June Book of the Month

June’s book of the month was Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake. Blake has become a substantial author in young adult fiction, especially with her current series Three Dark Crowns. I was surprised to see the range of genres from horror to fantasy, and also comforted by the fact authors can reign free and not necessarily get locked into one, and still be successful. Anna Dressed in Blood was her debut novel, and it was encouraging to see that ghost stories are still popular, and popular enough to get picked up as someone’s debut. I love ghosts, probably a little too much, but at least not as much as Cas. I gave this book a full five out of five stars.

Anna Dressed in Blood is about Cas Lowood, a fresh, young ghost hunter who picked up his father’s ghost-killing athame after his father was killed by a vicious spirit. He moves from town to town with his Mom to get rid of local haunts. He moves to Thunder Bay to hunt down a notorious ghost, who has gained the title “Anna Dressed In Blood.” In his pursuits of hunting her, he befriends a local mind-reading witch Thomas, along with the most popular kids in school: Carmel, the queen bee who is actually a decent person, Mike, her dumb jock ex-boyfriend, and Will, the jock’s sidekick who’s got just as much intelligence as he has kick in him.

The characters were easily my favorite part of the book. Each one seemed like someone I would’ve met in high school, and even though Cas stereotyped them in the beginning, they each became more than just a character type. Even Anna, dead and from another time, showed significant wit and character beyond just being a dead girl. At certain points different characters went against their own personalities, usually for superficial reasons, but at no point did any of it feel fake. Kendare Blake knows her audience well, and has a strong grip on the voice of teenagers. I found myself laughing out loud from Cas’ remarks throughout the book, like his constant insistence that he’s not one of the Ghostbusters and rejecting the idea of teaming up to become a ghost fighting group. Even the adults were entertaining and well fleshed out despite their limited appearances.

The plot of the story was tightly woven, and where there were some gaps of knowledge, I’m certain they’ll be answered in the second book. How do I know that? Passing details that didn’t seem significant wound up being monstrously important throughout the ending, and everything that Cas set out to do was solved but left with different cliffhangers. Naturally, he can’t accomplish everything the way he had planned, but even the cliffhangers were tight and gave a solid idea of where the series would head afterward. Every piece of information given was used and transformed as the story went on. Even the hitchhiker from chapter one is referred to later.

Overall, this is one of my favorite books. I’m glad I accidentally bought the sequel first; if I had it with me for the start of July, I’d easily make Girl of Nightmares my July book of the month. Unfortunately, I could only haul so many books with me when moving, so it’ll be on its way when my mom comes to visit about halfway through the month. So in the meantime, the sequel will have to wait another month before I can get to it. Instead, July’s book of the month will be The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller. I haven’t read a historical fiction book yet, and I’m interested to see how I enjoy it.

May Book of the Month

May’s book of the month was Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury. I like to switch between books made more recently and books made long before I was born, so this month’s book falls into the latter category. This is one of those books that high school teachers like to assign for reading. However, I was never in any of the classes that got to read this. Maybe it’s due to no somber recollection to being forced to read pages for homework, but I really enjoyed this book. I’d give it a four out of five stars.

I can see the roots of more current dystopian books well within this one. Hunger Games, Divergent, even bits of the Maze Runner and The Giver. (We had to read The Giver in my seventh-grade class. I feel like I would’ve liked it more if I read it in my free time.) Even though most of the protagonists are young adults or children in these more modern books, Montag still shares some of the themes that these children do. His life goes through some drastic change where he’s forced to question existence, meets an idealistic young friend who opens his eyes to something new, and simultaneously is punished for his new thoughts brought on by the external influence. He is then by an older figure —Faber in this case— on how to try to make the world change.

Montag doesn’t change the world, and I think that’s why I enjoyed the book so much. It doesn’t give the false sense of security in completely redefining a world for it to wind up better. Many of the young adult dystopian wind up with some bittersweet end where some bad does come, but there is still something gained by their journey. Montag’s journey winds up only saving himself and none of the people he cares about. It might be the bits of nihilism in me, but it’s refreshing to know there are books with some neutral, not necessarily even moralistically bad endings.

