The Lost Apothecary by Sarah Penner

A beautifully crafted tale to add to your TBR list!

Sarah Penner’s debut novel is a dual timeline story moving between 1791, with apothecary Nella dispensing cleverly disguised poisons to women desperate to stop the abusiveness of the men in their lives, and modern day, with Caroline, a woman who had dreams of becoming a historian, but who set aside her dreams so her husband could achieve his dreams. When Caroline finds out her husband is cheating on her a few days before their 10th anniversary trip to London, she decides to go to London by herself. When she finds a blue vial with an unusual etching on it, she decides to delve deeper and find out what the vial is. It is then that her life intersects with the life of the 1791 apothecary.

Penner has written an atmospheric and well-paced novel that takes her readers to 1791 where they can almost feel the despair and desperation of the people, especially women, in the back alleys of London. The characters are well drawn and likable and readers will quickly feel like they know them. As the author switches between the timelines, readers will find one timeline as engrossing as the other.

This is a story of secrets, revenge, betrayal, poisons and potions, and a network of women who are determined to control their fates. This is a fast paced debut novel rich in historical detail with unforgettable characters that will keep you turning the pages until the final chapter!

If this is your first foray into historical fiction or if you’re a long-time fan of historical fiction, put this book at the top of your to-be-read list.

I will be anxiously awaiting the next breathtaking novel written by the amazing Sarah Penner. 

So many thanks to Harlequin Park Row and NetGalley for the ARC in exchange for my complete and unbiased review. 

An Anonymous Girl

The next time you consider signing up for a research study, you might want to think twice—and, in my opinion, you will after reading this book!

You’re Invited: Seeking women aged 18 to 32 to participate in a study on ethics and morality conducted by a preeminent NYC psychiatrist. Generous compensation. Anonymity guaranteed. Call for more details.

Jess is a makeup artist who came to New York dreaming of a career in the theater. When she overhears a client thinking about not showing up for a research study she was supposed to participate in—and it pays $500—Jess decides there’s nothing wrong with pretending to fill in for the young woman since $500 would really help with her rent.

Jess figures all she’ll need to do is answer some questions, collect her money, and leave. She wasn’t expecting the questions to be difficult, like Could you tell a lie without feeling guilty? Describe a time in your life when you cheated, or Have you ever deeply hurt someone you care about? But more than that, she wasn’t expecting the psychiatrist conducting the study—whom she never met—to give feedback on her answers and encourage her to be more honest and more in-depth. She has no idea that she’s enlisted to be a pawn in someones psychological warfare to test their husband’s fidelity.

As the sessions continue, and the payoff increases, Jess can’t help but wonder what the study really is all about (and rightly so!). While she is utterly unsettled when the psychiatrist asks whether Jess would be willing to expand her participation in the study, she starts to contemplate it. But when Jess learns that the compensation would be significantly higher, there’s no way she can turn the request down.

Or is it?

Expanding her participation in the study is definitely not what she expected. The psychiatrist (the world-renowned Dr. Lydia Shields) starts to tell Jess where to go, how to dress, and whom to meet—and in some cases, that entails striking up a conversation with a specific man. Jess begins feeling uncomfortable and wonders exactly what Dr. Shields wants to accomplish (I mean, at this point, wouldn’t you?). More and more, she questions whether she can trust the doctor—and then Jess finds something she needs to hide from her, or the doctor could destroy her life.

She better, or this one just may destroy her!

An Anonymous Girl is a wild book, full of twists and turns. You wonder how you might react in the same situation, but at the same time, I found myself shaking my head in disbelief almost as if I was watching a predictable horror movie “don’t go up the stairs alone” moment at times. An Anonymous Girl is a so much more nuanced than a B movie though. The pacing of the book was terrific, and I was hooked from start to finish. Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen are on their way to becoming co-author psychological thriller legends. Their first novel together The Wife Between Us came out in 2017 and now with An Anonymous Girl this year, they are quickly establishing themselves as a power writing duo.

And the verdict is…

This was a strong 4.5 out of 5 stars read for me, and I highly recommend you get your copy today! The only disappointment you will feel is when the novel is finished.

