Book Review: “Anna Dressed in Blood” by Kendare Blake (Anna #1)

What an arresting cover. Just... wow. And the color scheme continues inside the book itself, with the type done in a very attractive burgundy that's both pretty and easy to read.

Title: Anna Dressed in Blood (Click to add to your Goodreads!)

Author: Kendare Blake

Available In: Hardcover, eBook for Kindle, eBook for Nook.

Maturity Level: Mid-to-upper YA. Quite a bit of violence, blood, and gore, and one sensitive scene that directly addresses violent assault on a child. Strong language.

You May Like This Book if: you enjoy the TV shows Supernatural, The Vampire Diaries, The Secret Circle, or Buffy the Vampire Slayer; you like a strong horror story; you’re a fan of Holly Black, Melissa Marr, or Sarah Rees Brennan’s; you enjoy paranormal investigative fiction; you’re looking for a fast-paced, evocative read.

You May NOT Like This Book if: you don’t like YA or horror; you dislike gore and violence.

THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS.

Theseus Cassio Lowood has a job to do, and it’s not the normal teenager’s occupation of bagging groceries: he hunts and kills maleficent ghosts. It’s a legacy that’s been passed down through his family for ages, and Cas is pretty okay with it. And luckily, he has his mom (who sells charms and potions that she brews up on her kitchen range), her ghost-sniffing half-Siamese cat, and a motley group of friends and informants across the world to help him out. When one of them tips him off about a ghost known (ominously) as Anna Dressed in Blood, Cas immediately finishes his current job and takes off to Thunder Bay, Ontario…. Where he just might find more than he was looking for.

Anna Dressed in Blood is by far one of my favorite books read in 2012. The pacing, characters, and concept come together to form a fast-paced read with lots of humorous/chilling/downright scary moments. Cas’ world is not all that different from ours, but the way in which it is realized is a joy to read. I absolutely ADORED Cas’ mom (particularly scenes where she was trying to sell him on different colleges based not on academic subjects/cost/career opportunities, but on the population of ghosts in the immediate vicinity) and Tybalt (warning: if you’re a cat person, there’s at least one scene in this book that will squick you out). Anna was brilliant, and the relationship she has with Cas is quite a beautiful one, a tenuous connection between a guy who purposely pushes people away and a girl who has been burned one too many times by betrayal. She’s also a badass with a conscience, which is always a plus.

Annnd the references. I almost don’t know where to start with those. There’s the obvious Supernatural connection (ESPECIALLY in that first scene with the hitch-hiking ghost), along with myriad references to Buffy, Harry Potter, Bruce Lee, The Hulk, The Matrix, and GHOSTBUSTERS (which lead to several scenes in the book that made me laugh out loud). These references could have become very heavy handed and derivative, but Blake is pretty skilled at nodding to other fandoms and then going right on to her own story.

Overall, this was a super fun read with ghosts, blood, and a kickass cast. I’d definitely recommend it to fans of horror and ghost stories, and will most certainly be rereading it as soon as I have the chance. 😀

Pros

  • Tybalt.
  • Theseus Cassio Lowood. Most awesome name ever.
  • Awesome worldbuilding.
  • Cas’ mom.
  • The romance. ❤
  • Blake obviously did her research regarding ghost stories, lore, and Wicca.

Con

  • Cas is just a little bit pretentious.
  • A lot of sentences are the same length.

Favorite Scene (s):

  • Pgs 1-10. Excellent opening that had me hooked from the beginning. It didn’t hurt that there were plenty of SPN references to excite my inner fangirl: Cas, a classic car, and a hitch-hiking ghost? Yes, yes, and YES.
  • Pg 200-205. Here’s where we find out exactly what happened to Anna, and it is absolutely CHILLING. I literally felt like I’d been punched in the gut after reading it.

Favorite Line (s): “Don’t be afraid of the dark, Cas. But don’t let them tell you that everything that’s there in the dark is also there in the light. It isn’t.”~pg 132

Star Rating on Goodreads: 4.5 out of 5

Final Grade: A+. Nice read, very slick and full of references to things that I love. Solid ghost story that looks like it’s going to be continued excellently in the upcoming Girl of Nightmares , which I am eagerly awaiting.

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TV Review: Supernatural 7.17 “The Born Again Identity”

IN CASE YOU DID NOT PAY ATTENTION TO THE ABOVE WARNING, THERE ARE MASSIVE SPOILERS HERE. ALSO, MUCH SOBBING AND PENULTIMATE FANGIRLING. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.

In case you aren’t aware of the depths of my Cas obsession, dear readers, I’m going to give you a little backstory so that you’ll understand how much this episode meant to me.

When Cas first showed up, he was kind of a bastard. I wasn’t very fond of him– dramatic entrance aside, I was pretty ticked about the whole burning-out-Pamela’s-eyes stunt. I mean, I LIKED him because I enjoy it when SPN actually does their research, and to me he fit the mold of a Biblical angel to a T: ruthless, emotionally barren, and basically an obedient tin soldier. Halfway through season 4, however, I started seeing something a little different in him, compared to the other angels; it was a bit of a softening, if that’s the right word to use, as he became more and more attached to the Winchester brothers. By season 5, I was totally smitten, as Cas started to show more and more of the loyalty, naivete, and clueless humor that has so endeared him to both new and old fans of the series. This was also when I started to identify personally with the poor little angel: I understand how it feels to put all of your faith in a father who is less than perfect, and how lost and alone you feel when that connection is severed. Season 6? I think EVERYONE EVER understands what it’s like to be on a track that you KNOW will end badly, but that you stick with because you’re pretty sure it’s the best thing for everyone.

