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The Sisters of the Winter Wood

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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, 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.


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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, 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.

30 review for The Sisters of the Winter Wood

  1. 5 out of 5

    Melanie

    ARC provided by Orbit in exchange for an honest review. “Sometimes you know when you don’t belong, but you don’t know how to leave.” This is one of the most atmospheric books I’ve ever read in my entire life. It was also able to evoke such a visceral reading experience from me. I never wanted to put this book down! And I knew that this was going to be heavy on the Russian folklore, but I had no idea that this was also a reimagining of Goblin Market by Christina Rossetti. And I swear, I don’t r ARC provided by Orbit in exchange for an honest review. “Sometimes you know when you don’t belong, but you don’t know how to leave.” This is one of the most atmospheric books I’ve ever read in my entire life. It was also able to evoke such a visceral reading experience from me. I never wanted to put this book down! And I knew that this was going to be heavy on the Russian folklore, but I had no idea that this was also a reimagining of Goblin Market by Christina Rossetti. And I swear, I don’t remember consuming any fruit while reading this, yet I am still completely under this book’s spell. And I for sure also recommend this to people who also love The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden and Uprooted by Naomi Novik! “If you want to know the history of a town, read the gravestones in its cemetery.” Not everyone is going to love this book. In fact, I bet a lot of people will DNF this one. But if you love this story, you’re going to be completely captivated from the first page and you’re never going to want this story to be over. Friends, I fell head over heels in love with this story. The Sisters of the Winter Wood follows two Jewish sisters who live on the outskirts of a town, in a forest, with their mother and father. Their family feels rather isolated in Dubossary, (on the border of Moldova and Ukraine), but they make do the best that they can, always relying on each other. That is until one day the mother and father get called away and leave their precious daughters behind. Yet, before leaving, the mother tells them a secret that she has been keeping from them their entire lives. And this secret changes everything. “We can’t fight our natures, even though we try. A bear will always be a bear, and a swan a swan. Everyone fights, malyshka; everyone questions their choices. Even people who love each other.” ➽ Liba - 17, devout, smart, stern, keeps to herself not letting anyone in. Starts to have feelings for a boy that has grown up right in their town, who is also Jewish. He also is kind, and caring, and protective, and comes from a good family. ➽ Laya - 15, questioning, beautiful, graceful, and easily gains friends. Starts to have feelings for a boy that is new to town, that has come selling fruit with some other questionable young boys that are very prejudiced towards Jewish people. And this switches points of view, back and forth, between two sisters. One sister’s point of view is standard format, yet the other sister’s point of view is told in verse! Again, very reminiscent of the way Goblin Market by Christina Rossetti is told. But surprisingly enough, I ended up loving Laya’s verse chapters more than the standard story telling. I don’t want to give away anything about this book, because I truly think it is best to go into blind. So, I’m holding back that very big secret that Laya and Liba’s mother has hidden from them, but I will say that because of the secret, Liba says some very questionable things about her body in comparison to her sister’s body. I’ll mention it again in my trigger warnings at the very end of this review, but I will say that the only negative thing about this book, in my eyes, is Liba’s thoughts on her body. And I do understand that she is seventeen years old, and that even in 2018 society puts so many horrible body standards on us at every age and everywhere we look. But, it still always made me a little sad when I’d read about her not loving her body as much as her thinner sister’s. It’s truly the only real complaint I have about this novel, and please use caution because I think some of the things that Liba says and thinks about her “thicker” body and her “hunger” can be really potentially triggering. But there are two different romances, between each sister and two boys they meet in town, where the sisters start to learn about their bodies and the feelings and reactions that their bodies are making them feel. This is for sure a book about two young girls both discovering their sexuality for the first time not feeling like they are forced to repress what they feel, since their family (and their religion, standards, and judgment) has left them alone. “Death lives here. Death will always live here.” And while the romances and these girls discovering things about themselves are for sure at the forefront of this story, a murder mystery is also going on in the background. And this book very much showcases what hate-mongering is and how scare-tactics can make people do unspeakable things. This book is heavily influenced by the pogroms of the early 1900s where many Jewish families and communities were murdered. And the author pulls this from her family’s real experiences. And Rena Rossner’s writing completely moved me to feel every single emotion. This story is just crafted so expertly, in my opinion. And this author’s prose is on a tier above most. I feel like she captured this setting and atmosphere in a way that just feels like pure magic. And she seamlessly wove in all these homages that build such a perfect story. Also, this book has the best acknowledgments I’ve read in all of 2018. I thought I was going to be able to make it through the book without crying, and then I read the author’s heartfelt words talking about her family, her influences, and why she wrote this story. Friends, I don’t even have words. I also really appreciated the glossary with Hebrew words and pronunciations! Ultimately though, this is a book about the bond of sisterhood and found family and doing whatever you can to support and help the people you love. Yet, this is also a story about realizing that you are worthy of love and deserving of all the unconditional love in the world. “I get to choose what kind of strong I want to be.” Overall, this is one of my favorite reads of 2018. Yet, I will say that this book does have a lot of things in my personal reading wheelhouse that I enjoy. It’s about learning that you deserve unconditional love and finding yourself among people who cannot accept you for who you are. It’s a book that had a forest setting, that is a reimagining of one of my favorite stories of all-time. It’s gorgeously written and tackles some really heartbreaking moments in our world’s history. I just loved this one, friends. And I hope if you pick it up, that you will love it as well. Blog | Instagram | Twitter | Tumblr | Youtube | Twitch The quotes above were taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication. Content and trigger warnings for a lot of antisemitism (but always in a negative light and challenged), captivity, drugging, blood depiction, physical abuse, talk of past rape, talk of slavery, murder, torture, death, misogynistic comments and ideals, grey area consent (doing sexual things while one person is magically enthralled), some questionable body image/shaming comments and thoughts, and questionable thoughts about food and eating that could potentially be triggering. Buddy read with Jules at JA Ironside & Michaela at Journey into Books! ❤

  2. 5 out of 5

    Melissa ♥ Dog/Wolf Lover ♥ Martin

    Look at this copy!!!! OMG!!!!! And yellow stained edges! Everyone in this book got on my nerves! But, I still liked it. Funny that! Mel 🖤🐶🐺🐾

  3. 5 out of 5

    karen

    NOW AVAILABLE!! man, i was so looking forward to this - it seemed, from the description, to be exactly my kind of book; one blending fairytale sensibilities with realworld atrocities à la Gretel and the Dark, with girls shapeshifting into bears and swans, and coming as it did in an envelope full of bear n’ swan confetti and GOLDEN FEATHERS, Y’ALL!!! and, because those bears are too good at camouflaging themselves: feel free to read my palm! knowing it was an unusual blend of rossetti’s goblin market NOW AVAILABLE!! man, i was so looking forward to this - it seemed, from the description, to be exactly my kind of book; one blending fairytale sensibilities with realworld atrocities à la Gretel and the Dark, with girls shapeshifting into bears and swans, and coming as it did in an envelope full of bear n’ swan confetti and GOLDEN FEATHERS, Y’ALL!!! and, because those bears are too good at camouflaging themselves: feel free to read my palm! knowing it was an unusual blend of rossetti’s goblin market, jewish folklore and history (anti-jewish pogroms in moldavia and ukraine), i was looking forward to something dark and surprising. and it was surprising, just not in a way that pleased me, although it clearly pleased many other readers, so feel free to disregard any and all of my own personal gripes. it is sort of dark historical fantasy, but its front-and-center taxon is YA fantasy romance. even though it lists and is priced as adult fiction, it does not seem to offer as much to an adult reader as it would to a teen: the characters are teen girls, very sheltered, whose parents are called away unexpectedly, and they are forced to take responsibility for themselves for the first time - keeping themselves fed and out of trouble, but also with their strict, religious parents out of town, they’re free to let their repressed sexuality off the chain a bit, and even though people in their village are going missing and the news of the pogroms targeting jews reaches them, that is largely in the background, and it really is mostly a story of duty and desire as it relates to boys - liba likes a boy who is tender and chaste and devout, but she knows he is not who her parents would choose for her husband. meanwhile, laya is seduced by a bad boy and made giddy by the temptations of fruit and freedom, and they are both discovering their shapeshifting abilities (i.e. their changing bodies); liba = bear, laya = swan, which are manifesting alongside all of these confusing new feelings. so, thematically, it’s very YA: a coming-of-age, emotional/sexual awakening story, where the parents are conveniently absented so the sisters can begin to make their own decisions and take on adult responsibilities and their characters can be tested for the first time as they become independent young women. but the balance is heavily slanted towards the individual rather than the historical - there is so much time spent on the inner battle of permitting/suppressing the body’s urges, and liba being ashamed of her curves, her appetite (for food), her sensuality, her wild inner self, and so little time spent on, you know, the ethnic massacres occurring offstage. did i want graphic descriptions of torture and murder? no, but it’s such a superficial treatment of historical brutality - i thought it would be used as more than a backdrop for romance. if this is supposed to be adult fiction, the expectation is that it will explore themes more meaty than ‘first kisses’ and ‘establishing an identity apart from the family.’ i personally find the romance parts of books tedious, so a book with this much “will they or won’t they?/should we or shouldn’t we?” is wasted on me. and it’s even worse when it occurs in laya’s chapters because her POV is written entirely in verse: his lips touch mine and everything around us disappears. I drink him in, ravenous, I can’t get enough of his lips, I nip at them and tug at his tongue with my teeth, sucking on his lips like they are life and air, like I am thirsty and his lips are an oasis in the desert. I feast on them. On him. As every thing around me spins. He breaks the kiss, both of us breathless, eyes wild, lips swollen and red. I shake my head and rub my eyes trying to clear the glare, the fog. I lean in again so close, my lips almost at his, and beg for more. there is never any reason given for the decision to write her segments in verse, and the whole “everything is poetry!” mentality so pervasive these days is bad enough when it’s all that kissyface stuff, but the “i have found the return key!” attitude is even more baffling when it’s fancying up life's most banal moments: Liba didn’t wake up early this morning like she usually does. I’m worried about her. I’ve never seen her like this. Sad, quiet, thoughtful. So I get up and do the chores, and let her sleep. so that’s where i’m at: a crank who’s too old to be reading about teenagers in love, too widely-read to be impressed by metaphors already encountered elsewhere, too appreciative of the dark and gritty to have it be sidelined. unless you are me, sleepwalking, you are a different reader with different preferences - fans of The Weight of Feathers would probably dig this. i will say that i liked the author’s note very much, in which rossner discusses her intentions and inspirations, both historical and literary. i wish more of that had found its way into the story. come to my blog!

