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ARC Review: Life Is But a Dream

my thoughts in a few sentences: From the beginning, I had NO IDEA what to expect from Life Is But a Dream. Despite all the good reviews I noticed, this book remained a big mystery until I sat down with it today. Each word James writes is like biting into beautiful and irresistible pastries. A giant lightbulb hides behind James' writing and illuminates every word so that it dazzles our eyes with pictures we can't see but can feel. Within Sabrina's mind lies a world so brilliant, a wonderful palette that contains a rainbow of colors and shapes, and as she creates some of it in her artwork, James masterfully paints something abstract and intangible and alluring with each drop of his colorful words. While the romance escalates quickly, it's FAR from unsatisfying, though it might be a tad unbelievable. However, that's the beauty of Sabrina's story—we're temped to believe in the illogical, the far-fetched, and enjoy what we find in her incredibly imaginative world.

hooking first lines: "Something is wrong with the sky. Thinner and nearly see-through, the sky is like a worn bedsheet tacked loosely over the sun, which blazes brightly on the other side."

Rating: Sud-Kissed | Macmillan/Feiwel & Friends • NetGalley • Contemporary Romance • 3/27/12 • $13.37

Life Is But a Dream by Brian James

Sabrina, an artist, is diagnosed with schizophrenia, and her parents check her into the Wellness Center. There she meets Alec, who is convinced it's the world that's crazy, not the two of them. They are meant to be together; they are special. But when Alec starts to convince Sabrina that her treatment will wipe out everything that makes her creative, she worries that she'll lose hold of her dreams and herself. Should she listen to her doctor? her decision may have fatal consequences.

Brian James calls Life is But a Dream "the most intense book I've written. Bringing this unique character to life and seeing the world through her eyes, with all its beauty and confusion, was an immense challenge that I hope is just as rewarding to read as it was to write." Intense--yes. Unforgettable--definitely.
Sabrina is being forced to separate reality from her daydreams—and so are we. The world around her instantly comes alive in a high definition fantasy that is reminiscent of worlds we would find in animated movies and magical books, a world within a world that no one but Sabrina can see. It's wondrous and tempting, because the places she sees transform into these vivid realms of impossibilities come to life and we can easily understand why Sabrina often, though sometimes unconsciously, chooses to suspend her time in the ordinary world and runs off into hers. It's vibrant and happy where she goes, and quite beautiful, as opposed to her current sterile surroundings in which she is among doctors and nurses who want the best for her but are always analyzing her, making her uncomfortable in their examining and evaluating, compelling her to feel as if every move and every thought are completely wrong. She was once special, her parents used to tell her so, and now the thing that defines her specialness is being slowly and meticulously broken down and discarded. Her sense of alarm and wariness is even more heart-breaking when bits of her memories are summoned to her each day and cast a sadness to her stay at the Wellness Center.

Despite the emotion and immediate camaraderie we form with Sabrina, the extent of her disorder is fascinating, and her artwork and imaginative background make it more so. What adds depth to her almost fragile bearing is her fear of the outside world, which we learn stems beyond the natural symptoms of her disorder and is rooted more firmly to recent events that relate to her mistreatment by so-called friends. Her sense of security is because of her confinement to the Wellness Center. She is almost entirely convinced that she is broken and wrong and strange, and our pain reaches out to hers, because she's nearly certain she belongs where she is. That is, until Alec, a fellow patient, arrives on the scene. It's almost comical how quickly Sabrina becomes taken with this newcomer. She doesn't doubt him or fear him, but is intrigued by him and believes that their first meeting has already happened—in one of her dreams. She feels safe with him and doesn't mind opening up to him, and it's weirdly sweet how fast they grow on each other. Still, their romance doesn't quite begin as swiftly as their feelings kindle, and their growing friendship is a pleasant slideshow that reveals their secrets, their playfulness, their happy and sad talks with each other.

While the pacing is slow-going, it doesn't very strongly effect our interest, as we are already too invested in Sabrina's future and how or if she will recover. It becomes crucial that she and her parents reforge their closeness, though the love never falters throughout the novel, that Sabrina is capable of surviving and enjoying life as anyone else, and that she continues to have Alec at her side, her sweetest reward for enduring torture and working at healing from whatever wounds, both mentally and emotionally, have been carried over. And when the ending magnifies so much that we have no choice but to look, we couldn't be more pleased and thrilled for those final handfuls of tender moments and sweet victory.

