Cover Image: Dreaming of Water

Dreaming of Water

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Member Reviews

I enjoyed this psychological thriller and following the clues to figure out the mystery. I especially liked learning more about handwriting analysis as I find that topic fascinating. The characters are a little hard to connect with, but I still found myself captivated by the plot and I had to know what really happened. There are a few interesting twists and turns leading up to the conclusion and the story is wrapped up nicely.

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I really enjoyed this book. I received this book in exchange for an honest review.

After 17 years, Astrid finally knows what happened to her sister at the reflecting pond. All it took was her life falling apart.
This book has twists and turns until the end. Betrayal, divorce, young love, a mothers grieving that gets ugly, redemption, truths, and second chances. I really enjoyed every page of this book! I just wish there was more!

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This is the first domestic suspense I’ve read in awhile and it hit the spot. A little bit of figuring out where you came from, a whole lot of secrets and a smidge of romance. And I almost forgot to add a big heap of family drama.

Astrid is dealing with guilt and grief as she still hasn’t coped with what happened in her childhood as she comes home to deal with her aunt’s findings and health.

Both the story and the characters are layered and a few twists along the way kept me guessing.

It was a quick read for me if you’re looking for another spooky read for the season.

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Many thanks to NetGalley, Lake Union Publishing, Amazon Publishing, for gifting me a digital ARC of the new book by a favorite, AJ Banner - 4.5 stars!

Astrid vowed never to return to Heron Bay, WA, after the tragedy of her little sister's drowning years ago. Reeling from her divorce and the news that her best friend is now with her ex, she also gets a call from her beloved Aunt Maude, saying that Astrid needed to come right away to look at a letter she found. When she gets there, she finds Maude on the floor, unconscious, and police fear at attack. Now Astrid is desperate to find the letters that Maude told her about and to try and understand why someone would hurt Maude. And is Astrid next?

This was an intriguing mystery, forcing Astrid to confront her past and all her family secrets. Astrid never got over feeling guilty about her sister's death and her mom didn't help. With Maude unable to speak, Astrid is left to try and figure things out on her own. I also thought Astrid's job of document and handwriting analyzing was fascinating. Another great read by this author!

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Another mystery thriller by one of my favorite authors. Dreaming of Water is very intriguing and will keep you guessing. I did not guess this one correctly. I usually do but not this time.

When a child dies it can destroy a family. It can put a wedge between the parents. Unfortunately. In this story you get to know about a little girl who drowned in a shallow pool. Her young life ended tragically and no one knows exactly what happened. Nina was only three years old. Her older sister Astrid was babysitting her while their parents were at another party. Seems their mother loved going so their dad always took her. This night was a bit different though. Tragedy hit.

When one child is left behind and blamed for the younger child's death it's heartbreaking. That is how Astrid always felt. Her mother blamed her. But was her mother innocent? Was their dad innocent. Were the neighbors who had the fancy party innocent? Somewhere in this one of the people was or possibly was responsible for a young child's death. One of these people did not do the right thing resulting in a child drowning. Was it murder or neglect?

This is a story of a loss so horrible that it affected two families. A whole group of people. A young teen who always felt responsible for her little sister. Her sister, Nina, was a runner though. She would get away from any one of them and off she would go. Astrid lived most of her life feeling responsible. Even losing her own marriage because of her fear of not being a good mother.

Astrid came back to see her Aunt Maud per her request. She had told her she had evidence of something sinister happening the night Nina died. But when Astrid got there her Aunt was unconscious on the floor in her office/library. The story takes off from there and you learn quite a bit about each character. You try to piece together what could have happened that night. What you think may have happened. I'm betting you won't guess though. It was a bit of a surprise to me. Not that it didn't enter my mind but I just didn't dwell on that scenario at all.

