Book Review: Anna Dressed In Blood

anna dressed in bloodAnna Dressed In Blood
by Kendare Blake
Young Adult / Horror
316 pages
Published 2011

Another spooky story for October! On first glance, this one is very similar to Rin Chupeco’s The Girl From The Well, but the plot is actually quite different. It’s still human boy, murderous ghost girl, but here the girl is bound to her house and forced to murder whoever comes inside. Unraveling the WHY is a major part of the plot.

I’d say this one is actually less creepy than The Girl From The Well, though one of the evil things Cas encounters is VERY creepy. Both of these were just about the right amount of spooky for me. I’m actually REALLY disappointed that the sequel is proving very difficult to get my hands on! I had to request it through Marina, my statewide lending program, so I’m not sure when it will arrive. But I NEEEEEEED to know what happens to Cas and Anna after this book ends!

I think I liked the relationship between boy and ghost better in Girl From The Well; you could clearly see the draw for the ghost, and the connection between them. Not so much here; Cas is trying to kill Anna, but then they become fascinated with each other for…some reason? Anna isn’t compelled to kill Cas, and that’s never explained, and seems to be her main source of fascination with the boy.

Another major difference is that while Tark in Girl From The Well is rather isolationist and creeps out his peers, Cas seems to attract his peers, and quickly finds friends wherever he goes. He’s typically used them as contacts in the past, not really valuing them as friends, but that changes with the events of this book, as he actually comes to know a couple of the kids at his new school and value their friendship. He even puts up with their jokes about being Ghostbusters and who would be which character, which is kind of hilarious.

Both stories are great; I’d say this one is slightly more light-hearted than Girl From The Well, but only slightly. There’s still lots of creepy ghosts, life-or-death situations, gory deaths of side characters, and curses. It’s another great spooky October book for scaredy-cats like me!

From the cover of Anna Dressed In Blood:

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: 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, 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.

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Sunday Stuff

Today is the LAST DAY of the Maryland Renaissance Festival for 2019! It’s unofficially known as The Day of Wrong, and a lot of patrons and participants will do something subtly or overtly -wrong- with their garb to celebrate. For instance, this year, I’m going as a blonde! I’m naturally a brunette, and the last few years I’ve been dying my hair crazy colors. Since I work at a booth, I need to have natural color in my hair, so I let the phoenix colors fade and haven’t redyed my hair recently. I bleached it last week in preparation for re-dyeing it this week, so it’s currently blonde! Which is a weird look on me, and one I don’t really care for, but it works for The Day of Wrong!

This also means things around here will be getting somewhat less stressful soon, since we have our weekends back. We’re having a Halloween party next weekend, and The Baltimore Book Festival is the weekend after that, so we’re still going to be busy for a while. My husband’s other partner will also being staying with us for a couple of weeks, starting next weekend, because they’re starting a new job here in Baltimore. So that will be added stress, but hopefully they will find other housing quickly.

I’m so excited about the Baltimore Book Festival! I’ve been poring through the schedule of events, and there’s even a blogger panel happening on the Romance Writers’ stage! I’m going to have to make a personal schedule of where I need to be when!

That’s about all that’s going on here – the temperature is finally starting to drop. Fall will be here for a couple of weeks and then we’ll quickly be plunged into winter. I can’t wait to see our new house in the snow.

Book Review: Serpent & Dove

serpent & doveSerpent & Dove
by Shelby Mahurin
Young Adult / Fantasy / Romance
519 pages
Published September 2019

This was Barnes & Noble’s Young Adult book club book for October, so I read it because I was planning to go. I ended up feeling particularly introverted that entire week, so I stayed home, but I’d read the book anyway, so here we are!

So first off, there’s some debate over whether the book is young adult or new adult. Lou, the heroine, is 18, and Reid is a little older, but it still feels very young adult-ish. There is one sex scene which, while explicit, is still fairly tame as sex scenes go. So I’m calling it young adult, but it’s definitely right on the line where it could go either way.

The book begins with an example of why witches are so reviled in this land, but quickly segues into an entirely unlikely sequence of events that ends with Lou, our witch, married to Reid, our witch hunter, to save face for the witch hunting society known as the Chasseurs. Reid doesn’t know she’s a witch, and she has to keep that hidden while living with her mortal enemies. We soon learn that Lou has enemies of her own, and living with witch hunters might actually be the safest place for her, if she can keep her own secrets.

Lou is not the only one that knows her secrets, however, and the war between witches and the Church soon heats up with Lou and Reid caught in the crossfire.

There are twists and turns aplenty in this plot, and reveals that I did not see coming. It definitely keeps you on your toes. I’m not completely sold on the romance between Lou and Reid. It seemed a little contrived, to me, but the rest of the plot was interesting.

Magic in this world has a very literal cost that the witch must pay if she wants the spell to work. Sometimes it’s fairly small – a broken finger for a broken lock – sometimes it’s bigger – all your fond memories of a person, for example. Someone’s life. If you’re willing to pay the price, the magic lets you do extraordinary things. At least it shows you the cost first, instead of simply taking it after the fact. You’re given the choice.

Blood & Honey is the sequel, due out this summer, and I think I’ll probably pick it up and give Reid and Lou another shot at convincing me their love is real. I do want to know how the rest of the story plays out, their relationship aside!

From the cover of Serpent & Dove:

BOUND AS ONE TO LOVE, HONOR, OR BURN

Two years ago, LOUISE LE BLANC fled her coven and took shelter in the city of Cesarine, forsaking all magic and living off whatever she could steal. There, witches like Lou are hunted. They are feared. And they are burned.

