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Raven and the Code Book

Raven Anderson is a bad ass femme fatale secret agent detective killer who uses her skills, intelligence and sex appeal to get answers. This woman is not to be messed with or it may be the last thing you do. Raven was born into the life of a trained killer and secret spy working for an agency known as The Foundation. This is the third book in the Raven Anderson series and she is back to kick ass and take names. If you haven’t read the other two books, you will be fine with the brief synopsis at the beginning of this book. Soon you will get to know Raven very well!

Together with her friend Naci, she is given the mission to protect Professor Raymond Steele until he can reveal his groundbreaking solution to the world’s biggest issues, a solution, apparently, that has the big powers of the world scrambling to shut it down for fear of threats to power. Raven takes on the challenge with determination and killer instinct. It doesn’t take long for this mission to become intense. The Professor is in danger before Raven can get to him and his wife has been taken as a way to get the code book. From here, this book is a non-stop thrill ride punctuated by violence and sexiness, but also some light-hearted humor and interesting relationships. Its great fun as the author takes the reader all over the world, almost like getting to be a Go-Pro attached to an international spy! She goes up against some pretty rough characters, like the thuggish Boris Alexi, who is desperately seeking the code book. This story has a great arch with an exciting ending.

I quite liked the Naci Vacara character and thought that she balanced Raven’s character. Raven is a character that is intriguing because she is so well developed, nuanced, and dynamic. This is a labor of love and a truly enjoyable read that is both quick and fun. This is perfect if you are looking for something a little edgy but easy to digest.

Pages: 328 | ISBN: 1730750575

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The Chosen

The Chosen by [Corbitt, Ray]

The Chosen by Ray Corbitt is an interesting that is perfect for the fans of the political thriller genre. It’s substantially deep and entertaining.

A program is put into place to create a pool of leaders who are trained from a young age with certain values not easily found within the societies they are destined to lead. The children are from a variety of backgrounds, but they all share the fact that they are highly intelligent and display the potential necessary to lead.

There are many positive aspects of The Chosen but the one that strikes the loudest is the realism that is interlaced with imagination. The people, the places, and even the situations are all believable to the point that it really doesn’t take much work on the part of your reader to picture everything being described as if it were news of some real event. The lives seem real, the pain and suffering feel authentic, and the author does a fantastic job leading the reader through the lives on display.

I felt that the character introductions, while well described, could have been a bit less formulaic. I would have appreciated more variety with the character introductions. That said, the characters were very well developed and varied making them both believable and easy to form relationships with. Creating characters that seem as though they have been plucked straight out of real life can be a bit of a challenge for even the most seasoned authors but Corbitt certainly has a talent for it.

The only other complaint is more of a preference issue than anything else. The descriptive style employed by Corbitt for The Chosen strays a bit from the treasured ‘show, don’t tell’ philosophy that controls how the writer’s world opens itself up into the readers mind. I would have preferred more contextual clues to the straight descriptions offered.

For a short read directed squarely readers begging for a good suspense novel, The Chosen deserves four out of five stars for its originality and ability to bring readers into the writer’s world.

Pages: 182 | ASIN: B0794Y4WLD

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Raven Gone Rogue

Raven Gone Rogue by [Fennell, John]

Raven Gone Rogue is the second book in John Fennel II’s series which follows on from Raven and The Panther. It picks up the story with Raven, an agent, who is relaxing in her Florida hideout when her colleague Morgan tells her that they’ve been found and need to escape. Bullets come coursing through the air from a familiar enemy, The Foundation. Raven recognizes the enemy agents attacking her and the tension builds from there.

This confrontation leads to a fast-paced boat chase with the two Foundation agents frantically pursuing Raven. But Raven confidently takes control of the situation. She trusts in her abilities and decides to show off her innate skills and her specialist training. Ultimately Raven is a highly skilled and therefore very effective agent. This makes her a formidable enemy.

