Mid-Year Freak Out Book Tag (+ Book Journal Update!)

Hello!

I have been looking forward to doing this tag again for the third year in a row, since the end of March, and what makes this one different from my previous posts, I will also be giving you an update look into reading journal! I said in the beginning that I would like to discuss my progress was going sometime this summer and since we’re right at the middle of 2022, I figured it would be awesome to do it all together so I wouldn’t have to do more scheduling this month!

Firstly, we will go on with the tag itself and then I’ll show you my journal afterwards. I do have a couple of things to mention though, I am only talking about the books I’ve read from January to mid-June and I’ve kept the same questions, so if you’d like to do this challenge on your blog or YouTube channel (or just for fun!) I would really love to see your answers, so please tag me in your posts!

Here are my previous answers from 2020 and 2021.


Best Book You’ve Read so Far

Honestly, I’ve read a lot of really good books. I’m trying to break out of my normal genres like romance and rediscover old favorites like historical fiction. It took me a bit, but I’ve finally started to push through the historical aspect with diving into stories about the Vikings, and I am forever grateful for taking a chance on K.M. Butler’s debut “The Raven and The Dove” which is based on the Vikings living in Normandy. Before reading this book, I wasn’t interested with these types of books, but I have a soft spot for women’s stories and despite the fact the author wrote this in two POVs, I actually loved it! It was fun to look into the main character’s lives and how they viewed one another personally and the customs of the times.

After I finished it, I tried my foot into similar books, but I wasn’t able to mesh with any others until I came across Melanie Karsak’s own Viking stories called “The Road to Valhalla”. I had tried to read one back in December, but it wasn’t what I wanted to read at the time and then a few months later I discovered the actual series and I adore the fact that Melanie can create such interesting characters and settlings that you can clearly picture in your mind at all hours of the day (or in my case at night!) and attempt to figure out how it will all end for them. Once I completed “Under the Howling Moon” back in March, it didn’t take me long to whiz right through them! I will probably be finished with all five books by the end of the season.

Best Sequel You’ve Read So Far This Year?

I’m surprised with myself, but I haven’t really read any sequels or at least any proper sequels than besides The Road to Valhalla. However, when I was done with “Little Women” by Louisa May Alcott back in March, I decided to test out “Little Men” which is about Jo’s school for boys and discusses her life with her nephews and other young gentlemen that live amongst Jo and her husband Friedrich. The stories are very dated, but I have enjoyed love discovering the way people wrote their stories. Louisa wrote her books in the style that reflected her life in some way, so in a way she gave her accent and voice to her characters.

The other sequel is Harry Potter and the “Order of the Phoenix” by J.K. Rowling. Some of you might know about this, but I tend to only read my Harry Potter books whenever the weather warms up a little, so from spring to early summer to the end of autumn, I am sitting outside with our cats on the back deck continuing my Harry Potter journey. When I came back to it in late April, I was halfway done with it and usurpingly remembered everything I had previously read several months before and so I was thoroughly excited to finish it but now I feel weird that after I am done with ‘Half Blood Prince”–and I could finish it by the start of fall–that I will have one more book in the series and I would cross it off my reading bucket list!

New release you haven’t read, but would like to

I’ve tried my hardest to not think of the recently released books, but I do take advantage of the Amazon’s First Reads for prime readers, as you can get one book a month and they are usually free to any user, and I’ve collected three books I thought looked interesting and they were: “The Last Rose of Shanghai” by Weina Dal Randel, “The Taste of Ginger” by Mansi Shah and “The Lobotomist’s Wife” by Samantha Greene Woodruff. As you might be able to tell, all three were from the Historical Fiction box. I am excited to get to these books, but I have no idea when that will be exactly!

Most anticipated release for the second half of the year

There are a couple of books I’d like to get my feet on soon, like I said above, I haven’t paid that much attention to the lists. However, that doesn’t mean I don’t see anything on social media from my family and friends… One was inspired by my friend Ella, as she had checked it on Goodreads as “want to read” last month. She has a large array of books and this one really seemed odd and right up my alley, It is called, “The Drowned Woods” by Emily Lloyd-Jones.

