The McCallister Series – Review

Full disclosure time! I signed up to review the four books in the McCallister Series through Silver Dagger Book Tours. They provided me with Kindle copies of each of the books in exchange for my honest review on my blog, on Goodreads, and on Amazon.

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The McCallister Series is a 4-book mystery series by Canadian author, L.V. Gaudet.  She also writes under the pen name Vivian Munnoch. She has 7 books published as L.V. Gaudet and 2 as Vivian Munnoch.

The McCallister Series focuses on a serial killer in a small, semi-rural city. She writes in a way that allows you to see inside the killer’s head without revealing his identity until the end of book 1.

 

McAllister 1 - Where the Bodies Are_372x600Where the Bodies Are – The McAllister Series Book 1

This book begins with a body in an alley but the girl isn’t dead. Jane Doe is kept in a medical coma in the hospital while police work to find her identity – and stop the steadily rising body count.

L.V. Gaudet writes several scenes from an unknown POV – the killer’s. Referred to only as “he” or “the man”, we get to see inside his head without discovering his identity – we get to watch his mental deterioration and see what is driving him.

The pressure really starts to build when Jane Doe goes missing from the hospital and the police find a massive burial site with bodies dating back generations.

 

McAllister 2 - The McAllister Farm_377x600The McAllister Farm – The McAllister Series Book 2

Book 2 takes place almost a full generation before book 1 – but to avoid spoilers I strongly suggest reading book 1 first.

The McAllisters live on a small farm on the edge of a small but growing town. They keep to themselves. William McAllister, the father, goes out of town often on business trips.

This book takes us into the mind of the man who one day creates a serial killer when he’s still an impressionable boy and examines the circumstances around his childhood and early adulthood. This book answers a lot of the backstory questions from book 1.

McAllister 3 - Hunting Michael Underwood_373x600Hunting Michael Underwood – The McAllister Series Book 3

Michael Underwood was introduced in book 1. He is a police officer, and he was working undercover as an orderly at the hospital where Jane Doe was being cared for. It was his job to keep an eye on her in case the killer returned.

Now, both Jane Doe and Michael Underwood are missing and it’s up to Jim McNelly, the detective working the serial killer case in book 1, and Lawrence Hawkworth, a newspaper reporter, to track down both missing people. Both men are convinced there’s more going on, things they aren’t seeing. They have one man in custody, but there are too many questions unanswered yet.

McAllister 4 - Killing David McAllister_391x600Killing David McAllister – The McAllister Series Book 4

In the series finale, L.V. Gaudet wraps up multiple loose ends over multiple story arcs. What becomes of David and Jason McAllister? What about the rest of their family? What is Jane Doe’s fate (I don’t want to post spoilers here so I won’t refer to her by name)? Will justice be served and in what form, or will the killer escape to disappear and become someone new?

The clock is ticking and always there is the fear of another body.

 

 

REVIEW

I have individual reviews of each book posted to Goodreads. I’ve given each book 4 out of 5 stars.

My main reason for the 4 star rating was the simple, often repetitive language of the books. The pacing, story, and mystery were all great, but I found often a word was used twice in a sentence (and not words like ‘the’ or ‘a’), or twice in consecutive sentences.

I found the author’s habit of writing each chapter from a different 3 person POV made it hard to connect to the characters. The chapters were short – you never got to spend enough time with any character to build rapport, and a few times, you were with a POV character only once through the book. I felt I didn’t know anything about the police office, Jim McNelly, or his assistant, the undercover officer, Michael Underwood, or the nurse caring for Jane Doe.

Book 2 was better for character building because it focused less on twisting the reader through a mystery and more on the development of the characters.

Book 3 returned to the POV shifting, but now that I knew more backstory and now that I was further in the series I was able to pick up a little more about the characters.

The series is written in the present tense, which made things interesting. I’m not used to that. It wasn’t bad – she writes it consistently and avoids the major pitfalls of that style choice. I just found that because I’m not used to third person present tense it was difficult to slip into.

