Saturday, April 29, 2017

They Call Me Alexandra Gastone & My Name is Milena Rokva by T.A. Maclagan - Book Reviews, Interview & Giveaway

Reviews by Suze
 
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Milena Rokva is a trained spy. She was given to Perun when she was a little girl. She had to leave her home country Olissa to become Alexandra Gastone. She's living with Albert, Alexandra's grandfather. He hadn't seen his granddaughter in years and the switch was made after a terrible car accident that killed Alexandra's parents. Albert works for the CIA and that is how Milena is supposed to steal secrets. Life isn't so hard. Milena is on standby, so her only job is to pretend to be Alexandra. Alexandra is smart enough to get into Princeton, she has a gorgeous boyfriend and Albert is kind and fun to live with. Just when Milena's allowing herself to make plans for her future Perun wants to activate her and they have a dangerous job for her.

Milena tries to keep her identity a secret, but that isn't easy when you share a home with someone from the CIA. Her boyfriend is also getting more suspicious with each lie she tells him. Unfortunately active spy duty isn't what Milena expected it to be at all. She isn't there to pass on secret information, Perun has a completely different job for her, they want her to do something that makes her question everything they stand for. Milena has to choose between the country of her childhood and the country she's grown to love. What will Milena decide?

They Call Me Alexandra Gastone is a gripping story. I liked T.A. Maclagan's vivid writing and immediately fell in love with this story. Milena is tough, she can fight and she's clever. She also has a big heart and the capacity to love people deeply is her strength and weakness. She has some tough decisions to make and I couldn't wait to find out where they would lead her. Her story kept me on the edge of my seat and I loved it from beginning to end.

T.A. Maclagan's fighting scenes are fabulous. I could easily picture all of Milena's adventures. I also understood her thinking. I enjoyed reading about the bad guys, the motivations behind their actions and their willingness to go as far as they would need to without any scruples. There's much adrenaline in the story and the fast pace is exactly as it should be. They Call Me Alexandra Gastone is a fantastic book.
 
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Milena Rokva doesn't have to pretend she's Alexandra Gastone anymore. She's no longer a pawn in Perun's game. Instead she's working against them together with Alexandra's grandfather Albert and his CIA colleague Brad. They have a clear mission, but when Milena discovers who her opponents actually are the situation becomes much more personal than she would have ever imagined.

While trying to be a good girlfriend and a dutiful granddaughter Milena also has to discover who she really is. She doesn't hesitate in a crisis and knows what to do to get the job done, but that doesn't mean she doesn't feel anything. Perun has failed in that aspect, she isn't a coldhearted person who can kill without a problem. Milena's heart is her strongest asset. After everything she's given up will she eventually be able to be truly free or will Perun take everything she holds dear from her once more?

My Name is Milena Rokva is another fantastic action-packed story. T.A. Maclagan has written two amazing books. I immediately liked this second book and enjoyed it just as much as They Call Me Alexandra Gastone. The secrets, the lies and the inevitable coming out of the truth are sensational. Milena finally has the chance to be herself and she has a great personality. I loved witnessing the gradual change and she becomes a stronger person because of it. Her heart is what makes her unique though, she loves fiercely and passionately. That's what gives the story the spirit that makes it so good.

T.A. Maclagan's writing flows easily. I read this duology in one sitting, because I was extremely curious to know how the story would end. There are many unexpected twists and turns and I loved the level of suspense. The ending is surprising and T.A. Maclagan gives her readers a couple of wonderful last chapters, which felt like receiving a birthday and Christmas gift at the same time. I liked these books very much and highly recommend them. There are plenty of thrills, unconditional love and complex political actions, there's a fascinating plot and the ending is sweet. The result is a fabulous complete package

Advice

If you like spy stories you don't want to miss this amazing duology.
 
About T.A. Maclagan
 

T.A. Maclagan is a Kansas girl by birth but now lives in the bush-clad hills of Wellington, New Zealand with her Kiwi husband, son and four pampered cats. With a bachelor’s degree in biology and a Ph.D. in anthropology, she’s studied poison dart frogs in the rainforests of Costa Rica, howler monkeys in Panama and the very exotic and always elusive American farmer. It was as she was writing her ‘just the facts’ dissertation that T.A. felt the call to pursue something more imaginative and discovered a passion for creative writing. They Call Me Alexandra Gastone is her first novel.
 
Interview

1. Can you tell a bit about yourself?

I’m an expat American living in New Zealand, a country I adore. It’s postcard beautiful at every turn. I’m married and have an adorable little hobbit who calls me mom. I have a Ph.D. in Anthropology that I used for a grand total of 3 years before deciding academia wasn’t for me, but I wouldn’t change a thing because it led me to NZ, my husband and to writing.

