Thursday, November 20, 2014

Folle Farine by Ouida

Folle Farine by OuidaI read Signa and Bebee and enjoyed them immensely. This story just didn't work for me. The overall tone is so depressing it makes Les Miserables or Tess of the D'Urbervilles feel like Pollyanna. 

I don't mind some darkness if there's a glimmer of hope, but this isn't that kind of story. I counted one sympathetic character, a cripple and outcast who dies soon after his introduction. Other than him, they are to the last man, woman and child either downright evil or soul-destroyingly indifferent.

I'm the first to admit that understanding allegory is not my strong suite. And this book is rich with them. To a more intellectual mind, I can imagine its worth. But unfortunately, I was blinded by the misery. If there was a moral to this, the only two I took home were that "evil always conquers good" and "there is no God but gold". Not very cheerful.

In a nutshell: a fatherless child (read: spawn of the devil) is brought up as a slave to her evil grandfather and abused by him and every other person she meets. She eventually comes upon a painter starving to death in a tower and comes to his aid. She falls in love with him but he is only in love with his art...

I have a GR friend who adores this book (Its his favorite Ouida) and I'm so reluctant to say anything against it. But my fragile emotions couldn't handle this. Thankfully, there are plenty of other Ouidas for me to choose from.


The Mountebank by William J. Locke

The Mountebank by William J. Locke3.5 Stars

Andrew Lackaday was born under circus tents. As he grew up (to a 6'4" skinny redhead) he perfected his trade in mimicry, sleight of hand, gymnastics and mountbankery (is that a word? :)

Then the war came. And the world changed. What people thought funny before the war was no longer amusing. How can it be? And besides, how can Lackaday go back to playing the fool in second rate music halls when weeks before he wore the stripes of a Brigadier General? The whole situation is ludicrous.

Then there's love. Lackaday holds the heart of a divine lady in the palm of his hand but unbeknownst to her, there's another woman, a coarse but kind circus performer who has stuck by him from the very beginning...

This was good. Quite a character study and not as improbable as it might look at first glance. The situations felt true and realistic. But Beloved Vagabond was better. This story needed a bit more humor in it. It was fairly dark. I wanted more lightheartedness. And if not lightheartedness I wanted more grit. Lackaday never talked about the war and I wanted to hear/ see a bit more how he was affected by it. But aside from the war putting the dampers on his livelihood he seems to have escaped unscathed. Was that even possible?

Still, a good read. I have a hardcopy (with nice d/j) but I tended to pick up my ereader for most of this reading because of the many French phrases I wanted to translate.

PROFANITY: Mild, some D's. 

Sea Horses by Francis Brett Young

Sea Horses by Francis Brett Young3.5 Stars

Francis Brett Young deviates from his usual English stomping ground and takes us on a sea adventure to Panda on the African coast. 

In a nutshell, a sea captain is finishing a job in Naples and is expecting to be home in a matter of weeks when he receives a new command. He must take the ship to Panda, on the African coast to collect goods...and... he must take a passenger, a woman, who is attempting to track down her runaway husband who abandoned her seven years prior, and her young daughter.

For the first half of the book, FBY had me by the ears. I enjoyed seeing relationships develop on board with the various sailors, seeing how a young child changed these gruff men into more human creatures, also the jealousy and animosity between them, having a woman about.

Where FBY lost me was when we stepped ashore in Africa. The descriptions can I put it? I couldn't SEE what he was describing. For example, there is a storm, a tornado, an escape through estuaries or swamps (I'm still not quite sure) and at these times I couldn't really picture what was happening. 

There's also some loose ends which were never fully explained
 There is a rather mysterious man of business who resides in his mosquito netted four posted bed. He looks like a marble statue and we're given to understand that he is partially paralyzed. Our hero has a few conversations with him. Later it is said that this mysterious man has died. And that he died a week prior. But our hero was in communication with him during this time. How? Was someone using him like a dummy? It's never explained. And why did everyone hate him so much? What did he do? Also, what happens to the woman's husband? There is a fight at the end and we don't know if he is alive or dead. Is our heroine free to marry again? We don't know. *END OF SPOILER*

I would be interested in hearing someone else's thoughts on this one but being that it is somewhat rare I may need to wait a while...


SEX: One offscreen attack/ rape 
VIOLENCE: Some violence but not very descriptive.
PROFANITY: D's mostly. One B, and some racial slurs scattered about.
PARANORMAL ELEMENTS: there's talk of a house having a "feeling " about it because of past lives, also there's a question of whether one character died before or after a series of conversations.

