[Review] Modern Magic: Five Stories by Louisa May Alcott

Publisher and Publication Date: The Modern Library. 1995.
Genre: Fiction.
Pages: 275.
Format: Hardcover.
Source: Library.
Audience: Readers with an interest in other stories Alcott wrote.
Rating: Good for A Pair of Eyes. Okay for most of the stories. My Mysterious Mademoiselle is the one I dislike.

Link for the book @ Amazon.

Modern Magic is a collection of five short stories.

  1. A Pair of Eyes; or, Modern Magic.
  2. The Fate of the Forrests.
  3. Behind a Mask; or, A Woman’s Power.
  4. Perilous Play.
  5. My Mysterious Mademoiselle.

I’m in the process of reading Little Women for the first time. While at the library a couple of weeks ago, I came across a book of Alcott’s short stories which I’d already heard were vastly different than Little Women.

I cannot say with honesty that I enjoyed reading any of the stories. They are different. They most certainly were different in the 19th century when they were written. I’m not sure what was going on in Alcott’s head to prompt her to write at least one of them. It satisfied a curiosity in me to read this book.

The introduction in this book helps. The introduction in my copy of Little Women published by Penguin Classics certainly helps.

My review will contain spoilers, because if I do not give a little information about one of the stories you will be left wondering what I’m referring too that is so odd about one particular story.

In the first story, A Pair of Eyes. The main character is an artist who lives for his art. He considers that he is married to his work. However, he meets a woman who has these “mysterious eyes” that he must paint. The more time he spends with her the more he is enchanted with her and is overtaken with overwhelming feelings.

I feel this story has excellent dialogue, storyline, mystery, especially in the building up of the story.

A Pair of Eyes is my favorite.

The Fate of the Forrests is a story about a Hindoo curse on a family. I had a hard time becoming apart of the story. I understand the plot and storyline. I just did not care for it.

Behind a Mask is another story in the book about manipulation and control which is a strong theme running through all the stories. At least in this story there is a nice ending.

Perilous Play is about curiosity to use hashish bonbons. I am glad the story is one of the shorter ones because I was ready to move on.

My Mysterious Mademoiselle is the story I dislike, but it too is brief. A middle age unmarried English man meets a kittenish young girl on a train. The description of this girl is feminine with golden curls. This man is smitten. The two share a compartment on the train and exchange a light flirtation. The man takes a nap. When he wakes up, he is seated near a young man-a teenager. This young man is revealed to be the nephew of the man. The young man in female clothes is not what bothers me, it is the young man knew this was his uncle he was flirting with. It’s been a ploy. And at the end, the two leave together as if this “almost escalated” situation is not a big deal.

What I learned from reading Alcott’s short stories:

  1. She can write both long stories and short stories. Not all writers can do this.
  2. She writes excellent dialogue.
  3. She writes unusual and creative stories.
  4. I don’t see the stories as wicked which is what many in the 19th century thought of them. I have 21st century eyes and views, etc. I do believe they are melodramatic, dark, a little sinister and mysterious.
  5. In all the stories there are characters who are untrustworthy because they are manipulative, calculating, and have a ploy.


[Review] The Nurse’s Secret by Amanda Skenandore

Publisher and Publication Date: Kensington Publishing Corp. June 28, 2022.
Genre: Historical fiction.
Pages: 368.
Format: Paperback.
Source: I received a complimentary advanced reader copy from the publisher. I am not required to write a positive review.
Audience: Historical fiction readers. Readers of nursing history in the 19th century.
Rating: Okay.

Amanda Skenandore’s author page at Goodreads.


New York City. 1883.

Una is a young woman who is a thief. She knows the “art of the grift.”

When the story begins, she is arrested for a murder she had nothing to do with. She looks for a way to hide herself and make a living. She creates a new life in a new nursing school.

Nursing is a new choice for women who do not mind the hard work, and the respectable interaction of caregiving.

In the beginning, Una’s tough facade does not pair well with employers and nursing students who are from a society that frowns upon the criminal and the lower income.

After the murder of a patient, Una begins to wonder if her situation and the victims is related.

