What Dreams May Come
Paranormal Romance, Romance

Review: What Dreams May Come by Beth Honeycutt

What Dreams May Come
Image from Beth Honeycutt; used by permission

Title: What Dreams May Come (In Dreams #1)

Author: Beth M. Honeycutt

Genre: Paranormal Romance

Reality is overrated. Or so Ellie Cross has always believed.

Ellie is ordinary and invisible – the kind of girl who would loan her lunch money to anyone, but not the kind of girl to get noticed. Well, except by her nagging mom and the class bully. But Ellie has someone she can turn to whenever she has a problem. Though some might call him an imaginary friend, since they’ve never actually met outside of dreams.

And, sure, Ellie knows it’s kinda weird to have a friend no one else can see. But since he isn’t real, she can tell Gabe anything without ever worrying that he’ll ditch her for someone cooler or blab her secrets. And so what if she happens to have an itsy-bitsy crush on her reality-challenged friend? Who’s it hurting, really?

But things are about to get complicated, because there’s a new guy in school. A guy with hauntingly familiar eyes. A guy who knows things about Ellie that he shouldn’t have any way of knowing…

If you’ve been around this blog for any length of time, you know I am really not into paranormal romance. So what convinced me to pick this up? Pretty much the first line of that description. Because honestly, half the time I think reality’s overrated. I’d rather read a book.

I liked Ellie. She’s one of those shy sweet girls who’s awesome once you get to know her, but it takes a little effort to get to know her. And I can totally relate to her liking something better than reality – dreams for Ellie, fiction for me, but it’s the same principle.

The only thing that bothered me about her was her lack of spine. I get it that not everybody is like me. But I’m the kind of person where if somebody called me fat, I’d say something like “It’s called curvy, and I’m rocking it!” So Ellie’s ignore-them-and-try-not-to-cry strategy annoyed me. But I’m positive there are plenty of bullied girls out there who can totally relate to her.

Gabe was almost too perfect. He was sweet and strong, amazingly caring, attentive, and a great listener. Don’t get me wrong, I loved him and really wish I can find a guy like him. He just seemed almost too good to be true.

I tried about five different ways to condense things happening in this book to one sentence, but they all make it sound boring. The story is Ellie trying to figure out if new-kid Gabriel is the same person as dream-kid Gabe. But there’s so much more than that. It’s a mixture of her desire for love and her struggle to realize she’s actually worth loving.

I went through a lot of the shyness and self-image issues Ellie went through when I was in junior high. Reading it now, I enjoyed it because I remembered the struggles. If I’d read this in junior high, it would have blown me away.

And bonus: the romance is extremely sweet and completely clean.

What Dreams May Come is actually first in a series, but I think the ending was actually a pretty solid wrap-up. It’s one of those books where if you’re looking for a stand-alone, this one will work, but if you desperately want more of these characters, there’s more on the way. I don’t think I’ll be continuing the series, but I certainly don’t regret this read.

I received a free review copy of What Dreams May Come from the author. Her generosity in no way influenced, or sought to influence, this review.

The In Dreams series

  1. What Dreams May Come
  2. Where Nightmares Walk

Report Card

For more on my grading system, please see my About page.

WHAT DREAMS MAY COME scored a 4.0 (A)

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Contemporary

Review: The Misanthrope’s Mansion by Emma Saville

The Misanthrope's Mansion
Image from Emma Saville; used by permission

Title: The Misanthrope’s Mansion

Author: Emma L. Saville

Genre: Contemporary

Seventeen year old Leah is mad at the world and usually stoned before she makes it to school – both her parents are dead and she and her younger brother live with an aunt who’s more interested in screwing her boss than taking care of two damaged kids.

Leah’s opportunity for a fresh start arises when she is offered a nanny job in England. Promising her brother she will return, she embarks on her new adventure. When she arrives at the enormous mansion in the heart of the beautiful English countryside, however, she soon learns no nanny position ever existed. What follows is a story of courage, an unlikely love affair, and surprising self-recognition as Leah attempts to escape from her misanthropic captor and keep her promise to return to her brother.

