Thursday, December 6, 2018

Review: Sisters of the Winter Wood by Rene Rossner

Title: Sisters of the Winter Wood
Written by: Rene Rossner
Published: September 2018 by Redhook (Hachette Books)

(Amazon / Goodreads)

Synopsis: Raised in a small village surrounded by vast forests, Liba and Laya have lived a peaceful sheltered life - even if they've heard of troubling times for Jews elsewhere. When their parents travel to visit their dying grandfather, the sisters are left behind in their home in the woods. 

But before they leave, Liba discovers the secret that their Tati can transform into a bear, and their Mami into a swan. Perhaps, Liba realizes, the old fairy tales are true. She must guard this secret carefully, even from her beloved sister. 

Soon a troupe of mysterious men appear in town and Laya falls under their spell-despite their mother's warning to be wary of strangers. And these are not the only dangers lurking in the woods... 

The sisters will need each other if they are to become the women they need to be - and save their people from the dark forces that draw closer.

I love new YA fantasies, unique retellings, and books about sisters so this one was right in my wheelhouse. And while this was an interesting read that finished really strong, I didn’t love it as much as I had hoped.

One thing I did love about this book was the world and setting. One of my favorite things is finding a modern book that reads like a classic fairy tale and that is exactly what this book was. It had so many elements that I have come to know and love with fairy tales including a dark wood full of secrets, magical transformations, and dubious characters. I particularly loved the setting. A dark and mysterious woods makes for such a great location for a story like this. The secrets lurking in the woods made for an atmospheric read. And the magic added to all of that. What I liked about the magic was that despite the fact that it was subtle, there clear rules and seeing the magic in action interested me. All of this worked together to craft an engaging setting for the book.

The other interesting thing about the setting for this book was the historical elements. It wasn’t really historical fiction but it did a great job of dealing with historical context and still making it feel topical. This is a book about Jewish culture and it explored what that was like from a historical standpoint. Jews were often distrusted by non-Jews and this book didn’t shy away from that. It showed some of the discrimination that Jewish people felt in Medieval times. But it also explored The Jewish religion on the whole. I can’t speak to the representation but I found it interesting to learn more about Judaism and I appreciated that aspect of this book.

The plot and pacing however, left me wanting more. It’s not that the plot was bad. In fact it did really finish strong by building to a really exciting conclusion. The thing is that the first half of this book took me a week to read and the second half took me a day. It just took so long for this book to capture my interest. I think perhaps that is because in the first half there was so much more of a focus on the romance. And you all probably know I am not typically a fan of romances. With this one I felt like one of them was a really good slowburn with a solid foundation and the other one was a ridiculous instalove that creeped me out. Luckily in the end everything shook out the way I was hoping but as the romance too center stage I felt like it was taking away from the part of the story I was actually enjoying including the relationship with the sisters.

I know this a retelling of the epic poem The Goblin Market, which I am not familiar with, and it made me curious about the poem which I think is the mark of a good retelling. But to me it had more Snow White and Rose Red vibes to it. That was one of my favorite fairy tales when I was a kid and I felt like from that standpoint I enjoyed the retelling. The reason I say that is because I felt like it had a good spin on the idea of the magical transformation and finding out that a character is royalty. It made for a good feminist story in that respect. But the best part of the retelling that I enjoyed was the relationship between the sisters. As an older sister myself I love reading books about sisters who are very different but still care so much about one another. It was a great aspect of the story added a lot of heart to the book I think.

This was definitely a good read with an atmospheric world that gave it a modern fairy tale vibes, a subtle historical setting, a retelling that had me interested in the original, and a good sisterly relationship. I just wish that it was a little shorter and the romance in the beginning didn’t take so much of the focus.

I give Sisters of the Winter Wood by Rene Rossner 8 out of 10 stars

Buy/Borrow/Bypass: Borrow. I would recommend this book to fans of modern fairy tales like Uprooted and The Bear and the Nightingale. It’s a good atmospheric read for people who look those book.

Have you read Sisters of Winter Wood? What did you think? Leave me a comment with your thoughts. Thanks for stopping by and HAPPY READING!

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Waiting on Wednesday: King of Scars by Leigh Bardugo

A weekly meme hosted by Breaking the Spine

Title: King of Scars
Series: Nikolai Duology #1
Written by: Leigh Bardugo
Published: January 29, 2019 by Imprint (Macmillan)

Synopsis: Nikolai Lantsov has always had a gift for the impossible. No one knows what he endured in his country’s bloody civil war—and he intends to keep it that way. Now, as enemies gather at his weakened borders, the young king must find a way to refill Ravka’s coffers, forge new alliances, and stop a rising threat to the once-great Grisha Army.

