Thursday, September 30, 2010

Book Review: She Smells the Dead by E.J. Stevens

Title:  She Smells the Dead
Author:  E.J. Stevens
Publisher:  Sacred Oaks Press
Genre: YA/paranormal
Hardcover: 168 pages
ISBN: 0984247521
Summary from Goodreads:
It's the beginning of senior year and Yuki's psychic awareness of ghostly spirits is threatening to ruin her life. Her ability to sense spirits of the dead isn't glamorous like the ghost hunting on television. 


The smell impressions are becoming stronger. Yuki is being visited in her dreams, and she suspects that her friend Calvin is involved in something strange. To make matters worse her crush on Garrett is going unrequited, Yuki's friend Emma is on a rampage against bee oppression, and annoying Calvin Miller mysteriously disappears. 

Will Yuki be able to focus her powers in time to save the lost soul who is haunting her? Meanwhile, who will save Yuki from following the spirits into the light? 
Add this book to your: Goodreads Shelfari | Library Thing | Visual Bookshelf

E.J. Stevens' She Smells the Dead is a paranormal mystery about a girl nicknamed Yuki who is haunted by ghostly spirits.  When someone haunts her, she finds herself assaulted by an overwhelming scent related to the recently deceased person.  Fortunately, she doesn't smell decaying flesh or rotting corpses, but what she does smell isn't much more pleasant.  For instance, if she was haunted by a person who used to make furniture, she might smell wood stain or varnish all day long.  Luckily for Yuki, her two best friends know all about her unusual paranormal ability, and they do everything they can to help her complete the detective work necessary to give the wayward spirits whatever resolution they're seeking.  But Yuki's friends just might be keeping some secrets of their own...

What I Liked:
-     The premise is intriguing.  I've read several novels about characters with paranormal abilities who connect with the dead in various ways, but this is the first book I've read that focused on smell as the protagonist's primary method of connecting with the dead.
-     Yuki is not the only one with a supernatural ability in this story, so there are some interesting twists in this book.  The description makes She Smells the Dead sound like a ghost story, but there are other paranormal elements at work too.
-    From her sense of humor to her goth wardrobe, I found Yuki easy to like.  In some ways she is an outsider, but aside from her distinctive fashion sense and her unique paranormal ability she is a fairly normal high school senior.  She is a member of the anime club, has a crush on a 'bad boy', and is looking forward to the homecoming dance.    
-     I am a fan of best-friend romances, and the main relationship in this story fits that bill nicely.
-     I really liked Yuki's friend Emma, who is confident, intelligent, and supportive.  Emma also happens to be a vegan, animal-rights activist, which I loved!
-     She Smells the Dead is the first book in E.J. Stevens' Spirit Guide series, so Yuki's challenges are actually just beginning by the final pages of the book, but it does feel like most of the major players and paranormal concepts have been introduced by the end of this first book.

What I Liked Less:
-     This book seemed a bit more like a short story than a novel.  It is only 168 pages and some chapters are only a page and a half long.
-     A few scenes could have benefited from tighter editing.  For instance, in one scene Yuki and Calvin are in his truck driving across a farm.  Yuki sees some bee hives and gets lost in thought as she recalls a conversation she had with a Emma the previous semester.  When Yuki snaps out of her reverie, she is startled by a person standing behind her asking why she is there.  As the reader, I was startled by the fact that Yuki was suddenly out of the truck somewhere on the farm.  When and where did Calvin park the truck?  When did Yuki get out of the truck?  Disorienting moments like that occasionally distracted me from the story.
-     I wanted more to unfold on the page.  Some scenes (including the resolution of the ghost story in this book) felt as though they were summarized rather than shared in detail on the page.  A lot of conversations are described rather than shown through dialogue, and many scenes that could have illustrated the romantic chemistry between two characters happen off the page and are summarized with lines like "Well and there was kissing. Lots and lots of kissing."
-     I was not a fan of Simon, a guy in his late thirties/early forties who constantly makes suggestive comments to high-schooler Yuki.  He is her mentor, and his inappropriate flirtatiousness is creepy and made him very difficult to tolerate or respect.  I basically wanted to skim forward a few paragraphs every time I saw his name on the page.

She Smells the Dead is a very quick read and a unique paranormal YA story.  It is the first book in E.J. Stevens' Spirit Guide series.  If you would like to learn more about She Smells the Dead or E.J. Stevens' poetry collections, visit her Spirit Guide website, blog, or twitter.

Our Welcoming the Fall Winner!!