Overall I would recommend this series to anyone who enjoys a dark mystery. There are some gruesome descriptions of dead bodies throughout so I wouldn’t categorize this as a cozy mystery.

 

Thank you to Silver Dagger Book Tours for arranging this review tour and providing the pictures and needed files.

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A Long Time Coming

Way back in high school (okay, I’m not that old but it was half a lifetime ago) I met this girl and somehow, even with me being a complete dufus and so socially awkward it was past laughable, we became best friends.

She started this story with her two best friends from middle school who she didn’t see anymore, sort of as a way to keep them all together. She added me to it and eventually, the other two were dropped.

We started putting real work into it, instead of just “wouldn’t it be cool if we were princesses from another planet!” We created a map (she drew it, I did the labelling), a language, cultures, races, magical systems, and an entire history. We worked on it so much that she’d dream about it at night. She’d tell me the dreams and I’d record them, compiling them and blending them to create a consistent story line.

We tried a comic adaptation but that didn’t work out.

We started work on a novel but the story shifted too much.

And then we graduated.

I kept tinkering with the world and the story and we’d meet up every few months to chat about it and hash things out. I got married and had kids. She got an awesome career. And at some point, our world was put on a shelf.

Until now.

With her permission, I took it down, dusted it off, and started cleaning up the mess of storylines and versions and adaptations we’d created.

I’m now working on book 3 in the series that we always dreamed of writing. And you can learn all about it here.

The world is called Thelara. The series is called The Zoedavian Chronicles. And her name was Steph. I wish I could see more of her but kids, work, books, friends … life has gotten in the way. But I hope, someday soon, she and I will be getting together for drinks to celebrate the publication of the story we once dreamed of writing.

Breaking News & Important Updates

I know this is mid-month and I generally update at the end of each month, but this post isn’t about balancing writing and life, or word count goals, or project milestones. These are the big important updates about Patreon, release dates for The Underground books, and some updates on the new project.

PATREON

When I put Schreyer Ink on hiatus, I shut down the Patreon page. I didn’t feel it was right to charge people a monthly fee for a page that wasn’t producing the promised content. I have a new Patreon page set up under my own name, and things will be a little different this time. I am charging “per creation” instead of “monthly. What does this mean for you?

If you choose to support my creative endeavors through Patreon (and thank you if you do), you’ll be charged whatever you choose to commit each time I post exclusive content. I’ve decided not to post more than 2 exclusive posts per month so if you pledge $1/post the most you’ll ever spend in a month is $2. There will be some months with only 1 post and some months with none, but I’ll try not to go over 2 to keep costs reasonable for everyone.

Second thing, EVERYTHING I post on Patreon will be available to ALL Patrons regardless of pledge amount – $1 or $10 or $100, you’ll all see the same thing.

When you get there, you’ll find 6 exclusive posts waiting for you. (All Patrons can view ALL past exclusive posts as soon as they sign up to support the page for no extra charge) This is the only time I’ll be posting more than 2 posts in a month and it’s just to give everyone something to check out while they wait.

What’s going up? The new covers for The Underground books 6-8 and an excerpt from each book.

THE UNDERGROUND

In May I completed book 5 of The Rose Garden series, completing the series, the story, everything. It felt really good, but my work isn’t over yet. I have to finish the Underground Series too. As of June 11, Book 6 is done, Book 7 just needs the edits done, and Book 8 is over half written. Covers for 6 and 7 are done, cover for 8 is being done this week.

So, when will they be available?

I have 1 final show/event at the end of June. I suppose IF I worked like a madwoman and got Book 6 approved for print today and rushed the shipping I could have them here on time. I don’t have time to do that. I’m taking the summer off from most events to help my husband build our new garage.