  4. 4 out of 5

    destiny ♎ [howling libraries]

    If there are a few things I love in my fantasy stories, they are: 1) good, diverse representation, 2) fairytale vibes and/or retellings, 3) historical settings, and 4) animals and/or shape-shifters. This book checks all those boxes, plus either other chapter is poetry (and if you didn’t know, I adore stories in verse), so basically this was one of the most “on brand for me” books I’ve ever seen in my life and I was absolutely ecstatic to read it. There have always been rumors about the Kodari f If there are a few things I love in my fantasy stories, they are: 1) good, diverse representation, 2) fairytale vibes and/or retellings, 3) historical settings, and 4) animals and/or shape-shifters. This book checks all those boxes, plus either other chapter is poetry (and if you didn’t know, I adore stories in verse), so basically this was one of the most “on brand for me” books I’ve ever seen in my life and I was absolutely ecstatic to read it. There have always been rumors about the Kodari forest and the hidden things within it. Now I know we are a part of that unseen world. Like all the best fairytales, The Sisters of the Winter Wood is written at the most fascinating crossroads of whimsy and despair, and it works perfectly. The mood of the entire story is captivating and beautiful, but beneath, there lies something sinister, plots of revenge and betrayal, and the tragedy of a society that devalues Jews and women. It’s a fast read, and that’s a good thing, because I could hardly put it down—I had to know what would happen next, whether Liba and Laya would be safe or not, and could either of the sisters fight fate and family to determine their own futures? Death lives here. Death will always live here. The writing and plot are pleasant, but this felt like a mostly character-driven story to me, and I loved the way those characters were brought to life. A substantial portion of the story revolves around their family’s beliefs and the ways they are treated—on a lesser note, the disdain cast their way by many other Jews due to their mother having converted to Judaism, and on a much larger scale, the torment that Jewish people have endured at the hands of many. As I’m not Jewish, I obviously can’t speak from that perspective, but I can say that I thought their beliefs were depicted beautifully, and I loved learning more about Liba and her family’s customs. It broke my heart to see the struggles they faced, and during one scene near the end, I couldn’t stop crying because it had suddenly become so real and sad. On the other hand, the representation I can speak on is the plus size rep, which I adored. Liba is plus-sized, and her self-doubt worried me at first—would this be another tragic tale of an overweight girl feeling worthless because of her size?—but I quickly realized that wasn’t the case at all. Instead, Rossner paints a realistic and familiar image of a young woman who frets over her size and feels inadequate for it, while her loved ones—including the man who pursues her—find her beautiful and wondrous. Perhaps there are different breeds of men. What separates one from the other? On a less tragic note, there are a few different romantic subplots here—the main being between Liba and Dovid, a local boy who she finds herself falling for despite her own self-doubt and reservations. While the development of their relationship definitely struggled with insta-love, Dovid was so genuinely pure and precious and lovable that I couldn’t help but root for them, anyways. The other romantic subplots in the story technically also are insta-love, but they have explanations behind them that I won’t spoil you for—I’ll just say that it’s only a minor flaw in the story. Beyond the fantasy aspect, the romance, and the lovely representation, The Sisters of the Winter Wood is a story of family love, the mountains we will climb to ensure our loved ones’ safety, and the power of a people who are willing to fight for their beliefs and their survival, regardless of what the world throws at them. It is an absolutely stunning tale in at atmospheric setting that transported me right into the Kodari forest, and by the end, I didn’t want to leave. Rena Rossner is a natural, and I highly encourage you to pick up a copy of this gorgeous story and see for yourself. 4.5 stars! Content warnings for anti-Semitism, minor body horror, abduction, body shaming, murder. All quotes come from an advance copy and may not match the final release. Thank you so much to Orbit for providing me with this ARC in exchange for an honest review!

  5. 5 out of 5

    Will Byrnes

    For there is no friend like a sister In calm or stormy weather; To cheer one on the tedious way, To fetch one if one goes astray, To lift one if one totters down, To strengthen whilst one stands. -----From Goblin Market by Christina Rosetti I know what might be happening to me; I just don’t know if I want it to happen, and I have a feeling that there’s nothing I can do to stop it once it starts. Once upon a time two sisters lived in a house in the woods. Liba (almost 18) and Laya (15) are the For there is no friend like a sister In calm or stormy weather; To cheer one on the tedious way, To fetch one if one goes astray, To lift one if one totters down, To strengthen whilst one stands. -----From Goblin Market by Christina Rosetti I know what might be happening to me; I just don’t know if I want it to happen, and I have a feeling that there’s nothing I can do to stop it once it starts. Once upon a time two sisters lived in a house in the woods. Liba (almost 18) and Laya (15) are the yin and yang of this story. Liba is zaftig, with dark hair, devoted to her father, her religion and culture. Laya is fair, the pretty one, an uninterested student of religion or homemaking skills. She is flighty, head in the clouds, a dreamer. She yearns to leave, see the world. It’s got to be better than this place. They both wonder about what lies ahead for them. I am always looking for someone, or something, hiding just beyond the forest, past the river, above the trees. A place. A story. A person. A different kind of life. Someone who understands me. Who sees what I see, feels what I feel, who knows, the way I do, that there must be a different way to live. What would happen if I found it? They live in the wooded outskirts of a small town in Bessarabia. When their parents are called away on the death of their father’s father, they are left alone for a spell. It is while their parents are gone that a band of strange merchants arrives at the town. Rena Rossner - image from the author’s site Rena Bunder Rossner is a literary agent living in Israel. Also a poet, she was always interested in poetry and refashioning epic poems into novels. For her first novel she chose Christina Rosetti’s 1862 fantastical poem, Goblin Market, often described as a fairy tale for adults. In the poem, (links to the text and readings abound in EXTRA STUFF) a band of goblins (The strange men in the novel are the Hovlins) emerges from the woods to tempt the locals with unnaturally ripe, luscious, juicy fruits. If the word “forbidden” pops to mind, that would be about right. The fruit and their consumption are described in very sensual, sexual terms. You could leave it as a purely sexual presentation, but there also seems a layer of a more chemically-based addiction, creating an unquenchable, and destructive need. The Hovlins appear as attractive men as well, particularly seductive to the young, inexperienced, and adventurous. They chant about their produce, encouraging custom with calls to “come buy, come buy.” Sans cash, Laya pays with a lock of hair. Bad idea. Goblin Market illustration by Arthur Rakham The sisters in this tale have taken on magical properties, as Rossner folds into this retelling of Rosetti’s yarn some magic from the folk tales of the region. These include stories of bear-men and swan-people from Russian and Ukrainian folk tales, and a nod to the classic Greek myth of Zeus and Leda. When Liba sees her father transform into a bear and her mother change into a swan, it explains some odd feelings and bodily manifestations she has been having. Liba is having some unusual experiences herself. What if the fairy tales were true? Leda and the Swan - copied from a painting by Michelangelo Rossner’s reimagining uses her family history to inform the story. It is not in just any generic small town. On the border of Moldova and Ukraine, Dubossary is a town from which her great-uncle emigrated to America, driven by the incessant pogroms that afflicted Jews in the area. Other family members emigrated from the nearby town of Kupel. Both towns figure prominently in this telling. Other historical elements are also incorporated. For example, the Jews of the historical Dubossary really did join together to defend themselves against pogroms, as the literary version captures. Nearby shtetls were not so fortunate. Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s illustration for the original publication The sisters face existential threats, and must rely on each other and members of their close-knit community, and members of their respective extended families, to band together to try to drive off the danger. When some townspeople go missing, people are eager for explanations, and someone to blame. The danger comes not only from the Hovlins seductions, but from low-information locals, eager to believe anti-Semitic blood-libels (fake news, spread by the Hovlins, for their own purposes) and transform those beliefs into carnage. All men are beasts inside. Some just show it differently than others. Rossner peppers the novel with a wonderful collection of Yiddish, Hebrew, and some Ukrainian words and expressions. I knew many of these, but was very grateful for the glossary at the back of the book. They add to the feel of a defined community of people, sharing a special language in addition to sharing a geographical location. Sometimes you become the person you want to be, you give up everything that you are…but family and faith has a way of calling you back. Like the original, this is a tale of sisterly love, devotion, and sacrifice. In addition, Rossner has added the love for community, family, religion, and tradition, reflecting her real-world values. As with the original there is abundant, and steamy, if only suggestive, sexuality. Am I attracted to him or do I just want to eat him? The transformation in Goblin Market may have been the industrial transformation of England, (the change represented by the goblins being the availability, made possible by industrialization, of things previously considered exotic) but here it is a change from at least some level of mutual tolerance to the arrival of extermination-level anti-semitism. We can all become what we need to be in a time of danger… The story is told in alternating chapters, this sister then that. Laya chapters are presented in a verse form, reflecting her more poetic nature, while Liba’s chapters are more traditional prose. One result is that the page count for the book is a bit deceptive. My ARE comes in at 429 pps. But it reads much faster than that because there is so much less text on the pages in Laya’s chaps. Buy from us with a golden curl - by Dante Gabriel Rossetti Gripes – not a lot really. I thought the ending could have been a lot more adventurous. Sometimes there were maybe too many foreign words being used. It interrupted the flow for me, driving me back and forth to the translate device or glossary. Dad was way too understanding when his wife tells him the truth of a secret she had been keeping for many years. Whether you prefer your bears, black, brown, polar, grizzly, gummi, Smoky, Yogi, Teddy, or Bryant, whether you prefer your swans black, mute, tundra, whooper, trumpeter, Emma, Charlie or Lynn, you will find plenty to like in Rena Rossner’s Sisters of the Winter Wood, a beautifully painted portrait of a place and time both real and imaginary. Who doesn’t like a grown-up fairy tale? Children know that there are monsters, and fairy tales tell them where the monsters can be defeated. - from the Professional Book Nerds audio Review posted – September 28, 2018 Publication date – September 24, 2018 =============================EXTRA STUFF Links to the author’s personal, Twitter and FB pages Items of Interest - author -----A nice video intro to the book by author Rena Rossner ----- Professional Book Nerds - Ep. #259 Talkin’ Fairy Tales with Rena Rossner, Laini Taylor, and Naomi Novik - Audio 28:49 - retelling old tales in a new way -----Interview – Tracy Scott Townsend - Author In the Limelight: Rena Rossner - July 16, 2018 – A nice interview, with a focus on writing – niceMaybe YOU actually really do love the writing process. I personally love the rewriting process. It’s not just that my first drafts suck. It’s more than that. My first drafts aren’t books. They are piles of bones. And only when I finish with all the bones can I go back and figure out which bones are missing and what goes where until I make a skeleton. And then I start again.Goblin Market -----Full text of the poem - from The Poetry Foundation -----Shirley Henderson’s magical reading, with an intro on Rossetti – from Poetry Please – The actual reading begins at about 3:20 of the audio. While Henderson’s reading is wonderful, it is also very fast-paced. You might want to have the text at hand to better allow you to follow along. -----A video recitation by Shona Campbellis also quite good – 20:55 – a bit more manageable a pace -----This reading by Jane Aker is done at an even more measured pace. You might be able to follow along without the text at hand – 26:34 More -----History of the Jews in Bessarabia -----Rossner says that The Tale of Tsar Saltan offered particular inspiration -----The full text of it -----The myth of Zeus and Leda Playlist -----Swan Lake - London Philharmonic -----Sisters - from the movie White Christmas -----Into the Woods – full original Broadway cast album -----Wild Thing - The Troggs

