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review 2018-04-06 00:00
The New Neighbors
The New Neighbors - Simon Lelic  My Inceptive Assertion.

Fear begets worry. Worry begets doubt. Doubt begets anxiety. Anxiety begets paranoia.

Low self-esteem begets self-hatred. Self-hatred begets depression. Depression begets self-pity.

Enemy-centered begets hate. Hate begets anger. Anger begets rage. Rage begets revenge. Revenge begets murderous spirit.

A nation divided against itself will surely fall. And a man's enemies will be those . . . of his own household.

My Examination.

On the pages of this eerily alarming and slow boiling psychological suspense, the reader becomes both judge and jury as the tale's two twenty-eight-year-old star witnesses take the proverbial stand to testify inside the courtroom of its covers. Here, we meet our duo of top-billed defendants, Mr. Jack Walsh and Ms. Sydney Baker, as they each render their own individual statements detailing the London fog of evil that commenced to progressively encounter their lives only a short time after moving into Sydney's—not Jack's but Sydney's—dream home.

• Jack

Jack is sworn in first and gives a rather choppy description of what exactly led up to the death of Sydney's and his next door neighbor, the detested Sean Payne. Payne is, or rather was, the despicable and savagely abusive father of Elsie Payne, the young girl who would thrown herself in front of the speeding train—right before Sydney's eyes.

It all began after Jack and Sydney purchased the house, which they suspiciously won at a bargain price, outbidding even all of those other couples laden with greater financial means. While not Jack's immediate favorite, the old house—sold to the young partners by an elderly gentleman, one Patrick Bernard Winters—is infused with an uncanny and cold inner spirit that betrays its warm and welcoming physical beauty. And not long after they move in, Jack and Sydney soon begin to detect that smell, a distinctive aroma that only intensifies in pungency as the days wear on. 

Once that smell becomes to annoying to further tolerate, Jack goes on to conduct a thorough investigation into the source of the strange odor, ultimately locating the culprit in Sydney's and his lonesome attic: a dead, rotting cat—with its legs broken. Of course, the findings are enough to make Jack's blood run arctic. Because for one, all of the attic's windows were sealed shut by the home's previous owner. So how on earth did the cat manage to penetrate the attic space in the first place? For such is a task deemed virtually impossible—at least by Jack's logic. 

What's more, the slightly passive leading man also finds some other items laying only a breath away from the cat's decaying carcass: a shoe box filled with a variety of knick knacks, including a doll's head, that more than likely would have been those personal effects of a little girl; however, there is only one problem. The elderly Patrick Bernard Winters—who, by the way, quickly sold his house (to Jack and Sydney) in order to flee to Perth, Australia and into the arms of a woman he met on the Internet—didn't have any children . . . or grandchildren. And this fact leads Jack to suspect what? Well, he doesn't really know what. He certaintly doesn't tell Sydney about any of it, especially not about the dead cat with its legs broken, as that one detail alone would freak her out henceforth.

Even so, his perplexing discoveries—disgusting and otherwise—start to hungrily gnaw at Jack's mind. And he is intent on unraveling the creepy mystery behind them.

• Sydney

Emotionally broken as they come, Sydney "Syd" Baker is the product of a tumultous upbringing. Having her entire body decorated in a bloody mélange of enraged scars, Sydney is still battling with a myriad of demons—including the one of drug abuse—from her nightmarish past when she meets her would-be beau Jack Walsh for the first—and somewhat awkward—time at a social workers conference. The emotionally wrecked couple soon fall head over heels in true love, and after only three months of dating, are already making plans to move in together.

Neither of them wants to meet the other's family. And that joint understanding is just fine with Sydney—whose father had been her hater, her batterer, and her scoffer for the most part of her childhood into her adolescence anyway. Sydney was a phenomenally disdained and abused child in the domestic setting: her father was her homegrown terrorist, whilst her mother stood only for submissive cowardice. And through it all, her little sister Jessica could be nothing more than an eyewitness. That is, until she died—compliments of suicide. 

This is why Sydney could so relate to the Benson & Hedges smoking Elsie Payne, even finding camaraderie with the thirteen year-old. 
. . . A very peculiar camaraderie.

• Elsie

Elsie Payne is Sydney Baker's second chance to vindicate herself. Even from the very first day that her eyes rested themselves upon the little girl from across the housing row, Sydney has felt an instant connection to Elsie. Especially because of Jessica. Sydney's kid sister, the late Jessica.

Full of painful regret and self-blame about Jessica's premature demise, Sydney can spot one of her own maltreated kind in the young Elsie, and soon forms a trusting bond of friendship with the forever sad, miserable, and hopeless child—who is a seemingly ironic carbon copy of Jessica. And now, knowing of Elsie's horrifying quandary at the heavy, harm-inflicting hands of the child's angry and abusive father Sean, Sydney knows that she has to save Elsie for the sake of saving her former self . . . and her dead sister, Jessica. And once Sydney makes it up in her mind to rescue the helpless Elsie from her unhinged reality, nothing can prevent her doing so. She even recruits Jack to help her—by way of involving child services.  

