Whistling Past the Graveyard review

**I was provided a copy of this book by netgalley.com in exchange for my review.

Whistling Past the Graveyard

Whistling Past the Graveyard by Susan Crandall

From Goodreads: The summer of 1963 begins like any other for nine-year-old Starla Claudelle. Born to teenage parents in Mississippi, Starla is being raised by a strict paternal grandmother, Mamie, whose worst fear is that Starla will turn out like her mother. Starla hasn’t seen her momma since she was three, but is convinced that her mother will keep her promise to take Starla and her daddy to Nashville, where her mother hopes to become a famous singer—and that one day her family will be whole and perfect.

When Starla is grounded on the Fourth of July, she sneaks out to see the parade. After getting caught, Starla’s fear that Mamie will make good on her threats and send her to reform school cause her to panic and run away from home. Once out in the country, Starla is offered a ride by a black woman, Eula, who is traveling with a white baby. She happily accepts a ride, with the ultimate goal of reaching her mother in Nashville.

As the two unlikely companions make their long and sometimes dangerous journey, Starla’s eyes are opened to the harsh realities of 1963 southern segregation. Through talks with Eula, reconnecting with her parents, and encountering a series of surprising misadventures, Starla learns to let go of long-held dreams and realizes family is forged from those who will sacrifice all for you, no matter if bound by blood or by the heart.

My review: Nine year old Starla lives in the south in the 1960s with her grandmother. Her father works on an oil rig and rarely gets to visit, and her mother left when Starla was three and moved to Nashville to become a singer. When Starla runs away to find her mother, she finds herself in heaps of disastrous situations. Caught in a turbulent time between southern whites and African Americans, Starla learns more about the world, and herself, than she had ever anticipated.

While the story lines in this book at times feel very familiar, the tone, style, and language feel very authentic and original. I liked Starla from page one, and found her spunky, full-of-life attitude entertaining. The dialogue was rich and well-written, though I might have preferred more description of time and place to fill in the stories a bit more. I love that the ending was not all peaches-and-cream, and some works of fiction tend to be. Overall, I would recommend this book to those who enjoyed Secret Life of Bees, The Help, and Saving CeeCee Honeycutt. When it is released in the stories I will also be picking up a copy for my students’ historical fiction projects, since its easy, engaging plot will probably appeal to my high school kids.

With or Without You review

**I was provided a copy of this novel from netgalley.com in exchange for my review. This book will be published in late March 2013.

With or Without You

With or Without You by Domenica Rutka

Goodreads summary: Domenica Ruta grew up in Danvers, Massachusetts, in a ramshackle, rundown, trash-filled house with her mother, a drug dealer and user who raised Domenica on a steady diet of Oxycontin. Growing up, Domenica knew she didn’t fit in-she was far smarter and worse dressed than everyone else she knew, and she clearly had the most flamboyant mother of anyone in town-but she found solace in writing and reading. As she grew older, though, and as her mother’s behavior grew increasingly outrageous and her home life increasingly untenable, Domenica fled Danvers only to become ensnared by the demons of addiction.

A thoroughly textured and masterfully written book, layered with wildly colorful characters, a biting sense of humor, and penetrating, deeply sympathetic insights, With or Without You finally ends with Domenica’s increasing awareness that she must leave the life she grew up with in order to survive.

 

My review:

I typically love a good memoir. In fact, many of the books that have stuck with me the longest have been memoirs. This, however, will probably not stick with me much past today.

In order to write a memoir, you should either a.) be famous for something or b.) have some terribly horrific/inspiring/life-altering/ mind-blowing story to tell. Rutka has neither. I still can’t figure out why someone decided her story is any different from the hundreds of kids in my high school, the thousands of people in my town, or the many millions of Americans who have led lives exactly like hers. I can find no discernible reason why one should read this book or care about this story beyond the typical empathy we possess for any normal human being.

All that being said, I could have enjoyed a memoir that was well-told simply because of my love for good writing. I could have forgiven her for being unimportant (because, really, aren’t most of our lives individually unimportant to the masses?) if she’d just told a decent story. So here’s the crux- I really, really disliked the method of delivery of this story too. The first half skips willy-nilly through the 1980’s, 90’s, and well into the 00’s with absolutely NO discernible path or pattern. One minute she’s 3 in the early 80’s, a page later 16 in the 90’s, and then back to fresh-from-the-womb paragraphs after that. It’s maddening in its irregularity. While there were parts that were well-written, even mildly entertaining, overall I found this book whiny, bitchy, and wholly unsympathetic.

