Review of The Butterfly and the Violin



the Butterfly and the Violin

In Kristi Cambron’s The Butterfly and the Violin, talented violinist Adele Von Braun lives a sheltered life in 1942 Austria but yearns to help those who are affected by war. To that end, she undertakes the dangerous mission of smuggling Jews out of the country. Her life turns upside down when she is caught, and she fights for survival in Auschwitz. In her darkest days, a fellow prisoner shows Adele an exquisite painting and reminds her that God creates beauty out of tragedy. Generations later, the historic search for this same masterpiece serves to inspire a young art dealer struggling to overcome rejection and a broken heart. Will it lead her to love too?

The Butterfly and the Violin is extremely well-written and rich with historical detail, so much so that the reader can feel the deprivation of the concentration camp. The narrative is told by two women generations apart, but the plot is woven seamlessly together with gripping scenes that make the novel hard to put down. The reader easily identifies with the characters, each displaying depth and authenticity. The romantic storyline is skillfully told and, to Cambron’s credit, does not drown the rest of the story. The spiritual message is unmistakable, but not preachy.

The Butterfly and the Violin is an example of superb writing and the first in the Hidden Masterpiece series. If you like historical romantic fiction, I highly recommend The Butterfly and the Violin.


I was given a free copy from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

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Review Of City of Dreams

City of Dreams


In his book, City of Dreams; Dodger Stadium and the Birth of Modern Los Angeles, Jerald Podair traces the tumultuous journey of Walter O’Malley in his quest to build his beloved Brooklyn Dodgers their own home on the East Coast.  When politics and personalities would not relent, this determined entrepreneur made the decision to go west.  Despite securing verbal and written agreements by the City of Los Angeles, O’Malley endured one delay after another, putting his dream very much in doubt. However, O’Malley refused to give up and, with the help of some Hollywood stars, liberal Democrats, conservative Republicans, and a play-by-play announcer who would become an icon, Dodger Stadium was built. This not only gave Los Angeles a modern sports venue, but it transformed the city landscape itself.



City of Dreams vividly recounts the struggle to build Dodger Stadium as Los Angeles becomes divided along political and racial lines, as well as the competing visions of the residents in the interest of their city. The compelling narrative describes every battle over housing, money, business, and identity as a baseball stadium gets built and the municipality is forced to make difficult decisions to move this incredible enterprise forward. Podair examines the value of sports and argues that it can exceed the cost of a massive structure and transform a city itself, bringing it into the modern era. City of Dreams is a tribute to the tenacity of one man, Walter O’Malley, and to the metropolis the Dodgers now call home. If you are a baseball fan or interested in the way business and sports intersect, City of Dreams; Dodger Stadium and the Birth of Modern Los Angeles is for you.



I was given a free copy from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.





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Review of Swingin’ A’s

swingin' A's



In his book, Dynastic, Bombastic, Fantastic: Reggie, Rollie, Catfish and Charlie Finley’s Swingin’ A’s, Jason Turbow takes an in-depth look at the 1970’s Oakland A’s and their controversial owner, Charlie Finley. Beginning with their move from Kansas City to Northern California, Turbow chronicles the climb from unenviable obscurity to unquestionable powerhouse as the A’s win three straight World Championships. Led by a brilliant but meddlesome and mercurial owner, these colorful and combative players would leave their mark on baseball history, only to have the franchise dismantled by Finley’s unnecessary frugalness and the game’s move to free agency.


Swimgin’ A’s is a fascinating look at the inner-workings of a baseball franchise. The book is incredibly well-written and well-researched as Turbow makes baseball come alive and presents the people and personalities in the context of long, grueling seasons rife with dysfunction. Finley fought his players, Finley fought his managers, and players fought their owner and each other. This furthered their reputation around the league as rebels. Finley and his players may not have been popular on the larger landscape of baseball but they, like their uniforms, could not be ignored. They just kept winning. Whether they did this because of, or in spite of, their insufferable owner, is still a subject for debate. There is no question that the Oakland A’s of the 1970’s are one of the greatest teams to step foot on a baseball diamond.


Swingin’ A’s is an entertaining and engaging read for any baseball fan. However, it contains graphic language that some readers may find objectionable. Whatever your opinion of Charlie Finley and his team, The Swingin’ A’s deserve to be remembered for their accomplishments on the field rather than the drama they created off of it.



I was given a free copy from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.



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The White House Wedding: A Solve-the-Mystery Blog Tour by Radha Vatsal.



