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BROKEN HOMES & GARDENS: A Novel ~Rebecca Kelley

Monday, September 7th, 2015

Broken Homes and Gardens is one of the nicest love stories I have read in a long time.  I am not sure if it is because the timing was just right, or if this good read was just the refreshing amount of quirky, definitely west coast, or exactly why, but I just so enjoyed reading this first novel by Ms. Kelley.  Most of the book takes place in Portland, Oregon, which is known for its interesting outlook on life and it captures just the right amount of the “unique” for which this city is known.  Joanna has found a spot that just suits her and she is blossoming, all be it slowly, into her own true self and undoing her childhood programming which no longer serves her future.

Joanna is having trouble with commitment and is a person whose values are challenged after her parents divorce and her mother’s consequential inability to cope with her decisions and her emotions.  Joanna stayed home to care for her mother and attempts to shield herself from heartbreak of any kind.   She decides to come home from her teaching assignment in Europe and heads to her sister’s apartment laundry room to move in and get a vision of her future.  Her first commitment is to a potted tomato plant she cares for out on the apartment balcony.

Laura, the older sister, was off at college during the parent’s split and seems to be happy being a teacher in Portland and enjoying her life.  She persuades Joanna to attend a party at her friend’s home and Joanna realizes that Laura is going to marry Ted and that Malcolm, his roommate, is uniquely suited to her.  Malcolm leaves the next day for a 2-year life in the Peace Corp.   They begin writing letters and finding each other through their correspondence.  They also date other people.  Joanna explores more relationships and goes to graduate school, finding a job at the community college.

The relationship is on-again and then off-again and when Joanna purchases a needy house Malcolm becomes her roommate.  I thought the part of the story where Joanna starts her work on her new house, by digging out a garden spot in her new yard was just delightful and even made me laugh out loud.  Here is a woman with a crumby, dirty kitchen, wallpaper peeling off the walls and no furniture and her first endeavors are to go out to the yard in winter and attempt to dig a garden spot  – I could just capture the image in my mind’s eye.

Joanna’s relationship rules are very interesting, clever and just kept a smile in my heart and on my lips.   There were such real moments in Joanna’s experience and outcomes.  I liked that we were privy to her inner thinking and we could know the process of her changing.  So many women do not know what they “want” but are often not willing to do the work to overcome their stuck points.  It is quite a journey but Joanna succeeds in figuring out what she wants and how to reach out and grab hold.

About the author: (from the book)

“Rebecca Kelly grew up in Carson City, Nevada, wandered for a few years, and eventually landed in Portland, where she teaches writing at Oregon College of Art and Craft.  She is the co-author of THE ECO-NOMINCAL BABY GUIDE.  BROKEN HOMES AND GARDENS is her first novel.

TLC Book Tours sent me an e-copy of this book for review and it made me feel happy to enjoy this book cover to cover.   I think you will enjoy it also.  It is definitely not a Southern or East Coast Romance; rather fresh and distinctive.

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Tuesday, February 24th, 2015

“Everyone encouraged one to ‘live the dream,’ but no one talked about how to pay for it.”   “He was learning the hard way that even divine cooking didn’t make one immune to being unloved.  Sadly, food wasn’t always enough.”  (Unproofed copy at 25% of Kindle reader)

Ever dream about living on an isolated island in the South Pacific?  THE LAST GOOD PARADISE is about that very concept of escaping to a remote island, having no fancy amenities handed to you and relaxing to a happiness of self-discovery.  Soli has put in more twists and turns than you can imagine including such amazing back stories of each of the characters that it is very difficult to put this book down.

I recommend this book to folks who like to read about how a character reaches their best potential and wants to ameliorate the back-story into the reality that is surfacing into the story now.  This is a study in responsibility and relationships between individuals and commitments and how they are going to play out their own happiness and future.  I found the writing compelling and the words kept me reading in the few draggy/ redundant moments; I was not actually on a sunny atoli in the South Pacific having nothing to do and gourmet food arriving on time!

THE LAST GOOD PARADISE introduces us to Ann and Richard a Los Angeles power couple that is attempting to become pregnant and about to open their own restaurant.   Ann is an attorney who has been making the money and saving for this big adventure of Richard’s when their plans become a train wreck and they hurriedly gather their savings and race out of L.A.   They travel lite, taking only a backpack and a tourist bag full of cash; and a brown one-piece bathing suit!

When they get to the remote resort, they meet Loren, a Frenchman, who won the resort in a poker game; he has chosen this remote lifestyle for his own.  A most interesting fellow, who has brought Titi, of the Royal family, and her childhood betrothed, Cooked to help him run the resort, reclaim their heritage, and become the owners upon Loren’s death.

Dex and Wende are aging rock star and his young muse, both are attempting to escape from the pressure of the public and move forward onto new pathways and adventures.  After 2 months of being isolated, the events on the island assist Dex in writing new songs for the band and Wende has found her own passion and not just being the muse and “hottie”.

There is an underlying environmental issue, which begs for some responsible re-action and recovery in that it has truly affected lives and the way of life,  also the whole problem of the  huge resorts for the wealthy including the theft of the land and lifestyle from the original people.

I have read all of Tatjana Soli’s novels and enjoyed them all.  This is the first one I have been sent for review.  I liked this story very much and think others would also as it required me to take a look at the choices I had made and my responsibilities over my life.  Was I a follower or a “wild-child”?

I think book groups would enjoy this read, as there is a lot to discuss.  I think a study guide would very much enhance this book.

About the author from the TLC Book Tour page:

“TATJANA SOLI is a novelist and short story writer. Her New York Times bestselling debut novel, The Lotus Eaters, was the winner of the James Tait Black Prize, a New York Times Notable Book, and a finalist for the LA Times Book Award. Her critically acclaimed second novel The Forgetting Tree was also a New York Times Notable book . Her stories have appeared in Zyzzyva, Boulevard, and The Sun, and have been listed in Best American Short Stories. She lives with her husband in Southern California.”

Tatjana Soli Twitter

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