by Kendare Blake
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Amazon, Barnes & Noble
(available as Kindle/Nook editions)
ARC provided by publisher for a fair and honest review
Synopsis from Goodreads
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.
Pushy: Whoa. I absolutely LOVED this book. And it’s so different from the style of what I’ve been reading lately that I’m kind of at a loss to say, coherently, what it is that I so adored. But we’re going to give it a shot, while keeping it non-spoiler for those of you who haven’t had a chance to read it yet.
Ladies, what are your initial thoughts?
cutie: In an effort to keep things honest ‘round ‘ere, I must admit that I did not love this book. Having said that, I did like it very much. As we move forward I promise to share what held me back from adoring this novel. Negative blah blah blah aside, Anna Dressed in Blood is one of the most original books I’ve read this year and the creepy factor is a lovely little bonus.
Heather: This book right here is the best YA book that I’ve read this year. It had everything that I love in a book, but I’ll get into that below. I loved this one so much that I preordered the hardcover as soon as I finished the ARC. I just had to own this and I plan of reading it again.
Kristen: It took me a little bit of time to get into it, but when I did (and was ok with not hiding under the covers because this was a BIT scary for me) I really liked it! I sorta jumped in without even knowing it was about, so the whole story line was a surprise for me. I enjoyed the heck outta it!
Danny: Oh I loved it very very much! Although I admit that I was slightly skeptical at first, ghost storied don#t belong to my favorite genres. But “Anna Dressed In Blood” was special! First and foremost because it was a boy telling the story and not a girl! Big Plus for having a male voice here!
I’m going to start it off with Cas. I loved Cas. This guy is SUCH a bad-ass! I want to BE him! He’s funny and driven and talented and a damn fine person! I love how, despite his desperate need for aloofness, he finds friends, true friends, in Thunder Bay. I love how after being emotionally cut off for at least half of his life, he’s stubbornly dragged back to humanity by the people who come to his aid.
I ADORE the secondary characters in this book. Thomas and Caramel and Will and Morfran! These are some seriously well developed characters. I love their quirks. I love their flaws. I love their fullness. Very well written characters.
And then there’s Anna…..
This is one seriously impressive chick. Talk about bringing the big bad!! This girl is a ghost with some ISSUES and still she’s entirely sympathetic. You may not like what Anna does but you understand the powerful emotions and motives behind it.
cutie: Oh Pushy… why am I always the doom and gloom? Okay, so I didn’t like Cas. He had his moments, but overall, I thought he was a jerk. There, I said it. And this was what held me back the most from connecting with the story. I got tired of the (literally) “too cool for school” outcast with daddy issues and an ax (or crazy dagger) to grind (or salt). Plus, the secondary characters were a little flat in my very very humble opinion.
And then there was Anna. Who I just LOVED! For realz, the whole time I was dying to get more information on her– what she was thinking, what she was up to, and on and on and on!! I just wanted more pages of her story and less of Cas. I do agree, he did grow a bit during the story, which helped making him more approachable as a character, but I had to force myself to read the first hundred pages. I just didn’t like him…. You know who I do like (love in fact)? PUSHY!!
Pushy: *blushes* Ditto, my friend….BIG FREAKING DITTO!!!
Heather: *Sigh* I have a soft spot for Cas, but I love driven, funny, slightly snarky bad ass characters who know what needs to be done. He’s very comfortable kicking ghost ass and taking names while keeping the necessary distance from everyone around him, the only exception being his mother. But you can understand why he doesn’t want to get close to anyone–why put anyone you care for in harm’s way when you’ll just be moving on in a few months, and would they believe you if they found out that you kill ghosts?
The secondary characters were mostly well developed. I did like that Kendare Blake wasn’t afraid to kill the ones that needed killin’ the most. But it’s the main secondary characters, like popular girl Carmel and loner Thomas , that wind up bringing Cas out of his shell and breaking his no attachments rule.
