Expanded Version of My BREATHE. BREATHE. Mixed Dark Fiction Collection is Here!

BreatheBreatheHey all, so today my mixed dark fiction collection, BREATHE. BREATHE., came out in its expanded edition and also in print and e-book format. When it first published in July, it was a handmade, limited edition chapbook from Unnerving (a Canadian magazine and book publisher), and it sold out. Now, I worked feverishly and and added 50% more poems and added three more short stories to accompany the previous two. I am really happy with how this turned out and how all the various themes mesh together under the large umbrella of breathing – through trauma, pain, murder, depression, anxiety, etc. And yet I also weaved folklore, history, mystery, and murder into it the poetry and the stories. There is also revenge, anger, fear, and madness tucked into the pages and wrapped in a Gothic atmosphere.

Selcouth Station remarked on the content in the limited edition that it was: “Raw, risky, and brave. Breathe Breathe could tear itself apart withthe amount of raw emotion contained in its fifty-seven pages. Al-Mehairi sheds light on difficult topics such as abuse, anxiety, loneliness, and love that hurts more than heals.”

I hope you’ll take a chance on my collection. It has a lovely foreword from the Bram Stoker nominated author Brian Kirk (We Are Monsters) to touchingly lead readers into the work. The response has been so kind and I am so humbled by the support and the thoughts on my work. I look forward to hearing from any readers who want to offer their thoughts too.

You can find it in paperback and kindle now on Amazon, or Kobo, but more online sites should pop up soon too. I’ll be back to offer more updates. And please do review or add my book to your TBR shelf on GoodReads too!

What’s it about?

Breathe. Breathe. is a collection of dark poetry and short fiction exploring the surreal depths of humanity. It’s a representation of how life breaks us apart and words put us back together. Purged onto the pages, dark emotions flow, urging readers into murky seas and grim forests, to the fine line between breathing and death.

In Act One, readers are presented with a serial killer in Victorian London, a lighthouse keeper with an eerie legacy, a murderous spouse that seems to have walked right out of a mystery novel, and a treacherous Japanese lady who wants to stay immortal. The heightened fears in the twilight of your minds will seep into the blackest of your nights, where you have to breathe in rhythm to stay alive.

In Act Two, the poetry turns more internal and pierces through the wall of denial and pain, bringing visceral emotions to the surface unleashing traumas such as domestic abuse, violence, and illness.

In the short stories, you’ll meet residents of Valhalla Lane whose lives are on a violent parallel track to collision, a man who is driven mad by the sound of a woodpecker, a teenage girl who wakes up on the beach and can’t find another soul in sight, a woman caught in a time shift pitting her against the Egyptian goddess Anuket, and a little girl whose whole world changes when her favorite dandelion yellow crayon is discontinued.

Amid these pages the haunting themes of oppression, isolation, revenge, and madness unfold through folklore, nightmares, and often times, raw, impulsive passion crafted to sear from the inside out.

With a touching foreword by the Bram Stoker nominated author Brian Kirk (We Are Monsters), Breathe. Breathe. will at times unsettle you, and at times embrace you.

Erin Sweet Al-Mehairi, a veteran writer and editor of the written word, offers up a mixed set of pieces, identifying her as a strong, new voice in dark fiction that will tear the heart from your chest, all the while reminding you to breathe.

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Praise for Breathe. Breathe.

“It’s full of the unexpected – bits of lace cut through with the odd and the horrible and the beautiful. Through it all I sense the power of a survivor!! And I love that!”

  • Sue Harrison, internationally best-selling author of Mother Earth Father Sky

“In Breathe. Breathe., Erin Sweet Al-Mehairi employs sharp, jagged words arranged in sparse, disturbingly visceral clusters to force readers to “breathe” through the fear and pain of abuse and personal terror. It’s a sense reinforced by the deceptively quiet but disquieting story, “Dandelion Yellow.” Filled with sharp sensory detail, the highlight is “Life-Giver of the Nile,” an evocative circular time-shift tale in which an Egyptologist’s soul is required by Anuket, ancient and modern goddess of the Nile, for a greater purpose. Whether in poetry or prose, dark kernels nestled within horror tropes indicate that Al-Mehairi writes from the gut and from the heart but with the fierceness of a survivor, the soul of a fearless champion. This mixed collection is a fine introduction to a strong, intriguing new voice in dark fiction.”

