Monica has warned me that she has her author calming visualization aid at the ready should I decide to rip In My Dreams to pieces. Well, I’m only to going to partially shred it in this review, because although it didn’t really engage me on a lot of levels, it really wasn’t all that bad. So what happens then? Does the author visualization aid change for the reviewer too? Do I get downsized to, say, Kirstie Alley instead of Gilbert Grape’s mama?
Though now that I think about it, I’m not sure which is cruellerâ€”Chartreuse satin, or 600 lbs. of backfat?
Anyway, on with the review. Bless has always been the “homely and weird” one of the three Sanderson girls. She sees auras, spirits and demons, she has precognitive dreams and she can perform minor healing acts. It’s a family trait; her aunt Praise has supernatural abilities too. All three sisters are radically different. Bless has the Gift, Maris is autistic, and Ginger is the beautiful one, the restless one, the one who ran for the bright lights of Atlanta as soon as she could.
One recurring dream in particular fills Bless with almost unbearable longing; in it, a handsome dark stranger seduces and loves her. She knows the man is real and that she’ll meet him one day, because she always meets the people she dreams about. She’s just not sure when.
Then one day she gets a bad feeling about Ginger. So bad, that merely trying to call her on the phone fills her with dread. Always one to obey her instincts, she leaves for Atlanta immediately.
What she finds is a mess indeed: her sister is nine months pregnant, her shady boyfriend, Malik, has gone missing with a huge amount of money and the thug he stole the money from just got out of jail. As Malik’s girl, she’s a prime candidate for some not-so-gentle interrogation about his whereabouts and where he stashed the money.
Enter Malik’s brother, Rick, and woo damn, does Bless receive the shock of her life when she meets him. He’s the dark, handsome stranger in her dreams. He’s also a cop, and he’s determined to protect Ginger and the foetus. Even more shocking, however, is another realization that shoots through Bless: Ginger’s unborn child is going to be a key leader and savior when Armageddon arrives, and Ginger is just as determined to kill the baby one way or another. She’s so determined that she has enlisted assistance from various demons, who proceed to make Bless’s life very interesting indeed. Between finding love with Rick, protecting the baby from Ginger and fighting off demons, there’s more than enough to occupy Bless (and the reader) in this slim 250-page novel.
And really, the biggest peeve I have with the book is how it needs another hundred pages, easy, to do the story justice. I mean, there’s some kind of crazy apocalyptic fight going on between people of Light and these wack-ass demons, and it’s driving me crazy because the supernatural aspects that don’t involve actual demon fight scenes are almost completely glossed over. For example, Bless can heal, cleanse the spiritual atmosphere and all that good stuff. Do we get details on what this process involves, or even what it feels like to channel energy? Nope. There are some very vague descriptions of seeing auras, of pushing out the darkness, and that’s itâ€”nothing about the sensations that go through Bless as she draws on the healing power and then guides it into someone else. Not even something basic like “There was a sense of pressure on her neck, then a warm tingle in her palms and stomach as she drew the bla bla bla from the bla bla bla and oh behold the dying child healeth etc. etc.”
Bless also has to be skooled in the ancient art of demon asskicking. Do we get details on that? Nope, just some rather vague descriptions like “She blasted some light from her palms, the demon burst into flame, then she woke up sweating and sore because she learned how to ‘splode some demon butt in her dreams.” I’m dying here. I want MORE. I want to know what it feels like to kick demon ass. Again: what does it feel like to channel psychic energy like that? Even the most basic of sensory descriptions would’ve helped: cold, hot, painful, pleasant, tingly, shocking.
So in short, I can see the action, but I can’t feel it down in my bones the way I want to. I spend much of the book feeling as if I’m floating above the characters, completely removed from them, instead of living their lives, breathing their air, feeling their pain and happiness. It wasn’t until the last few chapters of the book, when Bless really starts whupping some serious demon patoot and the action sequences become more detailed, that I felt truly engaged.
There’s also a truly complex, fascinating backstory going on that’s more-or-less ignored. See, Bless, Maris and Ginger are part of an ongoing cycle of three souls who are doomed to re-live the same pattern over and over until somebody breaks the cycle. We get the barest hint of how the cycle got started, but that tantalizing taste is all we get. MORE, DAMMIT, I WANT MORE. That’s the refrain that ran in my head as I read through the book.
The love story itself was all right. Bless and Rick are extremely nice people, but I think of this book as another Soulmates Gone Wild story. Wendy the Super Librarian covered this recently in her Romancing the Blog column, and while the book conveyed very strongly how Bless and Rick are Meant To Be, the actual chemistry between them is no better than luke-warm. I, for one, would’ve liked more scenes from Rick’s point of view. I know why Bless is attracted to Rick; I mean, hell, the man’s been sexing her six ways to Sunday for years in her dreams. I’m just not quite sure why Rick is attracted to Bless. I’m told “she feels right” and that he likes curvy women who know how to cook, but something about the attraction just didn’t ring true. I don’t want just to be told that she feels right, I want to be shown it. The book’s breakneck pacing doesn’t allow this, however, which is a shame.
There are bright spots in the book. Some parts are laugh-out-loud funny, often in a rather dark way. For example, Ginger describing how the Universe tried everything to stop her from having an abortion, up to and including having birds spray her with avian bombs from the air as she’s walking to the clinic, is almost worth the price of admission. And the fight scenes, especially the ones at the end, are really, truly fun to read.
When it comes down to it, I would’ve enjoyed the book so much more if it had much more detail than it did, and if it had engaged in more showing, less telling. I think the concept and characters held a whole lot of promise, they just needed fleshing outâ€”especially the supernatural backstory. But then looking at the other reviews for this book, some people were freaked out by the supernatural bits and thought the book was way too graphic. Shit, I thought it wasn’t nearly graphic enough. Which just goes to show: you can’t please everyone all of the time. The only logical conclusion to this is: screw everyone else, Monica. Write books that will please me. I’m all that matters, because dammit, my taste is impeccable and I’m AWESOME.