I gave up participating in reading challenges a few years ago when I figured out that I really only ever got around to reading one or two of the mountain of books assigned. I’m a mood reader, meaning I’m not really sure what I’m going to read next. It might be one of the books staked in the ‘maybe I’ll read this next pile’ (or, let’s face it, one of the several ‘maybe I’ll read this next piles’ dotted around my house), or it might be the book I found at the library last week. The book that showed up on my ereader from a library hold or preorder. Or one of the nearly 400 books on the ‘to be read’ bookcase in the bedroom. The collection I lean toward and away from while doing yoga, thinking to myself, I really should get around to that one. Or that one. Or that one.
Obviously, I don’t need to challenge myself to read. And yet here I am, participating in #WritersRead.
What attracted me to this particular challenge was the January post from organizers Emily and Rachel: Something in a genre you never read. Despite reading widely, there are genres I don’t really delve into.
- I don’t really read erotic romance or really kinky books.
- I don’t read westerns, though Lonesome Dove is one of my forever favorites. I should read more westerns.
- I don’t read true crime. I don’t mind police procedural type mysteries, though.
- I’ve had a better time with urban fantasy over the past couple of years, but only pick up recommendations from friends.
- I read a little bit of YA? Some of my favorite books from the past two years have been YA. I get tired of it easily, though. Young adult books, to me, always seem so much more angst-ridden than adult books.
- I’m not really into intensely literary fiction. I’m there more for the story than the words.
- I don’t read paranormal. Not really? Well, except for books written by my best bud, Jenn. Her books are fantastic.
Horror is something I read a lot before I drifted more seriously into fantasy. So, I was pretty surprised when a book called Anna Dressed in Blood showed up on my e-reader.
Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendara Blake
I remember putting this book on hold at the library. I don’t remember why. I have a vague recollection of seeing the book mentioned somewhere, probably by someone whose opinions I trust. I then must have put it on hold and forgotten about it, which happens a lot. In fact, my ereader has become something of a surprise factory as books I’ve put on hold up to six months earlier show up out of the blue. I kind of love it? It takes the guesswork out of what to read next and not remembering the why or wherefore adds a little something to the experience of reading each book.
So, Anna Dressed in Blood. It’s doubly something I rarely read (not going to say never) because the main character is sixteen and still high school, and there are ghosts. It’s YA-Horror-Paranormal. So not my thing.
Cas Lowood kills the dead. His father did it and now he does it, using the knife his father left behind when, well, the dead managed to kill him instead. After completing a self-set assignment in one town, Cas and his mom arrive in a small Canadian town to meet the challenge Cas believes will qualify him to finally meet his father’s murderer. Anna Dressed in Blood. The story is part teenage high school, part teenage ghost killer and it works. The balance between the two. This particular assignment marks a turning point in Cas’s life, so it makes sense that this is when he starts to actually bond with a couple of the kids at his new school. Instead of just pumping them for information about local ghost stories, he becomes involved.
He also becomes uniquely involved with the ghostly Anna, who is a thousand times scarier than I (and perhaps Cas) anticipated. But also… different.
I kinda loved every aspect of this book. I enjoyed Cas as the main character. He was understandably different, but not in the affected way teenagers in teenage books so often are. He killed ghosts, for goodness sakes. His father was EATEN by one. His mother is a witch, and she’s tons of fun. He has a cool cat.
I liked the way he related as the new kid to the other kids in town and the relationships he built with them. He didn’t win everyone over. It was all so realistic, given the fact ghosts appeared on nearly every other page, along with paranormal paraphernalia I had to look up. But the world wasn’t overly different from this one. It just seemed a given that this one guy could read minds, sometimes. This, if anything else, is my take away from this read. That the author managed to build a speculative world that nestled so comfortably next to our own, that I had no trouble believing in it. I would read more by Kendara Blake based on this alone.
My favorite part of the story is the bit I can’t tell you about because it would spoil the whole thing. What I will say is that I will definitely be reading the next book. I already have it on hold. Oh, and a final note? A paperback copy of this turned up in the donation bin at the library, in gorgeous condition, and I immediately snapped it up for the keeper shelf. What makes it extra special is that the ink inside is a dark red.
Why don’t they put fun touches like that in books for adults?
The challenge for next month is a book set in the future. This should be easy for me because I love science fiction. I love speculative fiction in general. Until then, I’m going to leave you with three brief reviews for other notable January reads!
The Lie: A Memoir of Two Marriages, Catfishing & Coming Out by William Dameron
Oh, man. This one broke my heart. The catfishing angle is a little more than a bookend, but Dameron’s exploration of that idea in relation to how he believed he deceived his wife and kids is a new take on a painful story. I’m super glad this one had a happy ever after.
Maybe You Should Talk To Someone: A Therapist, Her Therapist, and Our Lives Revealed by Lori Gottlieb
I raved about this one on social media and have already bought two copies for friends. Apart from enjoying the book, I’m also inspired to read more memoir and biography! For my full review, visit Goodreads.
The Overdue Life of Amy Byler by Kelly Harms
While there were aspects of this book that poked at me (meaning I didn’t quite like them), overall, I enjoyed this read enough to recommend it. I loved the exploration of what it is to be the primary caregiver for a couple of kids, and how we can trap ourselves into thinking we have to do it all for ourselves rather than ask for help.