H00t #41 Anastasia (My Royal Story)

This series is all the rage in the school library at the moment, perhaps the relentless media coverage of the royal wedding has something to do with this. But, as I was just reading on a friend's blog we all know that being a princess is not easy. Especially if you are a Romanov and your people are turning against you.

Anastasia is told in diary form. In the beginning the entries are about teasing her sisters, the boring nature of her lessons and food. She is a carefree thirteen year old whose major concerns are the matching outfits she and her sisters wear. Of course this is all about to come crashing down with the start of World War One. 

There are other problems in the royal family which also provide some interest in the first part of the book. The youngest Romanov, the long-awaited heir to the throne Alexei, has hemophilia. Like all boys, he is prone to accidents, but in his case those are dangerous and incredibly painful. Alexei's pain is the author's way of introducing Rasputin, or Father Grigori as he is known to the family. When the boy has an injury which causes him internal or external bleeding, Alexandra the Tsaritsa calls on Rasputin, and Alexei gets better. (For me every time Rasputin is mentioned I had the Boney M song stuck in my head.) His role in the downfall of the dynasty is certainly hinted at in Anastasia's diary; she never trusts him.
In the second half of the book, the mood certainly changes leading up to that fateful night. Anastasia is growing up and she becomes aware that not everyone loves her father as much as she does. As things become worse in Russia, the family stay close and their mood is ever hopeful. This makes the ending all the more poignant for the reader, especially I would imagine for those who don't know the history.

Carolyn Meyer includes some historical notes at the end of the narrative including a family tree and some commentary about the conspiracy theories surrounding Anastasia. 

All in all this is a moving story of the end of the royal family. It could certainly act as a gateway text to other historical novel or learning more about history which can only be good.

Three hoots from five.

Happy tales,
Barking Owl

Book h00t #40 Dash and Lily's Book Of Dares

While I'm waiting for David Levithan's The Lover's Dictionary, I snaffled this from the school library before it was even processed! For me, the e-book will never replace the joy of a brand new book, with perfectly smooth spine.
The book was co-written with Rachel Cohn, like Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist. They alternate between the points of view of Dash and Lily and apparently emailed each other the chapters as they were done. Clearly they are in synch because it works well. 

In the lead up to Christmas, Lily is looking for adventure and love, even though she doesn't realise it. She is left in the care of her older brother while her parents are in Fiji. Dash is also alone, because he has manipulated his parents into believing that he is spending Christmas with the other one of them when in fact he is looking forward to some solo time in New York. Dash comes across a red Moleskin notebook in The Strand where there are 18 miles of books! Heaven! Inside there are clues and dares that he can choose to follow. Of course, he is the perfect boy for just such a task.

This is a funny and beautifully written book. I loved the references to poetry sprinkled throughout. And I especially loved both characters joy in words. Apart from this, I thought that there were some important ideas about teen relationships. Dash comes to realise that his relationship with his ex was forced and that they're better off as friends. She wisely says:
...when people say right person, wrong time or wrong person, right time it's usually a cop out. They think that fate is playing with them. That we're all just participants in this romance reality show that God gets a kick out of watching. But the universe doesn't know what's right or not right. You do.
 I see this book is being made into a film. Excellent news!

Five hoots from five.

Happy tales,

Barking Owl