Myspace Congratulations Graphics

Thank you to everyone who entered our Welcoming the Fall Giveaway!

The winner is:  Fi-Chan!  

Congratulations!!!  :)

If you didn't win this contest, please check back for more giveaways very soon.  We will be attending several fun book signings in October (including events featuring April Henry, L.K. Madigan, and Becca Fitzpatrick).  So we will have more awesome giveaways coming up soon!

Friday, September 24, 2010

Flower Friday - Dahlia + Friday's Fab Five

'Purple Gem' Cactus Dahlia

This week's featured flowers are 'Purple Gem' Dahlias!  These big purple blooms grow from tubers and make excellent cut flowers.  This cactus dahlia blooms nicely from mid to late summer, and the tubers can be divided year after year.  We live in a fairly wet region of the country and our dahlias have issues with pests like slugs and snails at the beginning of each season, but as the plants mature they seem much less susceptible to such attacks.  This plant gets to be around three feet tall and the blooms are fairly heavy so it benefits from staking.  To learn more about about 'Purple Gem' Dahlias, check out Easy to Grow Bulbs' 'Purple Gem' Dahlia page, Holland Bulb farm's 'Purple Gem' cactus Dahlia page, or the 'Purple Gem' Dahlia page at Dave's Garden.

A few book & blogosphere notes:

1.  Manga Maniac Cafe is giving away ten copies of Inara Scott's debut novel, Delcroix Academy: The Candidates.  You can enter that giveaway here (ends 10/2).  You can read the first chapter of Delcroix Academy: The Candidates here & check out the book trailer at Inara Scott's website.
2.  Melissa Marr is giving away six autographed copies of Kiersten White's Paranormalcy and six autographed copies of Lisa Desrochers' Personal Demons on her Rath & Ruins message board.  You can enter that giveaway here (ends 10/2).
3.  The Undercover Book Lover is hosting an international "Hungry for HarperTeen" contest featuring several fabulous books that I can't wait to read, including Lauren Oliver's Delirium and Courtney Allison Moulton's Angelfire.  Check out all the great prize pack options & enter that contest here (ends 10/15).

This fun meme is hosted by Froggarita's Bookcase.  Every Friday Froggarita asks five questions so we can all get to know each other better.  The only rule is that you can't use the same answer twice within your five!   Ready to play?  Leave your answers in the comments or leave us a link to your own Friday's Fab Five post. 

What is your favorite: 

1. 50's song?
I love Nat King Cole (L-O-V-E, Smile, Mona Lisa, The Very Thought of You, etc.).

2. Country song?
I'm not much of a country music fan, but I've always liked Patsy Cline.  Crazy & Walkin' After Midnight are two of my favorites.

3. 80's Song?
There are so many fun 80's songs!  The Promise by When in Rome is among my favorites.

4.Pop Rock song?
I like Lene Marlin's Whatever it Takes and basically every Secondhand Serenade song.

5. Song done on Glee?
I love Glee and it seems impossible to choose just one favorite, but the Halo/Walking on Sunshine mashup always makes me smile.

A confession and a poll...

Confession:  I read way more books than I review.*  Free Smiley Courtesy of

This has been a busy month of settling our daughters into their autumn homeschooling routines and new swimming/ballet/pottery schedules, so blogging has frequently taken a back seat to our other daily activities lately.  Fortunately even our busiest days include reading time, but unfortunately I haven't been finding the time to write & gather links for full blog reviews for the majority of the books we've been reading.  Now that we are finally beginning to settle in to our fall routines, I am looking forward to having a bit more blogging time again soon a
nd I want to start sharing mini-reviews for more of the books we read.  But I am curious to know which types of books most of our blog followers are interested in seeing reviewed.  

In a typical week, I read two or three YA novels, one or two middle grade books, and a giant stack of picture books.  I hope to have time to share full reviews of one or two books each week & mini-reviews of several more (depending on the mini-review format).  I adore picture books, read quite a few middle grade novels, and would say that YA is my favorite genre, but I also like mystery novels, a bit of urban fantasy, and some paranormal romance too.  So far I've been sharing mostly YA reviews here on The Eager Readers, with a few middle grade & picture book reviews tossed in now and then, but I'm curious to know what type(s) of books you all are interested in seeing reviewed.  I've set up an anonymous poll below and would love it if you could take a couple seconds to share your opinions in the poll or the comments.  Thank you so much!

Important note:  This confession does not apply to ARCs or any books I've received specifically for review.  Those books always take priority & always receive a thorough review.  This confession is in reference to books we've purchased, received as gifts, or checked out from the library.