The prose is rich with onomatopoeia and vivid descriptions making it easy for the reader to visualize the chaos, be it a spray of bullets or a shower of shrapnel. The reader thus engages with the various elements of the adventure as it unfolds. Each scene plays out like a movie. In one instance switching between Morgan and Raven, keeping the flow of the action and constantly building tension and suspense as the reader follows both of these integral characters.

Despite the desperate and often critical situations, Raven is consistently calm and collected, always analyzing the situation and preparing her next move. Furthermore, the relationships that the characters build carry with them a sense of realism which at points – particularly at moments of remembering past trauma – communicates the feelings and motivations of the characters well.

The book comes with a brilliant energy. An impetus that moves through the first book and into this one, which is always forwarding the narrative and taking Raven into new situations.

Therefore, I give this book a four out of five for its in-depth development of its protagonist. Raven is such an interesting character to follow as she always seems prepared and she has an interesting approach to her line of work. Her confidence pervades every move that she makes, she knows she’s good at her job and she is not afraid to show off her talents. I would recommend this book to people who enjoy fiction that includes secret agents going off grid. The twists and turns in the narrative means that this book may appeal to those who enjoy some mystery mixed in with the action.

Pages: 231 | ASIN: B07M8PC5H1

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Friends of The Tsar

Friends of the Tsar: Miracles from Petrograd to the Outback by [de Graaff, Jon]

Friends of the Tsar, by Jon de Graaff, is a story about the author’s “Aristocratic Grandparent’s harrowing escape from the Russian Revolution of February 1917.”  The story starts near Petrograd, Russia in 1916 with Vera and George, with George and his mother, Adelaide, saving Vera from a wolf attack. They are at the country estate of George’s father, Baron Alexander Zuckschwerdt. Adelaide and Alexander are very much aristocrats. Vera and George are not on board with the aristocratic ways of their parents. Vera, who also came from an aristocratic family, started rejecting her parents’ ways after Bloody Sunday when even children were killed during a protest.

Vera has ten sisters. Three of them come to stay with her. Monica is 16. Mary is 15. Natty is 10. Vera often gets strong premonitions when something bad is about to happen. Blue is Alexander’s friend. He is an Australian cattle breeder. He comes to stay as well. Blue saves Natty from choking. He learned how to do it on a chance visit with friends. Vera sees it as meant to be. Blue tells story after story of things that happened that seem to have a lot of coincidences. Vera does not see them as coincidences at all. He dismissed them as being luck in the past. He now thinks differently.

The family finds itself in trouble. The country is in trouble. Their money is not worth as much. The people in the country are starving. The family decides that they need to leave. Blue offers to let them stay with him in Australia. Alexander books passage for himself, George, Blue, Vera and the girls for February 27, 1917. The story goes on from there to cover how they escaped and the challenges they faced as they did.

I felt that the story could not decide on what the book was going to be. As I went from chapter to chapter, I felt like many of the chapters could have been stand-alone chapters and were not connected very well. It lacked continuity. There are different stories being told that don’t seem to reach any conclusions. At first, I thought the book was going to be a love story about Vera and George. After the first chapter or so, they seemed forgotten and the book focused on Blue’s stories. Then it would jump to near misses while trying to escape and spy stories. I found myself confused a few time. The language seemed a bit stilted and formal and did not flow like normal dialogue in places.

There is a good story in the book though it would benefit from a bit more organization. The author writes well. Some of the stories were definitely interesting. Some of the story lines had definite possibility and begged for further development as the characters were intriguing and were usually placed in exotic locations.

Pages: 126 | ASIN: B071ZQ6CG8

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What Choices We Make

Samrat Mitra Author Interview

Samrat Mitra Author Interview

The Incidental Jihadi follows Len as he begins to realize there is a complicated game being played between the communist and the west. What was the inspiration for the idea behind this thrilling novel?

