As you may (or may not) remember, I started a new feature in March, My Indie Inbox. I collected all the emails from indie authors who'd asked me to read and review their books, asked them if they wanted to participate, then let my blog readers vote on which book I should read. The winner?
by Sarah Noffke
Published on November 24, 2014
by One-Twenty Six Press
Source: ARC from the author for review
Synopsis from Goodreads: Around the world humans are hallucinating after sleepless nights. In a sterile, underground institute the forecasters keep reporting the same events. And in the backwoods of Texas, a sixteen-year-old girl is about to be caught up in a fierce, ethereal battle. Meet Roya Stark. She drowns every night in her dreams, spends her hours reading classic literature to avoid her family’s ridicule, and is prone to premonitions—which are becoming more frequent. And now her dreams are filled with strangers offering to reveal what she has always wanted to know: Who is she? That’s the question that haunts her, and she's about to find out. But will Roya live to regret learning the truth?
My take: I love that My Indie Inbox got me to try a book that I wouldn't normally pick for myself. Though I do read paranormals from time to time, I tend to gravitate toward contemporaries and thrillers.
I'd call Awoken a paranormal-slash-sci-fi story. Sixteen year-old Roya Stark has always felt a little out of place in her family. When the dreams and premonitions she's always had start to alarm her, she agrees to join the Lucidites at their underwater institute and accept their guidance and protection. But soon she learns that she's a Dream Traveler who can create dreams and travel through them. If that isn't enough to absorb, Roya may also be the challenger, the only person who can stop Zhuang, a villain who is thought to be causing a worldwide sickness. At the institute, Roya and other teenagers with paranormal abilities will hone their talents and train to stop Zhuang. The science fiction comes in through a variety of gadgets that allow these Dream Travelers to get their bodies in the same place as their roaming minds.
World building can one of the toughest challenges for a writer, who must carefully guide the reader through an imagined world, giving just the right amount of information at the right time. Too little information, and the reader is lost. Too much, and they're buried under the infamous info dump. I'll admit to being a little confused at the beginning of this book. There was a lot I didn't understand and a bunch of characters. (Then again, I'm not very patient.) But as the book went on, I understood more and more about what was going on. The main part of the story is a familiar "hero answers the call" then "hero meets mentors and undergoes training sequence" at the "Extranormal Institute." (Who doesn't love an Extranormal Institute, I ask you?) Once the training got going and the plot took a few interesting turns, I felt much more invested in Roya's story and her eventual showdown with Zhuang.
Would I call Awoken a paranormal romance? Not exactly. This book isn't exactly short on guys: hunky guys with beautiful eyes, guys with accents, guys with attitudes. But the story focuses more on Roya and her personal journey and the romance comes more at the very end. I can't say I minded this, because on the one hand, it often annoys me when characters with important work to do spend too much time flirting with guys. On the other hand, I'd have liked the romance to be a little better developed. Was there a triangle? Not exactly, but there is the potential for one to develop in the next book. The writing is smooth, though I think the first half of the book could have been streamlined a little to smooth out the pace, as the second half is where all the action happens.
It's hard for me to come up with too many comp titles, because I don't read a ton of paranormals. But I'd recommend Awoken to fans who enjoy books like the Shade-Shift-Shine series by Jeri Smith-Ready or the Mythos Academy series by Jennifer Estep. Both of those feature strong female characters with paranormal abilities who can fight evil and flirt at the same time.
Stay tuned for the voting in my second My Indie Inbox. Can't wait to see what you pick for me next!
Great review Jen! Glad you went out of your comfort zone and tried a new book!ReplyDelete
Patrick @ The Bookshelves
We should all do that now and then!Delete
Lovely review, and of a title I wouldn't have considered myself. It sounds intriguing. The right balance in the world building is tricky even for the more experienced authors. Now, I'm curious :)ReplyDelete
Once I figured out what was going on, I quite enjoyed it!Delete
Oh this is such a great idea and I'm glad that you're sort of stepping out of your comfort zone. I haven't heard of this one but it seems like a really interesting story. I'm also glad that it's not only about romance as world building is really important too. Great review :)ReplyDelete
I love this idea too!ReplyDelete
Haven't heard of the book before but it sounds interesting!
Thanks for sharing, Jen!
Thanks for stopping by!Delete
This is a great idea! I definitely need to step out of my comfort zone a bit.....ReplyDelete
Kate @ Ex Libris
It feels a little ... uncomfortable at first, but then it's really fun!Delete
I love this new feature! It gives us readers a chance to discover new indie authors! I'm glad you ended up enjoying this too. I enjoy reading paranormal but I've only read and enjoyed a handful sci-fi books, I like that this one is some sort of hybrid of both. I like that the heroine's strong too and that the romance didn't take over the storyline. I get annoyed when that happens. I wonder if this is a standalone. Will check it out! Awesome review Jen! :)ReplyDelete
Based on the ending, I'm fairly certain it's a series...Delete
You don't read indies often, do you? I don't either. Books published by publishing houses look always more interesting to me, that's why. Almost, most indie books I've read I didn't enjoy much. Glad there was things to enjoy about this, though! Great review :)ReplyDelete
I love the idea of supporting indie authors, but there's the time issue (I have a gazillion review books). So I'm happy that I'm trying this!Delete
It's a shame that there was a bit of a info dump happening there in the first few chapters - this one sounds pretty interesting, so thanks for putting it on my radar! Also, love that you're doing this feature xDReplyDelete
I wouldn't exactly call it an info-dump at the beginning, just that the world is complicated and I felt a little lost. I feel that way often when reading books that have a lot of rules to the pararnormal or fantasy system. I need to be more patient.Delete
This is the first time I read about this book, but I'm glad you recommend it to fans of Shade, since I loved that book. I don't mind indie books but I don't read many of them. So I think I'll give this a try!ReplyDelete
It did remind me of those books a bit -- let me know what you think!Delete
What a great idea. I love Indie books. This one sounds right up my alley! Great review!ReplyDelete