The Nurse’s Secret is a mix of 19th century nursing history, 19th century New York city history, murder/mystery, and romance.

My Thoughts:

I dislike the name Una. I googled the name. It is of Irish origin and means lamb. Other countries have the first name also. For example, Bosnia and Wales. Another definition of the name is unity.

Una is not a lamb. She is the opposite of a lamb in character.

Actually, I dislike her character. It made it difficult to care what happened. She comes across as having an attitude that people owe her. She is arrogant. Haughty. Cunning. Calculating. Manipulative. Selfish. Brazen. I saw a little transformation in her through the story but not enough for me to care. It was difficult to finish the book.

The murder/mystery is so so. There isn’t a shock about the solving of the murders nor the closure.

What I liked most about the story is learning about the nursing practices of this time period. This is fascinating history.

[Review] The Murder of Mr. Wickham by Claudia Gray

Publisher and Publication Date: Vintage Books/Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. May 3, 2022.
Genre: Historical Mystery, Cozy Mystery, Austenesque.
Pages: 400.
Format: eBook.
Source: I received a complimentary eBook copy from Austenprose, NetGalley, and Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. I am not required to write a positive review.
Audience: Readers of Austenesque.
Rating: Excellent.

Link @ Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group.

Link @ Amazon.

Link @ Audible.

Link @ Barnes and Noble.

Link @ Book Depository.

Link @ Bookshop.

Link @ Goodreads.

Link @ BookBub.


“Had Jane Austen sat down to write a country house murder mystery, this is exactly the
book she would have written. Devotees of Austen’s timeless novels will get the greatest
possible pleasure from this wonderful book. Immense fun and beautifully
observed. Delicious!” —Alexander McCall Smith
“What a splendid conceit! . . . Gray provides plenty of backstory and enough depth to
her characters that even those who mix up their Pride and Prejudice with their Sense
and Sensibility will delight in the Agatha Christie–style mystery. . . . There’s so much fun
to be had in this reimagined Austen world—and the mystery is so strong—that one can
only hope, dear reader, that more books will follow.” —Ilene Cooper, Booklist (starred
“[An] enchanting mystery. . . . Gray perfectly captures the personalities of Austen’s
beloved characters. This is a real treat for Austenites.” —Publishers Weekly
“Who would NOT want to read a book in which one of literature’s most notorious rakes
meets his final demise? . . . A delightful Agatha Christie meets Jane Austen
romp.” —Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose

Author Bio:

Claudia Gray is the pseudonym of Amy Vincent. She is the writer of multiple young
adult novels, including the Evernight series, the Firebird trilogy, and the Constellation
trilogy. In addition, she’s written several Star Wars novels, such as Lost
 and Bloodline. She makes her home in New Orleans with her husband Paul and
assorted small dogs.


A summer house party turns into a thrilling whodunit when Jane Austen’s Mr.
Wickham—one of literature’s most notorious villains—meets a sudden and
suspicious end in this brilliantly imagined mystery featuring Austen’s leading
literary characters.
The happily married Mr. Knightley and Emma are throwing a party at their country
estate, bringing together distant relatives and new acquaintances—characters beloved
by Jane Austen fans. Definitely not invited is Mr. Wickham, whose latest financial
scheme has netted him an even broader array of enemies. As tempers flare and
secrets are revealed, it’s clear that everyone would be happier if Mr. Wickham got his
comeuppance. Yet they’re all shocked when Wickham turns up murdered—except, of
course, for the killer hidden in their midst.

Nearly everyone at the house party is a suspect, so it falls to the party’s two youngest
guests to solve the mystery: Juliet Tilney, the smart and resourceful daughter of
Catherine and Henry, eager for adventure beyond Northanger Abbey; and Jonathan
Darcy, the Darcy’s’ eldest son, whose adherence to propriety makes his father seem
almost relaxed. In this tantalizing fusion of Austen and Christie, from New York
Times bestselling author Claudia Gray, the unlikely pair must put aside their own poor
first impressions and uncover the guilty party—before an innocent person is sentenced
to hang.

