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Monday, July 22, 2013

HFVBT Tour Stop and Review: The Tudor Conspiracy by C.W. Gortner

US Publication Date: July 16, 2013
St. Martin's Griffin
Paperback; 352p
ISBN-10: 0312658494

Hunted by a shadowy foe in Bloody Mary’s court, Brendan Prescott plunges into London’s treacherous underworld to unravel a dark conspiracy that could make Elizabeth queen—or send her to her death in C.W. Gortner's The Tudor Conspiracy
England, 1553: Harsh winter encroaches upon the realm. Mary Tudor has become queen to popular acclaim and her enemies are imprisoned in the Tower. But when she’s betrothed to Philip, Catholic prince of Spain, putting her Protestant subjects in peril, rumors of a plot to depose her swirl around the one person whom many consider to be England’s heir and only hope—the queen’s half-sister, Princess Elizabeth.

Haunted by his past, Brendan Prescott lives far from the intrigues of court. But his time of refuge comes to an end when his foe and mentor, the spymaster Cecil, brings him disquieting news that sends him on a dangerous mission. Elizabeth is held captive at court, the target of the Spanish ambassador, who seeks her demise. Obliged to return to the palace where he almost lost his life, Brendan finds himself working as a double-agent for Queen Mary herself, who orders Brendan to secure proof that will be his cherished Elizabeth’s undoing.

Plunged into a deadly game of cat-and-mouse with a mysterious opponent who hides a terrifying secret, Brendan races against time to retrieve a cache of the princess’s private letters, even as he begins to realize that in this dark world of betrayal and deceit, where power is supreme and sister can turn against sister, nothing—and no one—is what it seems.

First thoughts?

Loved it! I couldn't wait for this book to come out as it is the second in Gortner's Elizabeth I's Spymaster Chronicles.  The first was published last year, and here's a link to my review.  This book takes place about six months after the first, but don't worry.  You do not need to have read the first book to enjoy this one.  Gortner provides enough information for the reader to know what's going on without spoiling the first book or the reader feeling lost.  It's not a big information dump either.  It's here and there as it needs to be.

Anyway, our hero Brendan must come to Elizabeth's aid by putting himself into the service of her sister Queen Mary.  Gortner does a masterful job of depicting both women with out bias and not taking sides. The reader can appreciate both sides of the sister argument.  Most of the story is the spy plot, and who is aligned with who, who is spreading lies, and of course the usual tricks of the trade: secret meeting places, poison, and accusations.  The horrible Dudleys play a part again, because of course, all they want is power in some form or fashion.  In this respect, I think the reader can tell the author is not a fan of Robert Dudley.

How Brendan keeps his head above water is beyond me.  The Tudor court is the reality show Survivor to the 1000th degree.  Plotting, scheming, and lying are all everyone does, and keeping the players straight is tough.  Not that the reader becomes confused, it's just that I would not have survived life at Court for sure.  Brendan makes some mistakes along the way, which are understandable since he is new at all of this.  However, he stays true to himself and his Princess Elizabeth.

As for plot points, I appreciated the further explanation of Brendan's background, and how that was done with a particular character.  It gave me an ah moment.  However, there was a death in this story that I didn't see coming, was upset about, and really hated to see.  I loved that character!  He was such a sweetheart and was doing well.  Plus he provided a good angle to the story.  Please replace in the next novel somehow.

Overall, I enjoyed this book immensely and it was so good that it ruined the other books I was reading. Seriously, I stopped reading them for good.  They just don't have that excitement that this one has for me.


Hell yes!  Gortner's works are engaging and he certainly knows how to draw the reader in like a fly on the wall of historical events.  He puts the reader into the story without exaggerating the true events or making stuff up, like some HF writers tend to do.  (You know, witch craft or sorcery or something.)

Would I change anything?

Absolutely not, except maybe not kill that character off because it made me sad.

Thanks to Amy for including me on the tour.

About the Author
C.W. Gortner holds an MFA in Writing, with an emphasis in Renaissance Studies. Raised in Spain and half Spanish by birth, he currently lives in the San Francisco Bay Area.

He welcomes readers and is always available for reader group chats. Please visit him for more information.  You can also follow Christopher on Facebook and Twitter.