Perhaps this book would sit better with me if Rutka were even a decade removed from her tale of addiction and despair. As it sits, however, all I found was someone fresh off her ordeal with no ability to provide perspective on her recovery. It just left me repeating “So what?” and “Who cares” over and over again.

MRA in Review

Jessica

This past weekend, I had the privilege of attending the Michigan Reading Association Annual Conference for the second year in a row.  I love attending MRA because not only do I get to catch up with some of my amazing friends and fellow educators, but I am always inspired after attending.  MRA gives me an extra boost to get through the last third of the school year.

Friday night was a great night of fellowship with my Nerdy Book Club friends.  These people are amazing!  And guess what…you probably are already a member!  Do you like to read?  You do?  Membership granted.  In all seriousness, check out their blog here.  Very inspiring and motivating and a great community of readers.

I went to a number of sessions on Saturday.  I just want to go over some highlights so not to overwhelm with too much information…

Male/Female Differences that Affect Literacy

This session was just fascinating!  It talked about the differences in brain development among males and females.  Probably the strongest point that hit me is that both males and females do not reach convergence (when both eyes focus) until the age of 7!  And when do we start school?  In Michigan, the age is currently 5.  Finland, a country with amazing reading scores, does not start until 7.  There is something to said here.  I also understand a little more about behaviors my students exhibit in class – and behaviors of my husband as well!

Short Reads for Tall Kids with Ruth Culham

I have heard a little about the 6 +1 Traits when it comes to writing.  However, I did not know too much since it is very geared to elementary and middle school.  I am so glad I went to this session!  There are definite applications to high school.  Culham showed us how mentor texts help with writing, as I have definitely learned, and how to apply the traits to help students revise.  In writing, I really have to work on revising.  It is so important to the process and yet, it gets ignored quite a bit.  You can learn more about Culham’s work here.

Literature Circles in Secondary Classroom

To be honest, there are a few other sessions I would have liked to see at this time as I look back.  This was more about Lit Circles in general and we have been using them for two years now.  (Though I will admit I am nowhere near an expert!)  I did pick up on a few great ideas.  First of all, use literature circles with informational texts.  Genius really.  I also want to try lit circles with whole class books as well.  I plan on trying that in Honors 10 this coming trimester.  Jacqueline and I are already planning how to do it in English 10 B as well.

Lightship Titles with Paul W. Hankins

I had the honor to meet Paul last year at MRA and enjoy following him on Twitter and his posts on Facebook as well.  He shared some great titles and reminded us the power of sharing books with our students.  I appreciated his honesty and what he shared with us.  Community is so important for readers.  I can always be reminded of that and appreciate my community, or “tribe,” each and every day.

On to Sunday…

Close Reading with Erica Beaton and Dave Stuart

With the CCSS, close reading is very important.  Erica and Dave did an EXCELLENT job showing how there are many things we are already doing that supports CCSS and helps our students all the more.  They gave a great purpose for close reading – to support our understanding and doing something with the information.  They gave a great process to follow in close reading and they helped me reconsider how I approach argumentative writing and how to help my students develop their arguments.  They have posted their Prezi which I highly recommend you check out and follow up by reading their blogs and Tweets.

Reading Notebooks

I learned that, basically, I need 150 page notebooks to make sure my students are using them to write and talk about reading.  Another goal is that I do want to use notebooks more for writing AND reading.  I also learned about an excellent resource at Biblionasium.  It’s like Goodreads but tailored more for the classroom.  I am introducing it to my Lab kids next week.  I’m excited to see where this takes us!

Kelly Gallagher Keynote

A perfect way to end the conference was with Kelly Gallagher!  I have seen him before talk about reading and I loved hearing more about his approaches to writing.  Writing is so vital to our students’ success.  And students need mentor texts to learn how to write.  They also need practice.  My ultimate goal with writing is to encourage more revising and help my students see what a process writing really is.

I cannot wait for MRA next year!  They teased us with a look at next year…make sure you consider being there!  I am so thankful to my colleagues, friends, and fellow Nerdy Book Club members for an inspiring weekend!

