Tuesday, 23 October 2012

The Nightmare Project - Jo-Anne Russell

I have been fortunate enough to receive a copy of this excellent Dark Psychological Thriller, by Horror writer Jo-Anne Russell, prior to its publication by MuseItUp Publishing, scheduled for October 26th.

Before I tell you what I thought, here's the blurb:

When Julia Montgomery’s mind, body and soul become the rope in a tug-of-war between the living and the dead, there is nothing she won’t do for the right side to prevail; if she only knew which side was right.

 My Review

The Nightmare Project is the first in the Dangerous Minds trilogy and the first story of Jo-Anne Russell's I have read. In this riveting book, the main character - Julia Montgomery - has suffered from violent nightmares for years; nightmares so vivid that in one she became convinced her husband was murdering their children. To save them, she killed him and must now suffer the consequences by being incarcerated, restrained and medicated an an asylum. But Willow Creek is no ordinary asylum and Julia soon finds her mind invaded by another, controlling, presence. But is it a force of evil - or of good?

When it is decided to include Julia in 'The Nightmare Project', all her boundaries are moved and the only key to her survival appears to come from inside her head. But can she really trust that personality inside her? 

ForJulia, reality appears to exist on a number of different levels. Is anyone who they appear to be? Who can she rely on and turn to for help? As the tendrils of this story wind around the main character, so they entangle the reader and I was really caught up in this story right from the beginning.

Julia's personality radiates strongly and I wanted her to come through. Remember though that this is described by the publishers as a 'Dark Psychological Thriller'. It also contains enough Paranormal Horror to satisfy addicts of the genre (like me!) The intricacies, twists, turns and blind alleys of this story kept me stuck firmly to the page and I read it in one hugely enjoyable sitting.

I'm glad this is just the first part, as there is clearly a lot more to come. I'm already looking out for Part Two! 
 Here's an Excerpt:
The sound of someone’s shuffling feet brought her attention to her door where she caught a glimpse of Gun as he passed by, looking in as usual. He spoke not a word but gave her that “look,” as if he was up to something. The deformed side of his face disappeared before she looked away.

To her, he was the scariest patient on her floor, and not just because he botched his own murder-suicide, or the fact he had partially blown off half his face; but his silent stare with his one good eye sent a chill over her that Death himself couldn’t contest.

Julia slipped off the bed and quietly stuck her head out the doorway. Gun was still walking down the hall to the TV room. Once there, he stopped and turned back as if sensing her presence. She quickly pulled herself back into the room, but knew he had seen her.

As if the asylum itself knew she needed a diversion, the meal bell rang. She was relieved and realized that she was hungry. Julia walked to the dining area and sat alone, as usual. Veronica stared at her from the next table, her eyes glaring from behind lids heavily made up with black shadow. Julia stared back and ate as though nothing was going on at all. She barely tasted the bland chicken and salad, but she was too hungry to care. Veronica sat frozen for several moments. She suddenly sprang to her feet and upended her plate. She kicked her chair back and went straight at Julia. Julia readied herself for the fight to come, but her view of Veronica was suddenly blocked by a blur of gray and blue stripes. The man had his back turned to her, but she knew who it was right away.

“Sit back down, and don’t make me say it twice.” Gun raised his arm as if to strike.

Veronica stopped dead, and then made a run for the door.

The petrified look on Veronica’s face would have brought a small measure of pleasure to Julia, had she not been so preoccupied with Gun’s peculiar intervention.

“Thank you,” she started to say, but he didn't turn to look at her. He left the dining area—and his full plate of food—behind.

No one else seemed to realize what had just happened. The other patients, too medicated to care, continued eating their meals.

Julia finished eating and returned to her room. The day’s strange events whirled around in her head like clothes in a tumble dryer. Her head ached and her mouth felt parched. She sipped water from a plastic cup. The water cooled her mouth but did not quench her thirst. She’d had nothing but problems with Veronica since day one, for no apparent reason. But after several attempts at making nice then simply ignoring her, she realized Veronica wanted a fight.

“May I come in?”

The voice was quiet.

Julia turned from the sink and nodded at Ben.

He rolled the medic-cart through the door and readied her medical cocktail.

“I’m sorry for what I said earlier, Ben. I’m just not feeling like myself today.” She took the little cup and downed the pills all at once. Ben cringed as he watched.

“I don’t know how you can do that,” he said.

“Do what?”

“Take that many pills all at once. Except for Suicide Suzanne next door, I’ve never seen someone else do it. The very thought makes me gag.”

A small giggle escaped her. He really did look like green at the gills. Ben’s skinny frame stood behind the medic-cart. Hunched over it, he looked shorter than his six feet. His bleached-blond hair didn’t really look out of place on his tanned body, although she had heard the goons making fun of him. Ben was not a goon to her. He was different from the others, friendly. And he really seemed to care.

“You’re not the only one,” said Ben as he put the little cup in the garbage. He picked up his chart and put a check mark beside her name. “Gun’s been acting a bit strange too. I saw him in the dining room tonight.”

Julia sat on her bed and looked up at him. “I don’t get it either,” she said. “He walked by earlier and looked in, but kept on walking. After the Veronica thing he didn’t even say a word to me. He just walked away.”

Julia could feel the medication taking effect. She didn’t have much time to change, before Marge would be there to tie her down for the night. Ben put the clipboard down and wheeled the cart to the door.

“Hard to say what goes on in the minds of the insane,” said Ben as he wheeled the cart out.

“Hey!” Julia tossed her pillow at him. In her medicated state, her hindered timing caused the pillow to hit another target; Marge. She stood in the doorway, unimpressed, and growled, “Time for lights out.”

Julia assumed “the position”—her hands at her sides and her legs straight out, ready for the ties. Marge looked at her and flicked off the lights.

“What about the ties?” Julia asked in surprise. Marge had never forgotten them before.

“Dr. Jamison said no, not tonight. He wants to try something new.”

“But, what about the nightmares?”

“Your door will be locked, so don’t worry. The doctor knows what he’s doing.”

Marge walked over to the bed and handed Julia her pillow. When she left, Julia faintly heard the door’s lock click into place. She drifted off into the darkness.

Contact/Buy Links:

You can find out more about Jo-Anne Russell on her Website 
 Also, MuseItUp Publishing are offering a special 20% PRE-ORDER DISCOUNT (sadly, only to customers in North America at present) Details can be found here: MuseItUp


  1. Wow. This sounds really intriguing

  2. soo proud of you mom { jo anne }

  3. Wow Jo-Anne this sounds right up my alley:) Congratulations on the release and I'll put this on my lengthening TBR list!

    Cheers, Sara

  4. Thank you. I hope you enjoy reading the story as much as I enjoyed writing it. :)