Interview: Gwendolyn Kiste and I discuss The Rust Maidens, Cleveland, the ’80s, Body Horror, and Fairy Tales. #LOHF

Today I welcome Bram Stoker nominated Gwendolyn Kiste to talk about her new novel The Rust Maidens and our connection of place, Cleveland! Hi Gwendolyn, welcome to Oh, for the Hook of a Book! I’m so glad you’ve finally arrived (and back in your original home of Ohio!) and could take a few minutes to chat with me. Obviously, it’s winter now, so let’s step in to my home and library and I’ll pour us some coffee, do you like cream and sugar like me, or how shall you take yours?

Let me know while I go and take the homemade mint chocolate brownies from the oven. It’s a recipe passed around especially for writers, of course!

Gwendolyn: Thank you so much for having me, Erin! Homemade brownies sound like a perfect way to start an interview! As for coffee, I always take mine plain, thank you!

coffee and brownies

Erin: Black it is! Let’s snuggle into my big comfy chairs, relax, and talk about your newest book, your first novel, which released recently from Trepidatio Publishing, called The Rust Maidens! Congratulations on becoming a novelist! For those not in the know, I’m going to post the synopsis quick right here!

The Rust Maidens Cover Final

The Rust Maidens –

Something’s happening to the girls on Denton Street.

It’s the summer of 1980 in Cleveland, Ohio, and Phoebe Shaw and her best friend Jacqueline have just graduated high school, only to confront an ugly, uncertain future. Across the city, abandoned factories populate the skyline; meanwhile at the shore, one strong spark, and the Cuyahoga River might catch fire. But none of that compares to what’s happening in their own west side neighborhood. The girls Phoebe and Jacqueline have grown up with are changing. It starts with footprints of dark water on the sidewalk. Then, one by one, the girls’ bodies wither away, their fingernails turning to broken glass, and their bones exposed like corroded metal beneath their flesh.

As rumors spread about the grotesque transformations, soon everyone from nosy tourists to clinic doctors and government men start arriving on Denton Street, eager to catch sight of “the Rust Maidens” in metamorphosis. But even with all the onlookers, nobody can explain what’s happening or why—except perhaps the Rust Maidens themselves. Whispering in secret, they know more than they’re telling, and Phoebe realizes her former friends are quietly preparing for something that will tear their neighborhood apart.

Alternating between past and present, Phoebe struggles to unravel the mystery of the Rust Maidens—and her own unwitting role in the transformations—before she loses everything she’s held dear: her home, her best friend, and even perhaps her own body.

I’m intrigued by you and your fabulous writing in any regard, but I was at first drawn in to wanting to read and discuss The Rust Maidens since it takes place near where I live, Cleveland, in 1980. I believe you are originally from Northern Ohio as well, so tell us about the novel and what about this location inspired your novel?

Gwendolyn: I love Ohio. Though I live in Pennsylvania now, I always say that I’m an Ohio girl at heart. It’s such a misunderstood state in some ways. There are people who think of it only as a Rust Belt state, others who consider it all cornfields, and some who think that it’s just boring, wide open spaces. It’s funny, because to varying degrees, all of those things are indeed true, but there’s more to Ohio than just those descriptions. In its own way, Ohio is a kind of misfit, and as a perennial misfit myself, I feel like it’s a place where I’ll always belong.  

Erin: How much of the Cleveland landscape is involved in it, or is it just a place and time?

Gwendolyn: The city of Cleveland is absolutely crucial to this particular story. It’s a character of its own, in a way. There’s such a rich and strange history of the city. Everything from Eliot Ness and Bessie, the Lake Monster, to the river catching on fire and the Rust Belt decay are in the DNA of Cleveland, lurking somewhere in there. As for the landscape itself, the book includes the steel mills, the lake, and several other landmarks that people from the area will recognize.

cleveland river

Photo by Erin Al-Mehairi, summer 2018. View of Cuyahoga River from the park at Settler’s Landing. The river flows out into Lake Erie.

Erin: Why the year 1980? Does it have any significance? How much of this time period in the area did you have to research to make a period piece authentic?

Gwendolyn: Something I’ve often observed is that the first year in a new decade is always something of a liminal time. The decade hasn’t had a chance to really develop yet, which means that first year tends to look and feel a lot like the years that came immediately before. I initially noticed this while watching the show, Mad Men. The series starts in 1960, which at that point still feels very much like the 1950s. It’s not until the series moves forward several years that the events and trends we normally associate with the 1960s start coming into play. In this way, the first year in a decade seems to have a kind of identity crisis, and since identity as well as being stuck in between are so integral to the novel, that seemed like an ideal time to base the novel.

I had also just come off researching Cleveland in the late 1970s and early 1980s for my story, “Songs to Help You Cope When Your Mom Won’t Stop Haunting You and Your Friends.” I originally wanted to set that story in the late 1970s, but I also wanted to incorporate Pink Floyd’s “Mother” into the story because it reflected so much of what the main character was going through. That song, however, didn’t come out until late 1979, and since my story didn’t start until January, the earliest it could be set was in 1980. Hence, another reason for that year.

After doing all the research for that story, I didn’t want to let go of Cleveland in that era yet. That was when I decided to combine that time and place with another idea I’d long had for a novel about girls in some kind of strange metamorphosis. Once I hit on the idea of setting it in Cleveland, the concept came together very quickly, and I pitched it to Jess Landry at Trepidatio. Then we were off from there!  

Erin: What was the most significant piece of history you found about the Cleveland-area while researching? What about the most shocking? Without spoilers, did either of them make it into your novel?

Gwendolyn: One fascinating piece of history I found was that there was a series of storms that occurred the summer of 1980 when the novel takes place, including something that was called the More Trees Down Derecho. The name was coined because people said if the storms continued that there would be no more trees left to come down. And yes, perhaps that storm does indeed make it into the novel at one point.

Erin: Of course, you and I know we live(d) in the rust belt, and why. But can you give readers a better understand of it and how it affected your novel? How do you feel the rust belt has changed, and changed people, from 1980 to now?

Gwendolyn: It’s interesting, because I think in some ways, it’s changed, and in some ways, it’s exactly the same. I would still say that the city has never entirely recovered economically. But no matter what, somehow, Cleveland endures. It’s that journey through those past struggles into today that really define Cleveland as I see it and also the version of the city that appears in the novel. It’s still struggling but always fighting. That’s a story unto itself, and one that informed how it plays a part in The Rust Maidens.

Erin: Were any of your characters personalities affected by their environment(s)? Without spoilers, why and how?

 

Gwendolyn: The environment probably affects the characters in this novel more than anything else I’ve ever written. I always try to interweave the setting as much as possible in my work, but with The Rust Maidens, 1980s Cleveland is as much a character as the girls themselves. The decay and hopelessness that have permeated many areas of Ohio impact all the characters in the book, and that effect is ultimately reflected in the metamorphosis that serves as the centerpiece of the story.

Erin: I’m sure you chose the title, as per the summary for the book, since the main characters are trying to figure out why other girls they know are transforming into actual metal and glass. Why does body horror interest you? What was the compelling factor or theme that you might be trying to convey in this novel (you have a degree in psychology, so I am assuming you’ve planted this someone in the book!) in relation to that transformation?

Gwendolyn: Body horror works so well with themes of identity and belonging, which are topics I constantly explore in my fiction. In particular, when you’re young, you’re still trying to figure out who you are, and to have your own body turn against you at that point as happens in The Rust Maidens would only make that exploration of identity that much more horrifying. In this way, body horror becomes the physical manifestation of the changes we all go through at some point, only magnified through the horror genre’s lens.

The Rust Maidens Cover Final

Erin: I read somewhere you said that when approached about Daniele Serra doing your cover art for your book you agreed because you felt he could most capture the industrial feel your book included while also staying true to your whimsical side. In my opinion, he was pretty much spot on. You’ve had covers as very bright, black and white, and now muted. Do you feel that your writing style has changed as well? How has fairytale, folklore, and horror of Pretty Marys, and the emotional, heart-wrenching stories in And Her Smile Will Untether the Universe, blended together or impacted The Rust Maidens?

Gwendolyn: When Jess Landry suggested Daniele Serra for the cover art, I was already familiar with his work, but of course, I looked again at his portfolio, and yes, I very much felt that his style has this incredible balance between the ephemeral and the whimsical along with a very strong edge that seemed like a perfect blend for the industrial landscape of Cleveland. The final cover is just so beautiful. I love it so much, and couldn’t imagine anything else on the cover of my first novel.  

