposito. They're flying in and she asks him to pretend they are engaged.  He agrees, and it ends up really cute with how much he wants them to like him.  But in the end, they both decide they don't love each other like that, and break up.  Wahhhh. I liked them together.  *sigh*

So, come January, Espo is a free man and from the previews, Castle is starting his own PI business and is in competition with our favorite team from the Twelfth Precinct.  Now that could be really fun. I can't wait!

Did you watch? What did you think?

Monday, December 8, 2014

Double Review With Lots of Bad Guys!

Today's review is of two awesome books!

First, Dennis Gaunt's Bad Guys of the Bible.  I wasn't exactly sure what to expect when I picked up this book, but I loved it!  It's discussing what we can learn from the "bad guys" of the Bible like Satan, Cain, and Nimrod, and goes on to talk about bullies like Goliath and Sanballat to name just a few.  There were so many insights that can be applied to life in our day, things I'd never really thought about, that it kept me turning pages!

I also loved that Gaunt has a warm, conversational tone that really made this book stand out.  It wasn't preachy or condescending at all, it felt like he was this really smart, cool guy sharing stuff he'd been thinking about lately.  I definitely want my teenagers to read this, not only because they could learn something about how to deal with all the stuff they are bombarded with every day in our society, but also because I think some of the way the subject matter is presented will make them laugh.  It's an awesome twist to look at the bad guys for a change and what makes them tick and how to overcome whatever they dish out.  It's no wonder Mr. Gaunt is a sought after youth speaker! His personality shines through even on a printed page.

I would definitely recommend this one for teens and adults. You can purchase it here

Here's the back copy:

These bad guys are smart. You can be smarter. This entertaining book shows how knowing the enemy can help you be a righteous warrior in your own life. Any discussion of bad guys has to begin with “in the beginning.” From Genesis to Revelation, you’ll get the dirt on the dastardly deeds perpetrated by Bible characters ranging from the truly villainous to the temporarily wayward. Weaving together gospel truth and humor, Dennis Gaunt shows that you can’t have a great story without a great bad guy—and that by studying and knowing the mistakes that biblical bad guys made, we can avoid falling into similar perilous traps. This entertaining and inspiring book also wraps up each chapter with thoughtful questions that invite readers to ponder and apply in their own lives the spiritual lessons from these fascinating stories.

The second book is Rachel Nunes new one Blinded.  I've been following the Autumn Rain series from the beginning and I am so happy there's another one out! I'm not sure if this is the last one, it might be, but I hope not! If it is, though, the ending was still perfect.  Sigh.  I love a good (sort of) paranormal romance.

Autumn Rain can feel imprints from objects---emotions and scenes from previous owners.  Only this time, her gift is taken away from her right when she's in the middle of helping the police solve a case. It's devastating to her because she spent so much time trying to accept and embrace her gift and it became a part of her, only to have it snatched away.  I love the growth we see in Autumn and how much she's matured both as a person and as someone with a special gift.  I loved how sure she is of Shannon, and how they interact together now. They've come such a long way! Of course it was great to see where Jake was and Autumn's sister and father.  But the characters aside, the mystery was solid with elderly deaths, the mob twists, and all the turns.  I admit, I was a little surprised by who the killer really was! Ms. Nunes has done such a great job with Autumn.  I have truly enjoyed this series. If you haven't read it, you should! You can purchase it here

Here's the back copy:

Sometimes clear sight comes only after you’re blinded

When a rash of elderly deaths occur in Portland, Autumn Rain is called upon to use her ability to read emotions imprinted on physical objects in an attempt to track down the killer. The antiques shop owner and part-time police consultant is more than willing to go undercover to estate sales with detective Shannon Martin. After all, reselling antiques is her business, and spending time with the man she might be falling for is a plus.

But a chilling repeat imprint and a fiery near-death has Autumn rethinking everything she’s learned about her ability and what it has made her become.

Mobster Nicholas Russo is also back in town to claim the favor Autumn owes him. If she doesn’t pay, her life and those of her family will be at risk, but helping Russo might mean the deaths of other innocent people. Autumn has no choice but to find out for herself what’s really at stake before she gives him anything.