  • W.D. Gagliani, Bram Stoker Finalist, author of Wolf’s Trap (Nick Lupo Series)

“Breathe. Breathe. is at times haunting, visceral, bittersweet, and tender. Erin Al Mehairi bares her soul and invites readers to devour it whole.”

  • Hunter Shea, author of We Are Always Watching

“Erin Al-Mehairi weaves a web of narrative and poetry both beautiful and nightmare-inducing in Breathe. Breathe., invoking heartache and the need to see through the shining masks life presents us to confront the darkness it truly holds.”

  • Michelle Garza, co-author of Bram Stoker nominated Mayan Blue

”I loved Dandelion Yellow.  I was hyperventilating at the end, but it was such a beautiful, painful and artful tale.  I’ll be saying that last line to myself for weeks at least. Just beautiful.  I’m re-reading the rest.  One read just isn’t enough because DAYUM.  Beautiful.”

  • Somer Canon, author of Vicki Beautiful and The Killer Chronicles

“A tireless champion of horror fiction, Erin Sweet Al-Mehairi breaks into the genre with her debut collection BREATHE. BREATHE. Her dark and vivid poetry and short stories will be sure to delight fans of dark fiction! “Night Stalked” is definitely one of the stand-out poems you will find within.”

  • Rich Duncan, The Horror Bookshelf

“Raw, risky, and brave. Breathe Breathe could tear itself apart with the amount of raw emotion contained in its fifty-seven pages. Al-Mehairi sheds light on difficult topics such as abuse, anxiety, loneliness, and love that hurts more than heals.”

  • Selcouth Station

“Wonderful writing that explores the dark corners of your mind, where fear grabs you, and you struggle to breathe.”

  • David Spell, The Scary Reviews

Erin, Biograpy –

Erin Sweet Al-Mehairi has Bachelor of Arts degrees in English, Journalism, and History. She has 20 years of experience in the communication fields and is currently a writer, a journalist, a publicist, and an editor among many other things.

She writes fiction, essays, stories, and poetry and is an avid reader of many genres. She has edited poetry anthologies, novels, fiction pieces, and other various non-fiction and journalistic pieces. As a journalist, she’s written, interviewed, and edited for various newspapers, magazines, media outlets, and online news sources at both ends of the spectrum in media and public relations.

As an entrepreneur, she owns two businesses: Addison’s Compass Public Relations and Hook of a Book Media, in which she acts as a PR/Marketing Consultant, publicist, and editor. She also handles marketing and PR for Sinister Grin Press, where she is also an editor. Her third pursuit is writing her own works for publication. She volunteers her time in the community and is the chairwoman on the board of directors for a local mental health center and rape crisis and domestic violence safe haven.

She is the mother of three school-aged children and a cat. She lives with her family in rural Ohio nestled in the forest—a place just ripe for nightmares. Her passions are reading, writing, book hunting, hiking, and entertainment such as movies/film, television, and music. Oh, and she bakes, because you can’t do any of that without cookies.

Erin is a co-host with her Marketing Morsels segment on Project Entertainment Network’s The Mando Method, an award-winning weekly podcast for new and veteran writers.

Breathe. Breathe., published by Unnerving, is her debut collection and a mix of dark poetry and short stories. She will also be featured in the upcoming anthology from Unnerving called Hardened Hearts coming in at the end of 2017. Many other works in various genres are in progress as well.

You can e-mail her at hookofabook (at) hotmail (dot) com and find her easily at www.hookofabook.wordpress.com. You’ll also find her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest where she loves new friends.

 

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My New Cover for My Expanded Collection, BREATHE. BREATHE.