Read the posts and solve a mystery linked to President Wilson’s 1915 wedding to Edith Bolling Galt.  The new First Lady and Woodrow Wilson make a dramatic appearance in Murder Between the Lines, the second novel in the Kitty Weeks Mystery series, which features the adventures of bold newswoman Capability “Kitty” Weeks in World War I era New York.  For more historical surprises, sign up for the Kitty Weeks newsletter:


On August 6, 1914, just a few days after World War I broke out, tragedy struck the White House.  Ellen Axson Wilson, President Woodrow Wilson’s beloved wife of almost thirty years and mother to their three grown daughters, died of Bright’s Disease.  Her devoted husband plunged into depression.  Seven months later, his cousin, Helen Bones introduced him to her friend, the handsome 38-year-old Washington widow, Mrs. Edith Bolling Galt.  Mrs. Galt owned her late husband’s jewelry store and drove around town in a jaunty electric motor car.  The president was smitten. His future bride described the first evening they spent together in her memoirs:


“Thereafter I never thought of him as the President of the United States, but as a real friend.  That evening started a companionship which ripened quickly.  He, Helen and I often went for motor rides after dinner… We talked over the things which were rapidly developing in the conduct of the War.  From the first he knew he could rely on my prudence, and what he said went no further.”


Everyone seemed happy for the President when he and Mrs. Galt announced their engagement in October 1915. (Everyone that is, except for Kitty Weeks’s irascible boss, Helena Busby, editor of the Ladies’ Page of the New York Sentinel who thought it was too soon after the death of the former First Lady!) Wilson and Mrs. Galt married on December 18th of that same year.  The new Mrs. Wilson never left her husband’s side, even traveling with him to Europe at the end of the war to attend the Paris Peace Conference.


In 1919, after the war ended, President Wilson suffered a stroke and collapsed. He was little seen for the rest of his term in “the worst instance of presidential disability we’ve ever had” (Wilson scholar, John Milton Cooper, as quoted in the Washington Post). During that time, Mrs. Wilson and the president’s personal physician, Dr. Cary Grayson, controlled all access to the patient.  Even as she attempted to downplay her role in her incapacitated husband’s administration, Mrs. Wilson said:


“So began my stewardship.  I studied every paper, sent from the different Secretaries or Senators…  I, myself, never made a single decision regarding the disposition of public affairs.  The only decision that was mine was what was important and what was not, and the very important decision of when to present matters to my husband.”


Who was this woman with little formal education from Wytheville, Virginia who sprung onto the public scene in 1915 and ended up shepherding the United States through turbulent times? The arrangements for her wedding to Woodrow Wilson provide some clue to her personality.


In the course of this blog tour, I describe four different aspects of their wedding plan: The Location, Guest List and Attendants, Ceremony and Officiants, Dress and Flowers.  The wedding went off as arranged, except for one significant last-minute change—which provides an insight into the future First Lady’s personality. Your mission is to guess what changed and why.  The answer will be revealed in the final blog post. 


Next Up: Jane Reads >

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One societal sickness that we still can’t eradicate: Political lies By Thomas Sowell

One of the painful realities of our times is how long a political lie can survive, even after having been disproved years ago, or even generations ago.

A classic example is the phrase “tax cuts for the rich,” which is loudly proclaimed by opponents, whenever there is a proposal to reduce tax rates. The current proposal to reduce federal tax rates has revived this phrase, which was disproved by facts, as far back as the 1920s — and by now should be called “tax lies for the gullible.”

How is the claim of “tax cuts for the rich” false? Let me count the ways. More important, you can easily check out the facts for yourself with a simple visit to your local public library or, for those more computer-minded, on the Internet.

One of the key arguments of those who oppose what they call “tax cuts for the rich” is that the Reagan administration tax cuts led to huge federal government deficits, contrary to “supply side economics” which said that lower tax rates would lead to higher tax revenues.

This reduces the whole issue to a question about facts — and the hard facts are available in many places, including a local public library or on the Internet.

The hardest of these hard facts is that the revenues collected from federal income taxes during every year of the Reagan administration were higher than the revenues collected from federal income taxes during any year of any previous administration.

How can that be? Because tax RATES and tax REVENUES are two different things. Tax rates and tax revenues can move in either the same direction or in opposite directions, depending on how the economy responds.

But why should you take my word for it that federal income tax revenues were higher than before during the Reagan administration? Check it out.

Official statistics are available in many places. The easiest way to find those statistics is to go look at a copy of the annual “Economic Report of the President.” It doesn’t have to be the latest Report under President Trump. It can be a Report from any administration, from the Obama administration all the way back to the administration of the elder George Bush.

