7 Rated Books

Book Review: Before I Wake

Title: Before I wake

Author: Kathryn Smith

Genre: Paranormal Romance

Stand Alone/Series: Book 1 of a new series called Nightmare Chronicles

Summary: You may call it a dream job…

And in some ways, you’d be right. I actually get paid to study people’s dreams. It comes much easier than my employers at the Sleep Center suspect; after all, I, Dawn, am the daughter of the king of the dream world, and I can roam the dreams of others, battling the nightmares that plague them.

I call it a nightmare…

Honestly, I could use a good night’s sleep. But ever since I met Noah Clarke, I’m even more torn between the two worlds: smart, sexy, and able to control his own dreams, Noah could be my perfect man, except he’s being stalked in his sleep by an unearthly evil, hell-bent on destroying him … and the entire world.

Why did I read the Book: I received an advanced reading copy from the publishers.


Dawn Riley is a psychologist, working at the Sleep Centre clinic, a specialist in dreams and sleep. Ironically, Dawn is a dream herself – actually a nightmare. Make it Nightmare with Capital Letter. The daughter of a human mother who became depressed after having a miscarriage and found solace in her dreams falling in love (and being reciprocated) with Lord Morpheus, the king of the Dreaming himself. Dawn is the offspring of this affair and as a child she would spend most of her nights visiting with her non-human dad. Since early in life Dawn knew she was different and knew she could control her dreams. That was never a problem until one day after being bullied at school by Jackey Jenkins, she visits the girl in her dream and scares the hell out of the her in a very Carrie moment, with dire repercussions. It was a childish thing to do but one that caused immense guilt nonetheless.

Ever since then, Dawn stayed away from her father’s land, creating a dream world for her own where she would control everything. Her resolve at having nothing to do with the Dreaming or Morpheus is made stronger by her mother’s decision to sleep her life away so that she could be in the arms of Morpheus literally and permanently, never caring about her human husband and her other children who know nothing about the Dreaming and think she is in a coma. Dawn is the only one in the family that knows the truth and that eats her inside with anger and frustration at her parent’s selfishness.

When one of her patients and subject of one of the clinic’s studies in lucid dreaming (side note: a lucid dreamer is someone who knows they are dreaming and can control the outcome of a dream), the painter Noah Clarke, tells her that his dreams are trying to kill him Dawn has no choice but to believe him. Things become even more absurd when she realizes that the man that is terrorizing Noah’s dreams is the same one that has appeared in one of hers.

After breaking the silence and visiting her father to do some investigating, Dawn learns that the man – Karatos, is a Night Terror on the lose and in cahoots with other Dreamkin to bring Morpheus down by getting to her – the only ever half child to survive, one with powers that no one comprehends, not even Morpheus himself. In a twist of roles, Dawn then learns that as a Nightmare, she is in charge of taking care of dreamers, protecting them from Night Terrors and other creatures of dreams that lose control.
She should have been trained by The Nightmare’s Guild (under the tutelage of one of their sheriffs, a nightmare called Verek who is definitely Hero material – I am on Hero Alert as of now) but keeping away all these years have delayed her developing process.

The plot thickens when she realizes that Karatos has a special interest in Noah (whose dreams are so full of anger at an yet unresolved infancy issue, probably due to an abusive father) that has nothing to do with the Dreamkin’s conspiracy and things turn personal – she has this huge crush on Noah and can’t let anything happen to him so she makes a deal with Morpheus to start training in exchange for his help to stop Karatos and ends up having to fully accept that she is not entirely human and will always walk in two worlds.

Dawn’s narrative (in first person) is so refreshingly….normal. She is not exceedingly beautiful, she is a bit on the plump side, who enjoys make-up and reading romance novels and has watched Forrest Gump more times than she can count. She is so funny with her mind in the gutter every time she thinks of Noah. And in the Dream world she created for herself when she is asleep, where she keeps away from her mother and her father, she constantly summons the likes of David Boreanaz to make her company – a woman after my own heart. It is impossible not to relate to her. Her problems with her mother and father are not solved magically nor is her romantic involvement with Noah – they start to fall in love in this book (and their relationship is sweet and funny, and so straight forward, thank God) but his troubled past is a problem that may mar their growing attachment by making him resentful of the fact that he can not fight Karatos alone. His frustration at having Dawn helping him and not the other way around is very clear even though we have no insight into his mind.