The second book was listed as part of Hot Summer Reads blog post on Goodreads, and I thought the title was both hilarious and morbid, but once I saw what it was about, my curiosity was piqued, it is former actress Jeannete McCurdy’s “I’m Glad My Mom Died”. Besides historical fiction, I also have a huge weakness for memoirs, and I think this would be a great read as we enter the colder months. I only say it like that because I tend to want sporty and coming of age books around the time school starts back up!

Biggest Disappointment

This year I’ve been trying to listen to more audiobooks and back in February, I decided I wanted to check out some childhood classics, and I found “Matilda” by Roald Dahl and I have always been curious about it, and the fact I have only watched the film once in my whole life, I thought I would be fine with it but I was so upset with it by the end of the experience! I still don’t believe it deserves to be in a “children” category, especially with the amount of traumatic themes in it. I literally rated it as a three out of five stars, because I thought it seemed fair. I mean I didn’t absolutely hate it, as there were good spots here and there, but overall I’m glad I got it off my list for good.

There was another children’s classic that I didn’t finish but thought it was worthy a mention here. Upon recommendation, I decided to check out “Anne of Green Gables” by Lucy Maud Montgomery and before going into this, I had just finished “Little Women” so I thought I would mesh fairly well with it. I didn’t. My first thought was I didn’t like how the author used the word “ejaculated” in the beginning of the story as to being a substitute for “gasping” or Louisa May Alcott’s favorite “raptures” but after the first chapter, it kind of disappeared and I thoroughly happy about it!

I can be a big talker when I want to be, and I’m constantly daydreaming just like Anne, but even I thought she was too much for me to handle, so by the time I had passed Chapter 10, I thought it was going by so slowly but slightly amusing to hear this little girl yap about anything and everything. Unfortunately, when I was about to hit Chapter 19, I couldn’t take any more of it. so, I eventually had to find something because this wasn’t working out very well.

Biggest Surprise

Last year, I did something I thought I’d ever do, I watched The Notebook. I still don’t remember what caused me to go for it, other than it must have been on our movie channels constantly and I might’ve been in a huge rom-com mood, and this was what my brain chose first, but I did enjoy myself. It wasn’t too awful, but I still don’t want to watch A Walk to Remember though…

Although I might consider listening to the audiobook instead, since I did give “Safe Haven” a chance back in February. I have watched the film when it came out in 2009, but I have only watched it once so I thought this insight would play in my favor, but it didn’t. I still remembered everything of the movie, but I was shocked when I found myself crying in the middle of the night for certain chapters and the ending really got me good, but now I can’t stand to rewatch the film and that part sucked but I am open to listen to more Nicholas Sparks books in the future!

Favorite new author (Debut or new for you)

For the most part, I have discovered a lot of “new” authors, but my favorites so far have been K.M. Butler, and it was his first historical fiction novel and my first of the new year. I owe him for creating such interesting characters like Halla and Taurin. They came from two separate religions and worlds, but he found a way to make it work and tell the story of how people can accept and change their views for the greater good of others.

Another historical fiction book I found at the end of May, is about Lady Katherine Swymford, simply titled “Katherine”. She was the mistress and later wife and Queen Consort to John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster. It was written by Anya Seton in, get this, 1964! Honestly, I thought the author’s not in the beginning was odd, because she explained how her family would travel back to England in the ’50’s and she studied as much as she could that was available at the time, in order to write the story of Katherine de Roet. It just never occurred to me of how old the book itself would be until I did some digging of my own! It is 500 pages long, so I am probably still reading it as this post publishes, but it’s been very interesting so far!

Newest fictional crush

Well, when I started reading Melanie’s “The Road to Valhalla” series, Hervor wasn’t the only one to fall head over heels in love with Prince Hofund. The moment when he and her cousin Leif and their warriors arrive out of the sea and into battle in the second book was amazing because for once everything came so vividly to me at that moment. It wasn’t supposed to be a sexy scene but leave to me to make it that way!

