Cover Image: Beneath the Stairs

Beneath the Stairs

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Member Reviews

I had to DNF this book due to a lot of it pertaining to suicide which is a topic that is personally triggering for me. I don't want to dissuade others as I have heard this book is amazing. It was just not something I could mentally read at the moment.

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Truly spooky, atmospheric story that kept me up at night. This book had it all: haunted house, ghostly paranormal touches, romance, friendship. Claire and her 3 friends are in the summer of 8th grade when they decide to explore a haunted house only 2 of them don't come out the same. Told between multiple generations of people who lived and suffered in the house, is there something evil there? Can Claire find it before it claims another victim? Thanks to Netgalley for the ARC.

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I'm a lover of ghostly tales and I'm always on the lookout for the good ones since they are few and far between but I must say that my search continues....ugh.

This book did not deliver for this reader.

Annoying characters, much too much of a Young Adult feel, back and forth time lines between the present, the nineties, the sixties, and the thirties. All that weeble wobble back and forth killed any and all suspense that the author was trying to create. The Octagon House was definitely the most interesting character and it had so much promise but it just fell flat as a pancake. Like a pancake without maple syrup and butter - dry, boring, and not worth the calories or, in this case, my reading time. Did I mention the romance aspect? Oh yeah, unrequited love from the teen years brought back in the present. People making ludicrous decisions time and time again. Did I mention the annoying characters? I couldn't differentiate from when they were teens to when they were adults, hence, the YA feel throughout the story. Also, where were the editors? So many pages could have been trimmed away.

I do like the cover though so there's that. 👍

I don't know, my reading mojo has been struggling lately so maybe it's just me. Most of my friends have loved this so don't let my review dissuade you. This is a debut so I'm wishing this author the best of luck in her future endeavors. 2 stars!

Thank you to NetGalley and Atria Books for my complimentary copy.

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Told via multiple timelines, this novel was creepy and compelling. It was a haunted house story, a romantic suspense story, and a crime story all wrapped up into one.

The frightening cellar with its unusual metal door was very well described and easy to visualize. The characterization was well rendered, and it was easy to identify with the various people in the book. I really liked Clare, the protagonist of the modern day timeline, and I felt the deepest sympathy for the now elderly Ben, whose life was shattered by the Octagon House.

The book held my interest, but I thought it could have been a tad shorter as it seemed to drag and be repetitive in places. That being said, the story was mostly well wrought, and it was an impressive and very atmospheric debut novel.

A story of a psychopathic man, childhood friendship, and youthful bravado, all with an element of supernatural creepiness that would be perfect for a late autumn read. Well done Jennifer Fawcett. I'm eager to see what you will come up with next.

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Review contains spoilers!

I liked the overall story line of this book and was definitely intrigued, but it left something to be desired in my opinion. I liked the different timelines and characters as they interacted with the house, but with some of them - like Ben - I felt like there was a lot of telling instead of showing, and I could have done without his perspective or had his story told in a different way that was more effective, maybe dialogue with a present day character for example. It also definitely could have been shorter, it felt a little lagging at times and the several iterations of epilogue probably wasn't necessary. and made the story ending lack umph.

It was a slow burn, which is ok, but I wish it had teased out the ghost story a little more consistently, and at times it felt vague.

SPOILER ALERT: The plot twist about George being a serial killer and hiding trophies in the basement tunnel was so interesting!! But I felt like that was just dropped in there and then not addressed whatsoever! Disappointing.

I didn't dislike the book but I also probably wouldn't rush to recommend it either.

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❓Do you ever feel like an author wrote a book specially for you??

Beneath the Stairs by debut author @jenniferfawcett_author was the perfect book for me with its blend of horror, mystery, and coming of age genres. When I discovered this on NetGalley it had my name written alllll over it. 🤪 Last October I was looking for a book just like this, full of ghosts, a haunted house, an incredible plot with unforgettable characters. Even though it comes five months late, I am beyond excited that I found this gem. 🙌🏼❤️🙌🏼

The novel is told the course of three different perspectives and four different timelines. Sometimes this can get a little confusing with the amount of characters and flashbacks, but the flashbacks are purposeful and not overused. Fawcett is able to seamlessly blend all the timelines into a terrifying and horrific climax that made me sweat and had my heart pounding out of its chest.

