Dream Lake Review (finally)
I was excited to read Alex’s story and I was not disappointed. Alex out of all the Nolans grabbed my heart and squeezed it, wouldn’t let it go. Alex has traits that make him my kryptonite. I adored him. He’s tortured and grumpy. He’s described as having a ruined beauty that women can’t resist, but he’s not a womanizer. While having a broken beau is nothing a woman should aspire to in life, broken heroes seem to appeal to me like no other. I loved seeing Alex’s damaged psyche be healed in a realistic way. Kleypas doesn’t take any shortcuts. She shows you all the dark spots on Alex’s soul, even his destructive, unhealthy relationship with his ex-wife, Darcy. While Zoe in herself doesn’t heal Alex, the functionality of their relationship is a sharp contrast to his failed marriage. While Darcy seemed to want to put Alex back on the rails with his drinking, Zoe wants Alex to be whole and healed, not for herself, but for him. When Alex and Zoe meet in Rainshadow Road, it felt like magic to me, and it turned out to be the case. Zoe and Alex are made for each other. Zoe is fairly well balanced. She does have some self-esteem issues due to her extreme beauty and voluptuous physique, and the trauma of being judged for it. To the extent that she marries a man who is gay because he doesn’t objectify her. While Alex is obviously completely blown away by Zoe, he doesn’t treat her like a sex object, and in actuality, tries to push her away because he knows he’s damaged goods. However, the connection between them cannot be ignored. I ate up their falling in love. Enjoyed every scene they had together. Zoe’s major issue is the failing health of her grandmother. Her grandmother has a form of dementia that escalates rapidly, and Zoe takes on the role as caregiver. Alex takes on the job of remodeling the cottage that Zoe’s cousin Justine lets her live in with her grandmother. Their proximity is an excellent opportunity for the powerful emotions between them to blossom. And in seeing each other under their worst situations, they realize that love isn’t about perfection but about loving perfectly.
Kleypas was going for a magical realism theme with this series, and this book reminded me of “Like Water for Chocolate” or “Simply Irresistible” with some “Ghost” thrown in. Zoe’s cooking seems to have healing properties, although I don’t think there was really any magic in it. It was merely a case of the fact that her food was what sustained Alex and tempted him to eat when he was at the lowest point in his alcoholism. The ghost angle comes in with the spirit that attaches himself to Alex, a spirit that lives in the house that Alex’s brother Sam owns and that Alex has taken on restoring. Alex seems driven to restore the house, and the spirit becomes attached to Alex in the process. It’s hate at first sight. The spirit can’t stand Alex, who comes off as a complete misanthrope if not nihilist. It’s Alex’s hero’s journey to heal spiritually and to rid himself of the dark cloud that has surrounded him since his traumatic childhood, being victimized by two violent, unrestrained drunks. I don’t know what Kleypas’ spiritual beliefs are but she see doesn’t shy away from adding a spiritual component to this novel, that make sense in that we’re dealing with a ghost and a hero who is having a major existential crisis. The ghost often functions as Alex’s conscience and in some ways, much like the ghosts that visit Ebeneezer Scrooge in “A Christmas Carol.” This is another book in which Kleypas obvious love of literature is showcased and lovingly inscribed into her writing.
This book is my favorite out of the series, and it earns a resounding five stars. I think that it captures the tone and the notes of a beautiful contemporary romance only as Kleypas could deliver. She uses language so beautifully, from the well-developed characters, to the intentional and spot on dialogue. While the ghost story didn’t really add to this book for me, it’s integral to the story, and it would definitely appeal to readers who like a little paranormal in their romance. Not as excited about Justine’s book, but at the same time, looking forward to reading it.
Oh, I guess I should mention the audiobook narration. It was good. Serviceable.
My dream cast:
Kelli Garner as Zoe
Nicholas Hoult as Alex
I read this book back in the summer, and I never got around to writing the review. If I had a word to describe it, it's charming. At the same time, I can't say either Lucy or Sam would be anywhere near the top of my list of favorite Lisa Kleypas characters or couples. In fact, I did have minor issues with both of them. Sam more than Lucy.