I picked this up more on the concept of a mansion isolated from everything than anything else. I wasn’t too crazy about Leah being a drug addict, but I know some ex-addicts and I hoped she’d be okay.

Leah was not really what I expected. From what I know of addiction (which, admittedly, is all second-hand), I thought it would have been slightly more prominent in Leah’s mind, at least in the beginning. Other than that, though, I really liked her – she was courageous and loved her brother above anything.

There were quite a few other characters, but except for the controlling Lady Margaret, they were all bland. Normally, that would annoy me. But in this case, it was understandable because Margaret kept everybody too scared to express anything. (Well, except for Riley, but he didn’t have a lot of page time.)

The whole concept was interesting. The mansion was self-sufficient and kept people from leaving. It was interesting how, even though there were other outsiders brought in, Leah (and the boy they bring in with her) are the only ones who really think about escaping. But Lady Margaret kept everyone so scared of her and she was dead set on not letting anyone out. It was unique and held my interest.

Overall, The Misanthrope’s Mansion was good, but I have the nagging feeling that something that I can’t put my finger on was missing. It wasn’t my favorite book, but I don’t regret the read.

I received a free review copy of The Misanthrope’s Mansion from the author. Her generosity in no way influenced, or sought to influence, this review.

Report Card

For more on my grading system, please see my About page.

THE MISANTHROPE'S MANSION scored a 3.8 (A)

Contemporary

Review: Don’t Even Think About It by Sarah Mlynowski

Don't Even Think About It book cover
Image from GuysLitWire

Title: Don’t Even Think About It

Author: Sarah Mlynowski

Genre: Contemporary

We wren’t always like this. We used to be average NYC high school sophomores. Until our homeroom went for flu shots. We were prepared for some side effects. Maybe some headaches. Maybe a sore arm. We definitely didn’t expect to get telepathic powers. But suddenly we could hear what everyone was thinking. Our friends. Our parents. Our crushes. Now we all know that Tess is in love with her best friend, Teddy. That Mackenzie cheated on Cooper. That, um, Nurse Carmichael used to be a stripper.

Since we’ve kept our freakish skill a secret, we can sit next to the class brainiac and ace our tests. We can dump our boyfriends right before they dump us. We know what our friends really think of our jeans, our breath, our new bangs. We already know what’s coming.

Some of us will thrive. Some of us will crack. None of us will ever be the same. So stop obsessing about your ex. We’re always listening.

If you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time, you know that I’m always up for psychic powers. So a contemporary plot with telepathic abilities? Sign me up!

I thought there were maybe three or four girls who got telepathy. I didn’t expect the whole homeroom. There’s a smaller group of major ones (nerdy Olivia, popular Mackenzie, and quiet Tess are the main players), but it was a surprisingly large group of telepathic characters.

And it was such an interesting take on the ensemble cast – the narrator was a collective consciousness. Don’t Even Think About It is the story of how a group of I‘s became a we.

This whole plot was amazing. Most of it is contemporary – crushes, boyfriends, friends and school – but then there’s the telepathy. Despite the paranormal-style powers, the best I can describe this is “contemporary with mind-readers.” It was a delightfully messy, multi-character high school story, with an extra dimension of ESP.

There was no indication of it on the cover, but there’s a sequel. And I want to read it. I want to hang out more with these characters and their high school ESP.

The Don’t Even Think About It series:

  1. Don’t Even Think About It
  2. Think Twice
Contemporary, Historical

Review: Tea Cups and Tiger Claws by Timothy Patrick

Tea Cups and Tiger Claws
Image from Timothy Patrick; used by permission

Title: Tea Cups and Tiger Claws

Author: Timothy Patrick

Genre: Historical/Contemporary

When identical triplets are born in 1916, newspapers from across the country cover the story, and the babies become little celebrities. Unfortunately, this small portion of fame leads to a much larger portion of parental greed, and the triplets are split up – parceled out to the highest bidders. Judith and Abigail go to live in a hilltop mansion, but Dorthea is not so lucky. She is stuck with a shady family in an abandoned work camp.

