Monday, December 31, 2012

Review: Anna Dressed In Blood by Kendare Blake ★★★

Anna Dressed in Blood (Anna, #1)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.

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