The rag-tag team of prior teachers and scholars were the most interesting paid-off twist that Montag encountered. If the novel were written in the current times, it would’ve produced a series of at least two or three more books afterward, but it ends poignantly, with a small glimmer of hope. I encountered now one of my favorite quotes from this book, spoken by Granger, one of the scholars and living books:

Everyone must leave something behind when he dies, my grandfather said. A child or a book or a painting or a house or a wall built or a pair of shoes made. Or a garden planted. Something your hand touched some way so your soul has somewhere to go when you die, and when people look at that tree or that flower you planted, you’re there.

It’s interesting to read the introduction, which in my edition is Neil Gaiman from 2013, to find how startlingly applicable the themes from the book are today. If only 2013 Neil Gaiman or 1953 Ray Bradbury knew what was to become the future.

Speaking of the future, June’s book of the month will be Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake. I’ve meant to read this book since I graduated high school, so I might as well finish it before it comes times to graduate college!

March Book of the Month: Survive the Night

My book of the month for March was Survive the Night by Danielle Vega. As much as I love the horror genre, I was surprised to realize that this was the first official book I’ve read in the genre. I’ve watched more horror movies than I can think of, but I was shocked that it took me this long to read something in the current genre. (Besides Carmilla, I suppose, if you count that as horror.) Overall, I found the book incredibly enjoyable and I was able to finish the last hundred or so pages in one sitting because I was so invested. (I usually read between my classes, therefore, multiple sittings. I read outside of my class time for a lot of this book.)

I immediately related to the main character, Casey. Although, that’s likely just a coincidence. She had dislocated her kneecap playing soccer, and from being active, meanwhile, I dislocated mine walking energetically in gym class. However, unlike her, she became addicted to her pain medication, and we are introduced to her as she’s coming home from rehab.

I only have a few aspects of this book I had some critique on, and the first act was so long it almost made me flip ahead to check if anything juicy happened sooner. I was eager for the horror. The information delivered, while important, took up slightly over four chapters of the book before we got to the promise of the premise, surviving the night. At the very least, getting to the actual club and the first hint of horror.

Another aspect I didn’t enjoy that also occurred throughout the first portions was Casey’s fixation on her ex-boyfriend. At first, it seemed a little below her character to be so focused on him for his sort of approval but looking back I’m more lenient on it after certain revelations. I suppose you could say his love was one of the drugs she had been addicted to in a way. His character confuses me a bit as we find out more about him, along with his involvement with Shana.

Once they finally get to Survive the Night, the exclusive club that they had to get a homeless man’s help to find, the fun begins. Well, the deaths do at least. And that’s what we’re here for in horror. Or I am, at least. The promised premise certainly delivers, and it amps up to the point I kept wondering what could happen next. Usually I’m able to generally guess where a plot is going, and this one kept me fresh and engaged the entire time. The stakes were eternally high throughout the book.

While the ending tied up the majority of the plot points with grace, I guessed the mysterious insinuation it leaves you with from when I read the synopsis. It almost reminded me of the movie Shrooms. However, it left enough threads throughout the narrative to be able to make your own conclusion while further heightening the events that happened. I’m trying not to spoil much with this, so I won’t say here what I think happened. I plan on making a video about that with a spoiler-filled review on a new YouTube channel I’m making. I’ll post the link on here when I do.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed Survive the Night. I’d give it a 4.5 out of 5 stars. Besides the few minor grievances, I think it’s safe to say this is one of my more recent favorites. It also makes me interested in reading Danielle Vega’s series The Merciless. I loved her style throughout the book. I don’t own The Merciless so it won’t be the next book of the month. I think I’m going to go for a sci-fi approach and read Children of Eden by Joey Graceffa. I’ve had this book for a little over a year now, and I should get down to reading it.