Playing in the Rain

(Book 1 - Escape Series) When All That Matters is Freedom

Fiction - Suspense
279 Pages
Reviewed on 04/22/2018
Buy on Amazon

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Author Biography

I like to read many different genres and the same is true for my writing.
Playing in the Rain is my second published novel and book 1 of my first trilogy. The original story is much different than the one I ended up publishing. My characters have a way of taking over my writing and what starts off as one idea changes into a completely different one.

    Book Review

Reviewed by Jamie Michele for Readers' Favorite

Playing in the Rain: When All That Matters is Freedom by Sandra J. Jackson is the first book in the author's Escape Series. It starts with an awakening in a sterile hospital after the teen protagonist, A2, is kidnapped. Unable to even recognize herself in the mirror, it is slowly revealed that she is trapped in an aesculapian facility called C.E.C.I.L.: Contagion Eradication Center for Intelligent Life. Attending to her is Jasper, who pumps her body full of pharmaceuticals and occasionally dispenses information, disclosing to A2 that another shut-in named B2 is, in fact, her sister. Hints about the life they had before the experiment begin to intensify following a lab fire and the introduction of the true antagonist, prophetically named Cecil himself, which fuel the survivor's longing to escape.

Playing in the Rain by Sandra J. Jackson is a slow burn of a story. While it is instantly engrossing, Jackson has masterfully crafted a narrative that unravels itself with each page, which is refreshing in a time where information-dumping has become the norm in the genre as a whole. It would be a mistake to take the unhurried revelations as sluggish; the pacing is absolutely perfect and the building of suspense is first rate. The plot is unique and the writing is tight and crisp, complete with dialogue that comes across as authentic despite an artificially inspired environment. I would recommend this book to readers who adore intelligent thrillers, suspense, mysteries with strong female leads, and a narrative that allows for the measured development of an excellent story.

Bobby Underwood

“Both Bethany and I realized that the room was transforming into our tomb.”


Though the author has been talking about this book for a while, the content and subject matter always seemed a bit vague, and now I understand why. For almost a third of the book, along with the protagonist, at first known only as A2, I wondered what was going on. It’s deftly done, involving the reader in her plight, and her thought processes concerning her circumstances. Those circumstances encompass who she is, where she is, how she came to be there, and perhaps, what she is. Is this Science Fiction? An involving tale of captivity? Is it both, or neither?

The important thing is that the reader is involved. In this type of tale especially, the narrative either needs to have great movement, or involve the reader until they’re invested in the outcome. There is a little of the former, and much of the latter, which is a good balance as this moment-to-moment, day-to-day narrative could become tedious if not well written. It skirts the edges a bit for a very brief time, but from the halfway point forward, there is a gradual mounting suspense. While it never reaches a fever pitch, it does become enthralling, and exciting.

It is that instance as a reviewer, when revealing too much can ruin this for the reader. Basically, there is a hospital or lab called C.E.C.I.L. at which A2, and then B2, find themselves trapped. There are drugs and cameras, and only hazy memories. Someone named Jasper becomes an ally, or does he? Who is Cecil, what is Cecil, and why is it imperative that A2 not reveal that she’s become self-aware, and is beginning to remember? She remembers her name, then recalls who B2 is, and her name. A2 finally recalls enough to work out her own age, and that of B2, only multiplying her questions; questions she cannot ask:

“What is this place? Who is watching us? Why do we have to act like we’re robots?”

There is a breakout that is not their salvation, just a different, creepier venue. A necklace, a cabinet, a window high up which reveals the woods outside, all offer hope. There is a moment when all hope appears lost that is quite poignant in this nearly claustrophobic narrative. The ending was terrific, being satisfying and complete, but at the same time promising more, as we need answers to other questions. It also left me back at point A, because I still wondered if this was in the future — because of some revelations about their captivity I won’t reveal — or something more diabolical.

I really enjoyed this, the first third and the last third the best parts for me. It’s bereft of blood and gore, yet has a quiet tension, and the threat of danger. It captures the boredom and restlessness of any captivity, and the very human need for hope. This is the author’s second book, and it really shows. This is a nice piece of storytelling, and I’m looking forward to the next book in the series, to find out more. An author improving with each book, I highly recommended this low-key but involving narrative.

J. Schlenker

Great cover. Reading this reminded me of Wool by Hugh Howey. The story was intriguing and you definitely wanted to know what was happening--why is this girl there? Who is she? And why was Jasper, the one attending to her, coming in every day giving her different vaccinations, so secretive? Is he a good guy? A bad guy? Who is Cecil and why is he so secretive? What is the true agenda? Since this is the first in a series I guess we will find this out in the next book.

