Amanda is an energetic, masters degree educated, 20-something happily living in an attic apartment in Boston with her shelter-adopted cat. She writes horror, scifi, paranormal romance, and urban fantasy. When she's not busy writing, reading, or working as a medical librarian, she loves to cook, exercise, and explore everything from museums to dive bars.
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Waiting For Daybreak
by Amanda McNeil
Approx. 38,250 words.
Published on August 30, 2012.
Frieda has never felt normal. She feels every emotion too strongly and lashes out at herself in punishment. But one day a virus breaks out turning her neighbors into zombies. As her survival instinct kicks in keeping her safe from the zombies, Frieda can't help but wonder if she now counts as healthy and normal, or is she still abnormal compared to every other human being who is craving brains?
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Smashwords book reviews by Amanda McNeil
- Timeless Trilogy, Book One: Fate
on July 04, 2012
Kris is a successful video editor in Charleston, South Carolina with two best friends she's made her own family with. She has a beautiful beach house and a loving fluffy cat named Pegasus. She also just so happens to be precognitive. Her visions have never been about herself until she starts sensing that she is being watched, receiving late night phone calls, and finding flowers left at her house and on her car. Increasingly, she realizes she is in danger, and right then her old college flame moves in next door.
Kris is a relatable heroine without going over the top. She's no quivering violet, but also no Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Similarly, her love interest is kind and handsome without being sparkly and perfect. The plot is entertaining and modern. It keeps the reader guessing without forcing any characters to act stupid.
All of that said, Grace shows promise as a writer, but she still needs to work on her craft. Her plot structure is excellent, but she frequently shows instead of tells. Similarly, she struggles a bit when first introducing a character, often falling back on the beginner writer's method of explaining hair and eye color before anything else. Similarly, the book needs more editing for simple grammar, spelling, and typos.
Overall, this is an interesting mix of suspense, romance, and paranormal that keeps the reader guessing and interested and shows promise in the writer.
on July 04, 2012
This book is best summed up as the scientific Rosemary’s Baby, which also means it kicks serious ass. Even people who find pregnancy to be a miracle (people who I completely do not understand) are creeped out by a pregnancy gone awry. This basic storyline then is ideal for a modern update aka switch out the demons and Satanism for science. Unfortunately the climax doesn't quite live up to the excellent idea, but the cliffhanger ending leaves the reader eagerly anticipating the next entry in the series.
Overall this horror suspense is a great addition to the genre of evil pregnancies. I recommend it and am looking forward to the next entry in the series.
- The Preying Mantis
on Oct. 27, 2012
I picked this up during the Smashwords Summer/Winter sale for two reasons. The plot sounded intriguing, and honestly the cover amused me. What I found inside was a plot that was mostly strong (although it fell apart at the end) that was unfortunately supported by some truly bad writing.
Let’s start with the good. The plot is genuinely creepy. Although the Preying Mantis (as he calls himself) is fairly typical for a serial killer thriller, he’s got enough unique qualities that the reader is left intrigued and guessing. The murder scenes are brutal and frightening. I was engaged enough that I kept reading in spite of the bad writing quality, purely because I wanted to know what happened at the end. Unfortunately, the plot at the end takes a bit of a nonsensical nose-dive, but, alas, that happens sometimes.
As for the writing itself, there are three separate issues at hand.
First up, we have an omniscient third person narrator telling a story that takes place almost entirely in New York City with American characters, and yet the narrator repeatedly speaks British English. This is bizarre, confusing, and jolts the reader out of the story. I actually had to check a couple of times and make sure the story was indeed happening in NYC. The British English also drifts into the American characters’ dialogue, and, if it’s a problem for the narrator to speak British English, it’s an even larger one for the American characters to do so.
Speaking of dialogue (see what I did there), let’s get to that. The main problem with the dialogue is that it doesn’t sound realistic. At all. Also every single character sounds exactly the same. The Latino-American cop sounds exactly like the white American FBI Agent who sounds exactly like the serial killer who sounds exactly like the head of the FBI’s investigation. And none of them sound realistic. Rather than try to explain it, let me show you.
"I shall go mad if I don’t have anything to do for the next two weeks." (location 310)
"Would you like to order out? I am quite hungry and can do with some sustenance." (location 1213)
"After about fifteen minutes he emerged form his office and said, 'Let us go.' " (location 2868)
"How come you being here all by yourself in the middle of nowhere, dear?" (location 3617)
The only way dialogue like this would work would be if, say, one character was OCD about never saying a contraction or had Asperger’s Syndrome or something. But none of the characters are like that and also they all speak exactly the same way. It’s a real problem for dialogue to sound so incredibly unrealistic. It drags the reader out of the story, plus it’s bad characterization. Each character should have an individual sound.
Finally, there are the general grammar/spelling issues. The most annoying being the author’s tendency to switch back and forth between present and past tense, frequently within the same sentence.
Overall, the book has a relatively unique plot that is overshadowed by a first draft quality level of writing. I encourage Louw to get either a co-author or an editor for future endeavors, as well as a wider variety of beta readers. Sound editing and checks by beta readers could have cleared up many of these issues.
on Nov. 09, 2013
I’ve always enjoyed the classic horror trope of we-all-go-to-the-woods-and-things-gets-real, so I was intrigued to see what Alaspa did with it. There’s enough different in the plot to keep you reading, in spite of some awkward sentence-level writing.
People disappearing from their tents and leaving their clothes behind, one per night, is a nice subtle change to what one generally sees in the everyone in the woods story. Usually people get eaten by zombies or axe murdered or something obvious. A simple disappearance was different enough that I was genuinely curious as to what was causing these odd disappearances. Added into this are the methods used by whoever is doing the abducting to keep the campers in their campsite. They try to paddle away but the currents mysteriously change. They try to walk away through the woods but the trees attack them, etc… These methods worked within the context of the supernatural seeming disappearances. I also liked that their supernatural experimenters make it impossible for them to get hurt, so they are forced to wait their turn. It all felt a bit like a subtly done allegory for animals in a slaughterhouse, and it kept me reading and engaged.
The only element of the plot that didn’t work for me is that the first person to disappear from the group is also the only person of color in the group. Having the Latino guy be the first one to disappear is so stereotypical and B-movie that I actually cringed. Let poor Carlos be at least the second one to disappear. Or, heck, make him be one of the last ones standing. Getting to play with the regular tropes of whatever genre you write in is one of the benefits of indie writing, so use that to your advantage.
Unfortunately, some of the writing style on the sentence level isn’t up to the same level as the intricate plot. There is quite a bit of telling instead of showing. Not enough trusting the reader to get it. There are some awkward and puzzling sentences in the book as well.
Additionally, I started counting the number of errors that were clearly not typos, and I got over 30. I fully expect some errors to get through, they tend to even in traditionally published works, but I find anything over 5 to 10 to be excessive and feel more like a first draft than a fully done, ready to publish work.
On the other hand, there are portions of the sentence-level writing that are eloquent and beautiful to read. Particularly, any instance where characters are having sex is quite well-written, and I would be interested to read work from Alaspa focused more on romance or erotica.
Overall, this book contains a strong horror/thriller plot that will keep the reader engaged in spite of some awkward sentence-level writing and a few too many textual errors. I recommend it to horror readers who are intrigued by the plot and don’t mind these short-comings.