Shows pick up again late in October so the plan is to have ALL THREE books done, edited, proofed, formatted, printed, and here by the end of August. MAYBE I will have a launch event at the Jake Epp Library, maybe I will do something with a few of the schools in September. Not sure yet. But the COMPLETE series will be available for the Christmas sale season. And here are the official titles:

Book 6: Turncoats

Book 7: Sunlight

Book 8: BONUS NOVELLA: Cheyanne (includes the short story Fifty-Fifty)

FUTURE PROJECTS

With both series wrapped up, what comes next? Andy and I are working on redoing the picture books and rereleasing them, but that’s mostly on him. I’m in talks with another artist to do the Underground Graphic Novels – we’ll probably get a start in the fall.

As for writing, I’m already working on a new series in a new world with new characters and plots and magic and intrigue. My plan is to have book 1 completely ready by the time Pitmad rolls around this fall/winter. I’d like to take this new project the traditional route, just to see if I can. I have a few places lined up for it and I’m feeling pretty excited about it.

If you’d like to see a bit of what I’m working on, you can hop over to the official page for that new world here. You can follow the Thelara blog for world-building posts as well as summaries and previews.

A Bookish Valentine Blog Hop: A Series You Love

And now for today’s post in the Bookish Valentine Blog Hop, everyone’s favourite book series. But before we get started on that, here’s the blog hop list so you can go check out past entries, and click ahead to the ones still coming.

 

Jo Linsdell started us off with a list of her favourite book bloggers.

V.L. Jennings hosted for “A book other people love, but you haven’t read yet”

Tomorrow you can pop back here for “A Series you Love”

Then on to Skye Hegyes for “Your Fictional Crush”

We’ll have a list of books with hearts on the cover on the 12th.

On the 13th it’s a book you love that no one else is talking about, hosted over at Bold Book Geek.

And on the 14th it’s a list of books to read for Valentine’s Day.

Allison

Allie Bock – Girlwithagoodbookandherdog.blogspot.com

One of my favorite series is the An Unfortunate Fairy Tale series by Chanda Hahn. The main character is so likeable. Each book is actioned packed and there are plot twists. Of course, she falls in love at the end. What’s not to like!

Jo Linsdell

Jo Linsdell – www.JoLinsdell.com

So many to choose from… one of my favourites is the Shepherd series by Ethan Cross. He has this way of creating complex characters that blur the lines of good and evil. If you like thrillers, I highly recommend checking them out. The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling also deserves a mention, as does pretty much any series by Susan Hatler.

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V.L. Jennings – www.virginialorijennings.com

Do I have to pick just one? Too bad… Harry Potter, Redwall, Narnia, The Left Behind series, Star Wars New Jedi Order- though they are no longer canon. See, told you I couldn’t pick just one.

Skye Hegyes

Skye Hegyes – www.skyehegyes.com

Admittedly, although I love a lot of series, there aren’t many that I’ve completely finished beyond the Harry Potter series. I realized this when trying to come up with an answer for this question actually. I think the first one that comes to mind is actually Riders of the Apocalypse series by Jackie Morse Kessler as well as the Graceling Realm series by Kristin Cashore, which I’ve read all of. Most series I’ve read a couple of the books from, but not all.

 

Now me, I’m a huge series reader. Redwall, Song of the Lioness and the other series in that world, Dragons of Pern, The Rowan books, The Green Mile … I’ve read a lot of series over the years. There are so that I come back to over and over again. The Mercedes Thompson and Alpha & Omega books by Patricia Briggs, the Black Jewels books by Anne Bishop, the Society of Immortals books by Geralyn Wichers – those are probably my top 4.

What’s your favourite series?

Review: PAWS 3: Umbrae

Umbrae is the third book in the P.A.W.S. series by Debbie Manber Kupfer and this review was supposed to be up on Saturday – I swear I typed it up. Stupid internet. Anyways, better late than never.

I’ve been enjoying the P.A.W.S. series. This is a YA urban fantasy series that focuses on shapeshifters of varying types. The main character is a teenage girl named Miri. Miri can shift into a cat with the help of a magical talisman.

In this book Miri learns a lot about her family history while back at the P.A.W.S. Institute of the Midwest there is trouble brewing. Loyalties are tested. Secrets come to light while others are buried deeper.