2. You write about spies, what’s so fascinating about them?

I love the issues of identity that come with being a spy. I especially loved exploring them for my character Alexandra, who is a teen and has been trained as a spy from a very young age. Who are you if you’re always pretending to be someone else? Your teen years are about discovering and forming your identity, but how does that work as a spy? Also, what kind of relationships can you form if you can never be truly honest with the people around you? I found questions like these really drove me as I was writing.

3. How did you get the idea for the Alexandra Gastone duology?

I was watching the movie Salt with Angelina Jolie. She plays a Russian sleeper who was inserted into the US as a child with the goal being her pursuing a career in the CIA as an adult. The movie shows a small snippet of her as kid before her insertion and this got me thinking about what it would be like to be a teen sleeper agent and what might go down if they had to be activated early. I wasn’t writing anything creatively at this point, but that’s when I got the idea for the story!

4. You’ve studied and traveled a lot, what kind of influence does that have on your writing?

I love traveling because I think you learn so much when you’re amongst people of another culture, both about them and about yourself. It’s good to wander out of your comfort zone every now and again! I definitely love to throw in international settings in my writing as well as have characters from different cultures. As an ex-anthropologist, I find culture fascinating and hope to spark people’s interest in exploration and adventure abroad.

5. Can you describe Alexandra Gastone’s character in 6 words?

Kick-ass heroine with an identity crisis. (I cheated a little with the hyphenated word)

6. How/When did you discover you wanted to be a writer?

I’ve always made up stories in my head but the thought of writing a book was something that never occurred to me. It was too daunting. But then I had to write my dissertation and it was over 300 pages…and really, really boring. That got me thinking that if I could write 300 + pages of mostly coherent anthropological mumbo jumbo, then I could and should write something that was actually fun, something with a girl kicking butt and a side-order of romance!

7. Your heroine is smart and strong, what’s so important about powerful female main characters?

I want my characters to be role models. I want girls and women to know that they have power and are awesome. The way women are treated as second class citizens still, in this day and age, amazes me. We as women have come far, but not far enough. Growing up, there were a number of female fictional characters that influenced me: Wonder Woman, Buffy, Nikita, Veronica Mars. It was partially my love of characters like these that made me believe I could do anything. I had real life heroes too, like Jane Goodall that also made me believe, but fictional characters played a big part in shaping me into someone who’s not going to take sexism lying down.

8. What are your favorite kind of books and why?


As you can probably guess from my previous answers, I love a good story where the heroine kicks butt. I love Katniss and Tris for example. More recently, I loved Winter from Vicarious. That said, the book I’m currently working on is a non-thriller contemporary with no murder and mayhem, so I’ve been reading a lot of YA coming-of-age contemporaries like I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson and I’m finding that I love them just as much. Nelson, Green, Albertalli, Federle are all authors who have wowed me. I read a fair amount before writing Alexandra Gastone, mainly mysteries, but it wasn’t until I found YA that my reading really exploded. I went from reading maybe 35 books a year to reading over a 100. I’d found my genre. So I guess, generally speaking, my favorite kind of books are young adult.

9. When and how do you write, do you have an organized schedule or do you write when you get inspired?

I definitely fall into the organized schedule category! Now that I’ve found writing, I pretty much want to do it every day. I sit down around 9 am after I’ve dropped my son at school and try to get a good two to three hours of writing in. As much as I love writing, if I don’t get it done early in the day, it won’t get done. My mind gets too cluttered with other things and I can’t focus.

10. What are your plans for the future?


My main plan is to write lots more books. If someone had told me as a teen that I’d be pursuing a career as an author, I would have told them they were crazy. I was pretty much biology or bust. But I’m more than a little thankful my path led me to writing. It brings me so much joy and pleasure. I’m currently plotting out a new thriller in preparation!
 
Giveaway 

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One very lucky reader of With Love for Books will receive Kindle copies of They Call Me Alexandra Gastone and My Name is Milena Rokva.
 
 
The winner will be notified by email and has 3 days to respond. All of our giveaways are international.

11 comments:

  1. The book review sounds intriguing. Thanks for sharing. Love the covers and interview too.

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  2. These books sound intriguing and like so much fun. I'd definitely check out more of this author.

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  3. never heard of this author

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  4. Oh! Love a good spy novel. Gorgeous cover .

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  5. Love the cover! So eye-catching!

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  6. Love the cover, bet the contents live up to the promise!! xx

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  7. Thanks for the giveaway.

    mia2009(at)comcast(dot)net

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  8. Looks like an intriguing book. There is a good chance that will be made into a movie in the future.

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  9. This books sounds really great, can't wait to read it. Thanks for the giveaway!
    Ann S

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