Tag Archives: rob shackleford

Author Anthony Avina’s “Top 10 Books of 2021”

Hello there everyone! Wow, what a year of books it has been. I am so honored to be sharing my top reads of the year. There have been so many amazing books published this year, and with the pandemic having kept us all indoors far more than ever before, there has been a surplus of books being published from indie authors and publishers alike. Now I want to mention that although the books are numbered here in the last post, this is not an indicator of ranking of any kind. This is more about organizing the books, not ranking. So with that in mind, here are my top choices for the year, each with a snippet from the original review. 

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10: Below Torrential Hill by Jonathan Koven

What really stood out to me was the incredible way the author matched the atmosphere and setting to the protagonist’s journey, almost as if the character’s surroundings became a reflection of their own inner turmoil and the ups and downs they went through. I also was really impressed with the fine line the narrative played with magical realism, as it allowed enough room for the reader to kind of draw their own conclusions from this aspect of the story, and kind of put a whole-new modern-day, coming-of-age twist on the classic Christmas Carol narrative. 

This was one of the last books I reviewed this year, and the author’s amazingly poetic writing style and imagery were just so breathtaking to behold. A definite must-read!

9: Traveller Manifesto by Rob Shackleford 

What always strikes me about this series and the author is the vast amount of detail the author puts into the series. From both a historical and a narrative standpoint, the author explores not only the sci-fi side of the series from the use of the Traveller technology, but the historical fiction side of each period of time these missions take on with an attention to detail that creates a sense of imagery and tone that bursts with life and vibrancy. The exploration of history’s impact on our world and the means by which the direction that history takes is often dictated by those who emerge victorious from a situation made this story feel so thought-provoking, and readers won’t be able to help being drawn down the rabbit hole that is this heart-pounding historical fiction thriller.

I am a huge fan of this author and this historical fiction/sci-fi series. The third and final book in the Traveller series, the narrative was just so engaging and thought-provoking that I wasn’t able to put it down.

8: The Matzah Ball by Jean Meltzer 

The characters were the show stealers of this read to be sure. What was so interesting, and something I always enjoy is when a writer crafts a narrative that features such a diverse cast of characters that we could find someone in the narrative to identify with for one reason or another. As someone with several chronic diseases, seeing protagonist Rachel’s struggle with chronic fatigue syndrome and the struggle with how she is perceived by others is a struggle I am all too familiar with, and it was great to see that representation in the book. The chemistry and heated moments, both good and bad, between Rachel and Jacob, were truly memorable and allowed the story to feel very cinematic in its approach.

As far as holiday romances go, this was definitely one of the most unique, creative, and heartwarming to read. It was so original, and I related to the protagonist so much with her struggle with chronic illness. (More holiday reads are coming soon).

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7: A Cry in the Moon’s Light by Alan McGill 

I was hooked immediately with this book. The author did such an amazing job of crafting a narrative that was both emotionally investing and chilling at the same time. The story was written in a way that felt like historical fiction meets Brother’s Grimm meets folklore all at once. The nods and homages to classic fairy tale style storytelling elements and themes were felt immediately, but then did such a great job of taking readers immediately into a right turn that held gruesome mayhem and terrifying creatures, and then made a completely new turn into heartbreaking and heartfelt romance and drama. 

I am an absolute fan of gothic horror, and this was pretty amazing. Great atmospheric haunt and an absolute pleasure to dive into. 

6: Blood Mark by J.P. McLean 

This was a refreshing new take on the paranormal thriller genre. The integration of Inca mythology into a modern-day thriller was engaging and thought-provoking, giving readers a wonderful blend of mythology and gritty crime thriller. The author’s own writing was outstanding, delivering a very descriptive and creative balance of imagery and character growth that felt very cinematic as a whole. 

A gritty and captivating new fantasy thriller that I just couldn’t put down!

5: Unearthed: A Jessica Cruz Story by Lilliam Rivera (Illustrated by Steph C.)

