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Dream House: A Novel

by Valerie Laken

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11010183,529 (3.47)4
Hoping to rekindle their troubled marriage while renovating a historic house in Ann Arbor, Kate and Stuart Kinzler learn that the house had been the scene of a devastating crime thirty years earlier.



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Showing 1-5 of 10 (next | show all)
Dream House presents itself as a suspenseful ghost story or horror novel--from the cover, to the jacket blurb, to the tone of the opening chapters. Sure, there's a question of whether you're going into a piece which is more horror or suspense, more creepy or supernatural, or more about a house or the ghosts within...but there's no question for a reader who comes directly to the book that some of these elements are in play. So, what's the problem? They're not.

Even though the book's first 50-100 pages push for a spooky tone, the cover looks like a horror novel, and the cover blurbs mention ghosts, there's very little suspense here, and no element of a mystery, a ghost, or any supernatural element. At its heart, this is simply a family drama that branches out from a young couple to tell the stories of men who've also had some history related to their new fixer-upper house. I'm not sure how much of this is off marketing and how much might be the book taking a different turn than the author expected once they got half-way through the book, but the fact remained: the book feels like it's having an identity crisis, and my guess is that this book will never find the readers who would really enjoy it. Those readers (other readers in my family for instance) would read the first few chapters and think that the book is going in a supernatural direction, and too dark for their tastes. In reality, readers like me who are looking for that darker read will end up being disappointed with a work that built us up to expect something...and then disappeared into a mundane collection of adults trying to survive normal crises of direction and relationship.

All this considered, it's hard to objectively review this work. I know that I would have enjoyed it more had I not been misled about what to expect (and I would maintain that the marketing AND the tone/direction of the first 75 pages at least are actually misleading). The details here (in terms of home renovation and family dynamics) are believable and engaging, as are the characters. The downfall in the writing is that there are themes and subplots in the first half of the novel that are totally forgotten in the second half, some of them having received so much attention early on that you can't help but feel that the author just got bored of them and moved on.

On the whole, I'm not sure whether or not I'd read another work by Laken or not; this was disappointing, and not remotely what I expected when I picked it up. ( )
  whitewavedarling | Mar 18, 2014 |
Hummm. I'm not really sure where to go with this review. I didn't love it but I didn't slog through it either. I wasn't confused but I didn't fully understand either. I dunno it was just a three star book. It wasn't what I was expecting. I got the impression I was going to be reading a "haunted house" type book and....that was a negative. Still, the book did have a certain magnetic pull and did draw me into it. But in the end I wanted more. I had a lot of questions and would have enjoyed it more if I had more history...a little more thriller to it. It lacked the edge of seat it COULD of had and in the end, while I was satisfied, I would have preferred twists and turns that I could have sank my teeth into. ( )
1 vote justablondemoment | Apr 30, 2013 |
Beautifully written first novel that weaves together the present day with Math teacher Kate and husband Stewart who buy a run-down home in Ann Arbor, and Walker Price, who used to live in the home when a murder occurred in the mid-1980s. ( )
  coolmama | Nov 2, 2010 |
Good mystery set in Ann Arbor about a house on the Old West Side. The house has its secrets, and the new owners have their issues. The best part about the whole story, though, is its setting and references around Ann Arbor. Only a few names were changed to protect the not-so-innocent. ( )
  jckeen | Jun 2, 2010 |
For two days now, I've been thinking about what to say about this book. I'm still not sure. In fact, the book is quickly fading from my memory. I enjoyed reading it, but I can't figure out why it didn't make a greater impression on me.I liked the main character, in spite of (or maybe because of) her flaws. Yes, she's a bit self centered, and a bit obsessive, but who isn't? (What, that's just me? Oh, sorry!). I was amused by her husband, mired in the good ole' days of college, not quite ready to grow up. I should be more interested in he choices they made during the book.The dream house of the title is almost a character in itself, with a mysterious shadowy past, slowly revealing its secrets to me.Maybe the problem is that I've encountered all of these pieces before, although not assembled in quite this way. Then again, that's true of most books I read, at some level. There aren't that many truly unique plots or characters out there. I just felt like Dream House should have had more impact on me than it did.Shrug. I don't have any reasons you shouldn't read this book. Check it out of the library. Pick it up for vacation. Read it. Then go on to something else. ( )
  ImBookingIt | Mar 26, 2010 |
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Prologue: If you took away the police tape and the squad cars and the neighbors murmuring in a cluster on the sidewalk, it would look like the kind of house little kids draw: a wooden, two story box topped with the steep triangle of a full attic, and a chimney tilting slightly from the ridge line of the roof.
Chapter One: Eighteen years later.
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Hoping to rekindle their troubled marriage while renovating a historic house in Ann Arbor, Kate and Stuart Kinzler learn that the house had been the scene of a devastating crime thirty years earlier.

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