Lucy made me want to yell at her a few times. I didn't get why she let Alice get away with so much, although LK did a good job of explaining the complexities of the sister relationship and the fact that Alice getting away was stuff was doing business as normal. But I wanted Lucy to get Alice told, and she didn't quite do that. Alice is a mega-brat and she needed someone to hold her accountable for the crap she'd done and instigated in her short life, and Lucy wasn't willing to do it. I think Lucy will appeal to a lot of readers, because she does seem like a normal kind of woman (despite her magical abilities).
Sam, well he just comes off as selfish in that he is living his life and that's his thing. His family dysfunction is there, but he was able to escape from it in a way that his other siblings couldn't, I don't think. He had the neighbors to hide out with and they were like grandparents, giving him a sense of safety. Although I read Dream Lake after this, I started to think of these books as a group. Sam lives in the shadow of Alex for me. Sam managed to avoid most of the angst that hit Alex full in the face, so it’s not wonder that Alex is a trainwreck.
I know that a big issue that I have with Sam is his attitudes towards sex and relationships, or lack thereof. He had no desire for a meaningful relationship. Yes, as the child of two alcoholics, that makes sense. I think if he had shown more depth, I could have connected to him and his reasons. I did like that he finally realized how much Lucy meant to him and his gesture was so sweet and authentic.
As far as Sam and Lucy's relationship, it was pleasant. I did believe they loved each other, but it's hard to get too involved in their relationship considering that I didn't have strong feelings for either of them.
I liked the magical elements. It was different and unique. It's subtly done but integral to the storyline. Kleypas doesn't really explain why Lucy has this ability and no one else in her family does. I don't know if it's because of the fact that Alice always got all the attention and this was a gift that belonged her her alone.
I've read all the books in this series, and this is my least favorite. I think it lacks the punch that later books have, and with Christmas Eve at Friday Harbor, Holly pretty much cinches the story. Holly was in this book and I liked how Sam does connect with Holly, and that is an aspect of the story that gives Sam an added depth.
I have very high standards for Lisa Kleypas. She's been one of my favorite authors, well, for most of my life. I like her foray into something different, and she did it well, but this doesn't stand up well to her other books. Normally most of her heroes turn me into goo, but Sam left me very unmelted.
So, I gave this one 3.5/5.0 stars.
Murders in the Rue Morgue & Other Stories by Edgar Allan Poe
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I checked this audiobook out to celebrate the October Spooky mood. I have been an admirer of Poe since I was a grade school student, and what I've read by him, I've loved. I have been meaning to read more by him, but haven't taken the time. Audiobooks are such a good way to maximize my time because I can listen and do other things, so I grabbed this one. In all honesty, it wasn't very scary or even eerie (with the exception of "The Raven. " I am glad that I did listen to it though. I had never read any of these stories. I could have done without a couple of them, but overall, it was enjoyable, and this four hour audiobook format was a good way to keep me company as I did other things. The narrator's voice was a bit irritating, with a nasally tone that wasn't my favorite. He was good with accents and voices though.
Here are my thoughts on the stories:
"Murders in the Rue Morgue" --I love a good detective story, and this is the first detective story, and that is to be celebrated. I saw a lot of Sherlock Holmes in C. Auguste Dupin and Watson in his anonymous friend. It was a great mystery with a crazy resolution. I never would have guessed. My only issue with it is that it's basically telling and not showing. Dupin seems very pompous in his way of analyzing people, and he seems very self-important. He shows the observant trait of a good detective, which Poe terms ratiocination. I loved the twist on how each witness thought the guttural speaker was a foreigner, but from a place that had never been. In light of the resolution, that was a very nice touch. I give this four stars because it's impressive as the first detective story. I think all the detective fiction readers and writers owe Mr. Poe a great debt.
"The Purloined Letter" --I didn't find this one as impressive as the first. It seemed very simplistic, and there was no real tension. I do give Dupin props for his handy solving of a mystery that had the police stumped, but he's so obnoxiously arrogant about it. Sherlock with some aristocratic French attitude thrown in. 3 stars.