As for my writing style, I do feel like each of the covers matches the tone of the book. There is the stark black and white of the collection, which mirrors its emotional arcs that are extreme at times. Pretty Marys has the lightest, most humorous tone, and the bright cover matches that, while also hinting at the darkness of the book too. Finally, the melancholy feel of The Rust Maidens is absolutely reflected in the muted colors of Daniele’s cover. I’ve said it elsewhere before, but I feel like one very fortunate author to have book covers that so perfectly encapsulate my work. It’s wonderful to be able to say that.

Erin: How does the content of The Rust Maidens differ from your debut collection and your novella? What makes it unique? For return readers, what does it offer that identifies it as another Kiste masterpiece?

Gwendolyn: Wow, Kiste masterpiece is putting a lot of pressure on it! Hopefully, that’s how at least a few readers will describe it, but we shall see!

So much of my work deals with coming of age as well as outsiders fighting to find a place in the world. Those elements are absolutely present in The Rust Maidens, so in that way, returning readers will be able to see the connection to my previous work. As for what makes it unique, I feel like I’ve put my own past and my blue collar and Ohio roots at the forefront in this story more than before. It’s truly so personal to me, and it’s even a little more on the melancholy side than much of my other work. So while it draws from my previous fiction, it’s certainly treading some new ground at the same time.  

Erin: Do you cross and flow between genres and sub-genres fairly easily? Do you like to describe yourself as a horror, fantasy, or literary author or just write what you feel and that works for the story? Maybe you don’t like labels at all?

Gwendolyn: I would call myself primarily a horror and dark fantasy author. Not all of my work falls strictly within the confines of horror, but almost all of my work, especially recently, could fall under the horror and dark fantasy labels, broadly defined. Those are the genres that feel most like home to me. That being said, I would love to see genre labels become something of the past, or at least that fiction isn’t so strictly relegated to one category or another. Many of my favorite stories as a reader don’t fall easily into any one genre, so I think there’s a lot to be said for stories being allowed to develop organically and not being shoehorned into something they’re not.

Erin: I first met you online when we shared a Table of Contents in the anthology Hardened Hearts from Unnerving. You created one of the most interesting pieces in the book, about someone who falls in love with a creature. I did a Rumpelstiltskin-esque piece murder mystery that took place in an orchard. Upon reading more of your work outside of Hardened Hearts though, I realized you must live and breathe fairy tales and legends as much as I do! How has your love of them worked into your other stories—whether in your novella, your short story collection, or any published standalone stories?

Gwendolyn: Fairy tales are interwoven throughout so much of my work. I’ve done a Snow White retelling with “All the Red Apples Have Withered to Gray.” My novella, Pretty Marys All in a Row, is all about the Marys of folklore: Resurrection Mary, Bloody Mary, Mari Lwyd, Mary Mack, and Mistress Mary Quite Contrary. Elsewhere in my fiction, I’ve played with the stories of Beauty and the Beast, Little Red Riding Hood, Rapunzel, The Little Mermaid, and Baba Yaga as well. To be honest, I’m not sure I’ve met too many fairy tales that don’t inspire me in some way! Because they’re so familiar from the get-go, you can use the reader’s preexisting knowledge of the tale and jump right into the heart of your story. Exposition can be the bane of writers, and in this way, crafting fairy tale retellings helps to bypass some of those problems. Plus, many of the stories we’ve grown up with were told in such ways as to emphasize a dubious moral. Reworking those ideas can feel at once familiar as well as very liberating.     

Pretty-Marys-All-in-a-Row

Erin: Are there fairytales you’ve thought of writing as a re-telling in the future?

Gwendolyn: I would absolutely love to do something with the story of Bluebeard. I’ve been kicking around an idea for over a year of reworking that one, but I haven’t quite been able to click all the pieces into place yet. Hopefully something on that front will happen in the coming months, because it seems like it could be rife with possibilities.

Erin: I know you’ve listed some of my own writing inspirations such as Shirley Jackson, Kate Chopin, Sylvia Plath, and Ray Bradbury. How and why do you feel drawn to these authors (or any others you can list below if you wish) and how have they helped define your work or make you a better writer?

Gwendolyn: All of those authors you mentioned are so unafraid to put themselves and their raw emotions about life out there for the world to see. What’s also so captivating is how they each do it in radically different ways. Shirley Jackson explores the dark underbelly of a seemingly proper world, and she never flinches away from that. Kate Chopin pushed back against the boundaries of a very rigid society to interrogate what it means to be a woman and an outcast in a world that tells you that you don’t belong. Sylvia Plath was an emotional tour-de-force, but one that no matter how urgent and intense her writing became, she always seemed entirely in control of her razor-sharp prose and poetry. Ray Bradbury was never afraid to talk about what it’s like to be a kid and what it’s like to be afraid. He also never seemed to worry about becoming too sentimental or nostalgic; he allowed his own memories and love of childhood, carnivals, space, and coming-of-age to completely shine through in his work.

So I suppose with all that in mind, these authors inspire me to be braver in my work and to take chances by putting myself completely on the page every time I write. They show me that you can’t hold back, not if you want to create something that really affects people. Perhaps it will even be too much for some readers. That’s okay. It’s better to go all in than to write something that maybe doesn’t even make you feel something. When it comes to art, don’t play it safe. That’s one of the most valuable lessons I’ve learned from the writers I love.

Kiste (1).jpeg

Erin: One of my other main interests is also the work of F. Scott Fitzgerald, as you’ve also mentioned, as well as loving the Roaring Twenties. Have I told you how much I like you yet today? 😊 Are you considering writing a period piece in this vein and era? A collection of stories? And the most important question, would you every consider a collaboration? *wink*

Gwendolyn: I would absolutely love to write a story set in the 1920s; that would be too fabulous (or should I say, that would be the bee’s knees!). I love historical fiction that’s set in the twentieth century, in part because it feels modern enough to be accessible but old enough that it truly is part of our history at this point. I’ve already written a turn-of-the-century collaborative novella with Emily B. Cataneo called “In Her Flightless Wings, a Fire” (editor’s note: In Chiral Mad 4 anthology), and I also wrote a Dust Bowl vampire story way back in 2014 that appeared in History and Horror, Oh My! That one was a lot of fun to research and write, though I haven’t reread that story in years now. It was only my third published story, but it was one I was very proud of having pulled off. As for collaboration, I’ve already done one as mentioned above, so I certainly think lightening could strike twice with that! A definite possibility! 😊


Erin: Last year you published your novella, Pretty Marys All in a Row, AND your collection, And Her Smile Will Untether the Universe, which went on to garner a Bram Stoker nomination in Superior Achievement in a Fiction Collection. First of all, how much did that help to validate your writing for you? Secondly, how hard was it to wait after that exhilaration for your novel, The Rust Maidens, to come out since it was almost a year later? Did you feel excited or added pressure?

Gwendolyn: I do have to say that 2017 was a very exciting year for my writing. To have two books come out in the same year and to have those be my very first books really was an amazing experience. The Stoker nomination just blew me away. It still feels like a dream that it even happened. I definitely had a great time with the releases of both And Her Smile Will Untether the Universe and Pretty Marys All in a Row.

And Her Smile

That being said, it was nice to have almost a full year before the release of The Rust Maidens. It gave me some room to keep promoting the first two books and also to take a bit of a breather from the constant promotion cycle. I always worry that if an author releases too many titles too quickly, readers will just burn out. Even one book a year could be a lot. Releasing three books in about a year and a half is certainly intense. Still, it has been so exciting to see The Rust Maidens make its way into the world. A first novel is a truly wonderful and unique experience for an author. It’s great to be experiencing that right now. I’m trying to savor it, because I know it will all be over so fast.

Erin: What have you felt about the overall positive early response to The Rust Maidens (besides of course feeling wonderful). For instance, are they hitting the notes of what you wanted to convey via The Rust Maidens? Why and how do you feel your writing is impacting others besides your beautiful prose? Any themes people are particularly drawn to in this novel and/or in your other work?

Gwendolyn: I feel so very fortunate that the early response has been so positive. No matter how much you toil over a story, you never know what’s going to happen when you set it loose on the world.

Though it’s probably not super surprising for a writer to say this, The Rust Maidens is a very personal book for me, and I’d been so close to it for so long that by the end of the process, I was afraid that it had become too personal. That maybe I would be the only one that would be able to understand what I was trying to accomplish with the story. It’s been a very good feeling to see that readers have really connected to the novel.

