Book Review: ‘Mya’ by Missy Sheldrake

A prequel to the Keepers of the Wellsprings series, this is a story that easily stands alone as a most excellent work of fantasy fiction.  Sheldrake’s storytelling is as mesmerising as the songs of her minstrels, making this magical sword and sorcery fantasy for Young Adult and older readers a spellbinding tale that, once started, is hard to put down.

Magically and mystically gifted, Mya is a young woman like no other, Her story is one of adventure and friendship, of seeking and fulfilling her destiny, and one in which danger is always conspiring or lurking around one corner or another. She is a wonderful heroine – she is engaging and loveable, straightforward yet complex, and humble despite her abilities. Through the adventure and the challenges she faces, Mya does not only become more resilient and self-reliant, she learns to trust both her own instincts and the destiny to which she is called.  

The cast of characters surrounding Mya is varied and interesting, each one portrayed in full colour and lively detail. The story is told with rich imagery and well-paced action that moves along at a very good pace. 

Sheldrake is an author who should be much more widely read, as her books are highly original and hold enormous appeal for lovers of fantasy, adventure and coming of age stories alike. 

Author Spotlight: Ted Halstead

Ted Halstead is the author of The Russian Agents thriller series. His latest release is the third book in the series, titled The End of America’s War in Afghanistan.  

He served twenty-five years in the State Department as a Foreign Service Officer, most of it overseas, and was promoted to the Senior Foreign Service after his second tour at US Embassy Riyadh. His tours included four years at US Embassy Seoul, and two years at the East Asia Pacific Bureau in DC. He is a National War College graduate, and served for three years at a regional US military headquarters.

While there is continuity of some characters through the series, each of the books is a standalone novel. it is not necessary to read any one book before reading the others. The books are all set in different countries at different times, and each book’s story ends with a satisfying resolution.

What inspired you to write?  

Throughout my career in the US Foreign Service, I had experiences that I shared with my fellow officers. From my very first tour, I was told I should write a book about them.  Security classification and privacy concerns have made writing a nonfiction account impossible. However, I have worked many of those experiences into my novels.

What’s your favourite thing that you have written?  

That’s a very hard question. I will always have a special place in my heart for my first book, which took me almost seven years to write. I poured a lot of myself into The Second Korean War, drawing on the four years I served at the US Embassy in Seoul. That was also true for my second book, The Saudi-Iranian War. I drew on two tours at US Embassy Riyadh for that book, spaced twenty years apart. My third book, The End of America’s War in Afghanistan, has some of my favorite supporting characters. Sadly, many don’t survive.  If I must choose one, I have to say The Second Korean War.

What’s your favourite thing that someone else has written?  

Wasp, by Eric Frank Russell. I read it when I was starting high school, and it made a great impression on me. Published in 1957, it was incredibly far ahead of its time. I genuinely envy anyone who hasn’t read it yet!What are you working on writing now?  The End of Russia’s War in Ukraine. Check out my blog, accessible through my Amazon Author Page, for the first couple of pages.

Do you have a favourite food or drink that helps you write?  

Coffee, of course!

Who designs your book covers?  

Ivan Zanchetta, for all three of my books. Just Google his name to find his site. Highly recommended!

What’s your favourite kind of music?  

At the moment, 1970s R&B. Check out the soundtrack for the movie Shaft and see if you agree with me that Isaac Hayes really did deserve his Grammy. Especially for the block of songs following Cafe Regio’s. Or try the song Natural Man by Lou Rawls, and see if you’re as amazed as I am that it came out in 1971.

What’s the best vacation you’ve had?  

Hawaii, during my tour in Seoul. After the pollution of early 1990s Seoul, it was such a pleasure to breathe clean air!

What is your pet hate? Have you ever built it into a character or used it in your writing?  

Bureaucracy. I hated it all 25 years I was part of one of the largest on Earth, and did my best to make it bearable for every member of the public we served. You will see this in all my books in many ways.

What movie can you watch over and over again?  

The Incredibles. First, it’s one of those rare movies I can safely enjoy watching with my granddaughter. Plus, there are so many sly references to old Bond and superhero movies it takes repeated viewings to find them all!

What would you like people to know about being an Indie author?  

I started self-publishing on many sites, including Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, Google Books, Apple etc. But I ended up dropping the others because I decided to try making my first book available through Kindle Unlimited, which required me to do Amazon only. I was honestly shocked by how many people read both that book and the others since through KU – literally millions of pages! That actually means more to me than book sales. I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s bought a book and either never read it, or just read a few pages before losing interest. As someone who puts a lot of himself into his books, it’s very gratifying to see that people are really reading them!

Thanks for being here and sharing with us today, Tom! 

Thanks for having me!

Ted’s books are all available in Kindle, paperback and audiobook formats.  They are also available through Kindle Unlimited.

New Release: ‘The Taint of Treason’ by Greg Alldredge

Greg Alldredge, author of excellent steampunk, dark fantasy and urban fantasy novel series, has a new fantasy novel landing tomorrow. 

‘The Taint of Treason’ is the first in Alldredge’s new Lilliehaven epic fantasy series, which promises to carry the reader into a world of magic, danger, adventure, and courtly intrigue. 

’The Taint of Treason’ is available now for preorder
It will be available in both ebook and paperback on May 5.

The throne was her rightful place…
… unfortunately, her evil stepmother took it all away.

The life of a princess should be a royal blessing. But when Morgan’s ageing father marries a younger woman, the Crown Princess’s life becomes—treacherous.

