Thursday, June 24, 2010

Dream House by: Valerie Laken


One terrible night. One outraged act. What price will people pay to hold their homes and dreams together?

When Kate and Stuart Kinzler buy a run-down, historic house in Ann Arbor, Michigan, they're looking for a decent remodeling investment and a little space in which to rekindle their troubled marriage. Instead they discover that their home was the scene of a terrible crime many years ago—a revelation that 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. But the stranger who has returned to this house—once his own childhood home—is in search of something Kate may never fully understand.

I had the pleasure of meeting Valerie Laken earlier in June when she came to my school for a writer's conference we had. She talked some about the novel, such as what research went into it and how she got the idea. It was pretty cool to see those ideas she had been talking about at the conference in the novel.

I think Laken told a really good story. It was an entertaining novel with some strong, solid characters. I felt for all of them, and could really relate to each of them. I've read a couple of Laken's short stories and have noticed that she always has really strong characters in her stories, which is a major plus. And the house was a character itself, which was really cool. I liked the way Laken personified it and made it a living, breathing thing.

I also liked the setting. Ann Arbor just fit right with the story. It helped make the novel as realistic as it was. Reading it, you can almost believe that these characters are real and that this happened.

It's a strong debut novel, and I hope to see more from Laken in the future. I think she's coming out with a short story collection in the fall, which I'm pretty excited about. (One of the short stories she read at the conference; it was amazing.)

All in all, a very enjoyable read. It had that "man, I wanna know what happens next" quality to it that kept me interested until the end. I would recommend it to fans of strong character novels, who like a little mystery thrown in there, too.

Overall rating: 9/10
Cover Commentary: I love the cover. I think it's very striking, and even if I hadn't known about Laken prior to reading the novel, if I had seen it on a shelf somewhere, I probably would've picked it up. Works well for the story.

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