All we know is some awful disease has come to pass. A1, who we later find out is April, is in a facility called C.E.C.I.L, Contagion Eradication Center for Intelligent Life. I envision this facility to be stark white for some reason. Ironically it was named after the man running it, aka Cecil. April, a teenager, has no or little memory and has lost years of her life. She is trying to piece it together. She sleeps a lot because of the drugs, and her waking hours are heavily regulated. In moves another girl, B2, who she discovers is her sister, or so Jasper tells her if Jasper is to be trusted.

Something happens and both girls are moved to another place with little food, except what is doled out by Cecil on his irregular visits. There is little light except what is coming through a dingy window too high for them to reach. There is a cabinet with clothes and objects holding the key to their past lives. We go on this journey of discovery with them as they try to unravel the past and escape from their prison and captor, Cecil.

Lisanne McLaughlin

Awesome! I really enjoyed it. You really capture visual imagery well in your writing style, Sandra J Jackson. April and Beth were very endearing, and you were totally able to make the reader dislike the antagonist. Arrrg... Cecil!

Looking forward to the follow up!

Pat Stanford

Strange, but compelling

I knew this was a dystopian book before I bought it, but it is one of the strangest books I think I've read. Half of it is spent in an cleansed, stark white facility and the rest is spent in a dank and dirty wooden house.

The most compelling part is the relationship of the sisters who begin to remember bits and pieces of their childhood after being drugged with things to make them forget.

It is not my usual type of read, but this author does a very good job with descriptions to place you with the girls as they battle a nut job of a guy named Cecil. He wants something from unknown persons, presumably their parents, and is using them as a bargaining chip.

All this, after and attempt to control the world fails. I suppose more will be revealed in the next book.

Heidi

Playing In The Rain: When All That Matters Is Freedom (Escape Series Book 1) by Sandra J Jackson although classed as a Sci-fi I feel has the elements of a thriller as well. It's written for the young adult audience in mind, however anyone of any age would enjoy this. I was hooked and can't wait to see where this series leads.

The reader meets A1 (April) she finds herself in the facility called C.E.C.E.I.L Contagion Eradication Centre For Intelligent Life. The facility is named after the guy running it. April just a teenager has hardly any memory and lost many years of her life. In between sleeping a lot due to the drugs she's given April tried to piece together the small snippets of memory she has. The facility moves in another girl known as B2 into Aprils room. She learns that she is in fact her sister, or so she's told. After a fire at the facility the girls wake up to find themselves in a dingy windowless room. The only object in the room is a cabinet that contains clothes and objects that hold clues to the girls past.

This is a wonderful book that takes the reader on the girls journey of discovery, that leads us ready for the next instalment. A really great read, recommended to all.

Payal Sinha

Playing in the rain is a mystery novel centered around a young girl April. April suddenly wakes up one day to the sudden realization that she was living a mechanical life. In this life everything was prearranged from the timing in her bath to the various activities. She happens to question a covered person a simple question and starts getting responses albeit in a subdued and subtle manner. Her sister whom she doesn't remember is made her roommate and April takes her lead to maintain her mechanical facade. However there are questions bubbling up inside her and she wants to break free from the unknown bondage.
The book is very interesting as it takes us on a journey of revelation and we along with April feel eager to know the whole secret. What I liked about the book was that it's plot was totally fresh. Hence, I didn't know what to expect. The story kept me hooked and I was thoroughly entertained. However I feel that the book could have been bigger with some more excitement, and thought it finished soon.

Jim Cronin

A1 slowly awakens to memories of a long forgotten life. She finds herself, and her sister, B2, prisoners in what is apparently a research lab. After a fire destroys the lab, and their memories improve, they wake one morning to find themselves locked in an attack by someone named C.E.C.I.L., the former head of the research lab.
I found this story intriguing. The author seems to want her readers to slowly awaken to what is happening, just as the two sisters become aware of their dire situation. This goes against all the conventions of grabbing your audience with something spectacular in the opening paragraphs, but it works. I found myself wondering if the next memory revelation would provide a vital clue to solve this mystery of why teh girls had become imprisoned and what was going on in the world outside. i look forward to reading the next book in this Escape series.

