[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 Forsaken Children (The British Home Children #1) by Naomi Finley

Publisher and Publication Date: Huntson Press. April 13, 2021.
Genre: Historical fiction.
Pages: 350.
Format: E-book copy.
Source: I received a complimentary e-book copy from the publisher and HFVBT. I am not required to write a positive review.
Audience: Readers of historical fiction focused on children.
Rating: Very good.

Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tour landing page.

Link for the book @ Amazon.
Link for the book @ Barnes and Noble.

The books in the series are Prequel/ The Forsaken Children/ Miss Winters Rapscallions (in 2022).

Author Info:

Naomi is an award-winning author living in Northern Alberta. She loves to travel and her suitcase is always on standby awaiting her next adventure. Naomi’s affinity for the Deep South and its history was cultivated during her childhood living in a Tennessee plantation house with six sisters. Her fascination with history and the resiliency of the human spirit to overcome obstacles are major inspirations for her writing and she is passionately devoted to creativity. In addition to writing fiction, her interests include interior design, cooking new recipes, and hosting dinner parties. Naomi is married to her high school sweetheart and she has two teenage children and two dogs named Egypt and Persia.

For more information, please visit Naomi Finley’s website. You can also find her on FacebookInstagram, and Goodreads.


A riveting tale of endurance and resilience, illustrating the spirit of a child and the bond between siblings.

It’s 1921. Fifteen-year-old Hazel Winters and her six-year-old brother, William, are placed on a ship by an organization that relocates British orphans and children of poverty to new homes in Canada. Arrivals in the new land are exported to distributing houses, where devastation and heartache greet the youngsters as the headmistresses govern their fate.

The assurance of a better life across the ocean is far from what Hazel experiences. Through hardships and loneliness, she is determined to survive. Finding refuge in memories of the past, she clings to the dream of returning to her homeland while preserving a reunion in her heart.

In 1890, orphaned Charlotte Appleton and her sister Ellie were scooped up from London’s streets and sent to new homes across the ocean. Although mere miles kept them apart, Charlotte never knew her sister’s whereabouts until a chance interaction reunites them. Together the siblings vow to make a difference for the families and home children of an institution in Toronto, Ontario.

Can an unexpected guardian give Hazel renewed strength and resolve for a future of promise?

Based on the child emigration movement that occurred from 1869 through the late1930s, this poignant tale follows the lives of siblings who were burdensome byproducts of Britain’s poverty.

My Thoughts:

The Forsaken Children is aptly named. It is 350 depressing pages. Other words I’d use to describe the book is exhausting, oppressive, and filled with despair. However, The Forsaken Children is an important story. It teaches about a period in history where the most vulnerable in society were taken advantage, abused, and considered expendable.

Before I share my impressions of this story, I have been reminded of something my dad shared about his life. Dad was born in 1922 (the same period of this story). Dad was born in a small town in central Texas. He lived during the Great Depression years. His family was poor. Dad remarked that his parents generation treated children terrible. Children were often regarded with disrespectful words, humiliation, made fun of, and abused. It was rare for an adult to take up for a child. Men especially treated children bad. Dad had a low opinion of the previous generation. One story my dad shared is an adult man, a neighbor, allowed his dog to attack my dad, this man laughed at dad-he did nothing to help. This man considered it amusement. The Forsaken Children recreates this same time period and the same type of ideology.

What I love about The Forsaken Children is the heavy atmosphere and descriptions that bring the story to life. It is a harrowing tale and it has a full impact.

Hazel is a true heroine. She is described as thin and barely 5 feet tall. She is a sprite of a girl. But, she has a heart of gold. She has the will and perseverance of a super-hero. I love it that no matter what she has experienced in life, Hazel has not become bitter.

There is an additional dual time story of Charlotte’s life. I love it that the dual time periods are not back and forth too often, but they reveal Charlotte’s persistence in uncovering the truth about Hazel.

The characters are either exceptional or villainous. There is no in-between. The polar extremes makes either side 3-D.

The story does not wrap-up in a tidy package. It’s possible there will be more to this story in the next book.

Themes in the story: shame, compassion, betrayal, courage, perseverance, self-worth, power of love, and loyalty.


Enter to win a mystery box of goodies + a copy of The Forsaken Children by Naomi Finley!

The giveaway is open to the US only and ends on April 23rd. You must be 18 or older to enter.

