Friday, July 30, 2010

Classic Hollywood Reviews: You Can't Take It with You

Frank Capra has to be one of my favorite classic movie directors, and this is one of his best films. You Can't Take It with You is an adaptation of a play, and fabulous. Jean Arthur and Jimmy Stewart are the romantic leads again having also played those roles in Mr Smith Goes to Washington. Only this time they are surrounded by a rich cast of eccentric characters played by gifted character actors. It won two Oscars: one for Frank Capra for directing and the other as best film.

I've got to say, the best film Oscar is right on. This film is the story of two very different families. Two things bring them together: a growing love between the son of a very rich investment banker and the daughter of a very eccentric family. The other is the house that Alice Sycamore's family and odd collection of tag-a-longs live in. Mr. Kirby must have the home for a plant and the Sycamores won't move. Then the families meet, end up in jail, and learn that money doesn't mean as much as a rich collection of friends.

The story is rich with meaning, but what I most appreciate is the strong Christian themes. When the family prays before dinner it isn't a pro forma blessing, but a real prayer. The Sycamores live out their faith. And in doing so change the lives of the people they encounter.

And the large cast of crazy characters is a hoot. Total complete eccentricy. (Yes, that word is a Cara-ism, but it fits!) So if you're looking for a movie that will reinforce your faith and have your family laughing at the same time, this is one to rent or buy! My family adores it.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Nightshade Giveaway & Info

This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

Barbour Books (July 1, 2010)

Ronie Kendig

Ever wonder what might happen to men (and women) who return from fighting overseas? When they are no longer fit for service for whatever reason? If what ifs like that every plague you, then you will enjoy Ronie's latest offering. This book has several layers running at the same time, and it is a book of Ronie's heart which comes through in the writing. It's labeled romance, but also contains a lot of action. A great read for someone who's looking for a romance that's more.

Watch the trailer and then leave a comment about why this book interests you. I'll select a winner from the comments!

Ronie has been married since 1990 to a man who can easily be defined in classic terms as a hero. She has four beautiful children. Her eldest daughter is 16 this year, her second daughter will be 13, and her twin boys are 10. After having four children, she finally finished her degree in December 2006. She now has a B.S. in Psychology through Liberty University in Lynchburg, VA. Getting her degree is a huge triumph for both her and her family--they survived!!

This degree has also given her a fabulous perspective on her characters and how to not only make them deeper, stronger, but to make them realistic and know how they'll respond to each situation. Her debut novel, Dead Reckoning released March 2010 from Abingdon Press. And her Discarded Heroes series begins in July from Barbour with the first book entitled Nightshade.

After a tour of duty in a war-torn country, embattled former Navy SEAL Max Jacobs finds himself discarded and alienated from those he loves as he
struggles with war-related PTSD. His wife, Sydney, files a restraining order against him and a petition for divorce. Max is devastated.

Then a mysterious a man appears. He says he's organizing a group that recycles veterans like Max. It's a deep-six group known as Nightshade. With
the chance to find purpose in life once again, Max is unable to resist the call of duty and signs on.

The team handles everything with precision and lethal skill...until they're called upon to rescue a missionary family from a rebel-infested jungle and
avoid a reporter hunting their identities.

Will Max yield his anger and pride to a force greater than If you would like to read the first chapter of Nightshade, go HERE.

Watch the trailer:

Monday, July 26, 2010


In Sunday School yesterday we talked about the need to plug in and stay plugged in at the place you are getting connected to the Spirit. It's got me thinking. Sometimes I think we get antsy in one place, because God wants us to move on. We get so comfortable that we are reluctant to move when God says it's time.

Yet at the same time, sometime I wonder if we get antsy because we're bored. Can anyone relate?

I kind of sense some of that in my life right now. Don't get me wrong, there is so much good stuff happening. But I've got this urge for more.