If the concept of the Dreaming and the presence of King Morpheus are not necessarily original (a fact that is, to my utmost relief, acknowledged within the book with Dawn making a reference to Neil Gaiman’s Sandman and Kate Bush’s The Dreaming album), the author takes things a step further by creating the Nightmare’s Guild, an idea that is interesting in itself by making the usual dreaded nightmare into protectors of dreamers. Another point of interest is that there is a hierarchy in the Dreaming that is threatened by the mere existence of a child that can exist in the waking and in the Dreaming world at the same time. This fermenting rebellion is left unresolved by the end of the book, leaving things in the open for book 2.

The book is a non-stop mix of action and romance perfectly balanced that both readers of romance and urban fantasy would be comfortable with. Dawn is a captivating heroine and now I have yet another series to look forward to.

Notable Quotes/ Parts:

I found Dawn’s internal voice so funny and since my mind is in the gutter just like hers I will quote a piece of dialogue between her and Noah:

Noah: “Say you’ll stay. That you’ll come with me later.

My mind firmly in the gutter, I just about expired at his last remark. I nodded, despite protests from my brain. “I’ll stay”. Notice I purposefully avoided anything about coming.

Additional Thoughts: I was quite interested in the concept of Lucid Dreaming after I read the book. I googled it and found some interesting references on Wikipedia: “A lucid dream is a dream in which the person is aware that he or she is dreaming while the dream is in progress, also known as a conscious dream. When the dreamer is lucid, he or she can actively participate in the dream environment without any of the inhibitions or limitations that otherwise would feel natural to persons who incorrectly believe they are in the “real” waking world. Lucid dreams can be extremely real and vivid depending on a person’s level of self-awareness during the lucid dream.” You can read more about it here.

The reason why I was so interested was that once I had a dream where I was being chased by zombies (yeah) and I knew it was a dream. I had high heels and I though to myself, I should get some sneakers and puff the high heels were gone and I could run. Then I saw a taxi but I had no money so I thought, now I need my purse and it appeared in my hands, I got in the taxi and willed myself to wake up. How about that? Wicked. My favourite dream to date. I mentioned this to a few people but no one would believe me, now I know it was probably my one and only lucid dream.

Verdict: Refreshingly original paranormal romance with a captivating narrative voice. I loved both the world building and the romance.

Rating: 7. VERY GOOD

Reading Next: Wild Thing Anthology

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  • Tracy
    August 6, 2008 at 10:08 am

    This sounds really good. I’ve always been interested in dreams so this would be great for me to read.

    I’m jealous about your zombie dream…I can never control the strange and bizarre happenings in my dreams! πŸ™‚

  • little alys
    August 6, 2008 at 11:20 am

    Agh! I want this NOW!!! Need book. It sounds so interesting.

    I used to practice lucid dreaming (yes, quite possible), but then I figured giving myself a sound sleep would be better. Heh.

    Surprisingly, it was another romance novel that got me into it years ago. A decade or so ago. LoL

  • Bridget Locke
    August 6, 2008 at 9:00 pm

    Oh, cool! I saw this…somewhere and thought it sounded intriguing. Glad to hear you liked it. I just finished reading & reviewing Kiss of Fury by Deborah Cooke. It was interesting. πŸ™‚

  • Bridget Locke
    August 6, 2008 at 9:01 pm

    The best lucid dream I ever had actually was pretty scorching hot. It involved me, Richard Armitage and a bowl of chocolate covered strawberries. πŸ™‚

  • Anonymous
    August 7, 2008 at 8:09 am

    Aagggh – Now I have to find this book! You make the main character’s voice sound so entertaining and funny – must go search now. πŸ™‚

  • Kathryn S
    September 5, 2008 at 10:41 am

    Hey, thanks for the great review! I’m so glad you enjoyed Dawn and Noah.

    I used to do a lot of lucid dreaming as a kid. Now, I let the dreams go where they will — very inspiring and scary at times!

    As for your zombie dream — sounds to me like that might have been a time in your life when you had people who weren’t good for you trying to drag you down and suck you into being like them. By changing your shoes, you realized that you could escape this negativity — that you were in control. Of course, I could be full of crap. πŸ˜‰

    Kathryn Smith

  • Ana
    September 5, 2008 at 10:45 am

    Wow! Kathryn, what a surprise! Thanks for stopping by!

    You know, you are absolutely right, I am shocked at how much you are spot on. That was exactly what was going on at the time of that dream! I never connected the dots! thanks!

    And I loved Dawn and Noah and can’t wait to read more about them! and The Dreaming!

  • Kenny
    April 7, 2016 at 7:27 am

    saw the movie version … not a scary horror movie but touching … a son needs a mother and a mother needs a son

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