Happy Reading!  :-)

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Welcoming the Fall Giveaway!

Happy Autumn!  We love watching the leaves change color, carving pumpkins, and enjoying rainy days curled up with a favorite book.  So to welcome fall, we've decided to give away one of our family's favorite books.  Since all four of us have different favorites, we've decided to let you chose which one of our family's favorite books you want.

To Enter:  Fill out THIS FORM to let us know which book you'd like to win.  We will order the winner's book from The Book Depository, so this giveaway is international if you live in a country on this list.

Deadline:  Sept. 29th at 11:59 pm PST

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

City of Bones by Cassandra Clare

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card

Alanna: The First Adventure by Tamora Pierce

Fly By Night by Frances Hardinge

Charlotte's Web by E.B. White 

I Love You, Blue Kangaroo by Emma Chichester Clark

The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale

Be sure to check out the rest of the blogs participating in the Welcoming the Fall Giveaway!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Speak Loudly! Why book banning is NEVER okay.

This weekend Twitter was buzzing with an incredible amount of passionate discussion about book banning and specifically about three particular books that have recently been challenged in a Missouri school district, Laurie Halse Anderson's Speak, Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse Five, and Sarah Ockler's Twenty Boy Summer.   One very disturbing aspect of this particular case is that the person behind this challenge composed an opinion piece for Springfield, Missouri's News-Leader in which he referred to Speak (which is a young adult book about a victim of rape) as a book that should be classified as 'pornography'.  In reality, rape is an act of violence, and the rape in Speak is not presented as erotic or titillating.  It is described as a horrible, debilitating act of violence.  It is presented as a violation and a crime.  

To refer to such a book as pornography and to call for it to be banned, not only demonstrates ignorance, but also promotes a culture of shame and silence which already plagues victims of sexual assault far too often.  In my opinion, that is reprehensible, and I have been so impressed by the outpouring of bloggers and authors speaking up and discussing their own personal experiences with rape and other types of abuse.  I've also been impressed by the supportive nature of this community, and I have been moved to tears several times in the past 24 hours.  I want to applaud everyone who has chosen to SPEAK.  Thank you!  So many incredible people have addressed this issue on their blogs (including Laurie Halse Anderson, Jeaniene Frost, Saundra MitchellC.J. Redwine, Myra McEntire, and at least three of my dear friends - Laurie London, Jenni Elyse, and Variety), and I have very little to add regarding the current issue in Missouri that hasn't already been said more eloquently than I could ever say it.  But I would like to share a few reasons I believe book banning is NEVER okay.

Ignorance is NOT bliss.  Ignorance won't save lives.  It won't prevent rape.  It won't prevent suicide.  It won't prevent teen pregnancies.  It won't prevent drunk driving.  It won't prevent drug abuse.  It won't prevent cutting.  It won't prevent eating disorders.  It won't help anyone heal from past traumas.  It won't prepare anyone to deal with future pressures.  It won't help anyone find the courage they need to stand up for themselves.  It won't help anyone face tests of character with bravery and confidence.  Ignorance won't make a person a more compassionate listener or help them empathize with a friend who is suffering.  Pretending there is no violence or cruelty in the world won't make it so.  Refusing to acknowledge something won't make it go away.  Banning books that tackle difficult and controversial subjects won't make those issues any less a part of the world in which we live.  Instead, when a we allow a book to be banned, we are restricting access to a valuable resource that could potentially help someone cope with a difficult situation.  To my mind, that is socially irresponsible and it has potential to make the world a more painful and less sympathetic place.

Books that address difficult and controversial topics are vital.  They can save lives,  provide support to people who are struggling, and provide comfort to people who believe that they are all alone.  Books can help us understand our own histories, help us put words to our own experiences, and they can help us make well-informed decisions about our futures.  Of course, it is up to you to decide which books you personally want to purchase or check out from the library, and it is also up to you to decide which books you will allow and encourage your own children to read.  But it is NOT up to you to decide which books I am permitted to read, and it is NOT up to you to decide which books my children are permitted to read.  

