Thursday, February 21, 2013

Blog Tour Stop: Review /Excerpt of The Breakaway and Pieces by Michelle Davidson Argyle

Hey guys and welcome to my stop on the tour for Pieces by Michelle Davidson Argyle! Below you can find some more info about the book as well as my review of both Pieces and its companion novel (and prequel) The Breakaway. I had read so many great reviews of The Breakaway before signing up for this tour, and I'm happy to say that I enjoyed both books immensely! I think Pieces is more meaningful if you've read The Breakaway, but the books can also stand on their own.

If you scroll further down from my reviews, you'll also find an excerpt from Pieces.


Release date: May 1, 2012
Publisher: Rhemalda Publishing
Format: Paperback, 303 pages

Goodreads description:
When Naomi Jensen is kidnapped, it takes her parents two days to realize she's missing. Escape isn't high on her list of priorities when all she has to return to is an abusive boyfriend and parents who never paid much attention to her. For the first time in her life she's part of a family-even if it is a family of criminals. But she's still a captive. In a desperate attempt to regain some control in her life, Naomi embarks on a dangerous plan to make one of her kidnappers think she's falling in love with him. The plan works too well, and when faced with the chance to escape, Naomi isn't sure she wants to take it.

Buy it on:
            Amazon        Barnes & Noble

As mentioned above, I had heard great things about The Breakaway and already expected to like it, but I still got so much more than I imagined! This is one of those books that really impact you and leave a lasting impression, the kind whose characters stay with you for a long, long time. (And that's why I failed once more to write a concise review)

If I had to choose only one word to describe The Breakaway it would be ‘realistic’. I often imagined what I would do if I were Naomi, and while my reactions weren’t always the same because we have quite different personalities, I always understood why she did what she did. She is definitely not one of those heroines whose decisions are seemingly arbitrary and make me want to bash my head against the wall! Another reason why the book was so real to me is that Michelle Davidson Argyle unquestionably did a lot of research – not that the novel is in any way info-dumpy or overly analytical, but it’s clear that she knows what she’s talking about and how to convey the situation. I never once felt that the kidnapping situation was used as an excuse for some domination-fantasy or portrayed in a glorifying or gratuitous manner. This is a delicate topic, and in my opinion it was handled wonderfully and with great consideration!

As the summary already tells you, Naomi’s home life is far from awesome and her motivation to escape when she is kidnapped is fairly low. Add to that the fact that Eric, the leader of her kidnappers, makes crystal clear that he will kill her if she attempts to run away. While Naomi is being held captive, we always get flashbacks to her life before the kidnapping and her relationships to her parents and her boyfriend. Through these memories, it becomes clear that her kidnappers could not have hoped for a better victim because Naomi is already no stranger to abuse and manipulation (I sort of wanted to kill her so-called boyfriend). When her captors finally start letting her out of her room to the rest of the house, a delicate balance between domination and accommodation begins as Eric, his wife Evelyn, and Jesse begin to feel more like family than her real one ever did.

There were several things I did not at all expect when I went into the book. From the summary, I had jumped to the conclusion that both Naomi and her kidnappers were from a fairly poor and uneducated social background. What I got was a girl who grew up in a huge house, with rich but very work-absorbed parents, and kidnappers who were every bit as sophisticated. These are no dumb criminals who got in over their heads – they know exactly what they’re doing with Naomi, and their intelligence makes them all the more dangerous.

Another thing I didn’t expect was that this is a novel about so much more than just a case of kidnapping and Stockholm syndrome. It is just as much about mother-daughter relationships. From the beginning, the narration alternates between Naomi and her mother, so we as readers see not only the effect of the kidnapping on the victim but also the toll it all takes on her parents and how they try to cope with what happened. At first I really really disliked Naomi’s mother. I found her cold and distant and uncaring. But as I read on, I began to see why she acted the way she did and that the two of them are more similar than they think, even if they themselves cannot see it yet. I really love how the tentative approach between those two women was handled and accomplished even though they can never directly communicate.

All characters in this novel are fully fleshed out and believable. All have their strengths and flaws, and all of them develop over the course of the novel as they grow to know each other better and begin to influence one another. The eerie thing is that like Naomi, I was taken in by her captors. I knew what they were doing was evil, but I also saw what they offered her. I felt torn between wanting her to stay and wanting her to take a chance and try to run. I felt similarly torn about Jesse. It was never quite clear to me who was faking their feelings, or if it was all real after all. The relationships and roles between everyone in the house grew increasingly complex and muddled.

