Sometimes you read books that are visibly bad. So bad, in fact, that they make you want to throw yourself head first out a window, but you keep on reading and reading. You might even feel yourself losing your will to live about halfway through. But somehow, by the end of the book, you end up liking it anyway because it entertained you. The badness was just that entertaining. Then, there are other books that are really good books, but just do nothing for you. Anna Dressed in Blood was the latter for me. There was nothing wrong with this book. It's just that ghost books and I don't get along. I typically stay away from only two paranormal creatures: ghosts and zombies. I probably would have never picked this book up on my own, but I figured I'd give Anna Dressed in Blood a shot for two reasons: 1) It came highly recommended to me from several reviewers and 2) The last time I read a zombie book (The Forest of Hands and Teeth) I really enjoyed it. So I was hoping to have a similar experience. Unfortunately, I didn't.
The three biggest issues I had with the book:
For the most part I did like him, but in the beginning I found him to be a bit conceited. When he first arrives in Thunder Bay, Ontario he walks around the school like he's way too cool to be there. To his credit, I guess he really is. I mean, he kills ghosts for a living. But the way those girls just fawned over him, like he was some Grecian god, was just a little over the top.
I make my way to her table, seeing eyes growing wider as I do. Ten or so other girls probably just developed instantaneous crushes on me, because they see that Carmel likes me.
Then there was the issue with him being the only one able to kill ghosts. He kept repeating, "I'm the only one who can do this" and I kept asking, "Oh, yeah? Why? Why, Cas? What makes you so speshul?" Yes, I realize he comes from a long line of ghost busters hunters, but why his family? What makes his bloodline different from anyone else? I needed background info and I never got it.
Anna Dressed in Blood. I was told to read this book with the lights on. Usually, I scare very easily. I wasn't scared one bit while reading. At first, when Cas "runs into" Anna, I was thinking, "Uh, oh. It's about to go down." And for a minute it did. (view spoiler)[Anna tore dipshit Mike in half. (hide spoiler)] I was shocked and even more shocked that I liked it. I was starting to think that everyone who recommended me this book was on to something. Anna. Oh, Anna. Why couldn't you remain scary?
This is what I wanted from you:
I wanted you to run around angry, strike some fear in people's hearts, make me afraid of the dark for a few nights, tear some shit up.
But this is what I got instead:
For some odd reason you didn't have the urge to hurt Cas, which is never explained. Again, why is this kid so speshul?
This is honestly where the book started to lose me. Killer vindictive girl running around killing people? I can handle that. Cas going all "goo-goo eyes" over a dead girl? Yeah, um...it didn't work for me. But who am I to judge? If Cas likes it when Anna makes her eyes go black, her veins crawl up her arms, her deep, neck wound opening up to create her flowing blood dress, calling her "My Anna", then that is totally his business. I just didn't see where that relationship was supposed to be headed. (view spoiler)[Then they made out on the front porch of her possessed house and all I could think was, "Ewwww..." (hide spoiler)] It was different, I'll give Blake that, but it just didn't work for me.
Other things that bothered me:
I did not understand the mythology behind Cas' knife and the villain. It went straight over my head. I felt maybe that part could have been explained better. However, I suppose it's entirely possible that my little, simple brain could not grasp the complex explanation given. Maybe.
Cas' mother being so accepting of her son's profession. If your husband is killed while ghost hunting, wouldn't you try everything you could to have him not go down the same road?
Thomas' grandfather says he wanted Cas originally to kill Anna because she was acting different. I thought that was going to be significant to the plot, but we never found out why her behavior had initially changed.
I took issue how the kids in the story had so little empathy for their friends who were killed. When (view spoiler)[Mike (hide spoiler)] dies, Will makes up a some half-assed story about him walking home alone (bold is mine):
“We tell the cops that we drove around for a while. Then...got mad about Carmel and Cas and got out of the truck. None of us could stop him. He said he was going to walk home, and since it wasn’t that far away, we didn’t think anything of it. When he didn’t show at school today, we figured that he was hung over.”