Rotten – A Review

Title: Rotten

Author: Michael Northrop

Release Date: April 1, 2013

Source: e-book from NetGalley

Summary (from Goodreads): Jimmer “JD” Dobbs is back in town after spending the summer “upstate.” No one believes his story about visiting his aunt, and it’s pretty clear that he has something to hide. It’s also pretty clear that his mom made a new friend while he was away—a rescued Rottweiler that JD immediately renames Johnny Rotten (yes, after that guy in the Sex Pistols). Both tough but damaged, JD and Johnny slowly learn to trust each other, but their newfound bond is threatened by a treacherous friend and one snap of Johnny’s powerful jaws. As the secrets JD has tried so hard to keep under wraps start to unravel, he suddenly has something much bigger to worry about: saving his dog.

Jessica’s Review:

I came across this title as I was clicking through NetGalley.  The cover had me immediately as I am a HUGE fan of dogs.  Anyone who knows me can tell you that.  The idea of the main character connected to a rescue dog pulled me in.  I put in a request, got my approval, and started reading.

Overall, I enjoyed the book.  It was a pretty quick read.  It is clear that JD did not stay with his aunt and I felt like his friends, wanting to know how he really spent his summer.  JD did not seem like a “bad boy” at all, so I really wondered what he could have done.  I also loved Johnny Rotten as a character in the book.  He went through quite a bit – being chained and beat – before JD’s mom rescued him from the shelter.  I really liked watching Johnny and JD’s relationship blossom as they learned to trust each other and JD learned there was more to Johnny than his tough outside.  I feared for Johnny’s fate after one of JD’s friends, Mars, claimed Johnny bit him unprovoked and his family sues JD and his mom.  As JD fights for his dog, we see the many sides of JD as he learns to come to terms with his past and his present.

One thing I really liked about this book is how it hit on the issue of stereotypes against “bully breeds.”  Johnny is a Rottweiler, one of the most misunderstood of dog breeds, probably after Pit Bulls.  Being a proud Pit Bull owner and lover of all dogs, I appreciate how Northrop addresses this issue as JD fights for Johnny.  Many dogs have a lot stacked against them just because of the misconceptions that are out there.  Johnny had some growing to do in order to trust people, especially males.  But at his heart, he was a sweet dog that was just looking for companionship.  I’m glad to see a book for teens that brings this up for teens to think about.

This is an enjoyable book and one I look forward to adding to my classroom.  I can see reluctant drawn to this and enjoying it.  Overall – 3/5 stars.

Prisoner B-3087: A Review

Title: Prisoner B-3087

Author: Alan Gratz

Genre: Historical Fiction – Holcaust

Release Date: March 1st, 2013

SourceARC from NetGalley

Summary (from Goodreads): Survive. At any cost.

10 concentration camps.

10 different places where you are starved, tortured, and worked mercilessly.

It’s something no one could imagine surviving.

But it is what Yanek Gruener has to face.

As a Jewish boy in 1930s Poland, Yanek is at the mercy of the Nazis who have taken over. Everything he has, and everyone he loves, have been snatched brutally from him. And then Yanek himself is taken prisoner — his arm tattooed with the words PRISONER B-3087.

He is forced from one nightmarish concentration camp to another, as World War II rages all around him. He encounters evil he could have never imagined, but also sees surprising glimpses of hope amid the horror. He just barely escapes death, only to confront it again seconds later.

Can Yanek make it through the terror without losing his hope, his will — and, most of all, his sense of who he really is inside?

Based on an astonishing true story.

Jessica’s Review:

I found this title from a blog I follow The Librarian Who Doesn’t Say Shhh when she reviewed it.  I noted she received the book from NetGalley, so I immediately put in a request.  It seemed like a book to add to my radar for the historical fiction research project.  I was approved later that same day and started the book right away.  I finished it in about 2 days.

