Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Looking Forward to 2010

It's been a busy couple of weeks here. I'm in the midst of two large editing projects and planning four virtual book tours that will kick off on January 4th, so getting it all done has been a challenge.

I've just gone through my TBR pile and I already have 40 books to keep me busy, most of those carrying over from 2009. Some of these were requests for reviews, but the majority are books I've either won or purchased that I would like to review here. Here's the list (new for 2010 bolded):

Cabal of the Westford Knight by David S. Brody
Reunion by Therese Fowler
Against Doctor's Orders by K.M. Daughters
Rose of the Adriatic by K.M. Daughters
The Last Child by John Hart
American Lion by Jon Meacham
Fear the Worst by Linwood Barclay
Undone by Karin Slaughter
Shadow of Betrayal by Brett Battles
The Spies of Warsaw by Alan Faust

The Target by J.P. Hauptman
Embracing Your Freedom by Susie Larson
Real Men by Greg Middleton

Corrigan's Pool by Dot Ryan
Prairie Tale by Melissa Gilbert
Tarnished Halo by Don Stephens
Wench byDolen Perkins-Valdez

Rizzo's War by Lou Manfredo (Amazon Vine)
Planet of the Dogs by Robert McCarthy (For TC&TBC)
Castle in the Mist by Robert McCarthy(For TC&TBC)

Truth Never Changes: Earth Changes by Michael Kilday
WWII Hereoes of S. Delware by James Diehl
Melinda and the Wild West byLinda Weaver-Clarke
The Case of the Mystified M.D. by A. K. Arenz
Daughter of Liberty by J.M. Hochstetler
Native Son by J.M. Hochstetler
Exiles on Main Street by Lisa Kleinholz
Asking for Murder by Roberta Isleib
DeadMistress by Carole Shmurak
Mother's Day Murder by Leslie Meier

Write from the Heart by Leslea Newman
Promises, Promises by Amber Miller
Deceptive Promises by Amber Miller
Copper and Candles by Amber Miller
Escape in Passion by Shiela Stewart
Mercy in Passion by Shiela Stewart
The Cutting by James Hayman
The Strand Prophecy by J.B.B. Winner
The Judge Who Stole Christmas by Randy Singer
Forever Christmas by Christine Lynxwiler

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

124 in 2009

Strange title, I know, but it's the number of books I read and reviewed this year among this blog, TC&TBC, and as a partcipant in the Amazon Vine Program. It's more books than I read last year, and considering my book tour schedule increased, it's an amazing number for me.

Here's to reading more good books in 2010!

Cowboy Fling by Sherry James -- Book Review

Saddle up and get ready for one hell of a sexy ride in Cowboy Fling by Sherry James.

Paige Holister and her twin sister Dorie made a deal five years ago: if they weren't married by their thirtieth birthday, they would indulge in three of their sexual fantasies. Problem is, Paige is as shy and practical as Dorie is impulsive, and if Paige doesn't own up to her end of the deal it's going to cost her.

Traveling to Wyoming, Paige quickly runs into Lane Hart, a ruggedly handsome cowboy who certainly isn't looking for love. When Paige finally works up the courage to ask Lane to be her fling, he's happy to oblige for three days of no-commitment sex. But exploring Paige's fantasies brings them more than they bargained for.

I was already a fan of Sherry James' work when she asked me to review Cowboy Fling. Having enjoyed her short story, "Eight Seconds", which is also a cowboy romance, I was eager to read this one.

James has always been a strong character writer, so it is no surprise that she developed such sympathetic and sexy characters in this short novel. Conflicted by past hurts and their developing feelings, Paige and Lane struggle to deny what is happening between them. Paige isn't the type of girl to get around, so the fact that she even makes it to Wyoming before chickening out is amazing. And Lane, what can you say about him? He's the rugged cowboy that every woman dreams of falling in love with; sexy, yet vulnerable, he's not ready to open his heart up to another hurt. But fate has other ideas.

The other strength of this novel is the beautiful descriptions of the Wymoning landscape. And I really like this cover, though it does make it look like the cowboy is almost afraid of the unseen woman attached to the boot.

If you're looking for a sensual, romantic read, then look no further than Cowboy Fling by Sherry James. I read it in one night and was ready to read it all over again as soon as I was done.

Title: Cowboy Fling (eBook)
Author: Sherry James
Publisher: Ellora's Cave Publishing
ISBN: 9781419910920
List Price: $10.40
Ellora's Cave Cover Price: $5.20

The Case of the Bouncing Grandma by A.K. Arenz -- Book Review

Do you love Christian cozy mysteries? Then The Case of the Bouncing Grandma (A Bouncing Grandma Mystery, Book 1) will be right up your alley.

