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Posts Tagged ‘wealthy’

Book Review: Nano House: Innovations for Small Dwellings by Phyllis Richardson

January 16, 2012 8 comments

Small house with porch and pergola.Summary:
A nano house is a super-small house, generally between 300 and under 1,000 square feet.  This book shows off nano houses from all over the world with different goals in mind, from an eco-friendly retreat that blends in with the surroundings to pod buildings that could be assembled into space-saving towers in the city to more traditional house boats.  One goal of all the houses remains the same.  How little space can one person or family take up to make the smallest impact on the environment?

Review:
I became fascinated with nano houses after stumbling across a few on the internet.  One that sticks out in my mind is a couple that built theirs together and had a blog about it.  There was another one in Australia that the woman made from plastic bottles and dirt.  The whole concept was just so….refreshing.  A small space that is uniquely you (or your family) that fits in just right with your surroundings.  So when I found out about a book coming out collecting a bunch of these houses together, I put myself on the hold list at the library immediately.  I wanted to know more details about building these remarkable little houses and the kind of people who are choosing them.  Unfortunately, this book missed the entire soul of the blogs and blurbs I’d found online.

Instead of seeking out individuals and families who designed and built their homes themselves, the houses here were all made by architectural firms or design students.  If you’ve ever met that snotty whoever in the bar who just can’t stop talking about his high-class ideas for making the whole world more up to his par, then you know the vibe this book sends off in waves.  It’s not enough to make a small, livable house with minor impact, no, they must use this new, experimental flooring or make the house look like a storage shed or design their own perfectly circular furniture or give a speech about the revolutionary concept of having a yard on the roof of your houseboat.  Um, newsflash, pretty sure I came up with that idea when I was 5.

Instead of interviewing the people who live in these houses, the author talks about what the houses are like and why they are built.  We get to hear nothing about actually *living* in a nano house.  Indeed, some of the houses were simply made for design contests or as student projects with no intention of anyone living in them at all, which seems to be the OPPOSITE of environmentally friendly if you ask me.

In fact, the whole book reads like greenwashing.  Oh, they say anyone can afford to buy this house or live there, but in fact it’s the “eccentric” wealthy who own these houses as second homes or vacation homes or a place to stick guests so they aren’t in the main house….but it’s environmentally friendly, so it’s all cool.  What I wanted to see was game changers.  Ordinary people who chose to make their own home their own way.  What I got instead was annoying architectural design students and getaways for the wealthy.  Plus, there are not nearly enough pictures of the houses to get a good idea of what they are actually like, and any floor plans are printed so small that they are impossible to read.

Overall, this book has a great title, but is a huge disappointment.  It reads like a bunch of wealthy people patting each other on the back at a party at the Ritz, missing the entire soul of the environmental movement.

2 out of 5 stars

Source: Public Library

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Book Review: Truly, Madly by Heather Webber (ARC, Feb 2010)

December 24, 2009 1 comment

Summary:
Boston socialite Lucy Valentine isn’t too keen on running the family’s matchmaking business while her mother and father take a necessary trip out of country to let a scandal settle down.  You see, she lost the family’s genetic ability to see auras that has led to their matchmaking success.  When she was a kid, she was hit by an electrical surge that removed her ability to see auras and replaced it with an ability to see lost objects when her palm touches the owner’s palm.  When a potential client shakes her hand, and she sees a dead body wearing his ring, she gets caught up in a bit more adventure than she ever thought her ability would lead her into.  It doesn’t hurt that she manages to enlist the aid of the hunky private investigator whose office shares the matchmaking business’s building.

Review:
I was excited to discover a book set in Boston that has nothing to do with the Irish mob or the Kennedy’s.  Unfortunately, I have this problem with reading about the modern wealthy.  I simply can’t identify, and it tends to irritate me unless the book is all about how they’re a serial killer or something.  Lucy is decidedly in with the Boston wealthy.  Her family owns a building on Newbury Street; they employ a driver; and she has a trust fund.  Of course she refuses the trust fund, but she’s still living in a cute, perfect cottage on her grandmother’s land in the South Shore.  She calls her grandmother by her first name, “Dovie,” and her mother “Mum.”  *shudders*  I cringed every time she said either.

On the plus side, once I manage to overlook the whole poor rich girl scenario, the plot is good.  It is full of twists and turns that have a slight supernatural bent without going full-tilt building an entirely populated other world of faeries, sprites, vampires, etc… that is seen in a lot of paranormal fiction.  Lucy’s attraction to Sean, the PI, is believable and progresses at a good rate.  The main mystery actually managed to surprise me with the ending, so that’s a major mark in its favor.

I also enjoyed the little life details Webber put into the story, Lucy’s cat’s activities, exactly what T lines are nearby where the action is happening, etc…  However, I did not like Lucy’s personality quirk of doing math problems in her head when she was nervous.  I don’t know what it is with romance writers lately having their characters do some annoying thing when they’re nervous, but to me it screams that Webber couldn’t figure out a better way to signal this emotion to the reader.

On the whole, it was a fun mystery plot with a dash of paranormal set in Boston  marred by the choice of making the main character part of the wealthy elite with an annoying, unnecessary personality quirk.  If you enjoy paranormal and wealthy characters, you will enjoy this book.

3 out of 5 stars

Source: Received from publisher, St. Martin’s Paperbacks, through LibraryThing‘s Early Reviewers program

Projected Publication Date: February 2010

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