The Last House on Needless Street by Catriona Ward

The Last House on Needless Street
The Last House on Needless Street
This is the story of a serial killer. A stolen child. Revenge. Death. And an ordinary house at the end of an ordinary street.

All these things are true. And yet they are all lies…

You think you know what’s inside the last house on Needless Street. You think you’ve read this story before. That’s where you’re wrong.

In the dark forest at the end of Needless Street, lies something buried. But it’s not what you think..

This one shook me. It is a story of a serial killer and all of the above blurb. But it’s also the story of a girl who lost her little sister, a boy who was horribly abused, a parent who is a sociopath, a cat who reads the Bible and watches television and a lot of lies.

I really don’t want to say anymore than that. There was nothing nice about this story. It was horrific and chilling and all of the dark things no one talks about. There was no attempt to dress it up as a nice fairy tale. It was true darkness at it’s best. 

I had at least 3 different ideas about what was happening and boy was I wrong! If this is the new dark Gothic, please bring it on!

Horrifyingly good!

NetGalley/September 28th, 2021 by Tor Nightfire

In the Shadow of the Empress by Nancy Goldstone

In the Shadow of the Empress: The Defiant Lives of Maria Theresa, Mother of Marie Antoinette, and Her Daughters

The vibrant, sprawling saga of Empress Maria Theresa—one of the most renowned women rulers in history—and three of her extraordinary daughters, including Marie Antoinette, the doomed queen of France.

That is the blurb on this very interesting look at this Empress and her daughters. And with Nancy Goldstone as the author I knew this would be good. She has such a way of making Non-Fiction read like the best story you can imagine. Never dull or dry. I adored this book.

This is the story of eighteenth century Maria Theresa, a strong woman who ruled the entire Habsburg Empire. We also learn about her daughters, who were also strong rulers in their own right. The Governor-General of the Austrian Netherlands, Maria Christina. Maria Carolina, Queen of Naples and of course, Marie Antoinette, Queen of France and the one you have probably heard the most about.

But all of them were extraordinary. The imagery of the royal courts is well done. The research put into this book is astounding. Reading this was a history lesson inside a story. A story of hope, desire, betrayal and every hardship one could imagine.

This is one I shall keep and share for a long time.

NetGalley/ September 21st, 2021 by Little, Brown and Company

Is it going to be over soon?

The question we all want an answer to. It seems to just be getting worse. And I have had enough of it.

We have been staying as far away from people as we can. Luckily for us we love being outside. So, we have been kayaking, camping, playing with the horses and on the boat with the grandparents. In the middle of the lake and all four of us vaccinated.

We go to the market early in the morning and get back home. I’m lucky I work from home in the sense that not much has changed for my work schedule.

Hilton is mandating masks for all employees and most are vaccinated as well. But you would not believe what they go through. The Shriners are holding a convention in town and they are all at our hotel. They are also mouthy, drunk, and fighting each other in public. What a shock. I always thought they were good people who cared about health. Wrong. One started yelling at OU Boy about his mask. Telling him it was all a hoax and he should take it off. OU Boy told him they are required to wear it and the man reached out and grabbed his shoulder to take off the mask. Luckily security was right there to escort him off the property. Hilton does not play when it comes to their employees.

Later a fist fight broke out in the bar that ended with one in jail and one sent on his way. Today we were supposed to have multiple softball teams come in but most of them tested positive for Covid at the end of the first week of school so they are now in quarantine at home. Which is very responsible of them.

We have had people yell at us about our masks and we just flip them off and move along.

We just spent four days at the lake. The good thing about having Mondays and Tuesdays off is there was no one there. Even the flies seemed to be socially distancing. It’s sad to have to tell our neighbors that they can’t come in our yard even. But our red state is also ignorant. If I have to hear about God’s will one more time I may throat punch someone.

So that’s my week. How was yours? Is everyone acting crazy where you are? What are you doing to stay safe but not isolated? Give me some ideas !