"The Thousand and Second Tale of Scheherazade" --I didn't care much for this, sadly. I love Scheherazade and the Arabian Nights stories, and I don't think this added anything to the mystique of the stories. I felt like it was full of weirdness, way too random, with bizarre diversions in the storytelling, but at the same time, really quite boring. Besides, it ruined the best aspect about the stories, so that was a downer for me. Probably my least favorite story by Poe. 2 stars.
"A Descent into the Maelstrom" --This felt more like a Jack London story than a Poe story. It's good to see that he does venture into straight adventure, no pun intended. I felt it was an average read. It didn't have much of an impact on me, but I didn't dislike it like the previous novel. 2.5 stars.
"The Raven"-- A classic by this author. I love poetry, especially eerie poetry. I admit I don't like overly long poems, so this was a nice length. Long enough to get a reader involved, with a beautiful rhythm to it. Listening to this was a lot of fun. I think I would need to read it, to delve more meaning out of it. It's a bit oblique, in my opinion. 3.5 stars
"Masque of the Red Death" --I really appreciated listening to this. I have seen the movie with Vincent Price and thought it was very clever. It's interesting how they managed to get a full-length movie out of this, since it was very short. I think the tone was nicely Gothic and sinister, and it has an impactful statement about the concept of believing that being wealthy and high status makes one exempt from all ills. And there is something very repugnant about indulging debauchery and hedonism when people are suffering around you. Death finds everyone of us. 4 stars.
Conclusion: Four hours of my life that I can't say I regret. It helped that I was finishing a project for school at the time, so it kept me busy. I would say that one's life is not added to much by "Scheherazade" and "A Descent into the Maelstrom", but I recommend the other stories.
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I freely admit that I intend to read everything by Greg Rucka I can get my hands on. He can write very well. Whether it's graphic novels or full-length fiction. I checked this audiobook out from my lad I did. It's not the first in the series. But it's okay. I got the jist on what happened. I will want to go back and read the previous books. As it was, this was a really excellent suspense novel. It starts almost in medias res, but that's okay. I liked that I was left tl learn about what was happening as things went along.
Kodiak is a good hero. He's a tough guy. He knows more than a thing or two about protecting and going on the offensive. He was in the army and he's a body guard by trade. He ends up on the black side of things when his name is outed as a traitor. He goes on the run with a shadowy assassin who has made some enemies, but has decided she doesn't want to kill anymore. At the same time, he's very empathetic and grieves deeply. I liked seeing that duality and his determination to see his mission through.
I think this would make an excellent movie. That's one of the things I love about Rucka's books. They are well-written prose novels, but could serve equally well as movies or television shows. This book is in 1st person and that works very well for this book. The first action scene at the gas station was high level tension and extremely well executed. The tension is maintained very well as Atticus and Drama go on the run together trying to stay one step ahead of the folks hunting them. And then they have to turn the tables. Everything is well thought up. No running around half-cocked. This pair has to play the long game, and the ending is satisfying even in its near bloodlessness. Drama is equally well-developed. She's the kind of action heroine I love and I wish I could see more of in movies/tv although we have some great ones with Sydney Bristow (Alias), Jane Doe (Blindspot), and although not so much physically Olivia Pope (Scandal). She is 100% lethal, but she's world weary and has learned the hard way how killing saps and destroys a person's soul and humanity. That's how you make a killer, convince them they are no longer human and that other people are below human. She had rejected that training at great cost.
The narrator was excellent. His pace and tone perfect for Atticus, a man who was world-weary and at the same time, deeply angry about something that happens in this book. And with good reason. I like how Drama's lines are spoken in a monotone that fits the character, a woman who has undergone incredibly tragic circumstances and was essentially trained to kill from an early age. I think this book is years old, but it actually relates to current events very well. It's a strange world and your friends aren't always friends and vice versa.
This isn't a long book, but it's perfectly executed. I do recommend this one.
Overall rating: 4.5/5.0 stars.