The novel is centered around the creepy and haunted Octagon House, particularly the basement. When Clare and Abby are kids they go to the abandoned house with their friends. When Clare shuts her friend behind the door what Abby sees she will never be able to shake. Fast forward 20 years and Abby has ventured back to the house and this time barely comes out alive after her supposed suicide attempt.

This book is about how our childhood shapes who we are, confronting the ghosts and demons of our past, and how the bonds of friendship runs deep!

I was up waaaay past my bedtime finishing this because I could get enough of her atmospheric writing! If you love character driven, slow burn books, horrific put the puzzle together mysteries this one is for you! Fawcett is an incredible writer and I can only hope we will see more from her in the future.

Rating- ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️💫

Thank you @netgalley and @atriabooks for this arc in exchange for my thoughts!

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Real Rating: 3.5/5 Stars

I was really looking forward to reading this book, and I enjoyed the vast majority of it. I would even say I enjoyed it as a whole. But when I thought about what was bothering me about this book, two things really stood out to me: the third act, and the romantic subplot.

See, what appealed to me about this book and what I loved about the first two acts of this book are one and the same: an interesting house in a small, boring town with a tragic past and teenage girls who are drawn to it and bound in secrecy by it. That kind of story is catnip to someone like me, who grew up in a small, boring town and nourished herself as a teenaged girl on a wholesome diet of just about every book she could get her hands on but had a weakness for just about everything paranormal, haunted, ghosty, urban legend-y, cult-y, or just downright spooky. I mean, my baby sister and I cleaned out our small town library’s whole occult section in one summer. We read every book but “Dianetics” (because even then we knew not to touch that book, and we hadn’t even heard of Scientology).

Where “Beneath the Stairs” lost me was where they brought a romantic subplot in. When it all of a sudden stopped being solely about one best friend coming back to town and trying to help bring the other best sister out of her coma and instead it being about not only doing that but also being about winning the boy in the end. When the book strayed from that childhood-trauma-and-secrecy pact, it lost me. It started to rally a little toward the end, but then, just after the turn, it lost me again. I didn’t like the ending, either.

Overall, it’s not a bad book. It’s just not the book I thought I was reading.

Thank you to NetGalley and Atria Books for early access to this title in exchange for a fair and honest review.

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This was such an atmospheric and spooky story of a haunted house and the many secrets stirring inside it.

While ghost stories and paranormal reads are typically not my forte, I found myself ferociously turning the pages with a burning need to figure out exactly what was happening beneath those mysterious and terrifying stairs!

It was a suspenseful and stunning debut, I just wish I could love ghost stories more than I do but I’m going to keep trying!!Overall it was an entrancing and eerie read that I think fans of paranormal books will certainly enjoy!

3.5 stars rounded to 4 for goodreads

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This book had a lot of good things to offer, the storyline, the creepy setting and the house, and the multiple timelines and stories. I started this one out getting Home Before Dark vibes and was really excited to see where the story went. I think overall it’s a pretty solid thriller but I was disappointed with the ending as I felt there were some loose ends that didn’t get tied up. I felt at times the story lost some focus and some characters that really didn’t enhance the storyline. I think the author really set a great creepy vibe with the house and the different timelines/families were fun to follow and learn more about. Overall, it was a good read but I expected a little bit more from it after such a strong start.

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This quiet horror mystery opens on Clare returning to her hometown after her childhood best friend, Abby, attempted suicide at a local haunted house. In the sleepy town of Sumner’s Mills in upstate New York, the Octagon House sits back in an overgrown section of woods all but forgotten by most of the town. In 1965, a man killed his family not long after moving in and the house has remained empty since. In 1998, Clare and Abby ventured into the house but when they came out again, they were never the same. Now, 20 years later, Abby returned to the Octagon House for reasons unknown and the last thing she said before losing consciousness was Clare's name. Clare never wanted to admit to Abby that she also felt changed after that night in '98 but now that she's back home, there's no denying the pull she feels to the house. Clare's life in Chicago is in pieces so she has plenty of time and need for distraction by investigating what lead Abby to return after so many years. But what Clare assumes started in 1998 may go back farther, past 1965, and to the original construction in 1936.

