Review: In the Scrape by James Newman and Mark Steensland

In the ScrapeIn the Scrape by James Newman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

In the Scrape is a 2019-Coming of Age Horror novella co-authored by James Newman and Mark Steensland.

James Newman is one of my faves, so when I was gifted an ARC-copy, I was super stoked. Then like a huge jerk, I never got around to it…

As I was considering what to pick up this past Halloween week, this gorgeous Autumnal cover popped into my mind. Now is the time.

In hindsight, I’m irked I had this 5-star read sitting on my Kindle for years. How did I not pay this story the attention it deserves? Hopefully this review will be an impetus for some of you to pick it up. That would help my guilt.

In this story we follow two young brothers, Jake and Matthew. The boys live with their abusive father and dream of nothing but escape. Their plan is to make their way to California, where they can be reunited with the mother they miss terribly.

We are told the story by Jake, who is 13-years old at the time the events take place. He gives us the details of the family dynamic and takes us through the days leading up to their planned escape.

The boys have been very strategic about it, saving money and waiting until the right time. Even during the worst of the abuse, they stay focused on their plan. They see an upcoming family hunting trip as the perfect opportunity.

Unfortunately, just prior to the trip, Jake has a bloody altercation with his arch-nemesis, which not only puts a damper on the funds he was hoping to save, but also brings local law enforcement sniffing around.

Nevertheless, their Dad is determined to make it out to their cabin for the first day of deer season, so off they go. Little does he know that first night is going to find him tied to a chair as his boys forge their escape.

Dad is a beast though, will the boys be able to subdue him enough to actually get away? What if he catches them? Who will survive the night?

This is such an incredible story. I loved it. I immediately could tell this was a Newman; I adore his writing. I’ve never read from Mark Steensland before, but I trust if Newman is working with him, he’s nothing short of brilliant.

Coming of Age is a subgenre of Horror that I tend to vibe with really well. I know when some people think of Horror books, they think, scary books, things that scare me, and then if they don’t get scared by a book, they say, this isn’t Horror.

For me, Horror is a more nuanced genre than that and thinking only books that literally scare you can be classified as Horror is simplifying the genre unfairly.

I’ve mentioned this before in other reviews, but this story did such a great job of channeling all of the essential vibes of the subgenre, that I felt it was worth repeating here.

This basically transported me into the lives of these two boys while they were living through what could arguably be the most pivotal year of their childhoods.

In addition to the superb writing, it made me feel so much. By the halfway point, I was commenting how it was breaking my heart. I could feel the pain and desperation of these boys.

The brother’s relationship was beautifully done. I could feel the love between them and the push and pull that made that relationship as special as it was. Given their circumstances, it was clear that they were beyond lucky to have one another.

I also loved how the authors continued to build the tension throughout the story as the end approached. They pulled me in, made me 100% committed to the characters and then got my pulse racing with my sights set on the conclusion.

I would absolutely recommend this to anyone who enjoys Coming of Age Horror, or to anyone who is looking to try the subgenre for the first time.

I mean, Coming of Age Horror novellas really don’t get much better than this. These authors knocked this out of the park. They made me love Jake and Matthew with my whole heart. In short, this filled my soul.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Silver Shamrock Publishing, for providing me with a copy to read and review.

My only regret is that it took me so long to get to it.

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Review: Christmas Presents by Lisa Unger

Christmas PresentsChristmas Presents by Lisa Unger
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars rounded up**

This was solid. I definitely enjoyed it light-years beyond Secluded Cabin Sleeps Six, so that’s a plus and makes me open to picking up more from this author.

I wish this could have been a little longer, honestly. I felt a little clipped. I would have enjoyed learning even more about this group of characters. Maybe their stories will be continued, or elaborated on, at another time?

In this story, we are following a few different characters. Madeline Martin is a bookshop owner in Little Valley, who in her teen years survived a brutal attack that left her best friend, Steph, dead. Madeline has been living with the shadow of that night looming over her ever since.

Harley Granger is a True Crime Podcaster, who arrives in Little Valley looking to speak to Madeline about the night she would just as soon forget.

It seems Harley has been in contact with Evan Handy, the man convicted of murdering Steph and plans to explore these crimes on his Podcast. Since Evan’s conviction, three other women have disappeared, casting doubts on whether or not he worked alone.

Finally, we follow Lolly, an exotic dancer who gets thrown into the drama unfolding in the small town. Even though we do get Lolly’s perspective, Madeline and Harley are definitely the stars of this show.

