Anna Dressed in Blood

Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare BlakeAnna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake
Anna # 1
Publisher: Tor Teen
Number of pages: 316
My copy: hardbound, borrowed from Maria

Just your average boy-meets-girl, girl-kills-people story. . .

Cas Lowood has inherited an unusual vocation: He kills the dead.

So did his father before him, until his gruesome murder 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: move, 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, but now stained red and dripping 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.

And she, for whatever reason, spares his life.

* * *

Everyone who knows me in real life (and even online) know that I am a great big chicken. I don’t like anything scary, both in movies, TV or books. Oh, I used to like them when I was younger, but I always, always scare myself silly that I end up not being able to sleep peacefully or go to the comfort room for a week or so because my imagination kept bringing up all the scary things I heard/read/talked about. I know there’s a delicious feeling to being scared, but when you keep on running in and out of the comfort room to pee for a week, it’s not fun.

That’s one of the reasons why I delayed reading Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake until know. I borrowed this from Maria after our Quezon trip with other Goodreads friends but I never picked it up. I always put it off because I said I had no time, and then I said I won’t read it yet because it’s Christmas and I don’t want to be scared, and then I said I won’t read it yet because I don’t have any company at home and God knows what happens when I’m scared at night and alone. This week, though, I got my brave face and finally, finally picked it up, hoping that my parents’ presence at home would make me less frightened.

Like I said: I’m a big chicken.

Cas Lowood is a ghost hunter — not the ones you see on TV but someone who puts ghosts who harm living people to sleep. It’s not like those normal Healthcare Administration Jobs that other people got, but Cas feels this is his destiny. When his father died, he took over the “business” with his white witch mom and their pet cat, and they moved from one place to another, killing these ghosts. Cas and his mom arrives in a town where the famous ghost called Anna Dressed in Blood haunts a house. Anna was killed fifty years ago, her throat cut open spilling over the white of her dress, making her look like she was dressed in actual blood. Cas was just expecting to kill her and move on, but he finds it extremely difficult to do so — Anna was not an ordinary ghost, and for someone who’s full of rage and kills anyone who enters her house, she shows mercy and spares Cas’ life.

Anna Dressed in Blood was one of those books that made it to many people’s Best of 2011 lists, too, and I promise, if it wasn’t a scary novel, I would have read it earlier. I managed to read the book in broad daylight most of the time and I realized soon after that it wasn’t as scary as it was. It was scary, but it wasn’t like Paranormal Activity 3 scary because the setting was very different from where I live and stay. I had a general impression of watching a Supernatural episode while I was reading Anna, but with less of the hot brothers. ;) It stopped being that scary after that particular part at the first visit to Anna’s house, and then everything just felt like a big mystery until the twist comes. I had to breathe a sigh of relief when I felt more comfortable with the story without having the need to close the book and get my nerves together. :D

It’s a surprisingly fast read and I found myself devouring the story. At its core, Anna Dressed in Blood is more of a paranomal novel than horror, but it isn’t the usual one with a whiny heroine and a brooding hero. True, Cas has some kind of arrogance with the way he does his work but he grew on me, and his brooding periods didn’t really have that much screen time. Anna was a mystery even up to the end, and I feel like there is still more to her than what was revealed in the story. Their relationship was…well, kind of cute, and I know how odd that sounds in a horror story. Let’s just say it was one of those pairings that was very interesting to read.

I love the supporting cast in this one: Thomas, Carmel, Cas’ mom and especially the cat, Tybalt. Novels with animals are a huge plus for me. I like Thomas’ stubbornness and Carmel’s courage in the face of the unknown. Cas’ mom reminds me of someone who would offer tea and cookies to her son’s friends and amaze them with stories. Anna Dressed in Blood‘s characters feel like a well-rounded sort of bunch, and it was a pleasure to read them.

Reading Anna Dressed in Blood felt like I was watching a Supernatural episode, sans the brothers and the car and the shooting. I really enjoyed reading this book. This book didn’t change my aversion to anything scary, and I still won’t go read the real horror novels or go watch scary movies anytime soon (maybe ever). But I think I am most definitely reading the sequel, Girl of Nightmares, when it comes out this year.

But I will probably read it in broad daylight again.