Overall, I really liked this book.  I was immediately pulled in with the idea that Yanek survived stays at 10 different concentration camps AND it is based on a true story.  Prisoner B-3087 begins when Yanek is just ten-years-old living in Poland with his parents and among his aunts and uncles in 1939.  Germany takes over Poland and Yanek watches as his neighborhood, Krakow, is walled in and turned into a Jewish ghetto.  He and his family live in the harsh conditions of the Krakow ghetto, even hiding in a pigeon coop to escape the violent treatment of Nazi soldiers, for three years.  Yanek eventually watches his parents and family members marched out of the ghetto, never to see them again.  Yanek himself is deported to the Plaszow Concentration Camp in 1942 where he was put to hard labor, watched the camp commander kill Jews for sport, and struggled to survive on little food and in insanitary conditions.  Over the next three years, Yanek is transferred to nine other concentration camps, including Auschwitz, and takes part in two death marches.  Yanek does come close to death many times, but he vows to survive and hang on to some type of hope, no matter how small.

This book hit me hard in a number of ways.  I know there is a lot of Historical Fiction about the Jewish Holocaust, but personally, this is on of the first I have read with complete focus on life inside all the difference camps.  Books I have read are told from another point-of-view, an outsider looking in.  (Not to say that there is not more like this; that is just what I have read.)  Instead, Yanek walks the reader through his experiences at each camp and what he say happening to other human beings.  In one camp, Yanek explains how circus animals are treated better than the prisoners.  I felt anger and sadness as to how people could do this to other human beings for so long and actually feel they were in the right.  The book made me thankful for the life I have been blessed with.  The author note at the end was intriguing as well, as Gratz tells about Jack Gruener, whom the book is based on.

There is something lacking from the writing , however.  While I still had strong reactions to what Yanek experienced, overall, emotion is missing from most of the writing. I was surprised at time at how I felt some experiences were glossed over.  I did feel somewhat of a connection to Yanek, but not as strong as I would have expected.  Despite this, the book is still one I will remember for a long time to come.  I plan on buying a hard copy for my classroom and encouraging students to read it, both as part of the research project and for choice reading.

Overall rating: 4/5 stars

Top Ten Tuesday: Ten Bookish Memories

Top Ten Tuesday: Books We Resolve to Read in 2013

 

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted over at The Broke and the Bookish.

Jacqueline’s Top Ten Bookish Memories

  1. Meeting David Sedaris: my sister and I went to hear David read from his notebook of unpublished works a few years ago at a small theater in  Canton. Before the reading he sat at a little table in the lobby and signed books. Nobody really noticed him sitting there at first, so my sister and I jumped up to the table and chatted with him (in French!) for a few minutes. He signed my book, gave me a little piece of chocolate from his pocket (really, I’m not kidding!) and we went on our way. He taught my sister to swear the French way, and told me that he is glad I don’t go by the name Jackie. True story.
  2. I remember many, many visits to our local Holland library growing up where my mom let me take home entire stacks of books.
  3. Similarly, I remember going to the bookstore at the mall and my parents letting me buy any books I wanted (or, at least it seemed like it to me). I truly believe this is what fostered my love for books.
  4. In 5th grade we had to read a certain number of books each report card time. I can’t remember what it was, but I’m sure it wasn’t much. After you met your goal, the teacher let you choose something from his box of prizes. I remember reading furiously to make sure my total was higher than my friends, and getting to choose countless books and other prizes from the box. Such a smart man, that teacher, for capitalizing on our fifth grade competitive natures.
  5. Discovering Goodreads- what a happy day.
  6. Amazon Prime- makes it okay to order just one book. As if I need more reasons to order more books.
  7. I remember being little and crawling up on my mom’s lap in our old wooden rocking chair at night when she would read to me. I hope my daughter someday remembers us reading to her, too.
  8. Which brings me to #8- every time my daughters bring me books to read, and the true joy they get from being read to. Even the just-turned-one-year-old will bring me a book and climb into my lap to be read to. I truly hope we’re raising them to love books like I do.
  9. The first time I took my daughter to the library: she was so amazed that there were so many books in one place, and a bit overwhelmed at the idea that she had to pick just a few to take home. Even now, a year and many trips later, she has a really hard time choosing which ones to pull from the shelves.
  10. When my first project was funded through donorschoose.org, since I meant I got to share more books with more students!

