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VINE VOICEon June 29, 2009
If you liked the animated movie, "Anastasia", then you'll like this book as well.

Ivan and Sergei are in search of the grand duchess Anastasia, so they can gain the reward that was offered for her return. In comes Nadya. Orphaned as a young girl with no recollection of her past, Nadya works as a waitress in a tavern after the asylum she was staying at was shut down. Ivan, who witnessed the death of the Romanov family, felt something familiar about this girl and knew he wanted her to play the role of Anastasia, despite her less than genteel appearance. So they worked and hitched their way towards France, dodging police and a scarred-face man.

There are a lot of similarities to the movie. However, the book doesn't have the magical factor and bats and the main characters are much younger. Despite the similarities, this book was very well written in its own right. I found Nadya to be a charming girl. She was cute and absolutely funny with all the little pranks she played on Ivan. Despite her rough upbringing, Nadya didn't let adversity get her down. Instead, she developed a strength and humor that was admirable. Ivan was an okay hero, with a huge chip on shoulder. Like most soldiers, he was idealistic but soon disillusioned with what he thought would be a brighter future for his country. During their travels, Ivan and Nadya started to develop feelings for each other. And of course, Ivan being Ivan, did his best to downplay his growing feelings. He was a frustrating character but one can't help but feel some empathy for. Sergei was more of a fatherly figure throughout the story. He mostly dispensed advice and helped move the story along. The ending worked out happily with all loose ends tied up.

The chapters were short and to the point. There were enough humor, drama and action that made the story readable. The characters were likable and endearing. Definitely another keeper from the `Once Upon a Time' series.
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on November 29, 2010
I picked up the book looking for just a quick light, slightly stupid read to give me something to do. I have read plenty of books that I put in the category of "bad but fun to read anyway" this book, sadly, didnt fall under that category. The writing (no offense suzanne weyn) is pretty terrible. There is absolutely no flow and the action and romance seems forced. The way she writes is slightly annoying; its a bit like how children books are written -as in for 5 year olds- but yet the material of this book seems to be a little more for the ages of 11-15. I think the story was slightly interesting (even if it wasn't original) but the writing really just killed it. For instance she tries to make the main character seem light-hearted, sweet, and child-like but her writing makes the supposedly 19 year old girl sound very annoying and like she truly is insane with her drastic mood swings from laughing at a campfire to randomly sobbing about how terrible it is that people would want to hurt Anastasia if she is indeed alive. If you're really truly bored and in search of light read then feel free to pick this book up but just to warn you you'll probably end up wondering why you just wasted your money as well as however-many hours of your life you spent reading it
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on June 5, 2009
I'm a big fan of retellings, especially if they're done right and the author brings something new to the table so to speak. And for that reason I can highly recommend all the books in the "Once Upon a Time" series from Simon Pulse. What I'm not a fan of is the new cover art. The older books have some of the most beautiful cover art and now they're being published with covers that remind me more of photographic "harlequin" romance novel covers. Yuck! So try not to judge these wonderful books by their cheesy covers....
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on May 15, 2010
I picked up this story, determined to enjoy it as much as I enjoyed the movie, Anastasia. But the way it is written is very stilted and choppy, with no transitions. The reason why Nadya (Anastasia) decides to join Ivan and Sergei was not convincing - why would a girl with amnesia suddenly decide to trust two people she has never met before, one whom she doesn't even have a good first impression of!

The plot also was very jumpy - one minute they're on a train to Moscow, the next, they're already in Germany with anecdotal descriptions of how Ivan and Nadya suddenly don't dislike each other anymore - musical sequence, anyone?
The whole book was not convincing. It was as if the author assumed that all her readers had already watched the animated movie and did not feel the need to write a fully fleshed out story. Every major plot point seemed like the author simply took the easy way out - oh, the characters have spent enough time on the road, how to get them to civilization? Ah, they're camped out on a friend's land in Germany, who by chance, owes his life to Sergei!