  6. 4 out of 5

    James Lafayette Tivendale

    Every family has a secret... and every secret tells a story. I received an advanced reader copy of The Sisters of the Winter Wood in exchange for an honest review. I would like to thank Rena Rossner and Orbit Books for this opportunity. The titular sisters and their parents live close to the village of Dubossary and reside in a house that is close to the woods. They are a Jewish family in a tale that is like a melting pot of reality, Jewish mythology and a Brothers Grimm fairy tale. The sisters L Every family has a secret... and every secret tells a story. I received an advanced reader copy of The Sisters of the Winter Wood in exchange for an honest review. I would like to thank Rena Rossner and Orbit Books for this opportunity. The titular sisters and their parents live close to the village of Dubossary and reside in a house that is close to the woods. They are a Jewish family in a tale that is like a melting pot of reality, Jewish mythology and a Brothers Grimm fairy tale. The sisters Laya and Liba are very different in personalities. This can even be seen in the way that their chapters are presented. Liba is the older, more serious, religious and over-analytical sister and her point of view chapters are written in a way you would expect from a modern fantasy novel. Detailed and explaining to the best of her knowledge what is happening in the world. Laya, her younger sister is daring, free, floaty and ambitious. Her sections are presented in a poetic stanza-like quality. Her chapters feel like a breeze in the air compared to the deeper and more thought-provoking chapters of her sibling. She occasionally repeats herself in a dreamlike state. "I've had too much wine. Too much fruit. And no answers. But I just want to kiss him again and again and again." Towards the beginning of the novel, their parents inform them of what is up until that point secret mind-blowing family knowledge and then leave them to fend for themselves in the woods. Mami tells Liba to protect her younger sister from the swans. This is a magical, enchanting, haunting and mysterious debut featuring anti-semitism, enchantments, peculiar love stories, bizarre fruits and unsolvable murders in a small quaint settlement. The elements of magic and mystery were amazing. Rossner's imagination is heightened and colourful yet it is written in a way where people who can become cats, bears, swans and even goblins fits the world expertly and never seems forced or silly. I believe the differences between the two point of view perspectives with Liba's matter of fact views and Laya's cloudy dreamlike take on reality allow readers to open their imagination. Some of the scenes reminded me of a dark Disney fairy tale. The beginning starts at a steady pace. It features short sharp chapters ranging from 1 to 14 pages so it's always addictive and easy to read one more scene. The narrative features Hebrew, Yiddish and Ukranian words and phrases. It does feature a glossary of what these words mean at the back of the book but as a guy who watches foreign films (especially Chinese) without subtitles so I can follow the emotions instead of the meaning I just let it flow and took it in and therefore was familiar with certain phrases at the end. This is an alien, poetic and enchanted world so not knowing the meanings of some of the peculiar words seemed to fit the mise en scene. The only real negative I have about this narrative is that in certain chapters around the middle it seemed to go from Liba "I love this boy, he kissed me and it was great." Laya "I kissed this boy, I want to kiss him again." This seemed to go on for about 4-5 chapters and I'm not really into lovey-dovey romance in my fantasy. I can see why the author had these sections and they do add to the overall progression arcs for both the sisters but I just wish that they had other actions in between. The love seemed a bit too in my face! At this point, I did have to force myself to carry on but I did because I'd heard so many great things about this novel. This is a complex and unpredictable tale with a spectacular finale and I'm glad I carried on reading it. I read The Sisters of the Winter Wood in 3 days and that is including the fact I struggled with a handful of romance chapters. It analysed a Hansel and Gretal vibe from the beginning and some events here aren't that far away from that classic tale. Nobody and nothing is safe in the woods and the two girls are always running off into this enchanted forest. Whether to rescue each other or for their own needs. This really was the sort of novel I needed to read right now. It's excellent, perhaps more suited for younger and female readers however there are dark moments. One scene to do with blood-sucking and poisoning in particular. The trees are alive, the swans are trying to kidnap someone, the bears might be murderers, the new boys in town are charming women before they disappear. There is so much going on and it is excellent. The Sisters of the Winter Wood will be a huge hit, perhaps as popular as The Bear and the Nightingale. I can't recommend it enough. It doesn't get a higher rating because of the romance force-fed action in the middle but that's my personal taste and I still highly recommend it.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Julie

    My official review! Do NOT miss this book if you enjoy languorously paced, character-driven dark fairy tales and fantasies like "The Bear and the Nightingale" or "Uprooted." "This dark fairy tale about sisterly love and Jewish strength and courage, set against the backdrop of a deep and deadly winter forest, will haunt me for a long time. A powerful, emotional debut."

  8. 4 out of 5

    Emma

    Oh, how I wish this were darker. The winter wood held little chill. Its thorns were so small and brittle. Two girls, one fair, one dark, live with their Tati and Mami in a house by the forest, a simple life of religion and toil. When a stranger appears at the door one night, telling of an extended family about whom they knew nothing, Liba and Laya’s lives are changed forever. Their parents are made suddenly mysterious by their secret pasts, with tales of transformations and violent transgressions b Oh, how I wish this were darker. The winter wood held little chill. Its thorns were so small and brittle. Two girls, one fair, one dark, live with their Tati and Mami in a house by the forest, a simple life of religion and toil. When a stranger appears at the door one night, telling of an extended family about whom they knew nothing, Liba and Laya’s lives are changed forever. Their parents are made suddenly mysterious by their secret pasts, with tales of transformations and violent transgressions both incredible and horribly true. When the two girls are left alone, they must come to terms with what they have discovered, whilst even greater dangers hover at their doorstep. Family is at the heart of the book, especially the ways in which each member remains somewhat unknown to the others no matter how close. Most of all though, this is a story of two sisters, their coming of age right at the centre of the plot. Their sheltered, separate lives are magnified by both their Jewishness and by their as yet unfulfilled transformative powers. These issues form intertwining strands of their search for identity independent from their parents and each other, fulfilled through increasing self awareness and emotional/romantic discoveries. Laya’s verse sections were an interesting and effective way to showcase the oppositional nature of there two as well as the divergence between their experiences. Even though it followed no poetic framework I could discern, the simple adjustment to placement on the page immediately altered the way the words and even Laya's character were perceived. In a book about changes of form, it made an overtly visual point about the validity of different ways of seeing and feeling which forms one of the overarching themes of the book. Certainly, it made an excellent counterpoint to Liba’s traditional, prescribed language and ideas which were all set out in the dominant fashion, with Laya’s more flighty, freer text giving so much more space to both the page and the possibility of being different. Saying that, it would have made a greater impact if the author had aimed for a more genuine poetic form. Again and again, it is through language that dissimilarity is emphasised and enhanced. As people disappear and things start to go wrong, there verbal tearing down of Jews is how the persecution begins. The author’s liberal use of Hebrew, Yiddish, and Ukrainian words and phrases is suggestive of a shared language of cultural understanding, one to which Liba very much subscribes at the beginning of the book, but in reality it highlights how easily language can be used to bind or destroy. The alienation felt by some readers due to this use of vocabulary only highlights how significant and separating a factor it is. Things said or withheld form an important part of the relationship between the sisters; as they grow into individuals, the greater distance between them only enhances the uncertainty about what can be shared without negative consequences. This is further played out within the larger village community in which, though accepting on the surface, there is a definite separation between the Jewish community and others. It is made clear that difference of any sort will always be punished in some form or another, the ongoing snubbing of the girls’ mother being the prime example. Set against a historical background in which propaganda is utilised to whip up hatred and violence, such divisions have the potential for disater. Yet all of this complexity is undermined by the neat ending, even if, once again, words are the essential means by which change is enacted. Overall, It needed be a much darker tale. The potential was there. The mythical and fairy tales on which this was based all have deeply sexual, violent themes and the discriminatory language and behaviour which leads to murderous violence against Jews within the narrative has clear historical origins. In fact, the author has a section at the end of the book that details the ways in which persecution and pogroms in Dubossary and Kupel affected her family, leading to desperate escape and even death. But instead, this is a story of youthful romance, a happy-ever-after tale of first kisses and forever love. It’s not what I was expecting. Instead of Grimm’s, this is Disney sanitised, with only the barest hints of the more monstrous reality. It’s a YA tale wrapped up in a beautiful bow, but the marketing to adult readers is going to leave many disappointed. It’s precisely the kind of retelling that we want to read, but it’s just too young to hold anything more than the most superficial meaning. ARC via publisher

  9. 5 out of 5

    Roman Clodia

    If you enjoy modern whimsical re-tellings of folklore and fairy tales with a smattering of history (here Jewish pogroms in pre-Revolutionary Russia/Ukraine) then this might be for you. I liked the intentions but found this too YA and unsophisticated for my tastes. The two sisters, especially, are schematic: Liba is bear-like, dark, aligned with her father, and tells her story in prose; Laya is swan-like, white-blonde, aligned with her mother, and narrates in 'poetry' (really, though, this is just If you enjoy modern whimsical re-tellings of folklore and fairy tales with a smattering of history (here Jewish pogroms in pre-Revolutionary Russia/Ukraine) then this might be for you. I liked the intentions but found this too YA and unsophisticated for my tastes. The two sisters, especially, are schematic: Liba is bear-like, dark, aligned with her father, and tells her story in prose; Laya is swan-like, white-blonde, aligned with her mother, and narrates in 'poetry' (really, though, this is just prose broken up with just a few words per line: there's no rhythm, stanzas, poetic form or anything else to make it 'poetry'.) The myths and folkloric elements are a mix of classical Greek (Leda and the swan), Hebrew, Russian/Ukrainian, and jumbled up with Christina Rossetti's 'Goblin Market' though in lots of ways this is far less dark and ambiguous than the originals.The end, especially, where love is the cure for everything is too pat and unsatisfying. Worth a read but don't expect anything challenging or sophisticated. Proof via Amazon Vine