A theme that I often come back to is coming of age as well as body horror. This novel combines both as we follow these girls who are undergoing this profound metamorphosis. Also, while it’s not there quite as much as in my other work, there is something of a fairy tale element in the novel. It’s more of a Gothic kind of fairy tale, but there is this rather mythic quality that I worked to interweave throughout the book, so I feel like that will be familiar to those who have read my other stories.

Erin: The Rust Maidens is also essentially a coming of age story, as you noted. Growing into a young adult in the 1980s is certainly different than now. What lessons do you think people in the 80s learned that those of us coming into our twenties in the 90s or 2000s haven’t and then what did we learn that those now aren’t?

Gwendolyn: One thing that always strikes me as a huge generational gap is technology. While obviously every generation can say that to some extent, with the internet, it’s become a very big shift. Those growing up in the 1980s wouldn’t have had the access to immediate knowledge and virtual connection with one another like we have now. That being said, today, we’re more likely to take that instant gratification for granted. We also often have more trouble today connecting in real-life with one another because we’ve become so accustomed to an online world, which can offer the illusion of social support but sometimes doesn’t always pan out the way we hope.  

postcard cleveland

’80s Postcard!

Erin: Do you like to read coming of age novels yourself? Any favorites? Any of them inspire you to try your hand at writing yours?

Gwendolyn: It’s been over twenty years now, but when I was much younger, I remember reading Stephen King’s The Body after seeing Stand by Me, the film adaptation of the story. I loved both versions so much, and there was something so haunting about them that it made me feel like adolescence might be somewhat ghostly and strange unto itself. That’s probably the first coming-of-age book I recall reading, but it’s certainly not the last. I also adore Something Wicked This Way Comes. Ray Bradbury can make coming of age look so haunted and enchanting as well.  

something wicked

Erin: So back to discovering how Cleveland fit in your novel…it feels different than any other city, at least to me. What are some only Cleveland-scene things you put into your novel?

Gwendolyn: I feel like the main thing about Cleveland that appears in the novel is the landscape. The lake, the river, the skyline with the former steel flame. I wanted the book to have a feel of a working class Ohio neighborhood, so some of the details are more general to any factory town in the Rust Belt. Of course, though, Lake Erie is definitely front and center. My own alma mater, Case Western Reserve, also gets a shout-out in the novel. There are certainly little details here and there that firmly place it in Cleveland, but at the same time, I hope that it’s accessible to those who have never been to the Midwest.  

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Photo by Erin Al-Mehairi, summer 2018 / Cleveland Skyline Against Lake Erie near Edgewater Beach

Erin: You live near Pittsburgh now, on an abandoned horse farm, which sounds like a story within itself, but what do you miss about home? What are some of your own personal favorite things about Cleveland and the surrounding areas?

Gwendolyn: Honestly, I just love Ohio in general. I adore the city skylines, the abandoned landscapes, the lakes, the rivers. Heck, I don’t even mind the endless cornfields. It’s certainly a place I will always consider home. Cleveland is wonderful specifically for how haunted it feels. The Flats are strange and fabulous, and in my teens and twenties, I saw so many great bands there. There’s Tower City downtown, which always seemed so nostalgic to me, just like the shopping spots you’d see in retro Christmas cards and ads. And since I went to Case Western, that holds a special place in my heart too.

tower city aug 2018

Photo by Erin Al-Mehairi. View of Tower City, lit up in Red, White, and Blue for Cleveland Indians that night. I was there for Shakespeare Festival!

 

Erin: The question everyone asks, but I really want to know. WHAT’S NEXT? What are you working on now or are looking forward to working on?

Gwendolyn: I’m finishing up some short fiction right now, and then I’ll be working for a bit on a new novelette. After that, I’ll be looking once again to outlining and drafting a new novel. I don’t want to discuss too many specifics, since I’m so superstitious about talking about a project before it’s fully formed, but I’m super excited about the new story ideas I’m working on. So stay tuned, I guess!

Erin: I really should close this interview before night falls. Thanks very much for patiently answering all my questions and congratulations on all your success! We have more to talk about another time, so I hope you’ll come back to the site. Also, I can’t wait to finally get to meet up for real coffee with you in the coming year!  😊

Gwendolyn: Thank you so much for having me, Erin! This has been so much fun talking with you!

Gwendolyn Kiste, Biography –

Gwendolyn Kiste HeadshotGwendolyn Kiste is the author of the Bram Stoker Award-nominated collection, And Her Smile Will Untether the Universe, the dark fantasy novella, Pretty Marys All in a Row, and her debut horror novel, The Rust Maidens. Her short fiction has appeared in Nightmare Magazine, Shimmer, Black Static, Daily Science Fiction, Interzone, and LampLight, among other publications. A native of Ohio, she resides on an abandoned horse farm outside of Pittsburgh with her husband, two cats, and not nearly enough ghosts. You can find her online at gwendolynkiste.com.

Find Her on Social Media –

facebook.com/gwendolynkiste

twitter.com/gwendolynkiste

The Rust Maidens, Synopsis –

The Rust Maidens Cover FinalSomething’s happening to the girls on Denton Street.

It’s the summer of 1980 in Cleveland, Ohio, and Phoebe Shaw and her best friend Jacqueline have just graduated high school, only to confront an ugly, uncertain future. Across the city, abandoned factories populate the skyline; meanwhile at the shore, one strong spark, and the Cuyahoga River might catch fire. But none of that compares to what’s happening in their own west side neighborhood. The girls Phoebe and Jacqueline have grown up with are changing. It starts with footprints of dark water on the sidewalk. Then, one by one, the girls’ bodies wither away, their fingernails turning to broken glass, and their bones exposed like corroded metal beneath their flesh.

As rumors spread about the grotesque transformations, soon everyone from nosy tourists to clinic doctors and government men start arriving on Denton Street, eager to catch sight of “the Rust Maidens” in metamorphosis. But even with all the onlookers, nobody can explain what’s happening or why—except perhaps the Rust Maidens themselves. Whispering in secret, they know more than they’re telling, and Phoebe realizes her former friends are quietly preparing for something that will tear their neighborhood apart.

Alternating between past and present, Phoebe struggles to unravel the mystery of the Rust Maidens—and her own unwitting role in the transformations—before she loses everything she’s held dear: her home, her best friend, and even perhaps her own body.

Find it –

GoodReads
Amazon
Barnes and Noble 

Or ask your local independent bookstore to order it for you!

*BE SURE TO STOP BY THE HORROR TREE site for a follow-up interview I had with Gwendolyn, but this time focus more on the craft of writing since The Horror Tree is an author’s resource website!*

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Books (and Movies) I’m Watching for Christmas Reading Challenge/Myself

Christmas Reading and Viewing List is Here! PROGRESS UPDATE 01/17/19 

How is it December 16th already? Wasn’t I just saying how November flew? I planned to cut down on my work load and try to relax and rejuvenate for December. I was sure I was headed toward that goal. For once, I was determined to do the Christmas Reading Challenge that my friend Michelle, at The True Book Addict, hosts every year! Alas, some work came in, we needed the money, and so that, coupled with a busy early December of long after school and weekend choir practices and concerts  and activities for my two girls, and some other life issues, has made the first half of December move like a flash. No reading on my Christmas books yet, but we have watched a few Hallmark movies (my girls love them). However, I am still determined, I will just make the most of the second two weeks of December instead, which is perfectly made for some self-care time. Also, if you’d like to sign-up, please join us anytime, just go to the link above.

xmas spirit challenge

That said, I had already pulled out some of my personal Christmas books from my shelves to peruse and also I put on hold a slew for myself, and me and the girls, from one of our local libraries and they’ve all come in – the last one yesterday. So I guess it’s better late than never right? I’m going to share my list of “proposed reads” for me and the girls. Though I am sure the girls will get theirs done, I’ll have to let you know how many I actually make it through.

The good news for me is that these last two weeks will hopefully truly be some down time for reading and watching movies with my family as we celebrate the holidays. Other good news for me, but maybe not for reading, is that after over two months of not seeing my son (he’s eight hours away in college in D.C.) I finally get to road trip to pick him up on Dec.. 21! That could mean passenger time reading, unless I fall asleep which I am known to do, but it also will mean a lot of my free time will be spent with him too.