After breaking her leg in a skateboarding accident, Glory Harper is stuck in a wheelchair; and Bouncy Grandma--named by her grandson, Seth--is bored out of her skull. When the new neighbors start moving into the house across the street, Glory is sure she sees a foot sticking out of a rolled up carpet, and things might start getting interesting.

Problem is, no one will believe her.

Glory's sister and daughter think she imagined the whole thing thanks to watching too much Law and Order, and as soon as the police realize the woman reporting the foot in the carpet sighting is the same one whose skateboarding adventure caused a multi-car pile-up, they aren't about to take her seriously. Undeterred, Glory keeps learning more and more about her new neighbors; and when she realizes she stumbled upon something more than a murder case, her research kicks into high gear. While following leads to what looks like the obvious culprits, the real criminals are closing in, placing Glory and her family are in danger.

Can she convince anyone of what she's uncovered? And if she does, will it be in time?

Right away I knew I was going to love this series by A K. Arenz. The youthful and adventurous Bouncing Granma, Glory Harper is the perfect amateur sleuth. She reminds me a bit of Jessica Fletcher from Murder, She Wrote, with her ability to ask the questions that help to solve the crime and how her abilites can sometimes be discounted.

In the first book of this series we meet several characters, all of whom are interesting in their own way. From the rude father and son who move in next door, to the cautious, yet pleasant twin girls whose luck is what prompted their familiy's move to the quiet town of Tarryton, from the peculiar realtor Elsie Wilkes, to the handsome Harrison Ford look-alike, Detective Rick Spencer who might just be interested in more than friendship with Glory, each of these characters blends together to create a cozy mystery that is both engaging and fun to read.

Faith plays a role in this book, as it does in all books published by Sheaf House Publishers. It's definitely not overpowering in this book, but faith in God is a part of many of the characters' lives and some events take place at their church.

I've already purchased the next book in this series, The Case of the Mystified M.D., an excerpt of which you'll find at the back of this book. I look forward to reading Book 2 and more Bouncing Grandma Mysteries from A.K. Arenz!

Title: The Case of the Bouncing Grandma
Author: A.K. Arenz
Publisher: Sheaf House Publishers
ISBN: 978-0-979-74856-1
SRP: $12.99

The Girl on Legare Street by Karen White--Book Review

Those who enjoyed Melanie Middleton and Jack Trenholm in The House on Tradd Street will definitely want to pick up the next book in this series, The Girl on Legare Street.

Melanie Middleton's mother abandoned her when she was just a child, leaving her with a father she was forced to take care of through his bouts of excessive drinking. Now Ginnette Prioleau Middleton has returned to Charleston and moved into their ancestral home on Legare Street. She seeks Melanie's help to restore the historical home, but the more time Melanie and her mother spend together, the more Melanie is reminded of how Ginnette deserted her and how the only thing they have in common is their ability to communicate with ghosts.

Ginnette's return has awakened a dark spirit whose strength continues to grow and who is out for revenge. Determined to protect her daughter, with Jack's help, Melanie and Ginnette must work together to fight the malevolent presence and save their family.

What a superb addition to the Tradd Street series from Karen White! Beautifully written, and with all the charm and mystery of the South, The Girl on Legare Street is certain to please readers.

In this new book, released in November by New American Library, several of the characters from the original book return: realtor Melanie Middleton and writer Jack Trenholm, Melanie's friends Sophie and Chad, Melanie's father, Jack's parents and a few others. White has done an excellent job of developing these characters further, while adding new mysteries and new characters into the mix.

Bringing Melanie's long lost mother home and forcing Melanie to deal with all the feelings she has toward the woman who deserted her over thirty years ago allows for a great deal of conflict. Add that to the uncertain relationship between Jack and Melanie, which seems to hover somewhere between friendship and romance, and the dark presence which Ginnette's return has awakened, and you've got a paranormal romantic suspense novel with Southern flair that grips you from the very first page.

Again, I am impressed with the beauty of the cover art, and the history lover in me likes to read of the past of the ghosts--nice and not so nice--that inhabit these homes while Melanie is forced to deal with her own past.

A story that is spooky, yet tugs at your heartstrings, is what you will find in The Girl on Legare Street.

Title: The Girl on Legare Street
Author: Karen White
Publisher: New American Library
ISBN: 978-0451227997
SRP: $15.00

Read our review of The House on Tradd Street here.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Motivational Quote

When I was still posting over at The Aspiring Author blog, I did my best to post weekly motivational quotes that I felt would be helpful to writers. Now that I have incorporated that blog into this one, I will continue posting motivational quotes that I find.