TW/CW: suicide, miscarriage, domestic violence

This book reminded me so much of Jennifer McMahon's The Drowning Kind (blog review here) - return to a quiet hometown after a tragedy, quiet supernatural horror elements, flashbacks to the past, very atmospheric. However, I did find Fawcett's debut novel to be a little messier in places but with a really solid foundation that kept me turning the pages. While I do think this book technically falls into the supernatural horror genre, it isn't as upfront and bold as it may seem. This certainly has more quiet horror elements and has a very strong themes of friendship and grief. It also, at times, reads more like a general fiction book than a horror book. The cover and synopsis made me think this was going to be much more of a straightforward haunted house type of story which isn't exactly what we got. I do think that may disappoint some readers but I enjoy these types of quiet horror books a lot.

I really enjoyed the multi-timeline elements in this story. I'd say the story is about 60% in the present day timeline, 30% following Clare and Abby in 1998, and the last 10% split between 1965 and 1936. I think having the 1965/1936 timelines was really smart because it let us find out information that Clare would most likely never be able to know from her investigation. It also let the reader into the lives of these past characters and fleshed them out a bit to make them feel real instead of treating them like rumors. The present day timeline is Clare struggling through her own personal trauma as well as her guilt for how she's treated Abby. Clare also spends time reconnecting with some of her other friends who still live in the area and whose daughter might be going down the same dangerous road as Abby. There's also some light mystery elements going on in the present day with Clare trying to figure out why Abby came back to the town. The timeline in 1998, however, did feel a little bloated. I liked how we got to see the events that present day Clare references but I felt there was a lot of extra things that we didn't really need. On paper, I can see how X leads to Y leads to Z in this past timeline, but I think the time and amount of development we get for X, Y, and Z doesn't make sense for the amount of payoff we get. I would have preferred if we kept all the past plot points, but got to them more quickly without a whole lot of extra fluff around them. Because of this slightly bloated narration, I did find myself getting bored at times with this 1998 events even though they directly impact the present day.

I loved the characters and thought Fawcett does an excellent job at matching up characters from past to present. It was the literary equivalent of casting directors finding the perfect child actor to match an adult actor. Obviously, a lot changes between Clare when she is 14 years old in 1998 and now as a 34 year old returning to town. However, the characterization doesn't change so much that the two timelines (child Clare and adult Clare) are unrecognizable. I could 100% see how 14 year old Clare grows up to be adult Clare and both have similar struggles but not exactly identical. I've mentioned before in a few reviews that I'm not the biggest fan of young children in stories, especially when we get their POV. I find it is really hard for me to be completely convinced of the character voice in those moments and the kids either come across as too old or too young. I think Fawcett does a great job at really capturing the essence of being a 14 year old girl and at that weird time where you feel both too childlike but also too adult. I also loved the friend group dynamic and how they were, technically, a group of 4 but they really were more like 2 pairs of friends. I completely remember having a friend group dynamic like that and I think most friend groups in real life act in the same way.

The tension, for me, was really uneven in this story and I think that has more to do with the horror elements often times taking a big step back and the more personal themes coming forward. When the story begins, the reader doesn't have a lot of information about the Octagon House and what connection Clare and Abby have to it. It felt like Fawcett wanted that to be a slower burn reveal where she sprinkled in some breadcrumbs in the story to try and make it sound very ominous. And while it is true that we don't find out exactly what happened until we're well into the book, the breadcrumbs Fawcett was leaving were big enough that I could more or less get the gist of what happened. Once I got that feeling, the more of these vague references we got to the past events were less tension-building and more annoying. Also, as mentioned above, I think we spent too much time in the 1998 timeline following some of the more mundane aspects of the story. There were also times where Clare felt drawn to certain places almost out of her control and I really wished those were built up and escalated as the story progressed. There was so much potential for this to be much creepier than it was, even if Fawcett doesn't go full haunted house with the story.