Back in 2012 the coverage on the Syrian crisis was quite rampant on the news with the images of high profile Caucasian victims in orange being executed by the vanguard in black. Around that time after a few freak clicks on the web I came across the recorded brutalities against Syrian civilians on what was surely an underground website. There lay cataloged in various categories the shootings, be-headings and post bomb blast videos taken in Aleppo, Idlib and a few remote unnamed Syrian villages.After confirming the authenticity of the videos and their location a few times(which was probably the most shocking and challenging research I had ever done) those unknown victims begged to be heard. I realised that no one was truly reporting the situation on the ground and ‘the news’ is not just about facts like the body count! The news broadcasters were just screening out the details to reduce this ongoing tragedy to a mere topic for the fortnight. No one wants to see a beheading while shoveling food in their mouths and I get that. But we must make room in people’s minds on the actual impact of any war for that matter and that needs to be done with realism which is on the ground and preferably not censored. This formed an idea to read beyond the news and perceive it’s reality and the inspiration stayed throughout till I completed the novel.

Len is an interesting character that is motivated by his family and their safety. What were some themes you wanted to explore with his character?

Len could be anyone of us who is physically able and a well educated immigrant living in a country where his efforts pay him excellent results. However none of us are actually ever prepared for what the future holds for us and what choices we make if we are faced with distressing situations beyond our control mould us as a human being. Far from being perfect and having a slightly sycophantic bend
he will do what his superior asks him to do even if it seemed ethically wrong and this trait is quite human especially in ambitious individuals. Len is reckless in his ambition and he makes the mistake
of involving his wife Sara in a project that had a warning light beeping on it from the word ‘go’. He descends into rage anger and depression as they are marooned in the remote city of Qatmah, this is
again a denial in his own mind of the rash choices he had made to appease his superior and endangered the one person he loved. Wave after wave of shocking transformation in Len(his acceptance of a life in Qatmah, the change in his identity, his family’s abduction) and how he chose to accept it as a man shows how his character metamorphosed from someone in denial to someone who takes responsibility and acts appropriately and this is where Naim seems to be his alter ego but they are really the same person. I was hoping to show that come whatever a situation in life, the man who survives the longest is the one who does not live in denial of the responsibility of his actions. I wanted to explore his ability to keep doing the right thing even in the face of inevitable catastrophe.

The story is vivid and detailed in it’s account of people and places. What research did you undertake for this novel?

Besides the research into the distressing underground video material on the executions, I started reading up on the Middle Eastern conflict to understand it’s origins starting right after the end of the Second World war particularly around the time when the United States started exerting it’s political clout over Britain and France back in the fifties. That was just for historical perspective though as my perception changed after I met a few of the Syrians who had come to London to take refuge( we would never call them refugees, it just seemed a derogatory term to use). Their stories told in straight english sentences was as heartbreaking as it could be and the videos, the history and their accounts all tied together with the information I gathered from Arabic and African news journals. This was a point of view that people seldom saw and that is what I brought into the novel. In terms of geographical locations, names and places mentioned throughout the novel, they are all actual places and the actual novel gets more gripping when you lookup the places on, say, google maps and find that every bit of the descriptions including terrain, the people and even the castle. They are wonderful examples of actual places that are existing on the edge of the war and peace that keeps waxing and waning over the region.

What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?

I don’t believe I have completed Len’s development yet and there was a huge though entirely unintentional open end in this book: that of the fate of his wife. Len and Sara have a way of staying in my head, so there will be a final conclusion on their fate in my next book. I learnt a few lessons from my first novel, The Incidental Jihadi and this time I want to do justice to Sara and Len and the people they
have known and cared about. For this reason this is going to take at least a year in development and a year in editing. I just want it to be perfect.

Author Links: GoodReadsFacebookWebsite

The Incidental Jihadi: An alternative point of view by [Mitra, Samrat]Twenty-nine year old geologist/surveyor, Len Berkowicz has everything to live for: a wonderful companion and a successful career working for a major oil exploration company when his career mentor and friend, Eric decides to send him to a risk prone oil exploration project in the Golan Heights.

