Publisher: Sourcebooks

Dreaming Anastasia by Joy Preble (Mini Book Review)

Posted April 12, 2012 by Jana in Book Review, Young Adult / 7 Comments

Dreaming Anastasia by Joy Preble (Mini Book Review)Dreaming Anastasia by Joy Preble
Series: Dreaming Anastasia #1
Published by Sourcebooks on September 1, 2009
Genres: Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Paranormal
Pages: 310
Format: Paperback
Source: Purchased
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2 Stars
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...

I love history and legends, and this book sounded very unique and exciting to me. The history of the Romanov family has always intrigued me ever since I watched the animated movie when I was a little girl. Dreaming Anastasia’s storyline is quite strong. It did not live up to its potential, though. I feel like the entire book was building up to an anti-climactic ending. I mean, the book is quite a page-turner but then it just ends. I wasn’t really satisfied. Some of the character relationships had no closure. Yes, there’s a sequel, but you need to be given enough information to want to continue with the next book. I was left confused, but at the same time I had no motivation to stick with the series. It’s for this reason that I just don’t have much to say about it. Haha.

And maybe it’s the graphic designer in me, but I could not stand the font that was used for the text of Anastasia’s letters to her family. My eyes hurt by the end of every letter and I counted the pages to see how long my agony would last. If you’re going to use a script font for 6 pages, at least pick one that’s easy to read. Anyway, this wasn’t for me. And I’m SO sad, because I was really looking forward to an awesome Anastasia retelling. Oh well!

Have you read any Anastasia/Russian spin-offs that you like? I love the time period and the rich culture and history, but there’s not many books out there that tackle this subject matter.


Paris, My Sweet: A Year in the City of Light by Amy Thomas

Posted January 30, 2012 by Jana in Book Review / 7 Comments

Paris, My Sweet: A Year in the City of Light by Amy ThomasParis, My Sweet: A Year in the City of Light (and Dark Chocolate) by Amy Thomas
Published by Sourcebooks on February 1, 2012
Genres: Chick Lit, Memoir, Non-Fiction
Pages: 280
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher (Netgalley)
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2 Stars
Part love letter to New York, part love letter to Paris, and total devotion to all things sweet. Paris, My Sweet is a personal and moveable feast that’s a treasure map for anyone who loves fresh cupcakes and fine chocolate, New York and Paris, and life in general. It’s about how the search for happiness can be as fleeting as a sliver of cheesecake and about how the life you’re meant to live doesn’t always taste like the one you envisioned. Organized into a baker’s dozen of delicacies (and the adventures they inspired) that will tempt readers’ appetites, Paris, My Sweet is something to savor.

The idea of this memoir is pretty adorable. I love Paris, I love New York, and I love desserts! I envy that Amy Thomas got to fly off to live in Paris for two years, doing advertising for Louis Vuitton and sampling all the amazing pastries and breads, not to mention the culture itself. The pages of this book are crammed full of bakeries and other foodish places in both Paris and New York. She makes a lot of recommendations for those who plan to travel to either location. Many times I felt like I was reading a menu with really detailed, yummy dessert descriptions. Do not read this on an empty stomach, or if you’re on a diet. The author even had me craving desserts I’m allergic to!

She also talks a lot about the history of various bakeries and dessert creations. Like the original chocolate chip cookie was a mistake. Someone accidentally dropped a chocolate bar in their cookie dough, and decided to go with the flow. A star was born. There’s lots of cool tidbits of information that I enjoyed reading about. I learned quite a bit.

Of course, she adds in personal stories from her past, as well as her time in Paris. My favorite one is when her parents fly to Paris to visit her. She describes all the touristy stuff there is to do, and she made me want to visit even more. She takes them to this one tearoom called Angelina’s, that sells the best hot chocolate in the world. She compares it to melted truffles. YUM. Coco Chanel used to have her 5:00 tea there everyday, and Audrey Hepburn popped in frequently. I looked this place up online, and it is GORGEOUS (and majorly expensive). I need to go!