P

When a Stranger Comes To Town Edited by Michael Koryta

When a Stranger Comes to Town
Mystery Writers of America Presents WHEN A STRANGER COMES TO TOWN EDITED by MICHAEL KORYTA

All of our favorite Mystery writers coming together to write a short story around one theme. When a stranger comes to town…and go!

I really enjoyed the opening. All great literature boils down to one of two stories-a man takes a trip or a stranger comes to town. And our group of mystery writers is the best at both.

When you toss a stranger into the mix, it could go numerous ways. We don’t know them. They aren’t usually here, so what’s up?

Well these authors, who we love, took that idea and ran with it. It is so much fun to have this anthology of the best short stories by the mystery writers we love.

Grab this one for sure. It’s like have a lot of your faves in one book!

Thanks, NetGalley!

NetGalley Reviews/ April 20th,2021 by Hanover Square Press

The Perfect Daughter by D.J. Palmer Publication Day! @djpalmerauthor @StMartinsPress Congratulations!

The Perfect Daughter

Another thriller from Palmer! And it is so good!

Some backstory: Grace and Arthur run the family pizza joint in town. They have two sons, Jack and Ryan. Grace though has always dreamed of being the mother to a daughter. So imagine her surprise when she finds a four-year-old little girl abandoned in the park.

The police have no idea who the child is and the child is not speaking to anyone. It’s obvious she has been traumatized but she’s kept quiet. With no family, Grace talks Arthur into letting them foster her which eventually leads to her being adopted and becoming a member of the family.

Jack nicknames her Penny and it sticks. She’s fine with it. But the question remains. Who is she? And when puberty sets in things get dark. Penny hangs around a known pyro, Maria, and they are both in trouble with the law soon. And when Arthur keels over dead at work with only Penny around, she is traumatized more. She is also blamed by Ryan for not calling 911.

Although things are tense and her behavior is odd, they finally get a diagnosis of DID. The last thing Grace thought she would see next was her teenager in jail, covered in blood, found holding a knife over her dead biological mother.

So who the heck is this kid and what has she done? Is she Eve? The kick-ass and take no names alter? Or Chloe? The perfectionist? Maybe Ruby? Although that British accent is off, she seems to be halfway decent.

While her daughter sits in an insane asylum waiting for her trial, Grace and Dr. Mitch will dig deep to find the truth, ending with both of their lives in danger.

But when ‘Penny’ takes the stand her testimony will blow your mind! Either this girl is a pro at lying or the cops are about to be very busy inside the courtroom!

Excellent as her last one!

NetGalley/ April 20, 2021, St. Martins Press

Lost in Paris by Elizabeth Thompson

Lost in Paris

When a deed to an apartment in Paris turns up in an old attic trunk, an estranged mother and daughter must reunite to uncover the secret life of a family matriarch—perfect for fans of The Little Paris Bookshop and The Beekeeper’s Daughter.

Hannah Bond fled Florida for a quiet life without her mother, Marla. Marla is unstable at best and an alcoholic to boot. Her specialty is choosing good for nothing men. Well he was good at the black eye part. So Hannah has fled to London to lead Jane Austen tours through the countryside. And she loves it.

Marla is about to shake up Hannah’s quiet world. Since Hannah isn’t answering her calls, she shows up in London at Hannah’s flat. She is here to solve a mystery and she needs Hannah’s help. Hannah isn’t too keen on anything to do with her mother. But Hannah is a bookworm and we can’t run from a good adventure. Marla has a key and a deed to a Paris apartment.

There are also old newspaper clippings about the death of Andres Armand. A famous writer who great-grandma Ivy seems to know a lot about. The two of them set off for Paris to find a perfectly preserved apartment that hasn’t been entered since 1940.

These are the things I dream of. A mysterious key, a secret Paris apartment and lots of nude paintings of Granny Ivy.

They are keeping the apartment, no matter what.

Hannah and Marla are not close at all. Hannah resents her mother for not being there for her and Marla comes with baggage and lots of sketchy behavior. Is she drinking again? Can Hannah trust her? 

