Tag Archives: debut authors

Book Review: Crime Mystery The Appeal by Janice Hallett @atriabooks @atriamysterybus

I’ve read several books this month (see my note at end of post) so I’m off to a good start meeting new goals. I decided to begin book reviews this year with The Appeal by Janice Hallett, a crime mystery drama, because it was released in hardcover yesterday in the US from Atria books! 

 BOOK REVIEW –

The Appeal
by Janice Hallett

UK pub 01/14/21 and 07/01/21 Viper
US pub 01/25/22 Atria (hardcover)

Summary, Per UK Publisher –
(because I like this one better!)

IN A TOWN FULL OF SECRETS
SOMEONE WAS MURDERED.
SOMEONE WENT TO PRISON.
AND EVERYONE’S A SUSPECT.
CAN YOU UNCOVER THE TRUTH?


Dear Reader,

Enclosed are documents relating to the events surrounding the Fairway Players’ staging of All My Sons, and the tragic death of one of its members. Another member is currently in prison for the crime. We have reason to suspect that they are innocent, and that there were far darker secrets that have yet to be revealed.

We believe that the killer has given themselves away. It’s there in writing, hidden in the emails, texts, and letters. In the events surrounding the charity appeal for little Poppy Reswick, and the question of whether that money was truly being used to fund her life-saving cancer treatment. Will you accept the challenge? Can you uncover the truth? Do you dare?

The standout debut thriller of 2021 that delivers multiple brilliant twists and will change the way you think about the modern crime novel. 

REVIEW –


I didn’t know how I’d feel about reading this book when I first started it, given it’s an epistolary novel. I wondered if it would be hard to follow or get lost in as much as I like with regular mysteries and thrillers, but soon enough I was immersed in the story being told through e-mail and other correspondence. It was as if I was a voyeur looking in, or perhaps, an additional solicitor sorting through the evidence along with those on this case (which the novel is framed around). In that regard, it became a fun game, hinging on my already investigative nature, and I was certainly caught up early in what I knew must be a mystery unraveling among a very interesting cast of characters.

We get to know those who feature with the most email correspondence the best – Issy, Sarah, Martin, James. The rest we are only given a view of based off other characters’ feelings (which is biased, of course, when you think about it) – but I did have my own feelings on quite a few of them! I don’t think it would be a read for you if you really love the feeling of being connected to characters. You have to be alright with unreliable characters, which I am, so it worked fine for me.

I mostly became invested instead in wanting to know what was going on with the charity appeal, who was going to be murdered, etc. – I enjoyed “watching” the characters interact within their various social circle hierarchy and trying to understand who might be possibly shady and why. I like suspenseful drama and this book certainly brought that – it’s fitting these characters were part of a community theater. It was hard to tell who was putting on the performances of their lives off the stage and into their emails, too – and as it unraveled, I found myself shaking my head at some of these characters! It also had me as a reader putting clues together and seeing which theory I aligned with, which made it a fun sort of mystery puzzle, which I adore. Hey, I became a lawyer, or detective, for a few days!

As far as any critical notes, about seventy percent into the book the author started a lot of info dumping, under the guise of the solicitors writing their various theories into a report. I wanted to skip much of it since I felt I had already gathered or understood a lot of it myself from the correspondence. I suppose I can understand why it was included, to wrap it up for us, but yet for me I could move past it. I think, in another format, it would have been better set-up as courtroom or dialogue scenario with the characters. Instead, it read like a long report, a legal report, which is how information was passed to the reader due to the epistolary format. That’s why this book would be a great tv show or film. As that it would light up. As the last half of the book went on, it also read as if it was written as a screenplay or stage play and could easily be converted. I’d watch any of the above!

I enjoyed the humor that came in text messages and such from the solicitors and their boss at times. The post-it notes as art on some of the pages was a good touch. The way we really could gather some personalities very well over emails showed excellent character development. There were some red herrings, strategically placed clues, and a twist or reveal that was shocking to an extent (though I had my suspicions!).

If you’re looking for a novel that is a simple mystery crime thriller you want to relax your brain with, this might not be it. Your brain needs to keep track of information in this one, which made it fantastic as far as I’m concerned. If you’re tired, rushed, or stressed, you might not be ready for this, so know yourself and be prepared in that regard.

Overall, a unique, enjoyable read that kept me guessing and thinking, had wit and humor in all the right places, was a study in the social hierarchy construct and its pitfalls, and would make an amazing tv show! It was certainly good enough to garner four stars because it kept me turning pages and wanting to get back to my reading time so I could continue in the drama and unraveling of the mystery. I was guessing some parts right up until the end!

I’ll definitely want to read more from Hallett in the future and look forward to it. I know her next book is available now for UK readers (so those who are my UK subscribers here, go get both!). I look forward to it also arriving in the US.

I thank Atria Books for the advanced copy for book news or review consideration.

Purchase, Read, Borrow –

GoodReads

Barnes & Noble

Amazon US

Amazon UK Paperback

I could not find this book on bookshop.org, though I recommend using it for books to support independent shops, as well as looking at your local indie bookstore (or asking them to order). Ask your local library, too!

Janice Hallett, Biography

Janice Hallett is a former magazine editor, award-winning journalist, and government communications writer. She wrote articles and speeches for, among others, the Cabinet Office, Home Office, and Department for International Development. Her enthusiasm for travel has taken her around the world several times, from Madagascar to the Galapagos, Guatemala to Zimbabwe, Japan, Russia, and South Korea. A playwright and screenwriter, she penned the feminist Shakespearean stage comedy NetherBard and cowrote the feature film Retreat. The Appeal is her first novel. 