Identical in appearance and with the same blood in their veins, the sisters should have also shared united destinies. Instead, those destinies are thrown to the wind, and the consequences are extreme – and very visible – because in their small town, every detail of their lives is witnessed, deliberated, and judged.

I picked up this book mainly on the premise of identical triplets separated as babies and raised in very different households. The whole nature vs. nurture thing is fascinating to me (plus I’m writing a book with a similar concept, so the idea is pretty close to my heart), so I figured I’d try it.

Dorthea was the main character for the first half of the book. She was ambitious, which I admired…but that was about it. She was just so heartless and ruthless and immoral. I kept trying to find something redeeming, I really did. But as the book went on, she got worse, and I hated her so much.

Veronica, Judith’s daughter, was a spoiled brat. A spoiled, selfish, irresponsible, lazy brat. She had so much potential, though, and I hated her mostly because she could do so much…and instead, she got in trouble and threw money at it to make it go away.

Sarah, Abigail’s daughter, was the only redeeming main character in the book. She was nice, and actually cared about people. She tried a little too hard to please everyone, but I was willing to overlook that because she was the one main character I didn’t want to punch in the face.

One thing I did enjoy about Tea Cups and Tiger Claws was the sweeping scope. It started out with the birth of the Dorthea, Abigail, and Judith to a selfish, rude woman in the poor neighborhood. Then it followed Dorthea, the triplet her mother kept, up through middle age with her driving and ruthless desire to get ahead in the world.

When Sarah and Veronica get into their late teens, it switches to following them – and how they help, hinder, and react to Dorthea’s schemes. I found it interesting that this book managed to cover two generations, a huge cast of important characters, and shifting main characters while still maintaining a coherent plot.

This book was a struggle. The characters were so evil and immoral and petty. I hated almost all of them. Even the romance between Sarah and the sweet stablehand Mack was tainted by how much I hated everyone else. The problem was, Dorthea was brilliant, and I wanted to see how her schemes would play out. I hated the book, but I was fascinated by it, and I hated that I found it fascinating.

Tea Cups and Tiger Claws was just too much for me. Too much evil and too much selfishness and too much sin. I hated it, but I was fascinated by it, and that more than anything else is what made it difficult. This is my personal opinion and has little to do with the book or the writing – it was just not a book for me.

I received a free review copy of Tea Cups and Tiger Claws from the author. His generosity in no way influenced, or sought to influence, this review.

Contemporary

Review: Ballad of the Northland by Jason Barron

Ballad of the Northland book cover
Image from Jason Barron

Title: Ballad of the Northland

Author: Jason Barron

Genre: Contemporary

Life in the north is hard. For many who dwell on the fringes of the Last Great Frontier, far from the major population centers, daily life is purely a matter of survival, of eking out a hand to mouth existence on the back of frozen wastes or along windswept shores. The Boy grew up poverty-stricken in the wild country of south central Alaska. On the Yentna River, he and his cousins grow up hungry, hard, and tougher than nails. He learns to hunt, trap, and just get by in a world where survival is accomplished day by day and never taken for granted. One day, he learns about the Great Race, a thousand-mile dog sled race from Anchorage to Nome, and his odyssey begins…

I had no intention of ever reading this book. The blurb was lame, the cover was lamer, and it sounded like either a dumb coming-of-age story or something boring and “inspirational.” But my grandparents got it for my brother in Alaska, and he asked me to read it and tell him if it was any good. (He’s not a big reader anyway, and the only books he really reads are ones I recommend.)

