A review from a demanding reader.

Paper Dreams

Cover links to Amazon

Written by Phyllis J. Burton

Genre: General Fiction

Book Synopsis

Take a recipe for disaster… Start with an illicit love affair in 1952, add a painful parting and three deaths in 1953. Leave to settle until 2009. Then add a crumbling mansion (Epton Hall), which harbours a scandalous secret... Gradually combine young librarian Katie Nicholson – an incurable romantic trying to get over a failed love affair. Sprinkle a few daydreams, hundreds of books and stir until well mixed.

Carefully blend in a friendly housekeeper, some memorabilia and many books, with Katie’s weekend away, new boyfriend and a prophetic dream. Add the secret arrival of sinister nephew Harold Hapsworth-Cole, the only known heir to the estate, and throw in the evidence discovered by Katie in the attic, that another heir exists in Canada. Combine fear, violence, and theft of that evidence with Katie’s imprisonment in the attic, Harold’s growing mental instability and stir…malevolently.

The resultant mixture should be an explosion of love, financial expectations, inheritance, terror, greed and attempted murder. Then… ENJOY.

Paper Dreams is an unusual read, which plays with the reader’s emotions. It covers family sorrow, obsessions, inheritance, greed, dreams, nightmares, and attempted murder. But above all, it is a story of people’s lives, their loves and how they eventually overcome adversity.

Sandra's Rating & Review

The synopsis for Phyllis J Burton's Paper Dreams as found on Amazon and elsewhere is good enough for me. It gives you the 'recipe' for a novel in which ingredients are added one by one, which is a suitable metaphor in this case. The tale starts with a short flashback before it settles on the present, where a completely unrelated character gradually begins the path to the adventure that is the backbone of this book.

For this review, I'm going to be careful. I do not know whether the copy that was provided to the Masquerade Crew was the finished version or not, but if so - there was an annoying lack of commas. That, for me, is one of the reasons to like a book less: when the physical text takes me out of my reading zone.

The story could be very exciting: an old lady dies, leaving a grand English estate to a nephew, who has not only counted himself rich years before, but who's also mentally unstable (although what exactly is wrong with him is anyone's guess). Which is why goes completely over the edge when he learns there is a rival to his claim...

Personally, I think the story suffers from too many different perspectives (ten!), especially since many details now come by more than once - the characters have to inform one another about things the reader already knows. And the amount of details they share with each other - in a lawyer's letter or over the phone - is astounding and honestly not very believable in most cases. (I can't believe a lawyer would include all that information in a letter.)

Plus, each person comes with his or her own back story, which isn't always necessary to the plot, and much of that is shared through an inner monologue. The author often mentions Brenda's motherly affection for Katie, which was obvious enough between the lines. James' shame in having been made redundant is also mentioned more often than necessary.

All of these issues took me 'out' of the story, on multiple occasions. A grand house, a mystery tale, a near-murder in cold blood and a grand old book store can't really make up for that. The tale itself contained a lot of 'telling' rather than 'showing' (including characters looking in a mirror and thinking of themselves how old they are or how good they look, just so that the reader knows, for instance), and that with ten different pairs of eyes - that is a lot of switching back and forth.

There were too many details and overall elements that just didn't work for me. Conversations that didn't flow, dialogues that didn't sound real enough, words governing words they aren't supposed to govern, too many repetitions of details, experiences and conversations, the incredible break-neck speed with which Katie and Stuart's relationship proceeds - especially after the way Katie's previous relationship ended, which opens this story - the sudden mandatory 'obstacle' after all they'd been through, plus how it gets resolved...

I always finish every book I start, but this time it took some prodding. I want to disappear between the pages of a tale, not get kicked out at every turn because of wonky sentences, because something or some character isn't very credible, or because I'm told something I already read twice.

I guess it's all a matter of how you read when you read. I've seen reviews of this book that praise it, and others that are in line with mine. I know I'm a demanding reader (I'm a translator, it's an occupational hazard), but in this case I just couldn't suspend my disbelief or stay inside the story long enough to overlook certain word choices and constructions.

Review Disclaimer: Book was provided free of charge in exchange for an honest review.