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review 2019-10-16 19:14
In The Scrape by James Newman & Mark Steensland
In The Scrape - Mark Steensland,James R. Newman


In The Scrape is a novella that made me feel as if my giant beast of a cat were sitting atop my chest trying his best to stop my heart from beating the entire time I was reading. Not too many books do that to me but put two sweet kids in peril and that’ll do the trick, I guess! This one is a nail-biter and I was incredibly worried for these kids during the entire story. That’s some kind of knock-out writing. I’m glad I’m finished so I can breathe again.



Set in the 80’s, Jacob and Matthew are two brothers plotting to run away from their abusive drunkard of a dad and escape to live with their mom who left them all years ago. Their situation hurts the heart. They’re so young and stuck in a situation that seems completely hopeless but they’re plotting and hopeful anyway. I loved that about them. Such brave and smart young kiddos.

As this is a horror novella and there is a schoolyard bully thrown into the mix, you can expect things to go sideways, plans to go awry and terrible things to happen. And they do, thus explaining the sensation of feeling like my chunker of a cat was cutting off my airway. The plot doesn’t travel down the same path as my brain assumed it would (thankfully because my thoughts were 100% bleak) but I still found myself horrified and surprised by the turn of events which I’m not gonna spoil.

This is a story about tenacity, survival, bravery and brotherly love and facing down terrible odds when those charged with protecting you are the ones you just might fear the most. This is really great, heavy stuff. Much different from the previous collaboration I read with author James Newman, Scapegoat, which had an 80’s feel and madness tinged plot but both are excellent stories. 4 ½ stars


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review 2019-06-15 19:29
In The Scrape by James Newman and Mark Steensland
In The Scrape - Mark Steensland,James R. Newman

Two young brothers formulate a daring plan to escape from the cruel attentions of their abusive father, and find their long lost mother.
The best laid plans of mice and boys...because their father isn't the only threat standing in their way.

A poignant, heartbreaking coming of age novella, IN THE SCRAPE delivers on an emotionally visceral level.....from the power of love, to the chains that abuse forge, to the strength that comes when one pushes the innocent to their limits...and then over those limits.

James Newman and Mark Steensland work together is flawless, their writing styles melding together perfectly, becoming one powerful, compelling voice.
This is a team readers need to keep their eye on.....along with Silver Shamrock Publishing.
Well done.

Highly recommended.

Many thanks to Silver Shamrock Publishing for the eARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Expected publication: July 1st, 2019.

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review 2016-06-23 17:55
Review: Behind the Bookcase
Behind the Bookcase - Mark Steensland,Kelly Murphy

Seriously, publishers really need to stop promoting books by relatively unknown authors by saying they are like very popular and/or classic and beloved books.  It’s almost always an unfair comparison that raises expectations to unrealistic levels.

This book is only like “Coraline” or “Alice in Wonderland” in the broadest sense of type – a fantasy story in which a child magically enters a fantasy world.

This does not at all mean it isn’t a good story, it is! It simply means I believe it should be allowed to be enjoyed and appreciated on its own merits, without expectations it will equal books that have reached top-of-the-class status.

Those who have seen my reading lists over the years have probably noticed that there are two kinds of books I am automatically drawn to, and will snatch up when I come across – time travel stories and kids who magically are transported to a fantasy world.  

“Behind the Bookcase” is a solid effort of the second type.  My childhood self would have grabbed this one, if it’d been around at the time, and would have enjoyed it.

Finding a secret passage to a magical, fantasy world in your house?  Absolutely a favorite premise of mine.

“Truth be told: the place looked creepy.  Sarah simply couldn’t believe that anyone she knew-let alone someone from her very own family-could have anything to do with such a house. Never in her life had she seen such a disaster.”

‘”Awesome!” Billy said, with a reverence that thoroughly annoyed his sister.   “What could be awesome about this?” “Look at it,” he said, “It’s like a haunted house.”’