One Saturday, nearly six months after he asked me to read it, it finally got to the top of my to-read pile. So I picked it up and decided to read 100 pages, give up, and take a nap.

After page one, I did not expect to like this book. The characters didn’t even get names. Aunt and Uncle, Little Cousin, Middle Cousin, and the main character was just called “The Boy.” (It was written in third person.) So I started slogging. And then I looked at page numbers and realized I passed the hundred mark 23 pages ago.

I didn’t get a nap that afternoon.

The characters weren’t all that outstanding. There wasn’t really a plot. But I was fascinated. It was a look at life in rural Alaska. Cold and bitter, spending the entire day doing enough to survive until tomorrow and do it again. Ballad of the Northland didn’t mince words. It was hard, cold, backbreaking, and brutal…and completely absorbing.

There was also a touch of…something else. Maybe The Boy was messed up in the head. Or maybe there was a dash of paranormal to the story. But it was a strange, eerie addition to the story that somehow didn’t seem out of place.

So did I recommend this book to my brother? Yes. It’s a little different from his usual fare of juvenile humor, but I hope he gives it a chance. I didn’t enjoy it in the sense of entertainment, but it was a fascinating read.

Contemporary, Fiction, Middle Grade

Review: Wolf Storm by Dee Garretson

Wolf Storm book cover
Image from Wonderbrary

Title: Wolf Storm

Author: Dee Garretson

Genre: Contemporary

This is Stefan’s big break. He’s on location in the mountains far from home for his first movie role, filming a blockbuster sci-fi adventure. The props, the spaceships, and the trained wolves on set should add up to a dream job, but acting turns out to be much tougher than he ever imagined, and he feels like his inner loser is all that’s showing through. From the way his famously stuck-up co-star, Raine, treats him, he’s pretty sure she thinks so too. And worst of all, no one will believe his claim that there are wild wolves haunting the forest around the set. When a blizzard strikes, isolating the young co-stars and bringing hungry feral wolves into the open, Stefan must take on his biggest role yet—working together with his co-stars to survive. With no second takes, they only have one chance to get it right.

This is one of those I-can’t-check-out-only-one-library-book books where I threw it on my pile for reasons I couldn’t quite remember when I got home. Eventually, since it was a thin book and I thought the movie-filming angle sounded at least interesting, I started reading.

Stefan had never acted in a movie before, but he was determined to give it his best shot. He wasn’t exactly outgoing at the beginning, probably because Raine kept complaining he was terrible, but once filming wasn’t the important thing, his natural leadership skills came though. I enjoyed him all the way through.

Raine was interesting. At first, she was a bratty kid star who believed the world should bend over backwards for her because she was famous. Then things started going very wrong and they got stranded, and there was a drastic change. She was almost like an enthusiastic little kid who didn’t really understand how serious everything was.

Jeremy was the youngest of the bunch, and I liked him as the sweet, happy, enthusiastic little kid. But sometimes when they were stranded, he seemed older than Raine.

The story started off with conflicts between Raine and Stefan as they were filming. And all the little details about filming a sci-fi movie were fascinating. I wanted Stefan to prove himself, and I wanted to know more about movie filming – to the point where I didn’t want them to get stranded, I wanted them to keep filming.

Once it actually happened, though, I enjoyed that, too. Stefan started shining and Raine dropped the bratty attitude, and they all started working together. It was part survival story (with wolves, some tame and some not) and part watching the characters’ relationships change.

I’m still not sure why I picked up Wolf Storm, but I’m glad I did. I enjoyed the story, the characters, and even the setting. (I read it while watching two feet of snow fall outside my bedroom window, which helped.) Can’t say I’d read it again, but I certainly enjoyed it this time around.