The Line That Held Us

Darl Moody is just a regular guy trying to fill his freezer with deer meat before winter comes. When he’s sure he has seen a colossal buck roaming another man’s land, he needs to find it. He knows that poaching is wrong, and he knows it’s even worse when you’re hunting off the land of a man who is out of town for his sister’s funeral, but this buck could provide enough for him and his family to eat. Although the massive buck proves elusive, he spots a wild hog and takes aim. He doesn’t expect to accidentally bring down a human—and he definitely doesn’t expect to fell Carol Brewer of the infamously violent Brewer family, a clan that even “Jesus Christ couldn’t have saved.” Despite his attempts to cover his tracks, this mistake conjures a revenge tornado in the form of the murderous Dwayne Brewer, brother of Carol Brewer, whose grief will only be tempered when he delivers vengeance in the form of grotesque and unspeakable acts to Darl and those closest to him.

This isn’t a happy read, but it is powerful—even gut-wrenching at times—and you probably can predict how the story will unfold. But David Joy is an exceptional storyteller, and even the commonplace becomes more fascinating when seen through Joy’s unique lens for storytelling. He so accurately evokes the mounting sense of dread, the fear, the unhinged madness that his characters feel, and he draws you into a story and keeps you turning the pages of this tale faster and faster towards the bloody and cringeworthy conclusion.

Fair warning: this is a book with some graphically depicted violence (mostly toward humans and once toward an animal) and some pretty detailed descriptions of the process a body goes through once a person’s life ends. If those things are triggers for you, you’ll probably want to pass this one by.

But if you’re down with a hair raising, stomach churning, action packed read, then this book is for you! What do I mean? Think Cormac McCarthy or your favorite Quentin Tarantino film. That’s the kind of oh-shit-what’s-gonna-happen-next ride you’re in for here. This is also a surprisingly philosophical book. Who gets to mete out justice? Isn’t “an eye for an eye” fair? For all its homespun wisdom, though, what The Line That Held Us really nails is the plot—and what could be filled more with plot than the woodland disputes of trigger-happy vigilantes? So get this book, find a quiet place with your favorite blanket, hunker down, and enjoy this 4.5 star book by the talented Mr. Joy! You won’t be sorry you did.

Walking Alone

Do you know what is the best part about Fall? It’s definitely not the pumpkin spice over here, y’all! It’s the horror, horror, horror fests! That’s right! The creep me out, scare me so bad I want to cry, and please impress me haunts of the season that get THIS girls blood pumping! And who knows how to spot horror better than just about anyone you ask? Why that would be my friends over at Cemetery Dance Publications, and boy do they have some doozies in the pipelines!

tenor

Dropping in as one of my all time favorites is none other than the man Stephen King has called “a master of the macabre,” Bentley Little himself! This amazing author has had books that have been the stuff of my nightmares for YEARS, and his short story collection ‘Walking Alone’ does not disappoint. This gem provides twenty-seven tales in a time walk of terror, spanning from 1985 – 2017. That’s THIRTY-TWO YEARS of mind bending, spine tingling, horror inducing writing sure to please just about ANY horror fan!

giphyDo you like horrible, misshapen, deformed, killer attack babies? Oh yeah, he has a story for you! What about killer snowmen? Check! Haunted carwashes? Killer grandparents? Twisted children’s hospital patients? He definitely had MY curiosity peaked!

sourceThen, if you dare, you can creep into tales like “The Maid” which made me question whether I ever wanted to travel again, and if I did, would I think twice about calling for more towels, or… anything really.

giphy1One of my favorite stories may just be the shortest story in the book called “A Random Thought From God’s Day.” Makes you stop and think about what all would constitute going straight to hell.

sins3This is a collection that no horror enthusiast should pass by! Many thanks to Cemetery Dance Publications for the ARC they provided, and to you, the avid reader, make your way to Cemetery Dance Publications and look for this as well as their other terrifying tales for all your nightmare needs! I can’t wait to see what they put out next!