Tuesday, July 16
Review at Oh, for the Hook of a Book!
Review & Giveaway at The Tudor Book Blog
Wednesday, July 17
Review at The Maiden’s Court
Review at Diary of a Book Addict
Interview at Oh, for the Hook of a Book!
Thursday, July 18
Review at Amused by Books
Review at Ageless Pages Reviews
Friday, July 19
Review at The Broke and the Bookish
Review & Giveaway at Enchanted by Josephine
Interview at The Tudor Book Blog
Monday, July 22
Review at A Bookish Affair
Review at Jenny Loves to Read
Review at A Muse in the Fog Book Reviews
Tuesday, July 23
Review at Bippity Boppity Book
Guest Post at A Bookish Affair
Thursday, July 25
Guest Post at Confessions of an Avid Reader
Interview at A Writer’s Life: Working with the Muse
Feature & Giveaway at Ramblings From This Chick
Friday, July 26
Review at Sharon’s Garden of Book Reviews
Monday, July 29
Review at Books in the Burbs
Review at Flashlight Commentary
Review at Writing the Renaissance
Tuesday, July 30
Guest Post at Flashlight Commentary
Wednesday, July 31
Review at A Chick Who Reads
Thursday, August 1
Review at JulzReads
Review at CelticLady’s Reviews
Guest Post at A Chick Who Reads
Friday, August 2
Review at Cheryl’s Book Nook
Interview at Bibliophilic Book Blog
Monday, August 5
Review at Historical Tapestry & Adventures of an Intrepid Reader
Review & Giveaway at Peeking Between the Pages
Tuesday, August 6
Review at From L.A. to LA
Review & Giveaway at Luxury Reading
Guest Post at Historical Tapestry
Wednesday, August 7
Review at Review From Here
Thursday, August 8
Review at Book Nerds
Interview at Review From Here
Friday, August 9
Review at Always with a Book
Review at Book Lovers Paradise
Monday, August 12
Review at A Book Geek
Review at Bloggin’ ’bout Books
Tuesday, August 13
Review at The Bookworm
Guest Post at A Book Geek
Wednesday, August 14
Review at My Reading Room
Guest Post at Book Nerds
Thursday, August 15
Review at Book Journey
Interview at My Reading Room
Friday, August 16
Review at So Many Books, So Little Time
Monday, August 19
Review at The True Book Addict
Guest Post at So Many Books, So Little Time
Tuesday, August 20
Review at Lost in Books
Guest Post at The True Book Addict
Wednesday, August 21
Review at Broken Teepee
Thursday, August 22
Review at The Eclectic Reader
Guest Post at Broken Teepee
Friday, August 23
Review at Tanzanite’s Castle Full of Books
Monday, August 26
Review at Layered Pages
Review at A Bookish Libraria
Tuesday, August 27
Review at Book Addict Katie
Interview at Layered Pages

© Jenny Girl - 2013 "All Rights Reserved"

Friday, July 19, 2013

Book Spotlight and Giveaway: Meet Me at the Cupcake Cafe by Jenny Cogan

The Meet Me at the Cupcake Café Sugary Sweet Spotlight!

It is no wonder that the flirty and frothy food-themed novel, Meet Me at the Cupcake Café by Jenny Colgan is an international success: with relatable characters and scrumptious recipes at the start of each chapter, Meet Me at the Cupcake Café is pure delight to women’s fiction readers everywhere. This summer, Colgan is bringing her hilarious and heartfelt stories—with a dash of deliciousness—to the United States! To celebrate, Sourcebooks is giving away copies of this book ALL MONTH LONG!

Each day this month, look for opportunities to win a print copy of Meet Me at the Cupcake Café with bloggers all over the book blogging community. Additionally, there will be a few guest blogs and interviews with Jenny sprinkled throughout—a great way to get to know a new author!

Meet Me at the Cupcake Café by Jenny Cogan
July 2013

Baking is in Issy Randall’s blood. Growing up above her grandfather’s bakery taught Issy that a delicious pastry could make any day better. So when she’s laid off from her desk job—by the man she thought was her boyfriend, no less—Issy knows now is the time to start her own little café.