The challenge is does that urge come from God, or does it come from the four year tick He seems to have created me with? I want to do more for Him. Desperately. Yet I don't want to miss the opportunity and responsibility to be faithful with what He has placed in front of me to do. Right now. This moment. Anyone else ever feel that way? Ever pray for Him to expand your borders and then get so caught up in looking beyond the borders He's already given you, that you miss part of what you're supposed to be doing right now?

Like I said, it got me thinking. I'd love any wisdom y'all have to share!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Classic Hollywood Reviews: The Philadelphia Story

The Philadelphia Story is a classic. What you're not surprised?

Seriously this is one that you have to watch. Cary Grant. Katherine Hepburn. and Jimmy Stewart. Need I say more? And Jimmy Stewart won the Oscar for Best Actor. It also won Best Screenplay. (There is a remake with Grace Kelly, Bing Crosby, and Frank Sinatra, but I still prefer the original -- though the new one has a couple songs.)

Cary Grant's character (Dexter Haven) and Katherine Hepburn (Tracy Lord) were married. And two years later, Tracy's about to get remarried when Dexter and a couple reporters show up (one of whom is Jimmy Stewart's Macaulay Connor). The fun begins. There are parties. There's a dad who's not a dad. And an uncle who finds himself impersonating. And Tracy and her younger sister are a hoot.

It's a classic romantic comedy. One well worth seeing. And if you're still not sure, check out the movie clips on TCM.

And a fun trivia note: Katherine Hepburn starred in the play, and later owned the rights to the screenplay after Howard Hughes bought them for her.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

My first book rediscovered

Last week an online friend sent me this review of my first book. I was so tickled by Cass Wessel's memories of the time as well as her take on the book.

Canteen Dreams
by Cara C. Putman

Cara Putman specializes in novels set during World War II. True to the name, “Canteen Dreams”, brings to life the spontaneous volunteer phenomena called the railroad canteen. This writer has vague early childhood memories of them, although at the time I could not have told you what they were called. I was probably around two or three years old, traveling with my mother from Navy base to Navy base following my father to his various postings around the country. In train station waiting rooms while my mother and I awaited our connecting train, I recall seeing tables of coffee and sandwiches piled upon doors teetering across sawhorses. Out on the platform, I remember the steam locomotive’s screeching brakes as the behemoth came to a lurching halt. Before pulling out of the station, I remember girls coming down the isles of the trains passing out coffee, sandwiches, cookies, apples and oranges. The latter was a real treat in the midst of wartime. I recall the sonorous steam whistle, the conductor calling "All aboard" sounding like "Haulaboard" and the huff-chuff-huff-chuff-huff-chuff-chuff-chuffing of the train as it pulled away from the platform. I remember swaying like drunken sailors down the train isles as we found our way to our seats. I remember the lulling sound of the train clickety clacking down cold steel tracks.

“Canteen Dreams” brought it all back. Cara’s depiction captures both the detail and atmosphere of the railway station canteen.

In “Canteen Dreams”, the heroine, Audrey Stone, a trainman’s daughter, meets a wealthy rancher’s son, Willard Johnson at a dance. Oblivious to impending disaster, they whirl the night away on December 6, 1941, the day before the bombing of Pearl Harbor. The next day, the nation’s shock invades the Stone home, and within a matter of days, the war threatens to scar the Johnson family forever. Subsequent events, centering on the war, propel Audrey and Willard through heartbreak and healing. Some of these they face together and others threaten their budding relationship. Will their relationship stand the test? Will Willard be drafted? Will he win Audrey’s hand? Throughout critical moments, faith provides hope, help and courage.