  10. 5 out of 5

    Lou

    This had so much potential, bucket loads in fact, but it sadly wasn't as alluring as I thought it was going to be. Don't get me wrong, this is still a beautiful book, I just felt it may have been a five star read in the making. The story moves slowly and takes quite a while before it moves at a better pace, and it has an authentic fairytale feel about it which I very much enjoyed. Told from Liba and Laya's perspective with each alternating chapter, the differing points of view add more interest This had so much potential, bucket loads in fact, but it sadly wasn't as alluring as I thought it was going to be. Don't get me wrong, this is still a beautiful book, I just felt it may have been a five star read in the making. The story moves slowly and takes quite a while before it moves at a better pace, and it has an authentic fairytale feel about it which I very much enjoyed. Told from Liba and Laya's perspective with each alternating chapter, the differing points of view add more interest to the story. It did feel as though we were information deficient as there simply weren't enough clues to be able to piece everything together in this world and with these characters. It discusses the Jewish faith sensitively, but there are quite a lot of tropes on show here. There is also a lot of Yiddish vocabulary which is difficult to understand unless you know the language. This affected the flow of the novel somewhat. A dark, mystical fantasy for those who loved 'The Bear & The Nightingale'. Atmospheric, gripping and enchanting, I thoroughly enjoyed this one. A promising debut from an author I will be keeping an eye open for in the future. I'm very excited to see what she does next! Many thanks to Orbit for an ARC. I was not required to post a review, and all thoughts and opinions expressed are my own.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Ova - Excuse My Reading

    This book was a huge disappointment for me. I really love this genre and this won my heart by the mention of Uprooted and Bear and the Nightingale. These two books were also mentioning/telling other cultures, using cultural references as background; Uprooted Polish and Bear and Nightingale Russian. So a Jewish tale sounded so promising, as I thought it'll be interesting to read. But in Sisters of the Winterwood isn't using Jewish culture. It's overwhelmed by the religion and the endless terms. R This book was a huge disappointment for me. I really love this genre and this won my heart by the mention of Uprooted and Bear and the Nightingale. These two books were also mentioning/telling other cultures, using cultural references as background; Uprooted Polish and Bear and Nightingale Russian. So a Jewish tale sounded so promising, as I thought it'll be interesting to read. But in Sisters of the Winterwood isn't using Jewish culture. It's overwhelmed by the religion and the endless terms. Religious terms, (if they are really, as I have no idea what all that words mean, apart from Bat Mitzvah never heard any of them) are so many that I lost my concentration. It is I don't think it's possible for anyone not knowing Judaism to keep up with this book. There are too many Hebrew(?) words, and I had no idea what they meant. The proof didn't have any footnotes or explanations. I kept reading up to the point I felt like I am completely detached from the book. Sadly, this isn't for me.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Sylvie

    3.5/5 stars. So, I just realized I have never posted the review of this book, which I've written it the minute I finished it. Before reading this I saw a lot of comparison to Naomi Novak's books and I haven't read any of her books, yet. And while liking this book, I'm considering to give Naomi's books a shot. What I liked: -The cover: one of the most gorgeous covers of this year. I usually don't judge books by their covers but I couldn't help myself this time. -The hisorical aspects in them. Apper 3.5/5 stars. So, I just realized I have never posted the review of this book, which I've written it the minute I finished it. Before reading this I saw a lot of comparison to Naomi Novak's books and I haven't read any of her books, yet. And while liking this book, I'm considering to give Naomi's books a shot. What I liked: -The cover: one of the most gorgeous covers of this year. I usually don't judge books by their covers but I couldn't help myself this time. -The hisorical aspects in them. Apperantely Liba & Laya's mother is a descendant of Anastasia Romanov (which I know is unrealistic, because she along with her family were executed on July 17th 1918). However I won't go into too much detail about it, since this is fictional. -The religious ''conflicts'' between Christians and Jews. In this story, most of the characters are shapeshifters. The girls' father who's Jewish turns into a bear and their mother who's Christian turns into a swan. - I loved the idea of the story, it was unique, magical and enchanting, but I wouldn't say entirely original. "The Sisters of Winter Wood' is based on different kinds of fairytales and most of them were based on Russian folklore tales, which I've been interested in since my childhood when my mother introduced me to Russian tales. - The Dual POVs from both sisters, but there's a catch: While Liba's chapters were written in first person and in full sentences, Laya's chapters were told in verses and again in first person. - Lastly, I liked that this was about sisterhood, eventually. Meaning: No matter what happens family comes first. What I didn't like: - The characters: Liba (the oldest) & Laya (the youngest) were acting very immature throughout the book. I didn't like them as main characters, because: 1) They were annoying. 2) The sisterly bond between them was lacking, until the end of the book. They didn't hate each other and in the book their relationship is described as if they're thick as thieves, but I saw no deep connection. 3) The mother of those girls cheated on her husband willingly while being married to him and fighting to be together after all the difficulties they had to experience, and she cheated on him just like that. - When the parents left to go and see the girls' grandfather, (who was dying and apparently their father is the last descendant to the throne), the girls started breaking the rules and hanging out with boys they weren't allowed to, thus, not caring what other people will think of their actions. - Why are they youngest of the siblings always has to be the prettiest and the more ''independent'' one in books? That is becoming a cliché and not in a good way.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Anja

    *2.25 DISAPPOINTED STARS* /RANT INCOMING/ I'm afraid this book just wasn't for me, even though lots of people are probably going to love this. This looked and sounded so promising (I mean, have you seen that gorgeous cover?!) and I'm all for discovering new ethnicities, cultures, history and folklore. I was hyped when I read this also involved shapeshifting swans and bears, but I just didn't like the execution at all. This was sooo slow! My main problem was the writing. I love it when books borrow *2.25 DISAPPOINTED STARS* /RANT INCOMING/ I'm afraid this book just wasn't for me, even though lots of people are probably going to love this. This looked and sounded so promising (I mean, have you seen that gorgeous cover?!) and I'm all for discovering new ethnicities, cultures, history and folklore. I was hyped when I read this also involved shapeshifting swans and bears, but I just didn't like the execution at all. This was sooo slow! My main problem was the writing. I love it when books borrow or use facts that actually happened in real life (like in this case, the pogroms in Ukraine/Russia) and use some words pertaining to that culture, but this was just excessive. The author mixed in so many Yiddish/Hebrew/Russian words, I didn't understand what was going on half of the time, which is why it took me super long to finish this. I also feel like the book focused more on the YA aspect of it all, like the sexual awakening and romance both sisters dealt with, while I would've been more interested in the actual historic part and learning more about the pogroms and Jewish traditions. I also didn't like either of the sisters, though Liba was clearly my favorite of the two. I just wanted to whack Laya on the head the entire time. Laya's chapters were also written entirely in verse (to stress the difference between both sisters I guess, or because Laya is supposed to be the dreamier one) which just seemed unnecessary to me. I felt really detached from everything that happened. The ending was very unsatisfying to me and felt rushed. Everything the book had been building up towards, got resolved in a couple of pages and I just expected more. I probably would've loved this if the writing was different and the story advanced a bit faster, but maybe that's just me though. Received a free copy of this book from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for my honest review.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Lady Clementina ffinch-ffarowmore

    My thanks to NetGalley and Little Brown and Co for a review copy of the book. This is a retelling of Christina Rossetti’s poem Goblin Market but also much more, it weaves in folklore, history, myth and magic. This is the story of two sisters Liba, nearly eighteen, and fifteen-year-old Laya who’ve been living with their Tati and Mami in the woods on the outskirts of Dubossary, on the border between Moldova and Ukraine. Their family has never been accepted really in town for their mother is a conve My thanks to NetGalley and Little Brown and Co for a review copy of the book. This is a retelling of Christina Rossetti’s poem Goblin Market but also much more, it weaves in folklore, history, myth and magic. This is the story of two sisters Liba, nearly eighteen, and fifteen-year-old Laya who’ve been living with their Tati and Mami in the woods on the outskirts of Dubossary, on the border between Moldova and Ukraine. Their family has never been accepted really in town for their mother is a convert, and their father has had to leave home and his town (Kupel) because he married an ‘outsider’. When word comes that Tati’s father is ill and on his deathbed, Tati and Mami must go to see him but the girls must stay in their house, for they don’t have travel documents and the times are not safe. Before their parents leave, Liba and Laya discover the truth about their parents and themselves, that Tati (and Liba) can ‘shift’ into bears and Laya like Mami can change into a swan. The sisters have only each other to rely on when the mysterious Hovlin brothers come into the village, with their fruit stall temping buyers including Laya, but also spewing venom again Jews. Other things are happening as well which put their lives and those of all the Jews in that part of the world at risk. The girls must also deal with the truths about themselves and how this will affect their dreams, ambitions, love, and even their relationship with each other. I really enjoyed this book a lot and there were many many aspects I loved about it, though a few things perhaps prevented it from being a five-star read for me. I enjoyed that the story in alternate chapters is told from each sister’s perspective—Liba’s in prose and Laya’s in verse—and thought the author really succeeded in Liba’s chapters coming through as more grounded, sensible, ‘sane’ even reflecting her personality, while Laya’s are lighter, dreamier, some feel almost entirely as though one were in a dream, and the parts describing her falling into the Goblins’ trap are so well done, one can literally see her getting trapped without even realising what’s happening (In some ways Liba and Laya to me were comparable to Elinor and Marianne from Sense and Sensibility—and so Laya did end up annoying me too!). I also enjoyed the strong cultural and folklore elements in the story very much. Liba is strongly attached to her religion, culture, and customs and those elements are woven through the story very well. I loved the use of phrases in Hebrew, Ukrainian, and Yiddish though I only realised there was a glossary when I got to the end (since I wasn’t reading a physical copy). Their cultural background and folklore elements of the sisters’ bear and swan heritage also impacts on their characters, their personalities, things that may attract or repel them. There was a point in the story where I wasn’t too sure what was happening, where everything was headed—but then I stopped for a bit and looked up Goblin Market online—a poem I wasn’t familiar with—and once I had an idea of that story, the book began to make much more sense. I could then see the different plotlines more clearly, and see better how they were flowing along and interacting with each other. Then there were also the historical elements of the plot, the pogroms of the early 1900s which led many of the Jewish community in the region to lose their lives, their homes, and all they had. This was a period of history that I didn’t know much about, and I only realised after reading the author’s note at the end that she had used actual events as the base for that part of the plot, and experiences her own family had gone through. And the book’s message in terms of culture, community, and the need to understand and accept difference comes most strongly from this aspect of the plot. This was also a pretty fast paced book, which kept me reading thoughout, as I wanted to see how everything would resolve (or not) and how things would pan out for the different characters. I thought the author did a great job of weaving together the different plotlines such that nothing felt like it wasn’t really needed, even the love stories of the sisters (though it felt like at one point in the story, this was the only element focused on) had a purpose. However, reading the book, it still felt as though too much was going on—the real, the fantastic—there is the goblin market plot; the sisters struggling with their identities, their relationships with each other, with their parents, their ‘boyfriends’; the folklore–fairy tale elements; the historical parts of the plot—just an awful lot for two young girls to deal with. It wasn’t that I couldn’t keep track of what was going on—I could; I also liked that all of these plotlines had a resolution, only that it felt like too much. This was overall a really good read for me and I enjoyed it very much! And I cannot end this review without saying what an absolutely gorgeous cover this one has as well—that was what grabbed my attention in the first place! This review also appears on my blog at: https://potpourri2015.wordpress.com/2...

