The End of the Tour: Broken Homes & Gardens Visits 15 Blogs in a Whirlwind Fashion

I wasn’t sure I was going to write a post about my TLC book tour. I mean, what if they all hated Broken Homes & Gardens? In that case, I figured I could just quietly fade into the shadows, and no one would be the wiser. Now, I’ll admit that at least five reviewers claimed they wanted to slap, shake, or otherwise harm my protagonist. But wanting to inflict bodily harm on a fictional character is a good thing, right? Working my readers up into a fit of violence is certainly preferable to boring them into a coma. That’s what I tell myself, anyway.
flying books
Image by Allen Lal

Now that the tour has ended, I can confidently share the results. Fifteen bloggers took the time to read my book and write up thoughtful, funny reviews. I highlighted a favorite quotation from each one:

Monday, August 17th: Open Book Society

The story really does prove that your childhood can affect your adult decisions.

Monday, August 24th: Thoughts from an Evil Overlord

I highly recommend Broken Homes and Gardens to fans of thoughtful women’s fiction.

Wednesday, August 26th: Chick Lit Central

Rebecca Kelley is so incredibly descriptive, I felt like I was sitting right there with her, during the drizzly rains and evergreen landscapes. It’s that descriptive quality that brought forth Joanna and Malcolm, two characters who you immediately become attached to. So much so, you don’t want to stop reading, wanting to know where their journey takes them.

Thursday, August 27th:  Palmer’s Page Turners

I love reading books by authors of from my home state!  The book was fun to read since the majority of it was set in Portland, OR. It was clear the author new the city well, which strengthened the book.

Monday, August 31st: Diary of a Stay At Home Mom

I have to say that at times I wanted to reach through the book and shake Joanna, she got a little tiring with the push and pull, but overall it was a sweet, lighthearted story that I truly enjoyed.

Wednesday, September 2nd: Bookmark Lit

The whole book had that kind of dreamy I-wish-my-life-was-like-that way. I don’t know how to explain it, but I think this would be a wonderful rom com movie.

Thursday, September 3rd: Bibliotica

Rebecca Kelley manages to balance poignance and absurdity, heartbreak and hopefulness in a way that never feels overly crafted, just well written.

Monday, September 7th: girlichef

I loved the fact that the characters in this book are flawed, like every real person alive. They try new things and make wrong choices, and sometimes realize too late what the right choices should have been.

Tuesday, September 8th: A Chick Who Reads

I liked her crazy relationship with Malcolm really was really what this story was all about and they really seem to belong together, even though both of them seemed to do everything to prevent it from happening.

Tuesday, September 8th: Patricia’s Wisdom

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.

Wednesday, September 9th: Bewitched Bookworms

The winding story of English teacher Joanne and carpenter Malcolm’s friendship/relationship is an entertaining and quite gripping one, and I certainly was engaged enough to read this book within a few sittings since I couldn’t put it down.

Thursday, September 10th: Book Dilettante

A modern romance, for the Millennial generation.

Friday, September 11th: From L.A. to LA

Joanna so perfectly captures the person you know with so much potential, yet unable to figure out exactly what they want or how to get there.

Wednesday, September 16th: Luxury Reading

As I read this story, I felt drawn in by the imperfect characters that felt so ordinary and real. Their struggles, hopes and dreams reflect those of many young adults trying to find their way in the world. And their approach to relationships felt like a commentary on the culture. In a society where marriages frequently end in divorces, individuals are left unsure whether marriage is a step they want to consider at all. Freedom becomes valued over commitment and the fallout in people’s lives often cannot be easily captured.

Thursday, September 17th: Book Mama Blog

What I love about this book is that the characters are perfectly flawed.  Both in their twenties, they want to be in relationships but don’t seem to have the proper tools to get there.  Full of funny, and at times cringe worthy moments, the author takes us on their romantic journey that for every step forward, there are two steps back.

To TLC Book Tours, all the bloggers listed above, and all my readers—thank you! I will give Joanna a nice firm shake in your honor.

Today is Release Day for Broken Homes & Gardens!

Today is the day I officially become a published novelist. To celebrate the debut of Broken Homes & Gardens, let’s watch the new, improved book trailer my sister Gina E. Kelley helped me create. It is the official book trailer for BH & G:

Amazing film editing, Gina. Thank you!

Also, check out this essay I wrote for Bustle today: Is the Love Story Dead? Why I Decided to Make My Novel ‘Broken Homes & Gardens’ All about Love.

