The Dream Tour by J.J. DiBenedetto
Today, we have a character interview and reviews of the first four books of the Dreams books by J.J. DiBenedetto. Before we begin, let's get to know a little more about this talented author.
J.J. (James) DiBenedetto was born in Yonkers, New York. He attended Case Western Reserve University, where as his classmates can attest, he was a complete nerd. Very little has changed since then.
He currently lives in Arlington, Virginia with his beautiful wife and their cat (who has thoroughly trained them both). When he's not writing, James works in the direct marketing field, enjoys the opera, photography and the New York Giants, among other interests.
The "Dreams" series is James' first published work.
You can find J.J. here on the web:
We're interviewing Beth, the best friend of the main character, Sara, today. Sit back and enjoy what Beth has to say:
Thanks for talking to us.
Sure. I’ve got a few minutes before my next patient comes is. What do you want to know?
Let’s start at the beginning. When did you first meet Sara?
(laughing) God, it was, what is it now, almost fourteen years ago? It was the middle of the summer, and I get this phone call. Some girl who’s going to be my roommate. She called the housing office to find out, before they even sent the letters out. She had a whole list of what she was bringing. She wanted to plan everything out so our dorm room would be organized. I thought she was crazy.
What did you think when you saw her in person?
I still thought she was crazy. And uptight. And annoying as hell. And boring, too.
So you weren’t friends right away?
No. She drove me nuts, and – I guarantee you she’ll never admit it – I know I did the same to her.
What happened to change that?
Unlike Sara, I had a social life right from the start. And a love life. Unfortunately, one night, I wasn’t as careful as I should have been, and three weeks after that, I was afraid I might be pregnant. I’d never had a scare before, and I kind of freaked out. Seeing me frightened like that touched Sara. No matter what she thought of me, she couldn’t stand to see how upset and worried I was. She took charge. She went into the drugstore and bought the test for me, and she stood next to me, holding my hand the whole time, while I took it. How could we not be friends after that?
Did Sara loosen up after that?
Very slowly. She trusted me more afterwards, and she let me drag her out to parties at least occasionally. And when she finally got a boyfriend, that spring, she asked my advice about pretty much everything. By the time our freshman year ended, she was able to let her hair down and have fun on her own, at least once in a while.
What did you think when her dreams started?
I was completely freaked out; anyone would be. But she was my best friend, and I did my best to just be supportive. She did so much for me, it was the least I could do for her.
What was your first impression of Brian?
It wasn’t much. He was a freshman, he looked so young. He was very nervous – not just his words, but his body language. It was so obvious. I had no idea what Sara saw in him. But I was wrong. I don’t think I’ve ever been wronger about anyone in my life. He stepped up for her, right from the start, and those nerves – gone.
Were you jealous about him?
Absolutely! I can admit it. I tried not to show it and just be happy for Sara, but I know she saw it. To tell you the truth – and this is something else she’ll never admit – I think she enjoyed it a little bit.
As a psychologist, what do you think about Sara’s dreams? Why does she have them?
Because deep down, her most basic impulse is to help people. That’s who she is, when you peel everything else away. I can’t even pretend to understand how it works physically, why she can see dreams and other people can’t, but I know it’s her subconscious desire to take care of people that makes her see the particular dreams she does. She always sees dreams that lead her to a problem she can solve. That isn’t a coincidence.
I see your next patient is waiting outside. Thank you for taking the time to talk with us.
Anytime! Next time, you could ask a little more about me. My life isn’t exactly boring, you know!
Wow! With a friend like Beth, Sara is safe for the rest of her life. Now, onward and upward, we're getting to the books. And what lovely books they are. I thoroughly each one. Here are the blurbs, reviews, and links for them:
What would you do if you could see other people’s dreams? If you could watch their hidden fantasies and uncover their deepest, darkest secrets…without them ever knowing?
Sara Barnes is about to find out. She thought that all she had to worry about was final exams, Christmas shopping and deciding whether she likes the cute freshman in the next dorm who’s got a crush on her.
But when she starts seeing dreams that aren’t hers, she learns more than she ever wanted to know about her friends, her classmates…and a strange, terrifying man whose dreams could get Sara killed.
“Dream Student” is the thrilling first installment of the Dreams series.
