RTW: Book of the Month for December, 2012

Wait, wait, wait! Didn’t I do this last Friday? Yes, I did. Those faithful folks who, despite the Christmas cheer and New Year’s plans, visited my blog on Friday will recall that I already announced my Book of the Month for December. But, it’s been a few weeks since I’ve participated in a YA Highway Road Trip Wednesday, and I expect not everyone following the RTW posts subscribes to my blog, or visits it every day (or week… or month…). So, for the benefit of those who missed it, here’s a re-post of what I said on Friday:

My Book of the Month for December is…

ANNA DRESSED IN BLOOD by Kendare Blake. An odd choice perhaps, given that I keep insisting I don’t read horror and this is YA Horror. But it was certainly the best book I read this month, and I will tell you why I think it deserves the accolade. First, let me tell you what it’s about. The main character, Cas, is a 17-year-old (I think that’s his age–either 16 or 17) ghost-hunter, a mantle he has taken from his dad ever since his father was gruesomely killed by the last spirit he encountered. He receives tips from various sources, and based on those tips, he and his mother (who is a dab-hand at witchcraft) move to where the troublesome spook is, hunts them down, and, with his father’s athame blade, sends them to their eternal home.

This time, Cas gets a tip about a murderous ghost in Thunder Bay, so they move to Canada. This particular ghost, known by the locals as “Anna Dressed in Blood” was the victim of a brutal assault, but no-one seems to know much about what happened. All they know is that her abandoned home is haunted by her, and anyone that enters that house ends up dismembered (it’s YA Horror, remember!). When Cas first encounters Anna, however, she spares his life. There’s more to Anna than Cas anticipated, and he certainly didn’t expect to second-guess his mission–but he does.

That’s about as much as I can say without giving away too much. I enjoyed the way the plot turns. Kendare does a great job of inserting backstory in a way that makes it interesting and doesn’t take you out of the story. She also puts in plenty of plot twists to keep you guessing. I can’t say there were huge surprises for me, and I guessed correctly some of the main plot points–but that’s not a big deal to me. These weren’t necessarily obvious, but she laid the clues for them and I picked up on the clues. That’s good writing, in my book. I found the characters to be believable, and well-conceived. It’s written in the present tense from Cas’s viewpoint, and his voice came through loud and clear.

It’s definitely not for the squeamish, though I shuddered more at Cas’s potty mouth than at the horror bits. That said, the book is not a blood-fest, and there’s very little (if any) sexual content. The R rating I would give it is largely because of the profanity and as a warning that there are gory bits. But again, Kendare doesn’t relish in the blood-and-guts. She tells you what happens, what Cas sees, and then gets on with the story. This goes to show that her main concern is the story, not the shock. I definitely recommend this to fans of the genre.

What was your favorite read this month? If you want to join in the Road Trip Wednesday fun, visit the YA Highway blog for details.

Yesterday I announced my Book of the Year for 2012. Here’s that article if you missed it, and here’s how you can win a copy of it!

16 Responses to RTW: Book of the Month for December, 2012

  1. I totally loved that this book was set in Thunder Bay, Ontario. I’ve been there, and it’s not far from where I was born and grew up. :) I enjoyed this book well enough, but it’s still not quite my cup of tea. It could have been so much gorier than it was, so that’s a plus. I’m glad you enjoyed it!

    • As I said, horror is not usually my cup of tea–or any other beverage, for that matter. But I was intrigued at the concept of YA Horror, and after Robin gushed over this book a while ago, I thought I would give it a try. I thought the balance between what you expect in YA books (i.e., teenagers being teenagers) and the supernatural-creepy-horror stuff you expect in Stephen King novels was very well done. As you said, there’s not nearly as much gore as there could have been, which shows that Kendare is just out to tell a good story, not make you lose your lunch. I’m intrigued enough to read the second in the series, but I don’t know that I’ll make a regular habit of YA Horror. :)

  2. I don’t read horror either, but I really want to read that book. I’ve read such great things about it and it sounds like an interesting read.

    • Like I said, there is some violence, and plenty of salty language (though no more than in many non-horror YA novels I’ve read), but it is a good read. Worth a try, I say. Even if you’re not a fan of the violence, she doesn’t linger over every drop of blood, so you get past it fairly quickly.

  3. Normally I’m not super into horror – although there are exceptions, such as Carrie Ryan’s The Forest of Hands and Teeth – but enough people whose judgment I trust have recommended this book that I need to check it out. Sounds like I might not want to read this one before bed, though :)

    • If you’re susceptible to the jitters, then this is not bedtime reading; but definitely worth a try, even if you’re not into horror. I think after this you can say you’ve read good YA Horror, even if you never read another YA Horror book. :)

  4. I thought you might appreciate that this book wasn’t just horror. :) I do get what you mean about too much focus on the scare factor. A lot of authors and directors prefer to go for the jumpy and gory moments, resulting in too much and that’s what Kendare Blake didn’t fall into. There was a story and a hero to show us and she kept her focus there. I thought there were some perfect scary ghost moments without taking over the whole novel. There was more to it: Cas finding out answers to his father’s death and getting used to having allies and friends for the first time. I don’t want to push more horror onto you – people need to have their preferences – but if you fancied picking up the sequel Girl of Nightmares I think you may enjoy that one as well. There’s more development with Carmel and Thomas in that one as well.

    • It was a good call, Robin. Thank you! There was a lot more to the story than the stereotypical haunted house kind of thing. There was good backstory, and 3-D characters. GIRL OF NIGHTMARES is on my TBR. In fact, Kendare is running a giveaway at the moment where she’s offering a signed copy of GIRL OF NIGHTMARES as one of the prizes. Yes, I entered. :D

  5. I read this a few months back. And really my only problem was the language. But I also loved Cas’s dry wit and dark humor. I don’t usually do horror either, but this was an exception. I really liked this book and the sequel.

    • Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Kelli. As I indicated, the language was a bigger problem for me than the “horror.” The fact that it’s a good story with interesting characters more than compensates, though.

      I’m glad you noted that you enjoyed the sequel. I plan to read it. :)

  6. ‘Anna Dressed in Blood’ was my beach read this past year. There were a few things I didn’t like about it (too much foul language, imo), but overall I thought it was fun and well done. Cas is both arrogant and inexplicably likeable. And I loved the supporting characters here.

    • I think we have a consensus opinion about the language, but also about the fact that the story and characters were strong enough that we could overlook the profanities. There certainly were an interesting mix of characters, too. Thanks for your thoughts, Nickie! :D

  7. I think the horror would bother me much more than the profanity! I’ve heard so many good things about this book but I am entirely too squeamish about horror to attempt it.

    • The thing with horror for me is not so much being squeamish, but that people tend to die in nasty, and sometimes meaningless, ways, and that bothers me. The body count in this book, however, is relatively light–at least counting those that die during the course of the story. But if you think it would creep you out too much, that’s fine. To each his/her own. :)

  8. I have been wanting to read this book for a while now, especially since I’ve heard so many good things about it. I’m not squeamish when it comes to horror. I just like horror when it’s done right and so I like that the author focused more on the story, not the shock-value. I’ll definitely have to check this out. Thanks for the review. :)

    • You’re welcome, Raven. I’m certainly not well enough versed in the horror genre to say whether this is horror “done right,” but it’s a good story with good characters. There’s no doubt that it’s horror, and there are some intentionally scary and nasty moments, but Kendare’s eye stays firmly on the story, so you might well enjoy it.

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