Giveaway & Review: The Good Spy Dies Twice by Mark H. Hosack

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Narrator: Mark H. Hosack

Publisher: Wide Awake Audio (2017)

Length: 10 hours 20 minutes

Series: Book 1 The Bulleseye Series

Author’s Page

Jake Boxer was a brilliant newscaster, shining a light on the world’s wrongs. However, in Russia with the death of Brody (the soundman), things spiral out of control for Jake. He gets sucked into his own paranoid conspiracy theories and his show is canceled. It takes years, but with the help of Claire (now his wife), a good therapist, and some regulated meds, he is a stable and caring person. Claire and Jake are on their honeymoon at a ski resort in Blind Creek, Alaska. The future is looking up for Jake… at least until an old source dies and his Claire starts acting a bit erratic. A murder and severe back injury may just be the thing to unhinge him as he gets caught up in yet another conspiracy.

I don’t always care for espionage novels because I find them a bit formulaic and therefore, predictable. This book was not that way and I quite enjoyed it. Jake is an interesting character. When we first meet him, he has confidence, charisma, and a drive to hunt down the truth. Circumstances in Russia break him and the story jumps forward several years. Jake is a changed man and he continues to change through this tale.

There’s skiing (which always makes me think of James Bond flicks), a valuable piece of art, the missing artist (did she defect or is she dead?), the mysterious accident that left Jake injured and two dead, and a colorful cast of characters. Jake has a lot on his plate to deal with: severe crippling pain, guilt over the newly dead, unraveling the mystery behind the art and artist, and just plain staying alive!

One of the most interesting aspects to this story was the Dagestan Hum. I labeled this as a red herring initially. We have the Taos Hum here in New Mexico and there isn’t anything particularly nefarious about it. At any rate, the Dagestan Hum is a jumping off point for this tale with Jake running a bit wild with his theories as to what causes that Hum and why Brody was killed for recording it.

As the story unfolds, there are conversations that only Jake is privy to. For a while, I wondered whether or not Jake was an unreliable narrator, having become addled after his latest accident. I loved that I was unsure right up to the last hour or so of the book. Of course this coincided with the big reveal of who was responsible for what. Some I had guessed but not the whole of it and I quite enjoyed being wrong on a few of my guesses.

Let’s talk about those wolves! That was a small but significant creepy bit tossed in by the author. The local wolf pack has been heavily hunted and their heads and bodies have been mounted in the not-yet-opened wing of the ski resort. Now who wants to sit around in a room full of stuffed wolves on a dark and cold night? Definitely a bit creepy and it allowed me to hate on the bad guys just a bit more.

This mystery closes by opening Jake’s eyes to the fact of a larger conspiracy. The loose ends for these immediate events were nicely tied up and the author did a good job of opening the door for more books in the series. It was good to see Jake regain some of his confidence.

I received a free copy of this book via The Audiobookworm.

The Narration: Mark H. Hosack narrated his own book and as always when an author narrates their own work, I get a bit concerned. In this case, there is no need to be. This is a quality performance and a quality production. He goes out of his way to add little bits of music and sound effects here and there but not often enough to call this an audio drama. His female voices are believable and he does accents as well.

What I Liked: The mysterious Hum; Jake’s fall from grace and how reclaims a piece of that; the mystery of the art and artist; while I don’t like wolf hunting I do like how it was used in this book; Jake made a fascinating main character.

What I Disliked: Nothing – I really liked this book!

Check out more reviews, interviews, spotlights, and more on the blog tour.

About Author/Narrator Mark H. Hosack:

Mark Hosack is the author of THE GOOD SPY DIES TWICE (Book 1: The Bullseye Series, nominated for the 2016 RT Source Award), and IDENTITY (Simon & Schuster). He also wrote on the web series SEQUESTERED for Sony Crackle, the screenplay for GIVE ‘EM HELL, MALONE (Thomas Jane, Ving Rhames), and he both wrote and directed the award winning independent film PALE BLUE MOON. Mark lives in Los Angeles with his wife and a brood of gremlins who insist on calling him Dad.