But then when the police question Cas and Carmel a few days later (I've taken his name out due to spoilers)...
“You are aware that...lived at least ten miles from the area you’re talking about,” Officer Roebuck said. “No, I didn’t know,” I reply. “We tried to stop him,” Carmel pipes up.
Now, I'm not sure if that inconsistency was on purpose, but Will is supposed to be this guy's best friend. He wouldn't notice that the story he made up was off? Most of the time in the book it felt like the kids were too busy about getting blamed for a crime that they never took time to care that someone was murdered.
1. I thought Carmel and Cas were going to end up together. I was happy to see Blake didn't go for that very easy trope.
2. Anna's story was very sad and made it easy to be sympathetic towards her.
3. Never saw the villain coming. He was confusing, but unpredictable.
All in all, I would still recommend this book to other people because the biggest reason why I didn't love it was because I just don't like ghosts. *shrug*
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Do you hear that? That's the sound of me eating my words. Girl of Nightmares truly surprised me. I'll be honest and say I wasn't expecting to love or even like it because originally Anna Dressed in Blood and I didn't get along. While everyone else ran around screaming high praises for it, I was left on the side lines. And I hate being on the sides lines. No matter how much I tried to love Anna Dressed in Blood I couldn't. It had too many open ends and I'm of the belief that even when you are reading a series each book must stand on its own merit. So I was disappointed, but I also wanted to give the second book a try because regardless of my initial reservations, it wasn't a bad book. And after that fun interview we did, I was convinced to try again. So imagine my delight when I started reading Girl of Nightmares and discover how much I was enjoying it. When I finished I felt like I had been on one epic ghost-busting adventure. And it was awesome.
Girl of Nightmares takes place six months after the events in Anna Dressed in Blood with Cas attempting to get on with his life without Anna. Unfortunately, that's not going so well for him since he continues to witness Anna being tortured in his sleep and while he is awake. I'm not going to go off and describe the blurb for you, but I will say Cas gets to the bottom of EVERYTHING in Girl of Nightmares.
Everything that I complained about in Anna Dressed in Blood were addressed in Girl of Nightmares. The plot is solid with no inconsistencies that I could see. In fact, I really loved the plot because there wasn't a dull moment. That partly has something to do with there being a lot of loose ends to cover: the mystery surrounding the athame, where Anna went, Cas' background, ect. Despite there being so many issues needing to be addressed, I never once felt like Blake info dumped or rushed through explanations. It was all very smooth and engaging. I didn't want to put my book down, but well, I have kids, so it was unavoidable. And that made me cranky. Also, this book was creepy! Do yourself a big favor and do NOT read the "Suicide Forest" scene late at night. *shudders*
Don't ask, just obey...
The characters have seen a considerable amount of character development, most notably being both Cas and Carmel. Cas is no longer the cocky little prick who all girls fawn over like he's God's gift to womenkind. In Girl of Nightmares he is a broken character struggling to let go of Anna. He obsesses over it constantly to the point where it interferes with his ability to ghost hunt. This was a Cas I could easily sympathize with and I wanted him to find a way for both Anna and him to be happy. As for Carmel... I can't really say much without giving away huge spoilers, but she was a badass. You will love her.
The best part of Girl of Nightmares was the hilarious dialogue. These characters feel so real to me because Blake has sat down and given them so much personality. Laughing is pretty much a given when reading Girl of Nightmares. You can't get around it. But that's okay because you want the humor when you in the midst of being scared shitless.
The ending was perfect. I can't say anything about it because I refuse to ruin the book for anyone, but I think fans will be very happy and satisfied. Or not. Who's to say? Lol.
But I would like to share with you a piece of wisdom. After finishing Girl of Nightmares I happened to learn one big lesson:
Reading this book in the second floor hallway right above the stairs at night, while my entire household was sleeping soundly, wasn't one of my best ideas. Learn from me.
This ARC was generously given to Kat and I by Kendare Blake. This in no way swayed my views of the book. In fact, I think she was expecting me to dislike it, but she'll just have to settle for my glowing review!