(*Note: To those who I am reading and reviewing for, my Christmas reading has nothing to do with your books. This is for pleasure and I often read more than one book at a time. I will certainly get to yours as soon as I can if not over the holidays, then in the first of January. Though I appreciate and am excited to read your books, and have a lot of catching up to do from a busy work year, I earned this down time to rejuvenate my mind, soul, and spend with my kiddos.*)

I’ll just provide my proposed list of book here and I’ll update later any completed (Christmas only) reads. I may only get to one of them (I hope more) – but I know the girls will have theirs read! I’ll also update what movies we watched! Stay tuned!

Merry Bookish Christmas!

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Christmas Read List

Progress Update 01/17/19 – We didn’t get to all of these on our lists, but the ones we did will have asterisks (*) and comments beside them!

The books are pictured above, minus those the girls are reading. Some I checked out from the library and some I own (and some I own because I bought at one of the library book sales haha!). Note I have an obsession with Charles Dickens and The Christmas Carol (which isn’t pictured here but will be read!).

*Mr. Dickens and His Carol by Samantha Silva – This is one of my most anticipated reads of the season and if I finish any I want it to be this one!* (Update: This was a great fun historical fiction read for the holidays or anytime really I suppose.)

Doctor Zhivago by Boris Pasternak – Probably doesn’t seem like normal Christmas reading fare, but it takes place in winter during Christmastime in Russia. I’ve always wanted to read it.

Christmas Days: 12 Stories and 12 Feasts for 12 Days by Jeanette Winterson – I read one of these stories in here and loved it and I can’t wait to read the rest. Maybe one for each of the twelve days!

The Spy Who Came for Christmas by David Morrell – I love David’s writing. It’s so much fun that he turned a spy classic into a fun holiday novel.

Home in Time for Christmas by Heather Graham – Heather always brings either a bit of romance to the holidays or a bit to thrill or scare you, either way she’s one of the best!

Hercule Poirot’s Christmas by Agatha Christie – What more can I say, I love her books! There is nothing better than reading her by candlelight especially if Poirot is on the case!

Seven Days of Us by Francesca Hornak – This was a new book I found sounded light and interesting about a family over the holidays.

The Man Who Invented Christmas: How Charles Dickens’s Christmas Carol Rescued his Career and Revived Our Holiday Spirits by Les Standiford – Enough said? I love Dickens and The Christmas Carol. Will probably read the original story too. I bet Nassem will read this one when he gets home.

12 Days at Bleakly Manor: Once Upon a Dickens Christmas Book One by Michelle Griep – I love the cover on this one. Looks pretty good – 1850s Manor Home! Also a short read.

Inventing Scrooge: The Incredible True Story Behind Dickens’ Legendary
‘A Christmas Carol’
by Carlo Devito

A Christmas Party by Georgette Heyer – I like some of her books and thought this looked like a good Christmas escape with its mystery and humor.

St. Nicholas Anthology, edited by Henry Steele Commager – I own this and it’s one of my important Christmas book keepsakes! It contains the best of St. Nicholas, a magazine for boys and girls published at the turn of the century. Included stories, poems, and original illustrations. (This is pictured as the last book in the stack)

The Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols – As celebrated on Christmas Eve in the Chapel of King’s College Cambridge in text form (90 year old service adapted after WWI and broadcast on BBC) with beautiful illustrations and photographs. I love this – it’s very interesting but I haven’t gotten through all of it yet. It has a companion CD of the carols, hymns, and lessons. (Of note, I got this at our used book store, Ashland Books.)

*Yes, Virginia! – It’s tradition that the kids and I read this every year as we trim our tree with our Yes, Virginia ornaments we’ve collected at Macy’s over the years. We love this bit of nostalgia and even as the girls are 15 and 11 now, they still ask to watch the movie and read the picture book. I love this. I hope that one day they continue on her tradition with their children! (Update: The kids and I read this and watched the movie together as always. A delight for us!)

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens – Simply my favorite book of the season. A classic! As well as the movies – George C. Scott, Patrick Stewart, and Muppet Versions as my favorites.

Emma’s Reads (Age 15) –

*Pride and Prejudice and Mistletoe by Melissa de la Cruz – Emma completed this in one night after she got it from the library! I’ll have her write up a little review. (Update: Emma very much enjoyed this one and read it in one night!)

*My True Love Gave to Me: Twelve Holiday Stories, Stephanie Perkins Editor – She was excited for this one. She read the summer version earlier this year. (Update: Emma finished this one too and really enjoyed the stories – highly recommended!)

*What Light by Jay Asher (Update: Emma has read this one twice. She loves it and he’s one author that’s a must-read for her)

Addie’s Reads (Age 11) –

When Santa Fell to Earth by Cornelia Funke

Movies!

A movie and show list to come later of what we’ll watch or have watched, with traditional favorites included:

*The Great British Baking Show Holiday Edition (Update: We so enjoyed!!)
George Balantine’s The Nutcracker
*The Man Who Invented Christmas
(Update: I watched with Nassem while he was home and we adored this movie. We love anything Dickens and this one didn’t disappoint!)
Emmett Otter’s Jug Band Christmas

*Peanuts Christmas (Update: Love love this tradition so of course we watched!)
Rise of the Guardians
*Muppet Christmas Carol (Update: So busy at Christmas we watched afterwards. We had to rent it and so we did so a few days before taking my son back to college as a family movie. We left always as we do with a tear and singing the songs!)
A Christmas Carol
*How the Grinch Stole Christmas (Update: Another annual must watch we love – never gets old, does it? This was the cartoon version – the original)
*Rudolph, Frosty,
etc. (Update: We watched Rudolph and as a tradition, Jack Frost. I don’t know why all of us love that one best, but we do. No matter our age. The songs are still stuck in our head. Beautiful story.)

And maybe without the kids, Krampus!

Already Watched:

The Princess Switch on Netflix. The girls and I loved it!
Lots of The Great Christmas Light Fight. We love lights!

I’ll keep updating here on this page, and might have some other Christmas posts, so check back in! DO YOU HAVE ANY FAVORITE CHRISTMAS BOOKS OR FILMS? NEW ONES TO TRY? OR ANY BOOKS YOU WILL READ ON A RELAXING DAY TO WIND DOWN THE YEAR? Let me know in the comments!

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In the meantime, check out these review from past years of holiday titles!

Don’t Call Me Christina Kringle by Chris Grabenstein 

Christmas Wrap-up from 2016 Reviewing Christmas Bells by Jennifer Chaiverini, The Further Adventures of Ebenezer Scrooge, The Big Book of Christmas Mysteries, and a SLEW of children’s picture books as my kids and I read one a day!

Expanded Review of Further Adventures of Ebenezer Scrooge

 

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Filed under Book Announcements, Feature Articles, New Books I've Found, Other blogs, Read-a-Thons, stanza from my life

Review: All Eyes on Alexandra – A Beautiful Picture Book on Crane Migration

Review: All Eyes on Alexandra –

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Anna Levine, the author of the picture book All Eyes on Alexandra, graciously sent me and my daughters a print review copy of her book! First of all, the illustrations by Chiara Pasqualotto are gorgeous. I was happy to agree to review this title because the girls and I love birds so much, especially the herons and gulls that we watch when we go up and spend time at the lake during the summer. When it came in the mail, and we opened it up to look through it, the images immediately captivated us. In this bleak winter we are having, it brightened our days and made us think of sun and nature again.

My 15-year-old hopes to be a marine biologist of some sort, so the book particularly interested her in this regard, besides her love of birds and animals. It was so very interesting for her, and my 11-year-old, to learn about the migration of birds especially in another area of the world. I never knew myself that Israel was a bird’s holiday point! Did you know 500 million birds fly over Israel each year on the way to Africa? I feel it’s not only a lovely picture book to look at and read to children but a wonderful teacher’s resource whether the teacher is parent or in the classroom. It’s a definite “must buy” for libraries! It teaches about migration, weather, locations, and so much more.

Past this scientific value of course, there is the character of Alexandra, who is a crane. She is brave, bold, and adventurous, but as her family sees it, one to not always follow directions. Through Alexandra’s eyes we see the path of the birds, but also the love of their family and how they complete their journey together. However, it also teaches that though sometimes a parent or loved one might be scared of a child “flexing their wings” on their own (almost made me cry since I had let my own son do that this year moving eight hours away to go to college in Washington D.C.), you have to let them try. Alexandra succeeded far beyond their hopes!

I loved how the book showed you through the many locations and stages the bird fly in formation through, from cities to past lighthouses, some skylines and some beautiful, serene natural beauty. I loved seeing a little of Israel through the author and the illustrator’s eyes as well, without any political or religious undertones so that it can be enjoyed by everyone of all cultures.

