Book Review: The Last House on Needless Street by Catriona Ward

It’s been some time since I read a novel that truly surprised me and Catriona Ward’s The Last House on Needless Street not only surprised me, it astonished me. This strikingly original, difficult, and heartfelt novel disguises itself as a horrific story about a serial killer and a missing child, leading readers down disturbing paths and in all the wrong directions as it slowly but surely reveals itself to be much more.

Told through the perspective of multiple narrators, we follow the life of Ted, a strange and lonely man who lives at the end of the forebodingly named Needless Street. He has boarded up all the windows in his house, which sits at the edge of a deeply wooded park and regularly hosts visits with his estranged daughter. His only friend appears to be his cat Olivia- who is also a narrative voice and is quite charming.

The tale opens on the anniversary of the disappearance of a young girl, a disappearance that Ted was initially suspected of causing, and we also meet the vengeful sister of the missing girl who is still trying to track down her sister’s potential murderer years later. This deeply layered plot is revealed little by little with each chapter, and keen readers will note right off the bat that all is not as it seems with each narrator, and we are clearly not getting a complete picture.

The final few twists of this novel are stunning, and absolutely heartbreaking, making this a standout novel of psychological horror, but also an emotional story of trauma and finally, and most importantly, hope. A detailed author’s note at the end further explains Ward’s excellent work on this story and why this is a very realistic tale of trauma. Highly recommended for fans of deeply woven mysteries, unreliable narrators, and psychological horror.

Note: There are some very upsetting and intense scenes in this novel, particularly depicting animal abuse and child abuse, so please proceed with this trigger warning in mind.

Request a copy here or snag a digital copy here!

Nicole’s Top Ten of 2021

Beowulf: A New Translation by Maria Dahvana Headley– An iconic work of early English literature is updated in Headley’s feminist adaptation, bringing to light elements never before translated into English.

A Hawk in the Woods by Carrie Laben– A suspenseful, dark tale of family trauma, abuse of power, and the bonds of sisterhood that centers on supernaturally gifted twins Abby and Martha Waite and follows Abby’s choices after she discovers she has been diagnosed with late stage melanoma.

The Push by Ashley Audrain– A tense, page-turning psychological drama about the making and breaking of a family and one woman’s deeply affecting and difficult story of motherhood, womanhood, grief, and guilt.

Build Your House Around My Body by Violet Kupersmith– Haunting and inspired, this novel looks at the stories of three women in Vietnam, weaving together Vietnamese folklore and themes of national and racial identity, women’s bodies and their burden, and sweet revenge.

Things Have Gotten Worse Since We Last Spoke by Eric LaRocca– A standout novella featuring an interesting combination of atypical structure, beautiful writing, and body horror about two women who meet in a queer chat room. This book, and the ending in particular, will keep you thinking long after you finish this short work.

Love and Fury: A Novel of Mary Wollstonecraft by Samantha Silva– An amazingly well-crafted and beautiful historical fiction novel of Mary Wollstonecraft – arguably the world’s first feminist and one of the world’s most influential thinkers. Inspiring and enlightening.

Betty by Tiffany McDaniel– Perhaps my most favorite book of the year, this heartbreaking and remarkable novel is inspired by the life of McDaniel’s own mother. Set in rural Ohio during the 50s, readers follow Betty Carpenter, as she endures terrible discrimination, violence, loss, and love in this luminous and often emotionally difficult book.

The Death of Jane Lawrence by Caitlin Starling– A beautifully written gothic romantic thriller with a dash of magic and horror. Drawing inspiration from such classics as Bluebeard and working the dangerous bridegroom trope, Starling delivers an engaging and tense tale.

The Chosen and the Beautiful by Nghi Vo– A skillful and fantastical reimagining of The Great Gatsby that reimagines Jordan Baker as a queer Vietnamese immigrant, embellishing upon Fitzgerald’s original plot  with commentary on gender, race, and  sexuality, set in a magical Jazz Age New York.

Seek You: A Journey Through American Loneliness by Kristen Radtke– A timely and moving meditation on isolation and longing, both as individuals and as a society, delivered in a beautiful graphic novel.

Kanopy Fright Fest Favorites to Watch Now

My favorite time of year has arrived- Halloween season! We’ve got 10 days left until Halloween is here so you’ve got plenty of time to fit in some spooky movie nights with friends and family. Kanopy has shared their “Fright Fest” film selections and there are some really great options for you to stream at home. Don’t forget, Kanopy is an amazing media streaming service that gives you free access to top quality indie films, classics, and documentaries with your Rocky River Public Library card!

I’ve selected my top five terrifying recommendations for you to watch. Take a look below- if you dare.

Audition (1999)

Midsommar (2019)

It Comes At Night (2017)

A Tale of Two Sisters (2003)

The Lodge (2020)

What are your favorite films to watch this season? Share in the comments!

Currently Reading- August

This month I’ll be enjoying some vacation, including some stay-cationing at home, as well as doing some out-of-state traveling for the first time in a long time. I have a relatively short flight ahead, but we have some long layovers, so I was sure to load up my Kindle with ebooks and my phone with audiobooks from OverDrive to keep me occupied. Nothing is worse than being book-less at the airport! Take a look below to see what I’m currently reading this month.