I did enjoy the horror elements in the story and how they tied the different timelines together. I don't think anyone would be surprised that a supernatural story would have connections to the past and while there might not have been anything super unique about the way the supernatural elements unfolded, they still worked really well. I was a bit worried for a while that we were venturing into the Indian Burial Ground trope but thankfully that was not the case. I do think the horror elements were used more sporadically than I would have liked. I do think the level of horror escalated with Clare's acceptance and realization of what happened in 1998 but it did take her the whole book to get there. I loved how dark the ending got when we finally got to put all the pieces together. Because of how dark the reveal gets, I was expecting the horror/supernatural elements to also be darker or more extreme than they were. I was left with some pretty specific questions by the end that aren't ever answered fully. In that way, the story was left a little open ended, but I think it ended in a way that was appropriate to Clare's journey. She got her answers and sort of shrugged off the rest. I think each reader may have a different interpretation of the events in the ending which will be interesting to see when the book is released. In the moment, I was a bit annoyed that we didn't get more information about the supernatural elements but after thinking it over, I do think the ending was appropriate for Clare's story.

Overall, I enjoyed this quiet horror read. I loved the characters and supernatural elements. The multi-timeline elements worked well, for the most part. The tension was a bit uneven and the ending left me with a few more questions that I would have liked, but this was still a satisfying read and I'd read more from Fawcett in the future.

Thanks to NetGalley and Atria Books for the ARC

Expected publication date is February 22, 2022

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4.5 stars

Beneath the Stairs by Jennifer Fawcett is a smartly written tale with strong overtones of the supernatural, a suitably gothic thriller vibe, and an undercurrent of tangled family relationships, both healthy and tortured.
The focal point of this story is the Octagon House, a mysterious, dilapidated structure originally built in 1936 in the forest outside Sumner’s Mills, a town in upstate New York. It was constructed by George Sumner as a gift for his wife-to-be and her daughter, but a tragedy occurred and, in the years to come, the house became known as a sinister, haunted entity. The secrets it holds are magnets for the local townspeople, leading to more tragedy and mysterious events.
This story is written in three timelines: 1936, 1998, and present, with a few chapters referencing the deaths of a family in 1965, and the father Ben’s imprisonment for the crimes. The protagonist, Clare, narrates the present from her POV as a young adult and is the character with the most depth. Back in 1998, her teenage friends are typical youths looking for a fun time in a dreary town. Their activity sets up the narrative of Clare’s life, then and now, and her attempt as an adult to solve the mystery of the Octagon House, and to help save the sanity of her traumatized childhood friend, Abby, while overcoming her guilt as a participant in the trauma.
The character development is excellent, and while some of the characters and events have a coming of age vibe, the strong atmospheric writing enriches the older timelines and makes for a suspenseful gothic tale. The Octagon House itself is portrayed as a suitably grim, active character in the narrative. The story was unhurried and well-paced, as it unfolds like layers of an onion, a bit at a time, until the ultimate reveal of the dark secret of the House.
I enthusiastically recommend this book to readers looking for a well-written, atmospheric suspense novel with a good gothic vibe and rich character development.

Thank you to Simon & Schuster/Atria Books and NetGalley for the ARC. This is my unbiased review.

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This was a solid debut by Jennifer Fawcett. It was really atmospheric and I could easily picture the house where these creepy events unfolded. These scenes were definitely my favorite, particularly those in the basement. Basements kind of freak me out anyway but this one takes the cake.

The characters were well-developed as was the relationship between Clare and the others. Overall there are 4 timelines in this one, but it was still really easy to keep track of for me. I loved following along with Clare as she worked through her trauma and investigation of the mysteries of the Octagon House.

My only real gripe about this was the ending. It was a bit anticlimactic in my opinion and other things I won't mention due to spoilers.

This author has great promise and definitely one I will be keeping an eye on! Thanks to @netgalley and @atriabooks for this advanced copy in exchange for an honest review!

❗️TW- attempts of suicide, graphic miscarriage scene

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Spooky, thrills and chills! Story starts with young best friends who enter a local house called Octagon house and have an encounter in the basement that they can’t explain, the mystery of the basement unwinds slowly throughout the story with all questions answered by the end. The basement haunts and grabs these girls from childhood and draws them back in as adults. Easy to read and interesting storyline.

Thanks to Netgalley for my advanced reader copy!!

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•Beneath The Stairs-Jennifer Fawcett
•Available February 22nd

“…I’ve learned well how wrong it is to try to cover up frightening things.”

This was one crazy ride! I was on the edge of my seat needing to know what was going to happen next yet a little scared to keep reading while home alone in the dark.
I loved the suspense and the mystery and couldn’t turn the pages fast enough. However, I feel like the book left so many things left unresolved and there was no real answers to so many of my questions.

All and all a great read!

