Thursday, February 16, 2012

Two Terrific or Terrifying Tales for Thursday

I checked out Anna Dressed in Blood twice before I finally got around to reading it. No specific reason, other than horror is usually not my thing. Horror, however, is very popular with teen readers, so it's important for me to read books outside of my comfort zone.  Anna Dressed in Blood, published in 2011, received strong reviews when it was released, which didn't surprise me once I finally started to read it.

Cas is not your ordinary teen. Most teens don't kill the undead, do they? But Cas does, and he's quite an expert at killing ghosts who refuse to leave their former dimension.  His new assignment is a doozy: Anna, a beautiful teen ghost who has a habit of violently killing those who are unfortunate to get in her path. 

Horror fans will eat this up; it's very eerie, chilling, and has a very mysterious and otherworld-y atmosphere. As a non-horror fan, I found it quite violent at times and very creepy. The writing is strong and vivid (also contains several instances of strong language). 

Although horror and the supernatural are usually not my cup of tea, I was engrossed in the story, especially when Cas and Anna's relationship became more complex.  Horror fans should keep tabs on Kendare Blake's career.

Switching gears, I also recently finished May B: A Novel in Verse. Uh-oh, a verse novel! Also not my usual cup of tea, but when it's appropriately and skillfully used, it works extremely well.  Caroline Starr Rose's  verses of life on a 19th century western Kansas prairie invoke the vastness and starkness of such a life. 

Twelve year old May B is leaving her family and she doesn't like it; her father's wheat crop has failed and her family is nearly bankrupt, so she's sent to work for a new homesteader. Just until Christmas, promises Pa.  To her surprise, the new homesteader's wife is just a few years older than she is. Longing to go back East, the homesteader's wife runs away, leaving the homesteader to leave May B and go in search of his wife.

The homesteaders are gone for days and days. Days turn into months. Winter is approaching. How will May B survive?

Although a short novel, the isolation and harsh conditions on the prairie are beautifully brought to life by Caroline Starr Rose. It's easy to see how prairie conditions could bring its inhabitants to despair and mental illness; it was a hard and sometimes cruel way to survive.  Caroline Starr Rose poignantly threads May B's learning disability (dyslexia, although it is unnamed in the novel because it was not recognized at the time) through flashbacks; during a time when memorization and recitation were standard ways of assessing pupils' education, any student with learning difficulties was at an extreme disadvantage. Fans of books about prairie life and /or survival stories will not want to miss it. This is Rose's debut novel, so it's encouraging to welcome another talented writer to children's fiction.

I've brought my Newbery and Printz shortlists back to life (look to your right)! I have The Lions of Little Rock and May B on my Newbery list and The Fault in Our Stars for my Printz list. Nothing yet for my Caldecott or Sibert, but it's only February. I've also added two new categories: favorite pre-2012 reads and favorite adult fiction/nonfiction reads. This will help when I make my end of the year lists.

Next post: New books for February!


Ms. Yingling said...

ALWAYS need more horror,and it is even better if blood is in the title. i will definitely take a look!

Jennifer Schultz said...

Let me know what you think. It has several f-bombs in it (and it's quite violent at times--Anna tears people apart).