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

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

One Book, Two Book, Three Book, Four…and Five

I still have about four books left on my backlog of reviews (more to add soon, I think), but because I do not want to bore you all with just those posts, let’s do a combo breaker and answer this meme I got from Chachic, Janice, Angie and Nomes. :)

I should be writing my novel but you know how I love procrastinating sometimes? Maybe next year I should be a NaNoRebel and write a year’s worth of blog posts (or something like that) for NaNoWriMo. Hm.

The Curse of the Wendigo by Rick Yancey     Hallowed by Cynthia Hand     The Future of Us by Jay Asher and Carolyn Mackler

1. Book I am currently reading:
The Curse of the Wendigo
by Rick Yancey. I was semi-bullied into reading this (haha, hi, Aaron and Tricia!), but if they did not do that, I probably would not have started reading this anytime soon. I really liked The Monstrumologist so jumping in to this one soon enough after reading that was actually a good idea because the characters were still fresh to me. So far this has been creepier than the first book, but also quite funny and sometimes heartwarming.

Also, Hallowed by Cynthia Hand (!!!). :) Got this from Netgalley and I’m reading it slow so I would get all the Tucker goodness. Seriously, if you ever read a paranormal romance novel ever again, pick Unearthly. It’s very, very good.

2. Last book I finished:
The Future of Us by Jay Asher and Carolyn Mackler. Thanks to Pinoy Book Tours for having this on hand and squeezing me in the tour. :D

Falling Together by Marisa de los Santos     Fury by Shirley Marr    Protection for Hire by Camy Tang

3. Next book I want to read:
Falling Together by Marisa de los Santos. I just got this my TBR, and it’s been calling out to me for a while. Hmm. Although I think I may have to read a classic novel to finish some challenges, but I really want something comforting amidst the novel writing stress. So let’s see. :)

4. Last book I bought:
Fury by Shirley Marr. My friend Katia went to Sydney last October and because we know Australian books are just awesome, I asked if she could get me a copy of this. And she found me one. :) Yay. As expected, it was expensive, but it’s not everyday I get to buy a book from Australia. :)

5. Last book I was given:
Protection for Hire by Camy Tang. Okay this one I got from Netgalley too, but since I am on the author’s street team (you should join it, too), I knew about this way back and was expecting to receive an ebook review for this. :) Plus, I got an email that Zondervan has auto-approved me as a reviewer in Netgalley. I’m not sure if everyone gets that, but it’s nice to get that email. :) I cannot wait to read Camy’s newest book.

Breathe

Breathe by Cliff McNishBreathe by Cliff McNish
McArthur & Co, 232 pages

Jack is used to danger. His asthma has nearly killed him more than once. But his new home has a danger he’s never known before — the spirits of the dead.

The can’t breathe.

But in Jack’s house, they can chase, hide, scream.

Only Jack can see them. Only he can hear them. And only he can learn their secrets in time to save his mother — and himself…

I may be one of the biggest scaredy-cats in the world, or at least, among my group of friends. I know this doesn’t make sense when it comes to my love for all things zombie. I like all the shambling, brain-moaning creatures, but when it comes to ghosts and other supernatural stuff? I cower under my covers. When I was a kid I used to like scaring myself silly by watching those Halloween specials that all local TV shows air during those times and no fail, I always end up being too scared to sleep for at least a week after watching those shows. I finally got to the point where I told myself to stop — no more scary TV shows, no more scary anything, especially if I will lose sleep over it!

So to be totally honest, I was kind of apprehensive with my Required Reading challenge for October, given my state of being a chicken. :P But of course, what is a challenge if you don’t challenge yourself, right?

The thing that really got me to buy Breathe by Cliff McNish is the fact that the main character, Jack, has asthma. I’m an asthmatic, too, so reading about characters who have the same condition brings me comfort because I could relate to them1. Jack’s asthma attacks seem to be more dangerous than the ones I’ve been having lately, though, bad enough to almost kill him. It doesn’t help that his dad recently passed away. In an effort to stop him from stressing out or getting lonely, Jack and his mom moved out and into an old farmhouse, where they hope to find peace and quiet.