Sworn to the church as a Chasseur, REID DIGGORY has lived his life by one principle: Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live. His path was never meant to cross with Lou’s, but a wicked stunt forces them into an impossible union – holy matrimony.

The war between witches and Church is an ancient one, and Lou’s most dangerous enemies bring a fate worse than fire. Unable to ignore her growing feelings, yet powerless to change what she is, a choice must be made.

AND LOVE MAKES FOOLS OF US ALL.

A witch and a witch hunter bound in holy matrimony.

There was only one way such a story could end – 

A STAKE & A MATCH.

Friday 56 – Serpent & Dove

serpent & doveThe Friday 56 is hosted by Freda’s Voice. The rules are simple – turn to page 56 in your current read (or 56% in your e-reader) and post a few non-spoilery sentences.

This week’s quote is from Serpent & Dove by Shelby Mahurin, an enemies-to-lovers young adult fantasy romance about a witch and a witch hunter.

Bas was already moving, slamming the safe shut and hauling the portrait back into place. “Can you get us out?” His eyes were still wide with panic – desperate. We could both hear the constables and Chasseurs surrounding the manor. All the exits would soon be blocked.

I glanced down at my hands. They were shaking, and not just because of the broken fingers. I was weak, too weak, from the exertion of the evening. How had I let myself become so inept? The risk of discovery, I reminded myself. The risk had been too great –

“Lou!” Bas grabbed my shoulders and shook me slightly. “Can you get us out?”

Tears welled in my eyes. “No,” I breathed. “I can’t.”

Book Review: Chaotic Good

Chaotic Good Comps14.inddChaotic Good
by Whitney Gardner
Young Adult / Contemporary Fiction
249 pages
Published 2018

Hoooooooo boy do I have some mixed feelings about this one!

First, the good:

The writing is great. The action flows, the dialogue is suitably nerdy, the affection between Cameron and her twin brother is evident. There are a few jumps from one scene to another, but I think they’re intended to be abrupt. The troll messages and online abuse Cameron gets simply for being a girl into cosplay are spot on. The descriptions of Eugene, Oregon – my hometown! – are also spot on. I am not sure which of the comics shops in Eugene inspired the one in the book, but I have definitely had Cameron’s experiences walking into more than one of the shops in town when I was younger. (I moved away over a decade ago.)

Really the only bad thing I have to say about this book is – Cameron dresses as a boy as an experiment, then finds she passes well enough to do it in a weekly D&D game – and when she’s eventually found out, it’s either “NO WAY” or “I knew it!” I would have liked one of the boys to shrug and say “I just thought he was trans” or something. SOME. MENTION. Of transgender or nonbinary as a possibility would have made this book so much better. I’m always slightly uncomfortable with a cross-dressing character and ABSOLUTELY NO MENTION of nonbinary gender identities.

Alright, no, there’s another bad point. The only other girl her age that Cameron has any contact with is Brina, dudebro-from-the-comic-shop’s crush, and Cameron honestly doesn’t treat her well. The first time they meet, Cameron is dressed as Boy Cameron, and doesn’t defend Brina when Brody pulls his dudebro shit. Which, okay, she was still getting used to being perceived as a dude, and instinct as a girl is to let that sort of thing slide off so as to not make it worse. I can give her a pass there. But near the end of the book, they run into each other again, as Girl Cameron this time, and when Brina extends a hand in friendship, Cameron brushes her off. Sure, she had a bad day, she’s stuck in her own head, but – GIRL. You’ve been dealing with toxic dudes on the internet the entire book, and dudebros you’re – trying to be friends with, for some reason, and you brush off a girl that loves your cosplay and wants to be friends? What the heck!

So – I don’t know. I honestly really enjoyed this book. The nerdy parts were glorious, even if their DM is a little railroad-y. The comic pages sprinkled into the text, showing the D&D adventure, was an inspired touch. But I just don’t like Cameron very much.

Her twin brother is gay, and there’s some drama with his ex, which is why I’ve tagged this GLBT. His storyline being treated just like a heterosexual storyline makes me wonder more why no mention is made of gender identities. IDK. It’s cute, but it’s problematic for what it omits.

From the cover of Chaotic Good:

Soon-to-be senior Cameron hopes to complete her costume portfolio away from the online abuse she has endured since winning a cosplay contest dressed as a character from a game she’s never played. Unfortunately, the only comic shop in her new town – her main destination for character reference – is staffed by a dudebro who challenges every girl who comes into the shop.

At her twin brother’s suggestion, Cameron borrows a set of his clothes and uses her costuming expertise to waltz into the shop as Boy Cameron, where she’s shocked at how easily she’s accepted into the nerd inner sanctum. Before she can say “Demogorgon,” Cameron finds herself drafted into a D&D campaign alongside the dudebro, a friendly (almost flirtatiously so) clerk, a handsome Dungeon Master, and her brother Cooper, dragged along for good measure.

But as her “secret identity” gets more and more entrenched, Cameron’s portfolio falls by the wayside – and her feelings for her DM threaten to make a complicated situation even more precarious. Cosplay, comic shops, and college applications collide in this geek-girl anthem from You’re Welcome, Universe author Whitney Gardner, complete with fully illustrated comic pages by Gardner herself.

Library Loot Wednesday

Three books this week; two YA and one nonfiction. Steel Tide is the sequel to Seafire, a sapphic pirate adventure, and Slay is about a young, black, female computer programmer. You Are Your Own is a book about being an ex-evangelical Christian and dealing with the fallout from that, which I am intimately familiar with.