Although, Cara C. Putman has written a romance novel on a serious theme, in some respects, the plot of “Canteen Dreams” reminded me of William Shakespear’s adroit handling of mishap and mayhem for hero and heroine. There were lighter moments, a chuckle or two, but mostly this book was a serious treatment of the subject of home front lives affected by wartime, an appropriate theme for our own nation currently at war overseas. The fact that “Canteen Dreams” won the 2008 Book of the Year Award in the short historical category recommends this book far better than my own “way to go, girl” plug. This is a thoroughly enjoyable romance novel that left me wanting to read more books by this author. So I think I will. The next book will be, “Sandhill Dreams”, also set during World War II. It is already bought and I can’t wait to get at it.

By the way, Cara’s books are available at Barnes and Noble, Christian Book Distributors and

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Touching the Clouds Review

Review: I think there's something about the wilds of Alaska that appeals to people. It's a harsh land that demands a lot of the people who live there. This book highlights the enterprising and dare devil spirit required to make a go of living there in the 1930s. I loved Kate. How can you not when she's a free spirit who's willing to do things that look vaguely improper -- like flying a plane. Yet not even Alaska is far enough to run from her demons. This book is a fresh addition to historical romance.

Author Bonnie Leon takes readers to new heights in her latest book, Touching the Clouds, the first book in the new Alaskan Skies series.

Leon introduces readers to Kate Evans, an adventurous and independent young woman with a pioneering spirit. When she leaves her home in Washington State to follow her dream of being an Alaskan bush pilot, she knows it will be an uphill battle. But she never expected it to be quite like this. As the lone woman in a man's world, she finds that contending with people's expectations is almost as treacherous as navigating the wild arctic storms.

When she crosses paths with a mysterious man living alone in the forbidding wilderness, she faces a new challenge. Can Kate break through the walls he has put up around his heart? And will fear keep her from realizing her dreams?

Book 1 in the Alaskan Skies series, Touching the Clouds will draw readers in with raw emotion and suspense, all against the stunning backdrop of the Alaskan wilds during the 1930s.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes. The opinions expressed are mine alone.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

CFBA Blog Tour & Review: Back on Murder

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing

Back On Murder

J. Mark Betrand

Oh my goodness! I loved this book. I'd heard enough about Mark's writing ahead of time to suspect I would like it, but I'm always skeptical when starting a book by a new author. Back on Murder blew me away -- and was a book that Eric really enjoyed, too. As I tried to think about who he reminded me of, the only Christian author I could think of is Brandt Dodson. Both write hard-boiled detective novels with flawed but potentially redeemable heroes. Brandt's characters tend to be private detectives while Mark's hero is a Houston PD detective.

When you pick up this book, prepare to be transported into Houston's muggy underworld as the police are called to the scene of a multiple homicide. The incident seems to have all the hallmarks of a drug war related hit, but Roland March notices something at the scene the other detectives miss that makes him convinced there are more victims than bodies and that this case can be his ticket into the good graces of his captain. The book follows the investigation through it's many twists and layers, but also peels back to the inner layers of this man and all that's going on at home and inside his head and heart. There are no easy answers, and there are no quick solutions. There isn't even an easy redemption, and that's what makes this story work so well. Instead, March takes incremental steps in all areas of his life: literally one step forward and two steps back. This novel is a perfect crime read for those who like their detective stories with all the grit of real life.

Even though I anticipated a couple twists, this book gets two thumbs up from me and from Eric.

Det. Roland March is a homicide cop on his way out.

A missing girl. A corrupt investigation. They thought they could get away with it, but they forgot one thing:

Roland March is BACK ON MURDER...

Houston homicide detective Roland March was once one of the best. Now he's disillusioned, cynical, and on his way out. His superiors farm him out on a variety of punishment details. But when he's the only one at a crime scene to find evidence of a missing female victim, he's given one last chance to prove himself. Before he can crack the case, he's transferred to a new one that has grabbed the spotlight--the disappearance of a famous Houston evangelist's teen daughter.

All he has to do? Find the missing teenage daughter of a Houston evangelist that every cop in town is already looking for. But March has an inside track, a multiple murder nobody else thinks is connected. With the help of a youth pastor with a guilty conscience who navigates the world of church and faith, March is determined to find the missing girls while proving he's still one of Houston's best detectives.