Every aspect of Naomi’s life as a captive was just so well-handled! There are no ‘convenient’ blind spots – we readers gets to see it all, which makes it all the more interesting to see how things evolve. I rooted for Naomi all the way, even though she is not a strong heroine in the traditional sense. She is a very broken, confused girl, but through it all you can sense that she has an inner core that will not yield. While she didn’t grow as confident as I hoped in this novel, such an immense change would not have been realistic (and that’s one reason why there’s a sequel). But let’s just say that the author does not just end the book at what I’ll call the ‘convenient moment’ (I can’t be more precise without spoilers) – she takes it further and shows us the consequences, and I really really loved that!

The pacing, too, was perfect. If you think a kidnapping books is boring because the victim can do nothing but hang around then you’re wrong. Yes, these passages are of course there, but there are also the flashbacks, the moments when we switch to Naomi’s parents, the developments in her relationship to Jesse and the others, dreams, wishes, fantasies… I didn’t want to put the book down, and even though I was still reeling from the ending I had to dive into Pieces right away!

If you enjoy contemporaries, well-rounded characters, realistic settings, a psychological element, and amazing, gripping writing, you must read this book!! Even if this is out of your comfort zone, I promise it’ll be worth it! I feel like my review still didn’t do it justice because there were so many things I wanted to talk about but couldn’t because of spoilers…

Michelle lives and writes in Utah, surrounded by the Rocky Mountains. She loves the seasons, but late summer and early fall are her favorites. She adores chocolate, sushi, and lots of ethnic food, and loves to read and write books in whatever time she can grab between her sword-wielding husband and energetic daughter. She believes a simple life is the best life.

Website     Goodreads     Twitter     Facebook

Release date: February 14, 2013
Publisher: Rhemalda Publishing
Format: Paperback, 284 pages

Goodreads description:
Two years after watching her kidnappers go to prison, Naomi Jensen is still in love with one of them. Jesse will be released in a few years, and Naomi knows college is the perfect distraction while she waits. But when her new friend Finn makes her question what is right and what is wrong, she begins to wonder if Jesse is the one for her...until she discovers he's out on parole. Naomi must sort through her confusion to figure out where love and freedom truly lie-in Finn, who has no connections to her past, or Jesse, who has just asked her to run away with him.

Buy it on:
           Amazon        Barnes & Noble

Review (with sort-of spoilers for The Breakaway):
Well, you just read how much I enjoyed The Breakaway and how realistic I thought it was. The same goes for Pieces, only I loved Pieces even more. I wanted so much for Naomi to succeed, to build a life for herself. I laughed and cried with her. Pieces resonated with me even more because in a way, I am in a situation similar to Naomi - figuring out what I want, doubting college decisions, changing relationships to family. Minus the lingering effects of the kidnapping of course.

Pieces picks up two years after the events of the first book. Naomi has moved away to college, shares a nice house with a roommate, and pursues her art. But she cannot forget what happened to her, and she is still hung up on Jesse, even though he's in prison and even though she knows that she suffered from Stockholm syndrome and that she'll never be allowed to have normal interactions with him again. She rarely goes out and doesn't open up to other guys.

But then there's Finn, who works at the café she often goes to because of their almond cake and so she can sketch. They begin to talk and grow closer. I really enjoyed their friendship and how Finn didn't push her. His problems also put hers a bit in perspective - some of them are kind of first-world-problems. I mean, she's never had to worry about money. This was something that at times grated on me a bit, but it's reflected here as Naomi begins to long for more independence, to build a life for herself without anyone's help. I really admired her for that!

But of course just when Naomi wants to really start something with Finn, Jesse contacts her. He'll be out of prison a lot sooner than either of them thought. I felt very divided about him, to be honest. I never saw him as a really bad guy – he was good to her in the first book despite everything. But I also thought her obsession with him was very unhealthy. I was rooting for Finn. And yet when Jesse actually shows up and they get reacquainted, I couldn’t help but remember how they fit, in a way. However, once they take a drastic decision that leaves Naomi alone for long stretches of time, in a situation similar to that of her capture, when it turns out that the new life Jesse promised her isn’t all she thought it would be and that he wasn’t fully honest with her, I wasn’t surprised. I actually got a bit annoyed because she so stubbornly didn’t want to see the truth for a long time. It made sense with her character though, so I don’t consider it a flaw in the writing. Anything else would have been unrealistic.

Naomi grows so much from the girl she was in The Breakaway! And once more, Michelle Davidson Argyle doesn’t just do the fade-out, she gives us the aftermath. The therapy. The way things aren’t suddenly all roses with Naomi’s parents, but how they are all trying to be a family again. And nope, she doesn’t just fall from one guy’s arms into those of another. I was on an emotional roller coaster the whole time when I was reading this book. I cried from sadness and from happiness, I went through the whole ordeal. The writing is just sooo good. Gritty and realistic at times but then again poetic and metaphorical. There were so many wonderful scenes I cannot talk about because of spoilers >.< Let’s just say that this book went into some directions I would never have expected and that it’s populated by wonderful, fleshed out characters I care about a lot.

