Monday, March 30, 2015

MMGM- Anastasia and the Romanovs

Have you ever felt like you've pulled your Reading Hamstring Muscle and are just not making the progress that you should be making? On a good day, I really can read four or five good sized novels, but over the past week I've read... three chapters of Weber's Meet the Malone's. Obviously, nothing actually hurts, but it feels very much like it does when I've taken time off running and start back up again. I read a few pages, put the book down to catch my breath, read a few more pages, pet the dog, etc. Very little forward progress being made.

I blame the winter, which was long. The cold weather made just getting to school draining!

If I've sprained my reading muscles, is the best thing to Rest and Ice? How do I Compress or Elevate my brain? I feel very behind on my reading, and want to get back into some sort of groove.  What do others do when they just feel sort of "meh" about every book they come across? Any suggestions gratefully received!

It's Marvelous Middle Grade Monday at Ramblings of a Wannabe Scribe and What Are You Reading? day at Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers. Nonfiction Monday also occurs today.

22457410Meyer, Carolyn. Anastasia and her SistersApril 7th 2015 by Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books
E ARC from Edelweiss Above the Treeline

Anastasia and her sisters live a sumptuous life in the palace with their father, the tsar, and there are many intrigues that catch Anastasia's attention. She is enthralled when she finds her older sister Olga's journal in which Olga details her star crossed love of a guard as well as some of the family secrets. Covering a number of years, from well before WWII until the family is exiled (and later executed), the traveling back and forth to different palaces, the family dynamic with relatives, Alexei's illness, and eventually, the Russian and world events that lead to the family's downfall are all covered.
Strengths: If you want to lose yourself in Anastasia's world, this is the book. I loved all of the details, from the sisters having outfits to wear to tea that matched their mother's sitting room, to the war work the mother had the sisters do, to all of the events that occurred, this is beautifully researched and presents a wealth of information. I've read Meyer's Royal Diary about Anastasia, but she has another book on her as well. There must be a huge trove of the family's writings still extant.
Weaknesses: A bit lengthy for middle grade, especially since it is detail driven rather than plot driven, mainly because most people know how the story ends. A few more details about various affairs than needed, as well.
What I really think: Anastasia is still intriguing, even almost 100 years after her death. I think I will buy this, as it really is THE definitive novel about her. While reading, I realized the Olga was two years younger than my grandmother. That gave me an entirely new perspective on the events. Did not happen that long ago!

And, of course, this is fabulous paired with...

18691014Fleming, Candace. The Family Romanov: Murder ,Rebellion, and the Fall of Imperial Russia
July 8th 2014 by Schwartz & Wade

This is an excellent, detailed overview of the family of Tsar Nicholas, told in a way that will fill in any gaps that young readers might have. Not only are there good photographs of the family's journey, but there are pictures of peasants in Russia at the time used for contrast. There are also quotations from books written by people who struggled through the abject poverty, detailing just how dire the living conditions were. The text is quite readable; even though the book is long (almost 300 pages), Fleming always manages to keep the readers interest with interesting or riveting anecdotes. Since most of my information about this period in history came from a Leonard Nimoy In Search Of episode in the late 1970s, it was good to know that there has been even more research and investigation into the family's demise, and the information is presented well. I bought this for my library because Fleming does such good, literary nonfiction, but I have a feeling it will be hard to convince most middle grade readers to read this much on one period of time. Definitely a good purchase for research in high school and middle school libraries, though!


  1. Wow! Three to four novels per day is quite the accomplishment. I'm lucky to finish one per week. I tend to slow down this time of the year with weather improving, spring breaks, and the calender filling up. The groove will return!
    Love the sound of Anastasia and her Sisters. Very unique story... not sure if I could get a boy to read this one though.

  2. The Family Romanov looks incredible. I hear only great things. I have it on my TBR list.

  3. Anonymous11:16 AM EDT

    My reading feels lacking as well. It could be because I keep finding more to read. The Family Romanov is one I've been meaning to read.

  4. I agree with being in a reading slump lately. Hoping spring break reenergizes me!

    Loved The Family Romanov! Will definitely add Anastasia and her Sisters to my TBR list!

  5. Love your picks. I'm just drawn to historical fiction and non fiction.

  6. I was addicted to Russian history in elementary, so I would've loved these.

    (The movie Anastasia was so disappointing to me.)

  7. I definitely get out of my reading groove sometimes, and I don't read nearly as many books as you do. I usually turn to either old favorite comfort reads or brand-new adult mysteries. Definitely to things that I won't feel like I need to write a review :-)

  8. I read a lot, but nothing compared to your schedule. Wowzer! Both these books sounds really interesting. I hope I can find time to read them. Thanks for the post.

  9. I've had several student read The Family Romanov & love it, but my students are advanced middle school readers who read lots of non-fiction. I haven't seen the one about Anastasia, will certainly look for it. The family actions fascinate me. Have you read that long ago book titled Nicolas & Alexandra by Robert Massie? It's very interesting because the Massies had a son with hemophilia, thus the interest & then research. Thanks, Karen.

  10. I do love anything set in Russia and the Russian revolution, although I'm usually more interested in reading about the regular people. But that said, these do sound intriguing as I loved detailed historicals. I also really enjoyed THE LOST CROWN (Sarah Miller) about this era.

  11. I'm amazed at your stamina! No wonder you feel tuckered out! I find that it is audio books that keep me going. I can be doing other stuff while the story is in my head. I also find that every once in a while I read an adult book. While I enjoy reading middle grade books, sometimes I need to read a book just for myself. I've got The Ocean at the End of the Lane waiting for me. Good Luck.

  12. I've come to accept and even enjoy the ebb and flow of reading in my life. Sometimes I come back to books refreshed after filling my time with other activities. Eventually, I know I will return to stories with relish again. With my change in careers this year, my reading has taken many unexpected turns (a lot more nonficiton and adult books rather than the steady diet of middle grade and YA I read as a teacher). I'm not reading as much even though I have more time.

    I do want to read the Candace Fleming book on the Family Romanov. It looks fascinating.

  13. I'm amazed that you can read four or five novels a day. The most I can read in a day is one. Maybe one and a half. Good idea to blame the long cold nasty winter we've just had. But, egad! You deserve a break! When I reach the "meh" point with reading, I put aside all books and clean the house. Doesn't happen very often, heh heh.

    Ever since I read Nicholas and Alexandra in college, I've been fascinated by the Romanovs. Good to know there are still intriguing books coming out about them.

  14. Anastasia has always been fascinating to me. I went through an "all things Russian" time during middle school and read a lot about her and Russian history. I read and enjoyed The Family Romanov and know that I would have loved it as a teen. The other book looks intriguing as well.

  15. Ah, yes! I want to read Anastasia. Your perspective about your grandmother is a good one. It puts things in perspective for me, too. Thank you for sharing this book. I will be getting it from the library now. :)

  16. I fell in love with the Grisha trilogy written by Leigh Bardugo and the setting was in Russia - if only because of that series, I would most likely pick up The Family Romanov - sounds like a fascinating walk through history.