I came across this one today and it made me stop and think about its meaning:

"Yesterday's failures are today's seeds that must be diligently planted to be able to abundantly harvest tomorrow's successes." - Author Unknown

So often we can let failures interfere with our progress. Instead of using failures as a way to move us toward success, we begin to doubt ourselves; we wonder if we truly have what it takes to be writers. As I read and reread this quote, it helps me to realize how important learning from our failures can be. They don't have to be big holes that we fall into and have no idea how to extract ourselves from; instead our failures can be what guides us to success. Taking what we learn from our failures and applying it to future actions keeps us focused on our writing goals. Maintaining our focus helps us to persevere even when we feel like giving up.

Thomas Edison did not allow failure to stop him. In fact, he didn't believe in failure. Instead, he felt that he succeeded in proving what would not work, and that by eliminating what didn't work, he would find the way that did work.

The new year is often a time when we talk about setting writing goals. Can you dedicate yourself to not giving into failure this year? Will you see those failures as tiny seeds that will lead to a harvest of successes? Can you, like Edison, believe that you have not failed, but instead succeeded in finding ways that didn't work?

You have the power to make your writing dreams come true. Use it!

Saturday, December 26, 2009

I Must Have Been a Good Girl...

...beacause Santa loaded up my stocking with loads of great gifts. Okay, they weren't all in my stocking, but this has to be one of the best Christmases this writer has had.

I only asked for one gift this year: a Kindle. More and more requests come in for me to review eBooks, and I just won't read them on the PC. While I have found that when you save a PDF as a TXT file there might be some errors, it's lovely to read off the Kindle. I can increase the font size to a comfortable reading level, search the book, and never need to worry about finding a bookmark to hold my place. This might just change my whole opinion on eBooks.

Under the tree I found a new journal, a notecard and pen set, a read-aloud edition of Little House on the Prairie, more books, and my stocking held a beautiful ivory and silver Cross pen and pencil set. Oh, and my Snuggie came with a booklight, which was nice since I couldn't find that the Kindle has a light and I was able to read in the car the other night while on the way out to supper.

I've already used most of my gifts and can't wait to read more books on my Kindle. "Christmas with Daisy" that I reviewed at TC&TBC, and Cowboy Fling were both read on my Kindle.

I hope Santa was good to all of you. Feel free to share some of your gifts from the man in the red suit.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas from The Book Connection!

On this most holy of days, The Book Connection would like to take a moment to wish you a joyous and peaceful Christmas.

Thank you for your continued support in 2009. We look forward to bringing you more wonderful books in the new year!


Thursday, December 24, 2009

Special Holiday Feature: Christmas Cousins by Joy DeKok


"Christmas Cousins" by Joy DeKok, author of Rain Dance

I got a small doll with a high chair and other extras. My brother got a car race track. As much as we enjoyed the presents, it was the cousins that mattered most.

We were gathered at Dorothy and Lee’s house where they lived with their three boys. My cousin Sheila was there and so was our Grandma. My uncle and dad enjoyed the race track and played with it more than the boys. My brother was a cowboy that year and our cousin Scott an army guy. Sheila and I were pretend mommies and best friends.
We were allowed to stay up late and while that sounded good, I tend to get a little on the goofy side when over tired. I was nearing exhaustion, but nowhere near ready to give up unless required to do so.

As adults do when watching the kids they love, the noticed how we’d grown – we were like stair steps– Randy the oldest to Scott the youngest. Tallest to shortest.
Lining us up for a picture was a bit of a challenge. We were all agreeable and obedient, but one of us had a problem. Me. I could not stop laughing and nothing funny had happened. I was alive and happy and tired and out of control.

For a moment driven by the need to take a deep breath (and after a stern parental look) I’d been able to stop giggling. Then, it happened. I heard Randy laugh. Then Steve. Then Sheila. Well, then it was my turn again and I was worse off than before – I now had back up!

We enjoyed our family, our gifts, and the yummy food, but the best part was the line-up of laughing cousins.

Joy DeKok and her husband, Jon, live in Minnesota on thirty-five acres of woods and fields. Joy has been writing most of her life and as a popular speaker shares her heart and passion for God with women. In addition to writing novels, she has also published a devotional and several children’s books.

