Sam’s Review of Another Little Piece of My Heart by Tracey Martin

alpomhI wonder what it’s like to be Taylor Swift’s ex-boyfriend. I’m not talking about the likes of Joe Jonas or John Mayer. What about that high school kid with the pick up truck? The one whose pictures T-Swift so publicly burned on her first album. Do the people back home know him? Make sideways glances when they see him at the local diner? What’s his life like now? Does he keep it a secret or does he let the world know that he really does think of the curly-haired blonde whenever he hears a Tim McGraw song? Well, it seems that I’m not the only pop culture obsessed fangirl, because in Another Little Piece of My Heart (based on Jane Austen’s Persuasion), author Tracey Martin explores this very idea.

From Goodreads:

What if your devastating break-up became this summer’s hit single? In this rock-and-roll retelling of Jane Austen’s Persuasion, music can either bring you together or tear you apart.

At her dying mother’s request, Claire dumps Jared, the only boy she’s ever loved. Left with a broken family and a broken heart, Claire is furious when she discovers that her biggest regret became Jared’s big break. While Jared is catapulted into rock-star status, another piece of Claire’s heart crumbles every time his song plays on the radio.

The summer after her senior year, it’s been months since the big break-up, and Claire is just trying to keep her head down and make it through a tense trip to the beach with her family. But when Jared shows up, and old feelings reignite, can Claire and Jared let go of the past? Or will they be stuck singing the same old refrain?

What I loved about this book: it’s unapologetically YA. What I had trouble with about this book: it’s unapologetically YA.

Claire is a delight as a narrator. She is down to earth, unsure of herself, and still dealing with the aftermath of a bad break up. In a nutshell, she’s a girlfriend, someone you’ve known your whole life. Claire tries desperately to hide her past with Jared. She doesn’t want to be the girl who broke his heart. Imagine what Justin Bieber’s fans would do to a girl who hurt him? Yea. I wouldn’t want to be that girl. Unfortunately, when you’re dealing with someone famous the world seems a little smaller. His face is everywhere. The song is on the radio. How can you escape? It’s bad enough that Claire has to worry about running into this boy back home, but she should be safe while on vacation several states away, right?

This is where YA takes a few liberties. Of all the beaches in world, Jared, the superstar, just so happens to coincidentally be spending the summer at the exact same one as Claire? Also, he just so happens to be living in a college dorm with a buddy from home? With no security? With NO ONE TWEETING ABOUT IT? Yea. Right. That’s how I knew this was most certainly a fiction. It’s 2014. The hot guy with several Grammys to his name would never be able to camp out and write songs for an entire summer without people bombarding him. All Jared had to contend with was a few respectful and well-meaning fans who quietly asked for autographs and respected his privacy. Ok.

At its heart I have to say that this was a very well executed piece. I found myself very wrapped up in the story. My teenage self was all about it. I liked the idea of Claire’s story, the girl who made her ex-boyfriend’s fame possible.

We all know that the best writers of songs and books draw on their real life experiences. It’s what makes the stories so compelling; they are grounded in truth. What sometimes gets lost in translation is that there are actual, non-famous counterparts on the other sides of those stories. People with hopes, dreams, and feelings. Is it fair to vent on paper and become famous off of a shared life experience? Who is the owner of something that happened behind closed doors? If these are questions you want to grapple with on a Sunday afternoon I highly recommend this ah-dorable, fast paced tale.

4 out of 5 Stars

Another Little Piece of My Heart by Tracey Martin
Harlequin (2013)
eBook: 304 pages
ISBN: 9781459254749

Special thanks to Ms. Martin for my review copy!

#30 A Review of Persuade Me by Juliet Archer

I was recently afforded the opportunity of working with Juliet Archer.  We were fortunate enough to collaborate on The Austen Games together and have developed a nice little friendship driven by our love for Jane Austen! Juliet is the author of the Darcy and Friends series, which currently consists of two novels and is soon to be followed by more works.  The first in the series, The Importance of Being Emma, was well received and was soon followed by Persuade Me.  Both books have received several romance novel award nominations/wins, and after reading Persuade Me it’s easy to see why!