Battling a new partner, an old nemesis, and the demons of his past, getting to the truth could cost March everything. Even his life.

If you would like to read the first chapter of Back On Murder, go HERE.


J. Mark Bertrand has an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Houston. After one hurricane too many, he left Houston and relocated with his wife Laurie to the plains of South Dakota.

Mark has been arrested for a crime he didn't commit, was the foreman of a hung jury in Houston, and after relocating served on the jury that acquitted Vinnie Jones of assault. In 1972, he won an honorable mention in a child modeling contest, but pursued writing instead. Besides his personal website, visit his Crime Genre website at

The next book in this series, Pattern Of Wounds will come out in the summer of 2011.

Friday, July 09, 2010

Classic Hollywood Reviews: It Happened One Night

Oh my! I love this classic romantic comedy. Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert. Is there anything not to like? This is another classic from 1934 and a pure delight. It Happened One Night didn't do to badly in the Oscars, winning five in 1935. But that's not a reason to watch the movie...

The reason is the great interaction between Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert. This is Clark before Gone With the Wind, before he became labeled in many minds as Rhett Butler. Instead, in this movie he plays a journalist who needs a big scoop to get his job back...and he just happens to stumble onto it when he gets on the same bus as an escaping heiress.

What follows is a romp across the country as he promises to get her back to New York and her betrothed if she'll give him the exclusive. While this movie is filled with delightful moments...a driver singing "young people in love" in all kinds of off-key ways...Clark showing her how to hitchhike "just watch the thumb," and many more, one of the things I've always appreciated about it is the wall of Jericho. What's that you ask? You'll have to watch the movie to see.

It's available many places online including at Amazon for under $10. And if you don't trust me just look at any of the best 100 movie lists, and you'll see this one near the top.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

Tomorrow We Die
Bethany House (July 1, 2010)

Shawn Grady

I loved this book. Shawn has a talent for taking you into the ambulance with his paramedics and into the medical action. Yet there's so much more going on than an episode of ER. There are struggles with his dad, a mysterious patient, bad times, and much more. Let me just say the pages turned quickly as I followed the struggles and adventures of Jonathan Trestle. And I hit a point a little over halfway through the book where the action was happening so fast, I couldn't put the book down. It's making for a tired Thursday! Great book, with lots of action, great emotional thread, and a hint of romance.


Chase the Angel of Death and You Might Catch Him

Jonathan Trestle is a paramedic who's spent the week a few steps behind the angel of death. When he responds to a call about a man sprawled on a downtown sidewalk, Trestle isn't about to lose another victim. CPR revives the man long enough for him to hand Trestle a crumpled piece of paper and say, "Give this to Martin," before being taken to the hospital.

The note is a series of dashes and haphazard scribbles. Trestle tries to follow up with the patient later, but at the ICU he learns the man awoke, pulled out his IVs, and vanished, leaving only a single key behind. With the simple decision to honor a dying man's last wish, Jonathan tracks the key to a nearby motel where he finds the man again--this time not just dead but murdered. Unwilling to just let it drop, Jonathan is plunged into a mystery that soon threatens not only his dreams for the future but maybe even his life. He must race for the truth before the Angel of Death comes calling for him.

If you would like to read the first chapter of Tomorrow We Die, go to HERE.

Shawn Grady signed with Bethany House Publishers in 2008. He was named “Most Promising New Writer” at the 39th Annual Mount Hermon Writers Conference. He is the author of the novels Through the Fire & Tomorrow We Die.

Shawn has served for over a decade as a firefighter and paramedic in northern Nevada. From fire engines and ambulances to tillered ladder trucks and helicopters, Shawn’s work environment has always been dynamic. The line of duty has carried him to a variety of locale, from high-rise fires in the city to the burning heavy timber of the eastern Sierras.