Armed with her grandfather’s tried and true recipes, as well as her own new dishes, Issy’s new dream job should be a piece-of-cake, right? But managing a café, delivering products on time and trying to have a new love life aren’t exactly going as Issy planned. And when her ex comes back into the picture, perhaps with his own motives, Issy’s search for the perfect pastry and a groundbreaking idea to save her café are much more than she bargained for… 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jenny Colgan was a fussy eater as a child and didn’t even begin to learn to cook until she was 21, when her then boyfriend tried to teach her a few basics purely out of exasperation. While she is now able to make a variety of good, wholesome food for her family, she still can’t make scones. A former columnist for The Guardian, Jenny contributes regularly to national BBC radio and is the bestselling author of more than eleven novels, including The Loveliest Chocolate Shop in Paris (coming out in the US in early 2014). She is married with three children and lives in London and France. For more information, please visit and follow her on Twitter, @JennyColgan.


Would you like to win your very own copy of Meet Me at the Cupcake Cafe?

Then leave me a comment and tell me what your favorite baked treat is.  It can be anything, cupcakes, cookies, donuts, danish, carrot cake, mmm yummy!

Just tell me what it is and leave me your email address.  It's that simple.

Sorry but it is only open to those in the U.S. and Canada, but no P.O. boxes please.

Deadline to enter is midnight, Saturday, July 27th.


For more chances to win,  follow along all month long for a chance to win a copy of this highly-anticipated and deliciously delightful new novel!

7/1         Book Girl of Mur-y-Castell
7/2         Celtic Lady’s Reviews
7/3         Books-N-Kisses
7/3         Chick Lit Central INTERVIEW
7/4         A Bookworm's World
7/5         Delighted Reader
7/8         Beth Fish Reads
7/9         Booking Mama
7/9         The Bookish Dame INTERVIEW
7/10       The Book Binge
7/11       Simply Ali
7/12       Debbie's Book Bag
7/15       The Bookish Babe
7/16       The Reading Café
7/17       Book Hounds
7/17       Cocktails and Books INTERVIEW
7/18       Peeking Between the Pages
7/18       Fresh Fiction GUEST BLOG
7/19       Jenny Loves to Read
7/22       Anna's Book Blog
7/23       Ramblings from This Chick
7/24       Books and Quilts
7/24       A Bookish Affair
7/25       Broken TeePee
7/26       Thoughts in Progress
7/29       Books and Needlepoint
7/30       The Reading Reviewer
7/31       Reading Between the Wines

8/1         Book of Secrets
8/2         Luxury Reading
8/5         Radiant Light
8/6         Ruby’s Reads
8/7         Caffeinated Book Review
8/8         The Romance Dish

8/9         My Book Addiction and More

Thanks to Sourcebooks for this giveaway and good luck!!!!

 © Jenny Girl - 2013 "All Rights Reserved"

HFVBT Tour Stop and Review: Gracianna by Trini Amador

Greenleaf Book Group Press
Hardcover; 296p
ISBN-10: 1608325709

From HFVBT Home Page:

The gripping story of Gracianna--a French-Basque girl forced to make impossible decisions after being recruited into the French Resistance in Nazi-occupied Paris.

Gracianna is inspired by true events in the life of Trini Amador's great-grandmother, Gracianna Lasaga. As an adult, Amador was haunted by the vivid memory of finding a loaded German Luger tucked away in a nightstand while wandering his great-grandmother's home in Southern California. He was only four years old at the time, but the memory remained and he knew he had to explore the story behind the gun.

Decades later, Amador would delve into the remarkable odyssey of his Gracianna's past, a road that led him to an incredible surprise. In Gracianna, Amador weaves fact and fiction to tell his great-grandmother's story.

Gracianna bravely sets off to Paris in the early 1940s--on her way to America, she hopes--but is soon swept into the escalation of the war and the Nazi occupation of Paris. After chilling life-and-death struggles, she discovers that her missing sister has surfaced as a laborer in Auschwitz. When she finds an opportunity to fight back against the Nazis to try to free her sister, she takes it--even if it means using lethal force.

As Amador tells the imagined story of how his great-grandmother risked it all, he delivers richly drawn characters and a heart-wrenching page-turner that readers won't soon forget.

Three Reasons Review: 

1.) Reasons you chose this book

I accepted this book for review because I've heard of the Basques and their culture has been on the fringes of a few books I have read in the past.  I wanted to learn more.  Also, WWII stories always intrigue me and this sounded like an interesting story.

2.) Reasons you liked or disliked this book

Overall I enjoyed the story.  Learning how Gracianna grew up and getting a glimpse of the mountain life that the Basques live was interesting.  The whole world grew up quickly because of WWII Gracianna included.  Amador sprinkles Basque language and proverbs throughout the story which lend atmosphere to the story.