But instead of finding peace and quiet, they find something else. Little did they know that the farmhouse was haunted by four ghosts, all children, whose spirits can’t seem to leave the house Jack finds that he has the ability to sense who had lived in the house before, and to the ghost children’s surprise, he could actually see them. This makes Jack extremely curious to the point of triggering his asthma, but then he discovers that there is something more sinister living in the house, and only he has the power to save himself and his mother.

Like I said, I’m a big scaredy-cat, so I made it a point to read Breathe in broad daylight. The first few chapters of the book were creepy and the illustrations at the start of each chapter gave my imagination enough fuel to see practically the entire chapter. McNish’s writing is very vivid — it was easy to slip into the world he created and actually see the house and the characters. I admit to being spooked for the first few chapters (but then again, it may be just because I’m easily frightened), but I grew comfortable with it later on. Jack’s asthma attacks were also very accurate — and also really scary, in the actual physical sense because I know I could also experience something like that. The extreme measures he and his mom had to go through just to make sure his lungs would behave is something akin to what my mom used to do when I was younger. I’m really, really hoping my asthma won’t escalate to anything similar.

You know now that I think about it, it’s not really that scary. However, I think I can attribute that to the fact that the story is really quite linear. Somewhere early into the book, we already know who the real villain is, and a little bit of why. The other reasons and the story were gradually revealed, but by then it feels almost like a typical ghost story. While I’d really rather not read ghost stories, I still want for a twist that will leave my mouth hanging open in the end, at least to thrill the reader in me.

Breathe still manages to have a heart-warming moment somewhere in the end, which earns it more points for me. I liked how the Nightmare Realm (the place where spirits go when they don’t go to the “light”) is described, and how one of the ghost kids finds some kind of peace there. The actual ending was wrapped nicely and I think it would leave readers with pretty much a good sense of completeness that stand-alone novels can give. (Except if you decide to nitpick, like me. But I can’t offer another ending, so I should stop doing that :D)

Breathe by Cliff McNish may not fare so much with people who really love ghost stories (or who take delight in being scared), but for a casual reader (or for someone who doesn’t really like getting scared), it’s a pretty good novel. The first aid lessons for an asthma attack are a plus, too. This is my first Cliff McNish, but I think it won’t be my last. Now, are his other books scary, too?

Rating:

2011 Challenge Status:
Required Reading – October

My copy: paperback, bought from Bestsellers Galleria

Other reviews:
Goodreads

  1. If you want to know how it is to have an asthma attack, try breathing through a straw. Hard, right? :P []

30 Fantasy and Paranormal Fiction Must Reads at Female Network

Ahoy there! I like using that term because the rains last week made me feel like I was living in an island. I did experience a lot of floods, but not as bad as the one we had 2 years ago. It’s still a hassle, though. Not to mention that our internet connection is wonky ever since the rains hit us, so yeah, I even felt more like an island last weekend. :/

So what’s a girl to do when there’s no internet? Read, of course. I managed to do a lot of reading last Friday night and yesterday. I loved it, because it’s been a while since I was able to lose myself in a pages of a book without getting distracted by the online world. So yeah, there was something good about that.

Then I remembered that I wasn’t able to post that I have a new book list up at Female Network! Eeps. So, in case you’re like me and you happened to end up with a rainy weekend with no Internet, stock up on these 30 fantasy and paranormal reads! Nothing like a little escapism to forget the rainy day worries, yes?

Love, Magic, and Monsters: 30 Fantasy and Paranormal Fiction Must-Reads

Click the link to go to the list!

This list wasn’t a hard list to write at all, mostly because I’ve read a lot more fantasy than I used to, and because of so many book bloggers who helped directly (by giving suggestions) and indirectly (from their book blogs): Chachic, Janice, The Book Smugglers, Kai, Ariel, Aaron, Jason, Monique and Tricia. :) Book bloggers help make writing about books so much easier — thank you friends!

So, hop on over to the list, talk about what books you have read from the list and share your own suggestions! :)