I wanted to share with you that Unnerving Magazine will be publishing an expanded version of BREATHE. BREATHE., my dark poetry and fiction collection, at the end of this week. In July, they published it in limited edition chapbook and it sold out, and now, it will be available online at the Unnerving site, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, etc. I am beyond thrilled and have written 50% more content for this expanded edition in both poetry and short stories. I welcome your support and thoughts. I am so excited and appreciate so much the publisher, Eddie, taking a chance on my work. He’s been amazing to work with. So without me writing too much more, I wanted to show you all the NEW cover, featuring a dandelion, just like the story in the collection, “Dandelion Yellow.” However, breathing is still such a steady theme throughout the book in so many ways. I hope you like it as much I do! The cover was done by Eddie himself!

More information to come about my collection on my blog soon. The book launches the end of this week! 🙂 Thanks to everyone who has been kind enough to support me!

Erin

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Review: The General’s Women is a View into Eisenhower’s Relationships and WWII

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The General’s Women by Susan Wittig Albert –

Publication Date: March 7, 2017
Persevero Press
Formats: Hardcover, Paperback, eBook, & Audio

Genre: Fiction/Historical/Biographical

A compelling story of love, betrayal, and ambition by New York Times bestselling author Susan Wittig Albert, The General’s Women tells the story of two women–Kay Summersby and Mamie Eisenhower—in love with the same man: General Dwight Eisenhower.

Set during the chaotic years of World War II, The General’s Women tells the story of the conflicted relationship between General Dwight Eisenhower and Kay Summersby, his Irish driver/aide, and the impact of that relationship on Mamie Eisenhower and her life in Washington during the war. Told from three alternating points of view (Kay’s, Ike’s, and Mamie’s), the novel charts the deepening of the relationship as Ike and Kay move from England (1942) to North Africa (1942-43) to England, France, and Germany before and after the Normandy landing (1944-45). At the end of the war, Ike is faced with the heart-wrenching choice between marrying Kay and a political future.

The story continues into the post-war years, as Ike (returning to Mamie) becomes Army Chief of Staff, president of Columbia University, Supreme Commander of NATO, and president of the United States. Kay, meanwhile, struggles to create a life and work of her own, writing two memoirs: the first (Eisenhower Was My Boss, 1948) about her war work with Ike; the second (Past Forgetting, 1976) about their love affair. An author’s note deals with the complicated question of the truth of Kay’s story, as it finally appears in the posthumously-published Past Forgetting.

The General’s Women, Review

Susan Wittig Albert’s books are always a pleasure to read and I had really enjoyed A Wilder Rose a few years back, which was about the writing of the Little House books. The General’s Women sounded interesting to me, since it featured the two loves of General Eisenhower and I love war time stories, which is the setting, so I dove in once I received my complimentary review copy in the mail.

Susan, of course, conducts such an enormous amount of research for her books and with this one it was obvious she endeavored no less utilizing real letters, diaries, news clippings from the characters. As readers, we learn a lot about Eisenhower, his part in World War II, and even some of the jobs of women in WWII, such as that of his love interest, fashion model Kay Summersby. She was assigned to drive General Eisenhower, but as even most scholars in the nation know, became one of his dearest confidantes about the war and not only his mistress. His wife, Maime, is back on the home front dealing with her own issues as well as his own, not to mention the gossip of Kay.

Susan pieces together the story, starting with when Kay was assigned to drive Eisenhower, and shows us the dynamic of these three. It’s not a tawdy love triangle she writes, however, but one fraught with dignity, respect for each character from history, and compassion. Sympathy for each of them grace the pages of her well-told story while giving Kay also her due from an historical perspective for all she helped Ike accomplish during the war.

Each other sub-character in this dramatic novel is intricately created and woven in as well as description and detail of time and place that immerses us as readers so we can have a full experience. Susan is known for memoirs and non-fiction as well, which lends itself to this book as the main characters are real people, but she also writes in a way that leads us through the pages enthralled in the story, far from something we might read only for information. It’s pleasurable to turn the pages, but yet we gain knowledge as we do not only about his relationship with the women in his life, but about his pursuits in WWII.

Historical fiction lovers, especially those interested in tales from WWII, should pick up this book for its dramatic intensity and realness. You’ll feel like you stepped off a plane into the time period and have a bird’s eye view. Thanks to Susan for giving us another gripping read. Highly recommended!