In a modern-day retelling of Persuasion, Archer introduces us to Anna Wentworth and Rick Wentworth.  Both met in France while Anna was an Au Pair and Rick taught sailing lessons.  The two immediately fall in love and have a fairy tale summer together.  Unfortunately events beyond their control forced them apart, as Anna left to go to school in England and Rick left to work in Australia.  For ten long years they lived apart, linked by the memory of that fateful summer in France.  Fate steps in again, when the two meet in England, where Anna lives as a University lecturer and Rick is passing through on a book tour in his career as a famous marine biologist.  They have both been harboring conflicting feelings about each other, and coming back together after all these years have brought these feelings back to the surface with a vengeance.  The two must decide how to best move forward, whether it be together or as separate people.  Which one will it be?

Whenever I read a novel that pays homage to Austen’s Persuasion, there’s one thing that always stands out to me as the make or break point: Wentworth’s letter.  It is hands down the best letter written in all of literature in my eyes.  Therefore, I’m always nervous that when I read a Persuasion influenced novel that it won’t live up to the expectations that I have.  I can tell you, my fellow readers, that Archer’s version of Wentworth’s letter is 100% swoon-worthy.  I fell in love with the story, the characters, and the comedic undertones of Archer’s writing all while greatly anticipating the moment I would reach “the letter”.  Archer’s novel reads like a fine red wine that has been left out to breathe.  It becomes fuller and more complex with time, adding to the reader’s pleasure and enjoyment.

Archer’s creativity and wit are clearly evident in the way in which she modernizes Austen’s story.  Frederick (now Rick) is now a marine biologist as opposed to being a naval officer, yet still gets to spend most of his time with his love, the sea.  Anne (now Anna), who I’ve always considered the smartest of all of Austen’s heroines, gets to showcase that intelligence with a Ph.D. in Russian literature.  The inclusion of discussions on Russian literature and the similarities between the plots of these novels and the plot of Persuasion has made me want to delve more into Russian literature in the future.  Overall, the entire novel was a very interesting and engaging read.  If you love Austen modernizations like I do and are in the mood for a new and fun spin on our favorite classic, definitely check out Persuade Me.  You won’t be disappointed!

4 out of 5 Stars

Persuade Me by Juliet Archer
Choc Lit Limited (2011)
Paperback: 386 pages
ISBN: 9781906931216

Special thanks to Juliet for sending me a review copy!

Note: This book is not available for fans in the US yet.  You CAN pre-order it though for its May 15th release date.  For those of you in the UK you’ll be happy to hear it’s already available for you!

My Top 10….Literary Couples (Part II)

As promised in yesterday’s post, here are my top five literary couples!

(Please be warned, there could be some spoilers in my blurbs on each couple)

5.) Catherine Earnshaw and Heathcliff (From Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte)

                Catherine and Heathcliff to me is one of those love stories where the love the characters have for each other is their vindicating trait.  Catherine and Heathcliff grow up in the same house together, she as the master’s daughter and Heathcliff as the family’s adopted son.  As Heathcliff and Catherine grow they become closer and closer.  The two sneak over to an estate close to their own to see a lavish party and what wealth can give them.  While there Cathy gets attacked by one of the dogs and is taken inside the house where she stays for several weeks.  When she returns home she has become a lady and claims that she is marrying Edgar, the master of the wealthy estate she stayed at.  Heathcliff over hears her telling a housemaid that while she really loves Heathcliff she has to marry Edgar to get the wealth and social prominence she so desires.  Heathcliff leaves to go get educated and become wealthy, hoping that he can win Cathy back.  Heathcliff is gone for three years and in that time Cathy gets married.  When Heathcliff returns and sees that Cathy and Edgar are married he vows to get vengeance on Edgar for by marrying Edgar’s sister Isabella.  Heathcliff turns into a cruel man and literally drives Isabella mad.  Now if you’re thinking Cathy is selfish and Heathcliff is cruel, angry, bitter, and heartbroken you’d be absolutely right.  It’s who they are in the end of the novel that shows how vindicating love can be.  If you’ve never read this novel I heartily encourage you to give it a whirl.  It’s rough reading through the first time, as you want to just shake the characters and say “wake up!”, but it’s one of those stories that you have to read to understand what I mean. 