Contemporary

Review: Dare Me by Eric Devine

Dare Me book cover
Image from Eric Devine

Title: Dare Me

Author: Eric Devine

Genre: Contemporary

It’s simple: complete ten dares in ten months to achieve greatness. Ben Candido and his friends Ricky and John are convinced that this will make their senior year legendary. But simple becomes complicated when their videos go viral and the mysterious funder of the dares makes increasingly dangerous demands. Broken bones, Kevlar vests, tasers…while Ben may make his mark in infamy, will it come at the cost of the rest of his life?

Admittedly, this isn’t a book I would normally read. But I liked the idea of some high school boys taking on dangerous dares for “greatness.” And then I read the first line: “There is no doubt that one of us will die.” That settled it – I was going to read this book.

I don’t want to do one of my regular reviews, where I talk about the characters and plot twists and everything. I think that would ruin the magic of the book.

I’m not sure exactly what to say about Dare Me. It was…different.

The boys were completely crazy. Jumping off bridges, shooting themselves with tasers, self-destructively insane. Yet it made perfect sense. I could relate to their desire for – I don’t know what to call it. Infamy? Attention? Doing something outside the status quo?

I liked Ben and hated Ricky and wished John would grow a spine, but strangely enough, Ben’s older sister Ginny was my favorite character. I didn’t think I would like her at first, but I did. She was caring and concerned for her little brother, even if she could be manipulative. If I had a big sister, I would want her to be just like Ginny.

I didn’t expect a whole lot out of this book, except death-defying dares. Dare Me overdelivered. There were death-defying dares. But there were also abusive boyfriends, a mixed-up romance, and a family falling apart, friendships being built and crumbling and rotting from within. And a bittersweet but perfect ending.

It was suspenseful. Dark. Violent. Heartbreaking. And beautiful. A quote from Kirkus Reviews on the cover called it “Astute and riveting,” and that describes it, if inadequately. But I’m not sure the words exist for what this book is.

The storyline, most of the characters, the unnecessary violence…many times, the book repulsed me. But somehow, I connected with it. So even though I didn’t like the book in the sense that I enjoyed it as entertainment, but I loved it in the sense that it spoke to me. I have no better way to describe my reaction to Dare Me than, I didn’t like this book, but I loved it.

Did Not Finish, Fiction, Romance, Young Adult

Review: Blaze by Laurie Crompton

Blaze book cover
Image from Laurie Boyle Crompton

Title: Blaze, or Love in the Time of Supervillains

Author: Laurie Boyle Crompton

Genre: Romance

Blaze is tired of spending her life on the sidelines. All she wants is for Mark the Soccer Stud to notice her. Not as Josh’s weird sister who drives a turd-brown minivan. And not as that nerdy girl who draws comics. What she gets is her very own arch-nemesis. Mark may have humiliated Blaze supervillian-style, but what he doesn’t know is geek girls always get revenge.

I seem to be reading a lot of what-possessed-me-to-pick-this-up books lately. I’m pretty sure I picked this one up on originality alone. A romance gone bad, the hurt girl gets revenge, and comic books? Sounds pretty good.

Unfortunately, I didn’t even finish it.

Blaze was okay. Her moral standards were a little lax, which was my biggest problem with her. Other than that, though, she was responsible and kinda lonely and generally a good character.

Besides being incredibly handsome, Mark (Blaze’s love interest) was a mystery – and not in a good way. He felt very underdeveloped. And besides the fact that he was handsome, I don’t know why Blaze liked him so much (of course, that could have been the only reason).

What really made me put the book down was the plot. The back cover promised me a romance gone wrong and revenge. By the 100-page mark, Blaze and Mark had kissed for the first time. The romance part was just starting, and honestly, I was bored. The first 100 pages was Blaze pining after Mark, and that frustrated me. If it took 100 pages for the plot on the back cover to start, there was no way I’d suffer through this to get to the revenge.

I’m honestly not sure how much of this was me and how much was the book. I’m not a huge romance fan, which might have had something to do with it. Who knows, maybe you’ll like it more than me. But I am not a fan.

