I recieved this book as part of a Firstreads giveaway and this review is an honest opinion of mine. I do think one needs to suspend a lot of belief for this novel. This review contains all sorts of spoilers. The book took me a little more than four hours to read, spread over a few days time.
The plot was pretty good. I'm an eccentric reader, but one of my favourite genres is historical fiction. This gives quite a good experience to Californian gold rush and the experiences of the town of Bodie. I did enjoy much of the back and forth nature of the novel where we started with a few strong aspects of both past and present. It was enjoyable to later read more of what had happened in the past and how much of it had built up to "today" within the novel.
The sisters aspect was a little bit unnecessary. Though I did like their backstory and the dreams they were experiencing... I felt that the sisters aspect was unnecessary. Much of the time, I got confused between the sisters and (to me) their (early) personalities and traits didn't really match the information presented to me later on during the book. I didn't really consider the "sister" aspect necessary, even though I did kind of like both sisters (the majority of the time). I'll try and explain as best I can on this matter. The idea of presenting the sisters was interesting because one sister displayed certain psychic abilities, esentially "feeding" off the other sister's strange dreams. Yet, this wasn't explained very well as it would only work (in my mind) if both sisters were asleep at the same time. If the psychic sister wasn't asleep at that time, she wouldn't experience it. If the one experiencing the dream wasn't asleep at that time, then the psychic one wouldn't dream it (and the one experiencing it would only see it when they did go to sleep). The idea of having the daughter of the psychic to be displaying psychic abilities also felt unnecessary, especially because it became more of a joke at sometimes. For example, when Lainy's ex-husband shows up to harrass her, Lara makes kind of rude comments mentally and Claire mindreads these from her, needing explanation of course. Yet, this bit was written in such a way that makes me look poorly on both Lara and Jeff, even though they were meant to seem heroic in "saving" Lainy. The portions with Ray (Lainy's ex-husband) were unnecessary and I felt they only served to act as somewhat of a hindrance to my enjoyment of the novel. I think the role of the sisters could have been changed to have Lara as the one experiencing the dreams, cut Lainy out and have Claire (older) display her psychic skills by being the one to experience the dream. Having said that, Lainy is my preferred sister, but I just don't think it works with having both of them as it was a bit confusing (to me) and added a lot of unnecessary points which would have been simpler had there only been one. Later on, the sisters make some extremely poor choices and it almost seems as if they want to be hurt. They even deliberately go towards a closed road and act surprised when they aren't able to escape through the blockade. It just stunned me that they were deliberately doing something so stupid.
As for other characters, I didn't particularly like either Claire or Jeff. Jeff's sense of humour was just awful at times and I felt really pained for the way he was acting towards people under his so-called protection. As a police officer, it was embarrassing that he was thinking of going out to deliberately harm others (especially some innocent magazine selling kid). Even if he wasn't going to do such things, it was such a vile thing for him to threaten other people like that. I think the majority of the Keefe plotline was unnecessary, especially Patrick's wishful relationship with Rachel (and then drunken death). Actually, Patrick's drunken ramblings in the office and the student (Janet) witnessing it was somewhat of a mockery that I thought unnecessary. I though Rachel was a bit underdone, actually, especially for a therapist looking to publish a paper on her "dream sisters". In the end, Claire's storyline was kind of useless. Really useless. I'm sure she was meant to seem like some sort of sweet, young girl. To me, she really just seemed unnecessary. Her real psychic abilities were predominantly unexplained, just that she could see into the minds of her mother and aunt (I don't think I remember reading her doing it to her father). Without her psychic abilities, Jeff could have gone back to the motel and called the police about his missing relatives. They'd realise the same sort of outcome, that Lainy and Lara are the "dream sisters" and they'd all get to the end of the book in the same basic way.
Moving on with characters, I think Jake was my favourite. Sure, he's a bad guy, but I thought the entirety of his actions were justified. His upbringing led him to commit acts of violence towards others, mostly Americans. It was somewhat sweet when he realised what he was doing to Lainy and the way it reminded him of what had happened to his own sister. I think Jake was clearly the best character.
Eventually, we find out the psychic sister isn't really psychic, but that all the characters (most) have come together at the end of the book to play out some violent plot that's been... Well... Basically foretold by the prior events of Bodie. It doesn't really maek sense. As I said earlier, it does take a little bit of suspension of belief, but here it's still somewhat unbelieveable (even if we do account for supernatural aspects). Are we really to believe that the only reason people have come together here is that they're playing some role? What if these people had died due to other things before coming to Bodie for the finale? Also, it doesn't make sense in that they're not dying in the same manner their former characters did. Rachel's prior character died after a lot of suffering, whereas Rachel diedn't. They've also got the gender of Frankie Jr being swapped and played by one of the dream sisters. Other characters just aren't relevant to the events, though, being that Claire and Jeff don't really have such a role in the play. They're just... well... Not really useful to the outcome. It also seemed silly to have Stan, the police officer, fall in love with Lainy. He said things along the lines of her being the girl in his dreams, yet he only met her once her face was all banged up. His own dreams/ visions seemed silly as well as he only seemed to experience these dreams later, after the events of Bodie. It also seemed kind of sick that he wanted to date Lainy when she was all injured, just because of a dream. It just seemed like he was taking some sort of sick pleasure in her being so wounded.
Despite the character problems, I think it played well to the genre and did have certain mystical elements which could be explained away with a few whimsical happenstances. The reader does need to suspend a lot of practical thinking when reading the novel, but the plot line does make up for it, in some ways.
Uh... I'm a bit indecisive about how I should rank this. Overall, I was incredibly disappointed by the majority of the characters and even the ending of the book. However, I did think that the author put a lot of effort into creating all sorts of settings for us, including various research and scenerios to play out the characters. I'm choosing to rank it as three stars because it wasn't fantastic, but not completely awful. I think that the author needs to refine her characters a bit more, but I may keep an eye out for her work in future.