I am delighted to bring you my stop on this blog tour today (the first of two today – never say I’m not good to you)! This blog tour is organised by Lola’s Blog Tours and runs until the 28th May. I received a free copy of the book in return for my honest review.
Born in Boston, MA and raised in Miami, FL, Sara Marks has two masters degrees and plans to never stop getting over educated. She likes the idea of having all the academic regalia she can ever possess and winning with the most degrees in her family. By day she’s an academic librarian. In what little free time she has, she also knits and plays with her dog Cedric Doggory.
Phi Alpha Pi is the oldest and largest sorority on campus and new president Lizbeth has a busy senior year ahead of her. She’s determined to keep her sorority in good standing on campus after a year on academic probation. She’s trying to manage the new sorority house manager, Mrs. C, who has her own ideas about how to support the sorority sisters. All while trying to find balance with her own academic goals to complete an honors thesis, graduate, and decide her future plans.
The last thing Lizbeth expects is her anger when Wil, a new member of the Alpha Pi fraternity, pushes every one of her buttons. Lizbeth finds Wil, a new transfer to the university with his best friend, to be rude, snobby, and judgmental. Even though she tries to avoid him, he seems to be everywhere, scowling with displeasure when he sees her. That is, until his Thanksgiving proclamation of love. That causes Lizbeth to reconsider how she sees the world.
The more they walked around the museum, the more Lizbeth realized they liked a lot of the same pieces and artists for very similar reasons. They didn’t draw while in the Matisse exhibit, but Lizbeth would periodically sit and doodle while listening to tour guides who led groups through the space. Her paper was quickly filled with little triangle butterflies and poorly drawn horses.
‘Suddenly I expect you to love unicorns and rainbows,’ Wil said, sitting next to her on a bench and looking over her shoulder.
‘I was joking’
‘I’m not. I also love mermaids. Ask Becca. For years I was going to turn into one when I grew up. It was my career goal for quite a while.’
‘Are you a good swimmer?’
‘Fantastic! I’m a much better swimmer than I am an artist.’
Wil laughed at her. ‘You are great at riding horses and swimming? Did you want to become a unicorn
‘No, I was going to be a mermaid princess who came on land to ride her unicorns. That’s why my grandparents bought me Windfola.’
Wil blushed, probably remembering his plan to buy her horse.
‘Then your income would be princess-based.’
‘Obviously, a great plan.’
This time they both laughed. Wil wouldn’t let her see what was on his paper. They left the exhibit and headed for a cafe in the museum to grab lunch. As they left the exhibits, Lizbeth saw him fold his paper and slip it into his back pocket.
As they made their way to the cafe, they got distracted by a collection about roosters across cultures. They stood before a painting of a rooster called “The Cock” Neither recognized the artist, but Lizbeth felt inspired.
‘The thing that catches my eye about this cock is the color and shape. Notice the left curvature of the cock. The shape is of an average cock. What are your thoughts about the cock, Wil?’ Lizbeth said.
She turned to face Wil and found him trying to stifle a laugh.
‘Do you find cocks funny, Wil? A cock is nothing to laugh at. If you had a cock as grand as this would you want people laughing at it?’ Lizbeth said.
She would have continued, but she started laughing herself. She let Wil take her hand and pull her out of the room.
‘You’ve seen my terrible drawings. Let me see what you did’ Lizbeth said once they were seated with lunch from the cafe.
‘No, it’s nothing.’
‘Wil, don’t worry. I won’t tell your aunt how you aren’t a well-rounded young lady.’
Wil laughed at the joke, but refused to let her see what he had drawn.
‘This isn’t over. The more you refuse, the more I want to see what you drew,”
Lizbeth said as she got up to throw away their trash.
I was lucky enough to be able to ask Sara some questions about Phi Alpha Pi and her reading life, and here is what she said!
Phi Alpha Pi is the second book in your ‘21st Century Austen’ series and is a retelling of Pride and Prejudice with your first being a Persuasion re-telling. What made you pick those particular books / that particular author?
I started with these two books because they’re my favorites and my go-to plots (second chances and personal growth). I’m taking a break from the modernizations for book three, but am already working on my update of Emma and Northanger Abbey.
Do you have to have read ‘Modern Persuasion’ to read this book or is a ‘standalone’ series?
I call this an anthology series because they exist in the same universe, but only the thinnest tendrils connect them. You can read them in any order and the connections are show in the short stories that exist.
Do you have to have read the original ‘Pride and Prejudice’ to understand Phi Alpha Pi?
I don’t think you need to have read the original and readers have told me the same thing. The nice thing about modernizing a book is that it’s contemporary, but nothing has to connect to the original. I find that books that are variations of Austen are more often sequels, prequels, and alternative versions of the story. They require knowledges of the original. My story is about people like us who have no connection to their Regency era counterparts.
What made you set this story in an educational setting?
I love academia. I love getting degrees and learning new things. I’ve been at a college or university (for school and work) since I was eighteen. This is a world I know better than I probably should. College specifically is a time when a lot of people start making friends, meeting partners, and deciding how they might spend the rest of their lives.
Who was your favourite character to write about and why?
I love writing Jorge more than I thought I would. I’m one of those people who find villains compelling characters. I had to get into his head more than the other characters and try to figure out what motivated him to be so manipulative.
