Acquired Book By: I am a new reviewer for Hachette Books and their imprints, I started by reviewing releases by FaithWords (the novels of Stephanie Grace Whitson), their INSPY (Inspirational Fiction) imprint of releases focusing on uplifting and spiritual stories which are a delight to read whilst engaging your mind in life affirming and heart-centered stories. I found Hachette via Edelweiss at the conclusion of  and have been blessed to start reviewing for them.
One of the selections under their Grand Central Publishing imprint which interested me was ‘Two Across’ publishing July 2016. I hadn’t realised it was the trade paperback edition – thus I was quite surprised when the hardback edition arrived by post! I made a note of the #PubDay for my review celebrating the new release! I felt blessed to receive this as I haven’t had the pleasure of reading Grand Central’s authors in the past, although Leila Meacham is one I want to focus on!
I received a complimentary copy of “Two Across” direct from the publisher Grand Central Publishing (an imprint of Hachette Book Group Inc.) in exchange for an honest review. I did not receive compensation for my opinions or thoughts shared herein.
Happy #PubDay, Mr Bartsch!
#TwoAcross a #Crossword Romance!
ISBN for the NEW Trade Paperback: 9781455554614 | Pub Date: 19th July, 2016
Hallo, dear hearts! I have some wicked bookish news for you! Today is the trade paperback release of ‘Two Across’ which was a title I found via Edelweiss when I originally discovered Hachette’s catalogues and their incredible resources for bloggers! I was not expecting to receive this novel until Spring or Summer, however, a kind publicist at Grand Central sent me the beautiful hardback edition! I earmarked the #PubDay on my calendar as I knew I wanted to help celebrate it’s release come July!
What drew me into wanting to read this lovely novel is how I felt it was original and different than a traditional relationship-based romance, wherein it’s set to a different pace and works within an interesting premise. I like stories that stand out from the crowd and this one definitely had that appeal!
I grew up wanting to be better at crosswords than I can honestly claim, as if the puzzles themselves weren’t pertaining to popular culture or films/tv or music, I was at a proper loss at times to understand the complexities of the clues! This is why I liked themed crossword puzzles rather than say the NY Times version! I also loved finding the puzzles included with TCM’s Guide for Classic Movie Lovers! Those were super awesome – you could go on a scavenger hunt through the guide itself if you were ‘lost’ on a clue!
I love finding new voices in literature – especially Contemporary voices who are writing about our contemporary world. I also liked how this felt slightly quirky – in the vein of “You’ve Got Mail”, “Music and Lyrics” or “Kate & Leopold”! I love sophisticated Rom-Coms in the movies and I’m slowly obtaining a list of authors who are writing the same caliber of Rom-Com in fiction! I was wicked excited to start reading this one, truly!
As I reviewed the hardback copy, you’ll find all the info for it below ahead of my review.
Notation on Cover Art: I personally *love!* the original cover art featured on the hardback edition – it especially captures the allure & joy of crossword puzzles! I even liked how it implies the connection between the two lead characters and how their story is starting to connect through their passion of the puzzles themselves whilst remaining a bit aloof and apart from each other. I just loved how the image pulls together the premise of the plot and ties into the synopsis quite well!
Highly awkward teenager Stanley Owens meets his match in beautiful, brainy Vera Baxter when they tie for first place in the annual National Spelling Bee-and the two form a bond that will change both of their lives.
Though their mothers have big plans for them-Stanley will become a senator, Vera a mathematics professor-neither wants to follow these pre-determined paths. So Stanley hatches a scheme to marry Vera in a sham wedding for the cash gifts, hoping they will enable him to pursue his one true love: crossword puzzle construction. In enlisting Vera to marry him, though, he neglects one variable: she's secretly in love with him, which makes their counterfeit ceremony an exercise in misery for her.
Realizing the truth only after she's moved away and cut him out of her life, Stanley tries to atone for his mistakes and win her back. But he's unable to find her, until one day he comes across a puzzle whose clues make him think it could only have been created by Vera. Intrigued, he plays along, communicating back to her via his own gridded clues. But will they connect again before it's all too late?
