May 10, 2015

Spying with T.A. Maclagan + A Giveaway

Growing up, I always thought it'd be super cool to be a top secret/secret agent spy, with covert, kickass moves and black bodysuit. I think there's something about spies that's very interesting, because we essentially know nothing about them except that they are spies. And if a book comes along and it features spies...well, it's kind of hard to resist. In her debut novel, T.A. Maclagan tells the tale of a sleeper agent teenager who's called to work. Her name is Alexandra Gastone...or is it?

[Beauty and the Bookshelf: In They Call Me Alexandra Gastone, Alexandra Gastone isn't really Alexandra Gastone's name. That's because she's a trained spy living undercover as she tries to infiltrate a member of the CIA. And since the book has a bit of focus on spies, T.A. Maclagan is going to share ten of her favorites!]

Counting Down My Top 10 Favorite Spies

10. Annie Walker/Covert Affairs
Annie started out a bit naïve as far as spies go but I loved her progression over the course of the show’s five seasons. She became more and more believable as a spy and the show got darker and darker. Her evolution was really fun to watch.

9. Simon Templar/The Saint
One of the things I like best about spy shows and movies are the disguises and Val Kilmer as Simon Templar had some of the best I’ve seen. Combined with all the different accents, they completely transformed him into different people. I was gutted that The Saint never got a sequel.

8. James Bond (but only the Daniel Craig versions)
What would a favorite spy list be without James Bond? Although I’ve seen all the Bond movies, my favorites, hands down, are the Daniel Craig versions. Bond is so much more human and the movies, as a whole, less gimmicky than previous versions. It’s a bit strange to say, but in the Daniel Craig versions, I love his brokenness. The Bond movies have always been about entertainment but the Daniel Craig versions are the first where I actually feel for his character.
7. Harold’s Computer vs. Samaritan/Person of Interest
POI is one of my all time favorite shows and gets better with each season. Harold’s computer is smarter and more powerful than any one spy or spy agency, which makes for such an interesting show, especially when you pit Harold’s A.I. against an evil A.I. (a.k.a Samaritan). How do you deal with a spy that can see everything and has enough brainpower to evaluate all the odds and all the angles? I get chills just thinking about it!

6. Nick Brody/Homeland
A POW turned by the enemy returns home to his wife and children. It doesn’t get much more dynamic than that. Nick’s story was so packed with drama I was riveted. How did he get turned? What was the end game? Did he still have feelings for his family? What about Carrie? If push came to shove, could Nick really betray his country and his family? Despite the fact the audience knows Nick is on a mission against the US, you can still see him as a good man. I love that idea.

 5. Sydney Bristow/Alias
The outfits! The hair! The butt kicking! Bradley Cooper pre-fame! Oh my! Plus, Sydney was a graduate student as well as a spy and I loved the idea of that combo. Especially since I was a grad student at the time and still loved to fancy myself a bad ass even though I wasn’t.

4. Jason Bourne/The Bourne Trilogy
I love both the Jason Bourne books as well as the movies. Amnesia can be a bit cliché but the Bourne books and movies pull it off so well. A man with no memory but killer skills makes for a very fun ride! Plus, those fights scenes in the movies are first rate! Although I love Bond, I’d take Bourne over Bond, any day!

3. Michael Weston/Burn Notice
Watching Burn Notice was like taking a class in Spying 101 and I loved it! I was the girl sitting in the front of the class, taking diligent notes. In every episode Michael offered up little gems of spy wisdom such as “Fighting like a spy means disguising a task as attempts to help. It means making acts of man seem like acts of God.” Plus, I thought he was hot. Can’t beat the combo of hot and wise!

2. Evelyn Salt/SALT
Evelyn Salt nears the top of my list for many reasons! First, she’s a major bad ass and can easily play spy with all the boys. Second, she’s played by Angelina Jolie who’s one of my favorite actresses. And third, Evelyn’s story was actually where I got my first kernel of inspiration for They Call Me Alexandra Gastone. It was during the training scenes of Evelyn as a young child and her placement as a sleeper at the age of about 10. It made me wonder what her life might have been like as a teenager. From there, Alexandra Gastone was born!

1. Elizabeth & Philip Jennings/The Americans
I’ve always loved the idea of sleeper agents and The Americans explores what life must have been like for Russian sleepers in the 80s at the height of the Cold War. I love how Elizabeth and Philip are good, caring parents to two very American kids, yet they are also ruthless killers and spies. I find that kind of duality fascinating. 

TitleThey Call Me Alexandra Gastone
Author: T.A. Maclagan
Publisher: Full Fathom Five Digital
Publishing Date: May 20, 2015
Pages: 226
Goodreads Amazon Barnes & Noble

When your life is a lie, how do you know what’s real?

Alexandra Gastone has a simple plan: graduate high school, get into Princeton, work for the CIA, and serve her great nation.

She was told the plan back when her name was Milena Rokva, back before the real Alexandra and her family were killed in a car crash.

Milena was trained to be a sleeper agent by Perun, a clandestine organization from her true homeland of Olissa. There, Milena learned everything she needed to infiltrate the life of CIA analyst Albert Gastone, Alexandra’s grandfather, and the ranks of America’s top intelligence agency.

For seven years, “Alexandra” has been on standby and life’s been good. Grandpa Albert loves her, and her strategically chosen boyfriend, Grant, is amazing.

But things are about to change. Perun no longer needs her at the CIA in five years’ time. They need her active now.

Between her cover as a high school girl—juggling a homecoming dance, history reports, and an increasingly suspicious boyfriend—and her mission in this high-stakes spy game, the boundaries of her two lives are beginning to blur.

Will she stay true to the country she barely remembers, or has her loyalty shattered along with her identity?

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.

Up for grabs are three eBooks of They Call Me Alexandra Gastone, two Amazon gift cards, and lots of swag!

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