Daily Archives: September 8, 2009

Aw shucks!


It is a lovely surprise and an honour to be nominated this year for Best Kidlit Blog during Book Blogger Appreciation Week (BBAW). If you’re not familiar with the event, there are lots of treats in store from September 14-18 (next week!), all meant to recognize the work book bloggers do to share their passion for reading. The theme this year is “Celebrate Books.” Every day next week you’ll find daily blogging topics at the BBAW site, where you can drop off your links and explore everyone else’s posts.

One element of the celebration is the blog awards given in all sorts of categories: Best Literary Fiction Blog, Best General Review Blog, Best YA Blog, Best Special Interest Blog and a whole bunch more. First, I was so happy to have been nominated, and then double-happiness happened when I was informed that I made the shortlist. Holy wowness. I think the best part of all is that I have been nominated alongside 4 blogs that I think are among the best blogs on books period: Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast, Fuse 8 at School Library Journal, Jen Robinson’s Book Page and Maw Books Blogs. I mean, these ladies are amazing, intelligent, thoughtful bloggers whose blogs make my reading life richer.

I have no idea who I would vote for (can’t I pick everyone?). Take some time to browse all of the shortlisted blogs and then go vote for somebody, right here. You have until midnight, September 12th (this Saturday) to vote. Then be sure to join in next week with your own posts, celebrating the best of book blogging everywhere.

Thank you to those who nominated me. Thank you to Amy, for all of her work in organizing this event. What a labour of love! I think she deserves a prize, yes?


Dreaming Anastasia Review & Giveaway

dreaming*Note: Winners of Dreaming Anastasia have been selected and contacted. Thanks for your comments!*

Over the past year I’ve started reading many more YA titles, and the more I read, the more I recognize that creativity in YA land is hard to find, particularly when it comes to novels with female main characters. There are so many stories about essentially the same kind of girl, facing the same sort of problem, with the same types of friends, family issues etc. etc. etc. Yawn. This summer especially I was getting more and more irked by the cookie-cutter nature of some of the teen titles I read. Enter Joy Preble.

Joy is a Class of 2k9 author whose debut YA novel, Dreaming Anastasia, will satisfy any reader’s craving for a story will serious creativity. As I got caught up in the world of Joy’s story, I kept stopping and thinking, “Wow, this is one of the more inventive plots I’ve read in a while.” So, here goes. I’ll try to capture it all in a short teaser.

Anastasia Romanov, the daughter of the last Tsar of Russia, survived the attack on her family, but she is trapped. Something saved her and for years she has been a prisoner. Her only escape comes through writing to her dead family and dreaming of the past. In present day Chicago, Anne Michaelson’s life is turning upside down. She’s been having terrifying dreams where she witnesses horrific events and sometimes feels as if she is someone else. Anne doesn’t share her nightmares with anyone until she meets Ethan, a mysterious stranger who offers Anne an outrageous and frightening explanation for what she’s been experiencing. Anne discovers she has powers that seem impossible.  She finds that she is linked to a place and a legendary family she never knew, and that it is her destiny to free the Russian princess.

There is real genre-bending (or genre-combining) going on in Dreaming Anastasia. It’s part historical fiction, with enough detail about the Romanovs to inspire readers’ curiosity and make fans of historical fiction feel at home. It’s also semi-fantastical, since Anne and Ethan and others have strong magical powers that they use for good and bad throughout the story. Preble works in the traditional Russian folk tale of Baba Yaga, the fearsome witch famous for eating up children with her iron teeth and for her strange hut that scrabbles around the forest on hen’s legs. Baba Yaga turns out to be one of the most unusual and captivating characters in the book, a witch with complex and unpredictable motivations. Finally, a lot of the story is entirely realistic, focusing on Anne’s day-to-day school and family life, standing in contrast to the fairy tale/fantasy/history elements interwoven throughout. I liked this combination very much because all of the different pieces really kept the pace of the narrative moving along rapidly. While I didn’t feel that any piece was significantly underdeveloped, as a historical fiction fan, I would have been happy to have more on Anastasia and her family’s past, but that’s really more of a personal preference than a flaw in the book. Continue reading