Visit Joy online at:,, and

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Special Holiday Feature: The Importance of Family Traditions by J.M. Hochstetler


"The Importance of Family Traditions" by J.M. Hochstetler, author of One Holy Night

When my daughters were tiny, with the holidays fast approaching, I impulsively decided that on the night of Christmas Eve, when they were fast asleep, I would hang candy canes all over our tree as a sign that Santa had come. Well, that idea turned out to be a huge success. When my little girls ran downstairs that Christmas morning, they were so excited to find the treats on the tree that I knew I’d come up with a very special tradition.

Over the years, as holidays came and went, I continued my secret Christmas Eve ritual. As they grew older, however, the children appeared to take less and less notice of the candy canes. They would eat only a few, and then after we took the tree down I ended up throwing most of them away. It seemed a waste. So one Christmas I thoughtlessly came very close to letting that tradition die.

That year I was so busy with holiday preparations and the day-to-day routine that I kept forgetting to pick up a package of candy canes at the store. It seemed like such a simple, unimportant thing. The girls were too old to care about my little tradition anymore, I told myself and I shrugged off the quiet voice that nagged at me to get those candy canes!

One evening just a couple of days before Christmas, I was rushing around the house, as usual, burdened with too many holiday preparations. In spite of my preoccupation, I happened to notice my oldest daughter, Jennifer, who sat on the stairs with my youngest, Katie. Both were snuggled in their nightgowns, slippers, and robes, happily taking in our cozy living room before heading off to bed.

Below them, fire blazed on the hearth and colored lights twinkled on the tree. Holiday decorations were arranged everywhere, and pine garlands and tiny white lights draped the mantel as well as the banister on either side where they sat. The scene was so perfect that I stopped for just a moment to breathe in the heady scents of pine and spices and to bask in the room’s glow. And as I lingered, I overheard what the girls were whispering about.

“Now, you know,” Jennifer told her little sister, “on Christmas morning when Santa comes, he always hangs candy canes all over the tree.”

Katie’s eyes grew round. “Always?” she breathed, in sweet expectancy.

“Oh, yes, always,” Jennifer assured her with the easy confidence of a big sister. “There will be candy canes all over the tree on Christmas morning. You’ll see.”

My heart almost stopped. One look at my daughters’ faces told me that I’d better plan on a special trip to the store the very next day. And suddenly gratitude flooded over me at the realization that the Lord had pulled me up short from my preoccupation with all the things that seemed so urgent to remind me of something I had come way too close to missing—a tradition that was genuinely meaningful to my children.

On that Christmas morning and every Christmas morning since then to this very day, candy canes have adorned my Christmas tree. My grown children expect to see them there when they arrive Christmas morning every bit as much as my grandchildren now do. It’s a tradition I wouldn’t think of ending. Because of that simple, long-ago impulse and the Lord’s reminder to be faithful in its observance, my family is making memories that in one form or another will be passed down to coming generations. It’s a simple thing as many of our traditions are, but oh, how meaningful!

J. M. Hochstetler writes stories that always involve some element of the past and of finding home. Born in central Indiana, the daughter of Mennonite farmers, she graduated from Indiana University with a degree in Germanic languages. She was an editor with Abingdon Press for twelve years and has published four novels. Daughter of Liberty (2004), Native Son (2005), and Wind of the Spirit (March 2009), the first three books of the critically acclaimed American Patriot Series, are set during the American Revolution. One Holy Night, a retelling of the Christmas story set in modern times, is the 2009 Christian Small Publishers Fiction Book of the Year and a finalist for the 2009 American Christian Fiction Writers Long Contemporary Book of the Year.

Hochstetler is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers, Advanced Writers and Speakers Association, Christian Authors Network, Middle Tennessee Christian Writers, Nashville Christian Writers Association, and Historical Novels Society. She and her husband live near Nashville, Tennessee.

You can find Joan online at or at this book’s blog

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Special Holiday Feature: How to Light Up the Heart of a Three-Year-Old Boy by Dr. Barbara Becker Holstein


"How to Light Up the Heart of a Three-Year-Old Boy" by Dr. Barbara Becker Holstein, author of The Truth: I'm a Girl, I'm Smart and I Know Everything

Parents and grandparents always wonder what will most delight their kids and grandkids. What should they get them for Birthdays? For the Holidays? Should we buy what delighted us as children? Should we really cater to their Santa or Chanukah lists? Should we go with what is ‘in’ this year?

These are important questions and all I can say, is listen to the kid even if it seems strange! We did when our grandson was three. We knew he loved to help his mother vacuum. We had noticed that many times when we visited. But it still surprised us when he asked for a vacuum. A vacuum? Who ever would want one? I would love to give mine up if someone else would just magically appear and vacuum. Why would a tiny kid want one? Wouldn’t he rather have some trucks or a train set? “No.”