The story is comprised of current day sections, as well as glimpses into the past, in particular surrounding Madeline’s life and the night of the crimes.

I listened to the audiobook for this, and while I enjoyed it quite a bit, I do feel the story could’ve been better served by having two, or even three, different narrators. This is personal preference though, but I think it could have helped to delineate between perspectives.

With this being said, I did think the content and set-up were very interesting. The characters were well-developed and easy to follow.

At the same time, since this was so short, I feel like I could have been even more connected, and enjoyed it even more, if it had been a tad longer. That way, all facets could have been taken a little futher. For what is here though, it is well done and I think a lot of Readers are going to really enjoy it.

An added bonus was the setting. The Christmasy-Winter-feel was great and it definitely put me in the mood for some colder weather reads!

Thank you so much to the publisher, HighBridge Audio, for providing me with a copy to read and review.

I definitely recommend this one to Unger fans, or anyone looking to try her work for the first time. I think this one would give you a great feel for her writing style.

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Rereading a Favorite Horror Novella: What Moves the Dead by T. Kingfisher

What Moves the DeadWhat Moves the Dead by T. Kingfisher
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

5-stars yet again!

This was exactly what I wanted for my first read of October, which is why I chose to reread a tried and true favorite Horror novella by one of my favorite authors, T. Kingfisher.

My goal was to set a tone for the month and What Moves the Dead certainly succeeded in that. It’s more than just a gorgeous cover. Kingfisher creates such an eerie, fun and mysterious tale in under 200-pages. She’s a marvel.

As with many other rereads, I think I was able to enjoy the details of this story even more this time around. Since I knew where the story was going, I could concentrate a little more on the finer points.

My biggest take-away this time through was how much I truly enjoy reading from Alex’s perspective. I love how Kingfisher brings her signature sense of humor to every main character she writes and Alex is no exception.

Alex is such a unique protagonist. They make you feel like you are sitting with a friend who is telling you a story of their last vacation. Granted a really messed up and horrifying vacation, but entertaining nonetheless.

I’m super stoked that Alex is coming back in February in the sequel to this book, What Feasts at Night. It sounds like it is going to contain the same sort of horror-based mystery for Alex to investigate.

Personally, I am counting down the days until I can get my hands on that. It’s definitely one of my most anticipated releases of 2024.

If you love Horror, but haven’t picked this one up yet, what are you doing with your life? Seriously? Get to it! This is the perfect way to kick off your Spooky Season reading!


In What Moves the Dead T. Kingfisher expertly reimagines Edgar Allan Poe’s The Fall of the House of Usher.

That fact alone sold me on this book, well that and the fact that T. Kingfisher is one of my favorite authors, but then this cover dropped.

A masterpiece shall grace our shelves. Mine for sure because I’ve already preordered a copy and you should too!

The year is 1890 and Alex Easton has just received word that their childhood friend, Madeline Usher, is on the brink of death. Thus, Easton heads off to the countryside to the Usher family estate to be with Madeline and perhaps provide some support to Madeline’s brother, Roderick.

Arriving at the once lavish estate, Easton is shocked that the manor home has fallen into such a horrible state of disrepair. It’s unnerving to say the least.

Equally unnerving is the state in which Easton finds Madeline. They knew Madeline was quite ill, but her behavior belies any illness that Easton is aware of. Madeline’s behavior, speech and appearance are bizarre. She’s actually frightening to be around.

Denton, an American doctor and friend of Roderick Usher, is staying at the home as well while tending to Madeline. It’s clear that Denton has no explanation for Madeline’s mysterious illness.

Additionally, Roderick Usher isn’t quite himself either. He’s not sleeping and claims to be hearing things in the walls of the home. Could he be succumbing to whatever has infected Madeline?

In addition to our main cast we also get some great side characters. Hob, Easton’s trusty horse, was of course my favorite. No one writes animal companions quite like Kingfisher. She gives them such strong personalities, which for anyone who has an animal companion of their own will seem quite relatable.

Another favorite was the intelligent and plucky Miss Potter, a local woman who spends her time researching and painting specimens of fungi. Easton and Potter meet and develop a quick rapport. Easton ends up learning a lot about the local area, lore, flora and fauna from Miss Potter.

The classic gothic vibe of What Moves the Dead meshed so well with Kingfisher’s fresh and witty humor.

Picking up a new Kingfisher story is so comforting for me. It’s like settling in for story time with a horror-loving friend. That’s exactly the feeling I got from this one. It’s eerie and sinister the entire way through, while also somehow managing to keep me laughing.