Handwriting Analysis - Discover Your Own Vocational/Career Potential

Handwriting Analysis - Discover Your Own Vocational/Career Po... by David J. DewittSo tell me about myself, that's always fun :) As long as its praiseworthy, complimentary, gushworthy, flattering and otherwise ego boosting, right? No one wants to find out they're a closeted psychopath, egocentric cleptomaniac or some other blight on society. That just wouldn't be cool.

So it was with tingling anticipation I picked up this book. See, I used to have exemplary writing. I did. It was a practiced ART. Perfect. I was proud of it. Then, over time....I don't know. I guess it just wasn't that important to me anymore and I let it go the way of the wind and let my writing just happen. So now...what can I say? I DARE you to steal my recipe book!

This was fun and instructive- very good for highschoolers or others looking for their niche in the career world. Its not all encompassing, (there are other books that go deeper into criminal/business analysis etc.) but is a basic guide with graphs,examples and plenty of simple explanations to help you unlock your potentials and give you a springboard for job ideas. The rest is up to you.

Highly recommended.

*This book was author provided for review purposes. I was not required to give a positive review.

Monday, November 10, 2014

The Man Who Lost Himself by Henry De Vere Stacpoole

The Man Who Lost Himself by Henry de Vere Stacpoole4.5 Stars

This is a wonderful story about a penniless American man who accidently meets his double in a crowded Hotel lounge. His lookalike "liquors him up" and the next thing he knows he is waking up in a posh bedroom and being called the Earl of Rochester.

At first he thinks its a practical joke and he plays along. But when the morning newspaper arrives, it all becomes clear: 'Mr Jones, the American' (the real Mr. Rochester) has commited suicide...

You have to love Vincent Jones. A down to earth, honest, plucky businessman, he sorts out the messes Mr. Rochester left behind him one by one, some with truly funny climaxes. All could have carried on smoothly but then the new Mr Rochester meets the lovely woman who he is "married" to and falls in love...

What follows is a confession, a lunatic asylum and a great escape.

So this was really good. There is no part of the story that lagged at all and I really felt invested in the characters. I'll definitely be checking out more books by this author.


The Woman At The Door by Warwick Deeping

The Woman At The Door by Warwick Deeping3.5 Stars

Which is the greater of two evils...a man who abuses his wife over the course of many years, or a woman who kills such a man in self defense? Laws being what they were in 1930s England, such a woman would either hang or spend the rest of her life in prison.

But what if someone.... (theoretically speaking), spirits such a woman away, hides her, creates a new identity for her, a new life somewhere far away...on the continent perhaps, is that man an even greater sinner? Should he be held with even greater responsibility or is it perhaps true that "the law is an ass", afterall? 

Such is the conundrum for Mr. Luce, a widower, who leases an old signal tower in the country for peace and quiet and then one stormy night hears a tapping at his door...

So I enjoyed this book, Deeping always delivers a well told story, but it wasn't my favorite of his. I thought there was a lot of room to spare for richer and more authentic character development, especially on the part of the woman. I felt that Rachel (the abused wife) realistically would have had a lot more baggage/ trust issues than she was shown with and probably wouldn't have fallen so quickly into another man's protection (or his arms). Just an observation. But Deeping likes his docile heroines :)

PROFANITY: Mild, a few D's
VIOLENCE: Mostly offscreen domestic violence. One brief attack shown.
SEX: None shown to reader


Mother by Kathleen Thompson Norris

Mother by Kathleen Thompson NorrisThis is a very light but pleasant read about a young woman who is disillusioned with her lot in life (one of seven children in a small rundown house in a small rundown town) and longs for the "real life" of pleasure and ease.

By coincidence she meets a high society lady who offers her a job as a private secretary in the woman's NY family mansion. She finally experiences life as she imagined it. But is it all it's chalked up to be? And what happens when your beau finds out your true origins? Will all be lost?

And at the crux of the story is Margaret's mother, the true hero of the story...

Its a sweet read but it didn't thrill me. I found it rather syrupy to be honest. Its the kind of book where you know just where the author is going with it, there's really no surprises, but its still a pleasant diversion.

But here's something to note: while I applaud motherhood and its many joys, there is a fairly heavy 'moralizing' tone throughout the book extolling the virtues of a woman's place (childrearing) and I felt bad for any woman reading this in years past who simply couldnt have children or maybe just wasn't "that type of woman" and therefore not up to scratch. You're either a self-sacrificing mother of a tribe of children or you're selfish. I didn't see a balance there.

If you can get past that, its a cute story. 


