I’ve become a cover lover. I blame Caitlin entirely. Before becoming a cover lover, I’d say I flirted heavily with synopses. I wanted to know some specific details about the book before I forked money over for it. Anna Dressed in Blood was my first, “I don’t care what it is about, do you see that cover?! Here, have all my dollars” purchase. From the spooky house, to the wind-whipped black hair and beautiful vintage white dress of who we assume Anna, it just screams, “BUY ME!” The title doesn’t hurt either. Anna Dressed in Blood. Anna. DressedInBlood. Talk about evocative!

Even before cracking the cover, I was in heavy like with this book. Falling back on my previous habit of going by a book’s synopsis moved me into “marry me” land.

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

So did his father before him, until he was gruesomely murdered 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: track, 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, now stained red and dripping with 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.

But she, for whatever reason, spares Cas’s life. (synopsis provided by publisher)

Game on, right? I read the book. It was amazing. Cas is such a compelling protagonist. He’s cocky about his ghost-killing skill, rightfully so, but his arrogance and circumstances set him apart from others making him a loner you really want to get to know. Mix in some tortured grief over his father’s death and some hell-bent on revenge and you’ve got a powder keg of powerful boy to have a literary crush on.

When Cas takes what he assumes will be another easy gig of dispatching a pesky specter, he and his mom move up to Thunder Bay, a fantastic setting for a ghost story. Ms. Blake’s descriptions of the town and surrounding landscape add to the creepy factor of this story tenfold. Setting is key for a good scary book and Blake provides this without making it cliché.

The story is also filled with cast of supporting characters that are interesting enough in their own right, but also end up serving the plot well. And then there is Anna. Anna, Anna, Anna. Anna is bad-ass, you guys. Her back-story will have your jaw hitting the floor, her current situation will have you gasping and rereading paragraphs to make sure you did in fact read what you thought you did. If you love horror fiction, there is a scene…seriously, you will just not even believe it.

From the opening scene your heart will be pounding, it won’t stop until you get to the end, and then you will want the next book immediately. This is a first-rate horror novel mixed with a first-rate romance, one that is unique and had me swooning. Nothing about the plot felt superfluous or over-worked. Each character felt genuine and vital to the story, no matter how small of a role they played. Ms. Blake’s YA debut was one of my five must-reads for fall on will go on my best of 2011 list. Give this book a read, if you’ve got the guts.

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