Unfortunately, I have had some difficulty picturing these Viking men lately, sometimes, descriptions can be blurred together for me and since I haven’t watched many films or TV shows set in the Viking world, I don’t know certain hairstyles and/or the ordinary look of these characters, however, I have better luck with the women because it’s easier to picture them for some odd reason.

Book that made you cry

Well, considering I just told you this back in the “Biggest Surprise” question. I have cried to a few others, such as, “Other Words for Home” by Jasmine Warga, “Little Women” by Louisa May Alcott, “Under the Hunter’s Moon” and “Under the Blood Moon” by Melanie Karsak. I am trying like crazy to stay away from those that could turn me into a blubbering mess, but sometimes it just happens without any warning!

Book that made you happy

One of my secondary goals for this year was to read books that have become a film and/or TV series in the last couple of decades; and I had one book where I was curious but worried about because I have watched the film before and hope to show it to my niece and nephew someday. James and the Giant Peach. This was my second Roald Dahl classic and as I was listening to the audiobook for it, I was so happy to know that there wasn’t a lot of things changed for the film, and despite it also discuss childhood abuse and trauma, it is generally a cozy little story.

The second thing that also made me happy was when the book itself was originally released on November 1st, 1964. It actually came out on my birthday, and it was a wonderful surprise after I had finished reading it and the fact that my views on the film adaption didn’t change either made things work so well!

Most beautiful book you’ve bought this year

The most beautiful book I’ve read this year was definitely “Other Words for Home” by Jasmine Warga. It was exactly what I needed at the time of Ramadan and the start of Eid. I don’t really celebrate the holidays of the Muslim communities and friends, but mainly it was my way of supporting them unknowingly. It was such an adorable, but kind of sad modern children’s book set on a little girl named Jude, who is a Syrian refugee in the Midwest of the United States, and you learn about how she is learning how to adjust to life in America with her mother, as they stay with her uncle’s family.

What books do you still need to read by the end of the year?

By this time, I’d hope to be around 24 books into my initial goal for the year, which is 40-45. I am currently reading six different series, and I’m almost finished with “Harry Potter” and “The Road to Valhalla” series, I doubt I will be able to finish “Deathly Hollows” because I know it’s a giant book and chuck full of information, so I would like to take my time on it, plus I tend to only read my HP books while I am outside with the cats, and really it all of it depends on the weather too, but I am looking forward to completing TWO of them this summer! As for the others, it will be interesting on what actually happens with them.

And then, there’s my notion of finishing the “Me Before You” by JoJo Moyes and “Sinners on Tour” by Olivia Cunning series I had mention last year or back in 2020, because those are fairly shorter on their percentages, especially “Wicked Beat” but I don’t know, it’ll just depend on my mood and what I generally want to read for the next half of the year.


Now let’s move on with our next subject. My reading journals.

Before 2022 started, I had a lot of plans and thoughts that I thought would be fun to create in this new venture, but in the last three months I’ve noticed that I am not grabbing neither one of my journals on a daily basis.

The most important spread I use in journals are the monthly trackers. It has been kind of fun shading in a box or circle for every day I’ve read, but recently I’ve had to make a faint line after seven days because for the last five months I’ve been counting each dot in the Blue journal and it can get very frustrating if you’re not careful! In my Green journal, I was smart enough to create an easer tracker system that includes the numbers on the left side of the graph, and I tend to go for that one most of the time; if it wasn’t so heavy I may actually use it everyday!

The second most popular habit tracker is my “amateur” bookshelves I created in the Green journal–I am still very impressed they worked out so well, especially after going over it with my pen! Next time I will just forgo the pen because that was such a disaster! Anyways, I completed one shelf, I did that back in late March or early April I think. It was a quick discovery I will say! I definitely have a lot more Kindle reads but I’ve added one print, two novellas, and seven audiobooks so far! Also, I need o make a not for year to pick prettier colors than gray, pink turquoise and green because they are ugly together!

