BENEATH THE STAIRS by Jennifer Fawcett


Publisher: Atria Books
Published: February 22, 2022
Source: Review copy from Edelweiss
Rating: ★★★★½


In this spine-tingling, atmospheric debut for fans of Jennifer McMahon, Simone St. James, and Chris Bohjalian, a woman returns to her hometown after her childhood friend attempts suicide at a local haunted house — the same place where a traumatic incident shattered their lives twenty years ago.

Few in sleepy Sumner’s Mills have stumbled across the Octagon House hidden deep in the woods. Even fewer are brave enough to trespass. A man had killed his wife and two young daughters there, a shocking, gruesome crime that the sleepy upstate New York town tried to bury. One summer night, an emboldened fourteen-year-old Clare and her best friend, Abby, ventured into the Octagon House. Clare came out, but a piece of Abby never did.

Twenty years later, an adult Clare receives word that Abby has attempted suicide at the Octagon House and now lies in a coma. With little to lose and still grieving after a personal tragedy, Clare returns to her roots to uncover the darkness responsible for Abby’s accident.

An eerie page-turner, Beneath the Stairs is about the trauma that follows us from childhood to adulthood and returning to the beginning to reach the end.


I loved every creepy and unsettling moment of this book! BENEATH THE STAIRS is a haunting slow-burn, character-driven debut with a lot to unpack. Is there a way to break free from childhood trauma and years of guilt and regret?

In upstate New York, the small town of Sumner’s Mills has fallen on hard times. Storefronts are boarded, and the old factory walls are crumbling, but one building stands firm — the abandoned Octagon House deep in the woods. When a couple of young teen girls venture into its basement, their lives are changed forever by what they see. Twenty years later, the house calls them back with tragic consequences.

There were moments in this book when I was truly scared! The story takes place over multiple timelines where the disturbing history of the Octagon House is revealed. I was completely immersed in the story and the lives of the flawed characters. That creepy house wouldn’t let me rest until I knew its secrets! I’m excited to read more of this author’s work in the future. Thank you to the publisher and Edelweiss for providing a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

ALL I WANT by Darcey Bell


Publisher: Atria/Emily Bestler Books
Published: January 11, 2022
Source: Purchased (Kindle)
Rating: ★★★


When Emma’s husband, Ben, falls in love with a large Victorian mansion for sale in upstate New York, he swears to her the fixer-upper will be worth the risk. With a baby on the way, Emma would like to live in a charming, safe community, after all — and in a space larger than a one-bedroom New York City apartment. On impulse, she agrees to Ben’s plan and they put in an offer on the house.

Sure, the mansion has a somewhat creepy backstory and is a bit dilapidated, but Emma and Ben are in this together, aren’t they? When strange things start happening, Emma begins to experience a little buyer’s remorse. What’s the real history of this house? Is its dark history repeating itself? Why does her husband suddenly seem so distant? Is she in danger? Is her baby?

Combining the domestic anxiety of Liane Moriarty and the haunting twists and turns of Shirley Jackson, All I Want is an intensely absorbing novel that will change the way you look at your neighbors.


Umm… What?!?

So we have Ben, a Broadway producer, who convinces his pregnant wife Emma to buy a creepy fixer-upper mansion in upstate New York. They already know some of the house’s disturbing history, but as they dive deeper into renovations, further creepy discoveries are made.

For most of the book, I was hooked. I loved the ominous atmosphere, and the house itself was a compelling character. At about 90% things started getting really wacky, but I was willing to accept it — until the very last chapter, and now I don’t know what to think. Granted, some of the wacky stuff made sense after reading the ending, but still…😩

ALL I WANT was a promising spooky read, but that ending was a mess. I’m just going to pretend the last chapter didn’t happen and leave this one with 3 stars.

THE HAUNTING SEASON: Eight Ghostly Tales for Long Winter Nights


Publisher: Pegasus Crime
Published: October 12, 2021
Source: Purchased (Nook)
Rating: ★★★


Eight bestselling, award-winning writers return to the time-honored tradition of the seasonal ghost story in this spellbinding collection of new and original haunted tales.