It’s hard to say much without spoilers, but world we visit with Sarah is a highly imaginative and original one.  People there are certainly very strange.  Bathazar, Lefty, Jeb, B. B.  And imaginative places such as the Forest of Shadows and streams of moonlight rather than water.

And seriously, what are we teaching kids these days? If you suddenly find yourself in a world that is not ours, populated with strange people, please do keep in mind that while you may find friends and allies, you also may run into villains pretending to be friendly.

This story did several things that are relatively unique for the type.  One of which is the traveling back and forth from the “real” word several times, and other things I won’t mention because it’d be a bit of a spoiler.  But I really did enjoy this aspect.  It added to the adventure and the tension of the plot.

If you’re one who provides Middle Grade books to a young reader who enjoys fantasy, particularly those where an ordinary kid travels to a fantasy world, where things are a bit creepy and things can get tense, this is definitely one to put on their reading list.  If they’re like I was at that age they can go through them like candy, and are always on the lookout for another to read.

For parents:

The story touches upon a fantasy/fictional place where souls go to sleep after we die.  This of course isn’t reflective of any real religious beliefs.

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review 2014-02-09 06:55
Review: Behind the Bookcase by Mark Steensland
Behind the Bookcase - Mark Steensland,Kelly Murphy

"Behind the Bookcase" was a charming read when considered as a whole. I loved the illustrations and the fact that it was an otherworld type story with a colorful cast of characters and creatures. Sarah's a 12-year old who arrives at her mother's creepy childhood home. Her grandmother passed away not long ago. Sarah's family cleans up the house in order to sell it. The house has many secrets, but notably, Sarah realizes there's another world beyond a bookcase that has a secret opening.

The story feels like an attempted smorgasboard of Alice in Wonderland meets "The Nightmare Before Christmas" meeting something that Neil Gaiman would probably do. Only...the intrigue in this book is much lower than any of the aforementioned influences.

Sarah gets lost in a world called "Scotopia," and meets a cat named Balthazat, a one eyed hand called Lefty, and a boy with only half a face named Jeb among others. I'll admit I was charmed by the overarching story and the encounters that Sarah has, but at the same time, I think the story moved more slowly than I would've liked. I think for the narrative as a whole, it didn't completely immerse me into the realm it built, but I liked the overarching conflict and the imaging of the characters for the most part. I just wish I'd been able to connect with it a little more than I did. The construction of the story was fine, the execution and immersion left a bit to be desired. It felt meandering and not as concise as it could've been. If it had, I think I would've enjoyed it a little more.

Overall, I think it works fine as a middle grade story and there may be some readers who appreciate what this has to offer. I just wish it'd pulled me in a little better into the respective narrative.

Overall score: 2.5/5 stars

Note: I received this as an ARC from NetGalley, from the publisher.

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text 2014-01-21 00:48
Moving right along, productivity in reading/writing
Vessel - Sarah Beth Durst
Steelheart - Brandon Sanderson
Deeper - Robin York
I'm Not Crazy, I'm Just Not You: The Real Meaning of the 16 Personality Types - Roger R. Pearman,Sarah Albritton
Naked - Megan Hart
Ashfall - Mike Mullin
Behind the Bookcase - Mark Steensland,Kelly Murphy
Structuring Your Novel: Essential Keys for Writing an Outstanding Story - K.M. Weiland
Four Seconds to Lose - K.A. Tucker
Hard to Handle (Love in the Balance) - Jessica Lemmon

Had a really productive weekend and holiday (Happy MLK Day, all), though I still have more to do through this week. I think I'm going to jump back into reading and working on reviews this evening, so it's going to be me catching up over the next few days. Hopefully I can accomplish all my reading and writing goals by the end of the week.


The books above are reviews I'm working on, some of which I read quite some time ago, others I've been reading in the background and need to add them to my "read" list.


Still working diligently on the WIP, but I'm still not done. I went through ten chapters of editing this weekend, so that is quite a bit of progress.

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