The Painted Veil (or, Loveless in the Time of Cholera)

The Painted VeilThe Painted Veil by W. Somerset Maugham
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’ve read so many books about affairs tearing marriages apart. But could a passionate, torrid affair bring a husband and wife closer together? Could the affair be what allows them to finally love each other? This premise intrigues me. It turns out that it’s not the premise of The Painted Veil, though. I think I’d been misled by my hazy memories of the movie.

Kitty Fane is a ridiculous, vain woman—and she is the first to admit it. She only married Walter because her youth was fading and she couldn’t let her younger sister beat her to the altar. Walter sees right through her, but he doesn’t care. He can’t help it—he loves her. When she agrees to marry him and go to Hong Kong for his career as a bacteriologist, he’s thrilled.

He’s not so thrilled when he catches Kitty having an affair with the dashing Charlie. He offers Kitty an ultimatum: follow him deep into the jungles of China in the middle of a cholera epidemic, or get served. When Kitty protests, he makes what seems like a generous compromise: If Kitty can convince Charlie to divorce his wife, Walter will let Kitty divorce him. Then Kitty and Charlie will be free to marry each other and Walter will step aside. Kitty is sure that Charlie will agree to it. Unfortunately, he doesn’t. The cholera epidemic it is.

Kitty and Walter get carried on chairs through the jungle into a remote community. The description of the landscape, the heat, and the dread is evocative. While I wasn’t too fond of Kitty, I couldn’t help but feel sorry for her. She becomes reckless, eating raw salad despite the warnings. She wants to die—if only to spite Walter. While her husband doctors the sick, Kitty gets to know the customs officer and the French nuns, who marvel at her bravery for accompanying her husband on this dangerous mission.

I kept waiting for them to fall back in love, but, as I discovered, that’s not what this story ended up being about. These days, it’s common to believe that love is a choice. I heard Dr. Phil yell it to his audience one time: “Love is not a feeling. It’s a CHOICE!” Maugham would beg to differ. We can’t choose whom we love; if we could, wouldn’t everything be so much simpler? Everyone loves the wrong person. We love bad people even when good people are right there, offering themselves to us. Kitty understands, on a very deep level, that Charlie is a terrible person. She loves him anyway. Eventually she finds peace within herself, and she realizes she doesn’t love him anymore, and that is the greatest feeling of freedom and peace she has ever achieved. (Sadly, she is not able to hang onto it for long.)

At the same time, we can’t choose to love people even when they deserve it. Kitty learns that her husband is revered in these parts. He is a kind and brave doctor, sacrificing himself to save others in the midst of an epidemic. He adored Kitty and now she respects him, but it’s too late. She can’t love him and he has closed himself off to her. They’re both trapped.

The characters in The Painted Veil are not likable, so if you enjoy books with people you can root for, this isn’t it. There are also many racist and imperialist attitudes espoused by the characters, though I wouldn’t call the text itself racist. It’s clear that Kitty’s attitudes are unenlightened ones. She does work to become a more tolerant person, but she is nevertheless guided by her baser instincts. That is her (and maybe all of our) ultimate downfall.

View all my reviews

Broken Homes and Gardens to be Published by Blank Slate Press in Spring 2015!


Okay, I guess that is kind of small. I will transcribe this screenshot for you. I’ve always enjoyed touch typing. Here it is:

Rebecca Kelley’s BROKEN HOMES AND GARDENS, pitched as When Harry Met Sally meets Portlandia, about an unconventional romance between two twenty-somethings who begin a correspondence as friends, end up as roommates when he moves in to help rehab her broken-down first home, and who ultimately realize what it means to create a home without marriage or the picket fence, to Kristina Blank Makansi at Blank Slate Press, in a nice deal, for publication in Spring 2015, by Jennifer Chen Tran at Penumbra Literary.


How to Grill Artichokes without Boiling Them First

Today’s post will be about artichokes. This has nothing to do with writing at all, except for the fact that I am writing the recipe out. To be honest, if you want to make your artichokes truly delicious, you’re going to have to roast them. (475-degree oven, covered, 35 minutes.) Cranking the oven up to 475 when it’s already 90 degrees inside the house is taking the quest for a perfect vegetable too far, and therefore, grilling makes an acceptable second choice. Most recipes require boiling or steaming the artichokes first and finishing them off on the grill. Forget it. I am too lazy to double cook anything, and I believe I already mentioned the ninety degree indoor temperature.

So here’s what you do. 1. First, you make a little bath for the artichokes in a bowl: a bit of lemon juice and water. Then you cut the tops off the artichokes, slice them in half, and cut out the chokes with a paring knife. Toss those in the bath. I did not take a picture of this step, so you’ll have to try to imagine it.