What a powerful and engaging new take on the iconic Green Lantern character. This was a fantastic story that really captured the struggle and strength of the Latino community, especially when the debate over immigration has never been higher in recent years. Jessica Cruz is the perfect character to bring this fight for justice and equality to light, as her DC Comics history played into the battle between fear and hope that her character has embodied since her introduction. As a half-Latino man whose late grandfather came to this country as a young child and built a family of his own through dedication and hard work, the cultural element and the familial bonds that Jessica had not only with her parents but her community as a whole really spoke to me, as these core values are something I was taught at an early age.

As a fan of this character and a proud Hispanic man, I was so enthralled with this story. As a fan of DC Comics, I loved this original take on the characters. 

4: The Marionettes Book 1 by Katie Wismer 

I can honestly say this was one of the best New Adult and Dark Fantasy reads I’ve read not only this year but in a long time. The amount of world-building and mythos the author was able to fit into the narrative was not only entertaining but made the world within this book feel seamless and immersive. The freedom with which the author incorporates not only the two main classifications of supernatural beings, (vampires and witches), but other powerful beings as well that don’t always fit into the typical supernatural fantasy read helped elevate this narrative to new heights. 

The dark and edgy fantasy horror read was so captivating and entertaining, and left on a massive cliffhanger that will keep readers on the edge of their seats for the sequel!

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3: The Thicket by Noelle Ihli 

What a truly amazing and inviting horror read! Horror fans everywhere will love this intricately detailed and plotted thriller. The author does a great job of painting an image of the narrative in the reader’s mind, delving into our modern world’s obsession and love of all things terrifying and macabre. As a fan of haunts myself and with friends who run a haunted attraction, I could relate to the life and atmosphere of these attractions clearly. 

I am a sucker for classic slasher horror flicks, and so the atmosphere and characters the author crafted in this narrative felt right at home in this genre and did an amazing job of painting an image of the novel’s plot in my mind.

2: Thread of Souls Book 1- Phantom Five by Scott & Ashley Roepel 

The balance of dark fantasy and character growth really elevates the narrative here. The danger and stakes of this fantasy world are made apparent early on in the story, as one of the main characters watches her sister taken right before her eyes by a large flying creature out of a nightmare. Yet it is the bond between the characters that really steal this story, as the blend of humor, charm, and heroism mixes with the personal problems each of these characters faces with their pasts and futures. It speaks of the classic swords and daggers, hero’s journey elements of adult fantasy novels that fans have come to know and love over the years.

I am a sucker for epic fantasy, and I loved the world-building and mythology the authors crafted in this original tale. I was able to devour the first 3 books in this series, and I absolutely cannot wait to read the next chapter in the coming year. 

1. Beyond the Stars and Shadows by Kristen Martin

This was such a compelling and engaging read right from the start. As anyone who knows me can attest, I love a wide variety of books. As such, I was so thrilled when the story I thought I was reading took off in such an exciting new direction. The author’s writing is so inviting and draws the reader into the narrative and the lives of the protagonist with ease. Elara is a truly fantastic character, well-rounded and while many books take their characters through a total evolution in their story, it was refreshing to see the narrative really hinged on the growth of the characters, making her story so much more interesting. 

When I think of books that really moved or inspired me this year, I cannot leave off one of my all-time favorite authors, Kristen Martin. The imagery and emotions this narrative brought out as I read it, along with the real-life interest I hold for metaphysical studies and the paranormal really sold me on this novel, and I was so honored to have been able to read this amazing story.

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Well, that does it for me. These were some of my favorite reads of the year, but certainly not the only favorites. What was your favorite book to read this year? Let me know in the comments, and be sure to like and follow my website if you aren’t already. Also, be sure to subscribe to my newsletter, and if you are in the market for some custom writing projects, ranging from poetry to short stories and more, then be sure to order something from my Etsy shop, Cosmic Writing Studios. Everyone have an amazing New Year’s Eve, and I look forward to seeing you in the coming New Year! 

Traveller Manifesto (Traveller Book 3) by Rob Shackleford Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own.

