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Starter House: A Novel

Starter House: A Novel

3.7 10
by Sonja Condit

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Promising talent Sonja Condit makes her debut with Starter House, an eerie and mesmerizing tale about a young couple whose new house holds deadly secrets from the past, sure to appeal to fans of Heart-Shaped Box and The Thirteenth Tale.

From the moment Lacey sees the house with the beautiful wood staircase, she knows she’s


Promising talent Sonja Condit makes her debut with Starter House, an eerie and mesmerizing tale about a young couple whose new house holds deadly secrets from the past, sure to appeal to fans of Heart-Shaped Box and The Thirteenth Tale.

From the moment Lacey sees the house with the beautiful wood staircase, she knows she’s found her dream home. Growing up rootless with her flighty mother, Ella Dane, a self-proclaimed psychic, Lacey is determined to give her unborn baby the stability she never had.

But shortly after she and her husband, Eric, move in, the warm and welcoming house becomes cold and dark. There is something malevolent within these walls that wants to hurt her unborn child—a terrifying presence that only she can sense. And there is Drew, a demanding and temperamental little boy who mysteriously appears when Lacey is alone.

To protect her unborn child and save her family, Lacy must discover the truth about her dream house and the troubled Drew—a decades-old mystery involving secrets, violence, and guilt—and confront an evil that has lingered in wait for years.

Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
When Lacey Miszlak first sees the dusty rose Cape Cod cottage, she knows that it's the perfect house for her, her husband Eric, and the baby that's on the way. When the realtor tells her and Eric that people have died in that house, Lacey is undeterred. After all, people die everywhere, and the house is being sold for a fraction of what it's worth. It isn't until she and Eric move in that Lacey feels a malevolent presence, particularly on the staircase, and meets a strange and disturbing little boy named Drew, who claims that he once lived here. Soon, Lacey hears rumors that the house is unsafe for babies, and determined to save both her unborn child and her home, she sets out to befriend Drew, the boy whom only she can see, and unravel the mystery before it's too late. VERDICT For the most part, Condit's debut is well written—the plot moves along quickly, and the characters, especially Lacey, are lively and engaging. However, it has one serious flaw. The novel's plot twist, which readers will figure out about halfway through the book, isn't supported by the world that the author creates. There are numerous opportunities throughout the story where Condit could easily have offered readers an explanation, but she doesn't. While the novel has a lot of potential, readers, especially dedicated horror fans, will likely find the premise unbelievable. [See Prepub Alert, 7/22/13.]—Elisabeth Clark, West Florida P.L., Pensacola
Publishers Weekly
This stylish debut novel from Condit employs a supernatural horror element that drives the main conflict. Lacey Miszlak, a pregnant fourth-grade schoolteacher, and her husband, Eric, a divorce attorney at his uncle’s law firm, are searching for their dream “starter house” in Greeneburg, a fictitious city in South Carolina. Lacey falls in love with a Cape Cod being fixed up for sale by a man who lives next door, Harry Rakoczy, who cuts the Miszlaks a good deal. After the Miszlaks move in, Lacey collides with a rambunctious nine-year-old boy riding his bicycle; he introduces himself as Drew. After Lacey’s doctor puts her on bed rest, Eric summons her mother, Ella Dane Kendall, a freewheeling herbalist, to help. Lacey makes the perturbing discovery that she lives in what the locals call the “murder house” that “eats babies,” while also beginning to suspect that Drew, whom she has befriended, is a ghost. Meanwhile, Eric represents Lex Hall, whose wife Jeanne is divorcing him and taking their one-year-old daughter, Theo. Lacey’s fears over her and Eric’s safety escalate when Drew’s destructive force damages the upstairs. She learns the truth from Drew about what happened where she lives before her baby is born there. Eric connects Lex to the troubled house and Drew, before Condit’s entertaining debut novel shifts into high gear for the violent showdown. Agent: Jenny Bent, the Bent Agency. (Jan.)