Yet with every day a dark magic within him grows stronger, threatening to destroy all he has built. With the help of a young monk and a legendary Grisha Squaller, Nikolai will journey to the places in Ravka where the deepest magic survives to vanquish the terrible legacy inside him. He will risk everything to save his country and himself. But some secrets aren’t meant to stay buried—and some wounds aren’t meant to heal.
Why I'm Waiting:

Leigh Bardugo is an autobuy author. I have loved all her books in the world of the Grisha and honestly they have been getting better. I would be super excited about any new Leigh Bardugo book and therefore I am excited about this one.

Plus, IT'S A BOOK ABOUT NIKOLAI. If you didn't love Nikolai in the original series then I don't know who you are and I don't want to be your friend. He was definitely one of the more interesting characters in that series and had great development. I am excited to learn more about him and see what everything is like for him now.

I am also really excited to find out what things are like in  Ravka. There were some vague mentions in Six of Crows but I think there is a lot more going on and I assume plenty of political intrigue. And there are more characters I am excited to check back in with. Nina Zenik has perspectives you guys!

I am very excited to read this book. I might listen to the audio depending on who narrates it but I will definitely be getting a copy. I need to read this book so badly. MORE GRISHAVERSE!!! *flails*

What about you? What are you waiting for this Wednesday? Are you waiting on King of Scars along with me? Leave me a comment with your thoughts. Thanks for stopping by and HAPPY READING!

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Top Ten Tuesday: Fantasy Reads for the Winter

A weekly meme hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl

For me, winter is the perfect time to read high fantasies. I like to escape into a world that is not my own. Plus many of these books have winter themes so they feel even more immersive during the cold weather. This list ended up being basically a "my all-time favorite fantasies" list but oh well.

1.) A Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin
I mean ice is in the title of this series. Plus I'm sure anyone who has seen Game of Thrones knows that "Winter is Coming." But honestly, this is a great fantasy and the books are so long that it's perfect to read on vacation.

2.) Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo
While this series isn't quite so winter heavy there are definitely winter vibes. Plus it's a really good fantasy that I would recommend if you are fan of Game of Thrones.

3.) The Young Elites by Marie Lu
This is one of my all-time fantasies because it is super dark. It's kind of villain origin story but it's fully amazing. If you have not read it and you like dark fantasies or books with magic similar to superpowers you must read it.

4.) Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas
The series is finally over so it's a perfect time to marathon the series if you haven't read it yet. I know Sarah is problematic and this series is far from perfect but it's a great fantasy series with crazy twists and surprises.

5.) In Other Lands by Sarah Rees Brennan
EVERYONE NEEDS TO READ THIS! It seriously is so good. I just finished it and it skyrocketed to my favorite of the year because it is inventive, engaging, and hilarious.

6.) A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab
I am a huge fan of Victoria Schwab. I have read almost all of her books but I think maybe this series is my favorite. It's definitely an amazing fantasy series. I would also recommend City of Ghosts which is not technically fantasy but does have winter vibes.

7.) Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson
Mistborn is one of my all-time favorite fantasies and is a perfect example of Brandon Sanderson at his finest. If you haevn't read this series change that immediately.

8.) Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor
I was late to the game on this series but I am so glad I read it recently. It's amazing and if you haven't read it yet you definitely need to.

9.) The Magicians by Lev Grossman
This is one of those fantasies that is kind of tongue and cheek because it plays with the tropes. It's not the kind of book for everyone but I loved it and think more people should read it.

10.) His Dark Materials by Phillip Pullman
Another all-time favorite series that has serious winter vibes. I mean they do take you to the Northern Lights and there are armored bears. Definitely a winter fantasy read.

There you have it. All my favorite fantasies that I recommend reading or rereading this time of year. What books made your list? Leave me a comment with your thoughts. Thanks for stopping by and HAPPY READING!

Monday, December 3, 2018

November Wrap Up and December TBR

Read in November:

It's been a really hectic month. I've been travelling a lot for work and then Thanksgiving added to that. When I travel so much it typically means a lot of time for reading but not much time for blogging which was definitely the case. But I have been consistently reading and had another good reading month. I read a total of 11 books this month.  But the bigger accomplishment is that I finished my Goodreads goal a month early!

