I read the first two books of this series:
Vanessa's dreams are haunted by cryptids—mysterious creatures that may or may not exist. Her mother used to study them, gathering scientific evidence that at least some of them are real. Vanessa longs to continue her mother's research. At the moment, though, she also has more pressing concerns—like a family trip that includes her father's new girlfriend.
But the visit to Scotland gives Vanessa a chance to explore the eerie secrets of Loch Ness. With the help of her mother's cryptid files, can she solve the mystery of the most famous cryptid of all?
When Vanessa visits a friend's family on their ranch in Mexico, she's expecting a relaxing summer. Instead, she enters a shadowy world of mysterious animal death, magical curses, and dark family secrets.
Vanessa's hosts are in trouble. Their ranch is struggling; there's been no rain, and animals are being killed by an unidentified predator. Could it be the mythical creature mentioned in her mother's cryptid files—the bloodsucking Chupacabra? Or do the ranch's misfortunes have something to do with the family's painful past?
There is a third title, The Pacific Giants, with presumably more to come.
I had high hopes. Cryptids are always a popular subject, one both kids and adults can't help find intriguing. The chapters start off with brief paragraphs describing actual reports of encounters with the cryptid in question, as well as scientific information that could explain or support its existence. In just reading those, one could easily finish the book convinced that Nessie or the Chupacabra are very real.
Unfortunately, I didn't find the stories themselves as convincing. Most characters remained rather one-dimensional, although there is development and growth in the main character, Vanessa. The hard facts and evidence in the chapter openers give way to magic and fantasy as the 'mystery' is solved. I don't think readers who wantto finish the book convinced one way or another will find that very satisfying.
At the same time, the struggles Vanessa faces in her personal life came across as real, and may resonate with many readers in similar situations. I would give the series so far a B- if it was turned in by a student - a high enough grade to encourage the writer to coninue, but low enough to show there is definite room for improvement.
***One small issue with the second book, which I found continually jarring: the young man of the family Vanessa is visiting is named "Armado", "Mado" for short.. While Americans commonly change spellings and pronunciations of common names, traditional Mexicans (which this family is) do not. It's Armando, Mando for short. I can forgive Flitcroft, who hails from Dublin, for the mistake, but surely someone at Lerner should have picked that up? If it throws me off in reading, it may be enough to cause my New Mexican readers to put it down entirely.