And then things really get crazy.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Freebie Friday--Free Christmas Music

Today's Freebie Friday is five free Christmas songs from the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.  This choir is amazing and their beautiful voices make every Christmas moment (like decorating the tree or going out to see the lights!) just perfect.

They are offering five songs for free today:  Come All Ye Faithful, Away in a Manger, One December Bright and Clear, I Saw Three Ships, and What Shall We Give.

I admit, I watched the provided videos and listened to the songs this morning.  What a great way to start the day and fill your heart with Christmas cheer.

Click here to download your free songs!

Thursday, December 4, 2014

A Christmas Carol---Gets Me Every Time

So, we went to the play A Christmas Carol and as I sat in the theater in the round watching an amazing cast bring the story to life, I was re-evaluating my own priorities.  Was I a Scrooge?  Where could I improve and do better in noticing others' plight and helping them on their journey?

I love when a piece of literature can do that and it's even better when the characters are right in front of you, being acted out just like you imagined it when you read it.  I wonder if Dickens smiles down on people who take his work to heart.

But this little tradition of seeing/reading A Christmas Carol each year always puts me in the right frame of mind for the Christmas season.  Where have I been this past year?  Have I been kind and forgiving?  Have I been stingy and awful?  What decisions am I making in the present that will affect my future happiness? Do I need a ghostly visitation to remind me to be generous in my heart, spirit, and actions?

It was a fun and relaxing way to spend an evening, that's for sure.  But it also made me want to shout, "it's Christmas!"

Do you have any traditions that put you in the Christmas spirit?  Do you love The Christmas Carol?

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Word Count Wednesday

I am so thrilled with my word count.  I was working on a mystery, but hit a glitch with that one, so I moved on to my Jake Williams novel (you might remember him from Ring Around the Rosie, he was a Homeland Security guy.)  I love this story and the scenes are coming so fast and furious I can hardly get them down fast enough.  I've had to do a fair amount of research so far, but that's been secondary to this story.  I am in writer heaven right now!  Almost 8000 words! Woohoo!

How did your week go? Working on anything new?

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Castle Goes to the Movies

This week's Castle started out with a kid taking the garbage out from a theater and finding a guy's body out there.  And it was the body of the star of the feature show, Lance DeLorca. Then we cut to Caskett moving Beckett out of her old apartment finally.  I was surprised she still had it.  But Castle makes an offhand remark that he never liked her apartment and Beckett is bothered by that.  Her phone rings before they can discuss it further and they are called to the murder scene.

Of course once Castle sees the body, he realizes who it is and gives the team a little lesson on how DeLorca was with the Spanish CNI (a CIA equivalent), overcame substance abuse, and recently beat leukemia, so he was awesome onscreen and off.  Back at the station Castle is showing the guys one of his favorite scenes from DeLorca's Hard Kill movie and could quote it all of it.  Castle's face was practically beaming as he quoted the lines while the boys watched it on a computer screen.

The team starts investigating the murder and bring in Lance's wife, but they were in the process of divorcing and she didn't have much to add.  They talk to his partner Brock (who was directing a comeback movie for Lance and himself) but he was surprised Lance was still in town since his own driver had driven Lance to the airport.  Espo and Ryan squeeze the driver and he admits that Lance paid him to take him to a seedy hotel and not to tell anyone.  They go down there and find a bunch of weird stuff Lance left behind like blue craft paint and number stickers. They also figure out that Lance made two phone calls---one to his old partner's son Trey and the other to a former CNI agent who is now with Interpol.  (I think his name was Gomez?)  Anyway, MaybeGomez tells Caskett that Lance wasn't really CNI, that only MaybeGomez was and Lance just said that backstory to make himself look more interesting because Lance was really just a goatherder.  Castle is devastated by this information and his little pouting session by the door made me laugh. Hard.  "Why, is she a goatherder too?" Haha. Oh man, Nathan Fillion kills it with stuff like this.