The author does a wonderful job of continuing to create tension even after Miri has defeated her enemy (back in books 1 and 2). This book introduces many new complications and raises as many questions as it answers.

Another interesting aspect of this series is that many of the main characters are Jewish. I love books that explore cultures outside of the White-Western-Christian experience. Also love that the Canadian exchange student is loud and gets into trouble!

This is a series that has remained strong and interesting through three books and ends with a great hook. If you’re looking for a good YA series this is one I recommend taking a chance on. 5 out of 5 stars.

Review: The Dracones Book 1

The Dracones is an urban fantasy series by Sheri-Lynn Marean. The Dracones are a race of shape shifters from another dimension. Their animal to shift into is a dragon and it doesn’t take affect until they are twenty one.

Chapter 1 was a lot of back story but there was some intrigue as well. It was obvious from chapter 1 who the love interest was going to be but I was impressed when she stepped away from the “we grew up together, we’re like siblings” trope and went for something darker.

The book dumps a lot of characters on you in fairly quick succession and there are a lot of fantasy races you need to come to terms with in fairly short order. As well, the main character is just getting a grip on some of her powers, discovering them as she goes along. While she does have difficulty with this and requires a lot of help it felt convenient at times. “Oh, you need this done? Well you can do that too, you just don’t know it yet!”.

The author uses a weird formatting inside the book – she doesn’t start a new paragraph every time the speaker changes and that made following the dialogue VERY difficult, especially with the order of the dialogue compared to the tags (he said, she said).

The romantic tension was good and the development of the two MCs was good. This is definitely an adult paranormal romance with a magic assisted sex scene that made me roll my eyes a bit.

All that being said, I actually enjoyed reading the whole thing and would likely read more in the series. I’d give this a 3 star, but only because of the dialogue formatting. Otherwise it would be a 3.5, almost a 4.

Review: Alamir: Blood of Kaos Series

Alamir is the first book in the Blood of Kaos Series by Nesa Miller. This is an urban fantasy series that deals with demons and multiple realms.

What I like is that the pacing is steady with a good mix of sexy romance, dominance plays, and violence. Seriously, it plays out like a great TV series. You jump right in with just enough back story to keep you from being completely lost and then you get pieces along the way – some pieces make the story clearer, others make it more confusing. But confusing in a good way and answers come along often enough that you know the author intends to answer everything in her own time.

What I don’t like are the names and the misspellings. Kaos instead of Chaos. Names like Inferno, Spirit, Faux, Darknight … I know, it’s urban paranormal, this is the norm, these are the signals to the reader that it’s a demon story, but I don’t like it. That being said, it wasn’t enough of an issue to make me put the story down.

And while I don’t like the “destined to love each other, complete each other” reason for those two characters being together, she’s a strong woman who has made it very clear that if/when they sleep together it’s going to be on her terms. She forces him to be honest and vulnerable, forces him to respect her, and I like that.

This book stands alone as a single adventure with a goal which is achieved. But at the same time it sets up nicely for the sequel which will be out in the next year or so.

Overall I give this book 3.75 stars out of 5. The writing is very good and it’s gotten some amazing reviews so if you like this sort of story, with powerful brooding heroes and demons evil twins, read this book, you’ll love it. That’s the beauty of books – there’s something for everyone and if this is you’re thing you’re in for a treat.

Review: The Otherworld

The Otherworld by Lynette Ferreira is a series of short stories available on Kindle. These are bite-sized, abridged chapters from a 3 book series which is due for publication July 2018.

Book 1: The Book of Eudemon – The story starts with Jenny waking up in a house she doesn’t remember faced with two girls she doesn’t know – only within pages she’s acting like she’s been there all along. Apparently in Strangely this is normal behavior for new-comers. No one knows where they come from or why but they have this period of “wtf” and then it’s like they’ve been there all along.
The story brings together four girls, Jenny, Zara, Emily, and Abby, plus Abby’s boyfriend, Chris.