Long before Charles Dickens and Henry James popularized the tradition of supernatural horror, the shadowy nights of winter have been a time for people to gather together by the flicker of candlelight and experience the intoxicating thrill of a spooky tale.

Now eight bestselling, award-winning authors — all of them master storytellers of the sinister and the macabre — bring the tradition to vivid life in a spellbinding new collection of original spine-tingling tales.

Taking you from the frosty fens of the English countryside, to the snow-covered grounds of a haunted estate, to a bustling London Christmas market, these mesmerizing stories will capture your imagination and serve as your indispensable companion to cold, dark nights. So curl up, light a candle, and fall under the ghostly spell of winters past…


THE HAUNTING SEASON is a mishmash of spooky winter/holiday stories. The collection was good overall, with a few hits and a couple of misses —

• A Study in Black and White by Bridget Collins: 4 Stars (creepy chess house)
• Thwaite’s Tenant by Imogen Hermes Gowar: 4 Stars (young mother on the run)
• The Eel Singers Natasha Pulley: 2 Stars (wut?)
• Lily Wilt by Jess Kidd: 3.5 Stars (photographer falls for a dead woman)
• The Chillingham Chair by Laura Purcell: 4.25 Stars (haunted wheelchair)
• The Hanging of the Greens by Andrew Michael Hurley: 3 Stars (wreaths bring up bad memories)
• Confinement by Kiran Millwood Hargrave: 3 Stars (woman in confinement stalked by evil)
• Monster by Elizabeth Macneal: 2 Stars (again, wut?)

Laura Purcell’s The Chillingham Chair was my favorite! Abrupt ending, but suspenseful & rather creepy. A Study in Black and White was probably second. I loved the chess theme and the overall creepy gothic atmosphere. ♥

Thoughts on Books (#23): THE BOOK OF COLD CASES • MRS. MARCH • A LESSON IN VENGEANCE

“Fall has always been my favorite season. The time when everything bursts with its last beauty, as if nature had been saving up all year for the grand finale.” ― Lauren DeStefano


The Book of Cold Cases
The Book of Cold Cases by Simone St. James
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

★ Publication date on March 15, 2022 ★

True crime podcasts are popular themes in thrillers these days, and in this book we have a cold cases blogger named Shea who lands an interview with Beth, the woman acquitted of murdering two men 40 years earlier. Shea has been long obsessed with this case, partly because it happened in her home town of Claire Lake, Oregon. If Beth didn’t kill those men, then who did? Beth has been reclusive for decades, hiding alone in her family’s creepy mansion, and also hiding the truth.

Usually I’m a huge fan of Simone St. James’ ghostly elements, but this time the paranormal didn’t fit particularly well. THE BOOK OF COLD CASES was more of a dysfunctional family drama with a murder mystery mixed in, and unfortunately the mystery gets solved too quickly! While I enjoyed the premise and characters, I thought the story moved slowly overall, and I kind of questioned the point of including the woo-woo. Liked this one, but didn’t love it.

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.


Mrs. March
Mrs. March
by Virginia Feito
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

A wealthy New York housewife is horrified to learn that the pitiful protagonist of her husband’s latest novel might be based on her.

This book was a strange experience! I’m not exactly sure when the the story is set, probably mid-20th century. I would describe MRS. MARCH as literary suspense, or maybe a character study of a woman’s descent into madness. There’s even a murder mystery mixed in.

We only know the main character as “Mrs. March” until the very last sentence when her first name is revealed. I’m not sure I get the significance of that, still thinking it over. She’s definitely unreliable and filled with inner turmoil, and her husband’s new book sets her on a downward spiral.

The writing was good, and I enjoyed the Shirley Jackson/Daphne du Maurier influence throughout. It’s not exactly a fun read, but it did keep me glued to the pages. Borrowed from the library.