Everyone else in the world is missing so much and they don't even know it...
They are blinded by distractions. But I can tune out all of the noise that fills the world like so much screaming in the sky. I know how to stand still even when the Earth spins faster and faster than it ever did before. The rest of them try to keep up with the rhythm until it makes them dizzy. And with dizzy eyes, they stare at me and say I'm crazy.
Sometimes I like being alone in the truth.
Sometimes, though, I just feel lonely. (2%)


Celine @ Forget-me-not said...

Oooo! I've been dying to read this book. The cover is gorgeous and I love the title! "Life is but a dream" And aaaa.. I LOVE HOW YOU END YOUR REVIEW, Asher! ♥ It gave me shivers (in a good way) This book also sounds like a sad book. Haven't read any sad books lately (in a way that makes you want to cry so badly) so I need to add this to my TBR!

Awesome review, Asher! ♥ So glad you enjoyed it!

Sam @ Realm of Fiction said...

This book sounds like a very moving one and definitely worth the time and effort if you can mange to invest yourself in the story. I know a lot of my friends have either loved it or had mixed feelings, but no-one has hated it. That's enough to get me to want to read it! Awesome review, Asher. You have convinced me to bump this up a few places on the old TBR list. I'm looking forward to reading it! :)

Asher_Knight said...

 I know, the cover is FABULOUS! That was the first thing that caught my eye about it! And the title is so fitting, you'll see. THANK YOU, CELINE <333 I like to be responsible for the good kinds of goosebumps and shiveryness. It can be sad, but don't worry, there's LOADS of happy too. :D

Asher_Knight said...

 It definitely was, Sam. Because of the way James' writes, I really felt for Sabrina and her situation. She spoke to me, and that contributed to my enjoying the book so much. AND YES. I haven't seen a single hate review, just more of in-between stuff. And you should definitely give it a whirl. It's pretty fascinating.

Brodie said...

OH MY GOD, STOP IT ASHER KNIGHT. I NEED THIS BOOK. YOU ARE MAKING MY PATIENCE 529 TIMES WORSE WITH YOUR AMAZING REVIEW. Ugh. You'd think you'd get tired of being so goddamn talented, but it would appear your genius has no intention of laying down to rest. This sounds.... wow. Incredible. I love the idea of the story and that the author has really dug deep and made a character you so beautifully feel in touch with. Her world sounds so fascinating, I can't wait to explore her mind and the relationship she develops with Alec.


April Books & Wine said...

Sometimes I don't mind slow pacing if the story calls for it and seems compelling, and Life Is But A Dream seems compelling, even though I don't have much interest in schizophrenia.


Your review! SO! CONVINCING! Love that.

Asher_Knight said...

 I'M SORRY. I'M SORRY. That wasn't my intention at all. I didn't MEAN to make things worse! I can't help the genius. Don't murder my brain, Brodie! It doesn't mean to OFFEND :O

This story is so vivid and imaginitive and that's what makes it so hard to put down. And the fact that Sabrina is completely relatable and you sort of sympathize with Alec because he doesn't have very good situation either. :D

Asher_Knight said...

And I believe this story DOES call for it. The imagination James calles upon throughout this book is what fascinates and Sabrina's sad situation compels you to read further.


Rebecca (Kindle Fever) said...

Fantastic review, Asher! You describe almost perfectly how I felt about the book as well and I'm very glad you liked it too! I completely agree about the pacing as well and in this case I thought it was kind of perfect for the story that needed to be told! 

Asher_Knight said...

 It was a solid read, very vivid and I enjoyed all the things that came out of Sabrina's head. And the pacing kept up perfectly with things as they were told, as you said. There's really nothing bad to say about this book!

Bookworm1858 said...

The romance mostly did work for me. It wasn't the speed that was bothersome; it was the fact that Alec didn't seem to understand Sabrina's mental problems, putting her in a dangerous situation. I found the speed believable and actually quite liked it.

Asher_Knight said...

 Yeah, I get how that could be irritating to some, but I understood that he didn't really realize what he was saying or doing, so I could forgive him easily. But it was definitely a likable story!