Purchase Links

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Chapters IndieBound | iTunes | Kobo

Praise for The General’s Women

“The General’s Women is an engrossing and humanizing account of a love that blossomed during wartime and scandalized a nation… A historical novel that is sympathetic, satisfying, and heartbreaking.” —Foreword Reviews

“A mature, gripping emotional drama… The arc of this multifaceted novel follows the three main characters [Ike, Kay, and Mamie] and a host of secondary ones through the war and back into civilian life. At every point Albert smoothly incorporates an obviously vast amount of research into a tale of raw emotional conflict that can make for some wonderfully uncomfortable reading.” —Kirkus Reviews

“A brilliant work of biographical fiction that will fascinate WW2 history fans. It tells the remarkable true story of General Dwight D Eisenhower and his relationship with his Irish-born driver and secretary, Kay Summersby, and with his longtime wife Mamie. It faithfully shines a light on the hidden relationship of the man behind the D-Day landings and what he got up to while 3,000 miles from his wife. A must read!” —Kieron Wood, author of Ike’s Irish Lover: The Echo of A Sigh

Susan Wittig Albert, Biography

03_Susan Wittig Albert.jpgA NYT bestselling author, Susan’s books include biographical fiction (A Wilder Rose 2013, currently under film option; Loving Eleanor 2016; and The General’s Women 2017). Her mystery fiction includes the bestselling China Bayles mysteries; The Darling Dahlias; the Cottage Tales of Beatrix Potter; and the Robin Paige Victorian/Edwardian mysteries written with her husband, Bill Albert. Working together, the Alberts have also written over 60 young adult novels.

Susan’s most recent nonfiction work includes two memoirs: An Extraordinary Year of Ordinary Days and Together, Alone: A Memoir of Marriage and Place. Her earlier nonfiction work includes Work of Her Own, a study of women who left their careers, and Writing From Life: Telling Your Soul’s Story, a guidebook for women memoirists. That book led to the founding of the Story Circle Network in 1997. She has edited two anthologies for the Story Circle Network: With Courage and Common Sense (2004) and What Wildness Is This: Women Write about the Southwest (2007). She currently serves as editor of StoryCircleBookReviews and co-coordinator of SCN’s Sarton Women’s Book Awards.

She and Bill live in the Texas Hill Country, where she writes, gardens, and tends a varying assortment of barnyard creatures.

For more information, please visit Susan Wittig Albert’s website. You can also find her on FacebookTwitterPinterestGoogle+GoodreadsAmazon, and BookBub.

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Twitter Tags: @hfvbt @SusanWAlbert

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Review: Lilli de Jong is Story of a Courageous Mother

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Lilli de Jong by Janet Benton

Publication Date: May 16, 2017
Nan A. Talese
Hardcover & eBook; 352 Pages

Genre: Fiction/Historical/Literary

READ AN EXCERPT.

A young woman finds the most powerful love of her life when she gives birth at an institution for unwed mothers in 1883 Philadelphia. She is told she must give up her daughter to avoid lifelong poverty and shame. But she chooses to keep her.

Pregnant, left behind by her lover, and banished from her Quaker home and teaching position, Lilli de Jong enters a home for wronged women to deliver her child. She is stunned at how much her infant needs her and at how quickly their bond overtakes her heart. Mothers in her position face disabling prejudice, which is why most give up their newborns. But Lilli can’t accept such an outcome. Instead, she braves moral condemnation and financial ruin in a quest to keep herself and her baby alive.

Confiding their story to her diary as it unfolds, Lilli takes readers from an impoverished charity to a wealthy family’s home to the streets of a burgeoning American city. Drawing on rich history, Lilli de Jong is both an intimate portrait of loves lost and found and a testament to the work of mothers. “So little is permissible for a woman,” writes Lilli, “yet on her back every human climbs to adulthood.”

Review

I’ll just tell you upfront to please read this book if you love historical fiction books that make you feel as if you are living yourself in that time and place. It’s so wonderfully well-written and drew me in page by page in a very insistent manner. I could almost feel as if I were living with and among the characters. I was shocked, horrified, tear-stricken, yet I felt proud of the protagonist as well and became full of admiration by the time I reached the end.

