Book review: ‘Wake’ by Lisa McMann

Well. Wake by Lisa McMann. There you are. Here I am.

We’re not friends.

We never will be.

It’s been a while since I actively disliked a book as much as this one, friends.

Here’s our premise: Janie is a 17-year-old with a mysterious ability to slip into others’ dreams. When someone falls asleep within a certain radius, Janie is sucked into their nightmares — death; fire; falling; sex — and must stand nearby as they all beg for her help. Her unwanted, uncontrollable condition is akin to having regular seizures.

After she begins talking to Cabel, a loner rumored to be a druggie, Janie slowly lets her guard down and starts to give Cabe a foothold in her life. No one else discusses her alcoholic mother or her strange black-outs; no one else sees the secrets that have haunted her since childhood. And Janie is discovering that Cabe has secrets of his own . . .

So, none of this worked for me. We get this story from an awkward present-tense, third-person vantage point that never let me get close to the characters or plot, and the incredibly sparse language did nothing but annoy me. McMann’s short phrases and chapters, diary-like in nature, felt like rapid-fire pelts against my skull. The lack of descriptions and jarring transitions between the “real world” and the “dream world” felt strange — and though I’m sure the author intended it that way, I hated constantly switching between reality and nightmares. It was boring.

This book is a fast read — I finished it in two days, and that was with wanting to chuck it at the wall a few times. I finished because I was already tearing through it and, to be honest, I was waiting for things to get interesting. For me, they never did — not even with a bombshell towards the end. Plus? The language here was atrocious. I know everyone’s quick to pull out “But this is how teens talk!” card but, honestly? Don’t care. I don’t need to see the F-bomb dropped on every other page, nor am I interested in the sex lives of teenagers. I don’t care if that’s how they talk and blah blah blah I’m so old and out of touch with the world blah blah — I just don’t want it. Don’t like it.

The romance between Janie and Cabel left me cold, and I wasn’t interested in the back stories of these characters — or any others. Just . . . not into it. I know I’m being mean and I should try harder to be balanced, but I just wasn’t a fan.

One star for being, you know, a bestselling book; one star for attempts at a creative plot involving dream catching. But I’m sorry, Wake; it’s over between us. Don’t make this any more difficult than it has to be.

But don’t take my word as gospel! There are lots of readers who rave about this one, including Book Reviews By Crystal, Karin’s Book Nook, YA Reads and Harmony Book Reviews. And, you know, many reviewers on LibraryThing and Goodreads. So I’m the weirdo, but that’s all right.


2 out of 5!

ISBN: 1416974474 ♥ GoodreadsLibraryThingAmazonAuthor Website
Personal copy purchased by Meg

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Book review: ‘Maybe This Time’ by Jennifer Crusie

It’s been ten long years since Andie Miller stepped foot in the law office of North Archer — and only then to let him know she was on her way out the door. But now it’s 1992, a decade since she and her ex-husband crossed paths, and she’s finally ready to let him go. She wants to throw his alimony checks back in his face and start over . . . with Will Spenser.

But North has other plans. Now the appointed guardian of a distant cousin’s two young children, North desperately needs help — especially since the kids have already cycled through three nannies. Something strange is happening at Archer House, a property for which he’s responsible, and someone has to figure out what’s going on. Someone North trusts to tell him the truth — and get those kids out of there and ready for school. Kind but firm, Andie seems a logical — if unexpected — choice.

And, surprisingly, she’s up for the task. Andie makes her way to the old Victorian home in Ohio, transported stone by stone from England more than a century before. Complete with a moat and one surly housekeeper, Mrs. Crumb, Archer House has a distinctly creepy vibe — and meeting the two children does nothing to alleviate that. Young Alice’s pastimes include screaming for no reason, demanding unreasonable things, giving angry looks and being as uncooperative as possible. Her brother, Carter, is a quiet 12-year-old who loves art — but is rumored to have a thing for fires. As in, starting them. Everywhere.

And did we mention the ghosts? It doesn’t take long for Andie to begin feeling unexpected drafts in the home, not totally ridiculous given the size and nature of an old house like that . . . but how can she explain the visions and figures she sees lurking around the pond and Alice’s bed, or up in the old tower? And what’s frightening the children so that they refuse to leave Archer House — on risk of death?

Jennifer Crusie’s Maybe This Time is a hard novel to classify — mostly because it’s such a conglomeration of many (awesome) genres. Part romance, part mystery, part thriller, Crusie’s latest — her first solo work in six years — was a suspenseful, entertaining and often laugh-out-loud funny look at woman grappling with the past not really being the past . . . and the unexpected feelings of devotion she suddenly feels for two young children. And, you know, surviving the vengeful natures of a few murderous ghosts.

Andie is a resourceful, strong and quick-witted character, and there isn’t too much not to like about her. She manages to walk the fine line between speaking her mind and being honest while not being a raging jerk, and I can respect that. North, on the other hand, comes across as cold and steel-hearted — until you get to know him and see past the lawyerly facade. And recognize the undeniable soft spot he has for his ex-wife. It’s not difficult to see what would draw her to him, a woman with such confidence — a woman he let slip away while he slogged away at his law firm, losing himself in nothing but work and old family drama.