In his journey he assimilates the true nature of the ‘holy war’ through the eyes of his comrades, realising that a far more complicated and subtle ‘game’ played between the communist and capitalist powers on the ground.

Will Len succeed in his mission that seemed doomed right from its inception?

Can those of us living in the West be able to keep the dust at bay on our home turf when we decimate every Arabian state to rubble?

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The Misplaced Man

The Misplaced Man: Who is in charge of his destiny? by [James, Nick]

Sam Blades is not your ordinary twenty-something. He has a girlfriend whose abuse he relishes, a job with company whose name could and should be attributed to that of a lingerie label, and an almost absurd fixation with The Matrix. Sam is, on the other hand, a curiosity to more than one person of interest. His job with Shimmering Dreams has made him a target, and poor Sam is none the wiser. Shimmering Dreams capitalizes on the technology that makes it possible to download one’s dreams and store them on mobile devices. Sam, caught in the middle of the “greatest invention its age” and the conspiracy surrounding its misuse, is about to meet face to face with those who want him out of the picture once and for all.

The Misplaced Man by Nick James is a short story/novella centering around Sam Blades, a young man newly-employed and eager to please his beyond demanding girlfriend, Bunny. Nick James is a master at humor, and his main character is his chosen vessel. Not meant entirely as a work of comedy, James provides several laugh-out-loud moments as Sam struggles in his day-to-day life with Bunny. It is rare for me to find the written word comical enough to emit an audible guffaw, but James definitely delivers. Sam’s personality more than makes the book; he is a memorable character in his own right and is well-developed in first-person accounts.

James’s choice to alternate chapters with varying first-person accounts is quite effective. The story, though brief, is packed full of descriptive and revealing scenarios which serve well to differentiate each character. As the reader, I was easily able to discern which character was taking his turn at bat without having to rely on the chapter title–James is just that good at character development.

It is worth noting that The Misplaced Man is a combination of realistic fiction and science fiction but leans heavily on the realistic fiction element. The book is much more about each character’s own personal conflicts than the underlying component of groundbreaking technology. As interesting as the concept of capturing dreams is, it is explored and detailed much less than some science fiction fans will likely expect.

Sam Blades is ruthlessly humorous and has the makings of a fantastic central character for his ensuing series. I recommend Nick James’s short story to anyone looking for a quick science fiction piece with strong characters laced with humor.

Pages: 155 | ASIN: B07K3Q6QRD

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The Emerald Cave

The Emerald Cave (Ramsey Series Book 3) by [McPike, James]

The Emerald Cave by James B. McPike is a fast novel. It’s not fast in the sense that it’s a short read. Rather, The Emerald Cave works by having prose and plotting that takes readers for a whirlwind of a story that involves action, firefights, terrorists, heists, and a dozen other elements that contribute to an engaging and incredibly engrossing novel. Being the third in its series, The Emerald Cave follows the story of Vince Ramsey, an Israeli detective searching for an arms dealer whose whereabouts are murky at best. He enlists the help of April Fulton, an expert on historical artifacts, and the two set off on an epic investigative chase that brings them from one part of the world to the another, with obstacles and betrayal meeting them each step of the way. The book is fast, and it starts off with a tense standoff initiated by terrorists of the Hezbollah organization. From there, the plot takes no chances, pushing onward with a feverish speed that helps heighten the book’s sense of urgency and impact. This is juxtaposed by appropriately placed moments of quiet that allows both the characters and the readers to ponder on events as they unfurl.

Beyond these points, The Emerald Cave shines in its effective usage of characterization. The relationship between April Fulton and Vince Ramsey highlight a realistic dynamic that allows the two to play off one another. Sequences in which the two work together in solving a puzzle or identifying various clues reveal key differences in the characters’ logical approaches and methodologies that help make each character feel individual. In certain moments, I found myself working out these puzzles with April and Vince, identifying my own thought processes and “aha!” moments in conjunction with their own. At the same time, there is a clear sense of growth these two protagonists go through as the novel moves forward and while some trends are easy to note, this sense of maturity one finds is rare in many stories today. This characterization is aided by James B. McPike’s effective prose. Sentences are generally terse and filled with the details necessary for the story. Long, drawn-out sections are rare to find and each word McPike utilizes is one that is necessary for the story being conveyed. This helps create a tense atmosphere that works incredibly well with the fast plotting designed by McPike.