I like some of the characters in this story but have to be honest. I despised Rose. Rose was Astrid and Nina's mother. I know she lost a child and was grieving but she still had a child left who she really didn't treat right before the accident. She was not that great of a mother to Nina. Yes she loved Nina but she put herself first always. I didn't like her. I also didn't much care for their dad. He should have been there for his oldest daughter too. He wasn't. I absolutely adored Astrid's Aunt Maude. She was such a sweet person. I think she tried to see the good in everyone. She reminded me of my own grandmother when I was growing up. Always there. Yeah I liked her very much. I also liked Connor. He seemed like a winner. Trent... No so much.

Thank you #NetGalley, #AJBanner, #LakeUnionPublishing for this ARC. This is my own true thoughts about this book.

Four huge stars. Grab it and enjoy.

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It's definitely not what you expect 🤯.
I felt this book had a slow start, but i am so glad i kept reading. It was sooo good. The twists and turns and then the little things that make you go "hmm!" So glad I kept reading 😁

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After finding her three-year-old sister Nina dead years ago in a neighbour's pool, and blaming herself for failing to prevent the accident when she was meant to be babysitting, teenage Astrid made the decision to leave her hometown as soon as possible. Nor did she ever look back again.

Until now. When her aunt Maude contacts Astrid, insisting that she returns home, because her aunt has found a letter that throws an entirely new light on past events, Astrid reluctantly complies.

But Astrid has returned to Heron Bay only to find Maude unconscious from an attack by an unknown assailant. While her aunt is in a coma, Astrid discovers to her horror that Nina's death may not have been an accident after all.

With her life already in turmoil from her recent divorce- and the fact that her ex husband has began a relationship with her ex best friend - Astrid has enough to contend with, without discovering a string of secrets, lies and betrayals from those close to her.

This is an engaging psychological thriller, which examines the bonds of family, as well as the way in which people experience grief and guilt, and the price it extracts. I give it 3.5 stars.

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I love Banners writing and this was another good one for him . I love the PNW and in his novels it is like another character which is evocative, haunting and mystical.
I reall like this book
Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for letting me review this book

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Seventeen years ago Astrid Johansen's little sister, Nina, drowned in a reflecting pool on her aunt's neighbour's property in the town of Heron Bay, Washington. The story is told from Astrid's perspective with some flashbacks to the time of her sister's drowning. It's well written although the chapters are a little longer than I like and I found it rather slow moving until close to the end. None of the characters made much of an impression on me and some of Astrid's actions had me rolling my eyes. I honestly feel like I've read too many books recently about the investigation into a murder/disappearance/ whatever that occurred a long time ago. But that's my own fault. Astrid had an extremely interesting occupation as a forensic document examiner but it didn't play that much of a role in the story. A refreshing change in occupation for a character in a book. 3.5 stars but I'm rounding down because I just wasn't that drawn into the story.

My thanks to Lake Union Publishing via Netgalley for the opportunity to read an advance copy of this novel. All opinions expressed are my own.
Publication: October 10, 2023

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Author A.J. Banner describes Dreaming of Water as “lyrical, atmospheric, redemptive.” A resident of the Pacific Northwest, Banner set the story there. Specifically, in Heron Bay, Washington, a small town adjacent to that region’s majestic and mystical forests. The setting immediately establishes an ominous, uncertain, and almost dream-like atmosphere against which the action unfolds.

Astrid was just fourteen years old the summer that her three-year-old sister, Nina, drowned in the reflecting pool on the Michaels estate, situated near her Aunt Maude’s home. Her parents, Rose and Bjorn, were attending a party at the Michaels home and Astrid was responsible for taking care of Nina, who they all knew had a tendency to wander off. Astrid believed that Nina was asleep in her bed, but she had instead made her way through the woods to the reflecting pool. When Astrid realized Nina was not in Aunt Maude’s house and went looking for her, she discovered Nina’s lifeless body. In the aftermath of the tragedy, Astrid’s parents divorced two years later, and the family never again visited Heron Bay.

