Tuesday, May 3, 2011

♥♥♥♥♥♥♥: Here, Home, Hope by Kaira Rouda

Here, Home, Hope
Kaira Rouda

Release Date: May 1st, 2011
Page Count: 310
Source: Complimentary ARC provided by publicist, BookSparks PR, via Romancing the Book, in exchange for an honest and unbiased review (thank you both!!)

Desperate Housewives meets The Middle Place in this absorbing, witty story about one suburban mother's journey from a midlife crisis to reinvention with the help of her husband, friends, and neighbors.

Kelly Mills Johnson becomes restless in her thirty-ninth year. An appetite for more forces her to take stock of her middling middle-American existence and her neighbors' seemingly perfect lives. Her marriage to a successful attorney has settled into a comfortable routine, and being the mother of two adorable sons has been rewarding. But Kelly's own passions lie wasted. She eyes with envy the lives of her two best friends, Kathryn and Charlotte, both beautiful, successful businesswomen who seem to have it all. Kelly takes charge of her life, devising a midlife makeover plan.

From page one, Kelly's witty reflections, self-deprecating humor, and clever tactics in executing that plan—she places Post-it notes all over her house and car—will have readers laughing out loud. The next instant, however, they might rant right along with Kelly as her commitment to a sullen, anorexic teenager left on her doorstep tries her patience or as she deflects the boozy advances of a divorced neighbor. Readers will need to keep the tissue box handy, too, as Kelly repairs the damage she inflicted on a high school friend; realizes how deeply her husband, Patrick, understands and loves her; and ultimately grows into a woman empowered by her own blend of home and career. 

Here, Home, Hope will surely appeal to readers of chick lit and other women's fiction titles who are ready to transition into something new in their own life.
What Stephanie Thought: Some people observe objects and places and things. Some people observe people, and some people observe life. Kaira Rouda is one author who knows how to observe life, and it is clearly portrayed through the main character, Kelly Johnson, of her debut contemporary novel.

The perfect time to take in a troubled teenage girl whose parents act like she doesn't exist, even when one of the parents (the mother) is your best friend, is right amid your midlife crisis. I mean, what else could be better? 

Kelly Johnson is just beginning to re-evaluate her life as a full-time stay-at-home mom, suddenly realizing she has the potential to be something greater. With the determination to take on a job in real estate, but still be the same loving mother to her two preteen sons, Kelly thinks she has it all figured out. Until Melanie—fifteen, unsatisfied, and anorexic—walks into her life.

Kelly has never encountered a situation as big or as serious as this. As she begins to realize the truth about adult selfishness and the power of the helping hand, Kelly learns more than to take care of a distant teenage girl; she learns to take care of herself.

It was really touching how Kelly managed to really affect Melanie. The character progression was astounding; Melanie starts off snooty and unlikeable, but evolves into a sweet, understanding young lady who knows more than she leads on. 

Kelly's voice is fresh, but there is nothing really fascinating about her daily life. Rouda has a style of more telling than showing, so while reading, I was never at the edge of my seat. Things just happen throughout the novel, but I wish Rouda had done a better job of really portraying everything that occurred. 

I also feel Kelly's character is supposed to be very funny and likable, but she is the opposite of that. There is plenty of attempted wit and dry humor that, at a psychological level, should make the reader laugh out loud, but it just didn't work for me. For instance, Kelly constantly nags about herself and her life with "self-deprecating comments" (as quoted in the blurb) but at the same time, she calls herself "a great friend" and "really pretty", which just negates everything humble and likable about a character. 

The story itself is enjoyable—fast-moving plot with a plethora of Wisteria Lane characters and a heart-wrenching climax—but Rouda's style just falls flat for me. More dynamic characters and better usage of imagery and other figurative language expressions could have gone a long way with Here, Home, Hope. But overall, I'm glad to have gotten the opportunity to read and review it.

Stephanie Loves: "I ... tend to indulge in shopping sprees that fill my closest with assorted clothes and accessories I don't need. A check of my closet right now would already reveal a few hangtags. I rationalize that if I keep the tags on, I can always take the clothes back."

Radical Rating: 7 hearts: Not without flaws, but overall enjoyable. ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