Some stories may challenge our values and some stories might make us angry or fearful, but that doesn't make them any less worthy of being told and that doesn't make them less deserving of space on our library's shelves.  Who are we to decide what will be of value to someone else?  We haven't walked in their shoes and felt their sorrows.  Who are we to silence other people's voices or to tell them that their stories aren't worthy of being shared?  Our world isn't without cruelty, violence, and pain, but we do have the ability to try to make the world a better place with each passing day.  We have more opportunities than ever before to seek out knowledge, to make thoughtful and compassionate choices, and to have our voices heard.  Those freedoms are absolutely priceless, and we should be vigilant about seeing them upheld because all of our children deserve to feel free to share their stories and to make their ideas and words accessible to others.  I want the right to chose which books, songs, plays, movies, articles, blogs, paintings, and poems speak to me, and I won't sit quietly by and watch those freedoms taken from me or taken from my children.  I will SPEAK LOUDLY, and I hope that you will to.

If you would like to read more about the current book challenge in Missouri, please check out the #speakloudly TwitterFeed, visit Laurie Halse Anderson's blog (where you can find links to write to the school district administrators evaluating that challenge), and check out's list of links to other book blogger's & author's posts about this topic (there are over 80 links so far!). 

If you would like to learn more about Banned Books Week (Sept. 25 - Oct. 2), please visit the American Library Association's website.  To read more about some of the books that have been banned or challenged this year, click here.  You might be surprised by some of the books on that list.  Stephenie Meyer's Twilight series, Richelle Mead's Vampire Academy series, P.C. & Kirsten Cast's House of Night series, Neal Schusterman's Unwind, Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird, and Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl all made the list.  I will be posting more about Banned Books Week as September 25th approaches.

Finally, I would like to share this video of Laurie Halse Anderson reading a poem that was inspired by letters she has received regarding Speak over the past ten years.  It is just one small but poignant example of the way a single book has the potential to help people find comfort, begin healing, and speak out.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Flower Friday - Hebe

'Blue Mist' Hebe

This week's featured flowers are 'Blue Mist' Hebe!  This perennial shrub blooms all summer long and stays green year round.  We have a few different varieties of Hebe, and they are all evergreen perennials but are very different in size and color.  'Blue Mist' is right in between our larger and smaller varieties and has flowers that are a light periwinkle purple and seem to glow at dusk and dawn.   Bees and butterflies love these flowers.  This shrub gets to be around two feet tall and two feet wide and it puts on a striking display of flowers each summer, with thousands of tiny flowers blooming along six inch racemes.  The perfectly symmetrical leaves are almost as lovely as the flowers, and the flowers burst out in all directions giving this plant a shape that reminds me of a mound of fireworks.  Hebe is in the Veronica family of plants, so the flowers are very similar to Speedwell while the overall shape of the shrub is quite different.  To learn more about about 'Blue Mist' Hebe, check out Kwantlen Polytechnic University's 'Blue Mist' Hebe page, OSU Extension Service's Hebe article, or the Hebe page at Dave's Garden.

A few book and blogosphere updates:

1.  Can't wait to pick up Brenna Yovanoff's The Replacement next Tuesday?  You can read the first chapter here via Amazon's 'More to Explore' feature.  Brenna also shared the book playlist on her blog this week.
2.  Looking for something fun to read over the weekend?  You can read the entire first book in Sara Shepard's Pretty Little Liars series or preview some upcoming books like Diana Peterfreund's Ascendant, Anna Godbersen's Bright Young Things, Francesca Lia Block's The Frenzy, or Emily Whitman's Wildwing using HarperTeen's Browse Inside feature.  
3.  Madeleine at Wordbird is hosting a 'Megalodon of a Giveaway' to celebrate her one year blogoversary.  She is giving away an Amazon giftcard and eleven awesome books (pictured to the right --->).  Stop by Wordbird to find out how you can enter before October 4th.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Book Review: Paranormalcy by Kiersten White

Title:  Paranormalcy
Author:  Kiersten White
Publisher:  HarperTEEN 
Genre: YA/paranormal
Hardcover: 352 pages
ISBN: 0061985848
Summary from Goodreads: 
Weird as it is working for the International Paranormal Containment Agency, Evie's always thought of herself as normal. Sure, her best friend is a mermaid, her ex-boyfriend is a faerie, she’s falling for a shape-shifter, and she’s the only person who can see through paranormals' glamours, but still. Normal. 

Only now paranormals are dying, and Evie's dreams are filled with haunting voices and mysterious prophecies. She soon realizes that there may be a link between her abilities and the sudden rash of deaths. Not only that, but she may very well be at the center of a dark faerie prophecy promising destruction to all paranormal creatures.

