Anna Dressed in Blood (Anna, #1)

Kendare Blake
Cas Lowood has inherited an unusual vocation: He kills the dead. So did his father before him, until he was gruesomely murdered 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, now stained red and dripping with 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.But she, for whatever reason, spares Cas's life. Anna Dressed in Blood is a 2011 Kirkus Best Teen Books of the Year title. One of NPR's Top 5 Young Adult Novels of 2011.

Reviews

Reviewed: 2018-01-14

This novel piqued my interest as I really enjoyed Kami Garcia’s debut solo novel Unbreakable, which is also a supernatural YA fiction novel. Anna Dressed In Blood has many similar elements that reader’s who enjoyed Garcia’s debut solo novel will also enjoy. This book was also blessed by a blurb from immensely popular supernatural YA author Cassandra Clare. 

I immediately fell in love with the story’s main character Cassio “Cas” Lowood, ghost exterminator extraordinaire. With his special line of work, he travels often is undoubtedly a loner which many can relate to. Blake’s exquisite exposition pulls readers into the creepy and delicious world that she has created. Cas’s journey may experience lulls, but they are brief as the speed mostly consistent. 

Even though this novel may be marketed as Young Adult fiction, the story and its exposition transcended its genre. I felt immediately compelled to reach for the book’s sequel Girl of Nightmares to see how this intense and addicting story would be continued! If you love scary movies and creepy things, this is right up your alley and also if horror or scary things aren’t your forte, this novel is a good starting point as the “scary” factor is built consistently so as to not scare off the reader.

Reviewed: 2017-12-07
Initial Impressions 9/30/17 + review as posted on The Book Addict's Guide 10/18/17: I actually tried to read this book, oh about four or five years ago, and decided it was too scary because I hate reading ghost stories but so many people had talked about the book that I had wanted to give it a try. I figured now that I’m braver and decided to read it NOT in the dark, NOT home alone, and NOT in a very old apartment that it would take away some of the fear factor and really… it’s not a scary book at all. ANNA DRESSED IN BLOOD has some gory and creepy moments but it’s more about the story of Anna and how she came to be, Cas and his family, and the friendships that form, rather than the fear.

The book was fun but it didn’t really pull me in. I liked Cas and enjoyed his point of view but the plot just didn’t quite work for me, which seems to be kind of a pattern with Kendare Blake’s books for me. I didn’t really care about the ending and didn’t really like where the story went. I felt like it would have been a better stand-alone, making this more about Cas and Anna’s story rather than Cas’s family and his history (for once I don’t want character backstory!). Even though there were a lot of things leading up to the conclusion, it still seemed to veer off in a different direction and just didn’t seem to fit the rest of the book.

It was a fun read but I don’t think I’ll pick up the second book. I’m glad I “faced my fears” and tried it again because it really wasn’t scary at all! I had just put myself in a spooky place when I first tried to read it and barely made it anywhere because I freaked myself out with a spooky setting, so I’m really glad I attempted this book again. I feel silly for being scared before but I guess I concocted the perfect storm for a fear factor the first time around!

The audiobook narrator was also very meh. He had breaths and pauses in weird places (the middle of sentences) and didn’t have very good accents at all. Anna’s Finnish accent was more Russian and no one had a Canadian accent or even a hint of one despite the fact that the book took place in Canada. I mean, all Canadians don’t have to have a strong, pronounced accent but I do notice the vowel changes a lot with my own Canadian friends so I guess I expected the same here. His voices for the other guys were like, no one’s voice ever in real life, and the girls were overdone and stereotypical, so that didn’t enhance my reading experience like some audiobook narrators can do.
Reviewed: 2017-11-16
“God, living people are irritating.”

So there's this boy who kills ghosts
A girl who's too strong a ghost
He visits the town where she resides
To kill her ofcourse!

Anna, my strong, terrifying Anna.

The author took an interesting plot and turned it into an action packed,full of mystery,and very intriguing story.
There are very few good ghost books/series out there (I've only read two good books/series apart from this one) so this is a good addition!
Reviewed: 2016-06-24
Wow. I just realized that I added this book to Mount To-Read exactly one year ago today. That's pretty strange, isn't it? I mean, I picked the book up yesterday on a whim, thinking that it would be light, quick reading to squeeze in before the new year. I wasn't looking for any weird cosmic alignments or anything... but it is kind of cool.