Rating:

Other reviews:
The Book Smugglers
The Midnight Garden
Reading is the ultimate aphrodisiac
The Nocturnal Library

The Reread Factor (1): Anna and the French Kiss

A few months ago, I posted something about how I named some favorite books in the past after the first read and then when I pick it up again, I realize that I don’t really like them as much as I did during the first read. That post/thoughts made me a bit more careful about how I add some books to my favorites shelf. I wanted to make sure that the ones that make it there are the ones I like even if I read it over and over again. So I decided to start this little feature/challenge for this year: The Reread Factor.

The Reread Factor

The Reread Factor is about that: the reread. I pick some of my best reads from the previous year and reread them, and see if I still like them as much as the first time, and if they could be a book for the favorites shelf. Every now and then, I’ll be posting something about some of the books I found the time to reread, and I’ll talk about if I still liked it or not and what made me still like it or even dislike it after the second (or third) reread.

Note that the initial ratings I may have put on the book may change later on, but the first review will stay. Think of this as a follow-up review of sorts. :)

Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins
First read in: December 2010

Anna and the French Kiss was one of my favorite reads in 2010, and I pushed this book to everyone who’s ever wanted to read a contemporary YA romance novel. I loved this book so much that I searched for Point Zero in Notre Dame when I was in Paris in August 20111. I loved everything about this book, and I was on a contemporary mood early January so I decided to reread this.

Spoiler warning. If you haven’t read the book yet and you’re still planning to read it, skip towards the end, or just go to my review of Anna and the French Kiss.

Rereading Anna and the French Kiss was an interesting experience. It was familiar, and yet there were some parts I almost kind of forgot. There were some parts that I highlighted that I wasn’t even sure why I highlighted it. I suppose some of them were just really things that struck me, while others…I guess they were supposed to be funny but I’m not exactly sure anymore. Still, even if I knew what was going to happen, I anticipated so many things in the story: the first meeting, the conversations, the gifts and all the little moments that Anna and Etienne had together…and they all still made me smile.

Most of what I wrote back then still rang true on my second read: how easy it was to be immersed in Anna’s world, the side stories about cancer, absent friends and independence, and how the issues were addressed one by one at a given time frame with solutions that weren’t instant or too clean. Okay except maybe for the girlfriend issue, which I felt that maybe it was tied up without anything being heard from the other party. Was she just too tired to fight for it because it’s about to end anyway? Why were there no repercussions to what St. Clair did? Perhaps it would’ve been more realistic if there was one more encounter with Ellie…except that maybe it wouldn’t be as happily ever after if that happened.

On another note, the relate-factor of Anna and the French Kiss is still quite high, surprisingly. I won’t go into detail why (too personal, no need to bore you with that), but man, there were some sorta painful parts to read here when it started hitting too close to home. Interestingly, they weren’t the same parts that I highlighted on the first read. From my reading journal:

Still so good…the relate factor is still totally there, especially when Anna and Etienne were friends, but also not really. And how they kept on going at it without defining anything. WHYYYY.

Uh, yeah, I may have been more affected than I thought. ^^;

So is this book a favorite? Well…probably, but I have to admit that I wasn’t as in love with this as I was during my first read. But somehow, I wasn’t as enchanted with it as I was at the first time. A part of me is kind of wary that maybe a few years down the road, with more experiences under my belt, the book may not mean as much to me then as it does now and as it did in the first read. But that happens, right? However, it is still 100% swoony, and Anna will still be the one of the first books I will recommend to anyone who is looking for a feel-good and well-rounded romantic read.

Finally, I think this book just fueled my need to go back to Paris again to see the places Anna visited and make a proper wish at Point Zero. Someone bring me back there, please.

 

  1. Too bad I wasn’t able to bring my copy of the book so I could have posed with it on my Point Zero photo []

Interim Goddess of Love

Interim Goddess of Love by Mina V. Esguerra

Interim Goddess of Love by Mina V. Esguerra
Interim Goddess of Love # 1
Publisher: Bright Girl Books
Number of pages: 180
My copy: ebook from Amazon Kindle Store

College sophomore Hannah Maquiling doesn’t know why everyone tells her their love problems. She’s never even had a boyfriend, but that doesn’t stop people from spilling their guts to her, and asking for advice. So maybe it shouldn’t be a surprise when the cutest guy in school tells her that she’s going to have to take on this responsibility — but for all humanity.

