Monday, February 22, 2010

Dream House by Valerie Laken, Book Tour and Review

When I was asked to participate in the TLC Book Tour for this book I jumped at the chance as soon as I read the synopsis:

When Kate and Stuart Kinzler buy a run-down historic home in Ann Arbor, Michigan, they're hoping their grand renovation project can rescue their troubled marriage.  Instead, they discover that years ago their home was the scene of a terrible crime-and the revelation tips the balance of their precarious union.

When a mysterious man begins lurking around her yard, Kate, now alone, is forced to confront her home's dangerous past.  Hers is not the only life that has crumbled under this roof.  This man's family also disintegrated here, as the result of one brief act of rage that may haunt him-and this house-for years to come.

Sounds good, right?  Thankfully I can report that it was good, and not what I was expecting at all.  For some reason I was thinking there was actually going to be a  haunted house, don't ask why, I'm not really sure where I got that impression from.  I think I was a little tired when I first read the description. 

A lot of the reviews I've read have tended to focus on Kate, and while you would probably consider her the "main" character, I found myself connecting to and understanding Stuart way more that it seems others have.  Here was a man, who's biggest flaw was the lack of any real sense self esteem.  He never thought he was good enough for Kate, he was always thinking that someday she would realize the truth and disappear.  How any man can be expected to function on a real level, when that thought is eating away at you, is beyond me.  So of course he wouldn't want their life to change in any real way, because if it did, she may realize that she's moved beyond him.  She would find out that she would be better off without him.  So I understood why he was so unhappy with buying a house and moving away from their apartment, which was near the campus they first met.  The relationship, while it may be slowly dying, was stable there.  It was home.

So when Kate throws herself into remodeling the home, he never wanted, he feels her pulling away from him.  Of course he never thought about this being her way of trying to not only reconnect their slowly dying marriage, but as a way to find a place where she truly belonged.  I found Kate to be pretty emotionally closed to almost everyone in her life, she simply doesn't let anyone in, even when she thinks she has.  Now that doesn't help Stuart's issues because he sees this as a validation of his fears.  And like all fears they just keep feeding in on themselves.  So when he loses his job, his sense of self is obliterated.  Any sense of being the man Kate needed walked out the door, so he followed.  I'm not sure how many men or women in his place wouldn't do the same thing.  When every fear you've ever had comes true, your first response is to run.  I'm not saying it's the right choice or the morally correct thing to do, but I understood it.

This was a intimate look at people who are struggling to find themselves and a place to call home, both physically and emotionally.  The backdrop of the "murder" years prior to Kate and Stuart moving in and how the players in that initial tragedy interact and influence current events was expertly meshed together and added a dimension to the book that I would have missed had it not been there.

Now everything I just typed could be the exact opposite of what Valerie Laken was trying to get across in her beautifully written book, but it's what I took away from it and I'm very happy that I was given the chance to read it.  I am looking forward to reading more by her in the future.  Please stop by and visit Valerie Laken at her website. 

I would like to thank Trish at TLC Book Tours for the opportunity to read and review this book and I am looking forward to future tours.

You can check out other stops on the tour by clicking on the links:

Monday, February 1st: Stephanie’s Written Word

Thursday, February 4th: One Person’s Journey Through a World of Books

Tuesday, February 9th: lit*chick

Wednesday, February 10th: I’m Booking It

Monday, February 15th: Devourer of Books

Wednesday, February 17th: Educating Petunia

Thursday, February 18th: Dolce Bellezza

Monday, February 22nd: Wordsmithonia

Wednesday, February 24th: The Book Zombie

Thursday, February 25th: All About {n}


Zia said...

Sounds like a great book. Thanks for the review.

Lenore Appelhans said...

The cover totally creeps me out!

IceJewel said...

First, I love that book cover.
Second, The synopsis of the book sounds good !
Third, great review :)
(Referring to your statement:"I'm not saying it's the right choice or the morally correct thing to do, but I understood it.")--
I love it when the authors make you understand a particular viewpoint and the reasons behind their actions even if we don't actually think is correct.

Jenny said...

Wonderful review! Really makes me want to read this! I like how you focused on the male character's thoughts.

Elena said...

"Now everything I just typed could be the exact opposite of what Valerie Laken was trying to get across in her beautifully written book" - I think this is what authors love, seeing the different ways people take something from what they've written.

In the end it doesn't really matter what she WANTED you to feel, it's what you actually did feel. This sounds like a very cool book. Great review Ryan

Anonymous said...

Sounds like a good book and I'm glad you enjoyed it. I don't think it's one I'll pick up, though.

trish said...

Wow. After reading so many reviews that focus on Kate, you've blown me away with your empathy for Stuart. I think it's hard sometimes to see other points of view, especially when the character is flawed, but you've really opened up the book in a way I haven't seen done before. I'd love to have you in my book club. :)

Thanks for being on the tour!

Staci said...

I really enjoyed your review and I like how you connected with the male character. We need more guys out there reading and reviewing their books!!! It's funny how two different people can read the same book and come away from the experience with way different thoughts!! Excellent review!

Valerie Laken said...

Ryan, thanks for such a wonderful review. It's a pleasure to see a reviewer taking an approach to the book that not everyone else took. Everything you described about Stuart is accurate to my intentions for the character, but you're right -- that's not stuff that many other reviewers have highlighted. In fact, for a while in the revision process, some readers suggested I omit the Stuart sections, but I could never let go of him. To me he seemed essential all along, and reading your take on the book really confirmed this for me. But I agree with Elena -- it's very satisfying to see how every reader can discover something a little different in the book.

Some folks have commented on the "spooky" factor of the cover and some of the plot summaries. I know, I know... I don't know exactly how the spooky angle became a part of the book's marketing. I wish it hadn't, because I really don't think of it as a mystery or a haunted house story, and I don't want to mislead anyone. But some of that stuff stretched way out of my control, and I've had to live with it. Book covers... never get a writer started talking about book covers! :) We have so very little control over it, and sometimes that's frustrating! But not to complain. Thanks everyone for sharing your thoughts.

-Valerie Laken

J.T. Oldfield said...

I haven't read this, but I think that I thought that it was about a haunted house, too, when I first heard about it.

Ryan said...

Thank you everyone for your comments, they are always appreciated by me even when I don't say it.

Valerie, Thank you for dropping by as I'm glad I was close in my feelings about Stuart. He was a dynamic character and I'm glad you didn't get rid of his sections. The cover I think is beautiful by the way, even if it does have that hint of something sinister behind the nice facade. I'm really looking forward to reading more of your work in the future.

Anonymous said...

Good characterization, Ryan. I'm very interested in this book and plus that cover has a tad of creepy about it.

Stephanie said...

This novel sounds terrific. Thank you for the great review.

(Diane) Bibliophile By the Sea said...

I'm looking forward to this book; great review.