C S McClellan


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Smashwords book reviews by C S McClellan

  • Going Down on July 23, 2010

    I'm a big fan of Ann Somerville's books, and while I enjoyed Going Down, I didn't think it was as strong as most of what she's written. The problem may be that's it's a novella rather than a full-length novel, and it wasn't possible to develop the characters in the way she usually does. Still, not a bad read.
  • Games & Consequences (Remastering Jerna #2) on Aug. 06, 2010

    Games & Consequences is the sequal to Remastering Jerna. As usual with Ann Somerville's books, it's well-written and an engaging read. For anyone who loved Remastering Jerna, it may be a bit of a disappointment, since it's Ria rather than Jerna who's the central character this time. This time around, Jerna is so thoroughly a victim of circumstances and without the resources to fight against them, that it's much harder to relate to him than it was with the previous book.
  • The Breaking (The Eternal Dungeon) on Aug. 15, 2010

    Elsdon Taylor, condemned to be executed for the murder of his sister, has been committed to the Eternal Dungeon for Searching and Breaking. The question isn’t about his guilt, but about whether there’s any reason why he shouldn’t suffer the ultimate penalty. Expecting to be tortured, he meets Layle Smith, the High Seeker, whose reputation is that of a fearsome torturer. He isn’t what Elsdon expected, and it turns out that Elsdon is also not what Layle Smith expected. Thus begins a story in which a tormented young man is pitted against a man capable of extracting the darkest secrets from his prisoners. The Breaking is the first part of Rebirth, part of the Eternal Dungeon series. The series explores the range of human emotions, from love to madness, all within the confines of a dungeon shut away below the “lighted world.”
  • The Penal Colony on Sep. 22, 2010

    I normally don't read anything labeled as a thriller, but the sci fi tag and the generous excerpt drew me in. Once started, I was hooked. This is a well-plotted story of injustice, survival, and courage. There's plenty of action, but without slighting character development. The author also has an excellent eye for detail and gives the reader a real sense of place as the story progresses.
  • Grace - A Short Story. on Sep. 23, 2010

    Not even interesting enough to finish reading. Very amateurish. Loved "I watched them pass through the peephole..."
  • Voices - A Special Abilities Novel Series on Jan. 31, 2011

    It sounded like a very interesting plot idea. Unfortunately, it only took a half dozen pages or so to realize that it was a good idea spoiled. The author is in serious need of some grammar lessons, especially in the use of commas and apostrophes. He also gets bogged down in petty details that do nothing to enhance the story or move it forward. This seems to be a first draft by a beginning writer, and shouldn't have been offered to the public without extensive rewriting and editing. Being free doesn't make it better.
  • The Vampire from Hell: (Part 1) - The Beginning on Feb. 23, 2011

    Rayea is a young, sassy, very contemporary vampire with the normal concerns of any young woman: clothes, friends, actors. But one of her interests really pisses off her father, who prefers to be addressed as Your Highness. She wants to save humanity from him, and it isn’t going to be an easy job. It’s an interesting concept with a heroine who isn’t exactly the typical vampire. The story suffers from some sloppy grammar and editing, but not so much that it would be distracting for most vampire fans. It has all the signs of being the first novel of a young writer, with enough imagination to make the reader anticipate the next installment.
  • Cold Front (Pindone Files #1) on March 09, 2011

    This is a good solid read for fans of mysteries. Somerville's novels are always well-written with fully developed characters that the reader can sympathize with. There's a good deal of gay sex, but it's part of a developing relationship that feels real. The mystery is a complex one, centering around a series of murders, and leads to an unexpected ending. It all takes place in an alternate universe where paranormal abilities are part of the culture, but the feeling is of a contemporary setting rather than someplace strange and exotic.
  • The M and M Who Lost His Way on June 23, 2011

    Reads as if the writer is about five years old. Even free doesn't make up for incompetent writing.
  • Broken Slate on July 13, 2011

