Saturday, May 25, 2013

Review for Tortured Dreams (The Dreams & Reality Series #1) by Hadena James

Tortured Dreams
by Hadena James
The Dreams and Reality Series, Book 1

Publisher: Hadena James

Release Date: February 26, 2013

Genre: Psychological Mystery/Thriller

Length; 312 Pages

ISBN: 978-1481178402


Buy Link:    Amazon Print            Kindle 

Book Description

When the US Marshals Serial Crimes Tracking Unit comes knocking at Aislinn Cain's door, she is given a chance to use her past to save other people's futures. She has survived attacks by two different serial killers and devoted her life to studying the darker side of human history.

A new killer is using medieval torture methods to slay his victims. She can give them a glimpse into his twisted world, but not without a cost. If she opens herself, she risks falling into the depths of her own darkness. Can she afford to help, knowing that the cost could be her own humanity?

Aislinn Cain's life is a horror story.


My Review 

A fan of cozy mysteries, I don’t usually read too many psychological thrillers, something that’s definitely changing, at least when it comes to books by Hadena James.  A gripping cross-mix of psychological mystery, light horror and action/adventure, Tortured Dreams, the first book in the Dreams and Reality series by Ms. James, grabbed my attention from the first page and never let go.  Fascinating world building, well developed characters, good dialogue and just the right touch of emotional angst, make this a compelling read.  So compelling in fact, I’ve already read it five times.

It’s not every day a woman can say she’s escaped death at the hands of a serial killer more than once, but that’s exactly what Aislen “Ann” Cain’s life is like.  A survivor who recognizes her own mental issues, (she suffers from severe anxiety disorder and also acknowledges she has A-Typical Sociopathic Tendencies), Ann has a PHD in History, specializing in Medieval torture. When she manages to survive a third attack, this time by a serial rapist, Ann is offered the unique opportunity to join the US Marshals Serial Crimes Tracking Unit as a consultant.  A job that will either make her or break her.  

Ms. James does an excellent job developing Ann’s character and introducing us to the people in her life.  We are introduced to Nyleena Clachan, her cousin and best friend, a prosecuting attorney working in Kansas City, Missouri.  We meet Malachi Blake, a psychopath who managed to get at job at the FBI and is Anne’s other best friend, and we also meet the team members who make up the Serial Crimes Tracking Unit; men who will play a part in Ann’s life.  While there is no real romance in this story, there is an underlying attraction between Ann and Malachi, that’s been ongoing for several years.  An attraction they’ve never acted on because of their “unique” mental and social issues.  There’s also an interesting relationship developing between Ann and two members of her team, Lucas McMichaels and Xavier Reese. 

When the team is assigned a serial killer using Medieval torture devices, Ann’s role in the team takes center stage.  Brilliant, with an almost photographic memory, Ann finds herself both fascinated and repelled by the scenes of horror they are forced to investigate.  As the killer continues to leave clues, it soon becomes apparent that Ann, or someone in Ann’s family, may be one of the intended victims.  Will Ann and her team discover who the killer is before they strike again?  And will Ann and the men who make up the Serial Crimes Tracking Unit become a real team?  You’ll have to read Tortured Dreams to find out.  I loved it and can’t wait to get my hands on Elysium Dreams, the next book in this series which is planned for release this July.  
Some favorite passages:

“I’m a bit disturbed that the US Marshals have been keeping tabs on me. I’m even more disturbed that the FBI did it before them.”
“But you’re not surprised,” Nyleena finished the thought.
“No, no I’m not. I wish I was,” I lit another cigarette.

(From a scene between Nyleena and Ann after she’s been hired temporarily by the Serial Crimes Tracking Unit)

“Bossing around your boss on the day you meet him is probably not a good idea,” she said as the numbers moved by.
“He isn’t my boss for very long. I have every intention of helping them out and then getting a job at a university or something.”
“So you can attract nut jobs in college. Good plan.”
“It’s good to have goals,” I told her. The elevator opened as she snickered. 