Both of my girls loved this with comments of “Ooooo so pretty” and “Awwww so cute” and “Very cool!” Though intended for ages 4-7, anyone who appreciates art, birds, books, or beauty will love it for a keepsake. And moms of children in this age range will certainly get a lot of reading out of it.

We can always keep an eye on Alexandra with her red scarf and follow her lead. We love to travel through books at our house and this excursion with the cranes was a wonderful trip during our snowy afternoon, but we will enjoy reading it anytime of year! Highly recommended!

Come back again next week when Anna has a guest article on Oh, for the Hook of a Book! about things you can do with your children to learn about other cultures!

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About All Eyes on Alexandra –

 In All Eyes on Alexandra, young Alexandra Crane is terrible at following her family in their flying Vee. She can’t help it that the world is so full of interesting distracting sights! When it’s time for the Cranes to migrate to Israel’s Hula Valley for the winter, Alexandra is excited but her family is worried. Will Alexandra stay with the group, and what happens if a dangerous situation should arise? Might Alexandra—and the rest of the flock—discover that a bad follower can sometimes make a great leader?

Based on the true story of Israel’s annual crane migration.

Print Length: 32 Pages

Genre: Children’s Picture Book

Publisher: Kar-Ben Pub

ISBN-10: 1512444391

ISBN-13: 978-1512444391

All Eyes on Alexandra is available to purchase on AmazonBarnes and NobleTarget and Thrift Books.

Author Anna Levine, Biography –

Author photoAnna Levine is an award-winning children’s book author. Like Alexandra Crane, the character in her latest picture book, she loves to explore new worlds.

Born in Canada, Anna has lived in the US and Europe.  She now lives in Israel, where she writes and teaches.

You can find Anna Levine online at –

Author website: http://www.annalevine.org/

Twitter: @LevineAnna 

Instagram: @booksfromanna 

About the Illustrator, Chiara Pasqualotto,

artistChiara Pasqualotto was born in Padua, in northern Italy, currently teaches illustration and drawing classes to children and adults, in particular in Padua during the summer at the Scuola Internazionale di Comics and in Rome.

Since 2008 she’s been living in Rome and working with illustration professionally: her first picture book, Mine, All Mine! was published in 2009 by Boxer Books (UK), since then she published with Oxford University Press, Giunti, Terranuova and some American publishers (Paraclete Press, Tyndale, LearningAZ, Kar-Ben Publisher).

You can find Chiara Pasqualotto online at –

Artist website – https://romeartweek.com/en/artists/?id=1495&ida=1004

Blog: http://chiarapasqualotto.blogspot.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/clairepaspage/

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If you’d like to read more reviews of this book or some articles by the author about fun things to do with your kids, check out some more of the stops of her online tour.

December 3rd @ The Muffin

What goes better in the morning than a muffin? Make sure you visit WOW’s blog today and read an interview with the author and enter for a chance to win a copy of the book All Eyes on Alexandra.

muffin.wow-womenonwriting.com

December 5th @ Cassandra’s Writing World

Visit Cassandra’s blog where she shares her thoughts about Anna Levine’s picture book All Eyes on Alexandra.

https://cassandra-mywritingworld.blogspot.com/

December 6th @ Break Even Books

Visit Erik’s blog where you can read Anna Levine’s guest post about how to jog your inspiration.

https://breakevenbooks.com/

December 7th @ Coffee with Lacey

Grab some coffee and visit Lacey’s blog where you can read her review of Anna Levine’s picture book All Eyes on Alexandra.

http://coffeewithlacey.wordpress.com

December 8th @ Author Anthony Avina’s Blog

Visit Anthony Avina’s blog today where he joins in the fun of celebrating and shares information about Anna Levine’s book All Eyes on Alexandra.

http://www.authoranthonyavinablog.com

December 8th @ Christy’s Cozy Corners

Visit Christy’s blog and cozy up while you read her review of Anna Levine’s picture book All Eyes on Alexandra.

https://christyscozycorners.com/

December 9th @ Coffee with Lacey

Visit Lacey’s blog again where you can read Anna Levine’s guest post about designing your ideal writing spot.

http://coffeewithlacey.wordpress.com

December 9th @ Christy’s Cozy Corner

Visit Christy’s blog where you can read Anna Levine’s blog post about how she decided to use crane’s in her story.

https://christyscozycorners.com/

December 10th @ Thoughts in Progress

Visit Pamela’s blog where you can read Anna Levine’s guest post about how authors use anthropomorphic animals.

http://masoncanyon.blogspot.com/

December 11th @ Read. Write. Sparkle. Coffee.

Make sure you visit Jeanie’s blog today and read her thoughts about Anna Levine’s book All Eyes on Alexandra.

http://www.readwritesparklecoffee.com/

December 12th @ Author Anthony Avina Blog

Visit Anthony Avina’s blog where he interviews Anna Levine, author of All Eyes on Alexandra.

http://www.authoranthonyavinablog.com

December 13th @ Read. Write. Sparkle. Coffee.

Make sure you visit Jeanie’s blog today and read Anna Levine’s guest post about building a theme day around a picture book.

http://www.readwritesparklecoffee.com/

December 13th @ Oh for the Hook of a Book

Visit Erin’s blog where she shares her thoughts on Anna Levine’s book All Eyes on Alexandra.

www.hookofabook.wordpress.com

December 14th @ Growing with Science Blog

Be sure to visit Roberta’s blog and read her review of Anna Levine’s book All Eyes on Alexandra as well as read Anna’s guest post about five fun bird-themed activities.

http://growingwithscience.com/

December 14th @ Wrapped in Foil

Visit Roberta’s blog today where Anna Levine’s book All Eyes on Alexandra gets featured on the weekly STEM Friday post (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math books!).

http://blog.wrappedinfoil.com/

December 15th @ A Storybook World

Visit Deirdra’s blog where she features Anna Levine’s book All Eyes on Alexandra in a spotlight post.

http://www.astorybookworld.com/

December 17th @ World of My Imagination

Stop by Nicole’s blog today where you can read her review of Anna Levine’s book All Eyes on Alexandra.

http://theworldofmyimagination.blogspot.com

December 18th @ Oh, for the Hook of a Book

Visit Erin’s blog again where you can read Anna Levine’s blog post featuring activities for young children to explore their world.

www.hookofabook.wordpress.com

December 19th @ Cassandra’s Writing World

Visit Cassandra’s blog again where you can read Anna Levine’s blog post about naming your characters.

https://cassandra-mywritingworld.blogspot.com

December 19th @ Linda’s Blog

Make sure you visit Linda’s blog today where you can read her thoughts about Anna Levine’s book All Eyes on Alexandra.

https://www.lindaleekane.com/blog

December 20th @ Word Magic: All About Books 

Visit Fiona’s blog where you can read her review of Anna Levine’s book All Eyes on Alexandra.

http://fionaingramauthor.blogspot.com/

December 21st @ Bring on Lemons

Make sure you grab some lemonade and stop by Crystal’s blog today where she reviews Anna Levine’s book All Eyes on Alexandra.

http://bringonlemons.blogspot.com/

December 27th @ Linda’s Blog

Visit Linda’s blog again where you can read her interview with author Anna Levine.

https://www.lindaleekane.com/blog

December 28th @ Beverley A. Baird’s Blog

Visit Beverley’s blog today you can read her review of Anna Levine’s book All Eyes on Alexandra.

https://beverleyabaird.wordpress.com/

December 31st @ Strength 4 Spouses

Visit Wendi’s blog and read Anna Levine’s guest post on learning about families and different cultures.

https://strength4spouses.blog/

January 2nd @ Author Anthony Avina’s Blog

Visit author Anthony Avina’s blog where he shares his thoughts about Anna Levine’s picture book All Eyes on Alexandra. 

http://www.authoranthonyavinablog.com

January 3rd @ Beverley A. Baird’s Blog

Visit Beverley’s blog again where you can read Anna Levine’s blog post about getting into the head of your middle-grade characters.

https://beverleyabaird.wordpress.com/

January 4th @ Author Anthony Avina’s Blog

Visit author Anthony Avina’s blog again where you can read Anna Levine’s blog post about using fiction to write non-fiction.

http://www.authoranthonyavinablog.com

January 7th @ Strength 4 Spouses Blog

Visit Wendi’s blog again where you can read her thoughts about the book All Eyes on Alexandra by Anna Levine.

https://strength4spouses.blog/

 

 

 

 

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Celebrating Breathe. Breathe.’s One Year Anniversary: THANK YOU!

