Thursday, 22 January 2015

Once Upon a Nightmare by McKelle George / Mickey John

Mickey John is the pen name of McKelle George, and she has written novels under both names. “Once Upon a Nightmare” is available to read for free through the link on Goodreads.

A little about McKelle George:
McKelle George is a senior editor at Jolly Fish Press, author of A MERRY WAR, a historical YA novel, repped by Katie Grimm of Don Congdon Associates, and member of SCWBI. She has a B.S. in English/Creative Writing from Brigham Young University and an A.A. in Art from Snow College. She is a traveler and nomad, an exclusively self-pleasing artist, lover of quiet adventures, and banned book and library advocate.

A little about Once Upon a Nightmare (2012):
I really enjoyed this book. Now I am going to wax lyrical for the next page on why and how I really enjoyed this book.

It’s a young adult novel which fits into the paranormal genre, but it’s like nothing I’ve read before. It clicks all the young adult markers successfully, but in a way that doesn’t feel at all familiar or staid.

Young teen (American) heroine. Check. Who’s a little bit different from her peers and doesn’t really “fit in”. Check. Her first romance. Check. A love triangle. Check. A forbidden love. Check.

But that’s as far as it goes. The “boy” she falls in love with definitely lands in the category of bad boy – but only in the same way that a meringue could be called a little bit sweet. He’s so far gone into the category of bad boy that he would smirk at the title. What did he call himself? Oh yes, “I’m the fear of hell.”

The paranormal being who Violet meets isn’t a sparkly vampire, a semi naked werewolf or even an angel with a tortured soul. He doesn’t just think he’s bad; he doesn’t pretend to be bad… he actually is bad. In the world which George has created, nightmares and dreams are very real. In fact, in their own realm they even have body – they have families and friends, and they can even die. Nightmares insert themselves into the subconscious of humans when they are sleeping and feed off their fear.

George sets up a meeting between Violet and Alexander which is neither clichéd nor overplayed. Alexander is one of the scariest and most powerful nightmares from Chimera. He’s terrifying. Strangely though Violet isn’t afraid enough of him (perhaps she’s not afraid of hell), and after something goes wrong, they are stuck together in her dream state.

I haven’t given anything away: that’s just the first few pages of the book. I thoroughly enjoyed the way this story unfolded. From page one I was absolutely hooked on finding out the details of Alexander’s world and how the unlikely pair would deal with the terrible curse that they’d brought on themselves. I also wanted to find out whether Violet’s reading of Alexander’s motivations were correct, or misinterpreted.

Have I said why I love this book yet? It was absolutely a diamond in the rough. I have been reading solidly all summer – some great, some good, some not bad, but most just entertaining. This one was different. Unexpectedly interesting. Different. Quirky. At times funny. The writing style is easy to read, and it flows. The character of Violet is stamped all over the first person narrative, and she’s quirky, so it fits perfectly. I love her responses to the nightmares she meets, who are so sure they will elicit the usual frightened response from them. Instead she usually makes them laugh. She’s a hugely likeable main character. As a contrast to her quirky, impulsive, foot-in-mouth character, Alexander is reserved, standoffish and the reader rarely knows what he’s thinking or feeling.

I was only a third of the way through the book before I realised that it was highly likely George could end the whole story like Alice in Wonderland. “And then I woke up”. I wasn’t sure how I felt about this possible ending. I was partly hoping she wouldn’t since it’s such a classic no-no, and also strangely partly hoping she would. Because the fact is, the story is such a perfect one to exist wholly in the mind of the protagonist. And to comfortably join it to the accepted “real” world would be quite a feat. I won’t tell you whether she did or not; you’ll have to read it yourself to find out.

I only have the smallest, tiniest, teensiest piece of criticism to give here – there are some typos and formatting errors in my copy, but I am aware that I have an early version of the novel.

Five stars and a big thumbs up for an interesting and unexpected gem. A popular story hung on brand new shoulders. Get to Goodreads and click the link to read this for free… if you like paranormal, it’s right up your alley. If you like YA it’s right up your alley. If you like a surprise it’s right up your alley. If you like free books it’s right up your alley. Just do it. You’ve got nothing to lose! Click here.

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