Angelina’s Tearoom, Paris (Image from linternaute.com)

There were a few things that caused me to drop my rating of this book. I loved the idea, but the execution could have been stronger. I don’t speak or read French, and there is a TON of French in this book with no translations! She has a conversation with a woman who runs a bakery, and it was entirely in French. I could kind of make out what the general idea of the conversation was, but I had no idea what they were saying. She also used a lot of French phrases in the middle of her English sentences. It took away from my enjoyment, because I kept getting frustrated that I was missing something important. I just wish a parenthetical translation were there, or a footnote. Something. The author also writes really long, flowery sentences (sometimes the size of a lengthy paragraph) that are extremely wordy lists of stuff. She does this a lot (sometimes 2-3 times per page), and it gets kind of tiring. Here are a few examples:

  • “For months, I had been positively gushing about life in Paris: how charming the square-shaped trees were and how exquisite the ironwork; how graceful the seventeenth-century hotel particuliers (that’s French, not a typo) and enviable the French women’s legs; how sweet the strawberries and how divine the wine.”
  • “My visions of canal-side picnics in August were cruelly dashed, to say nothing of the chocolate eclairs heavy with custard, the buttery brioches that begged to be pinched and devoured, and raspberry tarts with their plump berries perfectly fanned out across precious beds of creme patissiere and moist pate sablee crusts that would have to go untasted while I was at the office.”
  • “But the prixe-fixe menu was also quite a value, considering it was really four courses once you factored in the biggest, most ridiculously decadent cheese course that came with it… or six courses, when you counted the two amusesebouches that began the meal… or eight courses with the two side dishes served alongside our entrees… or fourteen courses with the dishes of complimentary gelees, caramels, chocolates, lemon cakes, and petits fours that came in addition to our dessert course.”

Finally, she’s a complainer. She complains a lot about being single, and how all of her friends are pairing off. She complains about Paris, her job, her lack of friends, how her jeans are tighter than they used to be (which they should be with everything she eats! Haha), her lack of French skills, and how she misses New York. But then she goes back to visit NYC, and mopes and complains about how it’s not upscale enough for her anymore. And THEN she goes back to Paris and complains that she misses New York. I understand that it’s hard uprooting your life and moving to a foreign city. And I can totally understand why she felt like this. But filling her memoir with complaints didn’t make much sense to me. She spent a lot of the book sporting the “the grass is always greener on the other side” mentality, and I got tired of it. She was giddy about food. Food solved all of her problems. I wish she’d expressed more of her happiness in other areas of life.

Overall, this was a moderately enjoyable read. The author has a few coming of age moments, and you can tell she learned a lot about herself during her time abroad. I appreciated her human side, but wished for a little more depth. She either talked at great length about food or her hardships. I enjoyed reading about the food, but I got sick of it towards the latter part of the book (it started to feel about as exciting as a cookbook without the recipes). Maybe Paris, My Sweet should be read in small doses, along with another book. I might have appreciated it more that way. If you love New York and Paris, this book will take you there. And if you love torturing your dieting self with amazing sounding pastries, this is the book for you! At least reading about calories doesn’t plaster them to your hips, right? I’ve created a Dessert Bucket List now, thanks to Amy Thomas. :)


Dreaming of Mr. Darcy by Victoria Connelly (Book Review)

Posted January 23, 2012 by Jana in Adult Fiction, Book Review / 5 Comments

Dreaming of Mr. Darcy by Victoria Connelly (Book Review)Dreaming of Mr. Darcy by Victoria Connelly
Series: Austen Addicts #2
Also in this series: Mr. Darcy Forever
Published by Sourcebooks on January 1, 2012
Genres: Chick Lit, Contemporary Fiction, Contemporary Romance, Romance
Pages: 280
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher (Netgalley)
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3 Stars
Fledging illustrator and Darcy fanatic Kay Ashton settles in the seaside town of Lyme to finish her book, The Illustrated Darcy, when a film company arrives to make a new adaptation of Jane Austen's Persuasion. Kay is soon falling for the handsome bad boy actor playing Captain Wentworth, but it's the quiet screenwriter Adam Craig who has more in common with her beloved Mr. Darcy. Though still healing from a broken heart, Adam finds himself unexpectedly in love with Kay. But it will take more than good intentions to convince her that her real happy ending is with him.

