Girl of Nightmares by Kendare Blake

12507214Girl of Nightmares is Kendare Blake’s follow up to Anna Dressed in Blood. Anna was a decent YA read for me, but had some flaws I had a hard time over looking. I had heard mixed things about the sequel in this duology, but hoped for the best. When the BookTube-a-Thon came along I decided to meet one of the challenges (finish a series) with this book and it was a perfect addition to my reading list.

(There will be Anna spoilers ahead so beware.)

When we left Cass and his friends, Anna had just been swept away to God knows where. Her Victorian mansion had collapsed, but everyone else had survived to journey on into Girl of Nightmares. This time around, Cass is seriously missing his ghostly honey, hating that he doesn’t know what actually ended up happening to her. Things turn rather strange when he begins having visions of Anna that at first seem harmless and just slightly crazy, but then he begins to suspect that Anna is actually contacting him from the hell she’s been living in during the past few months. Cass and company now must figure out if helping Anna is the right thing to do and whether or not it’s even possible.

You guys, Girl of Nightmares was so much more enjoyable than Anna Dressed in Blood. I’ve been trying to nail down why that is since I finished reading. Partially, I was aware of some of the book’s previous pitfalls and so didn’t let those things bother me as much in the second book. When Cass’s mother just sort of benignly accepts his job of choice, death be damned, I let it go. Mostly, however, I was so pleasantly surprised at how genuinely creepy this book turned out to be. At moments, I actually shuddered at some of Anna’s ghostly visits. The spookiness of Blake’s second outing was a wonderful improvement. Horror novels should incite fear – duh.

The new characters and the new London setting for the book’s second half were also a huge win! I loved that Gideon wasn’t all he seemed and that Cass’s job was on the table now that a kickass new female protagonist has been introduced. I say protagonist because I would totally love a novel from Jestine’s perspective. Plus, the hell world Anna’s living in with the Obeahman was so perfectly rendered and imaginative. I finally feel like Kendare Blake has transcended the multitude of other YA novelists into an elite group of talented super writers.

Yes, I liked Girl of Nightmares just that much.

Bonus:

I love that the girl on the cover doesn’t appear to be white – but rather looks Asian. At least to me. You can’t really tell in the above picture. She looks a lot like Kendare Blake, actually.

Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake

9378297I had high hopes for Anna and all her creepiness. Really high hopes. Some of those expectations were met and others not so much. I hate that I only felt ‘meh’ about this book while so many others adored. I will say that compared to other similar YA novels, this one shines.

In Anna, we meet Cas who is a young, aspiring Dean Winchester. They are the exact same character. And since I loved the first few seasons of Supernatural, I was thrilled with Cas. I even enjoyed the heck out of his cockiness. Anyway, he’s a ghost hunter/slayer with a special knife meant for slaughtering the baddies. He gets wind of a particularly nasty spook dubbed ‘Anna Dressed in Blood’ and heads to Canada with his mom. All of the things go down. The end. Ha!

Now, Anna had the potential to be one bad ass murderous ghost. Our first time meeting her is awesome, gruesome, and exactly what I wanted. Unfortunately, Anna gets neutered far too quickly and that’s when all my problems started. Why did Blake decide to water down Anna so quickly? Such a shame.

(minor spoilers ahead!)

Most of the novel truly does read like a Supernatural episode. What works the most are Cas’s friends – his little circle he comes to know and love. They are fun and not at all the stereotypical group you’d expect from a traditional YA novel. I had some ‘Scooby Gang’ nostalgia going on big time. Even the romantic bits break most of  the normal YA tropes which is a breath of fresh air. Until you realize that Cas and Anna have feelings for one another. That bit lost me as well.

Two things disappointed me more than anything else. Why was everyone so okay with Cas doing what he does? He’s a freakin’ kid whose dad died killing ghosts. Why would his mother so mutely stand back and watch her son continue such violence, particularly at such a young age? Did not ring true to me at all. I know I’m just supposed to suspend belief, but I couldn’t.

Also, why wasn’t this book more frightening? I’m not sure that’s Blake’s fault at all. Maybe I’m just not moved by horror stories? Scary movies are nearly un-watchable, but I haven’t been horrified by a written ghost story in a seriously long time. I want to be scared silly!

I did love the book’s ending. I’m glad that Anna went down with the house – only seems fitting. Blake’s writing was also great, her pacing superb from page one, and she genuinely has some awesome plot moves. I’m mainly thinking of the flashback scene dealing with Anna’s past and how creatively she managed to pull that off. I think I’d have been more impressed if there had been more emotion involved. I wanted Cas’s mom to care more about her son’s well-being. I wanted the town to care more about all the deaths and disappearances – especially of the young kids. And I wanted that damn cat to survive!

Can’t win them all, I suppose. Anna is still a book I’d recommend to fans of YA horror and paranormal stories. There’s enough in Blake’s novel that feels fresh to entice those readers annoyed with so many cookie-cutter, predictable narratives running around in the world today. There’s also a fun amount of blood and gore for the true horror fans and a fascinating mythology.

I’ll gladly read the second Anna story in this duology. I am thankful that there’s only two novels. If Blake had decided to end after the first, I wouldn’t have been disappointed, but I’m interested to see where Anna ended up! Many other readers haven’t liked the second Anna as much which kind of gives me hope. I tend to like sequels when others don’t. Just one of my many weird quirks.