Wednesday, July 14, 2021

Moving to Wordpress!! Come visit for a book give away!

 Hello everyone!  I have a special announcement!  I have finally taken the plunge and have moved to Wordpress.

The reason is because my Feedburner subscriptions have become defunct so I'm hoping that Wordpress will generate more traffic and be easier.

Also, it felt time for a change.

But, of course, if this turns out to be more trouble than it's worth, I'll have to develop a plan B.

The address to Wordpress is:



I considered a new name, but this one fits so well.  I hope my followers will follow me over to Wordpress.


And to further entice you, I'm offering a book giveaway.  Go to GentlyMadBlog for the details!


See you there (I hope)!

Saturday, July 3, 2021

Night of the Cossack by Thomas Blubaugh

Cossacks were members of several peasant groups of Russian and Polish descent. They lived in autonomous communal settlements, especially in the Ukraine, until the early 20th century. In return for special privileges, they served in the cavalry under the czars. They were well known for their horsemanship. They raided villages for supplies, women and young men to increase or replenish their ranks. Eventually they became a part of the Russian army.
(From the author's website)

  Nathan Hertzfield is a young Russian boy living with his widowed mother and younger brother. During the night a band of Cossacks raid his village. Many are killed while their houses are pillaged and burned. Nathan is kidnapped by one of the Cossacks, a man named Nikolai, and taken back to their camp. At first their relationship is somewhat turbulent.

“You're obstinate, little man. You'll make a fine Cossack.”
 Nikolai said, “I've questions for you. You were born in the village of Gagra, no?”
“Good. You're Russian by birth.”
“And you're a Christian?”
“A Christian? No.”
“What then?”
“I'm a Jew,” said Nathan proudly.
“A Jew, you say. You won't be when we return to camp.”
“How can that be? I was born a Jew. How can I not be a Jew?”
“The fact you're a Jew doesn't matter to me. You're young, healthy, and trainable. This is all that matters. You're going to need a new name. What is your name?”
“Nathan, Nathan Hertzfield.”
“Your name will no longer be Nathan Hertzfield. You're Stepan Ivanov now.”

The rest of the story is an exciting adventure where Nathan, now Stepan, becomes like a son to Nikolai. For many years they live together and become very close as they live the gypsy yet war like life of the Cossacks. As a lover of Russian literature I found the descriptions of the culture of the Cossacks informative and very interesting.

Stepan soon comes to understand why Nikolai wanted to hide his Jewish identity. It is 1904 in Russia and the Jewish pograms are underway. Eventually it becomes so dangerous that Stepan can no longer stay with the Cossacks or in Russia.

Living and running and fighting with the Cossacks is only one chapter of Stepan's life. War, political upheaval and danger from another Cossack boy who tries to pin a crime on him takes him across Europe in what is a kind of “Jewish underground railroad” where he meets many other Jews who are trying to make it to freedom and safe from persecution. Having to change his name more than once he finally makes it to America.

Thomas Blubaugh wrote this story about his grandfather who immigrated to America from Russia. He never met him or learned much about him so Blubaugh decided to make up his own story about his grandfather's life.

This book is an excellent coming of age story that would be wonderful for adolescent boys (and girls- I always read 'male' literature as a kid.) It is also a source of good historical fiction as it accurately portrays living conditions in turn of the century Russia, the plight of the Jewish people and how many of them came to America, via Europe.

Blubaugh's writing style is seamless and fluid. His characters are believable and interesting. On top of that it has a great story line. All the ingredients of a great book. It was easy and fun to read. I read it in a couple of days. I recommend this book to everyone.
Here is the latest link to the book on Amazon.

I received a free copy of this book by the author.  For more information you can go to Thomas Blubaugh's website:

For another review of this book you can visit the blog Reflections in Hindsight  here

Monday, June 28, 2021

Beating About the Bush by M.C. Beaton

Listening to Vivaldi: Complete Oboe Concertos.

Another full moon.

Beating About the Bush (Agatha Raisin, #30)Beating About the Bush by M.C. Beaton

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I listened to this on Hoopla while painting my house. I can say it was a fun mystery and made painting much more bearable, especially since the air conditioner broke and I had to paint most of the house in ninety plus (F thirty plus C) degree weather.

Agatha Raisin and her assistant detective Tony are driving through the country when they approach a clump of bushes. Tony grits her teeth because it seems that they can't drive past a clump of bushes without Agatha saying, "That's a great place to hide a body."

