29 September 2009

Review: Dreaming Anastasia by Joy Preble

Sixteen-year-old Anne Michaelson is plagued by bad dreams in which she is trapped in a small cabin with a hideous old lady who has iron teeth and huge hands. The dream girl has only a set of nested Russian dolls for comfort. One fateful evening, Anne notices Ethan Kozninsky, a handsome boy, staring at her. After that, the line between dreams and waking life begins to crumble.

Dreaming Anastasia is a fresh look at the fate of Grand Duchess Anastasia Romanov. Although the entire Russian royal family was supposed to have been murdered in 1918, rumors have surfaced many times over the past century that one daughter, Anastasia, survived the execution. Preble starts with that premise, mixes in elements of the Russian folk tale of Baba Yaga, adds some magic, and finishes with romance.

The principal plot is told in alternating chapters from Anne's and Ethan's perspectives. The device works well, and it is always clear who is telling the story. Throughout the novel, we also hear from Anastasia, either directly or through her letters. There is plenty of action, and, although we are pretty sure our heroes will prevail, it isn't always clear whom Anne and Ethan should trust and just how they will fulfill their destiny.

Unfortunately, I was not totally lost in the world Preble created. I'm not sure if that's because I didn't strongly identify with Anne or because the book was geared to too young of an audience for me. However, because there is plenty to like about the novel, I can definitely recommend it to older middle readers and younger teens.

Dreaming Anastasia is a fine debut novel, and Joy Preble is an author to keep on your radar. For more on Preble, be sure to read her fabulous guest post, published on Beth Fish Reads yesterday.

Published by Sourcebooks, 2009
ISBN-13: 9781402218170
Challenges: 100+, 999
YTD: 72
Rating: B−


Julie P. 9/29/09, 8:34 AM  

Beautiful new look! I really liked this book and I think in a few years that Booking Daughter will love it. I definitely think young girls are going to love the mix of fantasy, myth, romance and suspense.

Jenn's Bookshelves 9/29/09, 8:35 AM  

Love the new look! I'm wrapping up Dreaming Anastasia as well. Fabulous book!!

bermudaonion 9/29/09, 8:36 AM  

Well darn, I'm about the same age as you are and I was hoping to love this book. I love the new look of your blog.

Ana S. 9/29/09, 8:57 AM  

I'm on the fence about this book...I like the premise, but I still wonder if it'd be one for me. I LOVE what you did with the blog, btw :D

Nely 9/29/09, 9:07 AM  

I almost picked this up last week while at the book store. It sounds pretty good I just might get it the next time I'm there.

Amanda 9/29/09, 9:15 AM  

Thanks for coming by my post. I feel bad having the only solidly-negative review of this book out there. :( Ah well. I'm adding a link to your post to mine.

Beth Kephart 9/29/09, 10:23 AM  

You are so careful with your reviews—kind and true, so hard to do.

Sandy Nawrot 9/29/09, 12:41 PM  

It sounds like it would be right up Emma's alley! I LOVE the use of Baba Yaga in stories. It is pretty popular in Poland too (maybe they got it from the Russians?) The visual is incredible, and very scary!

Belle 9/29/09, 1:28 PM  

Love your new look! I agree, the alternating narrative was well-done. It's a good read for that age range, I think.

serendipity_viv 9/29/09, 1:45 PM  

I think my interest in this book has waned. I read Amanda at The Zen Leaf's review earlier and realised this book is not for me.

Your blog looks really good.

Dorte H 9/29/09, 2:31 PM  

Congratulations on your ´make-over´. I think it is very tasteful, and your blog seems to load faster now.

And like your other readers, I appreciate your honest review, but I wish the book were better. All these myths about the tsar family are quite interesting. Have you read Dorothy Sayers´ "Have his Carcase" in which Russian mythology plays a certain role?

Anonymous,  9/29/09, 3:28 PM  

Hey, your blog looks great! Congrats on a successful change!

Kailana 9/29/09, 9:44 PM  

Your blog is looking good!

Dawn @ sheIsTooFondOfBooks 9/29/09, 10:02 PM  

Looks like this falls smack in the middle of my two girls' reading interest/level.

Interesting that the sleep/wake differential is stronger in the beginning and then blurs. Perhaps a good construct, but, as you say, not the right audience.

Alice 9/29/09, 11:10 PM  

I've heard so many good things about this book and seen it on so many book bloggers sites. Thanks for the review, Beth!

Anonymous,  9/29/09, 11:24 PM  

Great (honest) review!

JoAnn 9/30/09, 6:37 AM  

I LOVE the make-over!!

Veens 9/30/09, 7:02 AM  

I don't think i will like this one :)

Lenore Appelhans 9/30/09, 7:42 AM  

Now that you mention it, you're right...it had the feel of a book for younger teens.

S. Krishna 9/30/09, 6:06 PM  

Hmm...I've been hearing a lot about this book, but I might pass on it. Thanks for the honest review!

Robin M 9/30/09, 8:44 PM  

I should have picked this book up yesterday. Don't know why I didn't. Putting it on my wish list for next time in the store.

Joy Preble 10/1/09, 10:32 AM  

Thanks for hosting me and reviewing! What's most exciting as a debut author is that people are reading. Some will like, some will be more 'meh' but everyone reads and talks. I am beyond humbled and honored to be part of the great literary conversation that we all have with each other, on line, in our heads. Of course, I always hope for readers to enjoy or to think of someone who would. But that's art, folks! Some people look at Picasso and think, huh? (Okay, I'm not Picasso. I can't even draw nice stick figures. But you all get the analogy) I very much appreciate even- handed reviews too (you didn't get lost in DA's world but you know others might) So yay to that. I've certainly had my share of glowing reviews (and a hearty thanks to those who gave those!) and I'll tell you a secret - sometimes all that praise makes us debut-ers nervous too! :)I do invite everyone to check out my guest post on BethFishReads on genre and costume parties. It's one of my favorite guest posts ever! And feel free to stop by http://joysnovelidea.blogspot.com any time. If Dreaming Anastasia wasn't your cup of tea, maybe my next book will be. (more on that somewhere this fall) And if you love it as much as I do, then cross your fingers for a sequel. (Okay if you were meh, maybe the sequel will draw you in!... or not) Again, just thanks! You can tell that I'm just giddy with excitement to be part of the world of book talk.

Joy Preble, Dreaming Anastasia, Sourcebooks, 2009

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