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My ONE YEAR ANNIVERSARY of the publication of my debut dark poetry and short story collection, Breathe. Breathe. from Unnerving, came around in October 2018!!! It was fun to celebrate and almost like I had just published it all over again! I honestly have no idea how so much time has passed so quickly, and though everyone else is probably sick of hearing me talk about it, I don’t think I ever will be – even when I publish my next book or collection! Breathe. Breathe. will always be special to me because it’s an extension of me and a big part of me. I’ve enjoyed celebrating every milestone!

Breathe Breathe

Gratefully, people have still been embracing it this year and letting me talk about my stories, my inspirations, and sharing their own thoughts on the book in continual reviews. In just October and November, in celebration of the anniversary, I wrote several articles I’d love to share here. Coincidentally, I had some wonderful new reviews come in as well. I’d love to share them with you below! It’s definitely not a full list from the year, but it’s my goal to soon have up my media page to include all the links.

Stay tuned too, as I have three interviews and a few more articles I’m finishing up that will appear this month (December) or January. Soon I’ll hopefully be able to share more news about publications and writing projects coming up!

Articles

On Ginger Nuts of Horror – Five Scary Books to Read for Halloween

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On InkHeist – Vahalla Lane: We’re All About Revenge Here

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On The Horror Tree – My Writing Inspiration: Charlotte Perkins Gilman

Breathe Vahalla Ln Guest Article (1)

And…..

Brian Fatah Steele’s Site – My Writing Process: Wait, There’s a Writing Process?

Interview

7 Q’s with Brian Fatah Steele

Reviews (Click on blog title for full review)

Kendall Reviews – “If the idea of reading a collection of poetry is what is preventing you from checking this out, give your head a shake. If it’s the lack of corpses and skulls on the cover, have a friend smack you silly. This is dark, dark stuff and it should be mandatory reading by everyone in the horror community.”

Red Lace Reviews – “There’s a lot of content in this title, and all of it was thought-provoking. I may not be a connoisseur of poetry, but I appreciated the heart-wrenching emotion poured into every addition, and the concluding short stories also interested me.”

Howling Library – “Altogether, Breathe. Breathe. is a fantastic collection of poems and stories, and—at risk of sounding cheesy—is a real breath of fresh air. Erin shows a natural talent for writing, and I am so appreciative of the way she bared her soul to the world in her work here.”

Down in a Book – “This collection beautifully showcases the beauty in the worlds we create (either physically or in our own heads) and also reminds us of the sickening cruelty inflicted onto others. A great collection for anyone who enjoys reading work on the darker/haunting side, and who may want to feel a little vengeance a little once in awhile!”

The RAC Magazine (Nov/Dec Issue) – “Erin’s words were deeply moving.”
(This Reader Author Connection Magazine is subscription only.

And…

just a few days ago, Emily from Book.Happy posted her favorite debuts she read in 2018 (all 4 and 5 star reviews) and included Breathe. Breathe. in her stack. I was honored by the company I was keeping and thankful for her support.

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If you’d like to order Breathe. Breathe. I’d be honored. Please let me know if you’d like to purchase a signed print copy by e-mailing me at hookofabook@hotmail.com.

Or you can order in e-book and print from Amazon, read on Kindle Unlimited, or order print from Barnes and Noble.

Thank you so very much for your continued encouragement and for celebrating with me. More soon!

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Happy Thanksgiving!

Best-For-A-Happy-Thanksgiving

As an adult, Thanksgiving sometimes has put me in a conundrum technically, with both British and American citizenship, as you can imagine why. I am proud of both! For me, I don’t have to be divisive, I’ve always been about the “coming together” of people. And what is thanksgiving if not the joining of others.

That said, I grew up celebrating Thanksgiving here in America as a tradition and time to join with my family for food and rest together and to reflect for all I’m thankful for! I like that we can cook and eat together, play games, watch Charlie Brown’s Thanksgiving and Mayflower Voyagers, and revel in one of my favorite subjects, the Colonial Era! I remember fondly the time my son and I made “Plymouth Rock cookies” or when all three of my kids and I made turkey “thankful for” books out of paper bags. Laugh all you want, but the memories flood back, especially when my son won’t make it home from college in Washington D.C. this year for the weekend. It’s the first time since before his birth we haven’t celebrated a holiday together. Due to spending time with family, it’s one of my favorite holidays. That and I love pumpkin pie!

I’m very grateful, as always, for all the support of Hook of a Book, and this year, as well, for my own writing and publishing journey. Thank you to all who’ve been a part.

And above all else, I am thankful for my family, friends, love, food, laughter, and books! I’m even thankful for warmth and running water, as so many don’t have these things.

What are you grateful for this year? What will you commit to in order to help others?

In Thanksgiving,

Erin

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Filed under Breathe Breathe, Children and Family, My Writing

Guest Review: My Daughter Reviews YA Mystery/Suspense The Lying Woods

It’s Wacky Wednesday, so it’s my 15 year old daughter Emma’s turn in guest reviewing a YA novel of mystery of suspense from Hyperion called The Lying Woods from author Ashley Elston! She read this in one night over the summer (an advanced review copy), but it just hit the market November 13, 2018! It’s one of the favorite books she read this year, so it would make a great book gift for any teen in your life. I think it looks pretty good myself and I will most likely give it a read too in the near future.

The Lying Woods

The Lying Woods, Review –
by Emma Al-Mehairi

The Lying Woods is a story of love, loss, abandonment, and the realization that life may not always be what it seems. Owen is a very relatable teenage character. The way he expresses his emotions throughout the book is very similar to many other teenagers I know so it felt authentic. Elston also did a fantastic job of showing what any runner like myself would understand – running helps relieve stress. The way Elston wrote the novel helps to show the backstory that we have to understand, but without making those parts drag on, and the suspense was a page turner. I highly recommend this book to all teenagers, or even adults, who enjoy realistic fiction with a bit of mystery. It’s one of the best books I read this year.

Hardcover, 336 pages
Published November 13th 2018 by Disney-Hyperion

Find it on GoodReads!

About The Lying Woods

The truth won’t stay buried in this suspenseful, riveting mystery. THE LYING WOODS combines heart-pounding, high-stakes mystery with palpable tension between each character to create a menacing, gripping read.

Owen Foster has never wanted for anything. Then his mother shows up at his elite New Orleans boarding school cradling a bombshell: his privileged life has been funded by stolen money. After using the family business, the single largest employer in his small Louisiana town, to embezzle millions, Owen’s father vanished without a trace, leaving his family to deal with the fallout.

Owen returns to Lake Cane to finish his senior year, where people he hardly remembers despise him for his father’s crimes. When Owen and his mother receive increasingly frightening threats from someone out for revenge, he knows he must get to the bottom of what really happened at Louisiana Frac—and the cryptic note his father sent him days before disappearing. Owen’s only refuge is the isolated pecan orchard he works at after school, owned by a man named Gus who has his own secrets. As Owen uncovers a terrible injustice that looms over the same woods he’s claimed as his own, he must face a shocking truth about his own past.

Ashley Elston Biography –

aelston_headshot_sm_finalAshley Elston is the author of several novels including: The Rules for Disappearing (a finalist in the Best Young Adult Novel category of the International Thriller Writers Thriller Awards) and This Is Our Story.

She has a liberal arts degree from Louisiana State University in Shreveport and worked for many years as a wedding photographer before turning her hand to writing.

Ashley lives in Shreveport with her husband and three sons. For more information about Ashley and her books, please visit http://www.ashleyelston.com.

