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.

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

If I Stay

If I Stay by Gayle Forman

If I Stay by Gayle Forman
If I Stay # 1
Publisher: Speak
Number of pages: 262
My copy: paperback, from Fully Booked

On a day that started like any other…

Mia had everything: a loving family a gorgeous, adoring boyfriend, and a bright future full of music and full of choices. Then, in an instant, almost all of that is taken from her. Caught between life and death, between a happy past and an unknowable future, Mia spends one critical day contemplating the only decision she has left — the most important decision she’ll ever make.

Simultaneously tragic and hopeful, this is a romantic, riveting, and ultimately uplifitng story, about memory, music, living, dying, loving.

* * *

One word: wow.

I’ve heard so much about this novel, and I hated that it cost P700+ when I first saw it in Fully Booked Eastwood. When I saw cheaper versions of it in Fully Booked Fort, I knew I had to have it more than I wanted dip stations. Two weeks later, I read it in a day, and I finished with tears in my eyes and a heart that felt like bursting.

When I was a kid, I used to watch TV shows whose storyline involve a the main character losing his/her parents because of an accident and their parents leaving a favorite toy, book or an item that would be a remembrance of the parents. After watching so many things like that, I started to become fearful of my parents’ well-being while they were out and I wasn’t with them. Cellphones are not the in thing then, so I have no way of getting in touch with them as I wait for them to arrive. Oftentimes, I’d end up crying with worry, calling their friends to know where they are and…well, generally making a fool of myself because of my fear.

I felt the same kind of fear while I was reading If I Stay. It’s hard to write what I felt while I was reading it, but there were so many questions racing through my head, questions that I wonder about in real life as well. Like, do people who are close to dying know that they are about to say goodbye? What would I do if I was in Mia’s place? Can I choose to stay if I know I have lost a lot?

If I Stay doesn’t have the answers to those questions, but rather presses them on to the reader. The story starts off happy and carefree, and then Forman quickly plunges the readers into the heat of the action. As a reader, I felt Mia’s pain and confusion, and I learned to care for her deeply as I got to know her through her flashbacks. She’s not the most remarkable character once you got to know her past, save for her cello playing talent, but her pain and her choice makes her a strong character, one that resonates deeply with the readers even long after the book was finished.

It’s not a comforting book, mind you, so don’t read it if you’re feeling down. Despite its slightly morbid theme of death, it is also a book of hope, one that encourage the reader to face life despite all its sadness and loss.

If I Stay is a beautiful, thought-provoking book about life, death and love, and it is definitely one of my favorite reads this year. :)

I leave you with the part of the book that made me cry — skip this part if you don’t want to be spoiled because it may be a bit spoiler-y.

“It’s okay,” he tells me. “If you want to go. Everyone wants you to stay. I want you to stay more than I’ve ever wanted anything in my life.’ His voice cracks with emotion. He stops, clears his throat, takes a breath, and continues. ‘But that’s what I want and I could see why it might not be what you want. So I just wanted to tell you that I understand if you go. It’s okay if you have to leave us. It’s okay if you want to stop fighting.”

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