The exploration of ancient history by modern scientists and historians becomes political as government bodies work behind the scenes to develop their own versions of the Traveller technology, and former Traveller Michael Hunter must flee with his wife and daughter in 11th century Giolgrave and the whole of Aengland whilst avoiding the modern-day military sent to hunt him down in author Rob Shackleford’s “Traveller Manifesto”, the third book in the Traveller series.

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The Synopsis

Traveller Manifesto is Book 3 of the Traveller Trilogy, the explosive final sequel to Traveller Inceptio and Traveller Probo.

To use the enigmatic Transporter and send Special Forces trained Researchers back a thousand years is now the biggest game in world politics.

But not only politics, as academics scramble to outdo each other and harness prestige in the increasingly influential field of History.

As Professor Taylor is rescued from Byzantine Rome, a heavily-armed US Traveller team explores Mississippian Cahokia to experience a situation beyond even their control. Michael Hunter and Tatae flee Giolgrave in the hope of finding safety from modern interference. But at a terrible cost.

And something seems to be happening in Israel, resulting in the creation of a high-profile investigation team to uncover if there is a clandestine Traveller mission operated by the US and Israel.

From the windswept mountains of Wales to the hills of Cahokia and the dusty wadis of the Negev, researchers find that visiting the past may not necessarily provide the answers they seek.

The Review

This was such a compelling and monumental narrative for fans of this sci-fi and historical fiction thriller series. The way the author elevated the narrative of this series by taking the hinted at black-ops level military operations being taken out in various historical periods using the technology, and increasing this tenfold as not only does the military hunt down one of the Traveller programs former operatives, but attempt to utilize the technology illegally to further their own interests, really does a great job of mirroring events using technology or discoveries of our own world, and how government bodies often will claim “national security” to further their own attempts at seizing more power and control. This added an increased level of intrigue and suspense as this impacted several of the main cast of characters throughout their various Traveller missions.

What always strikes me about this series and the author is the vast amount of detail the author puts into the series. From both a historical and a narrative standpoint, the author explores not only the sci-fi side of the series from the use of the Traveller technology, but the historical fiction side of each period of time these missions take on with an attention to detail that creates a sense of imagery and tone that bursts with life and vibrancy. The exploration of history’s impact on our world and the means by which the direction that history takes is often dictated by those who emerge victorious from a situation made this story feel so thought-provoking, and readers won’t be able to help being drawn down the rabbit hole that is this heart-pounding historical fiction thriller.

The Verdict

A gripping, intense, and richly diverse historical fiction thriller and sci-fi tale, author Rob Shackleford’s “Traveller Manifesto” is a must-read novel and the perfect historical fiction read to finish out 2021 with. The rich cast of characters and detailed settings bring together a beautiful yet dangerous world of the past and present and the dramatic final chapters lead to a shocking loss and an open-ended finale that leaves plenty of room for more stories to be told in the future. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

This is just a quick bio about me, Rob Shackleford.

  • Born in Leicester, Leicestershire, England.
  • Emigrated to Australia with parents and brother, Neil, as 10 pound poms in the early 1960’s.
  • Childhood in working class suburb of Acacia Ridge, Brisbane. Brothers Aaron, Paul, and Philip and sister Kathy were born.
  • Attended Watson Road State School and Acacia Ridge State High School. I don’t think the high school exists any more.
  • Attended University of Qld and studied Journalism and Ancient History.
  • My work experience is varied and has included Customs Officer, SCUBA Instructor, in the media, college teacher and as operated own businesses.
  • I have two wonderful kids: Son – Kyle, and Daughter – Bree.
  • Finally completed 2 degrees – in Arts and in Business at Central Qld University. Each completed With Distinction.
  • Completed first novel “Traveller – Inceptio”, Traveller book 1 – published in 2019 by Austin Macauley.
  • The rest of the Traveller Books are ready to go, as are 3 other completed manuscripts, so I have completed 6 novels in all.
  • I am also currently finalizing the illustrations on 3 children’s books with my daughter Bree.

Traveller Probo (Traveller Book 2) by Rob Shackleford Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own.