The computer tech, Tori, traces the ear of a suspect and it's revealed that the ear belongs to Lance's soon to be ex-wife, Kat Kingsley.  They drag her off the set for questioning and Castle is in the room behind the mirror watching Kat pace the room in her costume.  Holding his poster of her. Haha.  He asks the boys if they think she'll sign it for him and they're all, when, before she goes to jail?  The ex-wife admits that Lance asked her to meet him, and said that if she gave him $200,000 he'd sign over his half of the eight million dollar house they were fighting over and she takes the deal. He called her for help later, begging her to meet him at the theater, but when she got to the alley, Lance was already dead. Beckett is skeptical, but the story checks out.

With a little more information, the team tracks Lance's movements and get some security footage of him being confronted by four guys in an alley that he takes out on his own.  It looked fake to me and I thought it was part of the movie set or something, but no, it was supposed to be real and make Lance look awesome.  Whatever. I can suspend disbelief on that point.  They track everything to a former co-star (who played El Jefe in Hard Kill) at a club (and he's now a real-life drug dealer that narcotics can't pin anything on, but not for lack of trying).

When Caskett go to visit him, Beckett notices a toy car that matches the numbers and paint the boys found in Lance's seedy hotel room. They then realize that Lance had bugged this office with the car and Beckett wants to go for a warrant.  Castle, however, is invited to go out for drinks by Lance's co-star Brock and he fangirls all over and goes with them.  Only they're not really going for drinks. Lance's "gang" from the movie Hard Kill is going to avenge one of their own and get that blue car in El Jefe's office.  Castle is pointing to the ring on his ring finger and says, "Guys, my wife is a cop and she will kill me."  Which the gang leader promptly makes fun of him for saying, but I melted a little. I love that he can say my wife. Awwww.

That "mission" was probably one of the funniest things I've seen on the show.  Castle is wearing a bandana on his head and they're doing a Mission Impossible sort of thing. So. Funny.  They nearly get caught, but Castle and the gang leader hide under the desk until the fire alarm is pulled.  They beat it out of there and the next scene is of Castle telling Beckett that a concerned citizen just handed him the car.  She's all, yeah, riiiiiight, but they take it over to tech to listen to it.  Beckett has earphones on so Castle doesn't get to hear as his punishment.  From the information they glean on it, they call Trey in (Brock's son who is also a night club promoter working with El Jefe.)  He claims he didn't kill Lance, but that Lance was trying to save him and pay $200,000 to get him out from under the drug dealer's thumb.  The drug dealer didn't go for the deal and in the end ordered Trey to take care of Lance, but Trey couldn't do it. He did call his mom and talk to her about it though.  He also mentions that Lance said he wanted to tell him something when it was all over.  Dun, dun, dun.

It all starts coming together when the gang realizes that Trey was nearly a perfect match to Lance when they were looking for bone marrow donors to help him beat leukemia.  Because Trey is really Lance's son.  The mom didn't want that little tidbit coming out because it would ruin her "family" (since she cheated on her husband with Lance) so she killed him.  Sad, really.

 With the case solved, Beckett goes back to her apartment to say goodbye.  There was a sweet scene with her and Lainey about how much Beckett had grown and accomplished in that apartment---falling in love, solving her mother's murder, etc.  Beckett carves her initial in a wall maybe? (which I thought was a bit weird but whatever) and then without saying a word, looks back and says her own silent goodbye. That scene had quite an impact, actually.

Loved the fun goofiness of this episode (Ryan trying to coin a catchphrase for himself like "it's Ryan time."  "You've got Ryan trouble." The look on Espo's face with each attempt was funny.) But Castle's fangurling was hilarious and Beckett's longsuffering was so THEM, you know?  I loved it.

Did you watch? What did you think?

Monday, December 1, 2014

My Top Picks for the Best Books of 2014

Since we are all going to be shopping for ourselves or other book lovers on our Christmas list, I thought I'd tell you what my top picks were for the books that I read this year.

**Disclaimer** There are so many great books out there, I couldn't possibly have read them all.  This list reflects the books that I personally read this year and loved and would definitely recommend to any book lover!