(From a scene with Ann and Nyleena when she moves into a secure apartment) 

After walking down a narrow flight of stairs that I hadn’t seen earlier, I found Alejandro. They had their own shooting range. Xavier was already there and had his ear protection on already. Michael and Lucas each grabbed a pair and slipped them on.
“This is a .9mm Beretta. Lucas suggested trying it before trying to make you hold a Glock. You seem to have issues with guns,” Xavier setting the gun down on the range counter.
“I do have issues with guns.” I slipped on my own pair of protective headgear. I ignored the fact that they had picked out pink for me. At least I knew I wouldn’t be wearing other people’s ear protection.
“Now, take a steady breath and then we’ll see what you can do.” Lucas said calmly.
I was feeling a bit insulted. I had issues with guns, but they weren’t big issues, it was mostly the thought that if I had one, I’d use it. Malachi had spent years teaching me to use a gun, a knife, and a sword. I wasn’t sure I would ever need to know how to use a sword, but better safe than sorry.
I fired nine shots into the paper hanging up at the back of the range. Alejandro hit a button and pulled it forward. All nine shots were in the head. He frowned at me.
“I know how to fire a gun,” I reminded him.
“OK, we’ll go back further. This time, empty the clip in less than 15 seconds. I’ll keep time.”
“Ok,” the paper target was replaced with a new one. Alejandro moved it back. It went further this time.
I used a second lining up the sight. I emptied the clip. Alejandro let out a quiet growl. Lucas had a coughing fit.
“13.7 seconds, not bad Cain, that’s faster than either Lucas or Xavier by a second and Michael didn’t finish it. Now let’s see how many you hit.”
There was a whir and the paper moved forward. I could already tell that all of them had been in the head. Most of it was gone. Not a single bullet seemed to have hit outside the black outline.
“Do you like the Beretta or do you want a different gun?” Alejandro asked.
“I kind of like this one.” I switched it to the other hand. “Send another one back.”
Alejandro hung up a third target. It whirred to the back. I fired left handed. He pulled it forward. Nine rounds to the head. I had only fired nine rounds again.
“You pass and it would appear you are ambidextrous.” Alejandro sighed.
“You never know when you won’t be able to use your dominant hand. Does this mean I get to carry two guns?”
“Can you fire two guns simultaneously?” He asked.
“Yes,” I answered.
“I want to see that.” He handed me a second Beretta. The target was once again whirred backwards. I took another second and started firing. I emptied both clips.
“Damn,” Alejandro looked at it. “You missed with only three shots.”
“That seems like a bad average,” I frowned at my lack of skills.
“Most people can’t really fire two guns simultaneously and hit their target with any of the rounds,” Lucas told me.
“Really?” Malachi had trained me that way. He could do it.
“Really.” Alejandro said as he signed a piece of paper.
“What now?” I asked.
“Firearms training passed. You may now legally carry two guns in a shoulder holster. You might consider getting a double holster made. We don’t have any.”
“Do I get to keep the Berettas?” I asked as he walked away.
“They’re yours.” He shouted back.
“Interesting,” I murmured at his back.
“Don’t take it personally, you did better than him. He’s going to go sulk for a while. Congrats on the firearms training,” Lucas smiled at me.

(From a scene with Ann and members of the team at the Firing Range)

My Rating:  5 out of 5 Crowns and a Recommended Read

FTC Disclosure:  I received a complimentary copy of this book as a part of a book tour in exchange for a fair and honest review.  I was not financially compensated for my review. It is solely my opinion.


  1. Now this is my kind of book. Sometimes you don't need a romance for a book to be good. :)


  2. What fascinating little snippets. I may have to check this one out.

  3. Wow - your review sounds great and the excerpt bits are catchy.

  4. I don't know how I missed this review (they are supposed to be delivered to my inbox, I love your stuff), but I did until today. Thank you for your review and the snippets. You managed to get a few of my favorite parts in there (particularly Nyleena and Aislinn in the elevator)!