All he kept asking for was a vacuum. Did toy stores even have vacuum’s for kids?

We decided we had no choice. Off we went to look. And indeed we found a vacuum that looked just like his mom’s except it was half the size. We were amazed. It was a little pricey, but hey, he is our grandson!

So we bought it and wrapped the box and appeared on Chanukah. He didn’t have a clue what we were bringing.

After lighting the candles and singing, we brought out the presents. There were a few other presents first and of course some for his baby sister who was happy to just rip off the paper. Finally the big box was brought out by his parents and handed to him. I will never forget his face when he ripped off the paper and saw a picture of a stand-up vacuum on the box. There was such joy in his eyes and his grin was as wide as could be. He looked at us with love and recognition that said that even as a three-year-old, he realized that sometimes only grandparents, not parents can really get it right. Then the magical second passed and he ripped open the box.

Soon the vacuum was plugged in and he was busy. Off in a dream world of cleaning and pushing and doing what only a kid could experience. We were so happy that we had hit it right. We kept looking at him and loving every second of his eager pretend cleaning, even though he no longer had eyes for us. He was sweet though and did turn and look at us and smile every once in awhile. Even the noise didn’t bother us-because of course, no good mechanical toy, is without its sound effects!

That was a great Chanakah!

Dr. Barbara Becker Holstein is the originator of The Enchanted Self(R). She has been a positive psychologist in private practice and licensed in the states of New Jersey and Massachusetts since 1981. She is currently in private practice in Long Branch, New Jersey with her husband, Dr. Russell M. Holstein.

She is the author of The Enchanted Self, A Positive Therapy, Recipes for Enchantment, The Secret Ingredient is YOU! and There Comes A Time In Every Woman’s Life for DELIGHT.

Her newest book, The Truth, I’m Ten, I’m Smart and I Know Everything! is another first in positive psychology. Written by a ten year old girl as a diary, Dr. Barbara has been able to imbed lots of positive truths that we all need to remember and live by, regardless of our age.

The girl’s edition, titled: The Truth, (I’m a girl, I’m smart and I know everything) debuted February 2008 in bookstores nationwide. You can get your copy now at

Monday, December 21, 2009

Special Holiday Feature: Christmas Before Thanksgiving by Dixie Phillips


"Christmas Before Thanksgiving" by Dixie Phillips, author of One Noble Journey

For as long as I can remember, the heart of my paternal grandmother and my heart were cemented together. I think our bonding began when I was a baby and my mother had to be hospitalized for extended periods of time. Grandma watched over me and even decorated her spare bedroom in soft pinks and light lavenders. She was the mother of four strapping sons and had always wanted a little girl. Ten years before I was born her only daughter was stillborn.

I never realized just how attached I was to my grandmother until she was diagnosed with a deadly disease. After her diagnosis, Grandma was forced to move from her dream home to a small, one-bedroom apartment. In her new apartment complex, other women were experiencing the similar problems; terminal illness, limited income, loss of spouse to death or a nursing home. A remnant of these women formed a weekly Bible study and Grandma became a faithful member. This band of prayer warriors became "kindred spirits" as they interceded for one another’s needs.

It was apparent by early November Grandma would not be with us much longer. Her spirit was strong, but her body was growing weaker. A few days before Thanksgiving, she had to be hospitalized. The cancer had metastasized to her lungs.

Word spread quickly among her little Bible study group that Grandma Eleanor was dying. Loving cards and concerned phone calls began pouring in.

I hurried to the hospital and hovered over my grandmother's weak frame. There was a tap on her Hospice room door and an elderly woman appeared. In her arms was a brown paper grocery sack. She tiptoed to Grandma's bedside, and stooped over the metal bedrail and planted a kiss on Grandma's cheek. Grandma's dark chocolate eyes twinkled when she recognized her friend.

"Mable, how did you get here?" Grandma asked.

"Took a cab, Eleanor. I just had to." Mable chuckled, "It's cold outside, but it was warm in the cab!"

"Oh Mable, you shouldn't have come out in this bitter cold."

"I had to, Eleanor! Christmas is coming. I wanted you to have your Christmas card and the gift I made for you! It's all right here in my bag."

Mable rummaged through her brown bag. She pulled out a bright red envelope.

"This one is from me to you, Eleanor!" She showed Grandma the card. Sunbeams splashed on the colorful card causing Mable's eyes to squint.

"Let me read it to you." Mable said,

What can I give Him poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd, I'd give Him a lamb.
If I were a wise man, I'd do my part,
I know what I'll give Him,
All of my heart!

