The Girl Who Watched Over Dreams by Jeff Russell

Title: The Girl Who Watched Over Dreams

Author: Jeff Russell

Publisher: Cabern Publishing

Publication date: February 6, 2016

Genre: Medical Thriller

Summary: At Eden, you can live the rest of your life in dreams of your own creation. For newly minted Dr. Katrina “Kat” Hammond and her mother, Gloria, this becomes the only viable solution to giving Gloria a pain-free life and Kat the chance to live without worrying about her mother. When Kat is unexpectedly given an offer to work at Eden, studying EEGs to program dream software, neither mother nor daughter could refuse. Unfortunately, Kat discovers Eden is not as idyllic as her new boss made it sound and launches a private investigation into the dark truth of Eden.

On the surface, The Girl Who Watched Over Dreams sounds like an intriguing read. Who wouldn’t want to explore the possibility of living one’s life in one’s own chosen dreams? This novel explored that possibility, and I loved that the dreams seemed to run a true course, as they would when someone would normally be dreaming when they sleep.

Read a little deeper, though, and this novel is more strongly plot driven with little character development. The descriptions of places around the country that Kat and her love interest Morgan gave each other were beautiful and the relationship Kat has with her mother is extremely heartwarming, which are nice additions to the story. But the characters made mistakes, took certain actions, and grew just a little only for the sake of the story. For example, the plot was moved along when Kat left a patient file open on her desk, out in the open for her hovering boss to find. As someone who has been trained to be a therapist, this makes me believe Kat was poorly trained to be a doctor, where HIPPA rules the lives of those who work with patients. And Kat, the new doctor who never wants to rock the boat, never seemed to grow a spine until her life was threatened and the survival instinct kicked in. Throughout the novel, she tiptoed around her boss, understandably to protect her mother and her job, and his orders with her one rebellious action to continually work late hours to pursue her private investigation into Eden. On the bright side, Kat’s boss and owner of Eden, Grant, made for a very plausible antagonist. He was thoroughly charming at the beginning and then slowly revealed himself to be ruthless and cunning, seemingly taking a turn into madness at one point. I would have loved to read more about him and his motivations.

Despite this novel being so plot driven, the plot itself was at many times plodding and tedious. It was nice to get a good look into Kat’s scientific process as she tried to understand inconsistencies in the patients’ EEGs, but, at the same time, it was quite laborious and could have been shortened or written in a snappier fashion that would make it more interesting and engaging. In direct contrast to most of the book, the ending was extremely rushed before stuttering to a stop that went into a very quick wrap-up. There was a great action sequence as Kat battled her enemies, but then it fizzled out and the reader is left to imagine what happened while Kat went to the authorities.

My biggest problem with The Girl Who Watched Over Dreams was the romantic element that was thrown in. Unnecessary, it does help Kat feel a little more human as she navigates her personal and professional lives. We meet Morgan fairly early on, but, as a reporter, both Kat and the reader are led to be wary of him. Unfortunately, that isn’t enough to keep Kat away and, during one weekend, she found herself falling for him while simultaneously thinking it was too fast and essentially broke off the one relationship she had outside Eden. It isn’t too long, though, before she talked him into trying a relationship again, only to completely fail at it by repeatedly not calling him back, leaving Morgan to hang on, hoping for the best while Kat is entirely too busy for a romantic relationship. One thing that bothered me was the complete absence of cell phones unless it solved a plot problem. For someone in a new relationship, the other person usually holds a place of importance, making me scratch my head as to why Kat ignored him so much unless she needed something from him. And why didn’t Kat have a cell phone Morgan can call her on? And why didn’t Morgan leave messages on her home phone instead of her work phone? Again, because the plot demanded it. Morgan the reporter and love interest could have played a much more integral part. Instead, he felt extraneous for most of the novel, useful only to help Kat out of tight spots and move the plot along. Honestly, I was hoping he would stick up for himself, tell Kat what he expects in a relationship, and possibly make her life more difficult, and maybe the book more interesting.

With such an interesting premise, it pains me that the novel wasn’t just plot heavy, but also poor on the writing. Several more rounds of editing could have made this a snappier, more thrilling read. It would have also caught the numerous instances of missing, extra, and wrong words. One of my biggest grammar pet peeves is commas. This book suffered because of this, with commas missing, in wrong places, and simply not used when required. Dialogue was also mixed into paragraphs instead of being separated out like it is supposed to be. The paragraphs themselves tended to be long and tedious and could have easily been broken apart for easier reading. Regardless, I enjoyed the general flow of the writing and the story at the beginning, but it wasn’t carried off nearly as well by the end.

Bottom line: The Girl Who Watched Over Dreams was, overall, a decent book to read to my toddler at night with no sex and minimal cursing I could easily leave out. If you can see past the general poor writing and enjoy less character driven stories, this one has an interesting premise and enough of a light mystery to make it a decent read.

How many cups of tea will you need?

2 cups and a snack will do

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