As for my actually Reading Log, I’ve had to do some editing here and there. Since my overall theme is Harry Potter, I had wanted to use the House colors for each section, but I didn’t have all of the colors so I had to improvise and although I use the heck out of it, my hopes for it didn’t work out well for me but I would like to work on them to do this layout again in 2023.

And my final layout is the end-of-the-month stats and again, I didn’t have big plans for it but I am happy on what I was able to do for it. I have done some updating this past month and I am going to need to create two more blocks for November and December and the end results for the year.

For those who don’t know, I have four things I keep a record of each month and they are: how many books I finish, the number of pages I read, days of the month and finally the selection of words. If you’ve read about the post where I talked about how I wanted a space reserved for all of the words I collect as I read each of these books, mainly because I love to collect but I also wanted an everlasting reminder of the stories.

I apologize for the bad lighting, I decided to take them just after the sun went down and had to deal with my regular light and the shadows of my feet! I bet you never thought you’d see those words in the same sentence! Anyways, for the most part the photos actually came out really good!

Are you the type of person who needs to create a book journal like me? How would you design yours or what has been your favorite layouts/themes? If you don’t have a reading journal or blog, how do you keep track of everything?

snowflake

Book Review: “Isabella: Braveheart of France” by Colin Falconer

Hello!

I wasn’t able to reach five books in May unfortunately, honestly, there were a lot of factors that allowed this to happen, and my overall mindset was like, all I can do is move on and see what I could accomplish this month.

Before we go into this, I just want to point out that I’m an ally for the LGBT+ communities! Being gay and/or trans throughout current and past monarchs have been a touchy subject, but for this, ou have to imagine that these people were heavily influenced by the Catholic church. They did not understand a whole lot–but they were definitely not stupid either! They were constantly guided by their priests in everything, including who slept in their beds, so please keep this in mind while reading my review below.

WARNING: I rambled on with this one and there are a few spoilers below, so if you’d like to read this book in the future or want to conduct your own research about Isabella of France without a bias opinion, then I suggest you should skip this post!


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She was taught to obey. Now she has learned to rebel.

When Princess Isabella is offered as bride to King Edward of England, for her it’s love at first sight. But her dashing husband has a secret, one that threatens to tear their marriage—and England—apart. As Isabella navigates the deadly maelstrom of Edward’s court, her cleverness and grace allow her to subvert Edward’s ill-advised plans and gain influence. But soon the young queen is faced with an impossible choice, taking a breathtaking gamble that will forever change the course of history.

In the tradition of Philippa Gregory and Elizabeth Chadwick, Isabella is the story of a queen who took control of her destiny—and the throne.

taken from Amazon.

When I started reading, I thought I was getting an actual biography or a fictional tale of Isabella, but not of Isabella of France. I thought it was about Isabella I of Castile. When I realized my mistake, I wasn’t so upset about it because Isabella has been an interesting Queen to learn about in the last few years. She’s been called a “She-Wolf” since the fall of her husband, King Edward II and relationship with, Roger Mortimer, 1st Earl of March. So, I was curious to learn a more contemporary approach about the former Queen of England.

“You will love this man. Do you understand? You will love him, serve him, and obey him in all things. This is your duty to me and to France. Am I clear?”

I don’t know if you’ve noticed lately with my historical books, I’ve really stepped up my game on collecting notes and random pieces of information throughout my process of reading each story. For Isabella, I took even more notes because there was a lot of stuff mentioned with not a lot of dates to go with certain important events and it was hard to keep everything straight and at times, I really thought about stopping and put it in DNF list.

This is my dilemma with historical fiction (especially if it’s in or around about British history!), some authors are considerate and include an estimate of years these things take place, or they give readers a part one, two, three, where the transition is easier to understand, but with this book I was having to keep track with every year mentioned because sometimes we are thrusted into more than one year at a time so I had to write things down or else my brain wasn’t going to catch up to the things taking place.