It's no different this time, except, there is a body! Or at least a leg. Agatha and Tony rush to the bushes see the leg, in fact they recognize the leg as belonging to the secretary of a company that has hired Agatha's detective agency to investigate possible espionage from a rival company.

The police are called, much ado is made, and then they all laugh at Agatha Raisin. The leg is fake.

This naturally makes the newspapers and Agatha, a rather vain person, is mortified. But she's also suspicious. Was this a trap to discredit her? If so, why? What is really going on at the company that has hired her?

The plot line is a simple murder mystery, but who gets murdered and why is not immediately apparent.

What is mostly enjoyable about Beaton's mysteries are the characters. They are very human. Agatha Raisin is a middle-aged plump, smoking drinking piece of brass. She's vain and pushy, but also very caring. She's deathly afraid of losing her young assistant, Tony, to marriage. Agatha herself has soured on marriage, more for selfish reasons than anything else.

I don't know if M.C. Beaton is trying to be realistic or has an ax to grind, but she makes marriage out to be the dullest, most boring occupation anyone could involve themselves in. Raising children is paramount to drudgery and voluntary slavery.

Relationships should be limited to sex with multiple partners. Agatha has no problem sleeping around and certainly doesn't plan commitment with anyone, but while she is working on a relationship with a new flame, she is outraged that one of her male harem has the audacity to get married.

And furthermore with someone he hasn't even slept with. She compares it to buying shoes without trying them on.

Call me old fashioned, by Agatha is rather a Trollope and comparing a human being with a pair of shoes as if other people are simply commodities to be used for personal pleasure is disgusting.

Then there's Tony trying to decide whether to marry her boyfriend, but arrives at the conclusion that marriage and family would be terminally boring and she's much better off being a detective.

That attitude is depressing enough, but also a bit presumptive. The story got me through painting my house, but otherwise wasn't all that interesting and certainly not more interesting than the relationships I have with my husband and son.

I'll read more of Agatha Raisin, but I may be holding my nose as I do so.

View all my reviews

Monday, June 21, 2021

Lonely Magdalen: An Inspector Poole Mystery by Henry Wade

 Here are some lovely Baroque Concertos.


I've been painting my birds, but have not been happy with the product.  This is my latest effort at Hercule's portrait in acrylic.  Better than anything I've done so far, but I may paint over it.  What do you think?








This was a great mystery and also an original one.

We start at a bar where a news broadcast interrupts the normal programming to announce that the body of a woman has been found strangled in a park. The woman is described with a burn mark on her face. Any information as to the identity or witnesses who may have seen anything etc..

The people in the bar become quiet. The park is not too far from the bar, but that is not why the patrons of the bar have become quiet. A hulking man sitting by himself turns white. At first they all laugh, thinking something is in his beer, but his violent reaction causes them to shy away and they soon forget about him. The bartender and owner of the bar, who happens to be an ex-policeman, suspects more.

The story then embarks on a thorough investigation with Inspector Poole, a young detective, with his superior officer, Inspector Beldam, to obtain the identity of the woman and hopefully trace the whereabouts of the murderer.

The story is unusual in that it starts off as a normal detective story, but interrupts itself to give a background of specific people involved by going twenty years in the past, before returning to the present.

The present is 1939, when Europe was on the brink of war. The middle part goes back to the First World War.

While Poole, Beldam and their men are fastidious, the story is never boring. Wade writes in an engaging way that envokes sympathy for all the players involved, even the victim and perhaps the murderer.

I'm not sure the story ends with both feet on the ground, because it leaves questions. I believe this was the author's intent, but it is not my favorite way to conclude the story because there's not absolute closure.

Still, I rank this up with one of the best mysteries I've read.

Monday, June 14, 2021

Why Cats Paint by Heather Busch and Burton Silver

 Listening to some Schumann.

I was talking on the phone with my dad the other night while I walked around outside.  I happened to look up and see the full moon.

Then sings my soul, my Savior God to Thee.  How Great Thou Art!!

This is one of the best satires on modern art that I've ever read. The authors use the exact same pretentious language to describe "Fluffy's" efforts at filling space with his marks that I've read in so many books on modern artists. The only thing they left out was political correctness. I guess cats aren't interested in Social Justice, Sexual Orientation or Racial Identity.

I guess because the authors never wink throughout the book, some people take it seriously. They don't ask themselves how the writers of the book know the thoughts and motivations of an animal.

Here's an example:

"The typical pose of a cat when sitting at a Point of Harmonic Resonance: the eyes are slightly closed and the cat will generally purr and may rock gently back and forth.