Now Astrid is a thirty-one-year-old, recently divorced documents examiner living in Vallejo, California. Astrid’s father, a professor of conservation biology at Portland University, is remarried and lives in the Oregon woods. Rose, Astrid’s mother, spends her time traveling to escape the past and her grief. She and Astrid rarely speak and haven’t seen each other in years. In addition to the guilt and remorse that have burdened her since the night Nina died, Astrid also blames herself for the demise of her marriage. Her lies and omissions led her husband, Trent, into a serious relationship with Astrid’s best friend, Leona.

Astrid has always been very fond of her Aunt Maude, twelve years older than Astrid’s mother, Rose. A retired librarian, her Victorian home on the edge of the woods at the end of a road that winds toward the sea, is filled with books and surrounded by gardens visible from the large wraparound porch. As the story opens, Astrid arrives in Heron Bay for the first time since that horrible summer. Aunt Maude called and implored her to come for a visit after she discovered a typewritten letter. “The signature is handwritten. The letter will change everything we believe about the past,” Maude tells Astrid, swearing her to secrecy and refusing to reveal the contents of the letter over the telephone. Rather, Aunt Maude insists they must meet in person. “The typewriter is here. The letter is in a safe place.”

But when Astrid arrives at Maude’s home, she finds her aunt unconscious on the floor of her home library with a gaping gash on her forehead. Did she fall? Could she have been pushed? Summoning help reunites Astrid with Conor Burke, her friend from childhood who is now the local sheriff. He had a memorable crush on Astrid, but as a young teenager, she was infatuated with the older Julian Michaels, a twenty-two-year-old student home for the summer who called Astrid “Austen Girl” after he happened upon her reading Persuasion by Jane Austen. She enjoyed discussing books with him, but her fantasies about a relationship with him faded when her family left Heron Bay for good. Now, Julian is a bestselling author residing on nearby San Juan Island as his sixteen-year-old son, Thomas, spends time with his grandparents, the glamorous Beatrice and her wealthy husband, Verne, at their Heron Bay estate where Nina drowned. In addition to assisting his grandmother, Thomas spends a lot of time with Livie Dwight, a snoopy nineteen-year-old gossip who claims she assisted Aunt Maude with various tasks.

Banner effectively incorporates her love of vintage typewriters into the tale. She wrote the first draft of the novel on one of the more than one hundred manual typewriters in her collection, and injects details about their characteristics, required maintenance, and repairs into the mystery. Specifically, with Aunt Maude in a coma and unable to provide answers, Astrid’s investigation into the veracity of the letter encompasses analysis of the typewriter in Aunt Maude’s home office. For instance, once she concludes that the typewriter’s font style and size match those displayed in the letter, she compares the letters on the page with the typewriter’s keys, noting anomalies that could indicate the letter was typed on a different machine, given that every typewriter is unique. To ensure that she described Astrid’s work accurately, Banner consulted with typewriter repair experts. Likewise, her research included educating herself about how forensic examinations of documents are conducted. Since Astrid only traveled to Heron Bay for a short visit, most of the equipment needed to perform a complete analysis and ascertain the authenticity of the letter is back in her California office. She can draw only preliminary conclusions. But are they accurate? Or is Astrid unaware of pertinent facts that would cause her to change her assessment?

And what exactly does the letter mean? The ambiguous message makes several characters potential suspects if Nina was indeed murdered. But who would kill an innocent three-year-old girl? And why? And what secrets is the murderer desperate to keep hidden?