What I’m Currently Reading & What’s Next

In typical librarian fashion, I am always reading a book or two, in addition to having a plethora of books sitting in various to-be-read piles in my house. Back in the days of spending time at my library office desk, I would always keep a book there to read during my meal breaks (stares nostalgically out window thinking of my desk…). Of course, now that I’m home most of the time I keep a book in the dining room to read during lunch breaks. There is always a book on my night stand (usually my Kindle hangs out there) as well and a book on my coffee table, so I’m prepared for reading at all times. Take a look below to see what I’m currently reading and what I have lined up for the next couple months!

Sorrowland by Rivers Solomon

I was so excited to snag an ARC of this book from NetGalley! I’m only about halfway through but it is great so far. After escaping a dangerously strict religious compound, where she was forced to marry the nefarious leader Reverend Sherman, teenage Vern escapes to the woods pregnant and alone. She gives birth to twins in the forest and tries her best to survive the harsh realities of this isolated life, all the while being pursued by a mysterious fiend, odd hallucinations, and experiencing uncanny changes in her body and abilities.

You can read a full review of this novel from my colleague Shannon by clicking here!

Something is Killing the Children: Volume 2 by James Tynion IV

Collecting issues #6-10 of this horror comic series, readers catch up with monster killer Erica Slaughter after she has slain the beast who was terrorizing the small town of Archer’s Peak. The only problem is that the monster had babies and now they are loose in the town. A mysterious man from The House of Slaughter arrives (is this the monster slayer version of a Watcher?) to help clean up the mess but seems to make matters worse.

The Lottery and Other Stories by Shirley Jackson

I am not usually an audiobook person, but every once in a while I check out an audiobook on Hoopla to listen to while I’m in the kitchen. I adore Shirley Jackson but have yet to read all her short stories and this audiobook has been a joy to listen to. Humorous, dark, and sometimes tragic, this powerful collection of haunting stories is read by a variety of voice actors making for an interesting and engaging experience.

What’s next for me? I have Tender is the Flesh by Agustina María Bazterrica, on deck, which was recommended by multiple authors in a recent Women in Horror author panel I viewed. It’s been on my want to read list for a while but after hearing some amazing authors highlight it as one of their favorite books of last year, I knew I needed to bump it up the pile! Another book that was shared in the panel and recommended to me by a friend is Maria Dahvana Headley’s Beowulf: A New Translation. I just got the ebook loaded on my Kindle thanks to OverDrive and can’t wait to start it. Finally, I’m patiently waiting for a digital copy of The Push by Ashley Audrain to arrive for me!

What is on your to-be-read pile? What are you currently reading? Share in the comments and happy reading!

February is Women in Horror Month

For the past twelve years, February has been celebrated as Women in Horror Month, a topic very near and dear to my heart. According to the Women in Horror Month website, “Women in Horror Month (WiHM) is an international, grassroots initiative, which encourages supporters to learn about and showcase the underrepresented work of women in the horror industries. Whether they are on the screen, behind the scenes, or contributing in their other various artistic ways, it is clear that women love, appreciate, and contribute to the horror genre.” WiHM aims to help horror works by and featuring women reach a wider audience. This inclusive and positive movement is open to everyone, of course, just as they believe the horror genre should be open to everyone.

WiHM recently announced that as of March 1, 2021 there will no longer be an official WiHM organization, but that they have found there is more than enough content, traffic, and engagement to bring this celebration to communities year round. So, Women in Horror Month might look different moving forward as everyone is now encouraged to choose their own month to celebrate, but I look forward to seeing the creativity and innovation from this community in the years to come!

You can take a look at events going on around the country celebrating WiHM here. Two events I was particularly excited about this month are the “Females of Fright: Zoom Edition” live author panels, both offered for free, thanks to the Horror Writer’s Association! The first panel took place on Friday, February 12th but luckily you can watch it on the HWA’s YouTube channel here. The first panel included Zoje Stage, author of Wonderland, which just so happens to be the next title up for discussion in our Novel Scares book club. Interested in joining us on March 18th to discuss this great creepy novel? Sign up here! The next “Females of Fright” panel is Friday, February 26th at 8 pm (EST) and you can register here.

Looking for more resources for WiHM? Check out two of my favorite blogs, RA for All: Horror, and Ladies of Horror Fiction. Finally, I want to share a recent discovery that is full of dark and horrific literary treasures- including some up and coming women authors- Nightmare Magazine. You can read and listen to full articles for free on their website, and the February 2021 issue includes this *amazing* short story from author E.A. Petricone, “We, the Girls Who Did Not Make It.” I cannot stop thinking about this piece and look forward to reading more from her!

Happy reading and stay safe and warm!

