BENEATH THE STAIRS by Jennifer Fawcett

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.

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

★★★★½

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.

WHAT LIVES IN THE WOODS by Lindsay Currie

For fans of Small Spaces and the Goosebumps series by R.L Stine comes a chilling ghost story about a girl living in the decrepit and creepy mansion, who discovers something in the woods is after her.

All Ginny Anderson wants from her summer is to sleep in, attend a mystery writing workshop, and spend time with her best friend. But when Ginny’s father ― a respected restoration expert in Chicago ― surprises the family with a month-long trip to Michigan, everything changes. They aren’t staying in a hotel like most families would. No, they’re staying in a mansion. A twenty-six room, century-old building surrounded by dense forest. Woodmoor Manor.

But unfortunately, the mansion has more problems than a little peeling wallpaper. Locals claim the surrounding woods are inhabited by mutated creatures with glowing eyes. And some say campers routinely disappear in the woods, never to be seen again.

As terrifying as it sounds, Ginny can’t shake the feeling that there’s something darker… another story she hasn’t been told. When the creaky floors and shadowy corners of the mansion seem to take on a life of their own, Ginny uncovers the wildest mystery of all: There’s more than one legend roaming Saugatuck, Michigan, and they definitely aren’t after campers.

It’s after her.

Publisher: Sourcebooks Young Readers
Release Date: September 14, 2021
Source: Borrowed from the library

★★★¾

Main character Ginny Anderson is a Chicago tween obsessed with Agatha Christie novels, and she dreams of publishing her own mysteries someday. She feels her summer has been ruined when her dad gets a job renovating a spooky old mansion in Michigan. Instead of attending a fun summer writing class with her bestie, she has to spend a month stuck at Woodmoor Manor. When some creepy unexplained occurrences start happening in the house, Ginny finds herself immersed in her own mystery to solve.

What lives in the woods? I’m not sure, because the title & blurb of this book are a bit misleading. I enjoyed the mystery and the creepy atmosphere of Woodmoor Manor. If I were Ginny, I would’ve loved to spend the summer exploring an old mansion with Agatha Christie vibes, but she was focused on a way to get back to Chicago. She’s a clever and brave character who wouldn’t let ghosts get in her way. This book is a great pick for fans of middle grade horror.

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.