4.) Laura Ingalls Wilder and Almanzo Wilder (From the Little House Series by Laura Ingalls Wilder)

                For those that have never read the Little House series by Laura Ingalls Wilder let me give you a brief breakdown.  Laura’s books chronicled her childhood moving from place to place with her family as they tried to survive as a farming family.  Laura meets Almanzo in her teen years and falls in love with him despite there being a ten-year age gap between them.  Their courtship is one of a time long-lost and forgotten in today’s society.  Almanzo courts Laura for three years before he proposes to her and gives her first kiss.  It’s relationships like this of a bygone era that make my heart truly flutter.  Those of you that know me know that I’m a hopeless romantic and wish that life could be like it was in simpler times like these.  People weren’t fluttering from person to person; they met one person who they knew they could share their life with and did just that.  Another reason I absolutely love Laura and Almanzo is because their story is real!! It gives hope to the reader that they too can find a love as pure and consistent as theirs.

3.) Romeo and Juliet (From Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare)

                Romeo and Juliet are THE quintessential couple when it comes to ranking literary couples.  The two loved each other so much that they refused to live without the other, literally.  Any list ranking great love stories has to have theirs!  While their love is certainly tragic, it is true, wholesome, honest, and deep.  Those that find love like Romeo and Juliet’s are incredibly lucky.

2.) Anne Elliot and Captain Frederick Wentworth (From Persuasion by Jane Austen)

                Anne and Frederick….A pairing that finds me at a loss for words.  Anne in her youth becomes head over heels in love with Wentworth and accepts a proposal of marriage to him.  She is persuaded by a close family friend that the marriage would be imprudent due to what is expected of a woman of her social standing.  Wentworth has no money, no connections, and would in essence bring down the family name.  Believing everyone to know what is best for her, Anne breaks the engagement, and in doing so breaks Wentworth’s heart.  Years later the tables have turned; Anne’s father has spent the family into a debt and Wentworth has become a rich Captain in the Navy.  Wentworth’s sister and brother-in-law rent out Anne’s family estate, thus thrusting Wentworth and Anne back into each others company.  Having been separated for over 7 years Wentworth believes himself to be completely over his love for Anne.  Anne on the other hand threatens to be as in love with him as ever.  Knowing that it is her fault for their broken engagement she keeps silent while in his company.  Tragedy strikes however and Wentworth turns to Anne for her help, thus opening his eyes to this majestic creature he used to love.  They must figure out if their love is enough to overcome the years and experiences they’ve had apart.  Anne and Wentworth are truly the crème de la crème of Austen literature.  Even though they’ve been separated for several years they both know deep down that they’ve only ever truly loved each other.  That consistency is both admirable and breathtaking to a heartless romantic.

1.) Elizabeth Bennett and Fitzwilliam Darcy (From Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen)

                Where do I even begin for these guys?? Elizabeth Bennett and Fitzwilliam Darcy have a love story that is not all that hard to believe.  It is rife with misunderstanding, pride, shyness, arrogance, prejudice, understanding, forgiveness, passion, and trust.  Their relationship starts off badly with an ill begotten statement made by Darcy at a ball.  Lizzie bases her feelings for Darcy on this statement she overhears and refuses to change her opinion of him until much later in the novel.  Darcy quickly realizes the mistake in his comment when he sees her beauty and wit. He begins seeking out her company during her stay at his friend’s estate and the balls at which they are both in attendance.  Lizzie refuses to believe that he has a non-arrogant bone in his body and continues with the verbal assault on him both to his face and to her friends.  Darcy and Lizzie have a DISASTAROUS first proposal where she tells him that he is that last man in the world that she would ever marry.  Darcy realizes that she is right in her assessment of him in certain areas and writes her a letter refuting the other points.  This broken proposal makes Darcy realize he needs to change and stop being prejudiced to those below his social standing.  Lizzie, after reading Darcy’s letter, realizes that she is all wrong about him and is mortified that she was so blinded by pride.  They meet again several months later and both are completely changed in the other’s eyes.  Seeing a chance to start again they embark on a friendship that threatens to be ended when Lizzie’s sister runs away with Darcy’s enemy.  I won’t bore you with any more of the plot, (although I don’t think anyone could ever be bored by Pride and Prejudice) and get straight into why I love them.  There is such a lesson to be learned here.  While first impressions are important, don’t let them be the end all be all of shaping a person’s character.  Lizzie and Darcy find true love and companionship in each other once they let their egos out-of-the-way.  I love reading their story because they are both full of faults (as we all are) and it’s the admission of their faults to each other that paves the way for a love to blossom between them.

Well readers, there you have my top ten literary couples.  Let me know who your favorites are (whether they are in my list or have been omitted!)

Until next time, Happy Reading!