Tears glistened in Grandma's eyes as she whimpered, "Thank you, Mable."

"That's not all, Eleanor, there's more! Christmas is coming! I just wanted you to have your Christmas present a little early this year." Mable gushed as she pulled out a small package wrapped in previously used Christmas paper topped with a recycled, red bow.

Grandma was too weak to open her special gift. Mable handed it to me. I carefully tore the paper off the small box and opened the lid. Peering back at me was a brown teddy bear holding a lacey parasol.

"Yep, it's true, Eleanor! Christmas is coming, and I just had to give you your present a little early this year." Mable reached for Grandma's hand.

"Mable, thank you and all the other ladies for being my friend this past year. You tell our little group goodbye for me. Tell them I'll be spending Christmas with Jesus this year."

Scalding tears fell on Mable's wrinkled cheeks. "I love you, Eleanor!"

"And I love you!" Grandma closed her heavy eyelids and drifted off to sleep.

Mable reached for me. We embraced. We wept. I thanked her for her kindness to my grandmother, walked her to the door, and said goodbye.

When I returned to my grandmother’s side, I wept quietly. I realized Grandma's "home-going" would be soon. I looked at the brown teddy bear holding the lacey parasol. I reread Mable's Christmas card,

What can I give Him poor as I am?

I had just witnessed these verses lived out before my eyes. A loving friend with meager means had given her very best to her dying friend. She even celebrated Christmas before Thanksgiving knowing Grandma wouldn't live until Christmas.

I closed my eyes and silently thanked God for giving me such a wonderful grandmother, and for giving my grandmother a dear friend.

Grandma went home to be with Jesus two days after Mable's visit. My grandmother was right. She celebrated Christmas with Jesus.

Dixie Phillips began writing seasonal plays for children in 1987. These delightful programs have been published by Abingdon Press, Standard Publishing, Eldridge Publishing, Evangelizing Today's Child and Gospel Publishing House. One of Dixie's children's books, Stubby's Destiny, was awarded the 2008 Best Children's Animal Story by Books and Authors. Guardian Angel Publishing has released Angel Eyes, One Noble Journey and Baby Jesus is Missing. Cinderfella and the Furry Godmother and Stilts the Stork will be released in 2010.

Dixie also has a passion for writing God's truths for adults. She has contributed to an award-winning devotional book and has ghostwritten books on marriage, health, poetry and personal testimonies. She is currently a topical curriculum writer for Randall House. Dixie is a pastor's wife of more than 30 years. She and her husband, Paul, have four grown children and have served the Gospel Lighthouse Church in Floyd, Iowa, for 28 years.

You can learn more about Dixie’s books and the Phillips’ ministry by visiting

Enter to win one of two copies of One Noble Journey by Dixie Phillips at The Children's and Teens' Book Connection. Contest ends at 11:59 PM Eastern on December 31st.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Special Holiday Feature: A Texas Christmas by Beverly Stowe McClure


"A Texas Christmas" by Beverly Stowe McClure, author of Just Breeze

On December 22, 2005, my husband had a heart attack and complications. We celebrated that Christmas in the hospital. He didn’t hear the carolers as they strolled down the hallway singing Christmas songs. He didn’t see the visitors who came to call. He wasn’t even aware it was Christmas.

The next year, we made Christmas special. Except for one daughter-in-law who was ill and was missed very much, our whole family came to share in a Texas Christmas. We had a houseful, including our eldest son, Rex, from South Carolina. (His wife, Kristina, had to stay home.) Our middle son, Scott, and Ann, his stepdaughters Briana and Kylie, live next door which is wonderful. And our youngest son, Kelly, wife Amy, and children Shawn, Scottie, and Katie drove from California. Rex’s daughters, Amanda, Courtney, and Felicity, along with their mother, Anna, were here. Amanda is married, so she brought her hubby, Paul, and children, Riley, Paige, and Henry. And of course, there was Jack and me. As you can see we had a houseful. Best of all, Jack was alive and well.

The younger grandkids decorated the Christmas tree. It was unique, the bottom half overloaded with ceramic mice, icicles, candy canes, keepsake decorations my students gave to me throughout the years I taught, and my own sons’ creations. The top half was sort of bare, except for what the older girls and I added since we were the only ones who could reach that high. The angel on the top added the finishing touch. All of us being together made it perfect, and I have a video for the memories.

Since everyone was together for the first and possibly only time since everyone lived so far apart, we decided to have a family photo taken. Finding a photographer that was working during the holidays was almost impossible. I did finally locate a sweet lady who was intrigued about doing a photo shoot for such a large family, something she’d never done before. Her photographs on the Internet were gorgeous, so we made the appointment. Even with a wiggly baby, a boy who hates having his picture taken, and a sick boy, the photographer did a marvelous job. The photos now hang on my wall as a reminder of that lovely Christmas when we shared the joy of the birth of Christ Jesus and our good health.