Contemporary, Fiction, Middle Grade

Review: Floors by Patrick Carman

Floors book cover
Image from Bay Schools

Title: Floors (Floors #1)

Author: Patrick Carman

Genre: Contemporary

There’s no place on earth quite like the Whippet Hotel. Each floor has its own wacky design – and its own secrets. The guests are mad and/or mysterious. And ducks are everywhere. Leo Fillmore should know everything there is to know about the Whippet Hotel – he is the janitor’s son, after all. But a whole lot of mystery gets thrown his way when four cryptic boxes are left for him…boxes that lead him to hidden floors, strange puzzles, and an unexpected friend or two. Leo sets off on the ride of his life without ever leaving the hotel. But as the Whippet starts falling apart, the only thing Leo knows for sure is the future of the Whippet Hotel depends on him.

I picked this up on the premise of something lighthearted, fun, and a little off-the-wall. That, and I was pretty sure I recognized the author’s name from somewhere. Couldn’t remember where – still can’t – but I trusted him to deliver something good.

I completely enjoyed Leo. He knew (or thought he knew) all the little tricks and intricacies of the Whippet, and he really loved the quirky hotel. He was willing to kinda-sorta disobey and all sorts of other stuff to save it. And I loved watching him go on maintenance runs just so I could see what zany room would show up next.

Remi was fun. A little slow at times, sure, but he made up for it in enthusiasm and loyalty. I think he was twelve, but he seemed more like a sweet eight-year-old to me.

I had fun with the storyline. Leo finds a box, and that box makes him go on an adventure and promises three more boxes. Plus the hotel is coming apart at the seams (leading to more maintenance work) and there’s some lovely hints that someone has it in for the Whippet. But the real reason I enjoyed this story so much wasn’t the plot, exactly.

Okay, the Whippet was the best part of the story, hands down. I loved the sheer insanity of it. A room full of ponds complete with fish, a room full of baked goods, replaced daily for freshness, a room that’s a miniature of Central Park, a room full of holographic farm animals. There was always something zany somewhere on the page, just waiting to be discovered. I really wish the Whippet was a real place, because I would love to explore.

After the wonderfully happy ending of Floors, I’m not sure what book two will be about. But I’m still up for reading it, since it’s obvious the Whippet has more secrets for Leo to discover.

The Floors series:

  1. Floors
  2. 3 Below
  3. The Field of Wacky Inventions
Contemporary

Review: A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

A Monster Calls book cover
Image from Ex Libris

Title: A Monster Calls

Author: Patrick Ness

Genre: Contemporary

The monster showed up after midnight. But it isn’t the monster Conor’s been expecting. He’s been expecting the one from his nightmare, the nightmare he’s had nearly every night since his mother started cancer treatments. This monster, though, is something different. Something ancient, something wild. And it wants the most dangerous thing of all from Conor. It wants the truth.

I would not have picked this book up on my own. Sure, books about cancer can be good (a la The Fault in Our Stars), but in general, they’re really sad and you never know what you’re going to get. So I had no intentions of reading this book until it was a book club pick.

This book was not at all what I expected. I expected something sad, probably a tearjerker that involved a lot of Conor trying to hide how much he’s hurting. It was sad, but it was more…dark. The whole book was dark, with an almost nightmare feel. (The eerie illustrations certainly helped with the mood.)

The story wasn’t so much Conor’s mother having cancer as how people reacted to Conor because his mother had cancer, and how Conor dealt with it. The monster may have been a figment of his imagination (or maybe not – it’s never quite established one way or another), but its harsh manner actually helped Conor deal.

I don’t want to say too much more, because I don’t want to give any spoilers. I don’t want to ruin the experience. A Monster Calls isn’t good in the traditional, I-loved-the-plot-and/or-characters sense, but it is great.

Anyone who’s suffered something emotionally difficult – not necessarily cancer – will be able to relate to this book in a deep way. Not good, but brilliant.