    Broken Slate is one of those novels that proves the worth of giving a potential buyer a generous sample to read. To tell the truth, I was hooked well before coming to the end of Jennings' 50% sample. My slender book budget tells me I have to be pretty darned sure about buying anything over $2.99, but Broken Slate was worth it. Jennings does a wonderful job of getting deep into her central character's psyche and providing him with a convincing world in which to live. The background for that world, and how Martin wound up as contracted labor (a cot) is developed in a very natural way. This is a very intense novel, with an air of mystery that takes its time to reveal itself.
  • Hidden Faults on Aug. 03, 2011

    Hidden Faults is written with the same skill and attention to detail of Somerville's previous novels. I wondered whether it's an alternative view of the earlier Pindone novels, or just takes place a long time after those stories, when society's attitude toward paranormal abilities has evolved into open hostility. The change is quite extreme and disturbing, but it's not something that would bother new readers. What kept me from giving this novel five stars was the prison plotline. I wish the author could have found some way to avoid the stale "fresh meat"/"you belong to me or else" cliches. Still, the protagonist's prison experience had some interesting twists and turns that were well done. Considering that I don't care much for paranormal stories, and have even more trouble with that genre when people use the power of their mind to enable them to fly, it's an exceptional writer who can keep me reading her books.
  • The Vampire's Warden (Undead in Brown County #1) on Aug. 13, 2011

    If your book isn't good enough to stand on its own, then using spam SEO keywords isn't going to help.
  • NaNo for the New and the Insane on Sep. 07, 2011

    This is a fast, enjoyable read for anyone who's thought about jumping into National Novel Writing Month. Gifford is a professional writer, editor, and publisher who's been a part of NaNoWriMo for years, and still loves it. She punctures misconceptions, makes it clear it's not for everybody, but might be exactly right for you. As if that isn't enough (and all for free), there's a good deal of practical writing advice that's worth checking out even if you think NaNo is a creation of the devil, to be undertaken at the risk of your creative soul
  • Don Coyote de la Merika on Oct. 22, 2011

    This is just one story in a collection of five, and it's enough to make me look forward to reading the rest. Beautifully written, it's a subdued vision of a post-apocalypse world. We don't know what happened, or who's to blame. We're not even sure who the "good guys" are in the struggle for survival, but the young girl, Silene, through whose eyes we see it, already understands what it takes.
  • A Not-So-Grimm Fairytale on Nov. 17, 2011

    A charming and amusing take on a classic type of fairy tale. A gay romance of love sought and found.
  • The Making of an Indie Writer on Jan. 07, 2012

    In some ways, this little book is a summary of all the complaints about the traditional writing path--the long, frustrating wrestling match with agents, editors, publishers. That's part of its strength. The other part is that it's a personal story that should speak to anyone who's still on the fence about whether to tread that traditional path or go it on their own. The end of the essay does a very nice job of summing up the traditional path. "When we were telling an artist friend of ours that agents and then editors often ask writers to rewrite their work, he frowned and said, “Isn’t that kind of like someone looking at one of my paintings and telling me I need to take this chunk of paint off here and paint this part of the canvas with a different color over there? And if I do all that, they’ll pay me.” “It is like that,” I said, “only it’s worse. Half the time they’ll ask you to make those changes but they don’t pay you for it. They end up saying, ‘geez, I guess I still don’t want it.’” It isn't about traditional publishing being evil; it's about finding the way that works for you.
  • The Tide Mill on Feb. 24, 2012

    If you love historical fiction, you need to acquaint yourself with Richard Herley. His novels are not only rich in detail, they're beautifully written. His descriptions draw you in with the sounds, scents, and views of an often wild and unfriendly, but beautiful world. His nature isn't a passive thing that you merely look at. It's active and engaging, and always very much a part of the story. When he writes about a flock of seabirds swooping over the water, you can see and hear them. His descriptions of manual skills and handcrafts, often of another time and place are thoroughly convincing and contribute to the feeling of authenticity about the periods he writes about. I think his knowledge must be based as much on his own skills as on research. The heart of The Tide Mill is about the intersection of the lives of serfs, free men, and nobles. Characters defy their ordained destinies, suffer the consequences, or reap the rewards. Nothing about this life is easy, even for the highborn, who have to balance the opposing demands of their king and the church. The characters struggle against each other, and against nature, mostly in the form of the sea that edges the village. Most of all, they struggle against themselves. Two threads wind through the story, the forbidden love of two people from different social classes, and the construction of a new kind of mill that attracts the greedy attention of the Church.
  • The Surrogate on March 11, 2012

