Dream Wide Awake – CJ Zahner | Original Paranormal Thriller Based On A Fascinating Concept

Thrillers are my favourite genre for a good reason – they’re fast-paced, addictive, and generally contain lots of twists and turns. Author C. J. Zahner requested I review her book Dream Wide Awake and, given that it has such an original plot for a thriller novel, I just had to give it a go!

***AD: This post contains a press sample but all thoughts are my own***

Author: C.J. Zahner
Genre: Thriller
Published: September 2018


“Three boys are missing. Six-year-old Mikala Daly can see the spirit of one of those boys.
Through dreams, the murdered boy shows Mikala that the other two boys are alive but clinging to life. She knows she can find and save them. But will Daddy let her?
One of the best detectives in town, Mikala’s father, Jack Daly, searches frantically for the abducted boys. Years before, Jack married into a family rumored to see people on the other side. Jack didn’t believe in their psychic abilities until that gift—curse—befell his daughter.
Now Mikala relays her dreams to him, and he struggles to keep her visions secret. Is he risking her life? He works to find the boys before the kidnapper locates Mikala, or government officials classify her as psychic and take her away to participate in the covert American remote-viewing program—Project Dream of Area 51.”
(Taken from Goodreads)

My Review

Dream Wide Awake is a curious book, and I’ll admit that I was a little nervous about it due to the fact that I’d never come across a thriller with a paranormal edge. I was initially concerned that it would be an awkward mash of reality and fantasy, however I had no reason to be worried as C. J. Zahner has managed to include the paranormal concept of psychic ability whilst also making the setting feel as real as the world we live in.

Like other thrillers, Dream Wide Awake throws you right into the action, with tension increasing with every chapter. It’s filled with cliffhangers and unexpected turns which I loved, and it’s hard not to become completely enthralled with the world in which main character Jack and his family reside.

Jack himself makes for a great protagonist – he’s believable and relatable, and surrounded by other characters who feel equally as genuine. I truly loved every chapter in which Mikala, his daughter, featured in – a six year old with wisdom beyond her age is hard to write, but Zahner has got her character perfect and she really adds so much to the story.

Cover image for Dream Wide Awake by CJ Zahner

The other characters are also very well-written – wife Lisa and her sister Rachel have such an interesting background which is revealed intermittently, and even the more minor of characters bring something to the plot. Zahner clearly excels at character development, which is such an important element to a book with so many mysteries and complicated relationships hidden inside.

And, of course, the intriguing plot is what really makes this book so good. Although I found myself a little bit confused at points with some implied reveals most of it flowed solidly, with strongly written foreshadowing and an ending that isn’t obvious at any point – even if you think you know what’s going to happen, you won’t be 100% certain as most of the hints are somewhat indeterminate.

The only thing I didn’t like about the book actually is the cover – although on its own it’s a fairly pleasing cover to look at, I just didn’t feel like it fit the genre. If I saw this cover without any idea of the story inside I’d assume it would be young adult, fantasy, or something akin to an anime storyline from the animated style – definitely not a thriller. Of course this doesn’t affect how excellent the novel actually is, but it may drive some of the target audience away if they, like me, judge books on the cover (which I know everyone says you shouldn’t but, let’s face it, we do).


Final Thoughts

Dream Wide Awake is a book that really deserves a chance – even if you don’t usually like paranormal topics, this is so far away from fantasy that it fits completely into your standard crime thriller genre, yet is wholly more original. One of those books that you’ll wish you came up with the idea for, you’ll be sad to see it end.

Purchase Links

If you’d like to purchase a copy of Dream Wide Awake by C.J. Zahner then you can do so using the following links:

Dream Wide Awake by C.J. Zahner – Amazon UK
Dream Wide Awake by C.J. Zahner – Amazon US

Author Bio

“Cyndie “CJ” Zahner is a digital-book hoarder, lover of can’t-put-down books, runner, author, and Mensa wannabe. That last trait explains the inspiration for her first novel, The Suicide Gene. Her second book, Dream Wide Awake, was inspired during long runs on Presque Isle State Park in her hometown of Erie, Pennsylvania. She is a proud mother of three and an even prouder grandmother of one.
Before becoming a novelist, CJ worked as a grant and freelance writer. Her articles varied from business to women’s health to the paranormal and her most popular articles can be found on her website.
(Taken from Goodreads)

What are your thoughts on combining the crime genre with supernatural? Let me know in the comments, and don’t forget to like and pin!

You can read some of my other crime/thriller book reviews here:
Here To Stay – Mark Edwards
Don’t Even Breathe – Keith Houghton
An Excuse For Murder – Vanessa Westermann

22 thoughts on “Dream Wide Awake – CJ Zahner | Original Paranormal Thriller Based On A Fascinating Concept

  1. I AGREE! The cover seems a bit off – that shade of green with the purple is well pleasing enough I guess but nothing extraordinary (which i guess is what they were going for?)

    BUT DAMN THAT PLOT AND THOSE CHARACTERS! Seems like its all woven together perfectly to create an awesome reading experience and i am 100% here for it!

    I LOVED THIS REVIEW SOO MUCH Hannah! So detailed and well-written! LOVE LOVE LOVEEEEDDD IT! 😍😍😍😍❤️❤️💕💕🌟😇🦋

  2. I love the concept of this! From the sounds of your review, this sounds like a really unique and fresh take on a thriller, and I love the idea of there being a paranormal element! I have to agree with you on the cover though – if I saw that on a shelf it’s not one I’d gravitate towards!

  3. I think it’s so interesting that the thriller genre is being given a twist with a bit of paranormal flare in this book. Great review as always!

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