Sheryl

Playing in the rain is a mystery novel centered around a young girl April. April suddenly wakes up one day to the sudden realization that she was living a mechanical life. In this life everything was prearranged from the timing in her bath to the various activities. She happens to question a covered person a simple question and starts getting responses albeit in a subdued and subtle manner. Her sister whom she doesn't remember is made her roommate and April takes her lead to maintain her mechanical facade. However there are questions bubbling up inside her and she wants to break free from the unknown bondage.
The book is very interesting as it takes us on a journey of revelation and we along with April feel eager to know the whole secret. What I liked about the book was that it's plot was totally fresh. Hence, I didn't know what to expect. The story kept me hooked and I was thoroughly entertained. However I feel that the book could have been bigger with some more excitement, and thought it finished soon.

Rheems

There is an old Twilight Zone episode called “Five Characters in Search of an Exit.” It involves five people in a round, windowless, doorless room. They can only see the sky through an open ceiling. They have no memories or idea who they are. When a book can evoke the same feelings, tension, and drama that Rod Serling could squeeze out of an episode, you know the author has done something right.

In the beginning the reader is left as uninformed and confused as the protagonist, known at the start only as A2. From that early point we go on a journey with A2 that leads to another captive/patient/lab rat named B2 and draws them into circumstances where victory is at times defined by the simple act of remembering one’s own name.

Playing in the Rain is high tension book that at times leaves the reader feeling claustrophobic and at other times emotionally exhausted. This can only happen when the writer has managed to suck the reader in to the point where they are experiencing the trials and tribulations along with the characters. Sometimes it is to the point of frustration at a point in the book when you realize an escape wasn’t an escape at all.

There is a payoff in the end that both satisfies the reader and leaves room for more. This book is definitely worth a look.

Ingrid Rizzolo

There is an old Twilight Zone episode called “Five Characters in Search of an Exit.” It involves five people in a round, windowless, doorless room. They can only see the sky through an open ceiling. They have no memories or idea who they are. When a book can evoke the same feelings, tension, and drama that Rod Serling could squeeze out of an episode, you know the author has done something right.

In the beginning the reader is left as uninformed and confused as the protagonist, known at the start only as A2. From that early point we go on a journey with A2 that leads to another captive/patient/lab rat named B2 and draws them into circumstances where victory is at times defined by the simple act of remembering one’s own name.

Playing in the Rain is high tension book that at times leaves the reader feeling claustrophobic and at other times emotionally exhausted. This can only happen when the writer has managed to suck the reader in to the point where they are experiencing the trials and tribulations along with the characters. Sometimes it is to the point of frustration at a point in the book when you realize an escape wasn’t an escape at all.

There is a payoff in the end that both satisfies the reader and leaves room for more. This book is definitely worth a look.

Bookstogo

A1 (the real name April,), is in a facility called C.E.C.I.L, Contagion Eradication Center for Intelligent Life which is run by Cecil who has his own ulterior motives behind running the facility: He is subjecting the young people to mind winding, identity suppression, and reprogramming. April is a teenager and has little memory of her lost years of her life. She is desperately trying to piece it together with her sister B1 (Bethany) who was brought to live in her cell later on. The two sisters plan their escape from the dreadful facility.

First one third of the book covers sisters’ life in their cell in C.E.C.I.L. They escape from their cell with the help of J (Jasper) but ends up in another dreadful venue. Jasper isn’t in position anymore to help and the sisters, thus, must plan their own escape. The narration captures the monotony, the edginess of C.E.C.I.L.’s captivity. Once the girls start to recover their memories, they are revealed as any other normal teens and the story picks its pace. The story is interesting and the author succeeded in keeping readers' interest intact until the end. The book is the first in series and to know what happens, you must wait for the second installment in the series.

S. Kumar

This is the book for you if you are looking for mysteries revealed subtly and I was kept wondering - is this a thriller, a sci-fi or a YA? But eventually none of that matters because you are drawn into a carefully woven world where nothing is what it seems and mysteries abound. A1 gets B2 but there is another... and who is CECIL?
The authors style and detailing are amazing. I recommend this for a slow easy enjoyable read.

L J Reid

I can't really define a specific genre that this book fits in but, it captured my attention at the start and kept it to the end. Looking forward to the rest of the series!

L C Brown

Hooked me on the first page and I didn't want to put it down. Sandra had me wanting to find out what happened. Deft writing kept me going through what in lesser hands could have been a claustrophobic imprisonment of the narrator.
This is a book that illustrates how even a shred of hope can keep one from giving up. Hope combined with fierce determination, courage, and the will to work with every tiny circumstance to gain your goal, seems to me to be the noblest of stories.
I cannot wait for book 2.