Astrid’s quest to finally learn what really happened to Nina drives the story at a steady pace, as she follows clues and tests out theories, some of which are at odds with her memories of that night. Banner simultaneously depicts the profound impact of the tragedy on Astrid’s life, a fully formed and richly sympathetic character. Her family disintegrated and Astrid was without a support system, but she has accomplished much. She finished her education, established herself in her chosen profession and, for a time, her marriage to Trent was a happy one, even though relationships have always proven problematic for her. But she has never come to terms with Nina’s death, in part because of her mother’s recriminations and rejection. Rose flits from place to place, always running from the past and never willing to have a focused conversation about Nina’s death. Her father is also distant. And Astrid has always second-guessed herself, pondering whether she could have prevented the tragedy. Intellectually, she understands that she was just a fourteen-year-old girl upon whom responsibility for her little sister was too often thrust. But that knowledge does not alleviate her sense that she should have predicted that Nina would wander off and stopped her from doing so. There was some understandable sibling rivalry, especially considering their age difference, but Astrid would never have allowed harm to come to her sister. Over the years, she has felt “as if she herself has been drowning in guilt” and tried to understand “why she often dreamed of wading into the reflecting pool, water rising around her legs. She often woke gasping for air, drenched in sweat. Sometimes, she sensed Nina nearby in the shadows, as if the little girl wanted to speak but could not find the words.” Astrid recalls someone being in the house in addition to the two of them. She heard her mother’s voice, and understood that she had returned home from the party at the Michaels’ estate she attended with Bjorn, but who was she speaking to? What really happened at the party that caused her father to leave abruptly and drive all the way back to Seattle that night? Was it really Julian she saw that evening, crossing through the side garden toward the forest trail?

As Astrid’s inquiry proceeds, it becomes apparent that she is in danger from someone intent on preventing her from uncovering the truth. But who is behind the threats? Did that person kill Nina?

The pace of Dreaming of Water is steady and the story replete with surprising, perfectly timed revelations. Banner surrounds Astrid with an eclectic cast of supporting characters and builds a convincing case that several of them have secrets they want to keep hidden. But killing a little girl? Were any of them capable of such a monstrous act? Or was Nina’s death truly an accident brought about through a convergence of events and various characters’ motivations? Banner keeps readers guessing as she gradually demonstrates the duplicity and secrets of several characters and it becomes increasingly evident that Conor still has feelings for Astrid. She cares for him but is still emotionally reeling not just from the details she is learning about that night, but also the recent demise of her marriage. Numerous plot twists and turns advance the compelling and emotionally rich story, and when the truth finally comes to light, most readers will find it quite shocking.

Dreaming of Water is an expertly constructed and clever mystery, but much more. It is also a meditation on the myriad ways in which the overwhelming power of a tragic loss tore apart Astrid’s family, and continued to impact her life throughout her formative years and well into adulthood. Banner compassionately and credibly depicts a woman who is at last ready to confront the truth – whatever it may be – and come to terms with it. It’s a powerful story about the unbreakable bond of siblings, the need for families to grieve together in the wake of loss in order to avoid splintering, and the need to forgive not just others, but also oneself in order to find peace and thrive. The story is not just captivating. It is also both heartbreaking and, ultimately, hopeful. Banner says she strives “to create sympathetic characters, an interesting story, interesting scenes, and a twist or two. Readers will interpret the story based on their own experiences, viewpoints, and expectations. My job is to create the best story I can, to entertain rather than to instruct.” Once again, she has achieved her goals spectacularly.

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Haunted by the tragic loss of her younger sister in childhood, Astrid is summoned home by her aunt and finds herself trying to unearth what really happened all those years ago.

This is a tale of grief and loss and complicated families, as well as a twisty mystery. It’s decently compelling, enough to have held my interest the whole way through, though I wasn’t wowed by the ending.

Thank you A. J. Banner, Lake Union Publishing, and NetGalley for providing this ARC for review consideration. All opinions expressed are my own.

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A thriller with many layers to unfold.
Aunt Maud has phoned Astrid and asked her to come to Heron Bay, she tells Astrid she has found a letter which changes what happened in the past.
Astrid hadn’t been back to Heron Bay in 17 years, it’s where her family fell apart, her younger sister Nina drowned in the reflecting pool near Aunt Maude’s house. It was Astrid who found her sister and tried to revive her. Astrid still carries guilt regarding her sisters death, as she was babysitting that fateful night. Nina was out going, popular and their mothers favourite, Astrid was a reader and an introvert. Her parents separated neither able to recover together from the tragic loss
Astrid arrives back in Heron Bay to find aunt Maud in hospital in a coma following her fall, who would hurt Aunt Maud and why?
As Astrid begins to ask questions and dig a little into the past buried secrets and truths are revealed.
This is an intriguing read, there is betrayal, jealousy, friendships and more, with a great twist at the end.