What I loved about Maybe This Time were these two realistic, relatable characters — and the kids, too, who you can’t help but feel close to after spending so many pages here with them. Alice comes across as a borderline nutcase when we first meet her, but I absolutely adored her by the close of the book. She and Carter both act the way you’d expect children to act, complete with intelligent but still child-like dialogue, and I really appreciated that. Plus, I couldn’t help but giggle when she referred to North as “Bad Uncle,” or just plain ol’ “Bad” for short.

For as much as this is about Andie and North reuniting (perhaps?) or Andie caring for and helping the kids, it’s also a real ghost story — complete with mystery and a few bone-chilling scenes. In particular, one features an old nanny, Miss J, and Crusie makes reference to the gaping black holes in her head where eyes should have been. When a seance is held to try and rid Archer House of the apparitions, I got genuine goosebumps. But for a scaredy cat like me, the frightening aspects weren’t overwhelming — and only served to enhance an otherwise very entertaining story.

Fluid, witty and undeniably skilled, Jennifer Crusie has crafted a romantic and very readable story in Maybe This Time. Fans of contemporary fiction, ghost stories and romance will love the unique combination she’s created here — and I’ll be happy to share this one with the other fiction readers in my life.


4.5 out of 5!

ISBN: 0312303785 ♥ Purchase from AmazonAuthor Website
Review copy provided by publisher

Book review: ‘The Girl On Legare Street’ by Karen White

Ghosts surround Melanie Middleton like cobwebs — present in the corners of every encounter, but typically just filling the background of her life, feather-soft and unintrusive. After almost 40 years of practice, she’d learned how to block out the voices only she can hear — until she inherited an historic home in downtown Charleston, South Carolina. And after solving a decades-old mystery on Tradd, her attention is called to a new location: Legare Street, site of her family’s ancestral home, sold when Melanie, now a Realtor, was young. The house is back on the market and though she’s promised a big sale, the listing comes with a price — a reconnection with her mother, Ginnette Priloeau Middleton, a famous opera singer who’s emerged on the scene after spending decades away from her only daughter with hardly a word.

As we learned in Karen White’s first novel following Melanie’s escapades, The House On Tradd Street, our narrator is a determined but very vulnerable woman — still susceptible to the pain of remembering her mother’s abandonment, which is never far from the surface of the narration. Ginnette, herself a psychic, has returned to Charleston with a warning for her daughter, and with one cryptic sentence — “We are not as we seem” — events are set in motion which will require Melanie to work with her mother to figure out what — or whom — is haunting the Legare home. Before things really get dangerous. Of course, the promise of a new mystery to unravel is enough to lure writer Jack Trenholm, Melanie’s obvious-to-everyone-but-her crush, back into the picture. And thus the trio sets out on trying to make sense of the ghosts haunting Legare — and Melanie must sift through her tangled feelings for both her mother and Jack in the process. And when a reporter arrives on the scene asking some hard questions, everyone has to come up with answers.

I can say unabashedly I enjoyed The Girl On Legare Street as much — if not more — than its predecessor, which I thought was funny, well-written, interesting and romantic. It’s been a long time since I felt the familiar zing! of well-written romantic tension, and White’s book has everything: family dynamics, love, friendship and mystery. Though Melanie’s grudge against her mother did become very tedious about halfway through the novel, I knew that she’d have to forgive her eventually — and eagerly waited for that scene when all would be revealed.

The mystery in this novel — centering around an old, sunken boat discovered off the coast of South Carolina — was, to me, much more intriguing than the family saga unfolding in The House On Tradd Street. Perhaps because this novel directly impacted Melanie, I felt more personally invested in what would be discovered, and felt more about what was happening. This one also spooked me far more than the first book! Though I’m admittedly skittish by nature, The Girl On Legare Street seemed to pack much more of a paranormal punch — but never to the point of gore or violence.

All family secrets were revealed gradually — too gradually, some might argue. And I can certainly see the validity of criticism that the novel moved too slowly, left us without new information for too long, forcing readers to try and fit the myriad of random puzzle pieces White gave us into some semblance of order. And that was a little frustrating. But I guess the difference for me came with the fact that I loved Melanie and Ginnette and was totally intrigued by their muddled relationship, and I didn’t mind that we spent long stretches in the present without historical details to help us solve with the mystery. I knew all would be revealed in time, and I was content to run along for the ride.

Fans of Southern fiction will find much to love in the lush, charismatic South Carolina setting, and those who get a kick out of paranormal fiction will appreciate the ghost stories and family secrets binding the book together. The push-and-pull tension between Jack and Melanie will please romance fans — like yours truly — and I am happy that plot moved forward a bit with this book. And an unexpected ending leaves me wondering whether or not we’ll see another adventure from White yet. Would I return again to her world where nothing is as it seems? You bet, y’all!


4.5 out of 5!

ISBN: 0451227999 ♥ Purchase from AmazonAuthor Website


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Review copy provided by TLC Book Tours