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Cemetery Dance Publications

 

Catching up…

So, I am working on a blog to catch up on my absence, but while I am writing I thought I would share what happens when you combine the love of books and the love of art. My beautiful, artistic daughter is starting an Etsy store, so this is one of my contributions to help her. Book Folding Art

Go check it out! This is the BEST surprise gift for any occasion. I’ll be adding new patterns to her store soon! Help support this artsy little girl in her first quest to become a business owner. (And she has some CRAZY talent!)

https://www.etsy.com/listing/594378889/folded-book-art-completed-heart

This Is How It Always Is

This was a 5 out of 5 stars read for me!

 

“This is Claude. He’s five years old, the youngest of five brothers, and loves peanut butter sandwiches. He also loves wearing a dress, and dreams of being a princess.”

Don’t we all? Aren’t we all looking for that fairy tale ending?

But this is a story of more than just a five-year-old little boy who wants to be a girl. This is a story about a family that has learned to keep a secret, but this secret has the capacity to blow the family apart.

Rosie and Penn have a wonderful marriage. They were in love from the start. Four boys later, they decide to try once more for a girl and they get Claude, their smart, quirky, fifth son who longs to be a girl.

This causes a conundrum in their lives. Rosie and Penn aren’t sure what to do. Do they nurture their youngest son’s wish, stares and cruel comments from society, or do they explain to Claude that boys don’t wear dresses, and he is really a boy despite how he feels on the inside?

 

For a while, Claude settles for dressing as a boy for school and changing into girl clothes when he returns home, but that really doesn’t make him happy. He wants to be a girl.

“How did you teach your small human that it’s what’s inside that counts when the truth was everyone was pretty preoccupied with what you put on over the outside too?”

 

As Claude grows, he becomes Poppy, and Rosie and Penn encourage her to be true to her feelings and who she is. But is that the right parenting choice for a child so young in age, and when society doesn’t agree? What are the next steps in this journey, not only for Poppy and her parents but her brothers as well, who weren’t given a choice?

What choice is the right one? How will Penn and Rosie know if they’re acting in their child’s best interests or the best interests of all of their children? How do they protect their child from what they know the world always seems to have in store for people who are different?

This amazing tale is not preachy about the subject of transgendered people and their journey, and I found it to be so well written that I fell in love with Claude and his journey. There is no pretense that this journey is perfect for anyone, and the biggest message I found was that it is just as easy to make mistakes by doing and saying things to others in their journey as it is by not doing or saying them. Everyone’s journey is their own, and we all deserve support no matter where or what our journey holds.

This is a book that everyone should read. It is moving in merely its presence. It carries a message that we all should learn.

 

“For my child, for all our children, I want more options, more paths through the woods, wider ranges of normal, and unconditional love.”  

Do yourself a favor and read this book today!

What Do You Do?

What do you do when you are angry?

Or this?

Maybe something like this?

What do you do when you are sad?

Or this?

Or can you hide the tears and look like this?

What does your disappointment look like?

Do you pout or just call it out?

Emotions can turn you inside out. Dump you on your head and expect you to figure out the meaning of a world in chaos. Even happy can lead to mania which can lead to all that pent up crazy! 

What do you do when you get surprised? 

And what if that surprise isn’t QUITE what you wanted? Do you hide the shock? Fake happy? Just stand there?

It never ceases to amaze me how people will shock and disappoint you at every turn. Do they do it on purpose? I don’t think so… but I could be wrong, I often am.

What do you do with your emotions? Good or bad. Are you an explosive reactor, or do you need a while to process what is happening? I am interested in knowing how it is YOU react to crazy situations.

Leave a comment and let me know!

 

Castle Of Water

This was a 5 out of 5 stars novel for me; as near a perfect emotional ride as you can take. 

How do you review something that blew you away? How do you add words to someone’s creation that has prose that should be considered illegal? So beautiful that it drips like honey- thick and sweet- teasing and tempting all at once. A beatific message that you want to rush into and away from all at once, like a whitecap on a tortuous sea. One that sends your emotions simultaneously soaring with the eagles and careening over a cliff.

This was Castle of Water by Dane Hucklebridge for me. Not my usual read, but one that was well worth the journey. From the opening lines until the end, this novel provides a wild mouse ride on a wooden roller coaster at 100 miles an hour for your poor strapped in emotions. The WILL dip and they WILL soar, so be ready.

The castaway theme is one that you think runs in the predictable family, and in some ways it is, but only if you enter this world with blinders on. The subtle messages about life, humanity, and love are the real buried treasures in this repository of wisdom.