To me, family and Jesus are what Christmas is all about.

Beverly S. McClure started her writing career early—though she approached it kicking and screaming—when her eighth-grade teacher sent her poem “Stars” to a high school anthology and it was published in Young America Sings. She graduated from Midwestern State University and became a teacher. As soon as she discovered Dr. Seuss and other great children’s stories, she willingly put pen to paper and had stories and articles published in Ladybug, Focus on the Family Clubhouse Jr., U. S. Kids, Jack and Jill and other leading children’s magazines, including an article that was reprinted in a Scott Foresman Pre-K anthology and a breakout article that appeared in the June 2007 issue of Writer magazine.

A multi-published author, Beverly’s Listen to the Ghost, Secrets I Have Kept and Rebel in Blue Jeans are available in trade paperback. Her latest book is Just Breeze, and she has four more books under contract. A member of the National Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators and their North Texas Chapter, Beverly is the mother of three grown boys and lives in the country with her husband, Jack, where an occasional deer, skunk, or armadillo come to visit.

Visit Beverly at

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Special Holiday Feature: A Family Together by Bernadine Feagins

To keep things rolling in a festive way, The Book Connection is going to be featuring some authors sharing their holidays memories until Christmas Eve.


"A Family Together" by Bernadine Feagins, author of Hakim & Terrance Shadow Mystery !

Some of my favorite Christmas memories are the ones where my family is all together. One year, I made a sweet potato pie and my son, who I call Mickey, ate two big pieces.

That was a good year. My daughter was happy to have a new cell phone and I delighted in watching my children open their toys. I felt blessed that I had enough money to make their Christmas wishes come true.

It is our tradition to celebrate Christmas early in the morning by reading about the birth of Jesus and listening to Christmas songs. I have a feeling that the kids were too excited to sleep the night before because my daughter went back to bed after the festivities were over and my son fell asleep listening to music. We were all together and that helped make this mother very happy.

Bernadine Feagins is a new author who is looking forward to many years of writing children's books. She has always had a love of children and worked many years in early childhood education. During these times she witnessed the joy children felt as she would demonstratively read books. In addition she is a very active mom who loves to nurture not only her children, but those of family and community. She often had story time with those she loved and cared for. She developed her story telling skills through the numerous books she read to children, this gave her an inspiration to tell her own story. Hakim and Terrance Shadow Mystery is the result. When Bernadine isn’t reading to children or involved in some other child nurturing activity, she can be found as a business woman that works for the IRS. Bernadine is available for interviews, book signings or public reading in schools and libraries.

Visit Bernadine online at

Thursday, December 17, 2009

What's on Your Wish List This Holiday Season?

We all have our own tastes in books. The Book Connection has given me the avenue to share mine, and I always hope that my readers find something interesting when they are browsing around.

As a virtual book tour coordinator, I come across so many wonderful titles, but I can't possibly buy all of them and I don't have the time to review them all, since at this point we tour over 20 authors a month. So, for the past several years I have maintained a wish list on My hubby can always check that list to see what I am looking for; though if I get anymore books we might have to buy some new bookshelves because all of mine are overflowing, even though I've donated many books this year to the Shriner's Hospital for Children and our local library.

I'm going to share a few books from my wish list and also some titles I've come across that would be nice to see under my tree.

Evolution of a Sad Woman: The Story of Kizzy by Gale Laure

The Broken Teaglass: A Novel by Emily Arsenault

The Ideal Wife by Mary Balogh

The Resurrection of Lady Somerset by Nicola Beaumont

Esther's Gift (Mitford Christmas) by Jan Karon

Sarah Morgan: The Civil War Diary Of A Southern Woman by Sarah Morgan Dawson

Remembering Lucy Maud Montgomery by Alexandra Heilbron

How about you? What's on your reading wish list this year?

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

List of Favorites in Children's Literature over at TC&TBC

The Children's and Teens Book Connection (TC&TBC) has listed its favorites in children's literature for 2009. Encouraging a love of reading and writing is one of the most important gifts you can give a child.

Please visit TC&TBC today.

Happy Holidays from The Book Connection and The Children's and Teens' Book Connection!

Monday, December 14, 2009

There's Still Time to Give the Gift of Reading

Only 11 more days until Christmas. Where has the year gone? If you're still looking for great gifts to put under the tree, here is my list of recommended titles for 2009. This is based upon the 118 books I've reviewed so far this year, though many more books and authors were featured at The Book Connection.