Sara Barnes is a typical pre-med college student, until her dreams become far too real to deal with. One dream brings Brian Alderson into her life, and with the help of her roommate, they stumble onto a series of mysterious murders that have Sara caught up in the middle of them.J.J. DiBendetto's tale of dreams being broadcast much like radio waves captures the reader from the very first page. Some of the experiences are extremely normal – the showing up naked for a major exam is something any college student can attest to dreaming about – but a singular theme comes from the nightmares, and DiBendetto plots out the situation with ease. The reader might constantly wonder why people aren't using Google Maps to find a location, or grabbing their cell phones to make instant calls, but this tale is set in 1989/1990, and the lack of those features adds a great element of suspense to the hunt for the college professor turned into a murdering man bent on revenge.
Dream Student is a fabulous suspense tale, one that deserves a look, and a dive into the next story in this series immediately.
“I didn’t expect to be woken up by someone I don’t know dreaming about killing somebody. I thought I was done with that once and for all…”
But Sara’s not done with it. As if adjusting to life as a newlywed and starting medical school weren’t difficult enough, she’s started seeing the dreams of everyone around her, again. Before everything is said and done, those dreams might destroy Sara’s hopes of becoming a doctor, wreck her marriage and even end her life…
“Dream Doctor” is the thrilling second novel in the Dreams series.
Sara and Brian are back, as a married couple. He's working overtime to complete his bachelor's degree six months early, and she's in medical school. Their lives are hectic enough, but the dreams return to haunt Sara with another mystery, one she can't ignore.
J.J. DiBenedetto dives right into this suspense novel with Sara and Brian's wedding, followed by the couple working through college and medical school as newlyweds. The dreams this time are tighter, more involved with Sara's direct life, more in synch with the suspense of who-done-it. The story flows in a tight, concentrated manner, leaving the reader satisfied, but also willing to go on to the next step. I found this novel to be extremely interesting, and I can't wait to find out what the future holes.
"I would give anything to take this away from her. I would gladly go back to having the nightmares myself – the very worst ones, the ones that had me waking up screaming in a pool of my own vomit – rather than see Lizzie go through this..."
As a resident at Children's Hospital, Sara can handle ninety hour workweeks, fighting to save her young patients from deadly childhood diseases. But she's about to be faced with a challenge that all her training and experience haven't prepared her for: her four-year-old daughter has inherited her ability to see other people's dreams...
"Dream Child" is the suspenseful third novel in the "Dreams" series.
Sara and Brian are now the proud parents of almost four-year-old Lizzie, and three-month-old twins, Ben and Stephanie. Their lives are rushed, with Sara a resident and Brian an aeronautical engineer, but their children are the most important. When young Lizzie starts having the same dreams as her mother, the couple is faced with a difficult decision.J.J. DiBenedetto's tale of a family sharing the same psychic dreams moves very well. The lives of this young couple seem to be a race from one place to another, something readers can relate to. The suspense part of this tale grows with quite a few twists and turns, until the ending – which I didn't figure out until that moment. Kudos for a well written tale. Definitely worth another read.
"Why is this so hard for me? Why am I having so much trouble? Why do I feel so helpless, so hopeless? What the hell is wrong with me?"
After tangling with murders and mobsters, not to mention medical school and three years of residency, Sara thought she could handle anything. And then the police show up without warning at her new office and arrest her for a crime she can't possibly have committed. Sara's confidence, and her grip on reality, is shattered during one terrifying night in jail.
Now, the very dreams that have endangered her life and driven her to the edge of madness may be the only thing that can help Sara find herself again...
"Dream Family" is the powerful fourth novel in the "Dreams" series.
Dr. Sara Alderson and her family relocate to Washington DC. She and her husband have been offered prime jobs in their professions. On the very first day of running her own pediatric practice with a friend, Sara is arrested for prescription fraud. The next two weeks are the worst of Sara's life, and she actually blocks out some of the depredations she suffers.J.J. DiBenedetto's incredible talent is very visible in this fourth installment of the Dreams series. He takes the reader through the shock of an inexplicable arrest, through the arrest and booking procedure an unprepared woman should never have to endure, to the healing process. But this healing process isn't without mountains to scale, and DiBenedetto handles the journey with great care.
Of all the Dreams books, this one is my favorite. Sara grows, both as a woman and as a doctor, as she fights for her sanity. Each word, each sentence, captures the essence of the characters. Not only is this book worth many reads, it has left me panting for the promised fifth book in the series.