Saturday, February 17, 2018

Breathe. Breathe. by Erin Sweet Al-Mehairi – Book Review

Breathe. Breathe. by Erin Sweet Al-Mehairi is a collection of dark, fantastical and realistic, beautifully-written, highly visual poems and short stories. It exudes a darkness that readers can both visualise and enjoy reading over and over.

"Night Stalked" is a 10-star poem that had my heart racing throughout. Damn!

It is followed by "The Lure of a Witch", which breaks free from the horror of the previous poem to act as a kind of relief. But don't get used to the relief in this collection.

Al-Mehairi notes at the end of the book that she wrote "The Society of the Fireflies" for her daughter. The poem is one of few light pieces in the collection with a beautiful image carried throughout. Lots of contrast in there as well. Five stars to this one. If I were to quote from it, I'd quote it whole!

"Clock of Doom" is another 10-star dark poem that keeps you on edge throughout. I absolutely love it!


There's no escape
From the claustrophobia
of monotonous chirps,
as the hands move without
empathy or pardon for the soul."

Two main themes recur throughout Breathe. Breathe., namely abuse and violence against women, which I believe Al-Mehairi brings some of from past pains in her life, and the idea of breathing; the need to breathe and let go.

"The Heirloom" is a brilliant story within a poem, which reminded me a bit of Miss Havisham from Charles Dickens' Great Expectations, although the main character in the poem is very much different. A 10-star poem that will increase the pace of your heartbeats.

"The Lighthouse Keeper's Tale" is a dark paranormal poem that is reminiscent of a Nightwish song called "The Islander", which in turn often reminds me of Samuel Taylor Coleridge's "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner." However, I must stress that Al-Mehairi's poem is very different from Coleridge's; they both just have a similar feel with the sea, the keeper, and the overall visual.

I loved the alliteration, rhythm, and flow in the dark and quick-paced poem "Buried Alive", while "The Table is Turned" reminded me of one of the short stories that appear later in the collection. I liked how Al-Mehairi kept giving me hints as to the end of the poem.

A horrifying story within a poem, "Ningyo's Misfortune" is one of two pieces that is based on Japanese mythology. It is a different kind of horror. Although there was a strong shift in narration, the piece is a must-read.

"Nature's Salve" is a dark piece that the reader can literally feel every word of. *shudders*

As with collections, there were some poems that I didn't quite get and others that did not appeal to me but those were few.

"Offers to Nang Tani" is an interesting piece but I felt it could be in prose more. it's a story arising from folklore with great visual.

Other recommended reads from Breathe. Breathe.: "Love Is Poison", "Silent Screams", "You Say You Love Me", "Anxiety of Darkness", "What Lies Beneath", "Catching My Breath", and "The Hunted."

The book also contains five short stories. The first is "Valhalla Lane", which is divided into four shorter episodes that are beautifully brought together to a final conclusion. Well-written and crafted. I couldn’t put them this down despite the violence in it.

There is also "Life-Giver of the Nile", which brings in Egyptian mythology with a dark but interesting twist. Being an Egyptian, I like to see how authors tackle ancient Egyptian mythology and Al-Mehairi did a good job with this one. Although I have mixed feelings about Anuket, the goddess of the Nile, being evil or justifiably-evil.

"Dandelion Yellow" is a very powerful but heartbreaking short story and Al-Mehairi literally saved one of the best for last. The story somehow reminded me of Alice in Wonderland, with a much darker shade, and "The Yellow Wallpaper" by Charlotte Perkins Gilman.

"She felt she had fallen down the proverbial rabbit hold into hell."

Differently raw and unexpected, "Dandelion Yellow" is definitely a 10-star must read.

Can't decide if "Dandelion Yellow" or "Valhalla Lane" is the no. 1 short story for me. Both are amazing, emotional and painful, and must-reads.

"No dandelion yellow crayon in this brand's box either. Not even a colour remotely similar, just a dark mustard that looked like an old man's time-warped bathroom sink."

Overall, Breathe. Breathe. is a must-read for any poetry lover. It is rich in themes and ideas, from heartbreak and heartache to women fighting back their abusers, to Japanese mythology to an ancient Egyptian goddess taking a human life for a greater purpose. I highly recommend it.

Overall rating: 4.5 stars
Note: I received a free copy of Breathe. Breathe. from its author Erin Sweet Al Mehairi in exchange for an honest review.

Follow Erin Sweet Al-Mehairi via Goodreads, Twitter, and her Website.

Buy Breathe. Breathe. via Amazon.

About the Author
Erin 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.

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 and top ten in horror short stories. 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. This year so far, she was featured in the February issue of Enchanted Conversation: a fairy tale magazine, with her poem “Chained by Love” about a medieval mermaid. She also is the co-editor of a Gothic-themed anthology of poetry and short fiction to premiere Fall 2018 from Unnerving.

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.

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