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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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THE FOREVER MAN: A Near-Future Thriller ~Pierre Ouellette

Friday, July 11th, 2014

“Your cells are the product of millions of years of evolution.  They don’t answer to you.  They answer only to life itself.” “Through some kind of extraordinarily advanced genetic therapy.  To pull it off, you’d have to raise an entire army of very specialized artificial viruses.” (un proofed copy – at 70% location)

THE FOREVER MAN is quite an interesting read.  I received an unproofed copy for review from TLC Online Book Tours, Net Galley and Alibi books and I am pleased to have had this opportunity.   As much as I like books about the future and thrillers these days, I must say this would not have been on my radar without a gentle prod.  Much of the story takes place in Portland, Oregon after the USA has been devastated by a predicted economic crisis and the nation is being ruled by the extremely rich.  Now the city has been abused and the majority of the people are just hanging on as best they can; regional “gangsters” are running the show and it makes me so sad to even think about.  Beauty only for the few; drugs and starvation the rule of the day, it sometimes seems as though this is a too close reality.

Lane Anslow is a contracted police detective, who has always been his bipolar brilliant, brothers admirable care taker. He is drawn into something amazing by his sibling’s work in genetics.  His brother has been kidnapped after he escaped a plane crash.  Johnny Anslow is the key to this genetic manipulation which is changing lives and will definitely change the future for the very rich.  So the police detective, who has lost his job because he is too old in his 40s, undertakes to understand and help his brother escape.  The backstory is about the boys growing up on the water near Seattle, Washington and all the mischief they recovered from and how they each took different pathways based on their experiences.  There is lots of plastic surgery, prison experience, helicopters and worldwide weapons of mass destruction and I would not want to leave out the politicians.  There is something for everyone and at one point, it made me think of a futuristic Gunsmoke TV series.  The book keeps moving ahead with lots of description about how THE FOREVER MAN became how old he is and what needs to happen to keep it a reality.  Oh yes, and the world has run out of affordable oil.

The writing was “manly” and I found it sometimes sharp and disconnected and then it turned back around to keep the reader on edge – powerful devise. I had to read dialogue pages a couple of times to figure out which character was saying what.  Certainly the editors will clear up those moments before it is released on July 8th, 2014.  I wondered if I believed if life had a beginning, middle and end, would living until your new organs wore out, or these advanced genetic procedures were available to all be something you would want to contemplate?  Would you really want to live forever?

Pierre Ouellette lives in Portland, Oregon and has written a number of science fictions books which have done well. He owned a PR firm for a number of years and also plays guitar.

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