“If this novel were a movie, you could close your eyes to save yourself from its scariest parts, but it is a book and its haunting elements are inescapable. A promising start by a new author, this will appeal to those looking for a disturbing story.”
Yangsze Choo
“Beautifully written in luminous prose, Starter House kept me up late at night with its disturbing, tangled tale of childhood and what it means to be a parent. Despite the darkness, Condit’s prose has so much heart and emotion, [...] I couldn’t put it down.”
Kritters Ramblings
“A creepy creepy book that I am so thankful that I did not start reading until many months after buying my first house! [...] The book definitely takes some risks and thankfully the pacing was superb, so it made the book hard to put down!”
No More Grumpy Bookseller
“Sonja Condit’s debut is a poetic and chilling read! The perfect blend of creepy suspense and lyrical prose, I feel Starter House is sure to appeal to readers who enjoy literary fiction as well as the darker stuff.”
“The tone of Starter House was foreboding, and had me wishing I only stuck to reading it during daytime hours. [...] I would definitely add the Starter House to your TBR list for Halloween this year, it would be a perfect creepy read for the month of October!”
Sweet Southern Home blog
“I could easily see this book as a movie, and I highly recommend Starter House to anyone who wants a change from the usual haunted house genre.”
Book Addict Katie
“a great creepy and gothic read that will keep you reading with a flashlight under the covers late into the night!”
Kirkus Reviews
In Condit's creepy debut, a young couple's dream home turns out to be haunted. The cottage at 571 Forrester Lane in the Southern town of Greeneburg is perfect for Lacey and Eric Miszlak. She's pregnant and wants to be near the best schools; he wants a 20-minute commute to his uncle's law firm. Lacey brushes aside the spooked reaction of their broker (who knows more than she's telling) but discovers after they move in that the house harbors a ghost: Drew, a needy little boy who asks her to be his mother. Lacey, a former elementary school teacher, prides herself on being good with difficult children, but she quickly learns to fear Drew's rages and his hostility toward her unborn child. "The thing in the house. It eats babies," blurts out the broker's daughter. The trouble started in 1972, when Andrew Halliday killed his wife, three of his four children and himself. Only Andrew Junior survived the massacre; he's changed his name to Lex Hall and has retained Eric in a custody battle over his young daughter. Yes, it's a lot of coincidences to swallow, and Drew's ability to travel as far afield as Australia seems more convenient than likely even within the parameters of a ghost story, but Condit paints such a convincing portrait of the Miszlaks' tension-riddled marriage and does such a good job of escalating the menace in Lacey's encounters with Drew that readers won't care much about probability. The novel has unusually strong characterizations as well, in particular the depiction of Lacey's New Age–y mother, Ella, who proves to be stronger and more protective than her daughter could understand in childhood. Eric too, controlling and overcautious though he is, comes through with flying colors in the violent denouement at the top of the stairs that have seen so many previous deaths. Good, scary fun, packed with emotional nuance.