And who was the most difficult and why?
Also Jorge! In the original he seduces and dumps young women, ruining their reputations. That simply wasn’t going to work, as much as I tried to find the nuances of such situations. I had to think about what modern con artists do and it all centers around money. It took a while and push back from beta readers to get him to the right place.
Do you know what book comes next and is it another Austen retelling?
The next book is a romance/mystery about a women whose husband doesn’t come home after a guys weekend. The blurb will be at the end of Phi Alpha Pi. It’s my own idea and I’m surprisingly anxious about it being good. Book four, which I’m already working on, is a modernization of Emma.
Were you ever in a sorority yourself? If yes, which one and tell us about your experience, if not, do you wish you had been and which would you have liked to join?
The first time I went to college it was at Florida State University. I was in a co-ed fraternity: Alpha Phi Omega and they focused on community service over everything else. I joined because a close friend had also done it and my other friends were joining too. I had other friends that joined sororities and fraternities. I considered joining a sorority, but it can be expensive and I had other interests.
Your ‘day job’ is a Librarian; what is the best part about the job?
The best part of being in a library, for me, is that I get to keep learning new things and collaborating with interesting people in the faculty and students. We are getting ready to take on making a series of instructional videos and improving those we have on YouTube. I’ve been learning more about putting videos on YouTube and it’s something I know I can use to promote books too.
You have professed a love for Wil Wheaton (I mean, who doesn’t love him?!), hence the name of one of the MC’s in this book – what, in your opinion, is his best performance to date?
I fell in love with him when he did Star Trek the Next Generation, but his best role was definitely Stand By Me (ed: AGREED!). My secret favorite is a 1991 he did with Sean Astin (who I also loved), Toy Soldiers. I only read Ready Player One because he was the narrator (it was worth the read!).
I see that you have been a NaNoWriMo participant for the past 14 years or so – how many times have you ‘won’ and do you have any suggestions or words of wisdom for anyone planning on taking part?
I’ve won it every year but one. My advice is to not worry about the quality of the words. A lot of people get stuck in crafting the perfect opening or making sure every work is perfect. Just keep writing and don’t delete because it’s about quantity. It’s really tough for people to remember. If you think 50,000 words is too much to manage, in April and July you can set your own word count for Camp NaNoWriMo. I wrote Phi Alpha Pi in the April 2014 event and Modern Persuasion in July 2014!
I love reading challenges and am doing quite a few this year – are you challenging yourself to read a certain number of books or perhaps certain books this year?
I’ve done the GoodReads annual challenge, but I’ve cut down my goal to like 50 books because I get obsessed with reach the goal instead of enjoying the books. I usually get in like 100+ books and it helps that I love audiobooks. Right now I’m at 21 books, about 3 books ahead of the goal. I suspect it will pick up in the summer and then slow down again when things get crazy in the fall.
There are two tour wide giveaways during the blog tour of Phi Alpha Pi! There is a US Only Giveaway for a prize pack and an international giveaway for 14 e-copies and a print copy of Phi Alpha Pi!
US Only Giveaway
One winner will win a Prize Pack containing:
- Mrs. C’s homemade officers shirt in Comic Sans (you pick XL or XXL)
- A Phi Alpha Pi sorority sticker, candle, and bracelet (some of the items mentioned in the story).
- An illustration by cover designer Risa Rodil
- A rooster dishtowel (so you can make cock jokes with Lizbeth and Wil)
- Autographed printed copies of Modern Persuasion, A Little More Modern Persuasion, and Phi Alpha Pi.
For a chance to win enter the Rafflecopter giveaway!
Open for all Giveaway
These are the prizes you can win:
- 14 winners will each win an e-copy of Phi Alpha Pi by Sara Marks
- 1 winner will win a print copy of Phi Alpha Pi by Sara Marks
For a chance to win enter the Rafflecopter giveaway!
Being British, Greek life is not something I know much about apart from what is show us on TV and in films, which I am sure is not truly representative of real life; I still have a real fascination with it though and that’s why I decided to take part on this tour. I also need to confess that although I have watched the TV series and film a few times, I never actually read Pride & Prejudice but that really didn’t matter.
I did struggle to get into the book to begin with – put I cannot put a finger on why. I think it must have ben just the mood I was in at the time as one I hit 26% on the Kindle, I looked up a moment later to realise I had made it to 53% without realising how long I had been reading! I soon then devoured the last half of the book and come the end, had really enjoyed it!
Sara tends to write words out in full (e.g. do not instead of don’t etc) and it takes just a little to get used to it (which is ridiculous really!) but it also brings it back into mind that you are reading a retelling of a Regency era book.
The characters are well written – I was invested in Lizbeth but also did feel occasionally that she was a little cols but this is something she acknowledges throughout the book. Of course you can’t help but fall for Wil and Collins makes your skin crawl. One thing that was interesting was the situation surrounding the Bennett sisters and parents now being Sorority sisters and other characters. I did feel it was a shame that Dr Bennett wasn’t mentioned a little more but felt that the Mrs C character was BRILLIANT!
I would definitely recommend this book if you want an ‘easy to read’ happy ending that you know is coming – if you know the story it’s interesting to see how Marks deals with things and definitely keeps you reading!
My rating is 4 Stars.