  15. 5 out of 5

    Katya Becerra

    This book was one of my most highly anticipated debuts of 2018 - and it absolutely delivered! I'm enthralled by it, by its hypnotic writing, unique setting, and the dual-voiced narrative that is clever and so beautiful. I particularly enjoyed all the linguistic and cultural descriptions in this Jewish fantasy. I highly recommend it, and can't wait for Rena Rossner's next book!

  16. 5 out of 5

    ♥ Kayleigh Kehoe ⚜ (Awkword Reviews)✍

    ♡ blog ♡ bookstagram "'He is a hunter, or did you not know that? All men are beasts inside. Some just show it differently than others.'" Liba and Laya are two Jewish sisters that live in a small village surrounded by forest. When there is a knock on the door one night, it wakes the older sister, Liba, up, and as she eavesdrops she hears and sees parts of her current reality, past and future that were previously obscured from her. Her grandfather is dying. And Liba's father is needed at his side ♡ blog ♡ bookstagram "'He is a hunter, or did you not know that? All men are beasts inside. Some just show it differently than others.'" Liba and Laya are two Jewish sisters that live in a small village surrounded by forest. When there is a knock on the door one night, it wakes the older sister, Liba, up, and as she eavesdrops she hears and sees parts of her current reality, past and future that were previously obscured from her. Her grandfather is dying. And Liba's father is needed at his side. After hearing this news, Liba's father reveals his true self; a giant bear with deep dark fur and blue eyes. Before her parents leave for Kupel, Liba's mother tells her the family's deep secret: yes, her father is a bear, and her mother is a swan. Laya will also be a swan one day. And Liba... Liba will soon become a bear. Terrified of managing without her parents, and even more terrified of her own true nature, Liba does what is necessary to prevent Laya from finding out the truth. To be honest, my synopsis doesn't give this book justice. It only shows one small portion of the novel and it's story, but I'm not entirely sure my limited semantics will allow me to put into words just how beautifully surreal The Sisters of the Winter Wood is. This novel is a dark fairy tale, a retelling of Goblin Market by Christina Rossetti. It contains immense elements of fantasy versus the appalling truth of our world's history and antisemitism. I have never read anything quite like it before. The entertainment and appeal was there wholly; yet the nasty, honest undertone of anti-semites that was ripe in the 1900s was there in its raw, uncovered discriminatory form. Rena Rossner was knowledgable, picking upon true events to give the story an extra edge; a texture that proved necessary. When I read the Author's Note, I genuinely cried. I'll be frank, I wasn't sure if I liked it at first, I found that the language was too foreign and unfamiliar for me to make sense out of anything - or to read smoothly - since I had to keep stopping and stumbling over words that I was clueless on how to pronounce. I persevered. It was worth it. Eventually, I got used to the strangely enchanting colloquial language, and the story soon began to take the shape of what it is: a sisterly love combating all sorts of dangers ranging from forbidden love to anti semitism. It was immersive and wonderful and I felt like I was sat around a campfire listening to woodland animals and rustling leaves. The imagery produced from the poetic narrative was simply magical. It was historical yet ominous. Unfamiliar yet familiar. The characters were thought through very well; their respective introspection was deep and insightful, identifying with human beings as people, rather than to individual reader preferences. I favoured Liba over Laya. I always find myself relating intensely to characters who are uncomfortable with themselves. Liba was one of them. Scared of who she really is, and the unfathomable damage she could cause, Liba has to learn to let go, whilst Laya has to learn to find home. One initial gripe of mine: Laya's point of view is written in verse. It's not everybody's cup of tea. And I didn't think it would be mine at first until the storyline dragged me under and I would have read any word the author had written, be it in the book, or not. I began enjoying the verses, next the blocky narrative of Liba, the alternating points of view and the prose in which they were written reflected the characters inner selves. Liba: stout, honest, strong. Laya: graceful, flighty, lithe. These characters were justified in the fairytale the author had painted. This book is now released - I have already purchased it - and I can't wait to read it again! Thank you to Net Galley for this ARC in exchange for an honest review.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Adam Sockel

    There are not many books I can think of that so beautifully tell a story of family, love, magic, pain and culture like this. Rena has created a powerful story of two sisters, bound by the unique magic that both connects them and sets them apart. Equal parts prose and poetry, the dizzying, circular story reminds me Wintersong by S Jae-Jones as well as And the Trees Crept In by Dawn Kurtagich. All of these stories keep you guessing and somewhat confused until you reach the final page and can, quit There are not many books I can think of that so beautifully tell a story of family, love, magic, pain and culture like this. Rena has created a powerful story of two sisters, bound by the unique magic that both connects them and sets them apart. Equal parts prose and poetry, the dizzying, circular story reminds me Wintersong by S Jae-Jones as well as And the Trees Crept In by Dawn Kurtagich. All of these stories keep you guessing and somewhat confused until you reach the final page and can, quite literally, see the full forest through the trees. A modern day fairy tale in the finest sense of the word. ARC sent in preparation for an upcoming episode of the Professional Book Nerds podcast

  18. 4 out of 5

    Sol ~ TheBookishKing

    Happy Release Day to this Gorgeous Book! Full Review can be found on my Blog Here! This book is so enchanting and wonderful and I'm so glad it's now out in the world for everyone to read! I did just recently finish so it's not like it's been a long wait lol. The Sisters of the Winter Wood is about two sisters (no duh Sol) who live in a small cottage in a small town. This features a Jewish Family, who are very devoted to their faith, and who are removed from their original family and not very accep Happy Release Day to this Gorgeous Book! Full Review can be found on my Blog Here! This book is so enchanting and wonderful and I'm so glad it's now out in the world for everyone to read! I did just recently finish so it's not like it's been a long wait lol. The Sisters of the Winter Wood is about two sisters (no duh Sol) who live in a small cottage in a small town. This features a Jewish Family, who are very devoted to their faith, and who are removed from their original family and not very accepted by their fellow village-mates. This family relies so much on each other and I love a good strong supporting family who all love each other beyond words. They’re just living their lives when one night a visitor comes to their house and it affects their parents beyond words. Events occur and Liba and Laya’s parents must go away but not before imparting upon the sisters a revelation that changes their lives forever. And uh that’s seriously all I can say because the events after that are spoilers but this book is beautiful. I adore this book so so much. It focuses heavily on Russian Folklore, and I don’t know much about Russian Folklore but I just know that is what the book was grounded on. This is also a retelling of the Goblin Market which I adore the Goblin Market and it was done perfectly. It hit me with such a shock when it came to the spoiler and the book took a huge turn that I didn’t expect. But I love the turn wholeheartedly. The writing in this book is so amazing and lyrical, it just sucks you in into its prose and the storyline. I’m not sure if everyone will love this just because it does read slow, and because half of the book is told in verse. This will be on my favorites of the year, as it made me love all the characters, the story, and how magical it is. Another aspect that I enjoyed was that there is a lot of figuring yourself out and figuring out what you want to be in life. I do hope everyone gives it a chance as this is such a great book. Review Copy received in exchange for an honest review from Orbit Books

  19. 4 out of 5

    Diane

    I'm not sure there are enough superlatives to describe this book. First, there's the magnificent cover. It sets the tone for the book better than any cover I've seen. The story was beautifully written--much of it in a prose poem style that works fantastically well to convey the thoughts and conversation of the characters. Two girls lost in the woods. How many fairy tales have had that theme? But this book twists and turns the cliche into something breathtaking and fascinating and new. (See how m I'm not sure there are enough superlatives to describe this book. First, there's the magnificent cover. It sets the tone for the book better than any cover I've seen. The story was beautifully written--much of it in a prose poem style that works fantastically well to convey the thoughts and conversation of the characters. Two girls lost in the woods. How many fairy tales have had that theme? But this book twists and turns the cliche into something breathtaking and fascinating and new. (See how many superlatives I've already used?) One of my favorite scenes describes a Shabbat dinner. The food, the table settings, the people around the table, and love in the room--all were unforgettable. I'm not Jewish, so I also appreciated the opportunity to learn something of a religion I'm not that familiar with, a time I know little about, and a place I know nothing about. Such a lovely book. I'm convinced it will be an instant classic.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Lauren (laureads_)

    Wow. This book was absolutely incredible. It’s dark, beautiful and atmospheric. This is one of the best books I have read...ever. I was completely captivated by the beautiful writing, the atmospheric world building and the dark fairytale being told. I loved how this was about finding yourself and learning to not be afraid or ashamed of who you truly are. I loved how it is about sibling bonds and the loyalty between 2 sisters. I, myself, always value loyalty and I am loyal to my family no matter w Wow. This book was absolutely incredible. It’s dark, beautiful and atmospheric. This is one of the best books I have read...ever. I was completely captivated by the beautiful writing, the atmospheric world building and the dark fairytale being told. I loved how this was about finding yourself and learning to not be afraid or ashamed of who you truly are. I loved how it is about sibling bonds and the loyalty between 2 sisters. I, myself, always value loyalty and I am loyal to my family no matter what they’ve done or how they annoy me, they are my family and I wouldn’t change them for the world. The writing in this book was captivating, we have Liba’s chapters told in the normal chapter format & Laya’s chapters are written in verse. It took only a couple of chapters to get used to this and I love it. I loved how different it was to read and how it made the story even more magical. I really enjoyed both Liba & Laya, I found Liba to be stronger than her sister and her loyalty was so fierce and unwavering even when Laya did the most stupid things and said really hurtful things, but again, as a sibling I understand how Liba was able to forgive her. Some of Laya’s choices I found a bit questionable but I guess that’s down to the spell she was under. I got really strong Wintersong vibes from this and that’s probably due to the fact that it’s like a fairytale retelling of Goblin Market which, even though I haven’t read, I seem to be obsessed with books that have this sort of vibe going on and I need more books like it!! I love how this felt like reading a dark Russian fairytale and I love the aspect of the Jews - which I have never read a book with Jews in before that I was completely enthralled by this story. I also love anything that has a Russian vibe going on so this book was perfect for me. I will admit that this book starts out a little slow but that never put me off. The powerful story makes up for this in so many ways that I couldn’t help but fall completely in love with this book. Hands down one of my best reads of 2018, and if you’re unsure wether to pick it up - I urge you to.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Acqua