All I had to see was “a secret apartment from 1940” and I was hooked. This was such a good look at mother and daughter dynamics. And the secrets. The half-truths and the misunderstandings. But there is always a chance at forgiveness and acceptance.

What a lovely story.

NetGalley/April 13th, 2021 by Gallery Books

THE BOHEMIANS by Jasmin Darznik

Dorothea Lange has had her share of pain in her life. Surviving polio was a major one. Left with little to no self-confidence and a limp, she finds her passion in a small photography shop in New York.

In 1918 she arrives in San Francisco. A city still rebuilding itself and full of men returning from war and the hideous behavior of the people toward the Chinese. She is way out of her comfort zone until she meets Caroline Lee, a mixed-race woman with a mysterious past who has also known her share of sorrow.

Caroline introduces Dorothea to the Monkey Block, a large colony of artists of every medium. Caroline is an expert seamstress and clothing designer and it is her dream to open her own salon. Dorothea wants to open her own photography studio.

Caroline introduces her to all the names we know and love, such as Maynard Dixon, Ansel Adams, Mabel Dodge, Frida Kahlo, and more. Dorothea falls hard for Dixon, a brilliant artist but a horrible lover.

Dorothea and Caroline open the photography studio and do very well. Things are going well, they are making money and Dorothea is neck-deep into this new world of art and political upheaval as many see the Chinese as less than human and want them out of the country. Sound familiar?

I so enjoyed reading about how Dorrie got to San Francisco. The 1920s were not kind to minorities or women but Dorrie pushed a lot of boundaries. Everything in her life is changed with an act so horrendous it sends Caroline far away and Dorrie is on her own.

In the first half of the book, I was really interested. Then there came the part about her feeling guilty for being gone from her sons for so long while taking pictures documenting internment camps and the people suffering during the depression. Wait…she had children? When? With who? Not another thing was mentioned about it and it felt unfinished. The rest really made no sense.

The people in this book are real and the author kindly elaborates on them in the end. All in all, I was rather confused by the end.

NetGalley/ Expected publication: April 6th, 2021 by Ballantine Books

Hello April, Maybe Next Time Leave the Wind at Home…js

It is a rare day here in Oklahoma when the wind isn’t blowing like Kansas is sucking air from Texas and we are in the middle. But it is most definitely Spring and things are popping up all over.

The trees are budding, the daffy dillys are up as are the tulips and crocus. The trees are spreading pollen as if they were benevolent beings tossing beads at Mardi Gras. People are sneezing and we look at those people out of the corner of our eye because, well, Covid. Yesterday I was doing my walk and sneezed so hard I had to run back home and blow my nose.

This is such a great season. Everything is that new green and our grass looks like the inside of an easter basket. As our groundskeeper was watering the containers around the pool, she called to me and we found baby bunnies burrowed in a pot. Oh, my were they cute! Tiny as can be with the longest eyelashes. We didn’t disturb them. We also have our annual mallard mate here swimming in the pool. She has built a nest under the shrubs and blends right in.

We had an interloper yesterday. A young male. Very rude. I was inside taking my shoes off when I heard the most awful racket outside the door. With one shoe in hand I ran out to find the young male trying to ‘hook up’ with the Mrs. While the Mr. was trying to get him off of her I’m yelling, ” Get off of her! She’s married! That’s rape! “. To be honest I don’t feel as though the Mr. was as manly as he should have been. And she let him know it. So nature is doing her thing.

Since I have had to be indoors so much I have redone my bathroom tile. Painted the bathroom. Finished the kitchen and planted a lot of herbs to make tea with. My spinach is about 2 inches tall and so is the fennell. Now if this darn wind would go somewhere else I would be happy.

Happy Easter!

THE MEMORY COLLECTORS by KIM NEVILLE

Perfect for fans of The Scent Keeper and The Keeper of Lost Things, an atmospheric and enchanting debut novel about two women haunted by buried secrets but bound by a shared gift and the power the past holds over our lives.

Ev is a sensitive. She feels the emotions of every object she touches or comes into contact with. She is so overwhelmed by this mysterious gift that she has turned into a loner. Trusting no one and holding onto her sanity the best way she can.