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Out February 22, 2022! [Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for providing a free eARC in exchange for an honest review!]

Rating: 4/5 stars

BENEATH THE STAIRS is a horror/mystery centered on Clare, a young woman who returns home when her childhood best friend attempts suicide in the local haunted house—a place that played an important role in their adolescence and is now threatening the lives and minds of more than one person…including Clare herself.

Let me start by saying this book is GENUINELY creepy. I’m not usually scared by books, but I kept finding myself reading this one late at night and needing to turn the lights on. Overall, I loved the vibe and love when a horror novel can actually live up to its promise of eeriness, so even if that was all this book had to offer (it’s not) I’d be impressed.

In terms of the plot, I found it a little too straightforward in parts and would have liked a bit more mystery/surprise in the ending. But I was pulled in by the characters and found the story (particularly the history of the house and flashbacks to past timelines) gripping for the most part. It also gave me Haunting of Hill House vibes (both the novella and the show) that I REALLY appreciated. In short, a super solid debut you should check out—I’ll be eagerly anticipating whatever Fawcett does next!

Recommended for anyone, but especially those who like: horror literature; ghost stories; Haunting of Hill House.

CW: Suicide/self-harm; mental illness; death of a parent; pregnancy/miscarriage; death of a child; violence; murder; abandonment.

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This had me at "fans of Jennifer McMahon, Simone St. James" (haven't read from the other author mentioned). THIS WAS SO GOOD. I was instantly creeped out from the beginning and the feeling carried me through the book. I finished in a couple of days - despite three children, a puppy, full time job (aside from mom duties), and studying for a test - because I had to know what happened!
Honestly, there were so many things that kept me interested I can't really explain. BUT I will say that usually I have a hard time when there is a break of timelines; I either love it or hate it and Fawcett was 100% able to make it work without dragging their pieces.
Definitely looking out for more books by this author!

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Thank you NetGalley and Atria Books for this e-ARC in exchange for my honest review.

"Go back to the beginning to find the end."

Beneath the Stairs gave me ALL the vibes, especially The Haunting of Hill House vibes. If you have watched The Haunting of Hill House, you will definitely enjoy this book! I was pulled into this terrifying, creepy, suspenseful thriller from the very first page.

I felt so close to Abby and Clare by the end of this book. Both of their characters were so well-developed. I loved the rollercoaster of a ride they put me through visiting the Octagon House. I thought Jennifer Fawcett provided a lot of good history of the small town, Sumner's Mills, and the families that lived in the Octagon House.

I seriously can't believe this is a debut thriller! Jennifer Fawcett is seriously talented. I can't wait to read what she writes next!

This is a must read thriller for 2022!
45./5 stars

I will post to my review to my instagram: @thrillersandcoffee

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The premise sounded fantastic, but the writing just wasn't working for me. It felt a bit stilted in the main character's voice, which made it hard for me to truly dive into the story. I'm sure it will work for plenty of others, though.

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I loved this book!! Written from various perspectives and timelines, this intricately woven novel was a delight to read from the beginning to end! Slightly ghoulish, and wholeheartedly thrilling, I adored Beneath The Stairs.

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Four girls in their early teens hear an urban legend about a strange house in the woods and decide to explore. The basement door seems a bit out of place with the rest of the house, so due to its oddity and that it hides away the basement, it becomes a bit of a focal point for two of the girls. As a joke is played on one of them and she is stuck on the stairs in the basement and then the door won’t open again to let her out, it begins a troublesome adventure for two of them that follows them into adulthood.

The House has sleepily held a connection to the two girls as they can’t decipher what they had seen when they were in the basement, dreams begin that they can’t quite make logical, and the hold the house has just doesn’t seem to fade…

The book was a bit slow building, but the characters were enjoyable which made it interesting getting to know the them. I felt a creepy edge to the book a few chapters in and was intrigued by the back history of the house and of the man who built it. The writing style that jumped back and forth between time periods and different points of view built up that factor even more and had me wanting more and more of the details to understand what hold the house had on certain people. Unfortunately, even though the overall book was very creative and eerie, the ending fell flat. I did enjoy some aspects of resolution for a couple of the characters, but I was wanting more from a historical perspective on the house and the builder. It just wasn’t as divulged as I had hoped. I still enjoyed it overall and look forward to more from the author. Thank you!

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