My Thoughts:

I first want to state this is a splendid book!
Further, it is a busy book-busy with characters with their own substories. If you are a Jane Austen fan this means you’ve read at least one of her stories, if not several. You will recognize the characters from her books in this one volume. It is amazing how the large cast is brought together under one roof for a house party. Some are related. All are known to the hosts, Mr. Knightley, and wife, Emma. And the wicked Mr. Wickham joins the group-uninvited of course, which sets everyone on edge, and is the start of the murder-detective-mystery.

Several reasons why I love this story!

1. I love how I hear the other characters remark on one another. Their perspectives and impressions of one another.

2. Mr. George Wickam is everyone’s nemesis. Even characters who have only heard about him or have had little interaction with him-they detest him. I believe he is true to form as his terrible character reveals itself even more in this story.

3. The characters are true to their original stories. Their personalities, and the parts of the story we know about (and don’t know about) are carried on in this story. The Murder of Mr. Wickham brings us up to date with how their lives have been since we knew them in the original stories by Austen.

4. I love the pace of the story. The middle point is a building point to how the characters respond to what has happened to Mr. Wickham, to suppose who is the perpetrator, and to reveal more about their own substories.

5. Juliet and Jonathan Darcy are the youngest characters. They team up to solve the murder mystery. They are the only ones who either did not know Mr. Wickham or did not know him well. Their personalities alone are fascinating. They are a twist on expected gender type roles. Juliet is an intelligent young woman living in an era when women were not expected to take on a role as a detective.

6. Most of the time I love the author interjecting her own thoughts. This is not how I feel in all stories, but in this story, I love it.

7. I consider The Murder of Mr. Wickham to be a character study. If you love characters and the differences in them and how they bring together a larger story. This is the book for you.

8. The mystery of the murderer is not completely a surprise. I love how many of the ones on the list as possible suspects are ruled out. It is logical and methodical in how they are ruled out.

9. There is a theme in the story of grief. It is interesting that many of the characters suffer from grief. An unresolved sorrow and bitterness.

10. The ending of the story is very satisfactory.

Further Thoughts:

1. If Mr. Wickham is an untrustworthy scoundrel, why is Emma the one who showed Mr. Wickham to the room he will be staying in? I’m surprised Mr. Knightly trusts their unchaperoned trip.

2. This is not a Christian fiction book, but several Scripture references are used.

3. A modern-day view of a topic is weaved into the story. I’m not convinced this is accurate of this era. What I mean is I believe that this occurred (of course), but I don’t believe people talked about it. It was an unmentioned topic even in most private conversations. Even in my parents’ generation, (they were born in the 1920s) this topic was not mentioned except in whispers or lewd comments. So, this part of the story I do not believe can be considered accurate for this time period. And yes, this is my opinion. But I do believe the substory is handled well because it is private conversations between a married couple. As well as their struggles with a difference of opinion.

Themes: grief, romance, family honor, ambition, jealousy, courage, compassion, self-control, charity, hospitality, greed, injustice, deception, and innocence.

[Review] The Lost Girls of Paris by Pam Jenoff

Publisher and Publication Date: Park Row Books. January 29, 2019. 
Genre: Historical fiction.
Pages: 377.
Format: Paperback.
Source: Self-purchase.
Audience: Historical fiction readers especially those who read WWII stories.
Rating: Very good.

Link @ Amazon.

Link @ Barnes and Noble.

Pam Jenoff’s Goodreads/ website/ Facebook/ Twitter/ Instagram.


February 1946. New York City, NY.

Grace Healey is late for work and cuts through Grand Central. She trips on an abandoned suitcase sticking out from underneath a bench. Out of curiosity, she opens the suitcase and finds the name of the owner. Inside she finds an envelope of photographs. They are of several women. Some of the women are in military uniforms. They are all young women. Grace begins working to put the puzzle together about all of the women. She must know who they are and what happened to them.

The second story is of the woman who was in charge of the young women. Her name is Eleanor. Her story begins in 1943, England.

The Lost Girls of Paris is the story of heroism and courage. Young women, who from different backgrounds and cultures, are willing to sacrifice their lives for the sake of country, duty, and loved ones.

My Thoughts:

Overall, I love this story and enjoyed reading it.