My Top Historical Fiction Picks

Glimmer of Hope by Sarah Eden (see my review here)

Hope Springs by Sarah Eden (see my review here)

Safe Passage by Carla Kelly (see my review here)

As You Are by Sarah Eden (see my review here)

Saving Grace by Michele Paige Holmes (see my review here)

Becoming Lady Lockwood by Jennifer Moore (see my review here You have to scroll all the way down!)

Miss Armistead Makes Her Choice by Heidi Ashworth (see my review here)

Old West Collection (Timeless Romance Anthology) by various authors (see my review here)

Loving Lucianna by Joyce DiPastena (see my review here)

My Top Mystery/Suspense Picks

Tomorrow We Spy by Jordan McCollum (Will review it this month. So good!)

Relative Evil by Debra Erfert (see my review here) (Currently on sale for 99 cents!)

Trouble at Red Pueblo by Liz Adair (see my review here)

Fortune Cookie by Josi Kilpack (see my review here)

Heart and Soul by Lee Strauss (see my review here)

My Top Non-Fiction Picks

Focused by Noelle Pikus-Pace (see my review here)

Bad Guys of the Bible by Dennis Gaunt (will be reviewed next week. So good!)

A Christ-Centered Christmas by Emily Freeman (see my review here)

How Do I Know if I Know? by John Bytheway (see my review here)

My Top Children/Middle Grade Picks

Fairy Tale Christmas by Michael and Scott McLean (see my review here)

The Janitors series by Tyler Whitesides (see one of my reviews here)

My Top Contemporary Picks

Thirty Going On Spinster by Becky Monson (see my review here)

Fortune Cafe by Julie Wright, Heather Moore, and Melanie Jacobson (see my review here)

Summer in New York (Timeless Romance Anthology) by various authors (see my review here)

The Change by Teyla Branton (This one is romantic urban fantasy so it really should be in its own category, but I put it in Contemporary. Bear with me.)  (see my review here)

So there you have it. Would you add any books to this list? What were your favorites this year?

Saturday, November 29, 2014

99 Cent Deal Today!

For anyone with a suspense lover on their Christmas list, Relative Evil by Debra Erfert is on sale until Dec. 3rd!  Don't miss this one!

Here's the back copy:

Inspired by her father and his pretty young wife, novelist Claire Abney allows her imagination to run wild and pens a best-selling thriller. However, as Glen Abney suffers multiple freak accidents, she wonders exactly where the prose stops and reality begins.

Claire screens her family from the prying eyes of success with a masculine pen name and her handsome editor, her shill for photo ops and book signings. But her father’s unexpected death, and bungled attempts on her own life, force her to admit the strategy may have backfired. Now, with the help of her brother and Max, her dreamy frontman, she must separate truth from fiction. Before life imitating art becomes deadly.

And you can click here for my review of it.

Click hereto download your Kindle copy

And here's the trailer for it! *shivers*  So creepy, yet awesome.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Freebie Friday

Today's Freebie Friday is The Princess and the Prom Queen by Jaclyn Weist.  It looks like a fun YA read.

Here's the back copy:

Jenny’s had it with her life. Six siblings in an overstuffed house are enough to drive anyone crazy, and sometimes she dreams of escaping to some fantasy world. When she suddenly wakes up to find herself being kissed by a strange—but very handsome—prince, Jenny knows her life just got a lot more exciting. Now stuck in a medieval land of castles and royalty, when Jenny learns that the queen has agreed to marry her off to the prince, it’s time to take matters into her own hands. She goes on a quest to find out who dragged her to this time while trying to keep from falling in love with either of the boys vying for her attention.

Princess Genevieve has only known life under her mother’s rule. She wants to do more than go to battle or deal with suitors. She wakes to find herself in a new world filled with gadgets, electricity, and moving carriages. She finally has the freedom to be who she wants to be with a family who cares deeply for her and a boy worth any sacrifice. It’s more than everything she always wanted.

As Jenny and Genevieve settle into their new lives, they face an unknown evil which threatens everything they care about and makes them face tough questions—like who they are and what they really want their lives to become.

If this looks interesting to you, download your free Kindle copy here