Noteworthy Stuff –

For those who love covers like me. UK alternate covers – I LOVE!

Paperback UK
Hardcover UK

______________________________

Note to my readers: For 2022, I am trying to be more disciplined and cut social media use and other time wasters and instead increase my reading and my own writing again. I’m wholly behind on reviews of the past, especially these last few years, but as a mom who is very hands-on with my kids, a hardworking editor and public relations professional, being an author/writer myself, a cat mom, and maintaining my physical and mental health, I’m pulled in many directions. All I can offer now are my goals that include better reading organization and to not over-think reviews (which ones I do, when, and how). I’ll read what speaks to my mind and I’ll review and write and highlight what I can. I’ve made good progress on this so far, and positive attitudes around me will help that continue.

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BREATHE. BREATHE. News and Sale!

Hi readers,

I hope you all have had a FABULOUSLY divine Christmas or Holiday Season and are looking forward to ringing in the New Year in style. Besides working and managing my children’s busy schedules, my family and I have been able to spend some time together finally too. I plan to hang out with Tim and the kids over the New Year holiday eating, watching movies, and playing games. Beyond that, I’m busy making a TON of goals for 2018 from all things personal to business to writing. I’m demanding a lot of myself in many areas.

One of the best parts of 2017 was publishing my poetry and short story collection, BREATHE. BREATHE. via Unnerving. I am beyond thrilled and grateful at the reception it’s received. It’s part biographical and trauma-based poetry seeped in real life, half supernatural and folkloric in nature, and then the short stories are a mix of horror, sci-fi, fantasy, and domestic revenge, to put it as succinctly as possible. However, there is so much for everyone in this collection whether you’re a contemporary reader, a historical reader, a horror or suspense reader, or just a reader who likes to feel deeply. I’ll be writing a longer year-end wrap-up later, but for now….

I just wanted to let readers know that as a thank you for this fine two months that BREATHE. BREATHE. has had, the publisher Unnerving, has put it on SALE for just .99 cents until Dec. 31!! I’d be honored if you’d give it a try. Maybe you have an Amazon gift card to spend and can buy it for your kindle or share the news with a friend. Very soon, if not already, the print version should go on sale as well from $14 to $9!

With an average of 4.7 out of 5 stars, you can find it on sale on Amazon HERE.

Breathe Sale Un

I’d appreciate your support in a purchase or sharing with a friend or on social media. Feel free to use the graphic below if you’d like. THANK YOU. Your support means everything to me right now. We’ve had a rough year, and this…well, it just makes more hopeful.

As always, look forward to your thoughts on my writing, and don’t forget, authors thrive on the reviews you can leave, no matter how short and sweet.

Always in friendship,

Erin

 

About BREATHE. BREATHE.

BreatheBreatheBreathe. 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, 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.

 

PRAISE for BREATHE. BREATHE.

“Erin paints scenes and evokes emotions with precision and skill. These are the kinds of stories and poems that tighten your chest and leave you holding your breath.” – The Scary Reviews

“Breathe. Breathe. is as honest and raw as writing gets. Erin bares her soul with these poems, particularly during Act 2 in which the verses take on a much more personal and reflective nature.” -The Grim Reader

“Breathe. Breathe. is a great collection of poetry and short fiction. The poems are dark and vivid. They touch at the core of the human condition. The poems are gritty and chilling. You can feel the doom and dread in each of the poems. Breathe. Breathe. is an emotional rollercoaster. The characters are troubled, and the author gives them just enough depth.” – Cedar Hollow Reviews

“I am certain many readers {and not only female} will find themselves breathing shallower, or holding their breath, as the vividness of these scenes awakens memories. Other readers who may not have these particular types of painful memories, will nonetheless wince in empathy. I am equally certain very few will walk away untouched, and very few will forget.” -The Haunted Reading Room

“Raw, risky, and brave.” – Selcouth Station

“I feel the poems are at their best when folkloric in nature – I particularly like “Ningyo’s Misfortune”, “The Driftwood of Wishes”, and “Offerings to Nang Tani”. The short stories “Destination: Valhalla Lane Loveless, Ohio” and “Life-Giver of the Nile” are both clever and brutal, and the standout.” – Julie K. Rose, author of Oleanna and Dido’s Crown

“Wow. This collection really leaves bruises on the soul. I’m not a huge fan of poetry, yet, I found myself glued to the words and emotions pouring out of this author. The short stories were great too. My favorite was “Lunch Served at Noon”, as it had a Twilight Zone-ish quality to it. To fans of dark literary fiction and poetry, I recommend giving Breathe. Breathe. a try.” – Tim Meyer, author of Sharkwater Beach

“At times sinister, definitely dark, atmospheric and heavy with foreboding, this collection of poetry and short stories from Erin Al Mehairi touches our deepest fears. Murder, domestic violence and even an ancient Egyptian goddess all move within these pages where nothing is ever simple or straightforward.” – Catherine Cavendish, author of Wrath of the Ancients

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 bestselling author of Mother Earth Father Sky (Ivory Carver Trilogy) “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

“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’sTrap (Nick Lupo Series)

Erin Sweet Al-Mehairi, Biography –

Erin Al-Mehairi Bio Photo.jpgErin Sweet Al-Mehairi has Bachelor of Arts degrees in English, Journalism, and History. She has 20 years of experience in the communication and marketing 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 for authors, publishers, and others. 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 and has been an Amazon best-selling paid title, debuting at #2 in Women’s Poetry. She is also featured in the anthology from Unnerving called Hardened Hearts, which published in December 2017. Her story “Dandelion Yellow,” from Breathe. Breathe. is also featured in the My Favorite Story anthology of the Project Entertainment Network, which published also in December of 2017.

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

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