Jessica’s Top Ten Bookish Memories

  1.  Harry Potter.  Basically, anything about the books.  I remember I had not heard of the books until Goblet of Fire was just coming out.  I was in Disney World and saw all of the posters for Goblet and had no idea what it was.  I was looking at the books in a gift shop and a little boy told me that the books were so good and I had to read them.  I had my aunt pick me up Sorcerer’s Stone and after that it was love.  I remember falling in love with the world Rowling had created.  This lead to many laughs, tears, and two midnight release parties with my brother.  Harry Potter was a part of my life for TEN years!  You can’t beat that!
  2. My fourth grade teacher reading out loud to us.  Mrs. Gilliam introduced me to many books I never would have read on my own – Island of the Blue Dolphins, The Great Brain, and The Indian in the Cupboard.  We all loved read aloud time and begged for more every day.  I fell more in love with reading because of her.
  3. Teaching Of Mice and Men.  I love this book.  I never read it until I prepared to teach it during my third year of teaching.  I bawled hysterically at home.  I had no idea how I was going to get through the last two chapters when I read to my students.  Somehow I did, with a choking voice.  My students appreciated it though.  I have seen students wiping eyes when we read the end; two years ago, a girl yelled out “NO!” in the middle of class.  I love seeing how such a small book has such an impact on so many people.
  4. Going to the library as a child.  My parents were readers and made reading a big part of  our lives.  We went to the library all the time.  I always had books to read and I am so thankful for that.  I hope to share this passion with my own children one day in the same way my parents shared it with me.
  5. Reading by flashlight under the covers.  My big “rebellion” as a child was staying up past my bed time to read a book.  I used a flashlight and hid under my covers so I could as much reading in as possible.  I was a real wild child.  I think my parents knew, even tough I thought I was so slick, but they were happy to see me wanting to read.  Books were constant companions in my bed as I grew up.
  6. Reading Speak in college.  Speak was a required book for my literature methods class.  Since the moment I picked it up at the bookstore, I could tell there was something special about this book.  I wanted to be part of the group to present on it, even though it meant going first and being in a group with other students I did not know.  This book was life-changing.  It was my “gateway” book to YA Lit.  I had no idea books like this existed for teens; I never had any like it when I was a teen.  I was so glad I got to teach it my first year and love seeing how it captures readers year after year.
  7. Seeing David Levithan speak in Kalamazoo.  He did a public engagement at the Kalamazoo Public Library my senior year of college.  It was not long after Boy Meets Boy was published and just before Marley’s Ghost was published.  I was so moved by his message and the writing he read from his books.  People protested his speaking since he had written Boy Meets Boy and when asked about it, he answered so lovingly and honestly, I was very impressed.  He signed a copy of Boy Meets Boy for me and I still cherish it today.
  8. Reading Wonder out loud to my tenth graders.  I was terrified to read aloud, thinking my sophomores would find it babyish and boring.  However, they were engaged in Auggie’s story and always wanted to know more.  I loved seeing how they wanted more each day and how quickly they could bring another student up-to-speed about what we read the day before.  This is also the first time I completely lost it – sobbing, could not speak lost it – in front of my students.  (Thankfully, Jacqueline was there to take over for me!)  My students respected me for it and were very understanding to how the novel affected me.  It was a great moment.
  9. Finding other passionate readers.  Whether through Twitter, Nerdy Book Club, or my amazing co-workers, I love having so many outlets to discuss books and reading, especially YA Lit.  I appreciate having people I can share my passion with and who “get” it.  I am very lucky to be surrounded by so many readers.
  10. When a student tells me how much he or she loves a book.  Whether it is the fifth book she has read that trimester or the first book he admits to reading since fifth grade, I love when I see a student click with a book.  I see it all over their face when they talk about it and tell me and their classmates about it.  There is nothing more powerful than seeing the love come from a teen in my classroom.

A Review of Beautiful Creatures

Beautiful Creatures (Caster Chronicles, # 1)

Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl

From Goodreads:

Lena Duchannes is unlike anyone the small Southern town of Gatlin has ever seen, and she’s struggling to conceal her power, and a curse that has haunted her family for generations. But even within the overgrown gardens, murky swamps and crumbling graveyards of the forgotten South, a secret cannot stay hidden forever.

Ethan Wate, who has been counting the months until he can escape from Gatlin, is haunted by dreams of a beautiful girl he has never met. When Lena moves into the town’s oldest and most infamous plantation, Ethan is inexplicably drawn to her and determined to uncover the connection between them.

In a town with no surprises, one secret could change everything.