    DNF at 33% The Sisters of the Winter Wood is a historical fantasy novel following a Jewish Ukrainian family. The two main characters are Liba and her younger sister Laya, and this is a story of self-discovery that almost reads like a dark fairytale, partly inspired by Christina Rossetti's Goblin Market and by many Russian and Ukrainian folktales. Sadly, I couldn't get into this book at all. Half of it, Laya's PoV, is written in verse. I usually don't agree with those who say that modern poetry is DNF at 33% The Sisters of the Winter Wood is a historical fantasy novel following a Jewish Ukrainian family. The two main characters are Liba and her younger sister Laya, and this is a story of self-discovery that almost reads like a dark fairytale, partly inspired by Christina Rossetti's Goblin Market and by many Russian and Ukrainian folktales. Sadly, I couldn't get into this book at all. Half of it, Laya's PoV, is written in verse. I usually don't agree with those who say that modern poetry is just prose randomly broken up, but... this totally felt like prose randomly broken up. I don't understand why it was even told that way - there was nothing poetic about it, it just felt stilted. Not that the writing in Liba's PoV was much better. All the dialogue felt really forced to me, and I can't figure out if the way the writing always kept me at arm's length from the characters was intentional or not. If it hadn't been for the writing, I'm sure I would have liked this, maybe even loved it. The dark, mysterious atmosphere was there, there were a lot of food mentions and descriptions (worldbuilding done through food is my favorite kind of worldbuilding), and this blend of fairytales, coming-of-age themes and history could have been a very good adult/YA crossover. Unfortunately, I just couldn't finish it.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Joshee Kun (조수아)

    I’m not ready for this. Could they have come for her already? I wish Tati was still here. I wish Mami had told me more… I didn't expect this book to be a combination of fantasy and history. Melanie and Solomon, my blogger friends, liked it a lot. And understandably so. The writing was remarkably poetic, evoking an atmosphere of magic and whimsy. As for me, my enjoyment was significantly reduced by certain tropes. At its core, The Sisters of the Winter Wood is a fairy tale that alludes to many hist I’m not ready for this. Could they have come for her already? I wish Tati was still here. I wish Mami had told me more… I didn't expect this book to be a combination of fantasy and history. Melanie and Solomon, my blogger friends, liked it a lot. And understandably so. The writing was remarkably poetic, evoking an atmosphere of magic and whimsy. As for me, my enjoyment was significantly reduced by certain tropes. At its core, The Sisters of the Winter Wood is a fairy tale that alludes to many historical events, particularly those that involve the Jews. Laya and Liba are twins whose Jewish parents are similar to the Animagus in Harry Potter. Their dad can turn into a bear, while their mom can transform into a swan. Laya and Liba have inherited their powers. One day, strange and lecherous men arrive in their village, luring innocent girls with their poisonous fruit. Laya eventually succumbs to temptation, and it is up to Liba to save her (and possibly the community of Jews). As a Christian reader and history nerd, I loved how this book delineated the persistence of the Jews. In a way, it was reminiscent of World War II and the Holocaust. Many Gentiles resented the protagonists and accused them of heinous crimes, such as witchcraft and murder. However, Liba and her people stayed united and believed in Divine Intervention. As a result, they were able to overcome their oppressors. Jewish tenacity can be seen in reality. Countries like Iraq and Iran want to conquer Israel. Fortunately, their efforts are always to no avail because no one can stand against God's chosen people. I acknowledge that The Sisters of the Winter Wood isn't necessarily Biblical. Nonetheless, for me, its historical plot testifies to God's faithfulness. I would have liked this book more if it hadn't utilized the instalove and flirty-sister tropes. Liba and Dovid's romance was founded on unfamiliarity (both of them admitted this), and Laya, the prettier and more liberal sister, was very similar to famous younger sisters like Tella of Caraval and Kathe of Wintersong. It's nice that many books emphasize the value of sisterhood. However, it's frustrating when authors do it in repetitive ways. In the end, The Sisters of the Winter Wood was pleasing in regards to its elegant writing and historical content. Who would've thought that you could write a fairy tale that was not-so-fantastical? I just wish that it had a believable romance and more unique characters. Happy reading!

  23. 4 out of 5

    Hayley Chewins

    This book is unlike anything I've ever read. It's so beautifully crafted. It's utterly surprising, startling and fresh. It's a sister story, and a Jewish story, and a fairy tale, and a story about first love. It's magical and filled with the most delicious imagery. It's wonderful. Just wonderful. It'll make you believe in the power of language again.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Hannah

    I have decided to just give up on this. I am very much not the right kind of reader for this which is odd because I thought I would love this: I adore fairy-talesque stories influenced by Northern European folklore. I like books described as whimsy. I love stories focussing sibling relationships. But what I don't enjoy is YA-Romance; which this seems to mostly be. I could not get on board with the language nor the tone of the story. I don't think I would have picked this up if I had known that e I have decided to just give up on this. I am very much not the right kind of reader for this which is odd because I thought I would love this: I adore fairy-talesque stories influenced by Northern European folklore. I like books described as whimsy. I love stories focussing sibling relationships. But what I don't enjoy is YA-Romance; which this seems to mostly be. I could not get on board with the language nor the tone of the story. I don't think I would have picked this up if I had known that every second chapter was written in verse. (And to be perfectly honest, the rhythm of the poems did not work for me whatsoever -if they had a lovely cadence I think I could have adored this.) I received an arc of this book courtesy of NetGalley and Little, Brown Book Group UK in exchange for an honest review.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Mogsy (MMOGC)

    3.5 of 5 stars at The BiblioSanctum https://bibliosanctum.com/2018/09/25/... A literary fantasy written in the tradition of books like Uprooted and The Bear and the Nightingale, The Sisters of the Winter Wood is Rena Rossner’s debut which blends magic and history with folklore and stories from her own Jewish ancestry. A nineteenth century narrative poem called Goblin Market by Christina Rossetti also provides much of the inspiration for the novel’s premise which centers on a pair of sisters who a 3.5 of 5 stars at The BiblioSanctum https://bibliosanctum.com/2018/09/25/... A literary fantasy written in the tradition of books like Uprooted and The Bear and the Nightingale, The Sisters of the Winter Wood is Rena Rossner’s debut which blends magic and history with folklore and stories from her own Jewish ancestry. A nineteenth century narrative poem called Goblin Market by Christina Rossetti also provides much of the inspiration for the novel’s premise which centers on a pair of sisters who are tempted by the fruit of goblin merchants, but it is also about so much more. Once upon a time, a swan and a bear fell in love. They married and had two daughters, sisters who are as different from each other as the sun is different from the moon. Liba is dark-haired, serious, and aloof, nothing like the younger Laya, who is blonde, beautiful, and prone to flights of fancy. Born into a Jewish family, the two of them live isolated from the town in the woods with their mother and father, who have kept the secret of their magical heritage from the girls. But as Liba and Laya begin to grow into womanhood, their parents are finally forced to reveal the truth: their Tati can transform into a bear, a gift which he has passed on to Liba, while Laya has inherited the power to turn into a swan, taking after their Mami. However, soon after imparting these earth-shattering revelations, their parents are called away to attend an ailing family member on their deathbed, leaving their daughters with instructions to be careful and to look after themselves and each other while they’re gone. Much to Liba’s dismay though, Laya reacts to this newfound freedom from parental guidance with her usual reckless abandon. The younger girl immediately becomes besotted with one of the shady Hovlin brothers who have recently arrived in town to sell fruit at the market. Meanwhile, other strange things are putting the townsfolk on edge, like rumors of a rogue bear in the woods, people are going missing, and then two horribly mutilated bodies are found near an orchard. Amidst rising anti-Semitic attitudes and fears that her sister is being tempted down a dangerous path, Liba grapples with her own feelings for a young man who claims to be in love with her, as well as the changes to her body brought on by her ursine heritage. The Sisters of the Winter Wood is gorgeously written, if a little over-embellished at times. For example, Laya’s chapters, which alternate between Liba’s, are completely written in verse-form. It’s a stylistic decision that didn’t do much for me personally, though it did help differentiate the contrasts in the sisters’ narrative voices. The prose also has a tendency towards melodrama, using awkward expressions in an attempt to sound more lyrical but more often than not they would merely stick out like a sore thumb. Because of the magical and evocative tone of the novel, however, I would say the writing style effectively adds to the haunting, beguiling atmosphere and the fairy tale undertones the author was obviously trying for. And of course, as with most fairy tales, there are a lot of familiar motifs and tropes at play here, but I was also impressed how Rossner managed to inject a bit of novelty into the story. Plus, by using the familiarity to her advantage, she allows readers to tease out deeper meanings in the areas she has designed to stand out. At the end of the day, stories like these are about the enduring themes anyway—timeless concepts and values like family, devotion, and unconditional love. Needless to say, the bonds of sisterhood play a significant role, and so too does the characters’ Jewish heritage and how that has affected the way their family is treated. This latter subject has a distinct feel of being more personal and emotional to the author, and she gives some insight as to why in her afterword which includes a brief history of her forebears’ escape from the anti-Semitic pogroms of Europe and later the Nazis. There are elements of her family’s story in the setting of this book, creating a mood of high tension and foreboding. Its especially noticeable in Liba’s chapters, hers being the more anxious voice as she worries for her sister and frets over the darkness spreading through her town. That said, this book is probably not for everyone. It’s a rather quiet, slow-moving tale, less plot-driven and more concerned with developing the characters and their relationships. However, fans of stories inspired by fairy tales or grounded in folklore will probably like it, especially if you have also enjoyed the genre’s recent offerings from authors like Naomi Novik and Katherine Arden. At the same time, The Sisters of the Winter Wood isn’t bringing us anything too new when it comes to books in this vein. Like most trends, I think fatigue is starting to set in, which probably explains why I’m not feeling as excited and enchanted by this novel as I wanted to be. Still, I enjoyed it a lot, and it’s absolutely worth taking a look if the description of the book’s story and style appeals to you.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Lauren [DontGoBrekkerMyHeart]

