September 20, 2023

Novel Lives

Book Publicity, Reviews, Author Interviews, and Discussion Posts by Susan Crosby

Five Reasons To Not Read The Stranger Upstairs By Lisa M. Matlin

The Stranger Upstairs By Lisa M. Matlin- Summary

Goodreads summary of The Stranger Upstairs by Lisa M. Matlin (review below):

A social media influencer with a secret past buys a murder house to renovate but finds more than she bargained for behind the peeling wallpaper in this gothic psychological debut.

Sarah Slade is starting over. As the new owner of the infamous Black Wood House—the scene of a grisly murder-suicide—she’s determined that the fixer-upper will help reach a new audience on her successful lifestyle blog and distract her from her failing marriage.

But as Sarah paints over the house’s horrifying past, she knows better than anyone that a new façade can’t conceal every secret. Then the builders start acting erratically and experiencing bizarre accidents—and Sarah knows there’s only so long she can continue to sleep in the bedroom with the bloodstained floor and suffer the mysterious footsteps she hears from the attic.

When menacing notes start appearing everywhere, Sarah becomes convinced that someone or something is out to kill her—her husband, her neighbors, maybe even the house itself. The more she remodels Black Wood House, the angrier it seems to become.

With every passing moment, Sarah’s life spirals further out of control—and with it, her sense of reality. Though she desperately clings to the lies she’s crafted to conceal her own secrets, Sarah Slade must wonder . . . was it all worth it? Or will this house be her final unraveling?

Number 1: Let’s Start At The End (No Spoilers)

For fucks sake. The last 20% of the book (give or take) was either predictable, outlandish, or outright stupid. There was one non-outlandish part that could have worked if it was executed well. It was not. It was simplistic and just plain (I’ll get to the writing in a minute). Hell, some of it outright makes no sense. Maybe I would not be writing this review if the ending at least paid off, but The Stranger Upstairs did not pay off.  Instead, I paid for it. And I paid big.

Number 2: The Writing

God, I feel awful writing this, but it is what it is. The writing is just laughable. Sarah’s inner narrative is painful. There are her ruminations about not being able to remember what she forgot. Then, when she is crawling on all fours, thinking… wait I’m not a cat. You. Don’t. Say. Lower the ages of the characters, and it could be a YA thriller. That is something I actively avoid. It is low-level writing that is also repetitive. Lisa Matlin’s writing sabotages any chance the plot might have had. And that was already hanging on by a thread.

Number 3: Jumping Timelines

The jumping in timelines is so abrupt that I got whiplash. This is quite an achievement since I was just sideswiped by a car and didn’t get whiplash. So yes, the way timelines change is worse than being hit by a car. While you do know when character/newscasts’ points of view are labeled, the changes in time are not. And it is fuck all confusing. The timeline is intricate to some of the reveals that are plotted throughout The Stranger Upstairs. So, yeah. That didn’t help. Then there is the diary, when the newscasts happen, versus the timeline of the plot. Combine it with the writing and the last 10%; you have a convoluted, hot mess. I hope my review isn’t becoming convoluted. I could catch that from The Stranger Upstairs.

Summary Review

Thank you to Bantam and Penguin RandomHouse Audio for an advanced copy of The Stranger Upstairs by Lisa Matlin, which releases on September 26, 2023.

Number 4: Pacing

<smacks forehead> There is a slow beginning that picks up in the second half or so. There are stories that grab you immediately and then fall off. Then there are books that are just slow throughout (not slow roll thriller but just boring slow). Lisa Matlin has written the second. The Stranger Upstairs, admittedly, grabbed me in the beginning. Then it quickly dropped off, and then by the time we got towards the twists and ending? You run out of book. By God, I’m not saying The Stranger Upstairs should be longer. Lord save me. That would be an insult to injury. Just saying that the ending is rushed (considering how bad it is, it is a blessing in disguise), but still. It just isn’t fleshed out. Maybe it would make more sense if there was less time repeating and attempting to gaslight throughout the first half of the book and more time fleshing out the ending.

Number 5: For Audiobook Peeps? Just Don’t.

This will be short and to the point. The audiobook is horrendous. Maybe that added to my opinion of the book. The narrator’s attempts to meow like a cat to her attempt to make creepy sounds like creeeek? None of it works. It is all laughable. This is on top of what I already spoke of with the jumping timelines. Save your brains and ears the trouble.


I want to add that I seem to be in the minority in my opinion. So, YMMV.



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