 

Jacqueline’s review:

The bookclub that I belong to on Goodreads announced this was the first book we would be reading and I will admit I was not too thrilled. The movie comes out in just a few weeks, and I generally avoid reading books being turned into movies to hopefully avoid all the book-to-movie bandwagoners. Anyhow, I am glad that I picked this book up and maybe (!) even glad that it’s being made into a movie.

Some of the reviews/comments I had heard mentioned that they thought this book started out really slowly. I have to say, I feel that way about books but I did not feel that way at all with this one. Right from the beginning I was sucked into the story and wanted to see where it was going. I purposefully hadn’t read much about the plot, so the twists and turns kept me reading. While the main male character, Ethan, was a little too cheesy for me, I really enjoyed the female main character, Lena. While I can’t pretend I understand what it would be like to have my life decided for me the moment I turn 16, I could put myself in her shoes and feel the terrible pain she must have felt being treated the way she was by the people in her hateful little town.

All-in-all, this book contains a lot of the things I really enjoy in a good book: it’s set in a tiny town in the South, involves a bit of supernatural, features a smart female lead, and kept me guessing until the end. There was just the right amount of description and character development without making me want to skip over pages or paragraphs. While the middle might have been better if shortened up a chapter or two, overall I felt the pacing and writing style were spot-on. I will definitely be sharing this book with my students; I just hope they read the book after I talk about it instead of just going to see the movie.

 

 

 

The Madness Underneath – a review

Title: The Madness Underneath

Author: Maureen Johnson

Release Date: February 26, 2013

Source: eBook from NetGalley 

Summary from Goodreads: When madness stalks the streets of London, no one is safe…

There’s a creepy new terror haunting modern-day London. Fresh from defeating a Jack the Ripper killer, Rory must put her new-found hunting skills to the test before all hell breaks loose…

But enemies are not always who you expect them to be and crazy times call for crazy solutions. A thrilling teen mystery.

Jessica’s Review

I read The Name of the Star, the first book in Johnson’s Shades of London trilogy, this past summer.  The Jack the Ripper story line is what originally pulled me in; I had no idea ghosts would play into it. I was hooked on Johnson’s writing in Star and loved the characters.  I could not wait to see where Rory’s story would go at the end of Star.  Overall, Madness does not disappoint.

(If you want to read The Name of the Star, please note there are some minor spoilers in what follows.)

Madness finds Rory living with her parents in Bristol after the Jack the Ripper attack.  Her parents have her in therapy to deal with the attack, but Rory cannot exactly tell her therapist that she can see ghosts and the actual Ripper was a ghost who stabbed her.  Luckily, despite the lack of true progress Rory is making in therapy, her therapist gives Rory the thumbs up to return to school at Wexford as a way to return to her normal life.

Rory has a lot to do with exams looming at Wexford.  It does not make it any easier to catch up on her studies when Rory must come to terms with her “sight” as well as a new found talent in the ghost hunting business.  Plus, while a murder down the street at a local pub seems to have a logical explanation, Rory is not so sure things are necessarily as they seem.  With the help of Stephen, Callum, Boo, and a unique therapist named Jane, Rory attempts to figure everything out and keep it all together.

Ghosts play a much smaller role in Madness than they did Star.  However, Johnson still keeps the tension building as Rory tries to understand the effects of the attack at Wexford.  Rory’s crazy story-telling and humor are still very present.  I found myself literally laughing out loud at some parts.  I love this about Johnson’s writing!  Stephen also becomes a much more central character in this book.  He develops much more than he did in the first one.  We see new sides of him and learn more about him.

As much as I enjoyed the plot, I was disappointed to see how many characters that I liked from Star become very flat and brushed aside.  Jerome seems like he will be an important character again and Rory even comments on how much closer they became while she was in Bristol.  However, he is out of the story in what I feel is a cop-out way fairly early on.  Jazza becomes a very flat character in this installment as well.  I was most disappointed to only see Alisair, my favorite ghosts from Star, in one scene.  However, new characters are brought into the mix to create new and deeper conflicts in Rory’s life.

Overall, I enjoyed this book.  I kept reading in order to learn more and I am hooked to see where the final installment in this trilogy will take us.  Johnson has brought Rory and her friends to a place I was not expecting and I can only imagine where they will go from here.