  • Overall rating: 9/10
To buy this book: IndieBound | The Book Depository | Powell's | Amazon
Add this book to your: Goodreads Shelfari | Library Thing | Visual Bookshelf

Kiersten White's Paranormalcy is a fast-paced fantasy with a sweet and charming heroine, an entertaining assortment of paranormal characters, and a suspenseful mystery.  Evie's work for the IPCA (International Paranormal Containment Agency) has made her day to day life anything but normal, and she longs for a typical teenage life with all its novelties - like high school lockers and prom.  Then she meets Lend, a teenage shapeshifter who catches her eye, and some of that normalcy suddenly feels like it might actually be within her reach.  But there is a mysterious threat brewing.  Someone is murdering paranormal creatures and if the IPCA can't figure out who is behind these crimes, it may not be long before there aren't any paranormals left to police.  Evie must figure out who to trust and uncover details from her own past in order to stop the killer before they strike again.  I thoroughly enjoyed Paranormalcy and look forward to reading the second book in this trilogy, Supernaturally, next autumn.

What I Liked:
-     The humor!  Evie is very amusing.  She is a fashion savvy girly-girl who loves makeup, shopping, and watching her favorite teen television drama.  Of course, she also spends her days taking down vamps, hags, and werewolves with Tasey, her handy rhinestone-encrusted Taser, so she isn't exactly your typical girl next door.  Think Legally Blonde meets Men in Black.  
-     Lend is a likable guy who doesn't have an ounce of 'bad boy' attitude, which is refreshing in a paranormal romance.  He has a unique shape-shifting ability that gives him an interesting edge, and I'm really curious to see what the next two books have in store for him.
-     The romantic elements in this book are light and flirty rather than dark and angsty or smoldering and racy.  Evie and Lend are both outsiders who have grown up surrounded by paranormals and humans but have never fully fit in with either group.  They are instantly intrigued by each other, and it is quite sweet that they are able to see and accept each other for who they truly are.  Their chemistry is of the blushing and inexperienced variety, so I wouldn't hesitate to recommend this book to younger YA readers or even MG readers.
-     I was drawn in my the mystery in this book right away, and it kept me guessing chapter after chapter.  There is still plenty to be explored in the second book, but I was happy to find that Paranormalcy doesn't end with a frustratingly suspenseful cliff-hanger.
-     Evie was brought in to work with IPCA at a very young age, so her supervisor Raquel and best friend Lish are the closest things she has to a family, and I liked seeing that aspect of the story explored.  Lend also has an unusual family situation, and I loved the way his family was involved in the story.  Kind, supportive parents are fairly rare in YA novels, so it is really nice to see a parent like that pop up occasionally.
-     The IPCA (International Paranormal Containment Agency) reminded me a little of Men In Black.  They are a top secret agency responsible for monitoring and containing paranormal individuals around the world, and they employ several paranormals to help them get that job done.  I liked their high tech, sterile command center and Lish's nifty control room, and I especially liked that they weren't necessarily beyond reproach.  I enjoy seeing the gray area between the good guys and the bad guys, and this book touched on that concept a little.  I hope we will see that gray area explored even more in the second and third books of the trilogy.
-     I liked that Reth, who used to be one of Evie's closest companions, provided tension within Evie's relationship with Lend without ever actually seeming like a rival for her affections.  There is not a love triangle in this book, but Reth does have something to offer Evie that only he has ever made her feel.
-     I loved reading Lish's monotone computer voice aloud because it made her dialogue so charming and funny.  I also loved Raquel's expressive sighs and all of their very specific meanings.

What I Wished:
-     The one element that wore a bit thin for me was the way Reth repeatedly popped up and disappeared at key moments throughout the story.  After a few of those instances, the lack of answers from him and the way the other characters seemed able to put him out of their minds to focus on other mundane things (like homework, prom, and tv shows) started to grate on my nerves and to feel like a slightly-too-convenient plot device to drag out the mystery.
-     There were a couple of moments in which Evie seemed to swing from bursting into tears to feeling giddy with happiness a little too quickly, particularly in the days following one very sad incident.  I felt like I was more depressed than Evie regarding that incident, which was a little odd.

If you like humorous YA fantasies like Rachel Hawkins' Hex Hall or sweet, innocent YA romances like Aprilynne Pike's Wings, you will want to pick up Paranormalcy.  If you like mysterious urban fantasies with a variety of paranormal creatures and a heroine who has been kept in the dark about her origins like The Mortal Instruments, then you may want to pick up Paranormalcy.  This second book in this trilogy, Supernaturally, is set for publication next September, and I will definitely be picking up a copy.  If you want to learn more about Paranormalcy or Kiersten White's upcoming books, please visit her website, blog, facebook, or twitter.

Read the first 70 pages of Paranormalcy here using HarperTEEN's BrowseInside feature!