Friday, September 18, 2009

Review: Dreaming Anastasia

Summary: What really happened to Anastasia Romanov?

Anastasia Romanov thought she would never feel more alone than when the gunfire started and her family began to fall around her. Surely the bullets would come for her next. But they didn't. Instead, two gnarled old hands reached for her. When she wakes up she discovers that she is in the ancient hut of the witch Baba Yaga, and that some things are worse than being dead.

In modern-day Chicago, Anne doesn't know much about Russian history. She is more concerned about getting into a good college—until the dreams start. She is somewhere else. She is someone else. And she is sharing a small room with a very old woman. The vivid dreams startle her, but not until a handsome stranger offers to explain them does she realize her life is going to change forever. She is the only one who can save Anastasia. But, Anastasia is having her own dreams… -- Sourcebooks Jabberwocky

When I first "discovered" DREAMING ANASTASIA by Joy Preble, I thought it sounded like a great premise for a book -- Anne, a young girl in Chicago starts having vivid dreams about what happened to Anastasia Romanov after she survived the brutal murder of her entire family. Anne eventually finds out that she is the one who can actually "save" Anastasia! Somehow, I did not manage to get an ARC of DREAMING ANASTASIA at BEA (unlike Amy and Kathy -- I guess that will teach me not to "ditch" them.) So when I found out that Sourcebooks was looking for bloggers to participate in a book tour, I jumped at the chance.

While I admit that I have never been a big fantasy reader (until Harry Potter came along,) I have recently found that I really enjoy these types of stories. I thought DREAMING ANASTASIA sounded like a terrific book, and it seemed as if it included lots of elements that I'd like such as history, fantasy, action, and even a little romance. After reading this book in two sittings, I am so happy to say that I thoroughly enjoyed this novel. It was just a fun book to read!

I'm not quite sure where to start because there were so many things about this book that I thought were special. The characters were all wonderful and interesting, but I especially liked Anne. Anne was a normal teenager who was suddenly thrown into a pretty extraordinary situation. I loved how she handled everything that was thrown at her, and I thought Anne's character was very intelligent as well as courageous. What I really appreciated was how Ms. Preble managed to keep Anne's character acting like a regular teenager at times. I found myself laughing at Anne's worries about missing a curfew or losing her cell phone while at the same time she was fighting to save Anastasia's life. I just loved Anne and I think young girls are really going to relate to Anne's character!

I also really liked how Ms. Preble took a historical event and developed a fantasy type story around it. I have always been interested in Anastasia since I read a non-fiction book about Nicholas and Alexandra many years ago. I like the mystique surrounding her life, and I do think it's a great subject for a book like this. I also liked that the author was able to including some of the more mythical elements of Russian folklore like the legendary witch Baba Yaga. I thought Ms. Preble did an excellent job of telling this story -- incorporating history with Russian legends while also adding a touch of mystery, fantasy and romance.

I also enjoyed how Ms. Preble told the story -- through the voice of three characters Anne, Anastasia and Ethan. Not only was the story told with different narrators, but the story also went back and forth between present day Chicago and early 1900's Russia. Although I did like hearing the story through all of the characters' viewpoints, I have to say that I definitely liked Anne's chapters the best (but that's probably because I liked her so much.)

There is one thing about this novel that I found troubling, though. Throughout the book, there are letters written by Anastasia to her family members. I loved the inclusion of these letters because I thought they gave a lot of insight into Anastasia's life; however, the font they used in was extremely difficult to read. I appreciate that the publisher wanted the letters to appear hand-written, but I really struggled over reading the words. I'd like to say that after the first letter or two, I got used to the font; but that really wasn't the case!

I highly recommend DREAMING ANASTASIA to young adults and grown ups too! I thought it was a wonderfully creative story that was also very well written. I think young girls are going to really love this novel, and I can't wait until I can share this book with Booking Daughter in a few more years.

Thanks to the publisher for sending me a copy of this enchanting novel. If you'd like to read more reviews, check out these other tour stops:

Teens Read Too
Through the Wardrobe (8/29)
Class of 2k9 (8/29)
Story Siren (8/31)
The Book Resort (9/1)
Marta’s Meanderings (9/2)
Babbling About Books (9/3)
A Passion for Books (9/3)=
Day by Day Writer (9/4)
Neverending Shelf (9/5)
YA Books Central (9/6)
Dolce Bellezza (9/7)
Books & Literature for Teens (9/7)
Shelf Elf (9/8)
The Shady Glade (9/8)
Debbie’s World of Books (9/9) (9/9)
Ultimate Book Hound (9/10)
Lauren’s Crammed Bookshelf (9/10)
Sarah’s Random Musings (9/11)
Cindy’s Love of Books (9/12)
Presenting Lenore (9/12)
Always Riddikulus (9/12)
Jenn’s Bookshelf (9/13)
Carol’s Corner (9/13)
A High & Hidden Place (9/14)
Looking Glass Review (9/14)
Karin’s Book Nook (9/14)
Shooting Stars Magazine (9/15)
Library Lounge Lizard (9/15)
Book Journey (9/16)
The Book Pixie (9/16)
The Compulsive Reader (9/17)
Bildungsroman (9/17) (9/18)
The Written World (9/19)
Hope’s Bookshelf (9/19)
Book Nut (9/20)
Hope is the Word (9/20)
Zoe’s Book Reviews (9/21)
Homespun Light (9/21)
Teen Scene magazine (9/21)
Galleysmith (9/22)
Once Upon a Bookshelf (9/22)
Café of Dreams (9/23)
My Friend Amy (9/23; 9pm EST author chat)
The Brain Lair (9/24)
Ms. Bookish (9/24)
Lori Calabrese Writes (9/25)
Mrs. Magoo Reads (9/25)
Ramblings of a Teenage Bookworm (9/26)
Fantasy Book Critic (9/26)
Into the Wardrobe (9/27)
In the Pages (9/27)
Beth Fish Reads (9/28)
Reverie Book Reviews (9/28) (9/28)


Anonymous said...

Great review. I have heard some good things about this book.

Beth F said...

I was looking at that font and didn't like it much either, but glad the book is good overall. I'll be reviewing it in November.

bermudaonion said...

I'm fascinated with Nicholas and Alexandra too and look forward to reading this. The font in my ARC seems to be readable.

Joy Preble said...

Thanks!! for this review and for the comments. I am thrilled that you enjoyed and want to share with daughter when she's ready. Yay!

Joy Preble
Dreaming Anastasia, Sourcebooks

Michelle said...

I enjoyed this book for many of the same reasons you did. I thought the way Preble wove the history and fantasy together was really well done. It wasn't so outlandish that it was absolutely unbelievable in every regard. Also, like you, I wasn't fond of the font used for Anastasia's letters. There were some words that were just too difficult to read.

I hope your daughter enjoys it, seemed like it would be a good book to stretch between MG/YA.

Anonymous said...

I was fascinated with the Romanov's in high school. This ones looks interesting, even though I only occasionally read YA novels.

Melissa said...

I'm not much of a fantasy reader either, but I love all things Russian. I may have to give this one a try.