Missions into the past to recover lost artifacts and study ancient and lost civilizations grow as nations vie to use and control the Traveller technology developed to travel into the past in author Rob Shackleford’s exhilarating sequel, “Traveller Probo”, the second book in the historical fiction/sci-fi thriller Traveller series. 

The Synopsis

Traveller Probo is the second book in the Traveller Series.

Would you survive if sent one-thousand years into the past?

Development of the Transporter saw highly trained researchers, called Travellers, successfully sent one-thousand years back in time to early medieval Saxon England.

Traveller Missions now mean enormous national prestige and the recovery of priceless lost artifacts and knowledge, so nations vie for the use of the Transporter and more daring Traveller missions are planned. Politics and power soon come into play.

To study lost peoples and civilizations, Special Forces researchers have to be even better trained, equipped and prepared to put their lives on the line.

While Michael Hunter continues to build a life in Saxon England, the tragically injured Tony Osborne finds his resurgence in a mission to ancient Byzantine Turkey, a mission Professor Adrian Taylor joins to better outmaneuver his calculating academic colleagues.

From the misty shores of New Zealand to the shining splendor of the ancient Byzantine Empire, it is proved how sending modern researchers into the past carries enormous rewards and tragedies.

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The Review

This was such an adventurous and thought-provoking follow-up to the author’s equally exciting first book in the sci-fi series, Travellers. The world-building and character development the author employs here is masterful, as the time-travel element allows readers to experience both the present-day individuals going back to study these ancient civilizations and the historical figures who encounter these strange individuals. The action kicks off from the get-go, with a mission to New Zealand’s past taking a bloody turn, and the balance the author finds with the political and social intrigue of the present with the action and history of the past was so amazing to read. 

The attention to detail and imagery the author uses throughout this narrative was so vibrant and engaging that it felt almost cinematic in quality. I could easily picture this as either an ensemble cast film or streaming series, exploring these vast sets and time periods while employing a unique sci-fi twist that will keep readers engaged throughout the narrative. The themes of morality and western civilization’s mindset that superior technology, intellect, and resources give them the right to change or dictate how others operate and live their lives was felt in every chapter of this narrative and kept readers’ minds active as well entertained. 

The Verdict

A brilliant, gripping, and heart-pounding historical fiction and sci-fi read, author Rob Shackleford’s “Traveller Probo” is a must-read novel. The intrigue and mystery of the growing missions and the back-room dealings surrounding the Traveller tech will keep readers on the edge of their seat, and the shocking cliff-hanger endings for both established and new characters alike and their missions will have readers eager to devour the next chapter in this epic series. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

This is just a quick bio about me, Rob Shackleford.

  • Born in Leicester, Leicestershire, England.
  • Emigrated to Australia with parents and brother, Neil, as 10 pound poms in the early 1960’s.
  • Childhood in working class suburb of Acacia Ridge, Brisbane. Brothers Aaron, Paul, and Philip and sister Kathy were born.
  • Attended Watson Road State School and Acacia Ridge State High School. I don’t think the high school exists any more.
  • Attended University of Qld and studied Journalism and Ancient History.
  • My work experience is varied and has included Customs Officer, SCUBA Instructor, in the media, college teacher and as operated own businesses.
  • I have two wonderful kids: Son – Kyle, and Daughter – Bree.
  • Finally completed 2 degrees – in Arts and in Business at Central Qld University. Each completed With Distinction.
  • Completed first novel “Traveller – Inceptio”, Traveller book 1 – published in 2019 by Austin Macauley.
  • The rest of the Traveller Books are ready to go, as are 3 other completed manuscripts, so I have completed 6 novels in all.
  • I am also currently finalizing the illustrations on 3 children’s books with my daughter Bree.