(While this is book #2 in a series, I contacted the author and she said each novel is a standalone, and they can be read out of order.)

I liked this book, but I didn’t love it. I loved the little town of Lyme. It sounds breathtaking, and I have always thought it would be fun to own a B&B by the sea. Kay’s sounds very cute and old-fashioned, with lots of character and charm. I liked the two actresses, Sophie and Gemma. They are very sweet and caring, and end up being great friends to Kay. I like Adam a lot, and think he’s a saint for putting up with Kay’s antics. He’s hopelessly in love with her, while she is trying to set him up with someone else (like Emma Woodhouse would). She’s completely clueless! The smartest person in this book is Adam’s eccentric Nana, who tells it like it is. She totally knows what’s going on, and is perfectly willing to voice her opinions. I liked her!

I had a hard time with the insta-love. Everyone falls in love with everyone really fast! With Adam, it’s love at first sight. He falls for Kay, the girl with the “toffee-colored hair” before he even knows her name. (By the way, you’ll get really tired of the phrase “toffee-colored hair”. It is used a LOT in this book.) Kay falls in love with Oli (the male lead in the movie) really fast. She’s planning their wedding and naming their children, and he hasn’t even kissed her yet. He hasn’t even told her he likes her yet! Gemma’s love interest takes a little more time, but again it’s love at first sight for him and love at first realization that he loves her for her. This is just not realistic! These characters are not junior high schoolers who think they are in love because they’ve never felt it before! And why is everyone so clueless? Kay is clueless about everything, Adam is spineless and won’t tell Kay that he likes her and not the girl she’s trying to match him with, Gemma is clueless and can’t figure out why a guy is being nice to her. People are not this dumb! Really, it felt like high school and all the he-said-she-said drama. These people are too old for this. I think this is the reason that I didn’t really connect with any of them. I just kept wanting to smack them.

Kay has conversations with herself, which are just weird to me. I don’t sit and actually have a conversation with myself, especially out loud. I guess I just don’t like it when characters have conversations with themselves, because I had the same complaint with Midnight in Austenland. Also… the title led me to believe I was going to be reading a Pride and Prejudice spin-off. This book is all centered around Persuasion, though, so you’ll be hearing much more about Captain Wentworth than Mr. Darcy. I’m not complaining or anything, and I really enjoyed reading about the romantic story of Persuasion. I just thought it was worth mentioning for those who are on the look-out for P&P retellings or spin-offs. This isn’t one.

My favorite part was when two characters get completely drenched in a downpour and have to make due with borrowed clothes. The guy has no pants, a bright yellow raincoat, and a t-shirt. The girl is wearing granny clothes that are too big. That was funny. And I really enjoyed the descriptions of the Cobb and the surrounding area. I’ve always really wanted to go to England, so any book that describes it to me is a book I appreciate. I really liked the idea of the novel as well. There were just a few parts that kept me from liking it as much as I could have, and expected to.