Lilli de Jong, is the story of a fictional woman, though it could be the story of so many women. The limits put on women during this time period by society, and men, was so tragic. This book not only brings it to light, but it reminds us it was actually worse than any of us could have ever thought. It also is petrifying as we watch the state of society inching along today and the growth of some of the feelings that men (and women) have towards women, especially in accordance with their reproductive or motherhood rights and the amount of shaming that still occurs of those who get pregnant out of wedlock. Lilli de Jong is almost like a more modern telling of the Scarlet Letter, as the character of Lilli certainly was scorned  with a similar, though intangible, mark for no other reason than having a baby when not married to the father.

What I loved about this book was obviously Janet’s character development, first and foremost. For a debut novel, this was a tremendous feat. Her pacing and dialogue was spot on and moved the story along quickly. Yet, the research hours poured into this book was also clear, and as a reader, I learned so very much of the time period, the societal and government rules, as well as through her descriptions, learned of the surroundings, which allowed me to be immersed further into the story.

The story of Lilli is such an important one. Janet truly has set the bar high for herself should she endeavor to write further novels, but I also hope she does, as I can’t wait to read more of her writing. She tells a story in a very meaningful way, creating even sad subjects into delightful reading. I shed a tear to two reading this, as well as balled my fists in anger a time or two, and feel compelled to hope that this book could also be used a learning tool for many who wish to change culture and continue to go forward with progress for women’s rights, but also of course, it’s important for others to read as well so that they can understand through the emotion and trials of Lilli just how important forgiveness can be as well as helping hands. Further, I suppose, redemption as well, and that things such as this are not only the fault of the woman, but the men too. I was so tired of judgement, even more than I already am, after reading this book.

This is the story of a woman’s courage, strength, and fortitude. It’s the story of a mother, all mothers, and their undying and unwavering love for their children. Love knows know boundaries between mother and a child and a true mother will go lengths to defend and support her children. I will carry this story around inside myself for a long while, just as all women carry the stories of those who came before us. This book should go on required reading lists.

I must applaud the author for her willingness to write this book and show the errors of our ways during this time period. Her observations from research, her ability to put herself in the shoes of another (her character – but more so, any real people who dealt with this), not having experienced this herself, are absolutely commendable. I can tell she is a very empathetic, in-tune, connective type of person. Those people make the best writers and preserve for prosperity the stories of others unlike most writers can do.

I should note after reading that I felt a kinship to the character of Lilli as well, due to her heritage and Quaker origin. Though my ancestors weren’t Quaker as far as I know, great-grandparents of mine (maybe 8 or 9 x) on my mother’s side did hail from the same area the character lived in at the start of the book, Germantown, which was a quarter in Pennsylvania. Having done my own cultural and historical research on the family for personal knowledge and my own historical writing, I could feel a sense of place when reading about her. It was very interesting and I loved this added personal touch for me.

Lilli de Jong is an outstanding debut flush with detail and movement that I would highly recommend to all readers of historical fiction or those interested in women’s rights. It’s an enjoyable read with a courageous character that I hope, for humanity’s sake, all of us can see some tiny part of ourselves in.

*I was given a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my honest critique.

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Purchase Links

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | iTunes | IndieBound | Kobo | Powell’s

Praise for Lilli de Jong

“Lilli de Jong, discharged from her teaching job and banished from Quaker meetings because of her father’s selfish choice, finds comfort in the affections of her father’s apprentice, Johan. The night before he leaves to embark on a new life, she succumbs to his embrace with his promise that he will send for her. Soon thereafter, a pregnant Lilli finds herself shunned and alone, her only option a Philadelphia charity for wronged women. Knowing that she must relinquish her newborn, she is unprepared for the love that she feels for her daughter. Lilli quickly decides to fight to keep her, but in 1883 that means a life of hardship and deprivation. Telling Lilli’s story in diary form, debut author Benton has written a captivating, page-turning, and well-researched novel about the power of a mother’s love and the stark reality of the choices she must make. VERDICT A great choice for book clubs and readers of Geraldine Brooks.” – Library Journal, Starred Review