It Happened In Egypt by C.N Williamson

It Happened in Egypt by C.N. WilliamsonThis book is roughly 70% travelogue, 20% mystery and 10% romance.(and the romance is split between four couples)

It felt almost as though the author kept a diary while on an extensive trip to Egypt and decided to use it as a base for a novel. The descriptions are vivid but I admit I got a little impatient after a while because the story was kept waiting while we admired the scenery. (And anyone who knows me knows that I enjoy a leisurely-paced, descriptive book so go figure...)

I think if it had been edited by about 100 pages the story would have been "tightened up " improving it. But it was an ok read and quite interesting. There are one or two exciting bits but overall not very suspenseful. 

Aside from the scenic descriptions and history of Egyptian gods, we have a story of hidden treasure, escape from a harem and espionage. 

I would recommend it to those who enjoy a more rambling mystery and exotic vacation thrown in.


The Secret Sanctuary by Warwick Deeping

The Secret Sanctuary by Warwick DeepingSuch a good story. Wow. 

A shellshocked WW1 soldier returns from the battlefields with brain storms, mental lesions , or simply put, moments of provoked insanity. After spending some time in prison for almost killing a man, he returns home but cannot settle into normal society. So at the advice of the doctor and John's own wishes, a lonely cottage/ farm is purchased so John can live in peace and quiet, hopefully banishing his demons with meaningful work.

This starts off well and John makes friends with a nearby farmer and his wife. But when a red haired vixen appears on the scene apparently with no other object but to antagonize and seduce, a trigger is set off and history comes close to repeating itself.

Will John ever be able to live as a normal man again? And will he ever feel free to enjoy the love of one good woman, the farmer's daughter, Jess, finding sanctuary from the storms? 

This was a wonderful read. For large chunks of it my heart felt squeezed with emotion. The characters rang true, their struggles were honest and their aspirations worthy of fighting for. A happy (though realisticly imperfect) ending. 5 stars.


SEX: None


NOTE: This is a very hard to find book and not available on many (if any) open domain sites. Scour your libraries and grab it if you can. I found my used copy on Amazon.

The Usurper by William Locke

The Usurper by William J. Locke2.5 Stars

When a down-on-his-luck man comes across a dead acquaintance in the wilds of Australia, it doesn't seem such a big deal to go through his possessions and see what might be of use. One item is a deed to a piece of land. To claim it: pretend to be the owner.

At first the land is a disappointment. Nothing will grow in the black dust and the man is becoming desperate, only to find he is sitting on...a tin mine. 

'Jasper Vellacot' is now a millionaire philanthropist and his "Midas Touch" has accelerated. Everything he touches seems to turn to gold in his hands. And while he is accomplishing much good with his wealth, his secret is eating away at him and keeping him from making close friendships, especially a friendship with a certain beautiful woman who claims cousinship with him.

Then one day a man arrives on his doorstep. A ne'er do well, rough looking, heavy drinking man who looks an awful lot like the acquaintance he left for dead....

So it sounds good but this is probably my least favorite WJL. He got a little sidetracked with the main theme and I found some of the secondary characters more interesting than the primary ones, especially the poet "Bon Ami" and his passionate love for an Italian peasant girl (and subsequent action in WW1) 

In this story his main character, Jasper, becomes a politician (as several of his characters in previous books have done) and I felt a sort of dejavu while reading. 

An ok read but only for WJL fans.


Simon the Jester by William Locke

Simon the Jester by William J. LockeWhen Simon de Gex, wealthy and successful MP, finds he has six months to live, he embarks on a quest for "eumoiriety".

In the words of Marcus Aurelius, " Let death surprise me when or where it will, I may be eumoiros, or a happy man, nevertheless. For he is a happy man who in his lifetime dealeth unto himself a happy lot and good desires, good actions."

So in the matter of a few months, Simon disposes of his wealth in handouts, charities, in hefty tips etc. After all, what good is money when you're six feet under? If Simon can "fix " the universal woes by dipping into his pockets then by all means live, laugh and be eumoirous!

But doctors can be wrong, one can meddle where one is not desired, and what does one do when there is a return from the grave but its a return to a bleak world? No money. No society friends. No real skills. No desire? It is a quest for eumoiriety all over again. But this time, perhaps this time, Simon returns a wiser man...

I really liked this. What Ive summarized seems pretty straightforward and tame, but there are a lot of twists and turns along the way and interesting characters to spice things up. There's Lola the lion tamer, an eccentric dwarf "Mr. Anastasius Papadopoulos"; Simon's young friend Dale, and Eleanor Faversham, Simon's finance, about whom he admits:

"There seemed a whimsical attraction in the idea of marrying a girl with a thousand virtues. Before me lay the pleasant prospect of reducing them, say, ten at a time, until I reached the limit at which life was possible, and then one by one until life became entertaining."