But the rabbit hole leading down the Hadean portal that is Elsie's life goes seabed deep. And once Sydney and Jack dive into the turbulent rapids, neither is to resurface without mangle—be it spiritually . . . or physically.

Desperately treading many a tempestuous wave in her new role as savior, Sydney, while waiting to board the train for work on one fateful morning, can only watch in blood-curdling horror as young Elsie Payne ever so casually steps off the train platform and directly into the oncoming path of a speeding locomotive.

On impact, everything literally goes pitch black. 
. . . Even the hearts of men.

Just when Jack and Sydney thought the torments of their past dead lives had plummeted into eternity's abyss, the same have reemerged from the billowing smoke of eradication to hunt down their former acquaintances through the most relentless of pursuits. For they are come only to steal and to kill and to thoroughly destroy. And with these old foes settled in for the fleshly score, the heinous murder of one Sean Payne is to be the least of Jack Walsh and Sydney Baker's concerns.

That is, until they both become the prime suspects.

The Assembly.

Although Jack Walsh and Sydney Baker carry the magnitude of this shadowy psychological suspense with their tremendously stellar performances, the two stars also share the fictional spotlight with a compact—though indelible—company of bit players who each annex even more profundity to the twisty, turny script in his and her own right.

Incidentally, these would include Bartol "Bart" Novak, Jack's best friend and a fellow social worker with whom Jack is convinced Sydney is having an affair; Sabeen, Ali, Amira, Hakim, and Kalila, a family of legal (and illegal) Iraqi refugees who are about to be evicted from Sabeen's small bedsit for overcrowding and squatting—until Jack brazenly intervenes on their behalf; Karen Leigh, the attractive redhead of a Detective Inspector who enters the plot to investigate Jack and Sydney for the implacable murder of Sean Payne; DC Grainger, this novel's Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson and Karen Leigh's professional colleague; and Evan Cohen, the corrupt, avaricious, deceitful, and lowdown estate agent from whom Jack and Sydney purchase their new house of ill repute.

Mr. and Mrs. Walsh, and Mr. and Mrs. Robinson—Jack's parents and Sydney's parents, respectively—also feature in speaking roles, but only one quarter of them is deserving enough to have been appointed a name: Penelope, Jack's mother.

My Cessation.

Immediately recognizing the tell-tale symptoms of feeling emotionally drained, tensely frustrated, and stressfully aggravated, it was my determination that Simon Lelic's The New Neighbors was at first suffering from "psychosomatic cancer," what considering the rather feverishly slow pace at which the complex storyline moved in its earlier stages. And with all due respect, constantly putting the narrative down in order to give it a rest became quite an unchallenging activity for my reader.

Notwithstanding, said effort would—in its own sweet time—redeem itself admirably.

Proven benign, the annoying literary tumor that plagued this novel at the outset soon dissipates. And the storyline, originally frail and weak in structure, suddenly gains a few extra pounds of muscled momentum, and comes out swinging on the reader like an undisputed heavyweight champion—determined to land as many compensatory uppercuts on the same as it possibly can.

True to its rendition, the grand illusion of this written account's conclusion is somewhat reminiscent of the illustrious Alfred Hitchcock and his ingenious brand of chilling suspense. Of course, I wouldn't go sar far as to declare it the Rear Window of mystery thriller fiction, but one thing is certainly clear, and that is that the effort is heavily influenced by those timeless filmworks of the storied Master. And because of the contents of its Hitchcockian character, The New Neighbors—in the end—managed to stave off what would have perhaps been a much lower rating.

If truth be told, this literary puzzle of a two-part psychological thriller greatly impressed me in its final rounds, cleverly pinning me against the ropes as it pummeled away at my psyche with blow after blow of page-turning and pulse-palpitating perturbation. 

Yes, in the end, Simon Lelic's The New Neighbors got medieval on yours truly. And there is no singular devotee of its respective genre to whom I would not inordinately recommend it. However slow its dreadfully teasing start, the London-set fiction comes alive remarkably after awhile, commanding its own dignity, and proudly shutting down the would-be critical naysayers of mind. 

As I tip my cloché to the narrative, I stand both humbly . . . and mumbly corrected.

• It is my kindly pleasure to thank Berkley Publishing, as well as NetGalley, for the advanced review copy (ARC) of The New Neighbors in exchange for my honest review.

Analysis of The New Neighbors by Simon Lelic is courtesy of Reviews by Cat Ellington: https://catellingtonblog.wordpress.com

Date of Review: Friday, April 6, 2018
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review 2018-04-02 20:04
Bad Neighbors - Maia Chance




Bad Neighbors is the second installment in the Agnes and Effie Mystery series.  The story takes place in fictional Naneda, New York.  A town filled with quirky neighbors and every knows your name.  


Agnes and her kooky great aunt Effie are restoring their family bed and breakfast the Stagecoach Inn.  It's leaf-peeping season In Naneda, the tourists will be arriving soon and the Stagecoach Inn needs a major overhaul.  When Effie gets a phone call that a bus carrying seniors has broke down and the seniors need a place to stay until repairs are made she accommodates them at the inn.  Upon Agnes's and Effie's arrival they learn Agnes's new boyfriend, Otis is in police custody for the dead body found at his auto repair shop.  Agnes knows Otis is innocent and it's up to her and Effie to prove his innocence.