“A powerful, authentic voice for a generation of women whose struggles were erased from history—a heart-smashing debut that completely satisfies.” —Jamie Ford, New York Times bestselling author of Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet

“Beautifully written, emotionally resonant, and psychologically astute, Lilli de Jong is the story of an unwed mother in late 19th-century Philadelphia who, facing peril at every turn, will do almost anything to keep her daughter alive. Benton turns a laser eye to her subject, exposing the sanctimony, hypocrisies, and pervasive sexism that kept women confined and unequal in the Victorian era—and that still bedevil many women today. A gripping read.” —Christina Baker Kline, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Orphan Train and A Piece of the World

“A stunning ode to motherhood. Lilli de Jong reminds us that there is no formula to being a good mother. Love is the essential ingredient, and only it gives everlasting life to our legacies. A debut of robust heart that will stay with me for a very long time.” —Sarah McCoy, author of The Mapmaker’s Children

“Janet Benton’s remarkable novel Lilli de Jong is historical fiction that transcends the genre and recalls a past world so thoroughly that it breathes upon the page. From the first sentence, Lilli’s sensitive, observant, determined voice casts an irresistible spell. Benton combines rich, carefully researched detail with an imaginative boldness that is a joy to behold—though reader, be warned: Lilli’s story may break your heart.” —Valerie Martin, author of The Ghost of the Mary Celeste

“[A] gorgeously written debut . . . Lilli’s fight to craft her own life and nurture her bond with her baby is both devastatingly relevant and achingly beautiful. A stunning read about the fierceness of love triumphing over a rigid society.” —Caroline Leavitt, author of Is This Tomorrow

“The trials Lilli undertakes to keep her baby are heart-rending, and it’s a testament to Benton’s skill as a writer that the reader cannot help but bear witness. In a style reminiscent of Geraldine Brooks, she seamlessly weaves accurate historical detail as well as disturbing societal norms into the protagonist’s struggles . . . An absorbing debut from a writer to watch.” —Kirkus Reviews

“A heartrending debut . . . Benton’s exacting research fuels Lilli’s passionate, authentic voice that is ‘as strong as a hand on a drum . . . that pounds its urgent messages across a distance’ . . . Lilli’s inspiring power and touching determination are timeless.” —Publishers Weekly

“A harrowing look at the strictures of nineteenth-century American society. . . . [Lilli] is a full-fledged heroine, persevering despite seemingly insurmountable odds. . . her voice is distinctive, her fierceness driven by a mother’s love.” —Booklist

“I loved this novel. Lilli de Jong is deeply moving and richly imagined, both tragic and joyous. Janet Benton has an exceptional ability to bring history to life . . . It’s not only a compelling, beautifully crafted historical novel, however: it’s also important . . . Lilli’s life-and-death struggle is shockingly common to women even today.” —Sandra Gulland, author of the internationally bestselling Josephine B. Trilogy

“Writing with a historical eye akin to Geraldine Brooks and incisive prose matching that of Anthony Doerr, debut novelist Janet Benton magically weaves a gripping narrative of hardship, redemption, and hope while illuminating a portrait of little-known history. The result is an unforgettable and important reflection on the maternal and, ultimately, the human bond. Stunning!” —Pam Jenoff, author of The Kommandant’s Girl

“A confident debut . . . Sentence by carefully-crafted sentence, Benton ensnares the reader.” —The Millions

03_Janet Benton.jpgAuthor Janet Benton, Biography

Janet Benton’s work has appeared in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Glimmer Train, and many other publications. She has co-written and edited historical documentaries for television. She holds a B.A. in religious studies from Oberlin College and an M.F.A. in creative writing from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and for decades she has taught writing and helped individuals and organizations craft their stories. She lives in Philadelphia with her husband and daughter. Lilli de Jong is her first novel.

Visit Janet Benton’s website for more information and updates. You can also connect with her on FacebookTwitterPinterest, and Goodreads.