Direct link to the giveaway: The Forsaken Children (gleam.io)

(Review) The Arctic Fury by Greer Macallister

Publisher and Publication Date: Sourcebooks Landmark. December 1, 2020.
Genre: Historical fiction. Mystery. Thriller. Suspense. Adventure.
Pages: 432.
Source: NetGalley e-book. I also purchased the paperback copy at Barnes and Noble. I was not required to write a positive review.
Audience: Readers of historical fiction with a cast of females. The story is an adventure and suspense story.
Rating: Very good.

Link at Amazon
Link at Barnes and Noble

There are several YouTube videos about the Franklin expedition team.

An 18 minute video that teaches the story of the Franklin expedition: The Lost Arctic Expedition.


October 1854.
The story begins with a trial in the Massachusetts Superior Court, Boston. Virginia Reeves has been charged with one count of kidnapping and death of Caprice Collins. Miss Collins is the daughter of a wealthy Boston family.
Chapter two begins with how Virginia Reeves came to lead a group of women to the Arctic to search for Sir John Franklin. Franklin is the leader of a British Arctic exploration group who left England in 1845. He and his group are missing.
The benefactor of Reeves all female group wants to remain anonymous. Mr. Brooks, who is the envoy, is direct with information and rules, but he explains privacy is important.
The women who join Reeves each have their own stories before the adventure (including Reeves), and a few of them contribute as a narrator voice. Reeves is the main narrator.
It is Virginia Reeves who is the leader of the team and on trial.

Sir John Franklin, 1786-1847.

My Thoughts:

I have several thoughts about this story. I actually have mixed feelings about giving the book an excellent rating, so I settled for very good.

What I love about the story is the unique storyline: An all female group of inexperienced Arctic explorers during an age when women were living in a man’s world (and men were not completely familiar with the Arctic). One woman is an adventurer, explorer, and trailblazer. Her experience is in western North America. A second woman states she is a world traveler and adventurer, but she is used to having servants. Their precarious adventure kept me reading to the last page. I want to know what really happened? I want to know why Virginia Reeves is on trial?

I enjoyed the different narrator voices from a few of the women. This gave me a broad perspective of the whole group. It gave me a perspective of Virginia Reeves (instead of being in her thoughts and voice).

And speaking of Virginia Reeves:
Virginia Reeves has a past. She carries guilt, and not just from the Arctic adventure. The story will finally reveal her life in the last chapters.
Virginia is an enigma. She is a different type of woman than most of the women in America in the mid 19th century. She is a bit of a mystery as to why she is the way she is. I felt an investment in her story because I want to understand her character. I want to know her background story.
Virginia harbors a chip on her shoulder. Several times she is snubbed and judged by people (men and women) who dislike her lifestyle, mannerisms, and language. However, the people want to use her particular skills for their advantage.
She comes across as coarse, overly confident, and arrogant. This is not to her benefit because I wondered early on if she was being played?

Bottom line: The Arctic Fury is the story of people and how they act and react to opportunities, events, and hardships. It shows people who in the top crust of society have money to pay others to do their work and to even administer their own justice.

What I dislike about The Arctic Fury.

The adventure and exploration the women took part in changed their lives. For some of them it ended their lives. I expected Virginia Reeves’s character to transform. At the least a character change. I feel to make the story believable she’d be physically scarred in some way. Some of the survivors had scars. Why not Virginia?
Another female character who I did not like through most of the story had a big transformation. She rose above the others and I admire her. This also gave the story a twist. A transformation in a character I didn’t like but now find remarkable and memorable. In the end who is the real heroine?

I did not learn about the clothing and supplies the women had for their trip. These things are remarked in passing (not in-depth).

I want to read about the scenery. The descriptions of the Arctic is brief. To me, the Arctic is a gigantic and untamed character. It is worthy of vivid and graphic description that makes a deep impression.

(Review) The Last Train to London by Meg Waite Clayton

Publisher and Publication Date: HarperCollins. 2019.
Genre: Historical fiction.
Format: Paperback.
Pages: 480.
Source: Self-purchase.
Audience: Historical fiction readers of World War II and Holocaust.
Rating: Very good.

Link @ Amazon

The Last Train to London is the story of a Dutch woman, Truus Wijsmuller, who escorted Jewish children to a safe country away from the Nazis. The rescue operation was called Kindertransport. The children called her Tante Truus.
The Last Train to London is based on the real story of the Vienna Kindertransport operation. The person who led this was Geertruida Wijsmuller-Meijer (1896-1978) of Amsterdam.
Two other characters in the story are Stephan Neuman and Zofie-Helene. They are teenagers from different cultures, but are close friends.
The book is in 3 parts:

My Thoughts:
I watched a documentary on Prime Video about a Kindertransport operation. When I saw this book at Target I had to read it.