Interview with Rob Shackleford 

1) Tell us a little bit about yourself. What inspired you to become an author?
I live in Australia and, for the majority of the time in writing Traveller Inceptio, lived where most of the book’s Transporter invention process took place, which is the Sunshine Coast in Queensland. It is a beach location and is quite laid back. I also worked at the University for a time and knew the described locations well. I have, of course, applied liberal creative licence to some locations.
I enjoy reading, especially books with a great story and have, for quite some time, tinkered with the idea of writing. Like most, I started with a few short stories and children’s books, which are still awaiting the illustrations from my daughter, who is quite the artist and procrastinator. It was during a very down time in my life that the opening scene for Traveller Inceptio began running through my mind, how a person from the 21st Century could react in the forests of Saxon England, when I realised that a story was beginning to devfelop. I started writing that scene and it soon went on from there. The actual writing process took over five years and there were ideas I had to drop because I saw something similar on Game of Thrones and in other stories that would look too similar. I have a very strong aversion to cliche, so I hope I stuck to that.
Surprisingly, some of the language and story was based on the antics of my son and his surfer / skater mates. The things you overhear sometimes.
My vocational background is actually far removed from History, which has become a love because of my father’s interest in family history and genealogy. I worked in Customs in my younger years and then did time in the Media, Tourism, IT and Marketing.
In keeping with my coastal lifestyle preference, I am fortunate to live in a very chilled part of Australia’s Gold Coast with my lady love. I have two kids, both in their early 20’s so, yeah, I am advancing in life’s journey, but I am still young and silly enough to take the risks.
2) What was the inspiration behind your story?
I was sitting on the beach one day and thought, “What would this have looked like 100 years ago? 200 years ago? and then 1000 years ago? The next question was, “How would someone from this time survive if taken back 1000 years?” Like many books, I started with a couple of assumptions; that one could travel back 1000 years, and the book grew from there. The ‘visit to the beach’ chapters in Traveller Inceptio were based on that thought process.
I like Science Fiction, but aimed to keep any story as real as possible, so I and any reader could honestly relate. I tried to keep reactions and events as plausible as possible. This sometimes took the story away from where I had planned and added some interesting moments.
Fortunately I have travelled to many of the world locations mentioned in Traveller Inceptio and future books. The sights, smells and feelings are most inspiring. The forests of England, the great walls of Istanbul, and the deserts of Israel can never be fully imagined simply from research on the Internet.
 