Website ~ Twitter ~ Facebook ~ GoodReads

Synopsis of The Good Spy Dies Twice:

Jake Boxer, investigative journalist and host of the conspiratorial news show Bullseye, is in serious trouble. Not only is his soundman murdered by Russian intelligence agents while reporting on a secretive New World Order, but his network cancels his show, leaving Jake humiliated and spiraling into a deep dark depression.

Years later, a condemned murderer, who claims he was abandoned by the CIA, and who starred in an early episode of Bullseye, is finally executed for killing two supposed Soviet spies back in the 1970s. Jake Boxer, still trying to piece his life back together, is on his honeymoon in a posh ski resort in the Alaskan mountains when he gets word of the inmate’s execution…and the old killer’s final words: “The good spy dies twice”.

Those five words, seemingly meant for Jake, draw the ex-reporter out of his forced retirement and into a complex and deadly global conspiracy involving his newlywed wife, the secretive New World Order, and the hotel’s 100 or so guests.

Everyone is a suspect.

Audible        Amazon

GIVEAWAY!!!

The Blog Tour and the author have teamed up to giveaway a $50 Amazon Gift Card! Enter below through Gleam! Ends May 8, 2017.

The Good Spy Dies Twice Giveaway

Darkness Haunts by Susan Illene

IlleneDarknessHauntsNarrator: Cris Dukehart

Publisher: Tantor Audio (2014)

Length: 9 hours 2 minutes

Series: Book 1 The Sensor

Author’s Page

Melena Sanders, ex-military, is planning to attend college in the fall in California but right now she has to track down her missing friend, Aniya. A cryptic message left by her points Mel to Fairbanks, Alaska. There she discovers a war brewing that involves plenty of supernatural folks. Not all are human friendly. Luckily for Mel, she’s a little more than human. She’s a Sensor and that gives her just enough of an edge to be a true threat to these werewolves, vampires, and witches.

This is my new favorite urban fantasy series. This book is off to a good start, introducing our main character, Mel, and the paranormal world she deals with. Her dedication to her friends is a key component to the plot for this book. In her search for Aniya, she tries to keep Lizette out of it for her own safety. However, this goes a bit awry and I’m sure these two will have some words for each other later. She also makes some new friends in Alaska, some out of necessity and others out of choice. She needs all the assists she can get as she tries to find Philip Mercer, the last person Aniya was seen with.

There’s tons of alliances in this book and some of those alliances pull good folk into bad situations while other alliances pull questionable people into doing good deeds. Things, actions, and people are not always clearly evil or good and I really liked this aspect of the book. It kept me on my toes and engaged throughout the story.

There’s a powerful magic user, Variola, who holds several witches and werewolves in fealty. Mel has to make a deal with her and she wants an ancient vampire, Nikolas, found so she can destroy him in some ritual. However, the alpha werewolf, Derrick, isn’t too happy with how things are going down. Then there’s this Nephilim, Lucas, that follows Mel around. Half the time he’s keeping her from harm and the other half of the time he’s threatening to end her life. It’s a complex relationship that involved Lucas killing Mel’s protector, Wanda, several years ago with no explanation. Just because allegiances aren’t convoluted and strained enough, things get shook up once again when Nikolas comes out of his vampire sleep. Oh, yes! Whoever decides they want Nikolas dead is going to have their hands full!

One of the main draws for me was Mel’s character. She’s not without training and life experience. She has some years under belt and has had to make her way in the world for some years. She has been honed by both joys and tragedies. In short, she knows her own mind and walks into this story knowing exactly what her goal is (to get Aniya back) and can make her own decisions on how to go about it. She’s knowledgeable about guns and other weapons and not afraid of hurting or killing, if that is what’s needed. Yeah, I want to be Mel when I grow up.

On the other side of the coin, there’s a touch of flirtation here and there. Others have told me that there’s a full romance later on in the series, so for those of you who enjoy romance, you have that to look forward to. I found the flirtations of Nikolas amusing and they added a little bit of humor to a pretty tense book.