Unable to hold a job where there are so many people or chances to be overwhelmed by the emotions left anywhere, she scavenges from dumpsters and sells her harmless finds at Vancouver’s night market,trying to make the rent and maybe some food.

Owen is much older than Ev but is also a dumpster diver, looking for odd things to create his art. He also watches out for Ev and makes sure she eats and isn’t bothered.

Harriet is a hoarder. She is also a sensitive and her home is so full of things with bad energy that it is making her neighbors ill. They want her gone. Harriet has a secret too. About Ev. And her sister.

When Harriet and Ev meet, Harriet knows that this is who can help her with her ‘collection’. But Ev wants no part of the mess Harriet has. Until her sister returns from wherever she has been.

In order to keep a roof over their heads, Ev takes Harriet up on her offer and she and Owen begin transferring all of the collection into an abandoned bank which Harriet wants to turn into a healing museum and put all the ‘bad’ vibe things in a bank vault. Really good idea I thought.

But a monkey wrench named Noemi, is bringing an even darker vibe. She’s pushing Ev to remember the past when Ev doesn’t want to. She has blocked out her parents deaths and wishes her sister would just stop. But will she? Will what they find destroy them all? It just may.

Not all the objects one collects are full of happiness and joy. Some are full of anger, hate and death. Be careful which one you choose.

I felt such sympathy for Ev and even Harriet. Not so for Noemi. She was not even close to being a good human being.

So many feelings in this one story. Well Done!

NetGalley Reviews/ March 16th, 2021 by Atria Books

THE LAST APOTHECARY by SARAH PENNER *BLOG TOUR* @sl_penner @parkrowbooks

It’s a cold night in February of 1791 and in an unmarked back alley in London, Nella sits awaiting her customer.

Nella is an apothecary, as her mother before her was. Women came from all around for her healing potions and salves. Taking care of women. Nella is carrying on the tradition in another way. Women come to her for poisons that will release them from the men who have done them wrong.

Of course, there are a few rules. The poison must never be used to harm another woman. And the names of the victim, poison, and the killer are to be recorded in a register.

When her next customer shows up Nella is shocked it is a twelve-year-old girl named Eliza, whose employer wishes to engage Nella’s services to relieve herself of her husband. Little does Nella know that this meeting will alter both of their lives as well as the life of present-day historian Caroline, who is spending her anniversary alone after her husband has an affair.

When she finds a mysterious vial with a bear on it, her research instincts kick in and she is determined to find out everything she can about the apothecary shop, Nella and Eliza.

Women had very few options in this London. One had to put up with whatever situation one found themselves as far as philandering spouses or abusive ones. This was a great look at the lengths women would go to seek revenge.

This was disturbing and yet honest. A very good debut!

NetGalley/  March 2nd, 2021 by Park Row

Here is a sneak peek:

