Book Review: “Shield-Maiden: Under the Blood Moon” by Melanie Karsak

Hello again!

It’s crazy to think I am almost finished with this series. It has been a great sequel to “The Raven and The Dove” book I read earlier this year, but now my mind is like, what are we going to do after this one ends? The plan is to start on the other Viking series by Melanie Karsak but I am also thinking about focusing on other genres, so we’ll have to see what happens after July, because when I finished this book, I turned my attention to the newest book in Melanie’s “Celtic Rebels” series about Queen Boudica.


a0ad5d4f6824dcc4af923d1d21296303

As the blood moon rises, the shadow of Ragnarök falls on Uppsala.

With the dark days in Dalr behind them, Hervor and Hofund journey to Grund. Hervor’s focus turns to tracking down the sea kings and taking vengeance, but she soon finds that life in Grund is convoluted. Family grudges, secret alliances, and shady friendships abound in the capital. Everyone has their own agenda, and for some, Hervor is in the way. Hervor will find that surviving Grund is far more complicated than the bloody fields. But a blood moon is rising. Soon, Odin’s shield-maiden must clear the path to her promised future…no matter who must meet Tyrfing to ensure that fate.

taken from Goodreads.

I had mentioned that once everything ended in “Under the Thunder Moon” you couldn’t see what was going to unfold for our beloved characters. It was going to be interesting as far as how Melanie was going to do about Hervor now being a jarl on Bolmsö and princess of Grund after marrying Prince Hofund. She was becoming her own person, especially now that Eydis was to be with Leif in Dalr. You didn’t exactly how everything would turn out, but I was definitely intrigued about it.

There is a lot of traveling involved as we start from Bolmsö to Dalr, Silfreheim to finally Prince Hofund’s home Grund. As most people would feel in this situation, Hervor and her gang of warriors are uneasy, especially after she was crowned Jarl Hervor of Bolmsö. This world is completely opposite to life on both Dalr and Bolmsö, as Grund is much larger and has a court full of cunning and resentful people close to the royal family. We also have the issue of the sea kings creating havoc everywhere they go, and it was exciting to see all of these various Jarls, Kings, Princes, and several shield-maidens of Scandinavia come together to kick some serious ass towards the end but beware when you arrive to this scene because a beloved character dies, and it hurt me pretty bad–so much that it took me five days to finish this post!

“No one backs a wolf into a corner and remains unscathed.”

While I was reading, I tried to highlight as much as possible, and I do this for two reasons: I get my quotes of this review, but I also enjoy researching various things and then sharing the results with you guys. I did this with the second book of the series, as it mentioned the Trojan horse scheme. For this book though, there was a section where Prince Hofund is showing Hervor, Yrsa and Blomma the marketplace and while Hofund is pulled away, Hervor buys material to make into suitable dresses for court life, and she or Yrsa asks how the seamstress made such a vibrant colors and she explains there is a shell by the sea that helps color the fabric naturally, and what was weird about this, was I remembered hearing something about that exact shell a week or so beforehand!

I enjoy watching History Tea Time with Lindsay Holiday on YouTube and I was listening to her video about FAQs and Odd Facts and there is a part in the video where she is explaining how the darker purple became “Royal” purple and I just thought this was so interesting and incredibly weird that both of things would happen at the same time! Anyways, click here if you’d like to learn more about the process into making a richer color of purple.

Have you read the fourth book in “The Road to Valhalla” by Melanie Karsak yet? For those who have, what were some of your thoughts?

snowflake

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: “Shield-Maiden: Under the Thunder Moon” by Melanie Karsak

Hello!

And we’re back for another book in Melanie Karsak’s “The Road to Valhalla” series. I really don’t know what I’m going to do once I read all of these books; she is currently working on a spinoff series with the character introduced at the end of the previous story. If you would like to check out my thoughts on the other two, click either ‘Under the Howling Moon‘ and/or ‘Under the Hunter’s Moon’ and then you can always come back to this one afterwards!


3ec6e2523ca243c2112ad0cd52b6ad34

Under the thunder moon, the war-horn will sound, and Odin’s Valkyrie will rise.

Reunited with Hofund, and with Bolmsö safe from its enemies, Hervor takes her place as jarl. But the All-Father has bigger plans for his favorite shield-maiden. When Hervor learns that Jarl Bjartmar has vowed vengeance on Leif, she knows she must stand by her cousin. To free Dalr, they must enlist the help of old allies, former enemies, and a warrior-priest called the Reindeer King. Together, they will fight to free Dalr.

taken from Goodreads.

A lot happens in this book, I mean, it is packed with everything all fans of Vikings love the most: war. Honestly, I thought there was a lot of fighting in the second book, but the journey and reasons are completely different as we have Hervor, Ysra and her cousin Lief going back to Dalr to basically liberate the people there in the village, including Hervor’s mother Svafa and Leif’s younger brothers Hakon and Helger from their tyrant of a grandfather.