The Goddess of Love has gone AWOL. It’s a problem, because her job is to keep in check this world’s obsession with love (and lack of it). The God of the Sun, for now an impossibly handsome senior at an exclusive college just outside of Metro Manila, thinks Hannah has what it takes to (temporarily) do the job.

While she’s learning to do this goddess thing, she practices on the love troubles of shy Kathy, who’s got a secret admirer on campus. Hannah’s mission, should she choose to accept it, is to make sure that he’s not a creepy stalker and they find their happily ever after — or at least something that’ll last until next semester. (As if she could refuse! The Sun God asked so nicely. And he’s so, well, hot.)

* * *

You know a book is good when you go back and reread some most of the book the moment you’re done. Sometimes it’s just to read your favorite parts, but for others (especially for novellas), it’s almost like reading the entire book because you just can’t get enough of it and you want to relive the events of the book.

Such is Mina V. Esguerra’s newest novel (and her YA debut), Interim Goddess of Love. College sophomore Hannah Maquiling is a scholar in exclusive Ford River College, and she’s caught the eye of Joaquin Apolinario, aka Quin, one of the hottest guys in school. But it wasn’t in a way that she (or anyone else) expected. She caught Quin’s eye because Quin is also the Sun God, and he needs her to be the Interim Goddess of Love. The real Goddess of Love has gone missing, and someone needs to fill in her shoes for a while, and Hannah fits the bill. Hannah accepts (because the Sun God was nice, not to mention cute), and starts using her powers on Kathy Martin, a shy classmate who’s all flustered about her secret admirer.

So cute. I’ve always loved Mina’s books, but Interim Goddess of Love had me giggling and grinning when I was done (and when I was rereading some parts), almost like how I was when I was reading Fairy Tale Fail. I admit that I may have already loved Hannah before I read the book — she had me at this: “She’s never even had a boyfriend, but that doesn’t stop people from spilling their guts to her, and asking for advice.” But I loved her even more as I got to know her. Hannah’s voice sounds authentic and different from other YA heroines — it’s nice to read someone who isn’t too whiny and who doesn’t sound too old for her age, too. She’s a very likeable and reliable narrator, and she sounds like someone I would want to be friends with. It was so easy to stick with her and to root for her and hope for a happy ending for her. She’s not perfect, but boy did I find her easy to relate to. :P

Speaking of happy endings, there are the boys. As usual, Mina created very crushable guys to go with her heroine, not just as romantic interests. I found it funny that one of the questions that came up while reading this book was “Who’s your favorite?” That’s because there’s not one but three guys in the book, each with their own charm. I am particularly fond of Quin, but mostly because he’s the one in spotlight, but the other two guys provide good contrast (and competition) for the god of the sun.

That’s another thing to love about this book too: Interim Goddess of Love is not your usual contemporary YA romance because it had elements of Philippine mythology in it. Oh, you thought the gods and goddess reference were just figurative? It’s not. It doesn’t provide an in-depth discussion on Philippine mythology, but if just a taste of it, then you’ll get just that in this book. Then like Hannah, you’d end up wanting to know more because there’s just so much more to know. I look forward to reading more about them and how exactly they all relate to each other in the next books. :)

Interim Goddess of Love is another great book from Mina, and I still can’t stop grinning when I think of my favorite scenes. My only wish was it was longer because I definitely wanted more when I was done. I am so glad that this is the first book of a planned series and that the next book will be released later this year. I can’t wait to read about Hannah’s next goddess project (and more Quin moments, hihi :”> ).

Rating:

Other reviews:
Ficsation

More info: Interview with Mina V. Esguerra at Rocket Kapre

A Conspiracy of Kings

A Conspiracy of Kings by Megan Whalen TurnerA Conspiracy of Kings by Megan Whalen Turner
The Queen’s Thief # 4
Publisher: Greenwillow Books
Number of pages:
352

My copy: paperback, ordered from Book Depository

Sophos, under the guidance of yet another tutor, practices his swordplay and strategizes escape scenarios should his father’s villa come under attack. How would he save his mother? His sisters? Himself? Could he reach the horses in time? Where would he go? But nothing prepares him for the day armed men, silent as thieves, swarm the villa courtyard ready to kill, to capture, to kidnap. Sophos, the heir to the throne of Sounis, disappears without a trace.

In Attolia, Eugenides, the new and unlikely king, has never stopped wondering what happened to Sophos. Nor has the Queen of Eddis. They send spies. They pay informants. They appeal to the gods. But as time goes by, it becomes less and less certain that they will ever see their friend alive again.

