Dreaming Awake

Warning!  Read Falling Under before proceeding.  If you don’t, you will be totally lost without any hope of finding your way out!  (Sorry.  Dreaming Awake messed with my head a little bit, and I’m still kind of stuck in the world depicted in this captivating yet disturbing story.)

A little over a year ago, I read a really cool book called Falling Under.  This book by Gwen Hayes was the very definition of the word “macabre.”  It was at once haunting and beautiful.  Well, this week, I finally got around to reading the sequel, Dreaming Awake, and everything I felt about Falling Under definitely applies to the second book.  Dreaming Awake picks up where Falling Under ended, and it further explores the extremely complicated relationship between Theia and Haden.  Things are more convoluted now than they were before.  Now that Theia has been “infected” with demon blood (from Haden’s mother, no less), Theia, Haden, and everyone they care about are about to enter a world of nightmares that is more horrifying than they ever thought possible…

Theia has just returned from the mysterious nightmare realm of Under…but she’s not returning to the same life she left. Her father is almost unbearably distant, everyone at school looks at her differently (especially the guys), and she’s got the little problem of demon blood running through her veins.  Theia feels more powerful than she ever has, but she doesn’t know how to control her new “abilities.”  A couple of things haven’t changed though.  Her friends are still completely devoted and understanding and are doing their absolute best to help Theia find a way out of her current predicament.  And then there’s Haden…Haden Black, the half-demon who is still the love of Theia’s life.  Sure, his mom, Mara, is totally evil and determined to ruin their human lives and drag them to Under, but Theia never doubts Haden’s love.  Sometimes, he’s the only bright spot in her scary new life.  But evil has a way of destroying every happiness that Theia manages to find, and it’s coming back to claim Theia…whether she likes it or not.

Theia is trying as hard as she can to hold onto her humanity, but it’s getting harder and harder to deny the dark urges that have taken hold of her.  People around her are suffering, and, even though Theia knows it’s not entirely her fault, she feels she must do something–anything–to make things right.  But is she willing to give up the love of her life to make that happen?  Maybe her relationship with Haden was never meant to be, but Theia doesn’t know if she can truly sacrifice her love for Haden to escape the nightmare in which she’s currently imprisoned.  Could she possibly ask him to give up his last shred of humanity so that her life could go back to normal?

Theia must make some tough decisions…and she must make them soon, or everyone she’s ever loved will be in mortal danger.  Will her love for Haden and her friends be strong enough to fight the darkness in Under and even in herself?  Can Theia hold onto her humanity when the urges to embrace the darkness are growing stronger?  Do Theia, Haden, and their friends have any hope of defeating Mara, the demon queen, or will they all be dragged Under…forever?  Find out what one girl is willing to sacrifice–and even accept–in order to save the people who matter the most to her when you read Dreaming Awake, the gripping sequel to Falling Under, by Gwen Hayes.

Like Falling Under, Dreaming Awake, creeped me out just as it drew me in.  Both of these books remind me of Tim Burton films (but without Johnny Depp or Helena Bonham Carter).  Yes, there is a definite nightmarish quality, but there’s also a weird kind of beauty in the world of Under.  I highly recommend this book to teen (and adult) readers who are fans of Tim Burton, The Addams Family, or anything else that depicts love with an edge of darkness.

If you’d like more information about Falling Under, Dreaming Awake, or author Gwen Hayes, visit http://www.gwenhayes.com/ or follow her on Twitter @gwenhayes.

Dreamland

Caution:  Read the first two books in Alyson Noël’s Riley Bloom series, Radiance and Shimmer, before continuing!

About thirty minutes ago, I finished my final book of Spring Break 2012 (and since I have to return to work tomorrow, this post will probably be a short one—well, for me anyway).  The book I chose to wrap up my spring vacation was Dreamland, the third book in the Riley Bloom series by Alyson Noël.  Oddly enough, I began my vacation with the second book in this series, Shimmer, so there’s a nice bookend feel here.  All of the good things I’ve said about Radiance and Shimmer definitely apply to Dreamland as well, and I’m sure the same will be true of book four, Whisper.

 

In each of these books, we learn more about Riley Bloom, a twelve-year-old Soul Catcher who is learning the ropes in the Here and Now (the author’s version of Heaven).  It’s not always easy for Riley, especially since what she wants most in the world is to be thirteen—a feat somewhat difficult to accomplish since she died when she was twelve.  Like most twelve-year-olds, Riley is very self-centered, but she’s also lonely, afraid, and still kind of stuck in the life she left behind, particularly her relationship with her big sister, Ever.  So far, she’s avoided any real trouble with the Council (the “governors” of Here and Now), but her guide, Bodhi, is pretty sure her luck will run out eventually.

When Riley and Bodhi are ordered to go on a vacation after their last fiasco (which Riley would point out ended remarkably well), Riley doesn’t know what to do with herself.  Her work is her afterlife.  She doesn’t have any friends other than her dog, Buttercup.  Her family has moved on.  Bodhi appears to have a girlfriend.  So what is there to do?  Well, she could pay her sister a little visit.  Even though she’s warned against it, Riley decides to visit Dreamland, a place where she can enter her sister’s dreams, communicate with Ever, and finally learn what it takes to be a thirteen-year-old.

But Dreamland is not without its dangers, and Riley may not be prepared to face them.  Riley’s tendency to leap before looking might just land her in more trouble than she can handle.  Can Riley break through the nightmare she finds herself in?  Will she learn what it really takes to grow up in the Here and Now?  Or is she doomed to remain a child—with a child’s fears and immaturity—forever?  Is growing older possible for Riley, or is that yet another dream that remains out of her reach?  Read Dreamland by Alyson Noël to find out!

Dreamland is yet another book that is great for upper elementary, middle-grade, high school, and adult readers.  There’s something for everyone to enjoy (and, more importantly, there’s something everyone can learn).  I look forward to reading more of Riley Bloom’s adventures in Whisper, due to be released on April 24th.  (Just two weeks away!  Woohoo!!)

For more information on Alyson Noël and the Riley Bloom series, visit http://www.alysonnoel.com/ or follow the author on Twitter @AlysonNoel.  You can also check out this awesome book trailer for Dreamland (available on YouTube):