My first thought is I am amazed at the courage and tenacity of Truus Wijsmuller. She is skillful at acting a part for the benefit of saving children. She can weave a fictitious story with charm in order to save a life. She has the ingenuity to change a plan in a moments notice. I love her character. I love this story because of her.
Other reasons why this story is important and why I love it.
1. Even though Truus is courageous and brave, I see her weaknesses. I see her fears. I see her vulnerable side.
2. Newspaper clippings are included in the book (every so many pages). I feel this helps the story with a historical realness.
3. The story shows the venom and brutality of the Nazis against the Jews. This makes the story raw and believable. It shows the heightened suspense that children must be helped. It gave the story an edge of my seat feeling.
4. When a person is the caregiver of children the person must be prepared for surprise interruptions that might change plans. Clayton showed several examples in the story.
5. I liked reading about Christians who were living out their beliefs by helping those suffering.
6. I was pleasantly surprised to read Bible verses in the book.
7. I feel the characters are fleshed out in a way that made them breathe with life. This is just one of the reasons why I became apart of the story.

Something I am puzzled about in the book. Some of the chapters are only 1 page long. Why? This is interrupting in the story to have breaks like this. I do not like it.
The 2 other characters are Zofie-Helene and Stephan. If they were not in the story I would not miss them. I’d like the emphasis to be on Truus. She is a huge character. Any other characters paired in a story next to her are pale.

(Review) The House on Foster Hill by Jaime Jo Wright

Publisher and Publication Date: Bethany House. 2017.
Genre: Christian fiction. Mystery. Suspense. Romance.
Pages: 364.
Source: Self-purchase.
Audience: Christian fiction readers.
Rating: Okay.

Amazon link

The House on Foster Hill has been in my TBR pile a few years. I’m determined to catch-up on this stack.

Two time periods with a main character in each period.
Kaine Prescott is the modern day main character. She’s a widow. She doesn’t have children. She relocates from California to Wisconsin to start a new chapter in life. She wants to break free from sad memories and start afresh. She buys an old house unseen in the hometown of her grandfather. The town is Oakwood, Wisconsin. Kaine feels her husband’s death was not an accident, but she’s been unable to convince the police. Meanwhile, Kaine believes she is being stalked.
Ivy Thorpe is the main character from the early 1900s. Ivy lives in Oakwood, Wisconsin. A young dead woman has been found in the cavity of a tree on the Foster Hill House property. Ivy helps her father who is a doctor with the medical examination. Ivy feels a duty to preserve with dignity the dead. She keeps a journal of deceased people. She feels this is a calling or a mission. Meanwhile, a young man arrives back in Oakwood as an investigator. His name is Joel Cunningham.

My Thoughts:
The House on Foster Hill is a chronological narrative structure.
The House on Foster Hill is a plot driven narrative.
The antagonists are both people and an agenda.

The House on Foster Hill uses the plot and subplots as the thrust of the story. They are the engine that propels the story forward.

What I like about the book:
~The cover. It’s gothic looking. The cover is haunting and enticing.
~The idea and setting of the story is wonderful. A mysterious house with a strong history of unexplainable events. Two women who are grieving. Both women have a pull to understand the secrets of the house.
~Ivy is a woman from the early 20th century, but she is the assistant to her father on a post mortem woman. I feel this is a rare job for a woman of this time period. I feel her experience working alongside her father made her a unique and interesting main character.
~Kaine’s working career had been in social work. She worked with women who had been victimized and abused. I feel her education and experience gives her a knowledge and wisdom most people don’t have. I feel this made her an interesting and valuable main character.

What I don’t like:
~There are too many subplots. I count 11. I don’t feel it is necessary to have so many subplots that the reader is wandering off in different directions and wondering how all of them or some of them will be reconciled by the last page. I feel some of the subplots need trimming.
~I don’t like the name Kaine. It is pronounced like Cain. I spent at least half the book wondering how to pronounce the name and the other half being reminded of Cain and Able.
~Kaine doesn’t respond in certain situations as I’d expected. She had years of education and training as a social worker. Her work placed her in crisis situations. In her career, Kaine would have attended further training. In The House on Foster Hill, she behaved as a cliché in a crisis situation instead of her training. I didn’t like this. I didn’t feel it was believable.