Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Blog Tour & Review: The Tudor Vendetta by C.W. Gortner

Title: The Tudor Vendetta   
Author: C.W. Gortner   
Series: The Spymaster Chronicles, #3 
Published: October 2014, St. Martin's Griffin  
Format: Paperback, 304 pages  
Source: Publisher via Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours  

Winter, 1558: Elizabeth I has ascended the throne but the first days of her reign are already fraught with turmoil, the kingdom weakened by strife and her ability to rule uncertain.

Summoned from exile abroad at the new queen’s behest, Brendan Prescott arrives in London to face his shattered past. He soon finds himself pitted in deadly rivalry with his life-long foe, Robert Dudley, but when a poison attempt overshadows the queen’s coronation, Elizabeth privately dispatches Brendan on a far more dangerous assignation: to find her favored lady-in-waiting, Lady Parry, who has vanished in Yorkshire.

Upon his arrival at the crumbling sea-side manor that may hold the key to Lady Parry’s disappearance, he encounters a strange, impoverished family beset by grief, as well as mounting evidence that they hide a secret from him. The mystery surrounding Lady Parry deepens as Brendan begins to realize there is far more going on at the manor than meets the eye, but the closer he gets to the heart of the mystery, the more he becomes the quarry of an elusive stranger with a vendetta— one that could expose both his own buried identity and a long-hidden revelation that will bring about Elizabeth’s doom.

From the intrigue-laden passages of Whitehall to a foreboding Catholic manor and the prisons of the Tower, Brendan must risk everything to unravel a vendetta that strikes at the very core of his world, including his loyalty to his queen.

My thoughts: This is the third and final book in C.W. Gortner's Spymaster Chronicles series and it was another exciting read. I love all things Tudor and have read many books set during this time. Because of that, I find that I can really appreciate the historical aspects of the story without getting bogged down by who's who or what was going on. I can focus on and really enjoy the mystery that Gortner has created.

This book picks up four years after the previous one, The Tudor Conspiracy, ends. Summoned home from exile now that Queen Mary is dead and Elizabeth has been named her successor, he is given a new assignment. But, true to form, Elizabeth only gives Brendan some of the details, leaving out quite a bit for him to figure out himself. Elizabeth has too much experience to trust anyone with too much information. He is asked to find out what happened to Elizabeth's lady-in-waiting, Lady Parry, but ends up finding so much more.

I loved the setting and descriptions of Vaughan Hall - it was eerie and mysterious and the fog only seemed to enhance that. Even the inhabitants of the manor were strange and secretive. This all combined to create quite a sinister atmosphere, perfect for creating that mysterious element. 

What really strikes me with this book, and even the series as a whole, is how well C.W. Gortner is able to blend fiction with fact. He takes one or two events from history and then plays around with the rumors and scandals that were hinted at during the time, weaving a fun, yet interesting tale. This isn't the first time I've read about one of these supposed rumors, so maybe it wasn't really a rumor after all? 

I'm quite saddened that this is the last time we will go on an adventure with Brendan Prescott, but he did give us some great adventures. And who knows? While the ending seemed to tie up loose ends, doesn't an author have every right to revisit those characters he loves? So, maybe this is just the end for now...

Books in this series:
  1. The Tudor Secret
  2. The Tudor Conspiracy
  3. The Tudor Vendetta

The Tudor Vendetta by C.W. Gortner is on tour with Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours. Be sure to check out the other tour stops to read more reviews, guest posts and some giveaway opportunities. Be sure to follow all the twitter activity, too at #TudorVendettaBlogTour and #HistoricalMystery.

***There is also a tour wide giveaway and the winner will be selected by the tour coordinator.  The giveaway is for a complete set of the Spymaster Chronicles Trilogy (see list of books above)!!!

Here are the rules:
  • Open to residents of the USA
  • Giveaway ends at 11:59pm on November 28th. You must be 18 or older to enter.
  • Winner will be chosen via Rafflecopter on November 29th and notified via email.
  • Winner have 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen.
The Rafflecopter giveaway can be found here.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Review: Dear Daughter by Elizabeth Little (audio)

Title: Dear Daughter    
Author: Elizabeth Little   
Narrator: Tony Daniels & Bonnie Dennison  
Published: July 2014, Penguin Audio 
Length: 10 hours  
Source: Publisher  

Former "It Girl" Janie Jenkins is acerbic, whip smart, and fresh out of prison. Ten years ago, at the height of her glamour and fame, she was incarcerated for the murder of her mother, a philanthropist best known for her string of rich husbands. Now, released on a technicality, Janie chops off her trademark hair, determined to chase down the one lead she has about her mother's killer. The only problem? Janie doesn't know if she's the one she's looking for.