4/5 stars

Girl of Nightmares, a Review

 From Goodreads: t’s been months since the ghost of Anna Korlov opened a door to Hell in her basement and disappeared into it, but ghost-hunter Cas Lowood can’t move on.

His friends remind him that Anna sacrificed herself so that Cas could live—not walk around half dead. He knows they’re right, but in Cas’s eyes, no living girl he meets can compare to the dead girl he fell in love with.

Now he’s seeing Anna everywhere: sometimes when he’s asleep and sometimes in waking nightmares. But something is very wrong…these aren’t just daydreams. Anna seems tortured, torn apart in new and ever more gruesome ways every time she appears.

Cas doesn’t know what happened to Anna when she disappeared into Hell, but he knows she doesn’t deserve whatever is happening to her now. Anna saved Cas more than once, and it’s time for him to return the favor.

Jessica’s Review:

When I read Anna Dressed in Blood last year, I was genuinely freaked out.  I remember laying in bed and checking over my shoulder because I was convinced someone, or something, was watching me.  Blake did not disappoint with the sequel and conclusion in Girl of Nightmares.

As much as I loved Anna in the first book, this one really focuses on Cas.  I was able to feel for Cas even though I wanted to agree with everyone else that he needs to move on.  There was a whole new side to Cas that we did not see in the first book that made me love him more.  I will admit, I was hoping for more Anna in this novel, but I was not disappointed overall even with less Anna.  I enjoyed the continued development of Thomas and Carmel.  I also adored the shady new character of Jestine in this book.  I don’t want to give too much away about her, but I can appreciate another tough female character.  And, of course, the humor is there among all the character as before.

Blake takes the plot in a whole different direction (London!) than I expected, and I love when authors do that.  Blake is also able to explain much more about the athame and the whole business of ghost hunting.  I was able to accept things without explanation in Anna Dressed in Blood, but I definitely appreciate a better understanding of everything now.

I am so glad that this book is not only the sequel but the conclusion of Anna and Cas.  I am a little “seried” out right now.  I am happy with how the story ended up and loved that Blake kept me guessing on how it will all end throughout.  If you liked Anna the first time through, make sure you pick up Girl of Nightmares. 

Anna Dressed in Blood, a review

Anna Dressed in Blood (Anna, #1)From Goodreads:

Just your average boy-meets-girl, girl-kills-people story…

Cas Lowood has inherited an unusual vocation: He kills the dead.

So did his father before him, until his gruesome murder by a ghost he sought to kill. Now, armed with his father’s mysterious and deadly athame, Cas travels the country with his kitchen-witch mother and their spirit-sniffing cat. Together they follow legends and local lore, trying to keep up with the murderous dead—keeping pesky things like the future and friends at bay.

When they arrive in a new town in search of a ghost the locals call Anna Dressed in Blood, Cas doesn’t expect anything outside of the ordinary: move, hunt, kill. What he finds instead is a girl entangled in curses and rage, a ghost like he’s never faced before. She still wears the dress she wore on the day of her brutal murder in 1958: once white, but now stained red and dripping blood. Since her death, Anna has killed any and every person who has dared to step into the deserted Victorian she used to call home.

And she, for whatever reason, spares his life.

 Jacqueline’s review:

Judging this book by its cover (because I will freely admit I do that with regularity) and from the description both on Goodreads and from friends, I was really looking forward to this read. I had heard that it was scary and I expected it to be bloody. while I can’t say it really scared me (though I did get a little bit of the creeps a time or two), it was certainly bloody. In a good way. Are there things about this book I didn’t love? Sure. Were there things I didn’t fully understand and/or like? Absolutely. But by the end of the book, I was completely sold.

Blake writes this story from a male’s perspective, which for some reason really caught me off guard. I loved the voice of Cas, even if I can’t completely understand how he “fell in love” with Anna so quickly. That he called her “my Anna” began to get a little irritating. However, I think I can safely say those were my two only complaints about this book. The rest of the story is interesting, rich, and full of well-written characters who drive the plot forward at a pleasing pace.

A ghost with a terrible secret, a boy looking to avenge his father’s death all on his own, a would-be sidekick with a desperate need to protect his new friend, and a support system dedicated to ridding the world of harmful ghosts make for a compelling cast. Throw in a little (okay, a lot) of blood and gore, some suspense, a little mystery, and you’ve got yourself one heck of a story.