I had a lot of thoughts concerning quite a few of contradicting moments that were somewhat odd, for example, you have Edward II engaged in not one, but two same sex relationships with his favorites Piers Galveston and Hugh le Despenser the Younger. Now there is quite a gap until you get into the Tudor dynasty and the crazy stories of King Henry VIII’s quest to have more male heirs, but this is a little bit different. Edward seems to have fallen in love with Piers and Hugh (although the book explains why the Younger Hugh could have been just a puppet of Edward’s former lover Piers!) rather than take another woman as a mistress. History and what is in this book seem to mesh as the barons were aggravated towards their king by giving his lovers more lands, castles, and even more power of the realm than his wife, Queen Isabella.

And then you have the issues with Roger Mortimer, 1st Earl of March. He did not rise up against Edward in the beginning but while Roger did desert Edward II while at war against Robert the Bruce, he was considered a traitor for this, afterwards he is arrested and convicted as treason. Now, we have to get into the second part of the drama. Did he and Isabella have a sexual relationship at all? History says yes, and this books also agrees, but there doesn’t seem any proof of when everything started or ended either way compared to the King.

So, when Colin introduces this section, he also makes a point to throw in a scandal that appeared in her father’s court fairly early into the marriage, concerning her sisters-in-law Queen Marguerite and Queen Blanche (both originally from Burgundy.) having affairs with brothers Gautier and Philip d’Aunay of France in 1314. I have to wonder, since it is speculated that Isabella to be the one who spoke out about it, can we really assume she would do the same thing? She talks of the aftermath and where Marguerite and Blanche ended up shunned in convents and forced to take up the habit for the rest of their lives. If she was as desperate to be wanted by love and sex, as it is mentioned, stirring the pot like this would be very damning but again, look at what her husband, the king, was doing out in the open for the whole world (including the Pope!) to see and yet, she’s the one everyone wants to drag through the mud!

It must be done for England’s sake, not just for her own.

This is one thing that you as a reader understand at the start of the entire book. She is a woman, living in a very powerful man’s world. She is considered to be nothing but a consort to her king and reproduce children that will belong to both monarchs. The English and French courts. She is to obey everything her king asks and does of the kingdom.

Unfortunately, marriages weren’t made in love, there could be a time where the couple find love in each other overtime, this has happened quite a bit with royal marriages, but what I’m really trying to get it with this is that everything had a reason, you married a higher individual to gain allegiance and power over estates and money. This happened to everyone, men and women, young or old.

When she and Edward were having children, they would never know what true love is, because they never saw it amongst their parents. Their youngest daughter Princess Joan and David of Scotland were arranged only so that both kingdoms could have peace. We can say David probably took a few mistresses and had bastard children, as this was accepted among the men of the times, but the only righteous thing Joan was able to do was show up as a united front and turn a blind eye on it all or wait for an annulment from the Pope and finally enter a nunnery to live out the rest of her days with a small allowance. She would end up being in similar situations as her mother and former aunts.

And finally, there’s the fact, could Isabella have orchestrated the death of her husband and former king. We go back to the notion of her feelings to Edward at the end of his reign. Did she hate him enough to order people to kill him while he was imprisoned? We will never know the whole story of this question either, but I feel like this one is worse than committing adultery, but that’s just me!

Have you read “Isabella: Braveheart of France” by Colin Falconer yet? What were some of your thoughts about the story of this stoic Queen of England?

snowflake

Book Review: “Anne Boleyn: 500 Years of Lies” by Hayley Nolan

Hello!

If you know me well enough, you wouldn’t be surprised by my loving support of Queen Anne Boleyn. I’ve always thought she has a bad rap before, during and after her marriage to King Henry VIII. I’ve watched a lot of movies, tv shows, and documentaries that follow the whole “six wives” drama, and I’ve wanted to read a biographical story of her life, but I didn’t want to hear to hear the same things I’ve been hearing since 2008, and I have attempted to read this book two years ago, but I just wasn’t in the mood for it, so after the book itself basically stalking me for months on end, I decided to make a goal to read and complete it before the anniversary of her death in 1536.


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A bold new analysis of one of history’s most misrepresented women.

History has lied.

Anne Boleyn has been sold to us as a dark figure, a scheming seductress who bewitched Henry VIII into divorcing his queen and his church in an unprecedented display of passion. Quite the tragic love story, right?