I loved going along with Easton on their investigation into the mystery surrounding the House of Usher. There is some truly horrifying imagery included that was so well done.

I could picture, smell and taste the decay of this property. It definitely got under my skin.

Thank you so, so much to the publisher, Tor and Macmillan Audio, for providing me with a copies to read and review.

As I mentioned earlier, this was absolutely one of my MOST ANTICIPATED releases of the year and it did not disappoint. Kingfisher is knocking them out of the park in 2022!!!

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Review: The Salt Grows Heavy by Cassandra Khaw

The Salt Grows HeavyThe Salt Grows Heavy by Cassandra Khaw
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The Salt Grows Heavy is a good novella. The writing is gorgeously-dark, with a lot of solid body horror, but it was just a little too abstract for my tastes.

((^^^ Clearly kidding ^^^))

My opinion matters not at all. If this sounds intriguing to you, definitely give it a shot. In fact, I want to be clear, I did enjoy this. I liked it. It’s a solid novella. I just could not tell you the point, or really what happened at all.

I think it is a fresh, yet horrific, take on The Little Mermaid, but I’m only pulling that from the publisher’s synopsis. Honestly, I would never have guessed that while reading this story, if I hadn’t been prompted ahead of time.

I think Cassandra Khaw is an incredibly smart and creative human. Khaw is most likely too smart for me. I do really appreciate their horror imagery though. It’s always a bit body horror, always a bit wildly-detailed and it never fails to make my toes curl.

I am going to continue picking up Khaw’s stories. Every time I am impressed with the creation. Some aspects hit, some aspects miss, but it’s always intriguing.

This is a bit of a short review for me, but this novella is just over 100-pages and I really didn’t understand 98-of the pages, so not sure what else to say.

Writing = beautiful; concept = over my head.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Tor Nightfire, for providing me with a copy to read and review.

As mentioned, I find Khaw’s stories captivating, if a bit confusing. I definitely look forward to seeing what they deliver next!

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Review: Thornhedge by T. Kingfisher

ThornhedgeThornhedge by T. Kingfisher
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In Thornhedge, T. Kingfisher brings her lush, humorous and whimsical storytelling to a quick and adorably-reimagined Sleeping Beauty origin story.

Kingfisher is one of my favorite authors. I have loved everything of hers that I have ever read and after reading this, it doesn’t appear that is going to change anytime soon.

I will try to write an unbiased review, but it will be difficult. I’m a fan girl, what can I say?

In this story we meet Toadling, who as an infant was stolen and transported to live in the world of the faeries. They treated her well, and her early life was undeniably warm and comfortable. She couldn’t lodge many complaints.

Once she came into adulthood though, the faeries asked a favor of her that ended up changing everything.

She is asked to return to the world of humans to bless a newborn child. A little girl. A bumbling, beautiful baby girl…

A century later, a knight approaches a wall of brambles, an impenetrable fortress of thorns. He’s heard legends of a cursed Princess high in a tower. He’s here to save her, as knights do.

Toadling, however, has different thoughts on this so-called curse and she’ll do anything to uphold it. You’ll have to read this enchanting story to find out why.

This was a super fun and quick read, which I did listen to on audio. It has a nice, cozy feel to it, that I definitely need every once in a while to break up my darker reads.

I enjoyed how Kingfisher gave us enough of the original tale that you could figure out what she was alluding to, yet she brought her own original twist that caused me to view the fairy tale in a while new light.

The twist itself was fascinating to me. Darker than I expected, but whimsical at the same time. I was really impressed with it.

I think it is a great example of Kingfisher’s skill as a writer. I also highly enjoyed the narration of the audiobook. This story is pure, engaging entertainment.

I would recommend it to any Reader who enjoys twists on classic tales, whimsical, cozy fantasies, or Kingfisher’s work in general. There is no way this story isn’t going to bring a smile to your face.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Tor and Macmillan Audio, for providing me with copies to read and review. T. Kingfisher is a gift. She has a gift and she is a gift!

I will continue picking up every single thing she writes.

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Rereading 1922 by Stephen King

19221922 by Stephen King
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

**4.5-stars rounded up**

1922 is the first novella included in my favorite short-story collection, Full Dark, No Stars.

This is the second time I have read this story and its impact was not diminished with repetition. In fact, I think I appreciated it more this time around.

One thing I had actually forgotten about this story is that the entire thing is told via a written confession. Epistolary format generally does work for me anyway, but in King’s capable hands, it elevated this to a higher level.