Across the small peninsula battles are fought, bribes are offered, and conspiracies are set in motion. Darkening the horizon, the Mede Empire threatens, always, from across the sea. And Sophos, anonymous and alone, bides his time. Sophos, drawing on his memories of Gen, Pol, the magus—and Eddis—sets out on an adventure that will change all of their lives forever.

* * *

One of the series that I really loved from my 2011 reads was Megan Whalen Turner’s The Queen’s Thief series. It took me a while to finally read them, but when I did, I was so glad I did. And I was so glad I had the first three books on hand because I don’t think I would have been able to wait for so long to read up to The King of Attolia. I had to wait a bit before I got to the next book, though because I wanted my books to match. :D In retrospect, it was a good decision since the next book in the series, A Conspiracy of Kings, shifted the focus from our favorite thief Eugenides to his friend and heir to the king of Sounis, Sophos.

Spoiler warning for the first three books in the series from here on out.

Sophos has disappeared while the events of The King of Attolia was happening, and Eugenides wonders where he is and how he is doing constantly. The Queen of Eddis wonders, too, but they hear nothing from him until one day, someone shoots a pea to the face of the King of Attolia. Here we find out what exactly happened to Sophos — from an abduction to escape, to being a slave and seeing his father, to making plans and meeting old friends and learning, just how it really is, to make the difficult choices for the good of the kingdoms of Attolia, Eddis and Sounis.

Going back into the world Megan Whalen Turner created was a mixture of relief and comfort — comfort because it’s become such a familiar place in my imagination, and relief because I know in my heart of hearts that this will be a good book. And it was. I’ve always had a soft spot for Sophos, and I was glad to read more about him in this book. A Conspiracy of Kings is really about how Sophos rose to power, and how he changed from a reluctant heir to a real king. This isn’t a fun, riches to rags to riches story, though. Okay, yes, it is fun because of all the banter and the jokes and the conversations, but this book had almost the same atmosphere of The Queen of Attolia: lots of inter-kingdom politics, threats of war and of course, conspiracies. Oh, there was some romance, too, which wasn’t as surprising because it has been hinted at since The Thief. A part of me squee-d when they finally talked about it here. :D

But don’t worry: Eugenides is still very much present in this book. There’s not as many Eugenides scenes, but he has a big influence over the major events in the story. In fact, Sophos often thought about his thief friend, and it was nice to see the thoughts of someone who actually liked Eugenides. I really liked how Sophos’ friendship with Eugenides has developed in A Conspiracy of Kings, especially their private conversations, almost like how brothers would address each other. Eugenides and Sophos may be kings, but they are still friends and this relationship was perfectly executed in this novel.

A Conspiracy of Kings is a very good follow up to the series, and like with the first three books, I was surprised at the turn of events at the end. I knew there was some kind of twist, and try as I might, I had no idea what it was until it was finally there. And that just makes this book a very good read and definitely an awesome reread too. Now since the is no word yet about when the next book is coming out, I think it’s time to read some of the recommended books (by MWT and other fans) that are similar to the series that we love. There’s a pretty long list on the link up there. :)

But please, please, MWT, don’t make us wait too long. :)

Rating:

I made sure to finish this book in time for Chachic’s The Queen’s Thief week. I liked the series, but if you want to see someone who is a BIG fan, then Chachic is your girl. Head over to her blog this week because it’s filled with so much Eugenides / MWT goodness. :)

The Queen's Thief week at Chachic's Book Nook

Other reviews:
Chachic’s Book Nook
Janicu’s Book Blog
Book Harbinger
Angieville
The Book Smugglers

Reviews for other Queen’s Thief books:
#1 The Thief
#2 The Queen of Attolia
#3 The King of Attolia

Angelfall

Angelfall by Susan EeAngelfall by Susan Ee
Penryn and the End of Days # 1
Publisher: Feral Dream
Number of pages:  255
My copy: ebook, from Amazon Kindle Store

It’s been six weeks since angels of the apocalypse descended to demolish the modern world. Street gangs rule the day while fear and superstition rule the night. When warrior angels fly away with a helpless little girl, her seventeen-year-old sister Penryn will do anything to get her back.

Anything, including making a deal with an enemy angel.