Many thanks to Net Galley and Lake Union Publishing for an ARC of this book in exchange for a review. 4.5 stars

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Dreaming of Water, by A. J. Banner, is a psychological thriller and family drama about a complicated, troubled family with a young daughter who drowns one night while her older sister is babysitting. This is clearly a disfunctional family. The mother takes the older daughter for granted and treats her quite poorly with little respect or consideration. She seems to only care about herself and is a flirt with the neighborhood men as well. The father has basically checked out and leaves everyone to their own devices. The aunt is so passive that though she steps in to raise her niece, she seems to more-or-less float through life. Though the plot is compelling, the characters seem to only detract from it.

The story begins one night, while the parents are at a neighborhood party, and fourteen year old Astrid has to forgo her plans and babysit her little sister. She slips out of the house in search of her mother and Astrid later finds her drowned in the neighbors’ reflecting pool. No one consoles Astrid, and some place blame on her. Her parents split up and Astrid’s aunt essentially raises her. Astrid is haunted by this experience well into her adult years and continues to blame herself. Years later, when her aunt calls her home with a cryptic message, Astrid arrives to find her aunt knocked unconscious in her home. Astrid is filled with questions and racked with worry and begins to question and investigate what happened to her aunt now, and what happened to her sister all those years ago.

This is an odd story. It felt rather novice and simplistic at times, unreal in both the plot and the characters’ behaviors and reactions. None of the characters felt realistic to me and the mystery felt rather convoluted. I had a difficult time believing the police would be so quick to disregard the discoveries that were made. I couldn’t buy into the romance, which didn’t feel authentic, or even plausible. The parents behavior was abhorrent and truly no one seemed to behave in a responsible, rational manner. The actual mystery was also never fully resolved, which perhaps was intended to feel enigmatic, but instead felt incomplete.

There were elements of this mystery that were compelling and kept me turning the pages to see how it would all play out. Dreaming of Water is a short, quick, suspenseful thriller that will grab your attention. Unfortunately, despite the air of intrigue, the plot wasn’t fleshed out very well, or credible enough to make it a satisfying novel, and ultimately, it fell a bit flat.

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I received this from Netgalley for an honest review. Interesting thriller. Astrid is going back to Heron Bay. The last place she wanted to be. The loss of her sister there still haunted her. Her Aunt Maude wished she come and now she is faced with memories, secrets and someone who desperately does not want her there. Solid writing and story was fast paced. Very enjoyable.

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Astrid Johansen swore she would never return to Heron Bay, Washington. In that idyllic coastal town, her little sister, Nina, drowned in a reflecting pool under Astrid’s watch seventeen years ago. Though guilt has kept her away, Astrid can’t ignore her aunt Maude’s urgent plea to come back. Maude claims to have found a letter that will change everything about the past.

When Astrid arrives in Heron Bay, she finds Maude unconscious, perhaps the victim of an attack. As Maude lingers in a coma, Astrid uncovers alarming evidence that Nina’s drowning that tragic night was no accident. But in a town rife with secrets, and in a family still fractured by grief, who knows the truth?

Astrid’s investigation leads her down a trail of dark memories, lies, and betrayals that will shatter her perception of everyone she thought she knew—even herself.

This was a quick read, one you could probably finish in a day. It also had a solid mystery plot and kept me guessing. I wish this novel had grabbed my attention a little more, but I did overall enjoy the story and the twist at the end.