In an isolated South Dakota town whose secrets rival Janie's own, with the unwitting help of the locals, she pieces together a shocking picture of her mother's supposedly pristine past. On the run from the press, the police, and possibly even a murderer, Janie is forced to choose between the anonymity she craves and the truth she so desperately needs.

My thoughts: Lately, I've found myself gravitating towards thrillers. So, of course when I was given the opportunity to review Elizabeth Little's debut novel, Dear Daughter, I jumped at it, especially since it was in audio form.

I loved that Janie/Rebecca is not the most likeable character - in fact, most of the time she is downright obnoxious. She's self-absorbed, snarky and sassy, yet she's also very clever and quite hysterical at times. But, there's just something about her that had me rooting for her throughout the book. Did she or did she not kill her mother? And why does she not remember that night this incident took place? These are the questions that kept me hooked on the book - I needed to find out what really happened.

I will say that I did have a hard time keeping all the characters straight - who was who and who was related to who. Being that I was listening to the book, it was hard to go back to find out that information. I did find myself re-listening to certain parts just to make sure I understood the connections. 

The ending of the book is a bit open-ended. There is closure as to what happened, but we are left not really knowing what will happen next. In fact, I listened to the last part two times just to be sure I hadn't missed anything. Does that mean that Elizabeth Little plans to follow this book up with a sequel? Or are we to fill in the blanks ourselves?

I really enjoyed this debut novel and can't wait to see what comes next for Elizabeth Little. Despite me not loving the main character, I can't seem to stop thinking about her...that must say something about the writing!

Audio Thoughts: I thought both narrators did a great job with this book. Bonnie Dennison did all the story-telling and Tony Daniels did all the emails, court transcripts, TMZ reports, blog posts, etc that prefaced each chapter. Having separate narrators for these really helped set them apart. Bonnie was fantastic as Janie/Rebecca - she was really able to embody the perfect obnoxious, manipulative character that Janie/Rebecca was. Both of these narrators were new to me and I will definitely be checking out what else they have narrated.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

The Sunday Post #45 (10.19.14)

The Sunday Post is a weekly meme hosted @ Caffeinated Book Reviewer. It’s a chance to share news. A post to recap the past week, showcase books and things we have received and share news about what is coming up on our blog for the week ahead. I'm also going to link this up with Sheila's It's Monday post over at Book Journey

Despite how busy and crazy this week turned out to be, I ended up finishing a lot of books. It helped that some were short books plus I had quite a lot of time in the car when I had to drive down to my sister's in Delaware to babysit at the last minute - thank goodness for audio!!!  The only bad part of finishing so many books in one week is that now I have that many reviews to write...oh the never-ending cycle!

Have a great week everyone!!! 
Last week on the Blog:              
* Review: The Homecoming by Robyn Carr
* Review: Winter Street by Elin Hilderbrand
* Review: A Nantucket Christmas by Nancy Thayer  
* Book Blog Walkers: Weekly Check-in October 17

Books Read:          

* Winter Street by Elin Hilderbrand (review book)   
* Where There's Smoke by Jodi Picoult (mine)
* Close to Home by Lisa Jackson (review audio book)   
* Larger Than Life by Jodi Picoult (mine)
* Grave Secrets by Kathy Reichs (library audio book)  

 Currently Reading:            
* The Tudor Vendetta by C.W. Gortner (review book)
* The Silent Sister by Diane Chamberlain (review e-book)              
* The Ship of Brides by Jojo Moyes (review book/audio book)

Books Up Next:                  
* Us by David Nicholls (review book)
* The Oleander Sisters by Elaine Hussey (review audio book)

Coming Up on the Blog:
* Review: Dear Daughter by Elizabeth Little
* Review: Bones Never Lie by Kathy Reichs
* Review: The Tudor Vendetta by C.W. Gortner
* Review: Nantucket Sisters by Nancy Thayer
Book Haul:     
For Review:
* The Look of Love by Sarah Jio (publisher)
From Library:
* Grave Secrets by Kathy Reichs (audio book)

Book Blog Walkers: Weekly Check-in October 17

  #BookBlogWalkers is hosted by Felicia @ The Geeky Bloggers Book Blog

Another crazy week with an even crazier weekend, which is why this post is going up so late. One of these days life will slow down and get back to normal!
Here's how my week went:  

Oct 11:  rest
Oct 12:  rest
Oct 13:  30 minutes
Oct 14:  30 minutes

Oct 15:  30 minutes
Oct 16:  30 minutes

Oct 17:  30 minutes 
How did your week go?