Book 2: The Wishing Well – This picks up the morning after Book 1. The biggest reveal is that The Changeless (mentioned in book 1 but not explained) have large black wings and that Jenny has them too. Jenny has a premonition but she’s not supposed to use her powers. Of course there is little to no forewarning of what the powers are or how they will manifest.
Jason, someone else from Town Hall, re-assigns Jenny to be his assistant and use her premonition powers to grant wishes or deny them – to people on Earth.

Book 3: When Time Stood Still – Again, this picks up the day after the previous book. Emily discovers her power in this book and Abby goes missing. We’re finally starting to build some tension but it feels forced because of the abridged nature of the chapters.

Book 4: Dream Walker – This picks up only an hour after the previous “chapter”. In this section Zara discovers her powers. We finally start getting pieces of the back story given to us. The paranormal element of this series is centered on demons, angels, and various levels of heavens and hells.

Book 5: Once Upon a Time – This is entirely a flashback to Jenny’s time before Strangely.

The premise of the story is interesting but I found the chapters too abridged for my tastes. They serve as a good introduction to the story and the characters but not the setting. If you like a quick, teasing read these are great. If you prefer something a little longer and a little more in depth I suggest waiting for the full series to be released.

Review: Untamed by Madeline Dyer

Untamed is a science-fiction adventure novel in the same vein as Uglies by Scott Westerfeld.

The main character and first person narrator is named Seven Sarr. She lives with a band of Untamed in the wilderness. The Untamed are fighting against The Enhanced, humans who augment themselves with addictive chemicals and plastic surgery. The augments alter their emotions as well as their ability.

The story combines this science fiction bio-chemistry with a strong spiritual story line. There are Spirits in the wilderness, dangerous and angry. This adds to the difficulties facing the Untamed.

Along with Seven there is a small community of Untamed: her brother Three, their leader, Rahn, and Rahn’s cousins, Corin and Esther, make up the main cast of the book.

The beginning was very strong. I felt immersed in the world right away but the action and tension were very high as well. True to the genre and style you move fast through the story and are faced with lies and conflicting stories from all sides. The narrative is tight and the narrator refreshing, unreliable, and easy to relate to.

The only downside to the book was that I figured out the twists WAY before the characters did. I know it’s a case of things being easier to see from the outside where you have the big picture, but the story has a first person narrator. I only know and see what she knows and sees.

I did really enjoy this book and the writing style and I give it a 4.5 out of 5 stars.

I Hate Writing Sequels

A follow up to The Reader Author Contract post from last week.

I’m writing two different series right now. The first is a light fantasy romance series with a big twist in book three. The second is a middle grade science fiction adventure series about super powers and what not. I just finished book two in the fantasy series and I’ve started book two in the sci fi series, and I’ve realized that writing book twos sucks.

I still love the series idea, and they’re both goal oriented series so they have a set ending (5 in the fantasy series, 8 or 9 in the sci fi) but writing book two was the hardest thing I’ve ever done.

I hit so many road blocks, so many days where I didn’t want to work on it, so many times where I got tired of the project. I felt overwhelmed. I’ll be writing these series for another 2-2.5 years!

Book ones, those are fun. You’re meeting new characters, building a world, it’s a new project, it feels awesome.

Book lasts, those are fun too. You’re wrapping up all the plot lines and writing the big scenes and when it’s done the whole project is done and that is awesome too.

The ones in the middle – even when the story is good – feel tedious to me. I get a serious case of the new project itch. I want to be done. I want to quit. And as an indie author that would be VERY BAD.

Because of the contract. Because indie authors already have a rep as being unprofessional.

If I don’t finish these series the readers who did take a chance on me will not come back, they will not give me a second chance, they won’t recommend me to other people, and if they bother to leave me a review it won’t be a good one.

When I started The Rose Garden and Underground I knew what I was getting into. I knew I had to write all the books. I committed myself to this project, I will finish it, even if it means banging my head against the wall some days.

And that’s what I’m off to do today … er … work on Underground book 2, not bang my head on things.