Places to find the book:
Published by Grand Central Publishing
on 4th August, 2015
Format: Hardcover Edition
Formats Available: Hardcover, Trade Paperback, Audiobook and Ebook
Converse via: #crossword & #RomCom
+ use these two in combo: #Contemporary #Romance
Vera and Stanley:
What I felt was quite classic is how Bartsch presented us with two lead characters who each in their own turn of thought felt they were pretending to be more than who everyone else believed them to be. It was a unique way to lend a twist to their introductions; where one could have been the shy introvert and the other a bubbly extrovert; but no! Bartsch wrote two characters on the verge of becoming confident in their own skin on the fringes of their entrance into adulthood. Each questioning their own motives and their own inclinations of interest towards what might become of their lives once this chapter is closed. The interesting bit is how each of them were living an extraordinary life for a teen; one being shuffled round hotels from one city to another whilst the other was living out of one hotel full-time. It proves how you can have a random crossing with a peer of yours that not only understands where you are in your life but is leading a life to such a mirrored extent, it’s hard to know where each of your paths separate.
My Review of Two Across:
One of my favourite films of the 2000s was Akeelah and the Bee, which explores the spelling bee culture and how young people can become self-motivated towards entering a Bee either locally or nationally. I, personally, entered my elementary school’s bee on the lark suggestion of my teacher, who, much to her credit believed in me far more than I believed in myself! It wasn’t a question of loving words – that much had been true ever since I carted off my large encyclopedia to a kindergarten’s ‘show & tell’ hour, but it was how words had a funny way of turning in and out of themselves that gave me the most anxiety to ‘spell’ aloud. I knew I was dyslexic you see, and how that would interfere with a bee was quite apparently obvious to me but not to my teacher! Laughs. Looking back, she was right – participating in the competition had it’s unexpected joy: to step outside the shadows of being dyslexic and celebrating my love of words!
Knowing this small history of mine with spelling bees – it took Bartsch to recapture that joy of finding yourself in competition with your peers whilst quite curiously curious about how each person in turn would approach each given word! I loved how he wrote-in the words as they became the ‘next’ unknown variable of the competition but also, how each of the teens instinctively knew which word would be the one to draw out their own personal anxieties whilst giving you the background of how the audience was perceptionally in-tune with everything going on as well! It was such a delight to entreat inside the novel from this perspective, I truly couldn’t help but smile knowing full well how Vera and Stanley were feeling along the slippery path of where luck, hope and ingenuity can lead you in a bee!
The bee was the linchpin of what untethered the connective threading of Stanley’s predestined life (as foreseen and planned by his mother) as he found he simply could not stomach traditional education any longer; the effort to continue in the fashion of discovery he had curated for his first eighteen years was simply not a route he could pursue. Stanley had come to the same realisation I had all those years ago – there was something wrecking in the spirit about how traditional education only wanted you to peer down one particular path of enlightenment based on other people’s impression of what was intellectually curious to know during your lifetime. It wasn’t about free thought or self-pursuit of topics & subjects most stimulating to the learner, but rather how best to trudge through a pre-determined grit of study that only leveraged itself to appeal to a small few. We find Stanley is growing his independence by deceptive ingenuity wherein he applies himself to create crossword puzzles worth submitting to newspapers; thus expanding his hobby into a potential career and dispelling his mother’s zeal for his future goals.
Your heart lurches forward a bit inside Chapter Three, as a solemn truth of growing up shatters the sublime pulse of Vera’s world. True to the pacing of the opening chapters, Bartsch doesn’t rush through this dramatic arc of where Vera’s innocence and her reality hurdle into each other as she learns a hard truth about trust and how other people can take trust as quick as a snake can bite you. I am simply thankful this proved to be a learning curve rather than a tragedy; as there was a part of the chapter where I felt it might have gone the other way. I hadn’t wished that for Vera as it’s such a difficult reality for any woman to adjust themselves out of due to the nature of what it involves, but blessedly as said, it wasn’t written to go that way.
Vera like Stanley has a hive of a mind actively curious about understanding things but at the same time is retreating from society like a recluse. They each understand each other, in such a way, as where little conversation has to be erupt between them, but when they are around others; the timing is off and the connection fails. They started to waltz with each other – carving out a life of their own invention whilst riddling the world with their false bravery of conquering their own fears. True to her nature, Vera wanted to find her true hereafter with the person she loved but she was confounded a bit by how his diffidence was affecting her resolve. It’s not like she went into their scheme blind but what confused her emotions most was how wicking her heart was towards a truism she wasn’t quite sure she was ready to accept as being plausible.
