Review: Further Out Than You Thought, by Michaela Carter

About the book, Further Out Than You Thought Further Out Than You Thought

• Paperback: 320 pages
• Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks (August 5, 2014)

From award-winning poet Michaela Carter comes a taut and erotically charged literary debut, set against the chaos of the 1992 L.A. riots, about three twentysomethings searching for meaning in their lives

In the Neverland that is Los Angeles, where make-believe seems possible, three dreamers find themselves on the verge of transformation. Twenty-five-year-old poet Gwendolyn Griffin works as a stripper to put herself through graduate school. Her perpetually stoned boyfriend, Leo, dresses in period costume to hawk his music downtown and seems to be losing his already tenuous grip on reality. And their flamboyant best friend and neighbor, nightclub crooner Count Valiant, is slowly withering away.

When the city explodes in violence after the Rodney King verdict, the chaos becomes a catalyst for change. Valiant is invigorated; Leo plans a new stunt—walking into East L.A. naked, holding a white flag; and Gwen, discovering she is pregnant, is pulled between the girl she’s been and the woman she could become. But before Gwen can embrace motherhood, she’s forced to face the questions she’s been avoiding: Can Leo be a father? Can she leave the club life behind, or will the city’s spell prove too seductive?

Weaving poetry and sensuality with an edgy urban sensibility, Further Out Than You Thought is a celebration of life, an ode to motherhood, and a haunting story of love, friendship, and one woman’s quest for redemption.

Buy, read, and discuss Further Out Than You Thought

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About the author, Michaela Carter Michaela Carter

Michaela Carter is award-winning poet and writer. She was born in Phoenix, Arizona, studied Theater at UCLA and holds an MFA in Creative Writing. Her poetry has been nominated for two Pushcart Prizes, won the Poetry Society of America Los Angeles New Poets Contest, and appeared in numerous journals.

Recently she co-founded the Peregrine Book Company, an independent bookstore in Prescott, Arizona, where she works as a book buyer and storyteller. She lives in Prescott with her partner and two inscrutable children, and teaches creative writing at Yavapai College. This is her first novel.

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My Thoughts

Reading this book was like living the life I didn’t actually have when I was in my twenties. Like Gwen, I was in California during the Rodney King riots; unlike her I was in the relative sanity of northern California, which was largely untouched by those events. Like Gwen, I was dating someone who would probably have been better as a short-term relationship, than not. Unlike Gwen, by the time I was twenty-five, I’d met my now-husband, and had stable employment that didn’t involve nudity.

The fact that some of Gwen’s story resonated with me, even though we’re vastly different people, tells you how much I enjoyed reading Further Out Than You Thought (A LOT) and should also give you a clue as to what I thought of the author’s work, but to be explicit: I think Michaela Carter is an important voice in contemporary fiction. She has a knack for creating vivid characters that are real enough to feel like people you might actually encounter, while still existing in the somewhat heightened reality that fictional characters tend to inhabit.

Similarly, she creates situations that resonate with her readers. Who hasn’t been torn between the comfort of a known relationship – even one that isn’t healthy – and the knowledge that breaking out of that comfort is the best thing you can do for yourself? Who hasn’t made a few low-percentage choices with jobs, school, and family from time to time?

This book isn’t a comedy, but like all really good stories, it’s replete with the sorts of organic comic moments that come from a life well-lived, just as it’s also got a full measure of pathos, but never lets you feel like you’re drowning in sadness or grimness.

While I, personally, would have dumped Leo in chapter one, I can see why Gwen remains attached to him, and I think all women have had a Leo in their life: the sensitive romantic who is completely ill-equipped to exist in the real world.

This novel is just gritty enough, just based in reality enough, just funny enough, just dramatic enough, to give us an accurate portrayal of the secondary coming of age that happens to most of us in our twenties. Better yet, it leaves us – or at least it left me – satisfied with how the story ended, and eagerly awaiting whatever author Carter publishes next.

Goes well with an iced cafe latte and two slices of pepperoni pizza, served on a paper plate, and eaten on a foggy beach.

TLC Book Tours

This review is part of a blog tour sponsored by TLC Book Tours. For more information, and the complete list of tour stops, click HERE.

Review: Sweet Water, by Christina Baker Kline

About the book Sweet Water Sweet Water

Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks; Reprint edition (July 1, 2014)

From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Orphan Train comes a novel about buried secrets and the redemptive power of forgiveness

Cassie Simon is a struggling artist living in New York City. When she receives a call from a magistrate telling her she has inherited sixty acres of land in Sweetwater, Tennessee, from her grandfather, whom she never knew, she takes it as a sign: it’s time for a change. She moves to the small Southern town where her mother, Ellen, grew up—and where she died tragically when Cassie was three.