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Review: A Nantucket Christmas by Nancy Thayer (audio)

Title: A Nantucket Christmas   
Author: Nancy Thayer   
Narrator: Joyce Bean  
Published: October 2013, Brilliance Audio   
Length: 4 hours 26 minutes  
Source: Library 

Known for her heartwarming observations of family life, New York Times bestselling author Nancy Thayer showcases her beloved Nantucket’s snowy off-season in this emotionally gratifying and utterly entertaining story.

Holidays on this Massachusetts island are nothing short of magical, from the jolly decorations on the Brant Point lighthouse to the much anticipated Christmas Stroll, in which merrymakers promenade through quaint streets adorned with Yuletide cheer. The season’s wonderful traditions are much loved by Nicole Somerset, new to Nantucket and recently married to a handsome former attorney. Their home is already full of enticing scents of pine, baking spices, and homemade pie.

But the warm, festive mood is soon tempered by Nicole’s chilly stepdaughter, Kennedy, who arrives without a hint of holiday spirit. Determined to keep her stepmother at arms’ length—or, better yet, out of the picture altogether—Kennedy schemes to sabotage Nicole’s holiday preparations. Nicole, however, is not about to let anyone or anything tarnish her first Christmas with her new husband.

Nancy Thayer’s wonderful tale reminds us that this is the season of miracles. Before the gifts are unwrapped, surprise visitors appear, and holiday joy comes to all, both naughty and nice.

My thoughts: It seems that quite a few of my favorite "summer" authors have decided to also write holiday books - and you will certainly not be getting any complaints from me!!! Nancy Thayer is another author, like Elin Hilderbrand, who I mark the advent of summer by her latest book. This is Nancy's first holiday book, which actually came out last year.

This was a great short holiday story that pulls you in right from the start. Focusing on family and all that it implies, the story will definitely get you in the holiday mood. It is a tale that sums up holidays all over; one that is filled with hope, strife, sadness, love and eventually peace.

The characters are well-developed and I found myself either loving or strongly disliking them. Kennedy really got under my skin but I loved little Maddox and enjoyed his escapades with the dog. Having the story told from different narrators really allows you as the reader to get inside the minds of the different characters, thus making them feel more alive. 

Nantucket remains a place that I've only had the pleasure of visiting through books, yet each time I read a book set there, I'm even more determined to one day visit. I loved seeing this charming place during Christmas - the sights, sounds and smells were brought alive. I am anxious to visit again with Nancy's next holiday novel, which is due out in a few weeks!

Audio Thoughts: Jocye Bean is one of my favorite narrators and I was thrilled to see she was narrating this book. Her voice is magical - she is able to create unique voices for her characters, even adding the necessary attributes to the characters to make them come alive. 

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Review: Winter Street by Elin Hilderbrand

Title: Winter Street    
Author: Elin Hilderbrand    
Published: October 2014, Little, Brown & Company  
Format: ARC paperback, 256 pages    
Source: Publisher  

In bestseller Elin Hilderbrand's first Christmas novel, a family gathers on Nantucket for a holiday filled with surprises.

Kelley Quinn is the owner of Nantucket's Winter Street Inn and the proud father of four, all of them grown and living in varying states of disarray. Patrick, the eldest, is a hedge fund manager with a guilty conscience. Kevin, a bartender, is secretly sleeping with a French housekeeper named Isabelle. Ava, a school teacher, is finally dating the perfect guy but can't get him to commit. And Bart, the youngest and only child of Kelley's second marriage to Mitzi, has recently shocked everyone by joining the Marines.

As Christmas approaches, Kelley is looking forward to getting the family together for some quality time at the inn. But when he walks in on Mitzi kissing Santa Claus (or the guy who's playing Santa at the inn's annual party), utter chaos descends. With the three older children each reeling in their own dramas and Bart unreachable in Afghanistan, it might be up to Kelley's ex-wife, nightly news anchor Margaret Quinn, to save Christmas at the Winter Street Inn.