Anna, Anna. She is the baddest of the bad–and the first ghost to show Cas some mercy and not try to kill him even as he’s trying to slicer her up. But why would she spare him as she disembowels the douchey guy next to him? To find out why, you’ll have to read the book. But the way her story plays out and you see how a girl becomes a ghost who doles out such a large number of deaths to people who step inside of her house is quite riveting and unexpected.
Kristen: First off, I love how we can all have differing opinions on things and we still have the Bookworms love! I enjoyed all the characters – especially the secondary ones. Can I just say ditto to Heather and Pushy? I didn’t mind Cam’s arrogance, in a lot of ways he seemed more true to life to a teenage boys than some of the other books I’ve read with a male lead. Plus, based on the gruesome stuff he was involved with, and the feeling of carrying that weight of his job on his shoulders, I’m kinda surprised he wasn’t more of a sulky jerk.
cutie: I completely agree. Ms. Blake has a fantastic writing style. It’s snarky. It’s fast paced. It’s gruesome and yet light and cheery. Her pacing is a bit slow, but holds up. And while after a while I did get a tad bit tired of the old school pop culture references, over all I found the book to be a fun read. (FYI: Do teens today even watch Old Yeller? And if so, why are parents still torturing their children with that movie?!)
Last but not least, the originality of this series was good times. I would most assuredly be down with reading a sequel and revisiting the world Ms. Blake created.
Kristen: Cutie! I thought the same thing about the Old Yeller thing! Ha! Once I got into the meat of this book, I really enjoyed it and the sorta quick and jerky writing style flowed along and I gobbled it up. If you don’t mind me regurgitating a part of the book that I had to earmark with a piece of Kleenex. Carmel was talking to Cas about her old friends getting mad at her because she wasn’t hanging out with them anymore:
“…everything I want to talk about I can’t say to them. It feels so separate, like I’ve touched something that’s taken the color out of me. Or maybe I’m in color now and they’re black and white.” She turns to me. “We’re in on the secret, aren’t we, Cas? And it’s taking us out of the world.”
“That’s the way it works,” I say softly.
Oh that part just killed me! And doesn’t it sum up some of those out-of-this world experiences in great YA books (oh heck, in all good storytelling, not just YA). The characters are pulled out of their hum-drum life and thrown into extraordinary circumstances. I really love reading how they cope and change with it.
Heather: I loved that this was not your typical ghost story, and Cas could actually kill ghosts with a knife. Having that danger aspect and added physicality to the actual act of hunting and killing the ghosts kicked this book up several notches in my opinion. The book was definitely well balanced with a mixture of dark humor, terrifying horror elements, and humorous aspects.
Danny: Once I started, I couldn’t put it down, it was the story line that was equally captivating and mesmerizing. I loved reading a guys POV since it’s not so common. Plus, although I’m easily scared I loved the creepy and scary touch of the book! Simply awesome (yes there I used the word again…lol)
Pushy: Bottom line, reader, this story will capture you and make you never want to put this book down.
A BIG five stars from me!
cutie: In summation, if you are into creepy ghost stories and love a good snarky tale from a male perspective, this book is for you.
This bad boy gets a 3 ½ stars from me. The half is all for Anna and her ability to pull off a blood soaked dress.
Kristen: I really enjoyed this book and am excited to see what happens next. I give it 4 Stars!
Heather: Five plus stars from me. I’m eagerly awaiting the sequel to this one.
Pushy: Averaging that out, as a group we give Anna Dressed In Blood
And there’s good news: there WILL be more! That’s right, Kendare is currently in edits on the sequel to Anna Dressed In Blood: Girl of Nightmares.
AND…. some of you may know…. there’s a tour of Anna Dressed In Blood going on right now, run by Kismet Book Touring. If you’ve enjoyed this book as much as we have (or would like to), check out the tour and the contest and enter to win a Kindle skinned in the Anna Dressed In Blood cover art, loaded with Anna Dressed In Blood!
Leave a comment telling us what you love more, good guys (be they snarky as hell) like Cas, or bad guys (may they have SERIOUS mitigating circumstances) like Anna most and WHY and be entered to win a eCopy of Anna Dressed In Blood! OPEN INTERNATIONALLY!!! Contest open 24 hours, so enter now!!!!!!!!!!