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HarperCollins Publishers
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Meet the Author

Sonja Condit received her MFA from Converse College, where she studied with Robert Olmstead, Leslie Pietrzyk, R. T. Smith, and Marlin Barton. Her short fiction has appeared in Shenandoah magazine, among other publications. She plays principal bassoon in the Hendersonville Symphony Orchestra and the Greater Anderson Musical Arts Consortium. She teaches at the South Carolina Governor's School for the Arts and Humanities.

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Starter House 3.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 10 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Absorbing story that I couldn't put down. Ms. Condit's ability to create complex characters is wonderful, and she sets an atmosphere that really pulls you in. Watch for more from her.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
TheBibliophilicBookBlog More than 1 year ago
Lacey and Eric Miszlak are expecting their first child and Lacey has found the house of her dreams. Yet there is something strange about their new home that only Lacey seems to sense. Eric is too busy trying to make money to give credence to Lacey’s fears. There is a little boy who keeps showing up in Lacey’s home, but she’s the only one who sees him. What is haunting Lacey’s house and how can she find out what he wants before it is too late? STARTER HOUSE has the feel of an old gothic mystery novel, with a dark presence in the house and the people surrounding Lacey knowing much more than they let on. I enjoyed the mystery, but I wasn’t a fan of the characters. Lacey was too mealy and wishy-washy, Eric was self-absorbed, and the neighbors who should have warned Lacey were out to save their own skin. The only one I did really like was Lacey's mother, the new age hippie type. I did finish STARTER HOUSE just because I wanted to see how it all turned out.
KrittersRamblings More than 1 year ago
Check out the full review at Kritters Ramblings A creepy creepy book that I am so thankful that I did not start reading until many months after buying my first house!  Eric and Lacey under financial strains still purchase their first house and upon moving in Lacey starts feeling a spirit that is still living in the home.   I loved the history in the home and how Lacey had to track down where it all began to hopefully solve the mystery.  It was an interesting take on a ghost story and although I am not a fan of ghosts and supernatural, the mystery part of it made it much easier for me to read.  I kind of wish I could have held onto this one for an October read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I really wanted this book to be good. The storyline had so much potential. But unfortunately, it just started to become unbelievable. Why would you endanger you and your unborn child and live in a haunted house where the ghost has actually killed people and you know that you are next? I have to say I was truly disappointed and if there was any way I could get my money back, I would.
MyBookAddictionandMore More than 1 year ago
THE STARTER HOUSE by debut author Sonja Condit is an intriguing and eerie,spell binding Paranormal/Haunted House/Ghost set in a cozy cottage in Greeneburg,South Carolina. Lacey Miszlak and her husband Eric finally find their dream house, or is it? Lacey is pregnant with their first child. Filled with a haunted house, a ghost, peril,malevolence,secrets, tragedy,evil, and a quest that takes Lacey from the present to the past for answers. To save herself, her husband, and their unborn child,Lacey must go searching for answers before they become a part of their houses' past. Ms. Condit has penned a story that is haunting, eerie, but intriguing and a hard to put down story. With engaging characters, and a unique storyline. A must read for anyone who enjoys ghosts, haunting, and malevolence. Well done! I look forward to her next story. Received for an honest review from the publisher. RATING: 4 HEAT RATING: Mild REVIEWED BY: AprilR, courtesy of My Book Addiction and More
sneps More than 1 year ago
Creepy Good!! I loved the cover! It’s the window of the “starter house”, and gives the impression that someone is looking out the window…guarding the house. In order to give my review, I need to include 2 disclosures. First, I absolutely HATE, yes, hate, when books are compared to other masterpieces. I can understand there are books that may be similar, evoke the same emotions, and possibly have a similar storyline….but unless the book is a rewrite-it should be a stand-alone and not compared to other books. Period. Secondly, when I read a book, I don’t like to guess what will come next or poke holes in a storyline. Sure, some books may be a little obvious, while others may be a little too hokey and simply unrealistic. However, that is the beauty of books: they are a great escape. It’s not 48 Hours, the TV show. With my two disclosures not shared: I can honestly say that I LOVED this book! I’m a big scaredy cat and definitely will not read any demonic stories. While it’s not a demonic storyline, it’s definitely creepy and kept me reading through the very last page. If you’ve read my posts about e-readers, then you know that I prefer any kind of e-reader device over a paperback. I typically read at bedtime, so finding the “perfect” book light hasn’t happened for me yet. However, I managed to read this book at night, took it everywhere with me, and enjoyed the book to the very end! It has all the elements of a great mystery: flawed characters, who are disconnected, so that they don’t share what they know until the very end (when it’s almost too late), an old house with a history of murders, a neighbor that knows more than he’s willing to share, a realtor that doesn’t want to sell the house but gives in because of a hefty commission, and a mom tuned into the supernatural….as well as the daughter (wife and homeowner). Don’t rush through the book, realize it’s not Amityville House of Horrors (although it comes close), and know that everything will unfold as it needs to-leading up to a great ending! Without giving too much away, I will answer these questions: Why does Lacey seem intent to stay in a home that is obviously haunted? First, she is wanting to give her unborn child what she never had: roots. Also, by the time she realizes she needs to get out, she learns that where she goes-the ghost does too. Why doesn’t Eric leave? Because he’s mounted high in debt and doesn’t want to disappoint his wife, and he also doesn’t want to believe that there is any truth to what is presented to him by Lacey and others. I enjoyed this book and loved how each chapter had a picture of the book cover…..just to remind you that someone is always watching!- BooksintheBurbs