Wrong.

In this electrifying exposé, Hayley Nolan explores for the first time the full, uncensored evidence of Anne Boleyn’s life and relationship with Henry VIII, revealing the shocking suppression of a powerful woman.

So leave all notions of outdated and romanticized folklore at the door and forget what you think you know about one of the Tudors’ most notorious queens. She may have been silenced for centuries, but this urgent book ensures Anne Boleyn’s voice is being heard now.

#TheTruthWillOut

taken from Goodreads.

Everything you think you know about the rise and fall of Anne Boleyn is turned upside down, as with every historian and film based on the second line of the Tudor dynasty can be comprised of lies, and lots of them. There were things that I didn’t concern beforehand that while I read this book immediately changed my mind and where I stand on my view of both the king and his former “love” that was Anne Boleyn.

I just want to let everything know, I took quite a few notes between mid-April to early May, just so I could remember things that I thought were really important to other people who enjoy a 16th Century soap opera!

Who was the real Anne Boleyn?

The first thing I thought was both crucial and interesting was how the author Hayley had the guts to say that Henry VIII could have suffered a mental illness all throughout his life. She believes she could have been a sociopath, and yes, she tells her readers why this seems like something he would have been going through in life, and It wouldn’t have been caused by the jousting accident he had in 1520’s, although she does point out that it could have heightened his paranoia of his court and of course, not being able to have an acceptable heir.

I thought it was somewhat funny how much I was comparing his actions like of Victoria Helen Stone’s Jane Doe series. Jane is also a sociopath, but totally fictional, so in a way, to see how her mind works–she doesn’t believe she is in the wrong, blames over people, she doesn’t know how to show true emotions like love, and is ruled by her impulses. I thought Victoria’s books were the shit before; I definitely love them now. but it was also frightening to see the similarities between these two, and again Jane is a fictional character!

Besides the rundown of Henry’s erratic behavior, you understand that we need to see Anne as a human being, although it was 1500’s, she deserves to have her real story told and this book is full of information by tons of courtiers and religious people of the time, such as Cardinal Thomas Wolsey, Thomas Cromwell, Thomas Crammer, Archbishop of Canterbury, William Latymer, William Kingston, Chapuleys, Ambassador of Spain. You are told things that many historians and authors normally pass through because it doesn’t fit the mold that is the Tudor era.

One of the things we always learn about this part of history is that court life is not about this grand and there is always a party of some sort going on, but this isn’t exactly true. People were stuck in large palaces, and it was fairly quiet, so there was always in need of musicians and poets to keep everyone happy (or at least comfortable with their surroundings!) but it wasn’t just the king and his advisors that were working hard, the Queen also had her own job as she helped the king discover another religion which was evangelism and helped break away from Rome. She was helping students continue their schooling and protected them from harm for practicing another faith. She always worked based on what she hoped would happen for the nation and educate her little daughter Elizabeth as Protestant than Catholicism.

When non-history-fanatics think of Anne Boleyn, do they recall her fighting for religious reform and freedom? No, they think six wives, six fingers and beheaded.

There is something I wasn’t a huge fan of, I didn’t care on how cocky Hayley was, getting her point across with each chapter. I understand as someone who loves and supports Anne very much, you want everyone to know the facts, but I thought the author was sort of cocky with her words. However, there were interesting tidbits that were mixed with sarcasm here and you felt like she was sitting right next to me having a very intense debate about who was really responsible for bringing Anne (and the other poor victims) of the murdering plot down for good, and when it came to sections like this, I was fine with that familiar banter but the rest, not so much.

Anyways, if you are looking for a different perspective on this time period and looking at the ‘romance’ or ‘love story’ that was King Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn. I definitely recommend this book, but if you are set with what media chooses to discuss, then you might want to ease yourself into the real truth of Anne Boleyn.

Have you read Hayley Nolan’s “Anne Boleyn: 500 Years of Lies” yet? If you have checked it out, what were some of your thoughts about what she shared with us?

snowflake

Book Review: “Other Words for Home” by Jasmine Warga

Hello!