Each annual “Economic Report of the President” has the history of federal revenues and expenditures, going back for decades. And that is just one of the places where you can get this data. The truth is readily available, if you want it. But, if you are satisfied with political rhetoric, so be it.

Before we turn to the question of “the rich,” let’s first understand the implications of higher income tax revenues after income tax rates were cut during the Reagan administration.

That should have put an end to the talk about how lower tax rates reduce government revenues and therefore tax cuts need to be “paid for” or else there will be rising deficits. There were in fact rising deficits in the 1980s, but that was due to spending that outran even the rising tax revenues.

Congress does the spending, and there is no amount of money that Congress cannot outspend.

As for “the rich,” higher-income taxpayers paid more — repeat, MORE tax revenues into the federal treasury under the lower tax rates than they had under the previous higher tax rates

That happened not only during the Reagan administration, but also during the Coolidge administration and the Kennedy administration before Reagan, and under the G.W. Bush administration after Reagan. All these administrations cut tax rates and received higher tax revenues than before.

More than that, “the rich” not only paid higher total tax revenues after the so-called “tax cuts for the rich,” they also paid a higher percentage of all tax revenues afterwards. Data on this can be found in a number of places, including documented sources listed in my monograph titled “‘Trickle Down’ Theory and ‘Tax Cuts for the Rich.'”

As a source more congenial to some, a front-page story in the New York Times on July 9, 2006 — during the Bush 43 administration — reported, “An unexpectedly steep rise in tax revenues from corporations and the wealthy is driving down the projected budget deficit this year.” Expectations, of course, are in the eye of the beholder.

Thomas Sowell, a National Humanities Medal winner, is an American economist, social theorist, political philosopher and author. He is currently Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University.

Posted: 5/1/17

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One of the Books I Should Read Before I Die….

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Beren and Lúthien: Tolkien’s Greatest Love Story By Joseph Pearce

There are many great literary love stories. Apart from fairytale princesses and their trysts with charming princes, we think perhaps of Romeo and Juliet, or Helen and Paris, or Odysseus and Penelope, or Aeneas and Dido, or Dante and Beatrice. And we think of those who gave us such lovers. Shakespeare, Homer, Virgil, Dante.

We probably don’t think of J.R.R. Tolkien.

We don’t associate the writer of The Lord of the Rings with great literary lovers. And yet he gave us Aragorn and Arwen, and Celeborn and Galadriel, and the rustic simplicity of the love of Samwise Gamgee and Rosie Cotton. We might, if we are of a melancholic disposition, think of Eowyn’s thwarted passion, her love unrequited as she watches Aragorn ride off to what she presumes will be his death, or, if we are more sanguine, we might prefer to think of Eowyn’s eventual marriage to Faramir and their living happily ever after. Chances are, however, that we probably don’t think of Beren and Lúthien, Tolkien’s greatest lovers, whose self-sacrificial romance reflected the deep love between Tolkien and his wife, Edith.

The reason that Tolkien’s greatest love story has been largely unknown, except among aficionados, is that the story is little more than a footnote in The Lord of the Rings, in which the self-sacrificial adventures of the lovers are recounted, in passing, by Aragorn. They are, however, told at greater length in The Silmarillion and there are earlier versions of the story, told in both poetry and prose, in other posthumously published books.


Now, however, or at least in about five weeks from now, Tolkien’s greatest love story will take centre stage. On June 1, Beren and Lúthien, a stand-alone book of the story, will be published. Illustrated by the wonderful Tolkien artist, Alan Lee, and edited by Tolkien’s youngest and only surviving son, Christopher, the book draws from the various unfinished versions of the story to form a complete narrative, with minimal editorial intrusion. It will bring this neglected part of Tolkien’s corpus to the fore, simultaneously bringing two of literature’s greatest lovers into the limelight.

Those wishing to know more about Beren and Lúthien might want to purchase a little-known book by John Carswell, recently published, entitled Tolkien’s Requiem: Concerning Beren and Lúthien (True Myths Press This gives the backdrop to the story, connecting it with Tolkien’s other work and with its biographical context. Regarding the latter, it is significant that Tolkien had the name “Lúthien” inscribed on his wife’s tombstone. She was always his Lúthien, his greatest love story being inspired by his memory of the elven and sylphlike vision of her dancing in the woods in the first years of their marriage. After his own death, his family had the name “Beren” inscribed on the tomb that he now shared with his wife, uniting them in death as they had been united in life but also uniting them in the love story that their own love story had inspired.

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