And the villian... The villian was absolutely lame. A word I never use, but in this sense, fits perfectly.

An incredibly fast read, but terribly disappointing writing.
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on May 30, 2010
I shouldn't have wasted my money! WARNING WILL CONTAIN SPOILERS AND IF YOU"VE SEEN THE 1997 VERSION OF ANASTASIA THEN DON'T BOTHER READING THIS BOOK BECAUSE ITS PLAGERIZED OFF THAT MOVIE! Because honestly even though I love books about Anastasia (she was also a real person too) and fairytale books this book had to have been the worst. It started off good but then as I read further I realized that basically this book was plagerized off the animated movie Anastasia that I loved and grew up with. There were WAY too many similarities between the movie and this book. Like 2 con men who are trying to con the Dowager Empress by trying to bring in a girl that looked like the real Anastasia. While they're still looking they bump into the real Anastasia not knowing that shes the real Anastasia til the end. And Anastasia (alias Nadya/Anya) has amneisa. Theres a bad guy thats after her, only difference is its Rasputins assistant and in the movie it was Rasputin himself. Other differences is that thers a diamond in the doll that saves Anastasias life and theres really no magic and no catchy songs. And YOU knew that Anastasia and the one of the con men were going to fall in love with each other. They at first hate each other but then all of a sudden love each other? At least in the movie they really get to know each other while falling in love. And it ends the same with Anastasia sailing off with the man she loves but promises her grandmother that she'll always write her and that they'll see each other again soon. Only in the book Anastasia throws a temper tantrum about the man sailing away and that she must be with him. Honestly I think they should have stayed in Paris with her grandmother because after being away from her for so many years and with her getting older I would want to spend as much time with the family members as possible especially if they're getting older. To be honest if you feel the need to read this book I would just get it from the library IF they have it. Because its a waste of time to buy and read something that you basically watched the movie back in 1997. And I'm not sure why the author Suzanne Weyn hasn't been arrested for plagerism. In the future she better not plagerize something off a movie or another book again because she will get in trouble eventually. I did only like one book of hers and that was The Night Dance but sadly that was the only good book she wrote.
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on June 25, 2012
I'm not really sure what to say about this book. It was, at best, okay. There was nothing wrong with the book, necessarily, but there was nothing utterly fantastic about it, either. Truth be told, I forgot the book about ten minutes after I put it down, and I couldn't tell if anything I do seem to vaguely recall was in the book or if I'm remembering the cartoon "Anastasia" movie.

There are obviously many similarities between "Anastasia" and "The Diamond Secret." (Note to whomever is in charge of these things: A secret is neither a mystery nor a secret if it's right there in the title.) There are some differences. Most notably, there are no talking bats or smoke demons in the novel. Otherwise, the basic premise and sequence of events was essentially the same. At one point, I started humming the soundtrack to the movie because...why not?

This isn't to say the book was bad. It wasn't. If I had never seen the movie, I would likely have liked it more. However, having seen the movie, I can say that the characters in this book failed to capture my imagination or heart the way Anya and Dimitri did.

This is a fair addition to the series but added nothing really to a story I'd already seen. I won't say I definitely would never re-read the book, as I didn't hate it. However, it would likely be at the very bottom of my pile and would likely only ever make it there due to me forgetting I'd already read it.
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on May 2, 2010
Another entry in the Once Upon a Time series, TDS tells the story of Anastasia Romanov. As such, this isn't so much a retelling as a "what if," specifically, what if she escaped, knocked her head during the escape and developed amnesia, and was picked up by two guys looking to convince Anastasia's grandmother that this girl is Anastasia (they don't really believe she actually is Anastasia) in order to collect the reward money offered by her grandmother.