As a whole, The Emerald Cave by James B. McPike is an incredible story that doesn’t let up. Events fly at neck-breaking speeds while readers becoming connected with the protagonists as everyone tries to uncover the mysteries and secrets the story presents. While the story could have used some additional quiet moments in order to allow the reader to collect themselves before continuing onward, The Emerald Cove remains an engrossing piece. The stories narrative design and effective characterization makes this story an incredible journey and an enjoyable ride.

Pages: 215 | ASIN: B07DSRKWR1

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The Misplaced Man – Trailer

When Sam Blades starts work at Shimmering Dreams, he hopes to climb the promotional ladder and bring security for himself and his girlfriend. Hailed as the greatest invention of its age, he would be working on new technology that downloads your dreams to your phone.

But, unbeknown to him, somebody behind the scenes is pulling the strings.

What lengths will someone go to when they are forced to repay a debt? Is Sam being set up as the fall guy to take the blame for dreams being used for nefarious activities? Who ends up taking matters into their own hands with drastic consequences?

Follow Sam’s tongue-in-cheek journey through a world of industrial espionage where he blindly battles against an alcohol-fuelled boss, a corrupt copper, a revenge-seeking hitman and a tone-deaf busker.

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The War Zone

Jolene Grace Author Interview

Jolene Grace Author Interview

Going Dark follows Amelia as she tries to help journalists that have been kidnapped which has sparked an international incident. What was the inspiration for the setup to this thrilling novel?

The idea of ‘Going Dark’ started to form in my mind as I spent nights working on the foreign desk at CBS. Those nights, I was alone in the entire studio, watching incoming video feed from our military forces stationed in Iraq. In 2006-07, the war was in full swing and we received daily updates on the progress and struggle people were facing during the war. The war zone wasn’t too far off from our foreign correspondent team stationed in Iraq, reporting from there. As I was sitting at my desk, I envisioned Amelia Sinclair (a foreign liaison in Going Dark) how hard and challenging must be to be separated from your family when your job takes you away from them, especially if you have young children.

Amelia and Jets are dynamic characters that are enigmatic and empathetic. What were some themes you wanted to capture in their characters? 

Amelia had to sacrifice her career when she became a mother. Having children was not something she had planned on doing, but when it happened, she made the decision to stay back and take a desk job.

However, her thirst for adventure never fully went away. So, when her boss, Harold Fost, approached her with a proposition to oversee a covert assignment, she simply couldn’t resist. But Murphy’s Law tipped the scale against her and her friends and co-workers get kidnapped. I wanted ordinary people, the readers, who juggle work and family life to be able to relate to her and to the choices she makes along the way on this journey.

Jets is a complicated guy. He’d seen things most of us have not, working as a spy for the CIA. To me, he was interesting because, he believed in the cause set forth by the CIA, but he still had conscious and when he sees the wrong person is being blamed for crimes that she didn’t commit; he has to put aside his oath to the CIA and go with his guts, even if that decision could cost him his career.

This is an exciting novel on par with Robert Ludlum or Tom Clancy novels. Did you start writing with this in mind of did this happen organically? 

Tom Clancy was a master at setting up an engaging plot and building action in his novels. He is certainly an influencer in my writing. Another writer whom I admire is John Le Carre, unquestionably the undisputed father of spy thrillers. Both of these writers are exceptional.

What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?

I recently finished writing the second book in the Gabriel Jets series, called Political Whispers. Jets is a castaway in Afghanistan, having accepted a covert position, offered to him by Robert McKaine. Jets is in charge of a secretive drone program, most on Capitol Hill don’t know it even exists. The second book has more military overture and is action packed. Political Whispers is slated for release in early 2019.