Almost all cats that paint spend at least ten minutes in resonance prior to commencing a work, which suggests they derive some inspiration power from these invisible low frequency force fields."

Here's another one:

"Misty's popularity as a painter is due mainly to the figurative nature of her images. The elegant, bi-colored forms that sometimes extend up to ten meters in length, are immediately evocative and invite a wide range of projective interpretations. In a recent work, A Little Lavish Leaping, the surface is heavily built up with short black verticals to produce an elongated curvilinear mass that is at once dense yet strongly nuanced with movement.

Tension gathers at the base and builds upwards, flowing to a release in the upper ovoidal form."

Man, I wish I could write like that. I'm not even sure they're using real words.

Tuesday, June 8, 2021

Titanic: Legacy of the World's Greatest Ocean Liner by Susan Wels

 Still listening to Schumann.

Josh and I went to a nearby town to get our Cuckoo Clock fixed.  The only Clock shop this side of Dallas that fixed Cuckoo Clocks belonged to an ancient little man in Jefferson.   And he only took cash so it was with some trepidation that we handed over our clock to him.  Spoiler alert:  He fixed our clock but it took forever to find him and finally get our clock back. 

His store is like something out of a movie.  This is parked out front.  It is for sale if you're interested.

Back home and merrily cuckooing and playing The Happy Wanderer while the tiny couples dance.

I always like learning about a famous historical occasion and really getting into the point by point time line and detailed information.

This large book with its glossy photos and illustrations does not disappoint. Susan Wels provides contemporary photos of the Titanic on the bottom of the Atlantic, historical photos of the ship and passengers, and several of the artifacts that have been uncovered by the teams that have developed the technology to make it happen.

Wels first provides a history from the building of the ship to the landing of the survivors in New York.

The second section provides a detailed description of the the efforts to find the Titanic's resting place through the years and then the science, technology and scientists who made it finally happen.

Interesting to me are the people who think the Titanic should be left alone on the bottom of the ocean. Their argument is that way the ship and her possessions will belong to all and honor the memory of the dead.

Baloney. Such arrogant presumption to speak on behalf of people who have been gone for over a hundred years.

I'm glad that International Treaties have been created to make sure that individuals don't pirate the treasure of the Titanic, but I think it honors the memory of the passengers, both living and dead (although I doubt any are alive now) by preserving the artifacts in a public museum so we can all come into contact with the past.

I sincerely hope they are able to bring the three sections of the ship up before it finally dissolves into the ocean. 


Sunday, May 30, 2021

Trotsky: a Biography by Robert Service

Here's Bach's Cello Suite.


This is a thorough yet engaging biography of the man who might have been, but never was the leader of the Soviet Union.

I have heard pro-communists say that Communism would have worked under Trotsky and the Soviet Union would have achieved its Marxist goals if the crazy, paranoid Stalin hadn't made it to power.

Those people should read this book. Trotsky was every bit as ruthless and inhumane in his tactics in his tireless efforts to create a "Communist Utopia" as Stalin was. The difference was Stalin had more people on his side.

What fascinated me was Service's description of Trotsky's single-mindedness. His entire life was consumed in making a Soviet. He had no conscience about destroying a country, including starving out the people he claimed to be fighting for.

He wanted liberty from the aristocracy, but he did not want anyone to have freedom from him.

Due to his general lack of diplomacy, he succeeded in alienating even those who might have sided with him.

While in Mexico there were many artists and poets and philosophers from Europe, Mexico, and America who saw what they wanted to see in him and made him a poster boy for their cause.

These people were not enough to get him into power, primarily because they were armchair socialists, more concerned with mimicking the fashionable prattle of the day about socialism than actually doing anything to undermine their personal wealth.

Frida Kahlo became quickly bored with him, as she did with all her lovers, and she and her husband Diego Rivera, never practiced what they preached. They were contemporary virtue signalers.

In America H.L. Mencken wanted to donate much of his library to Trotsky, something Trotsky wasn't interested in. Other supporters were John Dewey, (of the decimal system fame, not to mention doing his best to integrate Marxist values into the American educational system-do you wonder why our young people voted for Bernie Sanders?)

In the end, Stalin got him, but I don't know if Trotsky cared. He was slowly disintegrating, bit by bit, anyway. I think the end, as gruesome as it was (why a pick ax, for peter's sake?) must have come as a relief. 


I've been preparing a slide show for my mother's memorial service.  This is a favorite.  A young mother trying to keep track of her three children.  I'm the oldest.