“…not subtracting from the great sum of humanity but quietly adding to it? Love, hope, renewal- such things all spring eternal….”

“Ba-bump. Ba-bump. Ba-bump . . .

And so on and so on goes the cardiac beat in this polka called life.”

It is the story of Barry and Sophie, both victims of the poor choices of a rum-loving pilot and a well-placed lightning strike. Washed ashore on an island that didn’t even exist on a map. A French and American forced alliance. 

“Surely an unremarkable moment for most, but for the man, it is a parting tinged with a tender sadness- he has noticed over the years that even the briefest and most incidental interactions can, with the appreciation of time, take on a far richer meaning.”

Castaways on the same island. Forgotten. Days turn into months, that turn into years. that turn into disappointments and saving graces. 

“…a place where ships did not pass in the night but actually took heed of your lonesome flares.”

Hucklebridge creates a tale so wondrous that it is truly a gift. Don’t be marooned on the island of “I let this pass me by.” Grab Castle of Water and ride the rising and ebbing tides of this heart-wrenching read. You won’t be sorry you did. 

 

  

Comicon and The Mall

So, first and foremost I would love to say Happy Father’s Day to all the Dads out there making it happen in their kids lives! 

I thought that I would give you guys a quick update on the Comicon adventure… (translated to the “what in the world was that?” adventure)…

So anytime you are inundated with another sub-culture you have no clue about, there is bound to be some awkward moments. Perhaps standing outside a busy street wearing this fine get up would be one of those such moments…

Bigpurple

Yes, that is a big ass purple horse suit. Who knew? One would think that once glimpsing this fine specimen of a … horsemen… there would be nothing left to top the cake. Again, this is where one would be wrong. 

Yes, that would be someone in a dinosaur suit dancing and… ??? I must give credit where credit is due… I could not have done what they did! I guess I am still scarred by my Barney days and could not wear a big purple dinosaur suit. But hey, THIS GUY… THIS GUY is all Heart and Soul! 

I guess you can’t find fault in people having a good time! I mean if this guy isn’t embarrassed, surely my child shouldn’t be embarrassed that while at the mall and the teen driver is not leaving her parking space after putting her reverse lights on (because it is WAY more important to take selfies of your clothes you just bought at the store and posting to social media while MY child’s car is about hit twice since the parking lot is horribly designed), I just happen to get out of the car and go to her window and bang on it to ask her if it is indeed her intention to leave this parking space. Once I had her attention I politely (ok so maybe I am a smart ass) asked her to remove her vehicle from said parking space and take her selfies in a different lot. Hey, my daughter finally got to park her car, without being hit, and that’s what counts! 

If you choose to put your car in reverse, then REVERSE… plain and simple. Besides, when you have been waiting for 10 minutes for said spot, it is time to just ask a simple question… 

Maybe I just don’t do good with brain dead, angsty teenagers. It seemed that they all were congregated in WHATEVER area I was in yesterday…

What I can say is that a full day of teens and Comicon, The Mall, people that left their brains at home and trying to remain on the outside of any barred views, I have learned a very important lesson…

And maybe that isn’t so bad… So all in all Saturday was a win. For some more than others, but it was smiles all around! 

Now on to the next adventure! 

Happy Father’s Day to you, and whoever you consider your father. Happy Father’s Day to my daddy in heaven. I hope you have a great day!

Now Live: Friday Follow Blog Party

Now THIS is a party!

Welcome to Scale it Simple’s Friday Follow Blog Party!

If you have been looking for the perfect way to start the weekend off right then you are in the right place!

So grab the bevy of your choice and let’s get all snuggled up and connected… shall we?


The rules are simple.

1. Follow the host’s social media accounts listed below. (Hey, that’s me!) 

2. Paste up to 3 links to your own social media accounts that you wish to be followed, or your blog into the comment section below.

3. Share this party on at least one social media platform in order to invite your blogging pals. The more the merrier!

4. Now sit back and get ready to meet some new people and discover some new blogs! Read, comment, follow and share other bloggers accounts and blogs.

Ready? Let’s party!


This event will be going on for the next 24 hours so you will have…

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