The quality of the writing makes you feel like you are actually listening to a haunted man tell his story. In this case, that man is Wilfred James, a farmer from the Hemingford Home area of Nebraska.

King’s Constant Readers may recognize that name from other works, most notably, The Stand.

The publisher’s synopsis for this story explains it best: A powerful tale of betrayal, murder, madness and rats, 1922 is a breathtaking exploration into the dark side of human nature. That’s exactly what this is.

The story flows organically and steadily, while unsuspectingly gettin under your skin. Before you know it, you’ll be flinching at the smallest noises around you. Any little scratch or scatter could be the rats coming for you.

I frequently mention that when I reread King’s works that my attention is drawn to different elements each time. With the initial horror of the story out of the way, I found myself more able to focus on the relationships this time through.

The relationship between Wilf and his son, Henry, of course, but also the relationship between Henry and his young love. Additionally, I felt more drawn to Wilf’s inner turmoil after the horrors began. It’s like a 1920s-Midwestern version of Crime and Punishment.

Overall, the way this story is told, it’s absolutely captivating. Even the gruesome bits will have your eyes glued to the page, dreading whatever will be coming next.

Readers are cautioned to scenes of animal hurt, or harm, but truthfully, it’s a farm and the circumstances involved are things that would, or could, occur on a working farm. I will admit to skim reading some of those scenes though.

As with the rest of the stories included in the Full Dark, No Stars collection, 1922 is ultimately a story of ordinary people finding themselves in extraordinary, and gut-churning, circumstances.

If this sounds at all intriguing to you, I absolutely recommend checking it out. I’m so happy that I took the time to reread this. It’s definitely secured itself in my mind as one of my top novellas ever.

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Review: Wasps in the Ice Cream by Tim McGregor

Wasps in the Ice CreamWasps in the Ice Cream by Tim McGregor
My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Wasps in the Ice Cream is a captivating Coming of Age Horror novella that quickly reminded me why I love this subgenre.

It’s the Summer of 1987 and Mark Prewitt spends his time working at the local ice cream shop, avoiding his parents, tinkering on his dream car and engaging in miscellaneous hijinks with his best buds.

When the other boys stage a prank on the mysterious Farrow sisters, it goes too far and one of them gets hurt. Mark is riddled with guilt after the fact. He should have stopped it, but he didn’t.

Seeking to make amends with the girls, he ends up befriending the middle sister, George.

She’s unlike anyone he has ever known and he’s drawn to her like wasps to ice cream. The more time he spends with George, the less time he has for everyone else.

Mark finds himself keeping a lot of secrets, but he should have known in a town this small, it was bound to blow up in his face. What happens when you fall for the girl everyone hates? Mark is about to find out.

Spoiler Alert: It’s not good.

Y’all, I really enjoyed my time with this story. I know when some people think of Horror books, they think, scary books, things that scare me, and then if they don’t get scared by a book, they say, this isn’t Horror.

For me, Horror is a much more nuanced genre than that and thinking only books that literally scare you can be classified as Horror is simplifying the genre unfairly.

A good example of this is one of my fave subgenres of Horror, the Coming of Age story. Wasps in the Ice Cream is a perfect example, channeling all of the essential vibes. This basically transported me back to the Summer of 1987.

Coming of Age always hits home for me. Literally nothing could be happening and I still find myself so invested.

There’s something about the innocence and feeling of possibility in viewing the world through that lens. The emotional traumas and challenges the protagonists have experienced up to this point in their lives only scratch the surface of what the world will ultimately dish out for them. It’s such a special time. Nostalgia for days.

Also, it’s in the presentation. You generally have an Adult narrator, who is reflecting back on some pivotal moment in their life. Something that impacted them so deeply, it helped to shape the adults they became; good or bad.

There also tends to be powerful friendships and the exploration of sexuality. All of this is mixed together with deeper things that scare us; sometimes supernatural, sometimes not.

I felt McGregor did an amazing job telling Mark’s story. It felt so authentic. I believed everything I was being told and understood how the events of this Summer shaped Mark’s future, choices, wants and desires.

I would definitely recommend this to anyone who enjoys an engaging Coming of Age Horror story. If you are just looking for scares though, you’d be best looking somewhere else.

Thank you so much to the publisher, RDS Audio, for providing me with a copy to read and review. The audiobook is fantastic. The narrator truly captured Mark’s character. Well done!

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Review: Kill Joy (A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder #0.5) by Holly Jackson

Kill Joy (A Good Girl's Guide to Murder, #0.5)Kill Joy by Holly Jackson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars rounded up**

Kill Joy is a super cute prequel novella in Holly Jackson’s A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder series.