Praise for The Lying Woods –

“Fans who have come to expect Elston’s mastery of situational tension, double narratives, and enthralling mystery will not be disappointed with this newest tale that alternates between past and present perspectives as it barrels toward a stunning reveal… Readers won’t even notice the steady pull to the edges of their seats.” —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“This is a mystery that introduces characters slowly, with a thoughtful alternating story line and backstory that allows the plot to maintain its pace. Owen’s frustration and actions, along with the people whose futures were destroyed by his father, are understandable and build to a satisfying conclusion.” —School Library Journal (starred review)

“Elston… channels E. Lockhart as she overlays an eerie, mysterious atmosphere on top of a riveting family drama spanning decades… Family secrets and forgiveness drive this gorgeously plotted mystery. —Booklist

“The intergenerational plot complicates the adults in the story, resisting typical YA stereotypes and giving Owen some adults worthy of the trust and affection he invests in them. Readers who enjoy a realistic mystery based on contemporary family dynamics and small-town class conflicts are the audience for this.” —BCCB

“A blisteringly quick read, thanks to its compelling story and nonstop surprises.”
Culturess

“Elston has masterfully plotted this story out and the way everything wraps up is incredibly satisfying. The Lying Woods is an exciting novel perfect for fans of contemporary mystery…. Sure to keep you on your toes.”
The Young Folks

Accolades

BNTeen: Our Most Anticipated Contemporary YA Novels of 2018: July to December (selection)
Hypable: Fall 2018 movies, TV, and book release dates that need to be on your calendar (selection)
BookRiot: 125+ Upcoming YA Books You’ll Want on Your October to December Radar, selection (2018)
BNTeen: 21 of November’s Best New Young Adult Books, selection (2018)
Hypable: Our most-anticipated November 2018 YA book releases, selection
Bookish: November Book Club Picks: One-Child Policy, Embezzlement, and an Unlikely Serial Killer, selection (2018)
BNTeen: November’s Best New YA Books, selection (2018)
BookRiot: 3 on a YA Theme: Books for Your November Holds List, selection (2018)

 

Thanks again to Emma for reviewing this one!

Emma Al-Mehairi, Guest Reviewer

emma lake memorial 1Emma is a freshman in high school and besides her full schedule of honors and advanced courses, she also runs cross country, sings in the symphonic choir, and enjoys theater and art (especially painting – and is a huge Bob Ross fan!).

She loves being anywhere by the water and has plans to go to college for marine biology, but also one day hopes to write books on the environment to inspire people to continue a love the ocean and what resides within.

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Read My Poem, “A Land of Autumns”

My poem “A Land of Autumns” was accepted by SpillWords Press for their site a month ago. I find it funny actually, as it’s an October poem they decided to publish on November 17…okay, I told myself…autumn in November will still be lovely out here in the country where I am. I’m just glad it’s published for all to read even if it mentions October. It will be fine.

But then, of course, we had only three days of Fall, all the leaves are off the trees, and it’s ice and snow everywhere. So, my friends, let my poem take you back in time….or cry…either. As my 11 year old said, “I refuse to celebrate anything but Octobers and Novembers and Fall until after Thanksgiving.” I’m with her, so far.

If you enjoy my poem, please let me know what you think. It boosts a writer’s motivation, you know. *wink*

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Here is the poem: http://spillwords.com/for-a-land-of-autumns/

Have a wonderful weekend!

Erin

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Reviewing Books for Young Readers – Guinevere: At the Dawn of Legend

Today, I have a review of a set of books read by my 11 year old daughter and guest reviewer Addison and myself. These books are great high fantasy or historical fiction for young readers, especially those who are reluctant to read, who like adventure!

Book Review:
Guinevere: At the Dawn of Legend (Book Two)
Guinevere: On the Eve of Legend (Book One)

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Over the years, having children who are excessive readers, I’ve been asked to review all sorts of books for all ages in a multitude of genres. I’ve long been a fan of the middle readers, because I am always an advocate for putting books in front of readers at this age that will keep them interested in reading as life evolves and opens to other things around them, especially in this digital age. Currently, I still have an 11 year old Addie, who though she reads at a high school level (that’s what happens when books are like food in your household), she prefers to still read middle readers for enjoyment and content. She was more than thrilled to accept this reading assignment with me.

In looking through Cheryl Carpinello’s titles, the newest release, Guinevere: At the Dawn of Legend is book two, and Guinevere: On the Eve of Legend, was book one and published last year. It’s a series on Guinevere, but it’s housed inside a Tales and Legends series. We decided to review both for a better view of the author, but I’d certainly say you can most likely read any of her titles out of order, but as always, you’d gain better perspective on the series as a whole if you read both of the Guinevere books together. I’m almost certain, that like mine, your child will want to read these back to back and it’s probably best that way.

Of course my daughter was first drawn in, when getting them in the mail, to the cover of Guinevere: On the Eve of Legend, because it had a horse and she loves horses, but the second cover on At the Dawn of Legend was beautiful too and I explained to her what it represented in history. With a female protagonist, of course they are fabulous books for young ladies, but they are also action-packed and suitable for boys as well, especially reluctant readers of either gender. Personally, I also think it’s important that young boys read books with strong young protagonists who are girls!

GuinevereEve

As soon as she started Guinevere: On the Eve of Legend, she was hooked and couldn’t wait for reading time before bed each night. I was happy that she liked tales of Arthurian legend as much as her dad and I! So she was ready to start the Guinevere: At the Dawn of Legend almost immediately after. She enjoys fantasy, but they really have to hold her attention (or else she’s off reading mysteries in a cupcake shop) and these certainly did.

Guinevere is a capable, intelligent, and courageous young lady, all traits we wish our own daughters to be so she was a wonderful role model from reading. Cedwyn, the son of a knight, and her side kick, is wise, loyal, and curious. He becomes much more part of the story in At the Dawn of Legend, which is great again for both genders alike, as it give the young men a chivalrous young male to identify with and the young girls, a model for treatment from a male friend. Together, they show that men and women can do all things when combining their talents and personality traits!

From an historical avenue, and not just fantasy, I think it also accurately portrays the time period, giving a glimpse of history to readers as well. It’s not just high fantasy only. The author’s teaching background shines through in a myriad of ways so she hits all the right points of utilizing reading as an aspect of how to support children’s or pre-teen learning in these formative years. I can also see how her own passion for travels and history helps illuminate various time periods in history in her book. I would have ate up these books as a young lady myself.

Both books are marvelous for young readers that will have them sneaking the flashlight under their covers in bed at night or are a great set of books to read aloud to your children. Full of action, suspense, vivid descriptions, teachable lessons, and memorable characters, this is a set of books that will make a great gift to your child’s library.

Addison and I discussed much of what I wrote in this review together, but as her final thoughts, Addie said, “I love them. I think any young girl my age who likes adventure will be happy reading them. I didn’t want to put either of them down and would like to read more in the future.”

The ending was a cliff-hanger as well, so we anxiously await book three!

Guinevere: At the Dawn of Legend, Synopsis and Info –

GuinevereDawnofLegendPrint Length: 150 Pages

Genre: Middle Grade Fiction

Publisher: Bublish, Incorporated (May 2017)

ISBN: 978-1946229441

His one desire…To be a knight.

His future queen…At times reckless.

Best friends…Bound by Friendship and Loyalty.

When their adventure turns deadly & dangerous, Guinevere & Cedwyn find themselves embroiled in a life-or-death struggle.

Not only are they in danger, but so are the kids of Cadbury Castle.

Renegades–foiled in their attempt to kidnap the princess–steal the children of Cadbury Castle to sell as slaves. Guinevere and Cedwyn vow to rescue the children, but a miscalculation puts them all in more danger.

As the plan quickly unravels, Cedwyn chooses to turn his dream of becoming a knight into reality.

Will their courage be strong enough to survive, or will one make the ultimate sacrifice?

Excerpt –

With saddened and heavy hearts, they left the gruesome glen behind and rode for the castle.

Samuel followed Guinevere, having chosen to ride beside Aaron. His tears dried, but the anguish not buried with his family. The grief was clearly evident in his hunched body, the anger in his clenched fists on the pony’s reins. Cedwyn worried about the boy’s state of mind.

Guinevere now led the trio, concern for the safety of the castle and the people there were marked by the hard set of her chin. Worry etched lines in her wrinkled brow and deepened her hollowed eyes.

Cedwyn brought up the rear. His eyes noted every movement. Ears tuned to the echoes of the forest, head swiveling at each movement and sound. Fear had taken permanent hold over his body—a feeling he was certain should have been as foreign to him as it would have been to Arthur’s knights. Cold fear tightened its grip on his heart and throat. Those who would kill the gentle monks would stop at nothing. Now the little group rode in the dark, a time when all earthly creatures took on the pallor of ghosts, and hidden danger lurked all around them.

 Guinevere: At the Dawn of Legend is available to purchase on Amazon.com

Awards for Guinevere: At the Dawn of Legend

2018 Gold Global eBook Award—Juvenile Fiction
2018 Gold Global eBook Award—Children’s Literature
2018 Bronze Evvy Awards—Fairytale/Folklore/Mythology
2018 Bronze Evvy Awards—Juvenile Fiction
Short-Listed for 2019 Chanticleer Int’l Awards
2018 Honorable Mention Purple Dragonfly
100 Most Notable Indies for 2018
2018 Wishing Shelf Finalist
2017 BookLife Quarter Finalist
2017 Apple eBook Children’s Official Selection

Author Cheryl Carpinello, Biography – 

Author Full SphinxCheryl Carpinello is an author, retired high school English teacher, and Colorado native. Since retiring from teaching, she’s been able to devote her time to writing and traveling. Although she may be away from teaching, she is still a teacher at heart and especially enjoys meeting with kids and talking with them about reading and writing. Cheryl hopes through her books she can inspire young readers and reader’s young-at-heart to read more.