Wait, does this story sound familiar? If you've seen the completely unrelated animated movie Anastasia, then you already know this story. Not much is added and, as such, this story reads like a good novelization of that movie. Only it's not. It's supposed to be an original story. This just borders so close to plagiarism that I had a bad taste in my mouth all through reading the story. If it weren't for that, then I probably would have enjoyed this book a lot more as it was written well enough (Nadya could have used some work) and the story is a nice one.
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on August 10, 2009
I love me a good alternate history story and fairytale retellings but this one? Not so much.

The first thing that jumped out to me was the writing. It was clunky, stiff, with poor to awkward word choices. The dialogue seemed unnatural and didn't flow at all. It felt too "modern" to be honest to fit in with the time period, not to mention there were instances where I had to raise my eyebrow in amusement because some of the things the character said were so childish, I couldn't help but go "pfft".

I couldn't connect with any of the characters. Especially the main girl, Nadya, who's supposed to be Anastasia. Her voice, thoughts, speech, and actions were very immature and rather dense. Even if she was a teen, I wouldn't expect the grand duchess of Russia to be a ditzy woman, memory or not. Not to mention the interactions between the two main characters were so unrealistic! One minute they hate each other, sniping at one another, then the next they're having a jolly good time as friends, back to sniping, and then oops one fall into a ditch later they're all in love? What-the-heck?

The plot of this story was a good idea (albeit heavily borrowed from the movie), but it lacked in execution. There were moments and scenes that were better than the rest, the whole bit with the necklace and the hidden diamond was a positive for me, and the grandmother's snarky character, but overall I did not like this story. The ending too was pretty unsatisfying. She just finds her grandma, throws an immature tantrum about how she can't live without this man after finding out he's going to leave for America, and then wooosh she rushes off to meet him and they sail away forever? Uh, what? She obviously has no consideration for the other characters' feelings does she?

I absolutely love the cover though! The gown and her hairstyle is absolutely gorgeous, not to mention it's a scene from the book. I always like it when book covers have relevance to the actual story. So, it saves itself from getting a lower grade because of this. Not sure if I'd read any of the other novels in this "Once Upon a Time" series, but I may find myself erring on the hopeful side again because the covers are just too pretty. (Yes, I'm a sucker for aesthetics.)
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on May 10, 2010
this is a story that I love I have always found the tale about anastasia appealing but this story while good really does not have much new to tell. if you have seen the cartoon or the ingrid bergman movie anastasia then you will find this book almost a carbon copy there are a few things that did make me enjoy the book a little bit. I will not list them here for spoiling a key moment in the book!! so be warned there is not much difference in this book from other retellings but key moments make the book readable!
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on June 24, 2015
Nadya doesn’t remember the past who only who she is after the asylum working in the kitchen. She has fragmented dreams that might be the past but she’s unsure. When two handsome strangers taken an interest in her in the tavern they are sure she’s the granddaughter of a wealthy woman. Hoping to find the truth about her past and some family Nadya goes with them. It’s while the trio journey to Nadya’s possible grandmother that she learns that truth about who they really think she is. However it’s not till they arrive at her possible grandmother’s home does she learn about the money for finding her. As Nadya has more dreams she questions who she is, what about the man she keeps seeing. Is she really the missing Anastasia?

I liked Nadya she was an interesting character who continued to get better as the story progressed. I wasn’t sure if I liked Ivan or Sergei at first but as the story progressed it was clear that they aren’t the bad guys but that they did have good reasons for doing what they did. I also enjoyed the chemistry between Nadya and Ivan and was curious to see how it would play out.

I’m not super familiar with the Anastasia story other than a general idea of what happened so it was interesting to see this prospective of the story. I like the authors unique take on the story of Anastasia she creates a fast paced story that I found captivating. I found the characters easy to connect as the story went. I personally had a hard time connecting with the story and maybe parts of that have to do with the fact that half way through the book I had to google the real Anastasia and from that point I had a harder time loving it. It’s an interesting story but it just didn’t wow me. I wish I could say I loved it but for me it was just ok. I think it’s my fault for having to google because at first I was so excited but real life is depressing and it killed the excitement.
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