A Lesson in Vengeance
A Lesson in Vengeance
by Victoria Lee
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Felicity Morrow returns to the prestigious Dalloway School a year after her girlfriend’s death, but finds she’s still haunted by Alex’s memory and the school’s dark history of witchcraft and murder.

I enjoyed the gothic atmosphere, but that’s about it. For most of the book, I just didn’t get the point. Weak plot, pretentious characters. Had some intriguing twists near the end, but kind of boring overall. Borrowed from the library.

Thoughts on Books (#22): THE GUILT TRIP • COME WITH ME • NOT A HAPPY FAMILY • WHERE THE TRUTH LIES

“We know that in September, we will wander through the warm winds of summer’s wreckage. We will welcome summer’s ghost.” ― Henry Rollins


Happy September! My blogging break is over, though I’ve decided to go back to quick & simple “Thoughts on Books” posts for my reviews. My new job is going well, but balancing full-time work and home commitments is a challenge right now. If you want more info on the books below, just click the title. Have you read any of these?

Thanks for stopping by… I’ll be back to blog hopping soon!



THE GUILT TRIP (Audiobook) *
Sandie Jones
Minotaur Books
August 3, 2021

One-Sentence Summary: A lush destination wedding in Portugal threatens to turn disastrous for three couples who fail to keep their secrets buried.

My Thoughts: What a soap opera! This domestic suspense novel was an entertaining (though sometimes frustrating) beach read, narrated by Clare Corbett. She did a great job keeping me engaged with a varied cast of voices.

Billed as a thriller, THE GUILT TRIP is more a slow-burn drama with a bit of excitement at the end. A group of three couples head to Portugal for one of the couple’s wedding, but years of secrets and lies between them turn paradise into a nightmare.

A lot of misunderstanding could have been easily cleared up if they actually talked to each other! The story was told from Rachel’s POV (sister-in-law of the groom), and good grief she was naïve at times. Rachel and the bride, Ali, were the most developed characters, but the others could have been fleshed out more. I would have preferred a stronger mystery element, but the drama did make me curious to see how it all played out. [3.5/5]

* Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.



COME WITH ME
Ronald Malfi
Titan Books
July 20, 2021

One-Sentence Summary: After his wife Allison is killed, Aaron Decker gradually uncovers her dark, hidden life with some otherworldly assistance.

My Thoughts: COME WITH ME was so well-written, with haunting (literally & figuratively) subject matter. Lots of creepy moments that gave me chills! Aaron’s wife is killed in a random act of violence, and as he’s mourning her loss, he finds clues to a dark past she was hiding. Was he married to a stranger?

The story is written in second person, with Aaron talking directly to deceased Allison (as the “you”) which made it so much more personal and tragic. I was just the tiniest bit disappointed with the twist at the end. I really thought the author was going in a different direction with whodunit. Overall — eerie & disturbing, a story that will stick with you for a long time. [4/5]



NOT A HAPPY FAMILY
Shari Lapena
Pamela Dorman Books
July 27, 2021

One-Sentence Summary: When a wealthy couple is murdered, fingers point to their adult children who stand to inherit millions.

My Thoughts: Knives Out! That was my first thought when I read the blurb. A wealthy couple is murdered, and their awful offspring (and others) fixate on their inheritance and point fingers at each other. I enjoyed most of the book, and I felt like anyone could have been the culprit, but the ending was too rushed and anticlimactic. The story had some loose ends that bugged me, but overall this was a fun domestic thriller. [3.5/5]



WHERE THE TRUTH LIES *
Anna Bailey
Atria Books
August 3, 2021

One-Sentence Summary: The worst of a small Colorado town’s dark secrets come to light when a teenage girl goes missing, and her best friend sets out to discover what happened.

My Thoughts: This book was grim. Tough to read. So at 50% I marked it as DNF, even though I did skip ahead to the end to find out what happened. The writing is pretty good, but most of the characters are horrid. Racists, homophobes, abusers & more — this book packs them all in, and in turn, the mystery of the missing teen gets lost. In addition, too many POVs and time jumps made it difficult to get absorbed in the story. [DNF]

* Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.