Last year, I was scrolling through Facebook and this meme had popped up from a library, stating mainly to those who are adults, that it is okay to enjoy reading YA (young adult) books. I took this to heart because I have heard of my favorite booktubers feeling uneasy about checking out books in this genre, and to see this slip all throughout my social media has influenced my own journey branching out from other genres that I feel weird reading like children’s literature. I wasn’t a lover of reading (of any kind) when I was little, so now I’m diving deep into classics I had pushed aside in the past.

This book isn’t part of that list, but it is middle grade, which is targeted for students in junior high or middle school, at least that’s what I believe is the meaning behind it. An example of what is considered middle grade are the Harry Potter books. Of course, they take a darker note after ‘The Goblet of Fire’ but for the most part they are always regarded for pre-teens around the ages of 10-15.

WARNING: there are some spoilers below. So, If you are planning on reading the book in the near future, you might want to skip this post!

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I am learning how to be
sad
and happy
at the same time.


Jude never thought she’d be leaving her beloved older brother and father behind, all the way across the ocean in Syria. But when things in her hometown start becoming volatile, Jude and her mother are sent to live in Cincinnati with relatives.

At first, everything in America seems too fast and too loud. The American movies that Jude has always loved haven’t quite prepared her for starting school in the US—and her new label of “Middle Eastern,” an identity she’s never known before. But this life also brings unexpected surprises—there are new friends, a whole new family, and a school musical that Jude might just try out for. Maybe America, too, is a place where Jude can be seen as she really is.

taken from Goodreads.

This was one of the most beautiful books I’ve ever read, and a brilliant read for this month as it is Ramadan in the Muslim communities. As you may know, I love to learn, and a few years ago I was introduced to the holiday event Ramadan and Eid. This was one that I was not familiar with, but I was thrilled to learn what people do to celebrate the month of fasting, praying, and ultimately the renewal of life that comes with it. I’ve learned a lot in the last three years, as I always read at least one book around Ramadan, and this year I chose “Other Words for Home” by Jasmine Warga.

This story of a little girl who spent her early years in Syria, living with her family, going to school, and having the typical childhood, until the start of the violence there breaks every thing she is used to, and it immediately made me remember an old friend of mine, her name was Reem, and she lived in Syria. One of her last tweets was in 2014, and honestly, every time she came on with new updates about her and her outlook on the country as a whole was so heartbreaking for us. I haven’t talked about her much because it hurts to know how close she was to it. I don’t know if she made it out of Syria and I’ve checked her previous accounts on Twitter, but there’s nothing there. I always hope she is somewhere free of the chaos and that’s all I can really do.

For our main character Jude, you are able to see the innocence of this young girl navigating this new world in a way; I liked the way, we as the reader, were able to see the good and bad in Jude’s life. She goes to a school in America with her cousin, who was born here. It was interesting to see the differences between these little girls as they are part of the same blood but has been through different things. For Jude’s cousin Sarah, she wouldn’t be totally comfortable accepting a hijab after starting her period. You get the gist right away that she wasn’t raised like that and isn’t very accepting of Jude to being like that.

and I know I am not back home, but here, in this home.

Despite this, there was one girl that was a great addition to Jude’s life, and her name is Layla. She was born in the United States, but her family is from Lebanon and own a Middle Eastern restaurant that Jude visits to enjoy food and love of her native homeland. Layla is a great insight into what it is like for a child who doesn’t feel like she belongs and feels like she’s punished for it. I believe Sarah and Layla respect two sides of what it’s like being a girl in America. If people don’t understand something, they are afraid of it. I heard this phrase a lot as a teenager, but it really spoke to me while reading about Jude in this book.

A way of getting acclimated to her new school was instantly being in an ESL class. ESL means “English Second Language” and I can remember seeing several students in school growing up, having to be hallways to learn English, because as far as I knew we didn’t have those at the time. Honestly, it wasn’t until high school we were allowed to choose between two languages to learn as an elective, and they were German and Spanish. In Jude’s case, she has three other students in her class, and they were from other parts of the world, and it was sweet to see them learn slang words like “bougie” (which I did not learn about until I was 28!) and phrases such as, “you know?”