    As the author says, this isn't a book for the faint-hearted. The characters suffer through incredible brutality, but find the strength, not only to survive, but to find happiness. It's a long hard road, and one that draws the reader into the emotional turmoil and the struggle of all three characters to recover a sense of their own worth and their value to the other two.
  • Rise Above on March 05, 2013

    Beautifully written story with, as another reviewer said, a shocking revelation at the end. Shocking and heartbreaking.
  • A Checkered Past on June 15, 2013
    (no rating)
    A Checkered Past is a powerful and moving memoir by a man whose life began to unravel when he was only eleven-years-old. The result was an escalating series of crimes and prison sentences, until he was convicted of felony murder and sentenced to death. Bill Poyck died in the execution chamber on June 12, 2013, after having written this memoir and two novels, and served as a jailhouse lawyer, working to help unjustly imprisoned men to gain their freedom. This is a must-read for anyone who wants to understand why so many people and organizations are working to amend laws that are putting more and more people in prison, and killing more of them. It is only one of many authentic insider views of the abominable conditions that exist in so many prisons, and the misery that is the American justice system, but it's an important one.
  • Egerius on Sep. 10, 2013

    It's an intriguing beginning,, but it isn't a good idea to preview a novel by publishing a chapter that's full of typos and punctuation errors. The frequent substition of a question mark for the first letter of a sentence may be a problem of converting one word processor format to another. But there are places, where a sentence is incorrectly divided, sometimes with two punctuation marks together. Also sentences without spaces in between, and a few other problems. I read it first in PDF format, which can sometimes be a problem, but the same errors appear in the epub version.
  • The Earth Goddess on Nov. 15, 2013

    It's taken me too long to get around to writing a review. This is the third and last book of the Pagans series, and as much as I admired the first two, I think this is the best. It's a magnificent ending, even if not a happy one, and beautifully written, as Mr. Herley's books always are. It moves forward in time, when the pagans have lost the battle for their way of life and a hierarchical religious institution has gained power over the land. Taggart's son, orphaned, is taken in and starts the long journey to priesthood. But life eventually exposes him to the realities outside his privileged enclave, and he is forced onto an entirely different path.
  • Busting God on March 07, 2014

    A tight, tough little story with a distinctly down under flavor. I understand this is the first of several about these characters. Looking forward to the next one.
  • A Checkered Past on March 12, 2015

    To straighten out any confusion, the person writing "About William Van Poyck" is not the author, but the publisher. As I said in my review, Van Poyck was executed in June of 2013.
  • Dancing Bare on April 18, 2015

    Rigby's a snob, as one reviewer manages to say without using the word. But he's my kind of snob: witty, intelligent, compassionate, observant, insightful, honest. Just the comparatively short span of time his memoire covers gives a good sense of history, and points up the contrast between the beauty of the world he discovered in his travels as a young man, and what it's become since then. It's a wonderful portrait of someone maturing, sometimes painfully, but even in the process of losing his naivete and innocence, he usually manages to maintain his sense of humor. He deserved to find the true love he was searching for, and he did. I have to feel sorry for the reviewer who lost 20 IQ points reading the book. She obviously couldn't afford the loss.
  • Days of Atonement on Sep. 25, 2017

    Police procedural? Crime thriller? A touch of Western and SF? All of them, with a deeply flawed, yet seriously moral central character. Loren is a police chief with a violent temper. He's been taking illegal payoffs for years, because that's the way things go in Atocha. But he's also a loving family man, and and man with a conscience, who worries about the contradictions between his behavior and his religious beliefs. In other words, he's a complex character, one that you wind up rooting for.