Through a royal miscalculation, the Empire is now at war with a Necromancer of unknown strength and with unfathomable motives. Conflict has invaded the Wu Empire.

Morgan stands accused of treason; now, her life hangs in the balance. Forced to run, as the might of the Genke clan’s army hounds her escape.

Ghosts and monsters haunt the young princess, while she quests for a path to regain the throne.

Can Morgan find enough allies?
How will she save her Empire?

You’ll love the first book in the Lilliehaven epic fantasy series. Courtly intrigue meets swords and magic. The twists will keep you turning the pages.

Book Review: ’The Shadows of Miss Pring’ by K.E. Fraser

They say you should never make assumptions about people, and it’s certainly true of the titular character of this book. There is a lot more to Miss Eleanora Pring than meets the eye, which makes for a most entertaining read. Miss Pring is an absolutely delightful character with a snarky sense of humour and a wicked talent with a set of knitting needles. 

Part cozy mystery, part adventure, part suspense, this is a really fun story with some great surprises and twists. The story is set in Adelaide, Australia, providing some nice local content and offering a laconic kind of humour that is typically Australian.

It also delivers some great lessons along the way: one should not assume older people don’t know more than they let on, and never, ever underestimate little old ladies. 

‘The Shadows of Miss Pring’ is a most enjoyable mystery read. 

Short Story Review: ‘The House That Evil Made’ by Sarah Northwood

A dark and suspenseful story in which foreboding builds gradually until the truths underlying the story are revealed. 

This story is evocatively written in a way that draws the reader into the life and mind of the central character as the innocence and natural curiosity of childhood are discarded and replaced by the bleakness of hindsight and the passion of revenge. 

‘The House That Evil Made’ is a 10-15 minute read that can be enjoyed over a coffee break or in a few spare minutes, providing a quick but satisfying escape to the reader’s day. 

Book Review: ‘Le Cirque de Magie’ by Marsha A Moore

Find your copy here.

‘Le Cirque de Magie‘ is an excellent dark fantasy/paranormal romance novella set in a circus populated by both human and magical performers. 

The story gains momentum with the arrival of a mysterious new cast member who brings new complications to the show and, as the suspense builds, the reader becomes more invested in the safety of the central characters and the delivery of   justice to the antagonist. 

The characters are interesting and varied, and the story is well-developed, making a very enjoyable hour’s reading. 

Book Review: ‘A Queer Old Christmas ‘ by CH Clepitt

Heartwarming and heartbreaking at the same time, this excellent story explores the devastating consequences of bigotry and hatred within families, and the healing power of acceptance and love.

Infused with humour and warmth that serves as a very effective contrast to the bitterness of the antagonist, the story immerses the reader in the lives of Linda, Tim and Ani as they navigate their way through quite significant challenges. It is a positive and uplifting book that helps those who have the privilege of being comfortable in their situations to understand what it is like for others who experience discrimination and prejudice, and how to appropriately respond to differences in others. 

The writing is excellent, the story is expertly crafted, and the characters are delightful. All in all, it’s a very entertaining read that comes highly recommended for YA and older. It’s a story that everyone should read. 

‘You’re Not A Goth Until You Sack Rome’ by Jeffery Cook and Kathleen Perkins

As unpleasant as the experiences may be, it is often when experiencing persecution or encountering conflict that people make surprising discoveries about themselves.

That is absolutely the case for Rae Schwarz when she discovers that there is much more to her life than homework, preparing for Halloween and avoiding the school bully. What ensues is a story of resilience, friendship, loyalty, discovering new talents and looking beyond the surface to recognise what is hidden underneath.

This story is refreshing and original, written with a very comfortable style and personal tone that makes it very relatable and highly engaging. The characters are interesting and varied, each complementing the others in ways that are not immediately obvious to the reader at the outset, and demonstrating that it is entirely possible to be ordinary and extraordinary at the same time. 

A book laden with positive messages and values, ‘You’re Not A Goth Until You Sack Rome’ demonstrates a profound acceptance of differences and individuality and encourages the reader to recognise their own unique combinations of personality, ability and talent, and to learn to see others in the same way. 

This is a most enjoyable and entertaining story, written for a YA audience but suitable and appealing for all ages. 

Book Review: ‘Little Book of Spring’ by Claire Buss

A relatable, easy to read poetry collection.

This book offers vignettes of daily life and glimpses into the thoughts of a young woman. Her children, family life, personal feelings and places they visit all feature in this collection of poetry. 

Some of the poems carry a kernel of a deeper truth that provoked more thought, while others skip through a scene, describing it in a way that leaves the reader nodding and smiling. In every case, it is easy to relate to the ideas expressed by the poet. 

Book Review: ‘Who Am I: Prequel to the Semiramis Series’ by Maya Daniels

This story tells of the early life of Alexia Semiramis, a young woman who learned the soul-destroying power of both words and abuse as a child before she ever discovered that the gifts that made her different than everyone else were magical. 

It is an interesting exposé of the psychology of one who has suffered at the hands of those who should have loved and treasured her, and of one who resents the qualities that set them apart from others in the first place. While it is fictional, there is much written here that will ring true for anyone who has been bullied or abused.

The writing is bold and defiant, creating an angry tone that begs for justice. Thus, this short story sets the stage for the Semiramis series, and creating a strong sense of intrigue and anticipation as to how Alexia might embrace her gifts and use them to take control of her life.