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Fly by Night: A Riveting Spy Thriller

Fly by Night: A Riveting Spy Thriller (Michelle Reagan Book 3) by [Scott Shinberg, Becky Stephens]

Michelle is a CIA agent. She is good at her job, matter-of-fact, and knows when to pull back and avoid becoming emotionally involved in her assignments. Bella, however, changes all of that. When Michelle’s tactical team rescues Bella from an abusive and tortuous situation in Mosul, everything Michelle thought she understood about herself changes. Bella, kidnapped and held for two years by her captors, struggles to acclimate to life outside again, but Michelle, the reluctant chaperone, begins to make great strides in Bella’s reentry into a normal life. On a trip to New York City, Bella is kidnapped again–or is she?

Fly by Night, by Scott Shinberg, is book 3 in the Michelle Reagan spy series. The main character is outspoken, has her own set of quirks, and gets the job done. She is a likable main character whose actions and reactions keeps readers on their toes. Her determination and resolve to find out what has happened to Bella, the woman she had just begun to take under wing, is admirable and enviable.

I am drawn to characters who are richly developed and undergo major changes in levels of empathy. Michelle is a prime example of characters who do a complete turnabout. Though she maintains her rough and ready exterior, she clearly allows a soft spot to grow for the embattled Bella and the incredibly horrific journey she has endured.

Shinberg addresses sexual abuse and kidnapping, which may be triggering for some readers. Bella’s experience is one some readers may find uncomfortable reading about though Shinberg expertly weaves it into the story line and uses it to facilitate character development.

Bella’s kidnapping takes a very unexpected turn and, for me, changed the whole tone of the story to that point. I can’t say it was an unwelcome change, but it was definitely not what I had anticipated. Shinberg’s approach is unique and fits well into the genre.

Though Shinberg’s book is by and large, a fiction work that falls under the spy heading, the author manages to include bits of history and culture along the way. In many ways, Shinberg has made his book all the more believable as readers find themselves hit periodically with references to historical events.

I would recommend Fly by Night to anyone who enjoys the spy genre and is a fan of strong female characters. Michelle Reagan is a stand-out in this genre, and Fly by Night is a must-read.

Pages: 259 | ASIN: B08DLYY5LZ

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Pandora’s Gardener

Pandora's Gardener

John Cranston had no aspirations to be a spy. He was a gardener for goodness sake, and enjoyed the mediocrity that came with the job. But as is often the case, the unexpected came knocking and suddenly John found himself in the middle of a plot involving an old friend, the Russians, secret societies, and crooked cops- just to name a few. To make matters worse, they all seemed to think he was on par with them in regards to secrets and skills. As each day pulls him further from his business as usual, John has to uncover and help stop a sinister conspiracy that is revealed to be a matter of world security. 

Pandora’s Gardener by David Mason is a fun and fast paced thriller that tows the line between the serious espionage of James Bond and the absurd escapades of Austin Powers. With each new obstacle that John comes across, Mason does an expert job of weaving the stories together until the reader is effectively hooked. To keep the mood from getting too heavy, even the situations that provide a real degree of danger are met with a ridiculous sense of humor that helps keep the events moving right along. It’s a classic tale of “good guys” versus “bad guys” but crafted in a way that makes it difficult to determine which is which, since so many of the characters are delightfully charming. The notable exception of course is our unlikely hero who insists, time and time again, that despite his apparent skills, he really is just a gardener. No one believes that, and hijinks ensue.

The sheer amount of plot lines, characters, and double crosses could potentially make for a dense and unreadable story, but instead everything works in perfect synch. As mentioned before, Mason is superb at crafting the story, ensuring that there is always something new around the corner, even as other loose ends are resolved. Every character adds a distinct flavor to the story, no matter how briefly they may appear, and while some of them aren’t given the resolution they may deserve, it doesn’t affect the tone of the book.

Pandora’s Gardner was enjoyable and fun to read from start to finish and if there is any complaint I have, it’s that it was long enough to consistently surprise me with its new developments, and that it never fully fleshed out John’s past, which was referred to occasionally. Even at that, I was never disappointed. It maintained an excellent balance between goofy and serious while John consistently plays the part of reluctant spy perfectly.

