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Friday, October 14, 2011

Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake

Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake
Paranormal/Horror, 316 pages
August 30th 2011 from Tor Teen

Cas Lowood has inherited an unusual vocation: He kills the dead.
So did his father before him, until he was gruesomely murdered by a ghost he sought to kill. Now, armed with his father's mysterious and deadly athame, Cas travels the country with his kitchen-witch mother and their spirit-sniffing cat. Together they follow legends and local lore, trying to keep up with the murderous dead—keeping pesky things like the future and friends at bay.

When they arrive in a new town in search of a ghost the locals call Anna Dressed in Blood, Cas doesn't expect anything outside of the ordinary: track, hunt, kill. What he finds instead is a girl entangled in curses and rage, a ghost like he's never faced before. She still wears the dress she wore on the day of her brutal murder in 1958: once white, now stained red and dripping with blood. Since her death, Anna has killed any and every person who has dared to step into the deserted Victorian she used to call home.

But she, for whatever reason, spares Cas's life.

I have to say, I've been on an awesome good-book streak lately.  With one notable exception, nearly everything I've been reading has been really enjoyable and readable.  Even those books that I'm almost a little hesitant to read because I'm looking forward to them so much that they may let me down, haven't been letting my down.  That includes Anna Dressed in Blood, which I was so eager to read that I was a little afraid I was going to psych myself up and then be let down.  And thank god that wasn't the case.

I know it's been said before, but it reminded me of Supernatural, and this is a very good thing.  I want to be clear that it wasn't that it felt derivative or unoriginal.  I mean, some comparison to the show is obvious because both are about hunting and killing ghosts (among other things, as the case may be).  But both also just have this great energy and intelligence to them, and both pair humor with grimness.  There is lightness and there is depth.  That is crucial to me: you need dark to see the light and vice versa.  I think this is especially true in horror.  There are some books that can get away with being relentlessly grim, but they are few and far between; for the most part, a good horror book (or any book, for that matter) should have peaks and valleys, and Blake did this really.

I talked in my BC: Scary Reads video about how I loved horror growing up but kind of left it in my past and don't really read it anymore.  I think Anna hit a lot of the notes that made me love horror, but blessedly avoided the pitfalls; there are thrills and shocks, but it wasn't too over the top or utterly predictable, and it wasn't just an excuse for a gore-fest.  It had gory bits, there is no denying that, but there's so much more going on in this story, and the gore was parceled out so as to actually have some impact (judicious gore, if you will), and it just really worked.  I think one of my favorite things about it, actually, is that it's the type of book that will work for a lot of different readers with different tastes.  There is the horror factor, with the gore and the classic ghost story/urban legend vibe.  But there is also humor and romance and action/adventure, blended together in what is just good storytelling.  Blake's world is vivid and her characters likable, taking potentially stock characters and fleshing them out into people you care about and can root for.

And it just flowed really well.  There weren't any of those rough patches for me that make me want to say "I liked everything but..."  I didn't ever not  like it.  [Does that even make sense?]  It was one of those books that I would squeeze in reading of, even when I didn't actually have time to read.  I found myself actually a little angry at my workplace when my lunch break was over and I had to put it in my locker and get back to work.  I wasn't finished.  I needed to know.  And I was willing to be late...  I love a story that makes me late or steals my sleep.  Those are the benchmarks for a good book.  This was so very readable.  I hated putting it down to sleep (or work), and every time I picked it up, I fell a little more in love with Cas and Anna.  I don't want to go too into detail on them because I don't want to deprive anyone of the pleasure of meeting these two and falling for them, but I just need to state for the record that they may be one of my favorite duos I've read in a good long while.  I loved everything about them.  Every. Little. Thing.

And that's all I really want to say to you because I don't want to give anything away.  I think you should read this, horror fan or no.  There's a little something for everyone, and at the very least, it's worth it to meet Cas and Anna.
And I want to leave you with something a little silly.  You may or may not know, but I take notes on a book when I finish it (and sometimes as I'm reading) so that I don't forget things I want to say in my review.  This is the last line of the notes I wrote for Anna Dressed in Blood:
Gruesome! Bloody! Funny! Touching! Awesome!
Damn, I'm eloquent.

Oh, and don't forget that I interviewed Kendare, and it was awesome and you can check it out here.  And if you want to, you can, ya know, enter to win a copy of Anna, here.  =D

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  1. I'm about 100 pages in right now and I'm really enjoying it. I totally relate to not wanting to stop. I need to know what happens! And you are super eloquent. ;)

  2. Oooh! I have a copy of this one and I'm just itching to read it! I have so many books demanding my attention right now it makes me want to disappear into a hole and do nothing but read :P Awesome review though Misty! I'm definitely going to have to figure out a way to squeeze this one in!!


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