What I love about the story:

1. I don’t feel I will ever tire of reading World War II stories. My dad was a veteran of World War II, D-Day Omaha Beach, and the Battle of the Bulge. He shared many stories with me as a child and adult. I know his stories. I want to know other people’s stories which includes historical fiction.

2. Grace Healey is a perfect example of a grieving widow. I feel Pam Jenoff portrayed an accurate widow who is displaced, wounded, grieving, lonely, and at a loss in how to move forward. This includes not knowing even where to begin. I personally know a woman who lost her husband on the USS Indianapolis. She still grieves. She went on with life. She married and had children. But he was a great love-a great friend-a young love-who is lost to her. Grace and my friend show similar behavior. I feel Grace is an accurate and real character in this story.

3. I love it that romance is not the focus. So often romance is introduced in a story, and it can and often does take over.

4. I love it that Grace realizes she must move forward in life, but it must be “her own story.”

5. This is a minor detail, but I love it that Grace is defined as having “corkscrew hair.” I don’t think this has been described before in a story I’ve read. Grace is given a minor detail, yet it’s a difference compared to how other female characters are described. I love this minor detail.

6. I enjoyed reading about the instructions of operating a wireless.

7. I love the friendship between the women. Some of them upon meeting show a kindred spirit.

8. The dialogue and descriptions are wonderful and engaging. It felt easy to picture the scenes in my mind.

What I feel needs clarification:

At the start of the story, I didn’t quite understand what had happened to Grace. What I mean is Grace has marks on her neck, she had been drinking the night before, she is sluggish, and she is hungover. My first thought is she had been abused. My second thought is she has an alcohol problem. And she blames a person named Mark who I don’t know yet. My point is I feel lost at the start. Later, I put the event all together and understand. I don’t like feeling lost especially at the start of a story.

Final Thoughts:

Eleanor is too cool. Chilly. Icy. However, her personality fits her character.

Mark is grieving too. I feel sorry for him.

This is a story I’d like to read a part 2 so I will know what Grace becomes.

Themes in the story: war, peace, grieving, courage, heroism, resistance, honor, judgment, injustice, justice, dreams, trust, temptation, charity, hope, and acceptance.

[Review] Death on the Nile by Agatha Christie

Publisher and Publication Date: William Morrow, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers. First published 1937. This edition published in 2020.
Genre: Mystery.
Pages: 351.
Format: Trade paperback.
Source: Library.
Audience: Mystery readers.
Rating: Very good.

Link for the book at Amazon.

Link for the author page at Goodreads: Agatha Christie.

Goodreads states Death on the Nile is #18 in the Hercule Poirot Mystery series.

Link to the website of Agatha Christie.

Link to Biography on the life of Agatha Christie.

Dame Agatha Mary Clarissa Christie, Lady Mallowan, DBE (née Miller) was born on September 15, 1890. She died January 12, 1976.

Photo saved from Wikipedia.


A cruise along the Nile River in Egypt is the setting for a series of murders. A famous wealthy heiress named Linnet Ridgeway had been shot in the head. She had recently married. Hercule Poirot is a passenger on the cruise ship. He is the investigator of this case.

My Thoughts:

This is the first Agatha Christie story I’ve read! Yes. Truth. It will definitely not be my last!

I love this mystery story. I am already a fan of Christie. I am already a fan of Hercule Poirot.

Several things I love about this mystery story:
1. I love the strong dialogue. I love the various personalities that come through in their speech. I love the mannerisms that are shown while speaking. I love the emotion. I love the hints of things behind what the characters are saying. For example, when the characters are lying. I love the judgements or criticism one character makes about the other.
2. I love the crisp descriptions of the people. I can easily picture them in my mind. Most of them are aristocratic type people with clothing and attire that is remarked on in keen description.
3. I can tell Christie was an astute observer of people and this shows through in her writing.
4. Hercule Poirot is an eccentric, interesting, fantastic sleuth character. He is a gentleman, calm, observable, wise, and intelligent man in regards to people. His attire is an added bonus.
5. I love the way Poirot’s mind processes the information and how he solves the case.
6. A little surprise at the end.