Giveaway

During the Blog Tour we will be giving away TWO Notebooks featuring quotes from Lilli de Jong! Notebooks are spiral-bound (4×6 inches) with 50 blank pages. To enter, please enter via the Gleam form below.

Direct Link: https://gleam.io/REPTM/lilli-de-jong

Giveaway Rules

– Giveaway ends at 11:59pm EST on July 28th. You must be 18 or older to enter.
– Giveaway is open to residents in the US only.
– Only one entry per household.
– All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspect of fraud is decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion.
– Winner has 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen.

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Addie Guest Reviews: Lemons, Bigfoot, and Kid Lit

My newly 10 year old Addie is back on the site again today as a guest reviewer with a middle reader called Lemons! This book has two children chasing bigfoot, and yet, it’s so much more. Addie was sent this book for review from Crown Books/Random House in exchange for an honest review. I’ll start off with a synopsis, Addie’s review, and my own thoughts after discussion with Addie and reading the book myself. I know you’re going to love this one!!! Cutest cover award, right??

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Lemons, Synopsis –

  • Publisher: Crown Books for Young Readers (May 2, 2017)
  • Publication Date: May 2, 2017
  • Sold by: Random House LLC

The search for Bigfoot gets juicy in this funny and touching story that’s perfect for fans of Kate DiCamillo’s Flora & Ulysses and Katherine Applegate’s Crenshaw!
 
Lemonade Liberty Witt’s mama always told her: When life gives you lemons, make lemonade. But Lem can’t possibly make lemonade out of her new life in Willow Creek, California—the Bigfoot Capital of the World—where she’s forced to live with a grandfather she’s never met after her mother passes away.

Then she meets eleven-year-old Tobin Sky, the CEO of Bigfoot Detectives Inc., who is the sole Bigfoot investigator for their small town. After he invites Lem to be his assistant for the summer, they set out on an epic adventure to capture a shot of the elusive beast on film. But along the way, Lem and Tobin end up discovering more than they ever could have imagined. And Lem realizes that maybe she can make lemonade out of her new life after all.

“I love books about feisty girls and nerdy boys. Melissa Savage’s astoundingly good debut novel is packed with humor, mystery, friendship, family secrets, and even Bigfoot! I think you’ll love it, too.” —Karen Cushman, Newbery Medalist for The Midwife’s Apprentice

Lemons

 

Addie’s Review –

Lemons was an emotional, yet funny book. Even thought there were sad parts, it kept me laughing almost the whole time. There were some very touching parts of the book, which I don’t want to spoil for other kid’s reading here, but it made it a memorable book for me. I was glad that there were some happy endings and Lem loved her grandpa. Lemonade is my favorite character, because she is a fierce and funny girl, like me.

My favorite part was about how Lemonade was in love with twinkies! I just got to try my first twinkie this year as I was reading this book. I liked the bigfoot searches that Lemonade and Tobin had. It was funny when Lemonade held out a twinkie for bigfoot and he ate it. I think it would be fun to search for a real bigfoot.

Overall, I loved reading Lemons. I recommend it to ages 9 to 12, because I just turned 10, but read in my last few days of being 9. I am a good reader so I think boys and girls a few years older than me would enjoy it too.

Mom’s Notes –

Addie was super excited to receive Lemons from Crown Books in the mail. It was definitely a review highlight for her. Why? She knows all about bigfoot and we can thank my own publicity client and friend, Hunter Shea, for that! Though he writes adult books featuring cryptids, she has always been interested in the work of authors I work with and took to learning about them. She prefers her “scary” creatures to also be cute or friendly in nature, of course, or people unmasked by those “meddling kids.” That’s where her lifelong love of Scooby-Doo also registered to her that a story with Bigfoot might either be a fun adventure or a mystery, both things she likes in the books she reads. So bigfoot intrigued her and the cover caught her eye as well as the synopsis, so she dove right in. Not only did she not want to stop reading, she wandered around reading the book inside the house, out to the car, inside the car….

I would have to say that Lemons is one of the middle readers I most wanted to read as well. I loved that the two main characters, a boy and a girl, were Bigfoot detectives. That made the book adventurous enough for a 9-11 year old. I am always happy when books feature girls and boys as friends as well and articulate that they can do things together too. The bigfoot excursion also brought humor to the book that I know Addie loved.