Before the mulled cider is gone, the delightfully dysfunctional Quinn family will survive a love triangle, an unplanned pregnancy, a federal crime, a small house fire, many shots of whiskey, and endless rounds of Christmas caroling, in this heart-warming novel about coming home for the holidays.

My thoughts: Each year, I mark the beginning of the summer with a new book by one of my favorite authors, Elin Hilderbrand. Imagine my surprise and delight when I found out that this year she would be publishing a Christmas novel to be released in the fall. And, I just happened to get my hands on an advanced copy at BEA where I was able to meet Elin and have her sign the book!

This story is a beautifully written Christmas novel that will certainly get you in the holiday spirit. It centers around the Quinn family and takes place over the course of three days - December 23 through December 25, though there are some flash backs interspersed throughout. Instead of chapters, the story is told by the different members of the Quinn family, so it alternates back and forth amongst these individuals. I loved this way of telling the story as it really allows us to get inside each character to really understand them.

The Quinn family is about to have a Christmas to remember, but not in a positive way. Everything that can go wrong, goes wrong, but there is some good that comes out of it - mainly that family is always there to bolster you up when you need it. The ending is somewhat bittersweet and leaves things a bit open-ended. I wonder, as this book is quoted as being Elin's "first Christmas novel," if she writes more, will they be stand-alones as we usually get from her or if there will be a sequel to this book?

I loved this little visit to Nantucket during the holidays. While most of the story does take place at the Winter Street Inn, we do get glimpses of the town itself. Throughout the book, Ava, Quinn's daughter, is asked to play Christmas carols and it definitely helps put you in that holiday frame of mind. Elin Hilderbrand shares that her favorite carol is "O Holy Night;" mine is "Silent Night." What's yours?

Monday, October 13, 2014

Review: The Homecoming by Robyn Carr

Title: The Homecoming   
Author: Robyn Carr     
Series: Thunder Point, #6     
Published: August 2014, Harlequin MIRA   
Format: ARC e-copy, 400 pages   
Source: Netgalley  

In a small town, reputation is everything. In her latest novel, #1 New York Times bestselling author Robyn Carr explores the burden placed on a young man returning home to face his mistakes—the first step in claiming the life he was meant to live ...

At the age of nineteen, Seth Sileski had everything. A superb athlete and scholar, handsome and popular, he was the pride of Thunder Point. Destined for greatness, he lost it all in a terrible accident that put an end to his professional football career when it had barely begun. The people in his hometown have never forgotten what might have been.

Seth has come to terms with the turns his life has taken. But now he's been presented with an opportunity to return home and show his father—and the people of Thunder Point—he's become a better, humbler version of his former self.

Winning over his father isn't the only challenge. Seth must also find a way to convince his childhood neighbor and best friend, Iris McKinley, to forgive him for breaking her heart. With his homecoming, will Seth be able to convince the town, his family and especially Iris that he's finally ready to be the man who will make them all proud?

My thoughts:  This is the 6th book in Robyn Carr's Thunder Point series and I just love this series. I love how she is able to take a serious issue and pair that storyline with a romance storyline - it just seems to balance itself out so that the book isn't too heavy on the romance or too heavy on whatever topic she chooses to explore. 

I will say I found this story to be more heartbreaking and heartwarming than the previous books. Primarily, this is Seth and Iris's story. They have quite the past and with Seth moving back to Thunder Point, that past begins to edge it's way into both their lives. In order to move forward, they need to address what happened, but it's clear that whatever it is that happened in the past - there is still something between them now. By providing the history between these two characters, it was easy to really empathize with both of them and understand their motivations. All the flashbacks were integral in building this up such that you could really feel their hurt and frustrations.

The other storyline was a touchy one - it involved an abusive relationship going on at the high school. I think the reason this story worked so well is that Iris was involved as the school counselor, and Seth was involved as the new sheriff. It connected in a way that really brought the two stories together almost seamlessly instead of it feeling like two disjointed story lines. 

With each book I read in this series, I fall more in love with the town of Thunder Point. I wasn't sure if this was going to be the last book in the series, but I'm happy to say it's not. There are at least two more books to look forward to next year, both of which I have just added to my TBR list!

Books in this series:  

  1. The Wanderer                          7.  The Wish - due out 2015
  2. The Newcomer                        8.  The Hope - due out 2015
  3. The Hero
  4. The Chance 
  5. The Promise
  6. The Homecoming

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