Nella
February 3, 1791

She would come at daybreak—the woman whose letter I held in my hands, the woman whose name I
did not yet know.
I knew neither her age nor where she lived. I did not know her rank in society nor the dark
things of which she dreamed when night fell. She could be a victim or a transgressor. A new wife or a
vengeful widow. A nursemaid or a courtesan.
But despite all that I did not know, I understood this: the woman knew exactly who she wanted
dead.
I lifted the blush-colored paper, illuminated by the dying f lame of a single rush wick candle. I ran
my fingers over the ink of her words, imagining what despair brought the woman to seek out someone
like me. Not just an apothecary, but a murderer. A master of disguise.
Her request was simple and straightforward. For my mistress’s husband, with his breakfast.
Daybreak, 4 Feb. At once, I drew to mind a middle-aged housemaid, called to do the bidding of her
mistress. And with an instinct perfected over the last two decades, I knew immediately the remedy most
suited to this request: a chicken egg laced with nux vomica.
The preparation would take mere minutes; the poison was within reach. But for a reason yet
unknown to me, something about the letter left me unsettled. It was not the subtle, woodsy odor of the
parchment or the way the lower left corner curled forward slightly, as though once damp with tears.
Instead, the disquiet brewed inside of me. An intuitive understanding that something must be avoided.
But what unwritten warning could reside on a single sheet of parchment, shrouded beneath pen
strokes? None at all, I assured myself; this letter was no omen. My troubling thoughts were merely the
result of my fatigue—the hour was late—and the persistent discomfort in my joints.
I drew my attention to my calfskin register on the table in front of me. My precious register was
a record of life and death; an inventory of the many women who sought potions from here, the darkest
of apothecary shops.
In the front pages of my register, the ink was soft, written with a lighter hand, void of grief and
resistance. These faded, worn entries belonged to my mother. This apothecary shop for women’s
maladies, situated at 3 Back Alley, was hers long before it was mine.
On occasion I read her entries—23 Mar 1767, Mrs. R. Ranford, Yarrow Milfoil 15 dr. 3x—and the
words evoked memories of her: the way her hair fell against the back of her neck as she ground the
yarrow stem with the pestle, or the taut, papery skin of her hand as she plucked seeds from the flower’s
head. But my mother had not disguised her shop behind a false wall, and she had not slipped her
remedies into vessels of dark red wine. She’d had no need to hide. The tinctures she dispensed were
meant only for good: soothing the raw, tender parts of a new mother, or bringing menses upon a barren

wife. Thus, she filled her register pages with the most benign of herbal remedies. They would raise no
suspicion.
On my register pages, I wrote things such as nettle and hyssop and amaranth, yes, but also
remedies more sinister: nightshade and hellebore and arsenic. Beneath the ink strokes of my register
hid betrayal, anguish…and dark secrets.
Secrets about the vigorous young man who suffered an ailing heart on the eve of his wedding,
or how it came to pass that a healthy new father fell victim to a sudden fever. My register laid it all bare:
these were not weak hearts and fevers at all, but thorn apple juice and nightshade slipped into wines
and pies by cunning women whose names now stained my register.
Oh, but if only the register told my own secret, the truth about how this all began. For I had
documented every victim in these pages, all but one: Frederick. The sharp, black lines of his name
defaced only my sullen heart, my scarred womb.
I gently closed the register, for I had no use of it tonight, and returned my attention to the
letter. What worried me so? The edge of the parchment continued to catch my eye, as though
something crawled beneath it. And the longer I remained at my table, the more my belly ached and my
fingers trembled. In the distance, beyond the walls of the shop, the bells on a carriage sounded
frighteningly similar to the chains on a constable’s belt. But I assured myself that the bailiffs would not
come tonight, just as they had not come for the last two decades. My shop, like my poisons, was too
cleverly disguised. No man would find this place; it was buried deep behind a cupboard wall at the base
of a twisted alleyway in the darkest depths of London.
I drew my eyes to the soot-stained wall that I had not the heart, nor the strength, to scrub clean.
An empty bottle on a shelf caught my reflection. My eyes, once bright green like my mother’s, now held
little life within them. My cheeks, too, once flushed with vitality, were sallow and sunken. I had the
appearance of a ghost, much older than my forty-one years of age.
Tenderly, I began to rub the round bone in my left wrist, swollen with heat like a stone left in
the fire and forgotten. The discomfort in my joints had crawled through my body for years; it had grown
so severe, I lived not a waking hour without pain. Every poison I dispensed brought a new wave of it
upon me; some evenings, my fingers were so distended and stiff, I felt sure the skin would split open
and expose what lay underneath.
Killing and secret-keeping had done this to me. It had begun to rot me from the inside out, and
something inside meant to tear me open.
At once, the air grew stagnant, and smoke began to curl into the low stone ceiling of my hidden
room. The candle was nearly spent, and soon the laudanum drops would wrap me in their heavy
warmth. Night had long ago fallen, and she would arrive in just a few hours: the woman whose name I
would add to my register and whose mystery I would begin to unravel, no matter the unease it brewed
inside of me.

Excerpted from The Lost Apothecary by Sarah Penner, Copyright © 2021 by Sarah Penner.
Published by Park Row Books.