2. When you’re done doing that, drain them. Toss them with olive oil (a few tablespoons, at least), some onions and garlic and lemon halves if you want, and salt and pepper. Throw in any spices you think might go well. I chose red pepper flakes. Also add water to this mix–at least 1/4 cup.


3. Put the artichoke halves in a foil packet. (Note: I do feel bad about all this foil.) Make sure there is water in there! That will help them steam a bit, allowing them to cook without burning. If you have a really hot grill, you should probably add more water. Remember, I am not a professional griller, and this is not an exact science.

4. Then grill the packets on low heat (if you have a gas grill) for 15-20 minutes on each side. I didn’t take a picture of this, either, because it would just be a picture of a foil packet on a barbecue. I cooked them for 15 on each side and the outer leaves were still a bit tough. The heart was perfect, though.



Taipei by Tao Lin: The Way We Live Now

TaipeiTaipei by Tao Lin

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Tao Lin is like a robot who is trying his hardest to understand human emotion. Or maybe a wooden puppet who yearns, more than anything, to turn into a real boy. Paul, the point of view character in Taipei, tries to feel, but he has a hard time pulling it off. He and his friends buy groceries, go to movies, have conversations, do drugs, have sex, get married, go on trips, and film themselves with their Macbooks. No matter what they’re doing, it’s all flat and bloodless. Dramatic emotions, Paul feels, are something you might read about in a book or see in a movie, but not something to expect from real life.

Paul is constantly taking his emotional temperature, trying to gauge how he feels. He’s never simply feeling, completely lost in the drama of his life; his emotions are “vague” (a word that must have appeared more than fifty times in the book), but still, he struggles to identify them:

. . . he calmly turned his head a little and asked if Erin was bored.
“I don’t know. Are you?”
“I can’t tell,” said Paul. “Are you?”
“Maybe a little. Do you want to go?”
“Yeah,” said Paul, and slowly stood.

Some might argue that writing is about finding the story: a good writer needs to take his observations of ordinary life and craft them into a narrative that allows us to make sense of the world around us. Tao Lin doesn’t subscribe to this idea. If his literary influences (the 1980s minimalists like Lorrie Moore, Anne Beattie, and Raymond Carver) taught him anything, it’s that life does not have narrative structure. Life is a series of moments, most of them mundane. (It’s funny and almost impossible to imagine his characters engaging in high-stakes drama: a car chase, a murder, an emergency tracheotomy with a ballpoint pen, a flash mob wedding proposal.)

Tabitha Blankenbiller, in her review of Taipei on Spectrum Culture, says, “In the end, I felt as though I had refreshed my Facebook wall for 260 pages, waiting for a real story to come along. But aside from some grainy selfies and viral videos, nothing ever quite shows up.” The pages of Taipei are bleak and empty, yes. But as repetitive and mind-numbing as it is to refresh that Facebook page all day long, you have to admit it’s addictive. It becomes a way to pass huge chunks of our time, a way to experience life. Unlike, say, A Visit from the Goon Squad, Super Sad True Love Story, or The Circle, Taipei doesn’t present us with a hazily dystopian future, where technology has replaced normal human emotions and interactions. Taipei is trying to show us how we live now. Tao Lin’s vision is depressing, sure. But not altogether inaccurate.

View all my reviews

The Broken Homes and Gardens Book Trailer is Here!

As this book trailer will soon make evident, my sister (director of photography and editor, Gina Kelley) and I are no strangers to film making. We got our start in our grandparents’ basement in Denver, Colorado. Along with our cousins, we wrote, acted, and directed a groundbreaking piece of cinema we called “The Forbidden Toilet.” It was a story of a detective–toilet plunger in hand–on the case of a pink toilet that took hold of all who sat upon it and flushed them into a sort of swampy netherworld. We followed up on the success of this first film with a sequel (The Forbidden Toilet’s Last Flush) the following summer.

Now, in our first film making collaboration since the 1980s, we’re at it again, this time with a little trailer for my novel manuscript (working title: Broken Homes and Gardens). For our early Forbidden Toilet fans, you’ll see a dramatic shift in our film making style:

This is the Nietzsche version of the trailer. We have three more versions with different taglines, which we may reveal sometime in the future. Unfortunately, Nietzsche was unavailable to blurb my novel, but I imagine him declaring it a “delightful romp.” In addition to our favorite 19th century German philosopher, we would like to thank Central City Music Company for allowing us to use their song, which perfectly punctuates The Broken Homes and Gardens’ characters’ emotional ups and downs.


“Broken Homes and Gardens is a delightful romp.” Thus spake the author of The Antichrist and The Death of Tragedy