A few days ago, I wrote an review about She Smells the Dead on Amazon.com.
At that time, I gave it only two stars because while I found the concept and the characters interesting, the edition of the book I’d received when I bought it suffered from what I assumed was a bad formatting job. To alert readers to this… because it was a problem that created enough troubles that it hampered my enjoyment of the story, or even my ability to finish it… I wrote the review, even though I don’t typically write reviews of books I don’t finish (for one reason or another.)
Well, I’m pleased to report that shortly after my review was up, the author kindly contacted me, thanking me for pointing out the problem. It gave her a chance to correct a keystroke error (identified as the source of the problem) and update the book. I was also offered an early corrected edition by the author, which I found to be both courteous and professional as a gesture.
I share all this in the interest of full disclosure. That taken care of, here’s my new review, which is now based solely on the book, characters, and story of SHE SMELLS THE DEAD, rather than being a reaction to some troublesome formatting issues. Yay!
First of all, what initially drew me to trying out this book was the uniqueness of the concept. A character who detects and communicates with the dead through only one sense, and one of the harder-to-interpret senses at that? Okay, I’m intrigued. Having been a fan of Charlaine Harris’ Harper Connelly series, I figured this book might be playing right into my interests.
Also… I’m rarely influenced by covers in making a purchasing decision, but the goth influence of the cover art, I must admit, helped push me over the edge to OneClick this book and try it out. It signaled to me a certain tone for the novel.
The author did a solid job of introducing characters and the supernatural conflict. She also set up the “romance” part of her “paranormal romance” well.
The mystery involving a vinegar-smelling ghost plays out well, though I was hoping for a bit more conflict to it. Most of the challenges Yuki faces, however, are purely paranormal ones.
So, if you enjoy tales of a young person learning how to control her powers, and conflict with disembodied spirits, there’s plenty here to please you as a reader.
For this particular installment, though, I found myself wishing there were some additional levels to the conflicts Yuki faces.
For example, Yuki’s attraction to Calvin takes her by surprise one day, after seeing him as a friend for quite some time. Yet what sparks in her that new romantic interest element? Does another girl try to catch his eye? Nope. It just happens out of a mutually-expressed interest that just springs up.
Now, that’s how I imagine a lot of young men and women fall in love in high school. It’s a reflection of real life, which is a strength. However, it’s not as intense from a dramatic point of view as it might have been if there had been a rival introduced, either for her affections or his.
That may happen later in the series, but the lack of it in this installment left me feeling like the character was having things develop maybe just a bit too easily for her, on the romantic front.
Even so, there was a hometown sweetness to their naturalistic romance that is sure to appeal to fans of romance. So it’s not necessarily a weakness in a story, just a conflict between my own expectations and the story the author set out to tell. Well, it’s the author’s story, and it’s well-told, so that’s a wash.
The only other piece of the novel that left me less than fully satisfied was the sort of pacing so common to novels in this genre. (So, again, what bugs me might be totally irrelevant to another reader.)
But here goes: much of the story foreshadows a coming conflict that Yuki must ready herself for, to survive. That event is Halloween, referred to in the novel more often as Samhain. Sounds interesting, and especially challenging for the smell-sensitive Yuki… how do you handle tons of spirits out and about, trying to communicate to her on a night when they all roam free? I’m ready.
But, because this book is part of what is currently a trilogy of titles, the last chapter ends without Samhain even arriving yet.
Ouch. Build it up, build it up…. and no payoff? Not even a cliffhanger ending? That’s fine, but it did elicit an “Ugh” from me. As in, “Ugh, now I HAVE to buy the next installment to find out how this whole thing they’re building to turns out.”
But I’d be even more excited to grab the next installment with a cliffhanger ending where it looks like Yuki, Calvin, and friends are, at least, in over their heads.
Then again, not everyone likes cliffhangers the way I do. And SHE SMELLS THE DEAD is no different, in this regard, than many other highly successful series.
And those are the only two minor things where I had problems with the book’s story. They’re not huge problems, and for some readers, won’t be considered problems at all. It’s just more about my tastes.
But at this point, what I can say is this: those two minor issues aside, SHE SMELLS THE DEAD delivered the goods on many levels. Not only was it a fresh concept, but by and large it played out well and was executed with skill by the author, as a story.
The cleaned-up edition of the book I received (which should be live now, on Amazon, to first-time purchasers) is sharp-looking, well-formatted, and offers up a quick, satisfying read. I found myself largely pleased with this installment, on balance, and I do plan to acquire the rest of the books available in the Spirit Guide series.
I want to see how things turn out for Yuki and Calvin. And in the end, that means the story did its job.