Christian and Inspirational

* How Can I Run a Tight Ship When I'm Surrounded by Loose Cannons by Kathi Macias

* Finding Faith in A Skeptical World by Chet Galaska

* Life is Tough: I Doubt I'll Make it Out Alive by Stacy Gooch Anderson

* Mothers of the Bible Speak to Mothers Today by Kathi Macias

* Is Your Ghost Holy? by Shay Bills

* My Son, John by Kathi Macias (fiction)

Contemporary Fiction

* Saffron Dreams by Shalia Abdullah

* One Holy Night by J.M. Hochstetler

* Rain Dance by Joy DeKok

Historical Fiction

* Faith and Honor by Robin Maderich

* The Last Queen by C.W. Gortner

* A Precious Jewel by Mary Balogh

* Wind of the Spirit: The American Patriot Series, Book 3 by J.M. Hochstetler


* My Father, My Don by Tony Napoli

* Hearts of Courage by John Tippets

Mystery/Crime Fiction

* No Sancutuary by F.M. Meredith

* Dispel the Mist by Marilyn Meredith


* The Dead Guy by Doug Hewitt

* On the Grind by Stephen J. Cannell

* Agent in Old Lace by Tristi Pinkston

* Beyond the Code of Conduct by K.M. Daughters

* Killer Career by Morgan Mandel

* Meggie's Remains by Joanne Sundell


* The 100 Sporting Events You Must See Live by Robert Tuchman

* Make-Ahead Meals for Busy Moms by Jane Doiron

Most of these books can be purchased at

I will be posting a separate list for children's, middle grade, tween/teen fiction and YA at The Children's and Teens' Book Connection today or tomorrow.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Enjoy the Peace of the Holiday Season: 2009 Virtual Advent Tour

I am so excited to get a chance to participate in the 2009 Virtual Advent Tour. I wasn't quite sure what to write about because I am a huge lover of Christmas and there are so many subjects to discuss; but keeping in mind that this is a blog dedicated to books and writing, I wanted to stay focused on that theme.

In addition to my roles as a virtual book tour coordinator, copy editor, and book reviewer, I also write time management articles for Writer2Writer. These articles are geared toward helping writers increase productivity through time management and organization. While time management and organization is something that has always come easy to me, it isn't easy for everyone; so I enjoy sharing what I have found successful for me as a writer.

The holiday season is wonderful, but it can also be very stressful. With shopping, sending out cards, decorating, working, running the kids around to various activities, and unexpected things cropping up from time to time, it's easy to lose that sense of peace that is meant to fill this time of year.

Here are a few ways that can help you keep this holiday season stress-free and more enjoyable.

Set Realistic Expectations

The Currier and Ives version of the perfect Christmas only happens in pictures. Allowing yourself to be pulled in too many directions will lead to stress and jeopardize your chances of enjoying the holidays.

Write out a to-do list of what must be done. When you write out that list, give great consideration to what "must" means.

Does must mean...

* you need to include a personal note with each card
* you need to volunteer for every event that someones asks you to help with
* you have to clean your house from top to bottom
* your decorations have to be up by a certain date

While all these things are nice in theory, they can add to the craziness that often surrounds the season. Maybe an annual letter will work instead of a personal note to everyone on your list. Selecting one or two events to volunteer for each year will allow you to contribute to worthwhile causes without leaving you tired and overwhelmed. There's nothing wrong with saying "no" or "maybe next time".

I've always been one to stress over how the house looks. I used to insist that all my decorations be up by Thanksgiving weekend and that the entire house be cleaned before company arrives on Christmas Eve or Day. People come to see you and your family, not your house. Do what you can to make it special, but don't worry if the house isn't picture perfect. It's probably going to get messed up with company coming anyway.

Don't Be Afraid to Delegate

For those items that make the "must be done" list, see which ones can be delegated. I know, it sometimes feels like it's just easier to do it yourself, but when you're running from place to place and that blood pressure is rising, it's time to say, however it gets done doesn't matter as long as I don't have to do it.

Your family will be happy to help if it means spending more time with you.

Get the Sleep You Need

If I am guilty of anything, it is staying up too late to finish one last thing. Unfortunately, that makes me irritable and impatient the next day. Just ask my family!

Get the correct amount of sleep you need each night. Not only will your family thank you for it, you'll be much more productive the next day.

By setting realistic expectations, delegating some tasks, and getting the sleep you need, you and you family will be able to experience a less stressful and more meaningful holiday season!