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Dreaming of Water by A.J. Banner
This psychological, suspense mystery is set in Heron Bay, a town that Astrid has not returned to since the tragic death of her sister. However, a call from her Aunt Maud, who claims to have information that may just point to the answers the family has been seeking regarding that heartbreaking death years ago, is just the push Astrid needs to return. When Astrid arrives, she finds Aunt Maud unconscious. Who does not want the truth to be told? Who would be willing to go to such lengths to keep their secret?
Astrid is a forensic document examiner by profession. It is great the way the Ms. Banner was able to include typewriters, one of her passions, into the story as a key piece of evidence. The research Ms. Banner did into the forensic document examiner profession is spot on and adds a unique element to the storyline.
This is a story that will grab you from the start. You will want to continue reading way past your bedtime. And I swear, you will never look at a typewriter the same way again. Happy reading!!!

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When her aunt calls her back to Heron Bay, Astrid is breaking a promise to herself by returning. She vowed she wouldn’t go back after her sister Nina died. Nina drowned in a reflecting pool while Astrid was looking after her. Guilt has kept her away but how can she say no to Maude, especially when she has a letter that might change her perspective on past events. When Astrid arrives she finds Maude has been the victim of an assault and is now in a coma. Could the attack on Maude be linked to the letter she told Astrid about?
Astrid starts to investigate and finds that Nina’s death may not have been accidental. This beautiful coastal town is rife with secrets and Astrid becomes determined to find the truth. I loved the mix of psychological suspense and deep human emotion. This is a family that’s been held hostage by the past, for Astrid that has meant relocating geographically in order to avoid her overwhelming grief and guilt that she didn’t stop her sister’s death. The setting is lush and verdant but the trail of human emotions is equally tangled and overgrown. I have never read this author before but I loved her writing and the eventual conclusion left me feeling satisfied. This was tense and heartbreaking in equal measure.

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After receiving an urgent message from her Aunt, Astrid returns to Heron Bay, a place she swore she’d never return to due to memories of her sister’s death. Upon her return, she finds her Aunt has been attacked and is unconscious. She is left to look for the clues her Aunt hinted at. Memories that have haunted Astrid are brought to the surface.

I am a fan of A.J Banner’s work, so I jumped at the chance to read her latest. I find her work beautifully descriptive and easy for me to vividly picture the story and bring it to life. Unfortunately for me, this storyline fell flat. I found the connection with most of the characters lacking, and their interaction with each other weak. I did find Astrid’s job as a forensic document examiner interesting. Dual timeline 2023/2004, but the 2004 references seem out of touch with the typewriter use during this time. The ending really didn’t give me the closure I was seeking in regard to her dysfunctional parents and her life. This book didn’t grab me and I found it slow moving. Will I read this author again, absolutely! I look forward to her next book.

Thanks to Lake Union Publishing and NetGalley for this ARC. This is my honest opinion.

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A family mystery and secrets bring Astrid back to Heron Bay, which she never returned to after her sister's drowning. Upon her return, her aunt is unconscious and Astrid is left with more questions than answers especially after her aunt's cryptic phone call. Is Astrid safe or is someone out to stop the truth from being uncovered? A.J. Banner kept me on the edge of my seat as I navigated this story and mystery with Astrid. Astrid was a relatable character and I was rooting for her to find the truths throughout the story. When I wasn't able to read, I found my mind kept going back to the story, even after the final pages. Thank you to A.J. Banner and NetGalley for an advanced copy! All thoughts and opinions are my own!

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A great suspense filled novel! Astrid reluctantly returns to her hometown at her aunt’s urgent request. She has terrible memories of being there from the time her four year sister drowned while she was babysitting her. Once Astrid arrives she finds her aunt unconscious and many mysteries surrounding some letters her aunt has found. The more Astrid investigates the more she begins to realize maybe Nina’s drowning wasn’t an accident. This plot was well paced and there were some great twists. This story had me guessing and definitely kept my interest. Be sure to add this one to your TBR!

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