My Favorite Ten Books of the Year! (Part I)

With the year coming to a close I figured I’d post my favorite ten books that I read for the year. The books below haven’t necessarily been published in 2010, they’re just my favorite reads for 2010. 

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 1.) Persuasion by Jane Austen – This is one of my all time favorite novels! I re-read it again this year for a group discussion that was going on in the Jane Austen group on goodreads. A quick synopsis is that Anne Elliot and Captain Frederick Wentworth fall in love once upon a time and become engaged.  Anne breaks their engagement after being persuaded by her family that it is not a suitable match, due to Frederick’s lack of wealth and lower social status.  Broken hearted Frederick throws himself into his duties as an officer in the navy, quickly gaining wealth and title.  Several years later the Elliot’s, now having financial difficulties, rent out their family estate to Wentworth’s sister and brother-in-law; the Crofts.  When Wentworth goes to visit the Crofts he’s thrust into Anne’s company again.  The two must figure out if the love they once shared still exists within each other, or if it is lost forever.  I am so glad that I re-read Persuasion again this year.  I had read it a long time ago and completely forgot how much I truly loved it.  If you have never read it, then I highly suggest you do.  It’s a love story that you will truly never forget.

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2.) A Reliable Wife by Robert Goolrick – WOW.  My mind is STILL blown from this book.  Just wow wow wow wow wow.  Goolrick’s way of writing is incredibly captivating.  His characters are vivid, his settings are descriptive, and his story is unique and imaginative.  Ralph Truitt, missing female companionship, puts an ad into the newspaper for a wife.  Catherine Land, a woman with a sordid past, answers the ad and begins the long trek to Wisconsin to be Ralph’s wife.  The reader soon learns that there is more to Catherine then originally thought.  I highly suggest reading this book.  You can read my full review here

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3.) Killing Yourself to Live by Chuck Klosterman - My book club selected it as the group read for September and boy am I glad.  Klosterman is definitely the foremost expert on current pop culture.  His books are filled with references to music, movies, celebrities, major events, ect.  I wanted to have an intellectual conversation with everyone as soon as I finished the book. In Killing Yourself to Live, Klosterman takes the reader on his journey cross-country to figure out why it is that a musician needs to die in order to become a legend.  He visits the sites where musicians have died, hoping it will shed light on their immortality.  While he doesn’t necessarily come up with an answer to that question, he does come up with answers to some of the questions he has about his own life.  If you’re a fan of music this is a great book to read.

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4.) Fitzwilliam Darcy: Last Man in the World - Abigail Reynolds – I’m a huge fan of Pride and Prejudice sequels, which is unsurprising considering that P&P is my favorite book ever.  I read a lot of Jane Austen fan fiction over the course of this year, with this being my favorite of all of them.  Abigail Reynolds specializes in writing Pride and Prejudice variations.  She essentially writes Pride and Prejudice while changing a major detail.  In this particular instance Reynolds makes Darcy’s first proposal to Elizabeth the one that sticks.  Darcy, thinking that Elizabeth has said yes to marrying him, kisses her, and is then caught.  Since propriety was such a major think back in the day, Elizabeth says that yes they are engaged and begins her facade into being a dutiful but unhappy bride for Darcy.  Darcy is none the wiser, he sincerely thinks that Elizabeth is happy to be married to him.  When he does find out the unhappy truth he is devastated and crushed.  They must figure out a way to make their marriage work or be unhappy for all their lives to a partner they despise.  The reason I think this was my favorite of all of the P&P sequels/variations/retellings I read was the characterizations.  Reynolds writes the characters just as rich and full of life as Austen did, which in-turn makes her books an absolute joy to read.

Cover Image5.) Walking Dead Volume I by Robert Kirkman and Tony Moore – Todd and I started watching AMC’s The Walking Dead when it premiered a few months ago and were in love with the idea of it.  We went out to Barnes and Noble soon after and decided to pick up the first volume of the graphic novels.  The story, art-work, writing, just everything about it blew me away.  It’s a spectacular view of life and how the most dire of situations not only changes us as people, but society as a whole.  There is a lot more to this series than meets the eye.  If you’re unafraid to delve into the deeper meaning of the words and actions of the characters you can find it a very fulfilling read.  You can read my full review here.

So that concludes my top 5 favorite books I’ve read for the year.  Please check in within the next day or so for numbers 6-10!

Happy Reading!