3) What theme or message do you hope readers will take away from your story?
Wow, I have to be self-analytical here.
There are two main messages I think.
The first is the desire to travel, to see new places and take new risks. I particularly love the short film Wanderers with a narration by Carl Sagan, (Check it out on You Tube) which acknowledges humanity’s need to explore. If we could explore the Past, then we, of course, would.
The other theme is that people in our past were like us. Our parents and many-great-grandparents lived lives with similar aspirations. They laughed, joked, worried about their kids, farted, and got horny, but also had trying times when they were sad and shed tears. Sometimes they even experienced violence. The message is; They were people too, only without an iPhone.
When we realise our history and give credence to those who have gone before us, we can then better understand ourselves and the rich tapestry of interwoven lives and genetic material that has created each of us.
4) If you could sit down and ask any character in your story a question, who would it be and what would you ask them?
It think it would be Tatae, the healer and wise woman of the Saxon village of Giolgrave. She was one such as those who would be persecuted and killed in the ages following the Norman invasion of England in 1066. Tatae is enigmatic. Not only does she hold deep knowledge, but she has learned that many would debase and profit from it if she let them.
I think I would ask, “How did you gain your knowledge?” Assuming she would tell me, it would be quite a story.
5) What’s more important to you when writing: developing plot or creating characters?
I think the plot, because that dictates the reactions of the characters. Place the character into a situation and I try to see how they would realistically react. Sometimes it isn’t how I thought, which is always a pleasant surprise. Sometimes a minor character became a major one. One example was Tatae, as I had no intention of travelling down the romance cliche. How wrong was I?
6) What social media site has been the most helpful or beneficial in creating your readership?
Initially FaceBook, as friends refer friends etc, but it is beginning to be overtaken by Blogs. Naturally this will grow further, but this world of self-promotion through on-line media can be very challenging. Amazon and others can be a minefield. It becomes a question of persistence, losing money on bad marketing ploys, and not taking it too seriously.
7) What advice would you give to aspiring or new authors out there?
Keep on going, even if it does mean that you end up rewriting your little gem fifty times. The other is that professional critics have their place, but can often get caught up in the detail. Be humble enough to recognise that your skills might need improvement, ie. writing skills, but also believe in yourself. It can be a tricky thing to balance. Don’t be surprised to be elated at a great review, then go down in a screaming heap when someone criticises your writing style. It’s all part of the gig.
8) What’s next for you? Any new projects on the horizon?
Traveller Inceptio lends itself to a sequel. I found this especially important when readers asked me “What Now??”
So, I have completed a draft of Traveller Probo – Traveller Book 2 – and I am in the never-ending process of fine-tuning the grammar etc. I hope this will be ready by the end of this year (2017) or the beginning of 2018. Traveller Probo (meaning: to prove or question) assumes the Saxon mission is successful. Governments vie to prepare the next Traveller mission, but safety is paramount. Missions to New Zealand, the USA, Ukraine, and the old Byzantine Empire of Turkey are planned, but the political rivalry is intense.
I have already begun Traveller Manifesto – which will be Traveller Book 3.
Why the funny names? I started Book 1 as Traveller, but when you google ‘Traveller’ you are inundated with book titles. Some friends thought it was a book about my travels. Traveller is spelled in the British / Australian way with 2 L’s, and the Latin word is to give an idea as to what the story is about. Latin, because 1000 years ago, Latin was the language of religion and education in Europe.
Inceptio = Beginning
Probo = Prove of question and investigate
Manifesto = Declaration to the World
Why Europe? Think about this. 1000 years ago, if you travelled anywhere in Africa or the Pacific, you would be eaten. If you travelled anywhere in the Americas, you might be sacrificed or skinned alive. In Asia, killed as a stranger, or limited because of the barriers of lost languages. England was selected because of the racial and national identity of the inventors and sponsors. Plus, it made my writing easier.
There is a criticism that the books are long – the irony being that Traveller Inceptio and Traveller Probo are precisely the same length – 190,000 words. To be honest, I created each story and then tore about 50,000 words away in the editing process. I hope the story makes the time taken in reading worthwhile.
I have written drafts for two other books that have nothing to do with Time or Transporters, but I believe I have to do the best I can with one project at a time. These others can wait.
Ultimately, I hope my books bring enjoyment to readers. It is, after all, about having a fun, entertaining read.

Traveller – Inceptio by Rob Shackleford Review

A historical science fiction tale like no other, author Rob Shackleford brings to life a tale of ancient Viking invaders, Saxon villagers and a time travel experiment that puts real lives in serious danger. What would the affect of time travel have not only on the past, but the future as well? Here is a synopsis:

If you were sent 1000 years into the past, would you survive?

Traveller – Inceptio describes how the Transporter is accidentally invented and becomes public knowledge when it sends a subject 1000 years into the past.

A Special Forces team of Travellers is then selected and trained with the intent to send them to Saxon England to explore what could be a very dangerous period of history.

From the beaches of Australia to the forests of Saxon England, Traveller – Inceptio reveals how Travellers discover they need a lot more than technology to survive the trials of early Eleventh Century life.

A realistic look into the lives of our ancient ancestors from around the world, this incredible story takes an in-depth look into the scientific study of time-travel and the ramifications our interference in the past can have. It also does a fantastic job of showing the hardships, struggles and way ancient Saxons viewed the world and life, and the twist of ancient beliefs and the introduction of religion into the region.

The attention to detail and use of great historical context made this such an engaging read. Taking a twist on time-travel science fiction stories and incorporating a detailed look into this time of conflict and bloodshed was thrilling to read, and put into context the struggles of the 21st century. The characters felt personal and did an excellent job of highlighting the way we would view that time period, as well as how they would view us.

Overall this was a phenomenal read, full of twists and turns and a fresh approach to the time travel genre. Filled with great historical references and characters you’ll love instantly, this story reads like an HBO drama, and would translate perfectly onto the screen. If you haven’t yet, be sure to pick up your copy of Traveller – Inceptio by Rob Shackleford today!

Rating: 10/10