I’m glad I read Dreaming of Mr. Darcy. I was really excited for it, and it was a nice change from all the dark dystopias I’ve been reading lately. I just had higher expectations. Like all romances, everyone ends up with who you want/expect them to. I still plan to read the other stories in this series, and hope to connect with them more. :)


Carrie Goes off the Map, by Phillipa Ashley (Book Review)

Posted November 16, 2011 by Jana in Adult Fiction, Book Review / 1 Comment

Carrie Goes off the Map, by Phillipa Ashley (Book Review)Carrie Goes Off the Map by Phillipa Ashley
Published by Sourcebooks on December 1, 2001
Genres: Chick Lit, Contemporary Fiction, Contemporary Romance, Romance
Pages: 376
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher (Netgalley)
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4 Stars
Carrie Brownhill lets her best friend talk her into a scenic European road trip as the perfect getaway from a nasty breakup with her fiancé. Unexpectedly along for the ride is the gorgeous and intriguing Matt Landor, MD, who sorely tests Carrie’s determination to give up men altogether. Careening through the English countryside in a VW camper van, these two mismatched but perfectly attuned lonely hearts find themselves in hot pursuit of adventure and in uncharted territory altogether…

This book was lovely for several uncommon reasons: 1. The characters are my age! I’m so used to reading about tweens, teenagers, and middle-aged adults. I rarely read about characters who are mid-to-late twenties. It was refreshing. 2. This book is an amazing book to help you feel better after a nasty break-up. I wish I’d had this book a few years ago when I went through one of those. 3. Traveling!!!!! I love books where people travel, and what’s better than driving through England in a camper van named Dolly?

So, Carrie is engaged to her business partner: a farmer guy named Huw. One night he comes home from a stag party and tells her he can’t marry her anymore. Of course, she’s heartbroken. Who wouldn’t be? THEN… just 4 months later, Huw is getting married to the woman he cheated on her with! She finds out on the day of his wedding, and runs to the church to crash the ceremony and call him out. She chickens out, though, and just ruins a very expensive flower arrangement outside the church. At this point, her best friend Rowena is pretty worried about Carrie, and decides the two of them need to go on a roadtrip to Italy and beyond. Things are all set and ready to go, when Rowena gets a job on a soap opera and has to back out of the trip the morning of. She mischievously calls on Dr. Matt Landor, an old friend from college to go with Carrie instead. Matt’s currently home from a small island where he works as a doctor for a charitable organization, and has absolutely nothing to do. His passport is also expired, and so they can’t leave England. Carrie is mortified at this change in plans, but Matt finally talks her into going on a trip with him. They spend just over a month traveling around the English countryside meeting new people, and getting to know each other far better than they expected. Love blossoms among several different sets of characters. There’s even a bit of a scary twist that makes you worry for the characters! Mix all of this together with a lot of British slang that I had a hard time understanding at first, and you have a very cute romantic comedy on your hands.

Carrie is hilarious. She destroyed a flower arrangement with a hose! I hope that if my fiance dumps me for a skank named Fanella, I will have the guts to do something like this. I like her sense of adventure, and her determination. Not only does she get over Huw, but she has fun doing it. Matt is the brooding sexy type. Carrie compares him to Mr. Darcy, and I have to agree. He’s tall, dark, handsome, troubled, and covers up his love for Carrie with witty banter and silly arguments. He and Carrie have great chemistry. Some of their conversations and flirtatious moments had me laughing. I enjoyed the supporting characters, which included some pretty funny hippie surfer dudes who end up lying on the beach stoned more than they actually surf, and a stuck up gaggle of socialites who add the word “darling” to the end of every sentence.

While you pretty much know how everything will turn out, you don’t know how everything will be wrapped up. There were twists, turns, misunderstandings, and some lovely character development. The timeline of the book covers more time than I’m used to (over a year), which was nice. I loved the setting of the book. Carrie and Matt spent a lot of time along the water, and the author wrote some lovely descriptions.

Overall, this was a great read! I really enjoyed the plot line and the writing, although I would have appreciated fewer f-words. I’d recommend this book to people who enjoy travel, England, quirky characters, and romance. I’ll definitely be pursuing more Phillipa Ashley books.The release date is December 1st of this year, so you don’t have to wait too long to get your hands on it! It’s definitely a nice, happy read that will warm your heart during these chilly, wintery months. Happy reading!

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