    ‘He gives me a basket full of fruit. “I can’t take this,” I say. “For your sister and you to share.” He puts it in my hands.’ Not only is the cover to this story absolutely beautiful, but the content inside is amazing as well. It flips back and forth between prose and poetry, and I really enjoyed it. It added an extra depth and imagery to each of the sisters points of view. Made the story very unique. I was curious to see how Rena Rossner would juggle the fantastical, historical, Jewish, and Goblin Ma ‘He gives me a basket full of fruit. “I can’t take this,” I say. “For your sister and you to share.” He puts it in my hands.’ Not only is the cover to this story absolutely beautiful, but the content inside is amazing as well. It flips back and forth between prose and poetry, and I really enjoyed it. It added an extra depth and imagery to each of the sisters points of view. Made the story very unique. I was curious to see how Rena Rossner would juggle the fantastical, historical, Jewish, and Goblin Market tones to the story, and they meshed really well. She’s really talented at combining it all because it seemed like it could be slightly overwhelming. It wasn’t in the slightest. The Jewish history and representation was my favorite part. In the authors note you see the inspiration and the reasoning to how/ why Rena wrote this story, and I started tearing up because it only strengthened the message of the story at the end. Lastly, the sisters relationship was fantastic. I always love seeing familial relationships in stories, and this one was indeed genuine and difficult to be honest. The sisters butted heads, and to me that reminded me of my own interactions with my brother. It felt SO real even though the world has fantasy. The sisters are truly their own individuals, but their love for each other binds them together. I connected with both Liba and Laya, depending on the moment within the story, but Liba specifically just spoke to me on another level. A lot of her thoughts have just been in my head before. Lastly, in short there’s a mixture of past and present. Hope and innocence. Sexuality and love. I recommend this story to any one who wants a fantastical walk in the woods. It’s definitely for fans of Uprooted/ Spinning Silver and The Bear and the Nightingale. I cannot wait for y’all to dive into this luscious tale. Thanks Orbit Books for providing me with an ARC to review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Kayla

    This review was originally posted on GracelingAccountant. EVERYONE PLEASE GET ON THIS! THIS IS CURRENTLY ON SALE FOR KINDLE ON AMAZON FOR ONLY 2.99 THIS BOOK IS I N C R E D I B L E Hey Ya’ll! This is my spoiler free review of Sisters of the Winter Wood by Rena Rossner. This is an own voices historical fiction novel with fantastical elements, and I loved everything about it. I think I personally loved the story so much partly because my dad’s side of the family is Jewish and I have been waiting for This review was originally posted on GracelingAccountant. EVERYONE PLEASE GET ON THIS! THIS IS CURRENTLY ON SALE FOR KINDLE ON AMAZON FOR ONLY 2.99 THIS BOOK IS I N C R E D I B L E Hey Ya’ll! This is my spoiler free review of Sisters of the Winter Wood by Rena Rossner. This is an own voices historical fiction novel with fantastical elements, and I loved everything about it. I think I personally loved the story so much partly because my dad’s side of the family is Jewish and I have been waiting for YEARS to find a story with Jewish characters as the main focus (that ISN’T depressing), and this was everything I wanted it to be and more. I recently requested this from Hachette Book Group and was lucky enough to actually receive a finished hardcover copy. Although I received this free of charge, my review is in no way influenced by this and all thoughts expressed in this review are entirely my own. Book Information Genre(s): Young Adult – “Young adult fiction (YA) is a category of fiction published for readers in their youth. YA books are catered towards readers from 12 to 18 years of age.” Historical fiction – “is a literary genre in which the plot takes place in a setting located in the past. An essential element of historical fiction is that it is set in the past and pays attention to the manners, social conditions and other details of the period depicted.” Trigger Warnings: antisemitism (always challenged), captivity, drugging, physical abuse, talk of rape and slavery, murder, torture, death, misogyny, issues with consent, body shaming (comments made regarding the plumpness of a certain character that could be considered triggering). Page Count: 450 Release Year: 2018 Buzz Words: Jewish rep, atmospheric, shapeshifters, prose, ARC, own voices This Advanced Reader Copy was provided by Orbit/Hachette Book Group in exchange for my honest review. Any opinions I state are my own. My Thoughts I’m just going to preface this by saying: there is so much to say about this book and I don’t know that I’ll be able to cover it all in this review, but I’m going to do my best. I don’t know how or when this happened, but this book jumped up to the top of my favorites list. I had such a personal connection to the characters, Liba especially, and the interactions between Liba and Laya were akin to how my sister and I interact, while including the Jewish elements that were so meaningful to me to finally read about in a mostly positive context. I am honestly ready to read this book again, and just thinking about it honestly has me a little emotional and the fact that I have a finished copy in my hands makes me so happy, and I appreciate Hachette book group and Orbit books for the chance to read this enchanting, bittersweet novel. -♥- The Writing The first thing that comes to mind is just how amazing and lyrical Rena’s writing was. I am usually not a fan of poetry, and I didn’t know going into this that half the book would be told in prose, but it honestly just worked for this novel. Her writing was on the level of Naomi Novik and Katherine Arden. It drew me in like I couldn’t believe; I sat down to read and by the time I came up for air I had read 250 pages and I couldn’t believe I was already over halfway done with the book. My only issue, and it’s a small one, on this is the plotlines. There are a couple different stories happening at the same time and I loved them all, but when all the plotlines finally came together it was close to the end of the book and it seemed like it was a little rushed to me. I would have appreciated another 50-100 pages to fully flesh out what happened with the different plotlines, and I felt that the ending (related to the pogrom) wrapped up a little too quickly for my taste. I will say that this did feel like a full novel and could stand on it’s own, but I’m really hoping there will be a sequel. I’d be very interested to read how Liba and Laya handle their current status by the end of the book and how they face the tragedy they were presented with near the close of the story. I think the author definitely left room for more content and I really hope she takes that opportunity and runs with it. This book took inspiration from Goblin Market by Christina Rossetti, and I really loved the elements and the vibe this added to the book. This book was equally mystical, eerie, and melancholy and it was an incredible feeling while reading; I don’t think I’ve experienced the like before. -♥- The World This one is kind of tough to judge if you’re asking if the historical and religious elements are portrayed correctly, because as much as I wish I did, I really don’t know much about my family’s religion. My mother, before she took off, raised me as catholic and I hated church so much I pretty much threw away religion when I was old enough to make the choice for myself. However, I think based on my personal experience, everything seemed accurately portrayed and well researched. I know from my own research that the background she gave on the Jews (that they have had to move from country to country for hundreds of years because they’ve been so persecuted, and that there were often pogroms to wipe them out) is accurate, and the way she portrayed certain things, like meals, nicknames, customs, etc. were pretty accurate to my personal experiences, although I can’t say that it would be the same for everyone. One thing that I thought was very important in the novel, although it wasn’t honestly mentioned much, was the discrimination Liba and Laya’s mother faced because she was a convert and wasn’t a Jew from birth. “The Chassidim here accepted my father with open arms, but nobody accepted my mother. Sometimes I wonder if Reb Mendele and the Ba’al Shem Tov (zichrono livracha) were still with us, would the community treat Mami differently? Would they see how hard she tries to be a good Jew, and how wrong the other Jews in town are for not treating her with love and respect” (7). This is honestly pretty common even nowadays. While I haven’t obviously experienced it, I know that people who convert into Judaism when they marry their spouse often aren’t respected by their spouse’s family. The idea is that they should have been a Jew in the first place, not logical, but accurate nonetheless. One thing I will say is that I really appreciated both the glossary she includes in the back of the book and the author’s note she left regarding her personal background and connection to the story. I found myself recognizing terms I forgot I knew, while also learning new words in Yiddish and Hebrew I didn’t think I’d ever know (you want to know how to tell someone to drop dead in Yiddish? The glossary’s got that!). It’s also really nice to know that the person who’s writing about Judaism is an own voices author and that this is based largely on their personal experience and knowledge. -♥- The Characters Liba Liba was an experience to read from. Often when you read about characters who are religious, you read about characters who are pressured into changing what they believe but that was just not the case for Liba. She believed in Judaism, she respected the tenants and traditions and she didn’t really allow her sister’s questioning to sway her beliefs. She took strength from her religion, ultimately finding love and helping her people because she stuck to her beliefs, and it was honestly so empowering to read. “…I wonder why a small voice is a daughter’s voice. Sometimes I wish my voice could be loud – like a roar. But that is not a modest way to think. The older I get, the more immodest my thoughts become” (6). Liba also deals with body image issues throughout the novel. Liba looks entirely different from her sister Laya. Dark haired, big boned, nicknamed Zaftig, or plump, to her dismay. Her sister, on the other hand, is thin and tall, blonde haired and graceful and Liba is often jealous though she tries not to be. What I appreciated was that her body image issues were not “solved” through dieting or weight loss which is often the case. Liba learns to love herself and her body through the help of her loved ones and her romantic interest, and gains self confidence. Again, everything about Liba’s story is just so empowering to me. Laya Tall, graceful, and beautiful, Laya’s perspective is told through prose. Like Liba, Laya is jealous of her sister because she doesn’t really believe in Judaism although it’s how she was raised. She’s envious of Liba for her ability to be so devout, but she also believes the life her family lives isn’t really meant for her. Laya wants to truly live, she wants the ability to choose who she marries, and she often feels trapped in her home life. This quote from the book describes her character perfectly: "I always thought that if I worshipped God, dressed modestly, and walked in His path, that nothing bad would happen to my family. … Saint Anna didn’t walk with God – she knew she wasn’t made for perfection; she never tried to fit a pattern that didn’t fit her. She didn’t waste her time trying to smooth herself into something she wasn’t. She was powerful because she forged her own path." (10-11) The relationship between Liba and Laya was organic and natural, Liba’s concerns were the concerns of any big sister and I think that’s why I identified with her so much. The relationship they had was depicted very well; whether the sisters were in agreement or not the love was always there and they were there to support each other at every turn. -♥- Disclaimer: I am usually someone who gets very annoyed at excessive talk of religion. I won’t lie. If I go to a dinner and the prayers take too long or I’m forced to participate I get a little irritated. I personally have an interest in Judaism, so I found this enlightening, but if this is something that will get on your nerves I really wouldn’t recommend this book. While I thought it was beautiful and the storyline is amazing, there are very heavy references of Judaism on almost every page. -♥- There isn’t too much else I can say without spoiling things. I really recommend this book to everyone. It was an incredible story of faith, bravery, and learning to believe in yourself and the elements of sisterhood really tied the whole book together into something truly unforgettable. This book was definitely deserving of a five star rating and was DEFINITELY worth the hype so I recommend you go out and get your copy now. This book was just released on September 25th (my birthday) and it was a perfect way to spend the day. p.s. DECKLED EDGES! Thank you all so much for reading and I really hope I’ve convinced you to pick this one up. This is one of the best books I’ve read in a very long while and the own voices representation is something that anyone can appreciate. Let me know what you think in the comments :)