You can find Cheryl Online –

Website: http://www.cherylcarpinello.com

Writing Blog:    http://carpinelloswritingpages.blogspot.com/

Facebook:   https://www.facebook.com/cheryl.carpinello1

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/ccarpine1/

Amazon Author Page:  http://www.amazon.com/Cheryl-Carpinello/e/B002GGGZY6

Twitter Home Page: https://twitter.com/ccarpinello

Linkedin Page:  www.linkedin.com/pub/cheryl-carpinello/25/671/a02

Google URL: https://plus.google.com/110918922081424857545/

Pinterest:  http://www.pinterest.com/ccarpine/

Addie, Guest Reviewer, Age 11 –

ACA8ADFB-6A63-4F40-AF22-FC01DFA029D4Addison has been reviewing books on Oh, for the Hook of a Book! for five years. She loves books of all kinds, writing, dancing, art, singing, animals, and her friends. She has a soft spot for furry monsters like the Yeti and enjoys books from around the world.

If you’d like to send her a book for review, feel free to ask via my regular review request e-mail.

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#HookforNaNo: Do You Need an Editing Coach for November’s Madness? #NaNoWriMo is Here!

Currently taking editing clients now! I usually have a two month wait but projects are complete and I’m open for November and December! If you are doing #NaNoWriMo18, hire me to be your month long coach. Daily check-ins, cheerleading, social media updates about you, plus weekly plot assistance, character development help, and more because two brains are better than one! All will culminate with me editing your piece thoroughly and talking with you about your publishing plans. Read about my editing here, then e-mail me for discussion soon and join the #HookforNaNo team: hookofabook@hotmail.com.

I look forward to hearing from you!

P.S. Even if you don’t want an editing coach for the month, I’d be happy to put you on my schedule now for when your manuscript is complete!

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Guest Article: Is There Anybody There? by Author Catherine Cavendish

Is There Anybody There?
by Catherine Cavendish, author of Damned by the Ancients

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In my novel, Damned by the Ancients, a little girl with a special gift is targeted by the evil and long-dead Dr. Emeryk Quintillus. She even becomes possessed by a dead woman. In real life there are numerous well documented cases of demonic possession and many involve the use of ouija boards or another spirit game called ‘Charlie Charlie’. More of that one later but, for now, let’s have a look at some of the alleged evidence levelled at the use of ouija boards.

Three or four years ago, there were a number of separate cases of students who apparently fell into a trance while playing with the board. They were believed – or believed themselves – to be possessed by malignant spirits. Fellow players saw them behaving oddly, speaking in strange voices and generally acting contrary to their normal natures. Needless to say, as is the way of things, the more the stories circulated, the wilder they became.

One such case dates from November 2014 and involved a group of 35 school students from Santa Cruz de la Sierra in Bolivia. They were playing with an ouija board when they began to suffer from a range of maladies, resulting in hospital treatment. The children exhibited mental distress, trance-like states, rapid pulse rates and profuse sweating. Central and South America seems to be a hotbed for ouija enthusiasts and reports of demonic possession and mass fainting abound – Mexico being a particular centre.

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In fact Mexico currently holds the record for the largest outbreak of ouija-attributed illness so far recorded. In 2006-2007, up to 600 children at a 4,500 girls’ only, strict, Catholic boarding school near Mexico City began to show alarming physical symptoms. Headaches and difficulty in walking without the help of a fellow student were just two of the problems reported. The symptoms would vanish and then recur.

Psychiatrist Nashviela Loa Zavala investigated and concluded the cause was mass hysteria (or in his words, mass psychogenic illness). She discovered that a student at the school had used an ouija board to try and influence the outcome of a basketball game. The student, called Maria, had been summarily expelled for using the game but, in her extreme anger, had allegedly cursed the school.  The psychiatrist learned that, shortly after this, two of her former friends and fellow ouija board enthusiasts began to exhibit the symptoms. It seems belief in the supernatural power of the board and the existence of demons and evil spirits, along with rumours that Maria’s mother was a witch, led to the mass hysteria Dr Zavala diagnosed.

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Now, what is the ‘Charlie Charlie’ game?

Here we can blame social media (can’t we always?). In 2015, this simple form of ouija, originating many years ago in Spain, along with Spanish speaking countries in Central and South America, spread quickly thanks to the power of Twitter and the odd Youtube video. All that is needed is to draw a simple grid as shown on the illustration. In the centre of the grid, place two pencils on top of each other. Now ask closed questions (i.e. those that require a simple ‘yes or no’ answer). You are summoning the supernatural entity called Charlie. First ask him, ‘Charlie, are you there?’ Watch the pencils. The top pencil is the one which will indicate whether a spirit is in attendance. If it begins to pivot, watch where it points and you have the answer to your question. Charlie is communicating with you. Or, of course a draught may have wafted through the room, someone may have breathed a little too heavily, a truck may have thundered past the window, setting up vibrations…

A hundred and one things could be responsible, but belief that a spirit really had joined them was enough to cause four Columbian students to wind up in hospital, ‘screaming and babbling’ as a result of playing ‘Charlie Charlie’. In the same month (May 2015) in Jamaica, Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, and St Lucia reports flooded in of school children playing the game and ending up falling unconscious, slipping into trances and experiencing confused mental states. The following month, in the Dominican Republic, it was alleged that several young children in a primary school had been ‘possessed by the devil’ while playing the game.

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Of course as with any belief in the supernatural, proving the link between Ouija boards or the ‘Charlie Charlie’ game and evil (or even benign) spirits is impossible to prove (or disprove actually!). Those who are convinced they are in contact with a demon will not be swayed. Those who remain skeptical will point to the laws of science. The two positions are polar opposites.

What do I believe? Whether there is truly anything in it or not, my own experience has made me extremely wary of playing with occult games. When I was eighteen years old, two friends and I had a pretty scary experience with a home-made Ouija board and a heavy-duty water glass that shot across the room and shattered against the wall. This was only after it had spelled out a stream of abuse and obscenities – the like of which none of the three of us would ever use in conversation.

Best to be safe. Leave spirit games to the movies and books.

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Not that this would have helped poor nine-year-old Heidi. Here’s what to expect in Damned by the Ancients…

INFINITY IN DEATH

Vienna, 1908

Gabriele Ziegler is a young art student who becomes infatuated with charismatic archeologist Dr. Emeryk Quintillus. Only too late does she realize his true designs on her. He is obsessed with resurrecting Cleopatra and has retained the famed artist Gustav Klimt to render Gabriele as the Queen of the Nile, using ashes from Cleopatra’s mummy mixed with the paint. The result is a lifelike portrait emitting an aura of unholy evil . . .

Vienna, 2018

The Mortimer family has moved into Quintillus’s former home, Villa Dürnstein. In its basement they find an original Klimt masterpiece—a portrait of Cleopatra art scholars never knew existed. But that’s not all that resides within the villa’s vault. Nine-year-old Heidi Mortimer tells her parents that a strange man lives there.

Quintillus’s desire to be with Cleopatra transcends death. His spirit will not rest until he has brought her back from the netherworld. Even if he has to sacrifice the soul of a child . . .

Damned by the Ancients is available from:

Amazon

Barnes and Noble

Apple

Google

Kobo

Kensington Publishing

Catherine Cavendish, Biography –

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Following a varied career in sales, advertising and career guidance, Catherine Cavendish is now the full-time author of a number of paranormal, ghostly and Gothic horror novels, novellas and short stories. Cat’s novels include the Nemesis of the Gods trilogy – Wrath of the Ancients, Waking the Ancients and Damned by the Ancients, plus The Devil’s Serenade, The Pendle Curse and Saving Grace Devine.

Her novellas include Linden Manor, Cold Revenge, Miss Abigail’s Room, The Demons of Cambian Street, Dark Avenging Angel, The Devil Inside Her, and The Second Wife

She lives with her long-suffering husband, and a black cat who has never forgotten that her species used to be worshipped in ancient Egypt. She sees no reason why that practice should not continue. Cat and her family divide their time between Liverpool and a 260-year-old haunted apartment in North Wales.

You can connect with Cat here:

 Catherine Cavendish

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