Pages: 466

Callie’s Ghost

Callie’S Ghost by [Christian, James]

You know you’ve started a good mystery story when within the first few pages you’re hooked and questions are flying. Ben is eagerly awaiting a trip to Morocco that he has been planning to undertake for some time when he’s given an offer. From here the book takes the reader on an exploration of how money is used around the globe to sponsor terrorists and undermine countries. The pace picks up quickly, and the intrigue is built up well, making the book hard to put down.

Author James Christian’s career as a university professor at universities around the world shows as he builds up the different locations in the novel. I really felt like I was being taken across the world as I was zipped from the United States to Morocco. The writing style is clean and descriptive. It’s clear that Christian really understands how to pull together an engaging plot and create characters that feel real and easily pull the story along.

From the very beginning of this book, I found myself questioning everything. Government employees, a secret offer, an international trip, and add to that the mysterious title of the story. I was sucked in and was captivated beginning to end. This has an exciting plot that really makes you think about the world around you. Christian was very successful on this front as he was able to deliver a clear message with a thought-provoking plot while never sounding preachy.

The story is action packed and full of fun twists and turns that kept me on my toes. I really liked Ben as a character. He’s smart and dedicated to his job and shows a lot of passion. He’s a great vessel through which to enter into this story. If you like international mystery stories, or political corruptions and espionage stories, then I would definitely suggest that you pick up this book. A unique and wonderfully written story.

Pages: 258 | ASIN:  B0794ZKBHH

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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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The New Holy Warriors

The New Holy Warriors by [Sandoval, Alice ]

The world as he knows it is crumbling around him. Marc Bravo has just seen the twin towers in New York City fall and terrorism is on the minds of every American and dominates conversations across the globe. September 11, 2001 marks the beginning of a string of events that will change Marc’s life in a way he could never have predicted. When his parents go missing from their volunteer work with Doctors Without Borders, Marc drops everything to find them and bring them home safely. What Marc can never predict is what he will learn about their kidnappers, their true intentions, and how the entire world may ultimately be affected.

Alice Sandoval’s The New Holy Warriors is a timely piece detailing the events following the September 11th attack on the United States. Sandoval takes the story beyond the accounts that we have all seen and heard and breaks down the symbolism of the event itself. In addition, the author lays out for readers a story like no other as she follows Marc Bravo on a quest to find his missing parents who are assumed to have been kidnapped. Marc’s story and his journey for answers is based on true events and is stunning in every way.

One of the most striking elements included in Sandoval’s work is the way in which Islamophobia is addressed. In a very straightforward manner, the author reminds us all of the horrific treatment of anyone appearing to be of Middle Eastern descent. Via her main character, Marc, she drives home the fact that stereotyping immediately following September 11th was rampant and a danger to countless numbers of innocent people.

Another aspect of Sandoval’s story, which might go unnoticed by many, is the description she gives of the strange incidents in the skies above Mexico. Marc is treated to an elaborate explanation of the event and is informed that UFO sightings above Mexico are fairly commonplace. As this book reads as primarily nonfiction, it is almost chilling to listen in on the characters’ conversation about these “cigar-shaped” ships. As an added bonus to the already curious events, Sandoval includes the story of a suspected relationship between the Mayans, the pyramids, and Martians. The casual conversation included in this story inspired by real events is not in the least out of place, but it is truly fascinating.

Sandoval does not shy away from sharing the abject horror involved in terrorism and the groups involved. With color photographs and blatant captions, Sandoval openly shows readers the brutality carried out by organizations like Al Qaeda. If there was ever any doubt in the reader’s mind about the capabilities and intentions of terrorist organizations, Sandoval wipes it completely away with one swift stroke of the pen.

The New Holy Warriors is a fascinating and eye-opening account of terrorism as viewed through the lives of ordinary citizens. Marc, his brother, and best friend are the vessels by which Sandoval delivers an amazing story readers will wish was just that–simply a story.

Pages: 373 | ASIN: B0784QR76B

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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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