However, it also dove into deep themes, deep enough that some adults might not think children that age would be ready for, but I disagree. I think they are dealing with more than what we give them credit for these days. Having themes to connect to in books is a positive things for young readers. Life is no longer sugar coated. I asked Addie about the themes in the book even before I read it myself. She didn’t want to give spoilers in her review, but we discussed what some of them were and how they made her feel. Though the death of a parent or grandparent hasn’t happened to her, she could understand it enough and I believe reading these things are what helps her have empathy for others. It’s a great book to discuss with your kids for this reason.

Once I read it myself, I talked to her again. I asked her if she understood the time period of the book or if it impacted her reading, to which she told me she just felt like it was modern day. For readers of this review who don’t know, it was set in the early 70s during the Bigfoot craze and when soldiers were coming home from the Vietnam war. The book dealt with a parent not only being missing from war but also probably PTSD issues. However, for Addie, she knows what PTSD is like as she has seen someone struggle with it. She understands in our society today about people coming home, and sometimes not coming home, from war. She also knows that the Bigfoot hunting craze is back. This means that to her, she still connected so it didn’t hinder her reading being set in another time period. Maybe she didn’t get every reference to type of car or music or other tidbits to create setting, but Addie, and probably every other 10 year old, isn’t going to be bothered by that either. It was the emotion of the story, the characters, and the plot that propelled her reading. And I don’t think it was supposed to be a history lesson. Once we talked about it and I told her about the 70s, she was intrigued as well to learn more. This is a time period not often written about in literature, historical fiction, and for sure not in children’s historical fiction, so I thought it was a great setting myself.

I think the themes this book featured were phenomenal in terms of berevement and hope and gave just enough that a kid could connect and absorb, but also race through pages for the sheer fun. I think this is a book to remain on the shelf and will be a definite re-read. Lemons is book I feel will stay with her as she grows older. I was born in 1974 myself, so showing my age, but I remember how Robert Cormier’s I am the Cheese stuck with me all these years due to its deep psychological themes. I recently gifted this book to my 13 year old. Lemons is a tale for a new generation written to touch children of today who are growing up so different from us, and yet, so many themes remains the same. When I saw the below paragraph on Melissa’s biography page on her website, it made me smile and I really love the heart she has put into her work

“Melissa is a writer and a child and family therapist. She has worked with families struggling with issues of abuse, trauma and loss/bereavement. She believes that expressing oneself through writing can be a very healing process when struggling with difficulties in life.  In addition it can be a vehicle in which to honor, celebrate and continue to share the spirits of the special people who have left us too soon.”

I am REALLY looking forward to seeing more books from Melissa Savage! HIGHLY RECOMMEND for summer reading and for the classroom as well.

Lemons

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Praise for Lemons

“An enjoyable and welcome exploration of sorrow, healing, and friendship.” —School Library Journal

“An enjoyable and comforting middle-grade handbook on navigating new experiences and the heartache of losing loved ones early in life.” —Kirkus Reviews

“Savage injects enough humor, mystery, and lively interaction among the characters to give this two-hanky debut a buoyant tone.” —Booklist

Melissa Savage“[A]pt and accessible for young readers.” —The Bulletin   

Melissa Savage, Biography –

Melissa D. Savage is a writer and a child and family therapist.

Her desire to write purposeful, issue-driven books for young people, coupled with her interest in cryptozoology and the mystery of Bigfoot, inspired her to write Lemons.

Melissa lives in Minneapolis. You can follow her on Twitter at @melissadsavage, and visit her at melissadsavage.com.

Addie, Guest Reviewer –

addieAddie is newly 10 years old and enjoys reading, writing, singing, dancing, art, baking, laughing, sports, gardening, animals, mysteries, and just about anything else – yep she has a lot of interests, especially when they’re fun.

However, she does take her school work seriously, and also strives for great grades. She really into reading stories of all kinds and interviewing authors for a behind-the-scenes look. She’s very happy to review books and wants to start her own blog soon.

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