Pieces really is the perfect title for this novel. It’s about picking up the shards of an old identity, about deciding what to keep and what to discard and move on from. It’s about piecing yourself together again and realizing that not all the parts fit anymore. And how sometimes, you may have to break that new construct all over again, because those pieces no longer fit. I loved this book, so so much! The few tiny things I sort of missed in The Breakaway were all here this time. The book left me fully satisfied with what happened in the end, and I have the feeling that when I re-read it (because there’s no ‘if’) I will discover many new details I missed the first time and that will make it even more amazing.

I don’t really know what else to say, apart from pick up these books right now and read them – you will not regret it! I will now go and check out what else Michelle Davidson Argyle has written…


There were always dragons, but never as dark as the ones before her now. She stood in a burning valley so hot that ash fell from the sky like slow-drifting snow. The dragons had started the fire, their scales blackened, skin peeling, their eyes hard as diamonds. She watched four of them land in front of her. Thick smoke curled to the darkening sky.
“I want to leave!” she screamed, but their only response was to open their mouths and breathe flames at her. She didn’t feel the pain, but when the fire cleared and she held out her arms to see the damage, she saw her skin was like dragon skin—black and peeling in jagged pieces. Falling to her knees, she grabbed a handful of dirt and threw it at the dragons. Their mouths turned up in sneers, showing their pointed, blood-stained teeth.
You read too many fantasy novels, she could hear Jesse’s voice in the back of her head.
They don’t love you, her mother said.
Remember why you fell in love with him.
She stopped at the memory of that last set of words, trying to remember who had said them to her. The dragons moved closer, and then she remembered it was Finn who had said the words. She saw the saltshaker on the table as he pushed it around in circles.
With a start, she sat up in bed, realizing all the journal entries were still fresh in her mind. She had finished reading them hours ago and then stumbled into the bedroom to find Jesse already asleep. She had crawled in with him and drifted off, but the nightmares made her toss and turn. Jesse stirred beside her now, his toned arms reaching out for her. Morning sunlight fell across the bed.
“You alright?” he asked, pulling her close.
“I think so.” Lying back down, she snuggled into him. He smelled like spicy soap from his shower earlier. She took in a deep breath, savoring the feel of him holding her.
Remember why you fell in love with him.
Shut up, Finn!
She wanted to scream the words into the silent bedroom, but couldn’t. She loved Jesse because he loved her. It was that simple. He sacrificed things for her. He wanted to make her happy, and she wanted the same for him. She had left everything to be with him.
A knock on the front door made Naomi jump. It frightened her to think of who might knock on their door so early in the morning. Jesse stirred again, mumbling something she couldn’t understand.
“You want me to get it?” she asked, almost afraid to wake him.
Groaning, he sat up and blinked. His hair had dried in spikes. “Where the hell is my phone?” he asked. “Why are the curtains wide open?”
He was always cranky when he was woken up too early. “I wanted to look at the stars as I fell asleep.”
Turning to her, he blinked again. The sun made his green eyes pale. “How did that go, then? Last night? Did you read it all?”
She looked away. “I was so tired I’m not sure how much of it stuck.”
“It’s all in your head now. You can start sorting through it and face it all.”
“Yeah, I guess so.”
Another series of knocks. Jesse cursed and got out of bed. He was in his boxer shorts, and pulled on a pair of sweats before grabbing his phone off the dresser. He walked out of the bedroom. Curious, Naomi slipped out of bed and peeked down the hallway as Jesse looked through the peephole. She asked herself if she cared that he had lied to her about his parole, that he was a fugitive. Did it matter? Her stomach clenched.
“What is it?” Jesse asked, opening the door a crack. His body blocked her view of whoever was on the other side. There was an answer. A man’s voice. A shudder went down Naomi’s spine.
“No,” Jesse said, “she’s here.”

Have you read either book? What do you think of my reviews and the excerpt? Is this topic something you might be interested in? Have you read books with similar themes? Tell me in the comments :)

Oh, and check out the rest of the tour, organized by Giselle from Xpresso Tours. Just click the banner below. Some of the other stops also have giveaways and different excerpts!


  1. i haven't read the books as yet. and after reading your reveiws i would like to read them

  2. I'm very interested in these books. They sound dark and gritty and terribly emotional. I have another similar novel on my shelf that I need to read first, though. Stockholm Syndrome absolutely fascinates me but terrifies me all the same. These are going to be difficult reads for me, but I still think I'll enjoy them. Thanks for sharing!

  3. *hugs* I am so glad you enjoyed both books! And, thanks for being part of the Pieces blog tour!

  4. Wow, these sound really interesting, and the cover of the first book looks intense! I know this may sound bad, but I enjoy reading books like The Breakaway and Pieces, simply because I love watching characters grow, change and become stronger, strong enough to finally get away from the situation, and to stay away.

    Awesome review!