Nicole’s Top Ten of 2020

This year I stayed quite nicely tucked into my reading comfort blanket of weird, atmospheric, and dark reads for the most part. I read more than one collection of short stories, and one novella, which reflects my unpredictable ebb and flow of reading ambition the past ten months: some days I couldn’t focus on reading for more than fifteen minutes, while others days I was inspired to plant myself on the couch and read all weekend. Below you’ll find my ten favorite books I read this past year: including some supernatural thrillers, weird and beautiful science fiction, horror short stories, literary fiction, and more!

Tiny Nightmares: Very Short Stories of Horror Edited by Lincoln Michel and Nadxieli Nieto

If It Bleeds by Stephen King

The Low, Low Woods by Carmen Maria Machado

The Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones

The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel

In the House in the Dark of the Woods by Laird Hunt

The Strange Bird by Jeff Vandermeer

Bunny by Mona Awad

Circe by Madeline Miller

White Tears by Hari Kunzru

My Top 10 Favorite Horror Graphic Novels

As promised, I’m back this week to share some of my all-time favorite scary, spooky, and otherwise guaranteed to keep you up late at night books. It was so difficult narrowing this down, so I decided to share my top ten favorite horror graphic novels this week- saving my favorite traditionally formatted prose novels for next week.

Below you’ll find melancholy stories of hauntings and witches, disturbing tales of otherworldly creatures, horrific murder mysteries, and more tales that will leave you contemplating whats lurking in the shadows long after you close the book’s covers.

  1. Harrow County by Cullen Bunn
  2. Wytches by Scott Snyder
  3. Clean Room by Gail Simone
  4. Revival by Tim Seeley
  5. Coffin Hill by Caitlin Kittredge
  6. Black Hole by Charles Burns
  7. The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina by Roberto Aquirre-Sacasa
  8. Outcast by Robert Kirkman
  9. Locke & Key by Joe Hill
  10. Redlands by Jordie Bellaire

Check out one of these great book today at the library or pop on over to Hoopla to read graphic novels without ever having to leave your couch!

Virtual Book Club – Spooky Sci Fi and Fantasy Books

What better way to celebrate spooky season than reading some scary books? This time, instead of your standard haunted houses and paranormal happenings, we’re looking at mash-ups of horror with science fiction and fantasy. 

Click any of the book covers below to be taken to our catalog, where you can request a copy of the book with your library card number and PIN. We’ve also included links to our e-media services Overdrive and Hoopla where available. 

Annihilation by Jeff Vandermeer catalog link

Annihilation by Jeff Vandermeer 

The Southern Reach trilogy is the creepy love child of science fiction and metaphysical horror. A group of women explore Area X, a mysterious, ever-expanding, and reality-warping region, where previous explorers have disappeared without a trace. Follow up this short book with the sequels, Authority and Acceptance.

Annihilation Overdrive link

The Luminous Dead by Caitlin Starling catalog link

The Luminous Dead by Caitlin Starling 

Gyre Price lied her way to a caver position on a strange planet. As she plumbs the depths of the caves, she realizes that something is off. Her handler topside omits information as it suits her, supplies aren’t where they are supposed to be, and Gyre can’t shake the feeling that someone is following her in the dark.

The Luminous Dead Overdrive link

The Luminous Dead Hoopla link

The Library at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins catalog link

The Library at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins

Carolyn and a dozen other children being raised by “Father,” a cruel man with mysterious powers, begin to think he might be God, so when he dies, they square off against each other to determine who will inherit his library, which they believe holds the power to all Creation.*

The Library at Mount Char Overdrive link


The Red Tree by Caitlín R. Kiernan catalog link

The Red Tree by Caitlín R. Kiernan

After discovering an unfinished manuscript hidden in an old house, Sarah becomes obssessed with the subject of the work–an ancient oak on a desolate corner of the property– and risks both health and sanity to uncover its secret.*

The Red Tree Overdrive link


The Changeling by Victor LaValle  catalog link

The Changeling by Victor LaValle 

Resolving to commit to marriage and parenthood unlike the father who abandoned him, Apollo Kagwa, who suffers from bizarre dreams, is shocked when his wife commits an act of astounding violence before disappearing, compelling Apollo’s odyssey through a world he barely understands.*

The Changeling Overdrive link


*Plot summaries courtesy of Novelist.

Check back next week for another installment of the Virtual Book Club!

Favorite Horror Films on Kanopy

Spooky season is finally here! Personally, I enjoy all things supernatural, spooky, and scary year-round but October is the month I can recommend my favorite books and films to those who reserve their scares just for the month of Halloween.

Kanopy has some really great horror films available for viewing right now, including some of my favorites from the past decade or so. Including an atmospheric German witch tale, a deeply disturbing story of grief and possession, and an Iranian vampire western (yes, you read that correctly) there is an amazing variety of top-notch scares waiting for you. So dim the lights, warm up some apple cider, and queue up on of these films.

Keep your eyes peeled here next Thursday to read about some of my most favorite horror books. If you love reading horror too (it is truly a wide ranging genre full of such talent!) join me later this month for Novel Scares book club where we will be discussing The Good House by Tananarive Due on Zoom.

What are some of your favorite scary movies to watch around Halloween? Share in the comments!