  28. 5 out of 5

    *Thea 'Wookiee'sMama' Wilson*

    The Sister Of The Winter Wood was a unusual and yet a fascinating and extremely atmospheric read indeed. For a debut novel, Rena Rossner really impressed me with her light touch, creative folklore and nicely fleshed out characters. The mythology behind the folklore is wonderful and gives the story a real, solid basis from which the real magic springs. This glorious and outlandish tale is told from the dual perspectives of two Jewish sisters, in a time where Jews were horribly persecuted which give The Sister Of The Winter Wood was a unusual and yet a fascinating and extremely atmospheric read indeed. For a debut novel, Rena Rossner really impressed me with her light touch, creative folklore and nicely fleshed out characters. The mythology behind the folklore is wonderful and gives the story a real, solid basis from which the real magic springs. This glorious and outlandish tale is told from the dual perspectives of two Jewish sisters, in a time where Jews were horribly persecuted which gives the story a really firm base in reality, that compliments the more fantastical side of the sisters tale. One sister, Liba, tells her side of the using regular format storytelling while the other, Laya, use a more whimsical free-flowing poetic style of story telling which is interesting but Laya's parts didn't exactly work for me. I do think that this was more to do with the basic formatting of the ARC and I really believe will come across much better in the finished book when it's presented properly. Each of the sisters isn't quite what they first appear to be but it's too spoilerish to say more on that and it's these facts that lead off into the fantasy and folklore side of the story. Each want to live their own lives but have simple family expectations put upon them by their parents, both are fighting their own fight for a certain kind of freedom for themselves. At the end of the day though, this is a dramatic and effective folklore tale in a similar vein toe Naomi Novak's Uprooted (probably her Spinning Silver too, although I haven't read it yet so don't know for sure). It's written in a beautiful style and the atmosphere just flows off of the pages in superb style... it's a simply remarkable tale and worth recommending, I will be re-reading a finished copy of the book at some point to see if it can recover the deducted star take away by Laya's storytelling, to see if I'm right about it being down to the formatting or not.

  29. 5 out of 5

    mo

    ➜ Review also on my blog! ->->->->->->->->->->->->->->->->->->->->->->-> Friends, I love this book. 💕 I think some readers who aren’t fans of verse in their novels may not enjoy it, but for anyone else, I highly recommend it. I want to say that before anything else because I went into reading this novel knowing very little other than that I loved its cover and found the synopsis enticing. I’m so glad I did. It captured my heart a ➜ Review also on my blog! ->->->->->->->->->->->->->->->->->->->->->->-> Friends, I love this book. 💕 I think some readers who aren’t fans of verse in their novels may not enjoy it, but for anyone else, I highly recommend it. I want to say that before anything else because I went into reading this novel knowing very little other than that I loved its cover and found the synopsis enticing. I’m so glad I did. It captured my heart and my imagination right from its opening pages. Although I love Tati’s stories and his answers, I wonder why a small voice is a daughter’s voice. Sometimes I wish my voice could be loud–like a roar. But that is not a modest way to think. The older I get, the more immodest my thoughts become. Also, here’s some recommended listening for this review/this book before I really dive into things. What makes this book so special? When I really love a book, I always like to ask myself that question. What is it that makes me tick? To me, this book wove magic into each page, gradually building from a small, quiet start into a beautiful ending and illustrating beautiful themes and messages along the way. It takes elements and inspiration from a huge number of fairytales, from Jane Yolen to Goblin Market (which is one of my favorite poems, by the way). In a way, I guess I was bound to enjoy this. Also, the characters are great. YAY. ->->->->->->->->->->->->->->->->->->->->->->-> Characters ➜ Liba The majority of the story is told from the perspective of Liba Lieb, a young Chassidic Jewish girl on the cusp of womanhood. She lives on the far edge of her village, or shtetl, along with her sister, mother, and father. While there is a thriving Jewish community there, her family feels ostracized because of her mother’s lineage: she was not born Jewish, but converted to her husband’s faith when they married. Liba struggles with things that would be relatable to many: she’s inquisitive but stern, devout but anxious, and often deeply uncomfortable in her own skin. She wants dearly to fall in love and to protect her family. Her development throughout the novel was portrayed beautifully and naturally; I liked that while her faith was very important to her, she grows along with it and strengthens her own will through her faith rather than squashing it down for the sake of piety. ➜ Laya Laya’s chapters are told in free verse, and as I said earlier, some readers might find it hard to connect with her chapters. I actually did at first, but I ended up finding her chapters a fitting element to the story in the end, especially as more shades of the Goblin Market poem by Christina Rosetti were introduced (also, please go read the original poem – it’s sensual and rich with imagery). There are nearly seven of them. Men and nearly men… They sing and call out through the trees, a soft and mournful melody. Come buy, come buy, I hear them cry. Laya may have different struggles from her sister, but hers are depicted with no less sympathy and emotion. She chafes under the structure of the religion Liba finds enlightening and has a driving wish to escape from their cloistered life. She wants to flirt and travel, to skip and dance and fly far from her home. She’s also fifteen and discovering her own sense of independence; I liked how her character ultimately fits in with the original Goblin Market one while remaining distinct. Other Characters and Elements I won’t spoil a very significant thing about Liba and Laya or their parents here – I didn’t know it going into the story, and I think that ideally, other readers should, too. One thing about this element I’m not mentioning does cause body image issues for Liba, but I’ll note it at the very end of my review with the trigger warnings. I also recommend reading Melanie’s review of this novel, as she expounds on Liba’s body image issues far more eloquently than I could. As for the side characters: The Love Interests I won’t spoil these here. While the focus of the story is really on Liba and Laya’s relationship, each sister has their own romance during the course of the story. One of the primary motifs in the novel (besides sisterhood and familial ties) is the girls’ growing awareness of their own sexuality. If you’re at all familiar with the Goblin Market poem, that shouldn’t come as a surprise. 👀 I do prefer one sister’s romance over the other, as I felt that it was developed more organically and had less of a fated feel to it (so to speak). Even my preferred romance did develop a bit quickly, but for me, it made sense in the context of the story and knowing that the characters had long harbored budding romantic feelings for the other person prior to the start of the novel. The other sister’s romance (or romances) had much more of a fairytale feel in them; I was glad that the novel didn’t really end with a “and they all lived happily-ever-after” type wrap up involving that relationship. The Parents and Family If I were to complain about anything in this story, it would be that I wish readers got to see more of Liba and Laya’s Tati and Mami and their extended families; they all felt far less well-developed. Rossner makes it work, though, by focusing so intently on the actions and emotions of the two sisters. Honestly, as someone with a younger sister, I felt that Rossner did a wonderful job of depicting a complex and sometimes difficult – but ultimately loving – relationship between sisters. I know that nothing between us will ever be the same again. But maybe that’s okay. Maybe it’s the way things are meant to be. We are always changing, like the moon. ->->->->->->->->->->->->->->->->->->->->->->-> Themes and Historical Context The author, Rena Rossner, drew from her own family history in writing this story. While there are fantastical elements, there’s also the real-world parallels: her own family left Ukraine as a result of pogroms in and around Dubossary, which Rossner fictionalizes slightly to create her setting. She writes eloquently in the author’s note about how false accusations of blood libel (that Jews used blood from deceased non-Jews to make matza) and other anti-Semitic, racist rhetoric motivated many pogroms across Ukraine, devastating many Jewish communities. One of the main themes of The Sisters of the Winter Wood, at least as I read it, was the idea of “othering” and the harm that can do to people. A murder mystery plays out along the backdrop of the novel’s plot, and with its heightened tension comes increased anti-Semitism from Laya and Liba’s non-Jewish neighbors. The author does not expect the sisters to “solve” anti-Semitism on their own (which would be a huge and unfair burden to place on two marginalized young women); rather, they gain strength through fellowship in their shtetl community and the support of their Mami’s extended (non-Jewish) family. Also at the end of the author’s note is this passage: “I was very inspired by the sensuality of [various fairytales] and also the sensuality of Goblin Market, and was determined to write something that contained this element. As a great lover of fantasy and history, I have also always been seeking a way to combine the two and to delve more into my own Russian/Romanian/Moldovian/Ukrainian heritage.” I think she accomplished those goals with grace and artistry, all while deftly blending in her Jewish heritage and developing vivid characters. ->->->->->->->->->->->->->->->->->->->->->->-> Content warnings: antisemitism (always challenged), body image issues (very prominent on Liba’s part, including thoughts of dieting, but she ultimately gets to a much better place with how she feels about it without losing weight or dieting), captivity, violence, drugging, grey area consent (not depicted positively), misogynistic comments, talk of past rape, death, torture. ->->->->->->->->->->->->->->->->->->->->->->-> Thanks to Edelweiss and Redhook for providing an ARC in exchange for an honest review. All quotes are taken from a pre-release copy and may be subject to change in the final published version. ->->->->->->->->->->->->->->->->->->->->->->-> What did you think about this book, if you’ve read it? blog | instagram | twitter | bloglovin

  30. 4 out of 5

    Jenni

    The Sisters of the Winter Wood got off to a truly amazing start, I love the way that the story switches between the sister's points of view. Both Liba and Laya are really interesting and I also love the differences between their prose, steady and descriptive Liba and poetic and flighty Laya. This was really unique and I really loved it. There were so many amazing fairytales woven in to the story, it was wonderful to see familiar favourites as well as finding new ones. The Sisters of the Winter W The Sisters of the Winter Wood got off to a truly amazing start, I love the way that the story switches between the sister's points of view. Both Liba and Laya are really interesting and I also love the differences between their prose, steady and descriptive Liba and poetic and flighty Laya. This was really unique and I really loved it. There were so many amazing fairytales woven in to the story, it was wonderful to see familiar favourites as well as finding new ones. The Sisters of the Winter Wood was a beautifully written and darkly enchanting fantasy tale which I just did not want to put down. The character development of the two sisters is a big focus in the book, and I love both of the sisters and how different they are. It's so interesting to see how the two sisters cope, in their own way, with their parents leaving them alone in their house. I felt a kinship with Liba, as an older sibling myself, and the lengths as which she goes to hold everything together and to protect her younger sister. There is a darkness to the tale which I found really enchanting, you feel compelled towards it, just as Laya is compelled towards Fedir. I found the fact that the two sisters were both experiencing their first love, in very different ways, in parallel was a really great way to drawn the narratives together. It was wonderful to highlight the differences between us all. I loved the fairytale elements to the tale, they really added a richness to the world of the Winter Wood. But the elements of reality, which were also woven in to the story made The Sisters of the Winter Wood really incredible. It's really interesting to have a window in to a Jewish family, and the Jewish community of the town. For me, the message I took away from The Sisters of the Winter Wood, is that is it sometimes what we don't say that can cause the most hurt. This seemed to be a recurring theme throughout the books. Overall, I absolutely loved The Sisters of the Winter Wood and I would definitely recommend it to any fantasy fans, and especially those who love fairytale retellings.

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