Likewise, I think most people understand, at least to some extent, what it’s like to make a mistake that you could never, EVER fix, and just how hard it can be to make amends–which brings me to Friday’s episode, “The Born Again Identity”.

The episode begins with Sam having sunk to the depths of his Lucifer-induced insanity. You can’t blame him– Mark Pellegrino is flawless here as the annoying, sadistic thorn in Jared Padalecki’s side, not allowing Sam to sleep even under the influence of various pills, drugs, and alcohol. He gets hit by a car and admitted to the hospital, where they almost immediately place him in a locked psych ward. Dean, meanwhile, is doing exactly what Dean does: fighting with doctors, fighting with Sam about how they’re going to fix him, fighting, fighting, fighting. Sam just wants to sleep. Dean, however, immediately begins doing something else he does well: he begins researching faith healers and various alternatives to “modern medicine”, with the help of Bobby’s old books (and, perhaps, the help of Bobby himself– yes, Dean’s Vanishing Drink is also in a Special Guest Star role this episode). All of this leads him to this guy who heals the sick and the crazy like it’s no big deal; he goes by Emanuel and is, as Meg aptly puts it, “the spitting image of poor dead Castiel”.

What you don't see here is that there was a rather awkward butt-shot right before this. Umm, producers? Fanservice much? (Not that I mind...)

Oh, yes, Meg. Yeah, she’s in there too. Haters procede to hate. I actually like Meg, and I feel like she should get kudos for having been the only woman to survive 7 seasons of SPN. Bravo, Meg Masters. Bravo.

So, opinion time. Hang tight, people. I have a lot of feelings and opinions about this episode, and even after two rewatches I’m still having a hard time expressing all of them, so.

What I Liked: 

  • Castiel’s return, obviously. Been waiting for that ever since he walked into that reservoir.
  • Meg. She’s a welcome note of humor in an otherwise heavy episode.
  • This sequence where Castiel/Emanuel regains his memories in a badass montage with lovely backing music ala “O Death”.
  • This scene. Dean’s empathy for Castiel’s situation is really visible here– after all, he’s been there.
  • Dean. He responded to a situation that was very emotionally fraught for him with the same grace and forgiveness that he extended to Sam just after the whole demon blood incident.
  • One more sequence where Cas takes on Sam’s madness in typical faith-healer I-can-take-this-in-and-deal-with-it-myself-mentality, knowing full well what it will mean.
  • Dean’s Vanishing Drink. I am now 99.9% sure this is Bobby. (The .1% is for God, in case he’s finally decided to stop being a douchebag of a dad and help out.)

What I Didn’t Like

  • There were so many plotholes in this episode that it looked kind of like Swiss Cheese by the time it was done. Hopefully the next few eps will help with that.
  • There was too much in this episode, and it went far too fast. I expected these events to be a multi-episode arc, not 45 minutes.

What I Would Have Liked to See:

  • One scene between Dean and Cas at the end. Dean reassuring him, maybe, that they WILL come back, even if Cas is busy boring a hole in Lucifer/Wall with his eyes. Just… something, between the two of them, to show that Dean has forgiven Castiel, and that once all this is over, they will slowly begin to heal what has transpired between them.
  • Maybe a scene with Dean threatening Meg. Something along the lines of “hurt him and I will end you.”

Final Verdict: Nice, solid episode that brings Castiel back into the picture, even if it didn’t help much in the overarching plot. A for some really nice, emotional performances from Jensen Ackles and Misha Collins.

Coming Up Next: After this phenom of an episode, I really am not very excited about this ep, which seems like a cheap excuse to get drunk, fight a MotW, and ignore the fact that the Leviathan are UP TO SOMETHING.

Because I Can’t Shut Up: I just have to throw in two three songs for Castiel, okay? Just ’cause. (ETA: The Raconteurs came up when I searched Mumford and Sons and it seemed appropriate.)

 

 

 

 

 

TV Review: Supernatural 7.16 “Out With The Old”

It’s been awhile between episodes, but, dear readers, it looks like our favorite CW show about demon-hunting bros is back with a vengeance. Sam’s still struggling with the fallout of letting Halluc!Lucifer inside his mind (including 50 repetitions of Stairway to Heaven. Eeek. I feel for you, man), Dean’s trying to keep his head above water and, for the most part, succeeding (despite a very brief desire to put on some pretty deadly but totally cute toeshoes), and the Leviathan are still out there, busily setting up their increasingly convoluted endgame. Which is really what this episode is about, if you boil it all down.

It starts off masquerading as a typical Monster of the Week story– Dean and Sam head to Portland, Oregon to investigate the death of a dancer who literally danced her own feet off. (Which made a very interesting scene to start off the episode, just sayin’.) While they’re there, they discover that there is, in fact, an entire safe full of cursed objects that have just been released on the world by an idiot antiques dealer, but that’s not the worst of it, because as always, the Leviathan are also present, posing as real estate agents and killing everyone who gets in their way.

Now, I have to say, I’m not very impressed with the Leviathan plotline. I’m really not sure why they want to cure cancer (maybe to subjugate humans or inoculate them with something worse?) and while I found Levi!Joyce and her assistant amusing, I didn’t really feel the dread that we are supposed to feel.

Overall, I felt this was a very good “set-up” episode, but it didn’t really stand very well on its own. I’ll refrain from judging until I see The Born Again Identity next week. 🙂

Coming Up Next: Yeah, I was very very very excited about this promo, and still am. Can’t wait to see Cas again. 😀 I’m really interested to see what direction the show is going to take regarding Cas’ amnesia– in the promo, it kind of seems like Dean is still holding him accountable for the things he’s done, and he’s accepting it because he doesn’t know what he’s done, if that makes any sense.