Gracianna was quite determined to get to America and for her the way was paved through Paris. Unfortunately her timing coincided with the German occupation of the city, so a detour of sorts occurred.  Gracianna was also involved with the resistance a wee bit, but I will stop there.  I don't want to give too much away.  Her sister Constance was also given a front seat to the horrors of the war, and her story offered another perspective of these events.  Also involved in the fight against the Germans is Gracianna's childhood friend and love Juan, who offers Gracianna unending support in her times of need.  Juan was the rock that Gracianna needed.

While I enjoyed the story overall, I did have one issue and it was Gracianna herself.  What? I know she is his Grandmother.  How can I say that?  I don't know, I just felt she was a bit aloof or something.  I never connected with Gracianna for some reason.  I admired her and was amazed by her strength and inner character, but I felt like she kept her distance.  Like she was above me or something.  Sorry but this is the best explanation I can give.

3.) Reasons for recommending

I would recommend this book even though I didn't connect with Gracianna, because I feel this story offers a different perspective on WWII.  Gracianna's journey to America is unique, and shows what determination and strength of will, will help you do.  It's what that generation was made of.

To see what others thought of Gracianna, please visit one of the tour stops listed below:


Monday, July 15
Review at Peeking Between the Pages
Tuesday, July 16
Review at Flashlight Commentary
Wednesday, July 17
Review at A Book Geek
Interview & Giveaway at Flashlight Commentary
Thursday, July 18
Review at Confessions of an Avid Reader
Guest Post at Jenny Loves to Read
Friday, July 19
Review at Jenny Loves to Read
Monday, July 22
Review at A Chick Who Reads
Tuesday, July 23
Review at Reflections of a Bookaholic
Guest Post at A Chick Who Reads
Wednesday, July 24
Review at A Bookish Affair
Review at West Metro Mommy
Thursday, July 25
Review at Just One More Chapter
Interview at Layered Pages
Monday, July 29
Review at Oh, for the Hook of a Book!
Giveaway at A Writer’s Life
Tuesday, July 30
Interview & Giveaway at Oh, for the Hook of a Book!
Wednesday, July 31
Review at The True Book Addict
Thursday, August 1
Review at Impressions in Ink
Guest Post & Giveaway at The True Book Addict
Friday, August 2
Review at Savvy Verse & Wit
Monday, August 5
Review at So Many Precious Books, So Little Time
Review & Giveaway at Broken Teepee
Tuesday, August 6
Review at My Reading Room
Guest Post at So Many Precious Books, So Little Time
Wednesday, August 7
Review at So Many Books, So Little Time
Interview & Giveaway at My Reading Room
Thursday, August 8
Review at Sir Read-a-Lot
Review at Bloggin’ ‘Bout Books
Friday, August 9
Review at Diary of an Eccentric
Interview at Sir Read-a-Lot

© Jenny Girl - 2013 "All Rights Reserved"

Thursday, July 18, 2013

HFVBT Author Guest Post: Trini Amador author of Gracianna

Please give a warm welcome to Trini Amador, author of Gracianna, a story about his Grandmother living in Paris during WWII.

Why I Wrote Gracianna

by Trini Amador

Gracianna was my great-grandmother and when I was a child she used to talk a lot about being thankful. “Grateful?” Who talks to a four year old about that concept? Later in life I began linking shreds of stories I had been told with my own my beliefs to a jolting incident of being found walking around her house at four years old with a loaded German Luger. Suddenly, fifty years had gone by and it was time to tell the story about how that Luger came to be in my boy-hand. As a brand marketing executive that owns his own business I travel a lot. In the last few years I have put in over 750,000 miles worldwide and took advantage of that flying time by writing.

I live in Sonoma County, California where my family owns the lauded Gracianna Winery in the Russian River Valley but nearly all of my marketing work is outside the US.  I wrote Gracianna in over thirteen countries. Gracianna took eight months to write but nearly two years in editing with the talented Hillel Black, who has edited over 20 New York Times best sellers, and who gave Gracianna its wonderful tempo and grace notes.
This is an excerpt from the Author Afterword:

After reflecting on the legacy of powerful values and a powerful woman, we arrive here.

This is the story I have pieced together from bits I've picked up from my family, some of my own memories, and memories of memories, and well -known family stories and interviews.

The rest is how I imagined my great-grandmother would have acted, based on my observations of her worried mind; controlling tendency; and pensive inward-looking gaze; and also of my perceptions of her joy, sadness, and beliefs.