For cheek, they each started to try to outshine the other with their riddles inside puzzles; the clues and the choices meant something to each of them, but they never owned the reason why it all began. The ending of this story hit me hard with so many emotions fuelling into my heart, it felt crushingly brutal. For some reason I felt this story might end on a happier up-tone of joy – and in many ways, it had. There was a pacing of resolution to be found between where Stanley and Vera started to unite their lives and where the reality of their union started to erode away their dreams for happiness. Their path towards each other was fraught with distrust and miscommunication but it’s how their lives knitted together in the end, and how the ending eclipses the fruition of their exercises of the mind that left me wanton for a different ending altogether.
I felt the romance between Stanley and Vera was writ intrinsically intuitive of how two unlikely romantics find themselves drawn to each other, but without the benefit of understanding the attraction. Their whole life became hinged upon a known lie but the truth of their lives remained hidden and held hostage by time until they each could own what their heart tried to explain but utlimately failed to yield. It’s such an emotional journey – watching them each choose their own footpaths towards one another and yet away from each other at the same time. Bartsch will leave you museful how he chooses to tie together all the loose ends from the fragmented back-story and in the end leaves you ruminatively teary eyed.
The Contemporary Romance style of Jeff Bartsch:
For wordsmiths, Two Across is a welcome repose of reflective literary stealth! I love watching how Bartsch etches out his narrative to include a repository of words not oft found in today’s contemporary or historical literature! The well of choice is wondrous as it is inspiring – I for one, love noodling out a new word within any book I am devouring – for it not only lengthens the joy of the reading hours, but it grants new licence to entertain a new way of seeing how a word can be used. The choice and where it alights in a sentence or a chapter is most telling of how a story has first alighted in the imagination of it’s creator. To delight in a body of work where words are evermore as important as the quintessential story of two quirky protagonists is a wicked joy of this reader!
The beauty of this debut novelist’s approach to telling the story is how well tuned his narrative feels as you read it! Almost as if you’ve walked onto a well-worn pathway where you can peer into the lives of people you’ve only just had the pleasure of knowing personally whilst lending the impression you’ve known them for a much longer span of time! I love the intangible feel of the back-story, it’s just out of view at times but lulling in it’s omnipresence behind each revelation behind Stanley’s self-motivations. How Bartsch was able to attach the longing and loss of Stanley’s father in such of way as to be ‘present’ without being ‘seen’ was quite champion.
I would have called this a dramedy personally, as the opening sequences of the story are definitely more dramatic than comedic, however, there are certain moments where Bartsch has inter-placed humour to lighten up the ambiance of how the story is being told. By the time you reach the final chapters, you realise this was a Romantic Drama all along, as there isn’t a reason to laugh in the end; as your heart simply feels the remorse and quelling sadness.
This book review is courtesy of:
Stay tuned! More Hachette reviews are coming on Jorie Loves A Story!
By Center Street I’m reviewing ‘Claiming Noah’ next Tuesday whilst reviewing ‘Jane Two’ next Thursday! Return to find out my thoughts whilst I continue to feature debut novelists!
I look forward to reading your thoughts & commentary!
Especially if you read the book or were thinking you might be inclined to read it. I appreciate hearing different points of view especially amongst bloggers who gravitate towards the same stories to read. Bookish conversations are always welcome!
Copyright © Jorie Loves A Story, 2016.
I’m a social reader | I love sharing my reading life
— Grand Central Pub (@GrandCentralPub) July 8, 2016
— Jorie Loves A Story (@joriestory) July 19, 2016
Bartsch leaves you ruminatively teary eyedhttps://t.co/uV4K81oklg
— Jorie Loves A Story (@joriestory) July 19, 2016
.@jeffbartsch You're welcome! Thanks for giving me such an emotional story to read! :) It truly touched the full arc of emotional tides! :)
— Jorie Loves A Story (@joriestory) July 19, 2016
— Jeff Bartsch (@jeffbartsch) July 19, 2016
— Christina Philippou (@CPhilippou123) July 19, 2016