The events of this story all take place on one night and it’s a fun night indeed. The setting, a Murder Mystery Party hosted by Pippa’s friend, Connor, and his brother, Jamie.

If you’ve read the entire series, you may recognize these two names from Book 2, Good Girl, Bad Blood.

I am huge fan of this series and was very happy to get to spend a night with Pip and her friends. Do I think this is necessary content? No, I don’t, but for long-time fans of the series, it’s enjoyable content.

Not only is it a quick, fun read, I also definitely walked away with a better understanding of Pip’s inspiration for her Capstone Project, the impetus for all the action in A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder.

Thank you to the publisher, Delacorte Press, for providing me with a copy to read and review. I will never turn down a story featuring Pippa Fitz-Amobi.

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Review: Final Girls by Mira Grant

Final GirlsFinal Girls by Mira Grant
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars rounded up**

Mira Grant’s novella, Final Girls, originally published in 2017 is now being released in audio format.

This story features Dr. Webb, who has created a ground-breaking VR technology that she purports helps clients overcome long-term psychological damage and trauma.

With this process, the clients get taken back to significant times in their lives and run through situations that basically equate to scenes straight out of a horror movie.

I understand the idea to be that the scientists take the clients back to these pivotal moments, break them, shock them so severely, that they are able to rebuild new memories and thus rewire their brains; resetting their psychology.

Another main player in this one is Esther Hoffman, a journalist, who has her own very strong opinions on this type of science.

Esther ends up in Dr. Webb’s lab for a story. She observes a couple of clients running through the process themselves, as well as observing the resulting aftereffects. Then Esther agrees to undergo the treatment herself.

When a real world threat enters the lab during Esther’s scenerio, Esther and Dr. Webb, once on different sides, are suddenly forced together in a fight for survival.

Final Girls explores a unique concept that I was definitely intrigued by. I would definitely pick up a full-length novel tackling these futuristic ideas.

My experience with this story overall, however, can be broken down as follows:

Concept: 4-stars
Plot: 3-stars
Characters: 3-stars
Writing: 5-stars

Mira Grant’s writing is something to experience in and of itself. I love it. Every word carefully placed, themes thoughtfully examined, well-paced and nuanced. I always eat it up.

While I don’t think this story will stick in my memory from now until forever more, I am really glad that I listened to it. The narration was fantastic and it definitely is interesting to think about this type of futuristic therapy.

Thank you to the publisher, Tantor Audio, for providing me with a copy to read and review. I had fun with this one and will continue to pick up any Mira Grant work I can get my hands on!

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Review: Ghostwritten by Ronald Malfi

GhostwrittenGhostwritten by Ronald Malfi
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Ghostwritten is a collection of 4-novellas by one of the most compelling voices in Horror Fiction today, Ronald Malfi.

I didn’t know anything about this collection going in, seeing Malfi’s name on the cover was enough for me, but was so pleased to discover the connecting theme amongst the stories contained therein: BOOKS!

We all love books, don’t we?

How about haunted books, evil books or murderous books? Color me intrigued! I would definitely check them out.

This collection starts out with a bang with The Skin of Her Teeth. I adored that story. It was giving me Secret Window, Secret Garden vibes and I was living for it. The tone and suspense of it all helped me to fly through it so quickly.

It was crazy fun!

The second and third stories, The Dark Brothers’ Last Ride and This Book Belongs to Olo, were both enjoyable as well. They were so dark, fast-moving and creative. How does he come up with this stuff?

With these middle two though, for me, I wasn’t captivated to the same extent as I was with the first story. I began to think that maybe the first story would end up being my resounding favorite. Then I started the fourth and final story, aptly titled, The Story.

The Story involves a very dark web, twisted version of a Choose Your Own Adventure story. I was obsessed with those types of books when I was a kid.

I always wondered just what would happen if the choices I was making in the book actually had an effect on my real life. I guess Malfi once upon a time wondered the same thing…

I loved this one so much. It was horrendous in all the right ways. The way it ended, sheer perfection.

Overall, this was a completely enjoyable, sure to be memorable collection.

For me, since the first and fourth stories were 5-stars, and the second and third were around 3.5-stars, I decided to slice it right down the middle with a ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ final rating. Also, I definitely recommend the audiobook!

Thank you so much to the publisher, Titan Books and Tantor Audio, for providing me with copies to read and review.

If you are looking for a creepy collection to pick up this Spooky Season, you should absolutely get your hands on Ghostwritten. There’s something for everyone here!!

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