For challenges, this year I'm low key doing challenges. I set a Goodreads goal of reading 120 books in a year. I am up to 122 books for the year which means, as I said, I finished it a month early! My original goal was 150 but I had to lower it. Finishing early feels really good and hopefully next year I can meet the 150 goal. For the rest of the challenges I only low key set them. I want to read 20 debuts this year and I read 3 this month which brings my total for the year to 15. I won't beat this goal but I did hit the lower goal of 15 a month early. I wanted to read 36 books from Netgalley and Edelweiss and I read 1 this month which means my total is at 17 for the year. I haven't really been reading e-books lately but I did read two this month so I might be able to do better with this next year. I also want to read 20 backlist books. This month I read 3 which brings my total to 24 for the year. I'm hoping to read one more so hopefully I will hit 25 for the year.

The Books

1.) Kingdom of Ash by Laini Taylor Rating: 9 out of 10 [My Review]
2.) The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Sellman Vol. 1: The Crucible 
by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa Rating: 9 out of 10
3.)  Outrun the Moon by Stacey Lee Rating: 9.5 out of 10 [My Review]
4.) Girls of Paper and Fire by Natasha Ngan Rating: 8.5 out of 10 [My Review]
5.) Silent Night 2 by R.L. Stine Rating 5 out of 10 [Podcast Website]
6.) Amber and Dusk by Shawn Serles Rating: 7.5 out of 10 stars [My Review]
7.) Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan Rating: 9 out of 10 [My Review]
8.) In Other Lands by Sarah Rees Brenna Rating: 9.5 out of 10 [My Review]
9.) Pulp by Robin Talley Rating: 9 out of 10 stars [My Review]
 10.) Little White Lies by Jennifer Lynn Barnes Rating: 8 out of 10 [My Review]
11.) Sisters of the Winter Wood by Rene Rossner Rating: 8 out of 10 stars [Review to Come]

To Be Read in December: 

And here is hoping that I can continue the strong reading month. I have a ton of books I want to read before the end of the year which is why I am hoping I am able to read as much as possible especially over the holidays. There are some great books coming out in January so I hope I can get these finished.

Books for Review

Empress of All Seasons by Emiko Jean - Add to Goodreads
I had this book on my list last month but I didn't get the chance. But I started it yesterday and it has already hooked me. I'm travelling for work this week and this will be my airplane read.

The Assassin's Guide to Love and Treason by Virginia Boeckler - Add to Goodreads
Another book I hoped to read last month but I wasn't able to. I considered reading it next but I decided on Empress first.

Realm of Ruins by Hannah West - Add to Goodreads
I loved Kingdom of Ash and Briar so I was super pumped when I heard she was coming out with a sequel a century after the original book. I plan to devour this during Christmas.

The Curses by Lyra Selene Add to Goodreads
I liked The Graces so when I saw there was a sequel coming out I grabbed it from Netgalley. I'm hoping to start this one pretty soon.

Black Wings Beating by Alex London - Add to Goodreads
I was looking through my ARCs from this year to see which ones I didn't get a chance to read and honestly this is probably the only one. I haven't read any Alex London and I have heard good things.

Sawkill Girls by Claire Legrand Add to Goodreads
This book has been on my list for three months now but it is still one I want to read before the end of the year. I'm not sure if it will happen but we shall see.

When We Caught Fire by Anna Godbersen - Add to Goodreads
And another book that has been on my list for months that I want to read before the end of the year. I may see if I like the audio for this one.

New Releases

Skyward by Brandon Sanderson - Add to Goodreads
A Brandon Sanderson book came out and I did not read it immediately! But I did buy a signed copy on Black Friday so I plan to read it as soon as it gets delivered.

Dark Days Deceit by Alison Goodman - Add to Goodreads
I am listening to the audiobook for this one as we speak. I had hoped to finish before the end of the month but it's much longer than I expected. But with my travelling for work I should be done by the end of the week.

Anna and the Apocalypse by Katherine Turner and Barry Waldo - Add to Goodreads
Just in case I am in the mood for a Christmas read, this one is my kind of holiday read and is also a short audiobook which is narrated by Fiona Hardingham.

Backlist Books

Dark Triumph and Mortal Heart by Robin LaFevers - Add to Goodreads
The new book in this series is coming out in February so I am taking the opportunity to listen to these audiobooks during my drives to visit my family for Christmas

There you have it. Some of the books I hope to read in December. As always, these are subject to change. I may read all of these or I may only read a few and then read a bunch of different ones. But honestly I think this list I can stick to. Thanks for stopping by and HAPPY READING!