Shawn attended Point Loma Nazarene University as a Theology undergrad before shifting direction to acquire an Associate of Science degree in Fire Science Technology as well as Paramedic licensure through Truckee Meadows Community College.

Shawn currently lives in Reno, Nevada, just outside of Lake Tahoe. He enjoys spending time in the outdoors with his wife, three children and yellow Labrador.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

What I learned while researching Stars... Part Two

Continuing the fun historical details from Monday...

4) The Winecoff Hotel, where I have my stars stay while they’re in Atlanta, was the site of the worst hotel fire in American history and has recently been restored and renovated.

5) I initially considered having the tour appear at Ford’s Theater, but it was essentially abandoned during the World War Two era – and was used as storage. Hard to believe if you tour that beautifully restored theater today.

6) The National Theater has had continuous shows running since December 1835. Fortunately for my story, it had a hole the summer of 1942, which fit perfectly with when I wanted my caravan to have a show there.

7) The Hollywood Canteen didn’t open until later in 1942. Since my first book involved a canteen, I really wanted to include the Hollywood Canteen. Besides, what’s more romantic than movie stars mixing with and entertaining servicemen? Unfortunately, it was in the planning stages during Stars in the Night. Maybe in the next book…

As you can see, I love the details of history. I hope Stars in the Night sweeps you away to a time that was rich in service, glamour, and conflict.

And don't forget to participate in the launch contest for Stars in the Night by leaving a comment on the post.

Monday, July 05, 2010

What I learned while researching Stars...

Since I'm still celebrating the release of Stars in the Night, I'm going to take this week to share with you some of the cool historical details I learned while writing Stars in the Night.

One of the things I love about writing novels set during World War II is that I always learn something new. As a World War II history nut, that keeps the writing fresh and exciting. Here are a few of the things I learned while writing Stars in the Night:

1) There really was a Hollywood Victory Caravan. The Hollywood Victory Caravan traveled by train Los Angeles to Washington, D.C., then north through cities like Chicago and Minneapolis.

2) If something had happened to the train, Hollywood would have been ravaged. The real caravan was filled with stars like Abbott and Costello, Desi Arnez, Bing Crosby, and Groucho Marx.

3) The first train entertained the President and Mrs. Roosevelt at the White House. What a great way to launch the tour. And Mrs. Roosevelt had a staff member standing immediately behind her to help her “remember” everyone who came by so she could say something personal to them.

Come back on Wednesday to learn four more tidbits I learned while researching this book. And don't forget to participate in the launch contest for Stars in the Night by leaving a comment on that post.

Friday, July 02, 2010

Classic Hollywood Reviews: The Thin Man

I'm starting a new feature on my blog. Every Friday from now through the foreseeable future, you can stop here for a review of a classic movie that I love and my family enjoys. And I couldn't think of a better movie to start with than The Thin Man.

If you've been around me at all you've probably heard me mention this movie. The first in the series of six was filmed in 1934 and under two weeks. It was nominated for four Academy Awards in 1935 including best actor and best picture. Not bad for a picture shot in such a short period of time.

While it's based on the novel by Dashiell Hammett, what makes this movie (and the series) so special is the great chemistry between William Powell and Myrna Loy -- and as they did in the good old days, the pairing stood through all six films. Oh, and don't forget Asta, the dog. Nick is a retired detective since he married heiress Nora. At the beginning she doesn't really want him to solve murders, and then later in the series she's the one pushing him to solve them. The movies are slapstick at their best.

We've even got the kids hooked on them. My nine-year-old will often chose them before other movies. Nick always has a drink in his hand, but that doesn't bother us as it fits the type of movie. So if you're looking for a classic detective caper filled with a happily married couple and wonderful banter between them, check out The Thin Man and rest of the series. You won't be disappointed!

In fact, right now I noticed you can buy the set of six on DVD at Amazon for less than $30!


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