Raffe is a warrior who lies broken and wingless on the street. After eons of fighting his own battles, he finds himself being rescued from a desperate situation by a half-starved teenage girl.

Traveling through a dark and twisted Northern California, they have only each other to rely on for survival. Together, they journey toward the angels’ stronghold in San Francisco where she’ll risk everything to rescue her sister and he’ll put himself at the mercy of his greatest enemies for the chance to be made whole again.

* * *

Remember that Paul Bettany movie, Legion? The one where he plays Michael the archangel who goes down the earth in defiance to God because apparently He has given up on humans and is off to destroy the world using His angels. Michael, however, would have none of it, so he goes to this middle of nowhere town to save this baby that one girl is about to have because that baby will apparently save humanity.

I hated that movie.

I have another blog entry dedicated to why I didn’t like that movie, so I won’t really write about it here. However, I had to bring it up because Angelfall by Susan Ee reminded me of that movie. The key difference between Legion and Angelfall is how surprisingly good the latter was that I dropped almost everything I read just to finish it.

The world has ended, and all Penryn Young wanted is to keep her family safe. With her dad gone, she was left to take care of Paige, her crippled sister and her paranoid-schizophrenic mother. In normal circumstances, Penryn would have a pretty challenging time doing that on top of her other responsibilities, but now that there are killer angels out to kill humans, it just got a hundred times more difficult. As Penryn leads her family to get somewhere safer, they stumble upon an angel execution. They got caught as an audience, which led to saving the angel but her sister being kidnapped. Penryn teams up with the known enemy to get her sister back, even if it means getting deeper into the messy world of killer angels.

Like I said: Angelfall is a surprise. People I follow on Goodreads gave this book such high ratings but I was wary because the only other angel book I really liked was Cynthia Hand’s Unearthly series. Anything else other than that, I approach with caution. But Angelfall started out great, with a sense of danger and urgency that I remember reading and feeling last from The Curse of the Wendigo (Rick Yancey) and The Ask and the Answer (Patrick Ness). I can easily imagine the ruins of the city that they lived in and was trying to escape, the paranoia of the darkness and the fear when the single feather landed on Penryn’s sister. There’s a certain grit in the story that almost makes me want to close my eyes in fear of knowing what would happen next.

Penryn is a great heroine – determined and loyal, stopping at nothing to save her sister. Yes, it may seem similar to how Katniss was in The Hunger Games but she didn’t strike me as her carbon copy (even if their names are kind of odd). Penryn is strong and her combat skills are so cool (why she knew all these self-defense moves was one of the first creep-factors in the novel), too. I don’t think she would even need the help of the angel if she knew where she was going after her sister was abducted. And speaking of the angel, Raffe is also a pretty good match for Penryn. He’s a pretty secretive fellow but it never really bordered on cliche. I liked how his secrets (some of it, anyway) were revealed in this story, and how his relationship with Penryn developed. Yes, there is some kind of romance in this book, but it was never put on front seat of this novel, thank goodness. Penryn and Raffe were highlighted more as an unlikely team of survivors rather than a couple, which just about sets this book apart. No insta-love here folks!

This book doesn’t take an easy way out on the apocalypse and destruction and the horror. There were several times when I was reading it and I jumped when the phone rang, which meant it was engrossing and I was thoroughly creeped out. There were some scenes that were a bit…well, gruesome is the first word that comes into mind. It’s not too graphic, but it leaves imprints on the imagination that may tend to stay for a while. It just shows how brutal the world that Penryn and Raffe live in is, and also how darkly creative the author is with Angelfall.

As far as the angel mythology goes, it’s pretty sound, even if a part of me is a bit doubtful of how Raffe’s beliefs came to be in the story. Perhaps it’s just me and my faith that’s coming in to disagree, so I’m still (stubbornly) thinking that it just cannot be. But that’s just me — the mythology and theology (I guess you can call it that?) in the story never came close to being offensive for me anyway. The angel politics just raised a bit of questions that I trust will be answered in the next books.

Overall, Angelfall by Susan Ee is a pretty excellent book. Gruesome, creepy and scary but absolutely fun to read. I can’t wait for the next book in the series.

Also, I’m going to recycle a line from a previous review: did I tell you this book is indie? Yes it is. And that it’s also a finalist for the 2012 Cybils Best of Fantasy & Sci-Fi award? :)

Rating:

Other reviews:
reading is the ultimate aphrodisiac
The Midnight Garden