• The Sisters of the Winter Wood – Rena Rossner

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    — DISCLAIMER: I received a eARC of this novel via NetGalley – thank you to both Netgalley and Little, Brown Book Group for the opportunity! All opinions expressed in this review are my own. —

    STAR RATING: 4/5 ✶

    PUBLICATION DATE: 27/09/2018

    SUMMARY: Liba and Laya, two sisters growing up Jewish in eastern Europe, live outside of town in the woods with their parents. However, their parents are called away on urgent business, leaving the two sisters to fend for themselves. They soon find out that there is more to stories and their heritage than they had believed and they have to fight for what they believe.

    OPINIONS: I really enjoyed this book. Although the story dragged at times, it was very well written (and I love me some beautiful prose), and much deeper than I had expected – and can I also mention how beautiful it is?! The tale revolves around the two sisters coming to terms with who they are and how  their world works. While this is a fantasy novel, it does address many of the social issues prevailing throughout Europe for centuries. Not only does it feed off the idea of intrusive foreigners, but it looks at the strained relationships between Jews and Christians, and how these might have evolved or been influenced, as well as the interactions between different societies. Liba and Laya’s parents had their backgrounds in very different societies, and their backstory is presented almost as a Romeo-and-Juliet type story, it is very interesting to see what happens after the couple has fallen in love, and the consequences that come with it. Having come from incompatible backgrounds, they have made their lives work for them, but over the course of the story, they are confronted with the places they came from, and have to find a solution for the differences. I think these issues of difference were handled really well, and I hope that other readers will also be able to take these ideas away with them.

    This is one of the stories of which I believe that they are important to be told. While this year has been great at producing diverse reads (for example, the fabulous short story collection All Out or the badass black heroine of Dread Nation), this seems to hit close to home. Perhaps this is because I grew up learning history from German textbooks, where the Holocaust is central, it seems that this is a topic I’ve thought about for most of my life. But at the same time, relationships between different social or religious groups are also a very current topic. I do hope that this book will be able to inspire more tolerance in young minds.

  • Unplugged Book Box Review

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    So I received my Unplugged book box this weekend, and loved it! As they are a new company and this is their first box, I’ve decided to do an extensive unboxing and review. But first of all I wanna thank them for assembling a great and useable box, I’m impressed, especially given that it’s their first box! The little details are amazing and really make a difference!

    Without further delay, a full unboxing picture (though without the cards…)!

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    Every item came wrapped in black tissue paper, which I really loved, as for me, it enhances the unboxing experience! I love that they didn’t give a lot of spoilers, as many other boxes do. If I already know half the contents of the box, it really detracts from the experience. If one wanted, this would also allow one to space it out over a few days. Every item also came with a little note about the creator (yay for small businesses!) and the thoughts behind them, which is wonderful. I think this is a very good alternative to spoiler cards. But now on to the items (including their notes!)

    First of all, the theme card and photo challenge. This month’s theme was ‘Keep your head above water’ – Unplugged isn’t merely another book subscription service, it is also focussed around self-care and mental health. The theme was well done, and provided a red thread throughout the box. The photo challenge really fits into this as well, being aimed less at bookstagram pictures than providing experiences that happen to be memorialised through a picture. I defitely plan on participating!

    For me, the most central part of book boxes  really is the book. I know, you think that that is obvious – but from what I’ve seen on social media, the items that come with them seem more important, as it seems that book nerds are supposed to be collectors of random bookish things as well. Not that I mind getting great items, but it’s just not my focus (Seriously, why is everyone obsessed with POP figures, for example?). Whether I keep subscribing is mainly tied to the quality of the selected books – if I do spend that much money on a box, I do want to consistently receive 4+ star reads. I also always try to read the included books before the next box.

    Sadie, the book included here, is unexpected. It’s not my usual genre, and I probably would not have picked it up in a store. But now ghat I have had a closer look and thought about it, I’m very excited to read it. According to the blurb, it revolves around a runaway girl on a quest, and a podcast, whose intention it is to find that missing girl. It seems like a unique concept, ans I’m looking forward to delving into the story.

    The book came accompanied by a signed bookplate, an author letter, and a little swag-travel brochure. What also came with it is a mysterious envelope that you’re supposed to open after reading. I’m super curious to see what is in there – and I hope they keep doing that in future boxes!

    Candles are one of my favourite things to receive in boxes – though it is getting to the point where I pretty much have a collection. Burning them while reading gives me joy and makes my room smell great. I’m thrilled with this Inej (Six of Crows duology) inspired candle, it is beautiful and it smells AMAZING! It also comes in a solid dark glass jar, which shouldn’t make a difference, but I’m really excited about! This was designed by Get Fictional and it is probably my favourite item in this box! Though it is closely followed by the tea:

    Inspired by Stephen King’s IT, this tea is intended to be drunk cold, and has been created by Story of my Tea. From the description, it is a fairly pure tea, without added flavour, so definitely something that pleases tea-purists. I really like that it contains caffeine – most teas that I’ve received in boxes have either been herbal/fruit based, or decaffeinated – and if I drink black or green tea (which I only do like every day) I want my tea to contain caffeine. Maybe that’s a grad student problem though, we do run on tea and coffee…

    The next item is a Triwizard Tournament inspired bath bomb from Zen Bath Candies. I don’t know how these girls do it, but they included the three types of items I love most! I can’t wait to hang out in a hot bath and enjoy this! As it addresses the second task Harry Potter has to undergo in the Triwizard Tournament, it quite literally fits the theme of keeping your head above water!

    Now this item is tiny, so tiny that I actually didn’t see it when I was unpacking the box yesterday and only found it when I was taking pictures earlier! The little black thing had simply hidden in the depths of the box – or maybe I’m just silly! It is a tiny book-magnet, which you can actually write in! It’s maybe 4×2.5 cm big and ADORABLE! It has been handmade by A Magnetic Library, and the book it represents, To Kill a Kingdom by Alexandra Christo, is a tale of sirens and princes and figuring out how to interact with the world once it turns out that there is more to the story than the strict rules you have been raised by.

    Now on to the papery goodies included! This wonderful Hogwarts Express print will definitely go on to my wall, and I will have to try that smoothie recipe on the back. Inspired by Draco Malfoy and his love of apples, it sounds delicious (and contains neither bananas, nor pineapples, the point of which I don’t get when it comes to smoothies).

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    These stickers were actually the first thing I saw when I started unpacking the box. All of them are self-care themed, and I love the idea. Sadly, they are a bit too pastel for my taste, but I’m sure I’ll be able to use at least some of them for my bullet journal. And who knows, maybe I will start liking pastels at some point!

    Finally, there was a self-care prompt included which focuses on gratitude. In a funny coincidence, my therapist actually told me to start a gratitude journal in our last session. I will definitely have to look into adding this to my bullet journal and figuring out the best way to do it. Being mindful and content with yourself and the people around you is central to mental hygiene in my opinion, and I hope through this more people are inspired to look at the small things that happen and not ignore them and only see the bad! Furthermore, they included a little September playlist on Spotify, which I find a great idea. However, as I’m not too fond of mainstream music, and listen mainly to metal, this isn’t really something I will enjoy.

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    Last but not least, the reverse of the soundtrack card reveals the October theme, Things are not what they seem – I am very much looking forward to see what they have planned around that theme!

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    Now that I’ve talked about everything included in the box, I assume you’re wondering whether it is worth subscribing yourself. I do recommend it, and spots are currently open for October! It is a well-curated box, supports small businesses, and focuses on mental health – I approve!