Dream house : a novel

by Valerie Laken

Hardcover, 2009




New York, NY : Harper, 2009.


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.

User reviews

LibraryThing member justablondemoment
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.… (more)
LibraryThing member bookwormygirl
This book drew me in from the start - with its creepy prologue. I love a mystery, but more than that, I love a good character driven novel and I definitely found that in Dream House. This is the sort of novel that slowly releases its secrets to you - keeping you at the edge of your seat and anxious to know what happened and why.

The main characters, Kate and Walker are both obsessed with this house. Kate - has always felt that she's been a disappointment to her family and feels that by immersing herself in fixing up her new home is a way to redeem herself in their eyes. Walker grew up in the same house before landing himself in jail for almost two decades. What was his purpose for returning?

The are various plot lines going on at once and they are all crucial to the outcome of this novel. The relationships Kate forges between Walker and Jay were really satisfying and essentially what I found the most interesting throughout the story. I love novels that blend past and present events and how it all comes together in the now and Ms. Laken definitely did this well.

For those of you looking for a ghost story - I think you will find one in Dream House, yet it's not a story about things that go bump in the night. This is a story of the ghosts of one's past, dealing with those ghosts and coming to terms with yourself, but most importantly it's about finding a place to call home.

I was very happy to have read Dream House and will definitely be on the lookout for any other titles from Valerie Laken.
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LibraryThing member blockbuster1994
How a murder resignates in a home and subsequently effected a home buyer decades later is an intriguing idea, especially since our homes are our source of comfort and pride. Valerie Laken develops this idea into a story filled with rich characters and simple, but life altering events. I could certainly identify with Kate, who in her late twenties shrugs off society's expecations, and becomes her own person filled with uncertainty, but moral strength.
While this novel is not steeped in suspense, it moves along rather fast and is certainily engaging.
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LibraryThing member EvilynJ
Newlyweds Kate and Stewart purchase a ramshackle Victorian home in Ann Arbor, Michigan, hoping to remodel it. Soon they learn that someone was murdered in the house in the 1980s, causing Stewart to leave. Kate teams up with two men to finish the remodel, eventually learning that one of them was the person who committed the murder.

An in-depth character study of how circumstances can haunt an individual to the point of not being able to cope. This has a creepy feel even though you know who the murderer is early on. Almost compels you to keep reading.
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LibraryThing member jckeen
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.
LibraryThing member coolmama
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.
LibraryThing member whitewavedarling
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.
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LibraryThing member ImBookingIt
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.… (more)


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