There were so many things I truly adored about this book, but I did not enjoy how it ended. I felt like it should have given the reader more of what happens after that final scene, but instead we were left with a cliffhanger ending and it really angered me because I thought it could have continued on a little more, but I’ll get over it.

Have you read “Other Words for Home” by Jasmine Warga yet? If so, what were your thoughts? What was your favorite scene(s) of the whole book?

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Book Review: “Shield-Maiden: Under the Hunter’s Moon” by Melanie Karsak

Hello!

It is time to discuss my thoughts on the second book of “The Road to Valhalla” series by Melanie Karsak. If you have yet to check out how this whole journey started, click here, and you might want to skip this post, so you don’t see any spoilers.


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When the gods play in mortals’ lives, the only certain outcome is uncertainty. Especially when that god is Loki.

In the course of a night, I found out my entire life was a lie. Now, Yrsa, Eydis, and I will set off to recover Tyrfing. I must leave Dalr—and the dream I’d shared with Hofund—behind. Eydis is sure the gods have plans for me. I hope she’s right. For on the distant island of Bolmsö, the last of my father’s line is besieged by enemies, and only the blood of a berserker can make things right again.

taken from Goodreads.

Once I finished the first book, it didn’t necessarily take me long to get into the sequel. The one thing I was a bit worried about was the sheer number of pages it had compared to the other but then I got over it and was able to enjoy the continuation of Hervor’s story.

Some people have never experienced feeling unconditional love from their families, even in the same case as Hervor, as her mother does in fact adore her truly, but she has never been of sense and mind up until the end of the ‘Howling Moon’ and so she has relied on other people for care and protection but now she knows the truth of her parenteral side and she intends to make it known within herself but to others as well. You could look at this in the same way of Jon Snow finding out about his heritage on season six and seven of “Game of Thrones”.

Although the plot is based around Hervor proving herself worthy of others around her, you still have the comical side with characters like Eydis and newcomer Utr. They were a nice separation of the serious events happening all over.

“The gods have surely brought you here, Hervor.”

There was one part of the story, and everyone was getting ready for an upcoming battle, and there was a tiny scene that puzzled me because I wondered if it was plausible for this character–who is fictional I know–to actually know and understand the measures it took on the battle itself. Eydis had explained that she had received a vision of a certain Trojan horse that was moved into the other side’s camp, however it was not hollow on the inside, and everyone was massacred once the ruse broke.

The story of the horse was featured in Homer’s Odyssey and although it is still unclear whether or not the horse even existed, they time the war between Greeks and Troy to be around 1194 to 1184 BC. If you are even more curious to learn about the myth, you can click here. After finishing my research, I went to look into the sagas of Hervor and I found that her story is placed sometime in the 13th Century BC, which is fairly close to the story of the horse, so with that, it seemed like a clever way to connect both sides of history into this series.

Despite all of this, I realized as I was searching for everything that I was just like Hervor in this book. It can be difficult to decipher between myth and truth. There were a lot of speculations who Hervor’s father was in the beginning and it has been interesting for me to wonder about the these two settlements; the Vikings were brutal warriors and ruled the waters with axes, shields, and sheer strength in their bodies plus knowing they will be drinking in the halls with Odin in Valhalla as they dead on the battlefield wasn’t a bad passing, whereas the Greeks lived in massive cities of concrete buildings and sophisticated armor with swords and horse drawn chariots. I mean, certain parts of history do have a way of repeating itself.

I never meant to doubt Melanie’s information or overall work, but from the moment I read that paragraph, I found it odd but then of course I let it fester in my head as I continued reading and knew I would eventually look everything up to my curious heart’s content and that’s what happened. I feel better and pleased to learn more about how our ancient selves lived, and thought you, if you are like me and love history, would appreciate the insight too!

Have you read ‘Under the Hunter’s Moon’ by Melanie Karsak yet? If you have, what were your favorite parts of it?

snowflake