The ending did leave me with several questions concerning Lucas and Mel’s future. She has some hard choices to make, I think, in the next book. So I’m glad that the entire 6 book series is out, ready for me to tear through.

The Narration:  I enjoyed Cris Dukehart’s narration. She started off a little rough, making bullet statements, but within the first hour she smoothed out. I did like that she didn’t sound all girly, but rather as a grown woman who’s used to making her own decisions – which fits the main character perfectly. I also liked her various accents for some of the older characters. She made a very believable flirtatious 800 year old vampire. 

What I Liked: The main character – she has some life experience under her belt; the Alaskan setting; moose!; werewolves, vampires, witches & more; Mel has no hesitancy about using guns or other weapons; things aren’t black and white when it comes to good versus evil; her complex relationship with Lucas; the cover art.

What I Disliked: Nothing – I really enjoyed this book!

What Others Think:

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Northern Bites by Nikki Jefford

JeffordNorthernBitesWhere I Got It: Bought an Audible copy

Narrator: Em Eldridge

Publisher: Nikki Jefford (2015)

Length: 7 hours 39 minutes

Series: Book 2 Vampire Hunter

Author’s Page

Note: This is Book 2 in the series and probably wouldn’t work so well as a stand alone.

Aurora Sky returns to keep on kicking vampire butt! Well, she tries. Aurora is still in high school and still in training with the secret government group of vampire hunters. Her mentor Dante isn’t being much help, not with his flirting. Also, she gets to spend lots of time working with fellow vampire hunter Valerie, who she detests. Her ex-boyfriend Fane isn’t making things any easier either. Life is tough.

This book is mostly flirty silliness, dating woes, and fighting over boyfriends. There was a good dollop of this in Book 1 (Aurora Sky), but I feel this book got seconds dished out. I went into this book looking forward to seeing how Aurora fared in her continued training, what would happen between her and Fane, and basically looking forward to her evolving into a badass vampire slayer. Largely, those things didn’t happen because most of the book was caught up in these high school dating dramas. I suspect I was suppose to care about Aurora’s beef with fellow agent Valerie, but I didn’t particularly. Aurora still has feelings for Fane but Fane is moving on and not making it easy for Aurora. Then there is Aurora’s friend (and fellow agent) Noelle who later on muddies the waters and is obviously keeping secrets. Really, I just wanted to sit them all down and knock their heads together so we could move on with the real plot.

There’s a few action scenes here and there. There’s a few mysteries – a high school kid (Michael) goes missing, an agent (Krist) turns up dead, Aurora is having very odd cravings – but so little time is spent on these that I was left wanting more out of the book. There is some family drama that unfolds. I found those scenes interesting too as they added depth to Aurora’s character. She can’t simply check out and not be a part of her family; she’s forced to at least acknowledge the situation. So all these little good parts were stretched out painfully thin into something resembling a plot and then we have all this empty, repeating, predictable teen angst dating stuff as filler. I wanted more meat and less whip cream.

Then there is Dante’s character. In Book 1, he was something of a mentor. Here, he starts off as that but then this terribly flirtatious side of him comes out. It doesn’t really fit what we know about him and the change isn’t explained. Also, there’s a reveal late in the book about who may be behind the death of the agent, and when Aurora tries to chat with Dante about that, he blows her off. This also is not like him. So, of course one of two things is going on: either it’s poor character development or something drastic has happened to Dante behind the scenes that us readers are not privy to in this book. And that brings me to another point – nothing is resolved in this book. While this is a series, I do like some resolution for some of the plot points per book. That didn’t happen here.

Lastly, there were a ton of vampires mentioned in this book and I am sure most, if not all, were in Book 1. But there were no reminders for who most of these characters are. Really, for most of them, it was just a series of names that could be swapped out. Descriptors were few and far between. So, after a while I gave up trying to keep them straight. So, yeah, I kept hoping the book would get meatier, that the plot would strengthen, and it didn’t. There’s plenty here to intrigue, just not much to satisfy. I am not sure yet if I will continue with the series. I want answers, action, mystery, vampire slaying… but not teen angst in large quantities.

