I’ve been away from my laptop for a week, and of course while I was vacationing I got a lot of reading done, none of which I could review. (Well, I suppose I could write reviews on my phone, but I have no intention of ever doing that.)

First up: The Housewarming Party. This was excellent.

housewarming partyI reviewed The Guy Next Door recently and mentioned how much the author’s pacing had improved. The Housewarming Party came just before that one, I think (I am so, so bad about reading things in order. Ugh.), and actually, the superb pacing is already present here. Additionally, this is well-edited and tightly plotted, so if you know people who’re down on self-published books because they’ve been exposed to too many bad ones, throw this at them.

This is a “sort of like Fear Street or Point Horror” retro-style YA horror story, so if you’re as fond of those as I am, it’s worth picking up.

Anything beyond this point may contain spoilers, just so you know.

The book opens with a teenage girl, alone in the house and daydreaming about moving out on her own once she turns eighteen.

Someone had told her that rent money was dead money, because you were simply paying off somebody else’s house. (loc 42)

That quote isn’t crucial to the plot; it’s just so true I felt compelled to share it.

Anyway. The girl gets a creepy prank call and ends up stabbed by an intruder, so then when we head into chapter one and our heroine, Jill Fowler, is moving into her own place for the first time the reader is already on edge. Excellent.

Jill is renting a house with her friends Zoe and Bunny, and they can only afford the place because 1) the property manager hasn’t been able to get anyone else interested and 2) Bunny’s father, who is increasingly suspicious the more you see of him, is subsidizing his spoiled daughter.

“I hope there are some cute removalists,” Bunny chirped.  (loc 204)

“Removalist” is such a useful word I don’t understand why it isn’t used outside Australia. (I mean, I use it all the time, but that’s because I picked it up in Australia and we just don’t have a word that works as well. “Movers” is weird and vague and “moving guys” is slangy and arguably sexist.)

Speaking of Australia (she segues neatly), this is set in Howlett, the fictional town that manages to feel like both California and Australia. I’m very fond of the place.

Soon Jill is getting creepy phone calls, first on the abandoned landline in the house (just the existence of a landline you didn’t know about somewhere in your house would be a bit spooky, don’t you think?). Later the calls start reaching her on her cell phone, and the demands that they cancel their housewarming party make the police dismiss it as a probable prank by someone they’ve invited…

I won’t spoil the ending, but I will say that it hits the sweet spot of being retroactively-convincing once you know all the facts without being telegraphed too obviously.