From the moment she arrives in Sweetwater, Cassie is overwhelmed by the indelible mark her mother’s memory left behind. As she delves into the thicket of mystery that surrounds her mother’s death, Cassie begins to discover the desperate measures of which the human heart is capable.

Buy, read, and discuss Sweet Water

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About the author, Christina Baker Kline Christina Baker Kline

Christina Baker Kline was born in England and raised in Maine. The author of five novels, including the runaway bestseller Orphan Train, Kline has taught literature and creative writing at Yale, New York University, and Fordham. She lives outside of New York City.

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My Thoughts:

This is one of those books that had me reading passages – especially the italicized parts that took place in the past – out loud, so I could feel the way the language fit in my mouth, as well as my brain. I don’t do this a lot, but when I do, it’s always with a book I want to truly savor.

Author Christina Baker Kline has woven a tapestry depicting a mother and daughter who never get to interact directly, but impact each other’s lives both directly and indirectly. Cassie, the daughter, is curious, questing, artistic. Ellen, the mother, long since deceased, feels like a living presence, despite existing only in flashback-like sequences.

The supporting characters – Cassie’s lover, her father, Ellen’s friends – are woven just as vividly as the women at the heart of the story, and even Sweetwater itself feels more like a character than a mere place.

This novel isn’t particularly long, but it also isn’t a fast read. Instead, it’s one to be absorbed slowly, like an unwinding country road through a field of wildflowers.

Goes well with Sweet tea, fried catfish, and hush puppies.

TLC Book Tours

This review is part of a blog tour sponsored by TLC Book Tours. For more information, and the complete list of tour stops, click HERE.

Review: Painting the Moon, by Traci Borum

About the book Painting the Moon Painting the Moon

Publisher: Red Adept Publishing
Release Date: June 7, 2014
Pages: 300

When Noelle Cooke inherits a cottage from her British aunt, she also inherits a cottage full of secrets–a locked room, an old journal, an art gallery in financial ruin. Noelle never planned to abandon her life in San Diego, never intended to move across the ocean to live in a tiny Cotswold village. But the idea becomes irresistible, especially with the possibility of saving the gallery.

And just when Noelle settles into her new village life and starts to discover the cottage’s mysteries, someone from her past reappears—her first love, Adam Spencer. But an impossible barrier stands between them, and Noelle is forced to make a choice. Will she risk her heart? Or will she walk away…and lose him all over again?

Buy, read, and discuss Painting the Moon

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About the author, Traci Borum Traci Borum

Traci Borum is a writing teacher and native Texan. She’s also an avid reader of women’s fiction, most especially Elin Hilderbrand and Rosamunde Pilcher novels. Since the age of 12, she’s written poetry, short stories, magazine articles, and novels.

Traci also adores all things British. She even owns a British dog (Corgi) and is completely addicted to Masterpiece Theater-must be all those dreamy accents! Aside from having big dreams of getting a book published, it’s the little things that make her the happiest: deep talks with friends, a strong cup of hot chocolate, a hearty game of fetch with her Corgi, and puffy white Texas clouds always reminding her to “look up, slow down, enjoy your life.”

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My Thoughts

A couple of weeks ago, I received an email from the author of this novel, asking me if I’d consider it for review. Her email was so sweet, and her bio resonated so much with me, that there was no way I could say no. Besides, I’ve been reading so much heavy, serious fiction – which I love – that it’s nice to review something a bit lighter from time to time. Painting the Moon came into my life exactly when I needed it, and I stayed up all night because I was so absorbed with the story.

On the surface, it’s a somewhat predictable “twinkling brown eyes” novel – cute English village, American relative inheriting adorable cottage, handsome and mostly-single male childhood friend looking to reconnect – but that’s just the surface. Author Borum takes those elements and really makes them sing with vivid descriptions of people and places – I could taste the shepherd’s pie, smell the paint on the canvas, feel the English rain – and I could also hear the characters’ distinct voices, especially Noelle herself, but also the pub owner and the gardener/handyman.

One thing I particularly loved about this novel was the use of Nioelle’s aunt’s (well, great aunt, but why be picky) advice on painting at the head of the chapters. It really made you feel like the aunt was a character in the story, rather than just a reason for Noelle to move from San Diego to the Cotswolds.

Painting the Moon is a fabulously entertaining story about love, art, and the choices we make as adults, and should not be overlooked. It’s the perfect novel for a lazy summer afternoon. If there’s a thunderstorm brewing while you read it, so much the better.

Goes well with hot tea and peach-rhubarb pie.