Author Links: GoodReadsTwitter | Website

Going Dark (Gabriel Jets Book 1) by [Grace, Jolene]Gabriel Jets is the CIA’s top agent, a man with a reputation of getting the job done, no matter the price. On a rare visit back to the States, Jets is dispatched to collect a video depicting the kidnapping of four U.S. journalists working undercover in Damascus, Syria. 

Meanwhile, the U.S. president and his chief of staff, Robert McKaine, are called to the Situation Room to receive a briefing. Damascus is rocked by a terrorist plot that killed twenty-five innocent people. 

A link between the two events is quickly discovered, with evidence pointing to the involvement of another U.S. journalist, Amelia Sinclair, a prominent foreign correspondent, with direct ties to the missing.

While Jets hunts for the video, he crosses paths with Amelia. In a blink of an eye, his mission is compromised as he believes she is being set up to be the fall guy. 

As the U.S. government closes in to arrest Sinclair, Jets alters his assignment to help clear her name and track down the powerful men behind the ploy to draw in the country into an international scandal. 

If Jets fails, the country he swore to protect, will go dark.

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Going Dark

Going Dark (Gabriel Jets Book 1) by [Grace, Jolene]

Amelia Sinclair, a foreign correspondent liaison for CWG news network, had worked on the bottom floor of the UN in a renovated steam-room for the last four years. Upon receiving a suspicious email with the subject line as her name written in Farsi, she opened the link embedded within to see a horrifying video. Fellow journalists, whom she knew personally, confronted with masked assailants. Going Dark follows Amelia as she tries to help her fellow journalists, one of which, whom she was very close to.

Simultaneously, the beginnings of a media frenzy are in the works as the government tries to prevent a leak of the video. To add to the chaos, a bomb detonates in Damascus, just outside of the hotel where the journalists had been staying before they were kidnapped. With 25 pronounced dead in Damascus, 4 American journalists kidnapped, and a seemingly related murder of a man on the streets of Brooklyn, everyone is on high-alert.

The author, Jolene Grace, gives two distinct perspectives throughout the novel. The first is the journey of Amelia Sinclair, from the UN basement level media department to a loft in Brooklyn. The reporter finds herself hurried along by her superiors as she tries her best to protect her fellow journalists who are held captive; whilst she herself is considered to be a suspect in their detainment.

The second perspective is from the inside of The White House, where the President is working on how to spin the situation to his advantage to gain a second term, whilst others are trying to hurry the CIA to gather intelligence. Equally, discussions are being had as to who to bribe and who can be trusted. This gives the novel a lot of freedom to explore espionage on multiple levels. An example of these two perspectives working together is when a sniper takes aim at Amelia Sinclair; Agent Jets is nearby and tries to help, whereas from inside the white house he has dropped off the radar.

Going Dark is full of tension, built up by a switching of perspectives at crucial moments, allowing the reader to hear both sides of the story. As the government tries to keep a lid on the story that numerous media outlets are trying to expose to the public, the reporter Amelia Sinclair tries to save her fellow reporters whilst being hunted down.

The reader, the characters and at times Amelia herself, question why she received the video in the first place. However, we also get the sense that she knows more than she is letting on. Among the possibility that there’s a government mole, leaked CIA safe-house locations, government tracking and a sniper on one’s doorstep, it’s hard to know who is the ‘good guy’ and who to trust.

Through it all there is a real sense of connection with the characters. For instance, Amelia is plunged into a situation where everything seems out of control. Sitting in a Philadelphia CIA stash-house and all she wants to do is call home to her daughter, Ava, and make sure she’s safe.

Jolene Grace creates so much tension in the book as none of the characters know, or at least don’t seem to know, the full story of what is going on. The author develops the characters superbly, and a real sense of empathy is created. But there is a fragility in knowing them as it’s hard to tell if they will live to see the next chapter or not. Everyone is at risk and everyone is on high-alert.

Pages: 399 | ASIN: B07H8WV36R

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