As was this book. I really enjoyed it. It was different, very different, than what I expected, but not in a bad way. Well, maybe not ALL bad, because I do have a few *cough* teensy weensy gripes about it.

But first, the things I DID like.

- I really liked the realistic teenager tone of the story. I liked how there were some f-bombs, and how Cas skipped school (albeit for really selfish reasons like "work" and stuff), and how the characters were all relateable. I liked how the usual student tropes both did and did not fall into their usual lines of "Big Dumb Jock" type, or "Most Popular Homecoming Queen Bitch" type, or "Outcast" type. I liked reading about these characters, even the ones I didn't like, and I am excited that this is the beginning of a series. I want to see more of them.

- I really liked that it was a bit horrifying. To be honest, I had kind of pegged this book, pre-read, as that "light, quick" read (as I mentioned before). I thought it would be a little cartoony, may be a little funny at times, but not something I expected to be in any way horrifying. And I don't mean it was scary, although there were some bits that could have been, but I mean more of a "Oh crap, that's not good" kind of horrifying. I liked that it wasn't cartoony or funny (though again there were moments of levity), and I liked that the method of the deaths we're privy to aren't glossed over. We see them as Cas sees them... or as he'd rather not.

- I liked the way that the "Ghost Whisperer" concept was made into something that didn't make me fall asleep and drool all over my nook. I mean, no offense to Jennifer Love Hewitt or anything. I know she's got a lot of loyal (male) fans (fanatics) who watch every episode of her show (hoping for cleavage... COME ON!), but I just can't. I think I've seen one episode and I was bored. BORED. This book though, was not boring. This is no Ghost Whisperer, though Cas does help restless, violent spirits go... somewhere... by murdering them... again. SLICED AND DICED! I like it.

It was gritty and interesting and different. I liked how the practitioners that Cas gets to help him (witches), were portrayed and the way that the rituals and spells were done was different from what I've seen before, though admittedly, that's not all that much. I liked the twist near the end, though the resolution did kind of do a little "fade to black" thing. We're left to assume the outcome based on the set of details, but still hope...

So now we come to the stuff that had me griping. Two things, mainly. OK three things. Tops. Two gripes and a rant.

#1 - The action scenes were a little sketchy and hard to follow for my taste. I like to visualize fight scenes in my mind, and these were hard to see, as they didn't always make sense linearly.

#2 - I don't understand how normal people don't believe in ghosts if they are apparently able to see them all the time without trouble. I can understand Cas's ability to see them, and I can understand the witches being able to, but the Normals, the students with no special abilities at all can also see them (at least 3 different ghosts). Maybe they've all "manifested" as visible to everyone, but I would have liked some sort of explanation here. Either that they HAVE to have manifested even for Cas to see them (which seems likely since Tybalt was a kind of ghost detector), or that proximity to Cas or witches allows others to see ghosts too, or something.

#3 - The Insta-Connection. I was hoping that the connection that drew Cas to Anna would be explained, and it may still be later on in the series, but as of right now, I don't get it. And honestly, that cheapens the story to me.

It would have been a better, stronger story, in my opinion, if Cas was less emotional about Anna, and rather than falling in love with her, he freed her and used her as an ally... maybe working up to something more later, after we get to know them and their characters and situations better. Or not, even. But falling in love with a ghost is hard to believe, despite my suspension of disbelief with the rest of the story, and given that I don't like insta-love (under any euphemism) in the first place is just... kind of disappointing.

I really don't understand why books written for teens and young adults rely so heavily on instant connections and immediate love. I was a teen once, and yeah, I had crushes, and boyfriends, doodled sickening little hearts with initials in them on the margins of my papers (don't tell anyone), and thought that THIS GUY was THE ONE, but I never once felt a bone-deep, undeniable, magnetic connection with anyone. Ever. No matter how strong my feelings were. So I don't get why this unrealistic trait is repeated in book after book after book. It's really starting to turn me off of reading YA. I'm so tired of it. I cannot wait for this trend to be ooooovvvveeeerrrrr.

Please, authors, PLEASE. Stop this. Write realistic relationships!!! I want to read them. Not soulmates or instant love that requires no effort except against outside influences trying to break it up. That's incredibly boring to me, and I'm more than ready for something different!

But still... I DID enjoy the story overall, and I WILL continue the series to see where things go. I'd be interested in the character development of some of the characters, and in seeing more of Cas's world... and possibly others.
I need the next book now. ;) Review to come soon!
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