Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The Hidden Masterpiece by Honore De Balzac

The Hidden Masterpiece by Honoré de BalzacI'm not the best judge of short stories since they're really not my thing. But I did enjoy this, sort of. The writing is good, even though I was left with more questions than answers when I'd finished. Maybe its too deep for me, I don't know.

But if I was to give the Master painter in this story a piece of advice (and who am I?) I'd say "beauty in art is knowing when to call it finished. " 

There's such a thing as over beating egg whites. 

Its only 30 pages and is free. Read it for yourself and see what you think. I have some more observations but it would be spoiler ridden to voice them.

Septimus by William J Locke

Septimus by William J. LockeI always enjoy stories that turn the table on cliche, convention and cardboard cutouts.

In Septimus we find a delightfully unusual hero who is modest, inconsequential in appearance, flighty, untidy, eccentric, and inventive. Mainly, he's inventive in developing complicated weaponry, which is pretty ironic when you get to know what a tender-hearted, self sacrificing person Septimus really is, (and you will eventually learn why he chose that trade) but it does send the point home that you can never judge by appearances.

When I first meet Septimus in chapter one I felt a moment of dismay. "Oh please don't tell me this bumbling idiot is going to be the hero...". See how we judge on first sight? I'm ashamed of myself. But I soon found myself rooting for him and you will too.

I could have done with less of Clem Sypher, the inventer of "Sypher's Cure" and more of Septimus though. Clem at times dominated the story, he was larger than life, and while I understood why he was there (to serve as contrast) and although I do feel that he was neccesary, he hogged.

Still a 4 Star read for me and is free on public domain.


The Fortunate Youth by William J Locke

The Fortunate Youth by William J. LockeThis reminded me of a male Cinderella story. At its outset we meet Paul, an unloved and unwanted child in Lancashire. He sleeps on the scullery floor at night and is beaten whenever his mother and stepfather over imbibe (which is most of the time). This would normally break a child's spirit but Paul is of a different nature entirely. For one he is an egoist; there's really no other word for it.

Instead of accepting the inevitable drudge of factory work and home misery as his fate, he sees great things for himself and is convinced that he is the descendant of a Prince. (Why else would he look and act so differently from his family?) So he decides to run away and become what he always knew himself to be: Great.

And he does. He goes from modeling in art studios (he's Adonis in the flesh), to trying his hand at acting, to bankruptcy, pneumonia and dying under a bush, and eventually discovering his fairy godmother and a path to politics and success. 

And that's where he lost me... I'm not at all into politics and I would have found the story much more interesting if he made his fortune frying fish rather than waving the flag. That's just me.

But there are some interesting twists and turns in the story especially with regard to his real father's identity and a French princess.

A solid 3 stars

Sulva John by Warwick Deeping

Suvla John by Warwick DeepingWith a bullet in his back, Sulva John was never meant to return from the war. But while Sulva John's would-be murderer comes back from the trenches a hero of sorts, ("He told me to look after you, Elsie ..") and marries John's finance, John wanders the world as a hired soldier under an assumed name...

When John returns to England, he hitches up with a gypsy caravan and falls in love with Richenda, an inependant, serious minded, pipe-smoking, straight-talking heroine. In her wisdom she tells John, " I want what is ours to begin like a perfect fruit with no other poor fruit lying rotten and unhappy."

So he returns to his former home to "lay some ghosts to rest", confront some painful memories and close a few chapters. But in the process he stumbles across Elsie, his former finance who has no intention of letting dead soldiers stay buried...

I really love Warwick Deeping. I love the ways he spins a tale. Although his stories are simple, they're meaningful and full of genuine characters, good and bad. A very enjoyable read.

FYI: It's very difficult to find this one. I haven't seen "Sulva John" on any public domain sites and I just managed to snag a used copy from Amazon. If your library has one, grab it before they "recycle ".


Tuesday, October 7, 2014

The Beloved Vagabond by William John Locke

The Belovéd Vagabond by William J. Locke4.5 Stars

What happens when a gentleman of learning, passion, and artistic temperament gets his heart broken? Why, he smashes every remnant of his past life into little tiny fragments, sweeps them under the rug of oblivion and reimerges with a new identity. His name will vary with whim and circumstance, his home may be a slum in London or a hedge in Britany, but one thing, the man inside, the "real " man, the Genius and man of heart, Paragot, will remain unchanged... as the beloved vagabond.

Not everyone will enjoy this. You have to love words, (I have 51 new words in my kindle 'vocabulary builder' because of this book), you must love the music and rhythm of flowery, witty speech (see status updates for examples) and you must be ok with a story that doesn't gallop along at a breakneck pace. If this sounds like your style, I think you'll find Beloved Vagabond a very satisfying read that celebrates true contentment found in the obvious yet elusive real life.

In The Beloved Vagabond one learns (almost too late) that dreams, even admirable dreams, lifelong dreams, lovelorn dreams, are occasionally best kept under the pillow where dreams belong.

CONTENT: G-PG (for "crapulous" i.e, drunken, scenes :)

*I recommend reading this for free via Amazon on an ereader or tablet with built in dictionary/ translation features for fullest enjoyment.

A Woman's War by Warwick Deeping

A Woman's War by Warwick DeepingFive stars easy!

A Woman's War is my first Warwick Deeping and I've happily found a new favorite author. :)

In a nutshell, it is a story of good triumphing over evil. The evil in this case comes in the form of inherited alcoholism. A curse for any person but particularly more stigmatic (and potentially dangerous) when one is an M.D. in a small village. Neighbors will talk, jealous coworkers will scheme and accidents will happen...

This story engrossed me from page one. Dr. James Murchison and his family warmed my heart with their deep seated love/ support for eachother. When James stumbles, we root for him, willing him to overcome his "curse " before all is lost. And when good eventually triumphs and the baddies get their just desserts we try not to revel in it, because we've experienced what that feels like.

A wholesome, must read, honest book. How it ever went out of print I don't know. Thankfully, it can be read or downloaded straight from public domain sites such as Openlibrary. 
Or, you can pay to buy from Dodo Press but they're pretty expensive for these obscure titles.


SEX: None
THEMATIC ELEMENTS: Alcoholism, syphilis


The Hidden Hand by E.D.E.N. Southworth

The Hidden Hand: Or, Capitola the MadcapIt somehow doesn't seem right to review a book that's really only half a book (The "sequel" Capitola's Peril is the other half, and both are available free on kindle).

Well, I didn't love this. I'm not even sure if I liked it. It's a strange little book and has its share of devoted fans but for one reason or another IT and I just didn't 'click '. Some books are like that and you can't force the relationship. It either is or it isnt.

At its beginning, "The Hidden Hand " is a mystery. Then its a comedy. Then a romance, next a sermon and ends. No character felt real enough for me to care what became of them. And primarily for this reason, although the book takes us to a cliffhanger ending where nothing much is resolved and Black Donald is still on the loose, I'm ok with that. I know the answers are all in the sequel but I'm not sure I'm that bothered to find out, even though its free. Isn't that awful?

Please read other reviews for this because I am definitely in the minority on this one and Id hate for you to bypass a book that may be a winner for you. It's free. Give it a go.