Friday, October 2, 2015

Mini Reviews volume 4 - 2015 Debut Author Challenge Edition

I've been getting LOTS of reading done lately. So much so that I have the blog mapped out for an entire month and books still aren't getting featured. Hmm. So here are some more mini reviews to cover a few of those titles.

First up, Dreamland by Robert L. Anderson.

Odea Donohue has an interesting ability. By touching an item, she can travel into the dreams of the person it belongs to. The more special the item is to that person, the easier it is to get into their dreams. Dea's mother has warned her about this power, though, and has set out a few rules that are never to be broken under any circumstances. 

First, Dea is never to be seen inside the dream. Second, she can't interfere. Third, she can never ever walk a person's dreams more than once.

Dea sticks to the rules religiously until Connor arrives in town. From the start, Connor treats Dea and her friend Gollum differently than everyone else. As a result the three become fast friends. But Dea likes Connor as more than just a friend and unfortunately that's the start to her troubles. 

The first half of Dreamland zipped by. Dea's power is super cool and the rules definitely make it more intriguing. Beyond those rules we also learn that Dea's mother has been moving her around from town to town her entire life AND that she has something against mirrors. Lots of stuff to get excited about! Plus, Dea and Connor's friendship develops nicely, as does their relationship beyond friendship, so it's understandable when he becomes the prompt that changes things for Dea.

By the time we get to the truth about Dea's ability, I was kind of blown away. It was definitely not at all what I expected. Anderson's world building is on the one hand quite nice in terms of detail and description but at the same time I felt like there was a depth that was missing in this second half of the book.

I'm going to be a bit obtuse at this point to avoid spoilers, but the big reveal (the one the comes after we learn about her power) was not a surprise and it was too rushed for my taste when it did finally come. Frankly it just felt like a lot of the earlier focus on detail and such was thrown out the window in lieu of bringing the story to a close.

All in all it wasn't a total disappointment but it was one I thought could have been so much better.

Rating: 3/5

Next up Drowning is Inevitable by Shalanda Stanley.

Olivia and Jamie have always been best friends. Next door neighbors from early childhood, they've stuck together through the years and supported one another. Olivia, for example, is the daughter of St. Francisville's only suicide and has lived all her life with the sideways glances and pity of her neighbors. And Jamie, well, his home life is less than great. After his father lost his job he turned to alcohol and never really looked back. Now in their senior year of high school Jamie has plans to attend college and Olivia just wants to make it past her eighteenth birthday. But all of that changes when the friends find themselves on the run in the wake of a horrific event. 

It's true that I might be just a little predisposed to love anything in any way connected to my home state, but I have to say that Stanley's debut is - in spite of that predisposition - still a book that is completely awesome.

Drowning is Inevitable is a powerful emotional read. It's a story of friendship and of love. Of sticking by those who mean the most to you no matter what. And it's a story of bad things that happen to good people.

Both Jamie and Olivia live in almost impossible situations. Olivia - and many around her - wonder if her mother's suicide means that Olivia herself will also take her own life. She lives with her grandmother who has begun to confuse her granddaughter with her dead daughter. Even Olivia's room belonged to her mother and is filled with the belongings and memorabilia of the mom she never met. And while her father is a presence in her life, his own grief of the past eighteen years has prevented him from truly being a dad.

Jamie spends his time worrying about and trying to protect his mother. For now, his writings and Olivia are his only escape. When asked why she doesn't leave, his mother says she committed to her husband through better or worse.

This is such a heartbreaking story! I cried. I cried A LOT! The characters are so well drawn and real that Stanley definitely made me feel like I was along for the ride the entire way. And of course, with all that they face I couldn't help but get emotionally involved. I guarantee you will as well.

Rating: 4.5/5

And finally, Jillian Cade: (Fake) Paranormal Investigator by Jen Klein.

Jillian's mother is dead and her father disappeared even before that happened. He says he's off on work, but Jillian doesn't care. A junior in high school she's been left to all but fend for herself. 

Umbra Investigations is Jillian's lifeline. Her means of making money and (sometimes) paying bills. Her firm is focused on investigating the weird and supernatural, even if Jillian herself doesn't believe. What matters is that her clients do and as long as they're willing to pay, she's determined to keep up the charade. 

Then Jillian is hired by a fellow student, a girl who wants Umbra to find her missing boyfriend. And if Jillian fails, the student threatens to expose her for the fraud she really is. With new guy Sky Ramsey by her side she - whether she wants him there or not - Jillian vows to close the case even when the clues lead her in a decidedly bizarre direction. 

This debut by Jen Klein is seriously fun! Jillian is a gutsy heroine who puts on a good front but has basically been orphaned. Her mom died while she was in attendance and after a prolonged period of odd behavior too. Her dad is more focused on his work than he is on his daughter. She's not totally alone, though. Her aunt and uncle are there to support her, much as they try, and her cousin helps in her investigations. But Jillian is stubborn and has her heart set on her independence.

Then the twists start coming. In spite of her belief that all paranormal is fake Jillian's case starts to lean more and more in that direction. Before long Jillian begins to realize the truth, but by then the shit's really hitting the fan! 

I do hope this is the first in a new series. There's so much more to Jillian's story and I'm dying to read it!

Rating: 4/5

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