Narration: Em Eldridge did another good job as the voice of Aurora Sky. She has a young lady’s voice that can hold great emotion or become an angsty, flippant teen as the scene demands. Her other character voices were distinct and her male voices were believable.

What I Liked: Mysteries to be solved; set in Alaska; government-sanctioned vampire hunting; Aurora’s family drama gives her depth.

What I Disliked: The bulk of the book is teen angst over dating and flirting; many of the side characters were interchangeable; Dante’s character change doesn’t fit with what we know from Book 1; very little time spent on the relevant plot; nothing is resolved in this book.

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Aurora Sky by Nikki Jefford

JeffordAuroraSkyWhere I Got It: Won a copy.

Narrator: Em Eldridge

Publisher: Nikki Jefford (2014)

Length: 6 hours 44 minutes

Series: Book 1 Vampire Hunter

Author’s Page

Aurora Sky just wants to finish out high school so that she can flee the frozen lands of Alaska for warmer weather and college. However, a nasty car accident leaves her life in the hands of some interesting secret government scientists that see a hidden potential in her. Now she’s stuck in Alaska receiving her necessary regular injections and paying off her debt by hunting vampires. As if high school was socially awkward enough.

I really liked how this was government sanctioned and assisted vampire hunting. I also liked that Aurora was given no choice about it and while she’s not terribly happy to have this life forced upon her, she pulls herself together and gives it a good try. Aurora’s blood can paralyze a sucking vampire for a short period of time, so she can turn around and behead the horror. Now, she just needs some fighting skills and a few sidekicks.

There’s plenty of action in this urban fantasy and I quite enjoyed all that. After all, if you are going to sit down to a vampire hunt, you need some good action scenes. There are nice breaks in between these scenes, giving depth to the book. For instance, since the car accident, Aurora has a very reasonable fear of being in vehicles and even driving. This obviously cramps her dating scene. Then there’s plenty of discussions with her assigned body guard. Home life is awkward too as her father has taken off while her mother feels both guilt (for signing off on the government procedure that kept her daughter alive) and huge relief (that her daughter is alive to be a bit miffed about the whole situation).

Then there is the romance element. So, there’s this somewhat bad boy at high school – Fane Donado. Obviously, this is the guy she’s going to fall for. Yet he has a secret and it is one that could put a permanent end to their budding romance. While I found the individual scenes flirty and even a little hot at times, the obviousness of Fane’s secret blared loud and clear. So, once Aurora figures it out, I am wondering if she’s been paying attention to all that special vampire hunter training or not. Over all, Aurora comes off as a little angsty, which is normal for someone who just had their life trajectory up ended, and pretty smart…. until she meets Fane. It’s like all her wits got pushed to the side and I felt it was too much even for puppy love to explain.

Also, this is a little pet peeve of mine. Why do we have a supernatural person who is a few hundred years old thinking it would fun to move to Alaska and go back to high school, again? It smacks a little of teen predator. I know this is a somewhat common theme right now in the vampire urban fantasy world, and yet it still gives me the creeps, just a little. So, I had to shove that tidbit aside and pretend Fane was as old as he acted in order to be OK with the romance.

Over all, it was an enjoyable quick listen. There’s several elements I enjoyed and I intend to check out the next in the series to see how Aurora meets her next challenge.

Narration: Em Eldridge had the perfect voice for Aurora – she was the teen who just had her life turned up side down, going through all these emotions and recovery, and settling into her new super secret life of vampire hunting while trying to finish out high school. Yep. Eldridge did an amazing job of portraying all that. She also had distinct and believable male voices and some wonderfully chilling vampire sounds as well.

What I Liked: The cover art; Aurora has her life turned up side down; the vampire hunting; great narration; the action scenes.

What I Disliked: Aurora loses her wits when it comes to romance; the romantic dude is like a couple hundred years older and trolling a high school for fun.

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