When recalling memories from your youth, sometimes pieces come to you over the years. They get woven together, re-woven and woven again until something starts “to be.” These are my recollections, facts, and beliefs, starting with my childhood, converted into my what-I-came-to-believe story. It took nearly fifty years for me to understand it myself.

Until recently, I never fully understood how much World War II, Hitler, the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp, or French freedom resistance had impacted my family and me.
The Basque have a saying, “Aldi luzeak, guztia ahaztu [With the passing of time, all things are forgotten].”

But this will not be forgotten. Gracianna’s sister miraculously did live through Birkenau, where it is estimated that between 700,000 and 1 million people were gassed, hanged, or shot.

I needed to tell the story about my lifelong belief of how that gun had gotten into my grandmother’s nightstand.

I wanted to convey my understanding of her values and what they meant to her, and what they took from her and what she gave us. I believe these values were always on her mind, never far from her always-moist, pursed lips and French-accented thoughts. I wanted to understand her values and convictions and compare them to now-values, and I wondered, “What might this generation believe in so strongly that it would cause them to act so desperately .... What is it that is so important that each of us would act upon it, based on our values, beliefs, and attitudes today?”

I wonder how distant we are from acting meaningfully.

I attended Cardinal Newman High School in California, on the kindness of friends or hardship scholarships. I was unable to go to college. But I was left with a powerful, persistent, and an ever-seeking curiosity. Unfortunately my spiritual side was one-dimensional. For example, I did not know what a “Jew” was until I was eighteen. As a kid, I had never heard of Islam, met few blacks, and lived mostly in financial and emotional distress.

But gratitude stuck with me throughout the years, from “Grandma Lasaga.” I did not understand what gratitude was until I was in my forties. When I was young, she used the word “thankful” in a powerful way.

She spoke to me as an adult, I think, hoping that this message would stay with me; maybe reasserting itself when I was able to understand. And it did.

So, I needed to bring Gracianna and her values to life, while revealing their meaning in mine.

All these years later, my family, the Amadors of Sonoma County, started Gracianna Winery as a way to express the hand-me-down gratitude of Gracianna. And now folks from all over the world share our Sonoma County wine with their friends and family.
The analogy to winemaking is not lost on my family and me.

Sheepherding families, like winemakers, know it all starts outside, in the field. A shepherd would "trail" his flock of one- to- two thousand sheep, where he would feed and water the herd in the summer. His job was to manage a huge number of lives in an enormous space, just like a vineyard. Shepherds loved these animals and knew each by sight. The shepherd had responsibility for the herd year-round, during the busy and active spring and summer, preparing for the slaughter—, but also through the dreary and lonely winter and rains.

A single herder and dog could manage thousands of animals. It was a thankless existence. This is reminiscent of the modern day vineyard manager, “herding” thousands of vines filled with life through unbearable heat and driving rain. But whether it is the vineyard manger or the herder, however, each knows it is all in the journey to grow and foster the very best you can.

Gracianna, the sheepherder’s wife, would prepare simple but gracious meals that included wine, a food staple as necessary as lamb. Her meal presentations, filled with thanks, were drawn from the heritage of thousands of years of satisfying hungry herders and families with sustenance. This effort was delivered with grace, and that is what today's descendants aim to keep alive.

Money was tight for John and Gracianna when they were running sheep in the lush hills above Santa Barbara, especially in the months before slaughter. As practiced for centuries by European sheepherders, the Lasaga’s would offer "chits" in the form of coins, good for a certain number of sheep as an IOU,  (abbreviated from the phrase "I owe you") to pay for goods and mercantile, to hold them over until the herd was sold off again the next season. “Good for 50 sheep” was on one side of the coin, establishing the value. “J. Lazaga,” probably misspelled, was on the other, establishing the debtor.

My family cherishes the single remaining coin of the five hundred minted that our great-grandparents used.

My wish is for much grace, graciousness, and gratitude in your life—from Gracianna, my great-grandmother, to you. 

 IOU for 50 sheep; privately minted during Juan & Gracianna’s struggles sheepherding in America.

If you have any questions or want to know more inside stories about the book just contact me—I would enjoy hearing from you.


Thank you very much Trini for this lovley post.  Your love and admiration for your Grandmother shines through.

Readers, please stop back tomorrow for my review of Gracianna, as part of the Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tour.

© Jenny Girl - 2013 "All Rights Reserved"