Plenty of humor and comical characters made this cozy mystery an enjoyable read.  Aunt Effie is that one aunt in every family....swanky, funny, witty, bizarre, full of life. The seniors' high-spirited and lively characterizations reminded me of the roles played in the movie, Cocoon.  Some of the neighbors would never be invited over for coffee.


As the mystery unfolds and I put two and two together, Chance cleverly steers the mystery in another direction without missing a beat.


Bad Neighbors by Maia Chance was a delight to read.  I'm looking forward to reading more books by this author.


Thank you Netgalley and Crooked Lane Books for the ARC in exchange for my honest review.


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review 2018-02-16 15:04
The Perfect Neighbors: A gripping psycho... The Perfect Neighbors: A gripping psychological thriller with an ending you won’t see coming - Rachel Sargeant

Helen joins her husband Gary in Germany where he’s a teacher at an international school, but things are not what she expected. There’s a strange atmosphere in the street where they live and a very overbearing neighbour, the wife of the headmaster, and also the local busybody. After a promising start, it did meander a bit, so wasn’t quite the thriller it could have been. I found the characters a bit bizarre with no likeable traits, especially the ones living in the street who “sucked’ up to Louisa. Loved the cover which was very enticing but wouldn’t want to live anywhere near neighbours like these!

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review 2017-11-15 00:00
Neighbors - Stylo Fantome Neighbors - Stylo Fantome Well, fam, this is where I tap out: 22%.
1) The character was taught to be a good girl, which means not embracing your sexuality.
insert snore here
2) The characters run the smut gamut in the first 2 chapters
3) Her room mate is annoying characterization of the roommate that says "whohoo" and calls you a slut
4) Long descriptions of her nun - like J-Crew and DKNY clothing. Or as they are known here in the midwest, sweaters. Shirts. All beige. All the time.
5.) Dialogue straight from a high-schoolers mouth to your page. "I do not, I just don't want to dress like a slut, I like these clothes." I don't have a great idea of the ages of these characters, but my thought is "Not old enough."
"But I was just pretending."
"Oh okay, so you were just pretending to get fucked in the ass."
6.) Internal monologue/conflict is awful, and becomes a thing due to a long lost douchebag from high school showing some interest in the heroine. He's cold and more buttoned up and he makes her heart go pitter patter too. But he's barely kissed her, let alone fucked her in the ass, so you know..whatever will she ever ever decide.

I don't think I need more reasons.
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review 2017-06-16 21:22
Nice Girls Don't Bite Their Neighbors / Molly Harper
Nice Girls Don't Bite Their Neighbors - Molly Harper

Just as Jane Jameson's unlife seems to be stabilizing, fate sinks its fangs firmly into her butt. Despite her near-phobia of wedding planning, her no-frills nighttime nuptials to her sexy boyfriend, Gabriel, are coming along smoothly. That is, until she turns a fatally wounded teenage acquaintance, and the Council pronounces her responsible for the newborn vamp until he can control his thirst.

Jane's kitchen barely holds enough Faux Type O to satiate the cute teen's appetite and maintain Gabriel's jealous streak at a slow simmer. As if keeping her hyperactive childe from sucking the blood out of the entire neighbourhood isn't enough to deal with, the persnickety ghost of Jane's newly deceased grandma Ruthie has declared war on the fanged residents of River Oaks. Suddenly choosing monogrammed cocktail napkins and a cake she can't even eat seems downright relaxing in comparison.

Tensions inside the house are growing...and outside, a sinister force is aiming a stake straight for the center of Gabriel's heart. Most brides just have to worry about choosing the right dress, but Jane fears that, at this rate, she'll never make it down the aisle for the wedding all nice girls dream of...


***2017 Summer Lovin’ Reading List***

”Sometimes I marveled at how grown-up we’d all come, and then Dick would recite a sixteen-stanza penis-based epic poem, and I’d take it back."

So long, Jane Jameson, it was good knowing you. Jane finally makes it to the altar, just as her mama has always wanted, but of course she does it her own way & like everything in Jane’s life, it’s complicated.

By this fourth book, the cute is wearing off a bit and I think it was a wise decision by the author to move on and write about other characters in Half Moon Hollow. It did seem a little pat that Jane would be burdened suddenly with a teenage “childe” just before her wedding. The complete and happy family picture makes for a stereotypical happily ever after. I must confess that I was happier when Jane was building her own inner circle of people that she was actually fond of, rather than relying on her cranky family members. I liked the non-traditional assemble-your-own-family approach of the earlier books.

I still like Dick Cheney (the vampire, not the vice president) better than Jane’s finally-not-reluctant husband, Gabriel, but that’s just me. Her gal-pal Andrea got the better choice in the marriage sweepstakes, in my opinion.

I’m taking a little break, but will move on to the Half Moon Hollow series this summer.


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