In almost every chapter, you feel just as uncertain about the events that could happen to these characters, but then you remember about Hervor’s strength to get through probably the best times of her life being so close to newly grandfather Arngrim–who would have enjoyed Hervor’s company if she and her mother weren’t taken away from Bolmsö–plus his second in command Regal and shield-maiden Hella. When we get towards the end, we get a sense of coming full circle for almost everyone. The one person who I believe will be troublesome is Asta, especially when Eydis and the babies arrive home – this was one part of the whole thing that has me kind of shattered, because I absolutely adore Eydis and Hervor’s antics, but she needs to take her rightful place with the people that love her just as much.

“May the All-Father watch over us. May Frigga shake the spear of war. May Thor beat his anvil. And most of all, may Utr watch our arses.”

Now that things have calmed down for the time-being, I don’t know what to expect in “Under the Blood Moon.” I find this really interesting because we can assume several things, but it sort of feels like we’re starting a brand-new story and Melanie could take the story in another way entirely, and she definitely did that with “Highland Queen” too. I just hope I end up loving what happens, because I was less than thrilled with that ending… Anyways, I’m ready to see what happens, and by the way, there are five books in this series so there’s no way to really figure out how it all ends for these characters and I’m so happy about it!

Have you read “Shield-Maiden: Under the Thunder Moon” by Melanie Karsak yet? What were your favorite quotes and/or scenes mentioned in the story?

snowflake

Book Review: “Roping the Cowboy” by Kennedy Fox

Hello again!

EDIT: I didn’t really have a good time of figuring out the best way of publishing my posts – I do hope you enjoy this review just as much though. Don’t worry tomorrow, we’ll carry on as normally!

April was productive but not as much last month…

I was able to finish six books. I have never done this before; my usual quota is three to four books each month, but I was able to convert the majority of my reads into audiobooks or they were a part of my second list of books I am keeping track of this year. If you are curious about this, you can click here to be transported to that blog post.


0272efcb0501bbb4ae96c5de4ff1c699

Originally on the Read Me Romance podcast. This eBook release is a novella set in the world of the Bishop Brothers with bonus chapters & an extended epilogue!

An unforgettable one-night stand filled with heat and passion starts the unraveling of a love-hate feud between a small-town baker and an arrogant cowboy.

When Katarina shows up at the Circle B Ranch Bed & Breakfast to serve her new gluten-free, sugar-free, organic pastries, Braxton decides to make her life hell for kicking him out the next morning and then pretending he never existed.

First step, make fun of her tasteless muffins.
Second step, get revenge.

Soon the duo are at each other’s throats, getting even until things go too far and the chemistry burns too hot.

Kat claims their night together meant nothing.
He’s determined to prove her wrong.

taken from Goodreads.

If you didn’t know, I absolutely love the ladies of Kennedy Fox and I’ve actually had this book for a few months now. Anytime they have multiple books out for free, I am taking an advantage of the opportunity and I had just finished a great month of reading and wanted to basically sink my teeth into something juicy so I thought I could get a move on with the Circle B Ranch series, since I have quite a collection piling up on my Kindle, and I just thought if you needed a nice and sexy short story, you could look into these books soon!

“Beautiful flowers for a beautiful lady.” I smirk. “You know I’m immune to that cowboy Casanova bullshit, right?”

This quote is exactly something I’d say prior to reading any cowboy-ish books. I thought I would only fold for Vanessa Vale’s stuff since she loves to discuss dirty cowboys, but oh no, apparently Kennedy Fox is taking me for a ride as well!

Honestly, this was a great way to start the entire series. You rarely see novellas at the top of the series–or at least I don’t!–but I think the main reason why it worked so well is because not a lot of women out there enjoy cowboys. I live in the Midwest and I can personally tell you that I’ve found country dudes somewhat fake. There’s a difference between acting the part and actually being a cowboy, like Ree Drummond has herself a true cowboy, with husband Ladd. He works on many different areas on the ranch and not a lot of guys who want to be like that can do it physically.

I will be diving into the other books of this series this summer as a little treat to myself. Here are the ones that have been sitting in the depths of my e-reader for way too long: Catching the Cowboy and Kissing the Cowboy. There are many reasons why I absolutely love Kennedy Fox books but the one thing I love the most is that all of their books (until said otherwise!) are standalones! They may belong in a series and some characters from the other stories can join in through background scenes, and this makes me feel better for not having the exact order to know everything. Jasinda Wilder writes her books in the same way, or at least the Badd Brothers series can be read out of order too, which has helped me get over my insecurities for not knowing certain players and stories.

Are you reading the ‘Circle B Ranch’ series by Kennedy Fox too? Which book or couple do you love the most? How are you about the cowboys involved too?

snowflake

Book Review: “The Best of Us” by Kennedy Fox

Hello!

One thing I wanted to do this year is limit the amount of romance books. I want to focus on other genres, but I saw the ladies of Kennedy Fox mentioned this one was free on Amazon last month, and I couldn’t help myself I had to get it before the opportunity disappeared. They were also in the process of releasing the fourth book of this series called “The Heart Of Us” so I figured I would check out the start of this collection.

I am still on the fence about it, mainly because I don’t really care for age-gap romances, but the snippets they shared on Instagram prior made me really happy, so we’ll have to see what comes out of this post. I’d still like to continue Travis and Viola‘s story of their Checkmate series, but these things take time apparently!


440e1c9bac4e78f8fe144ae3d4afce72

What happens when the biggest blizzard of the year hits and you’re trapped in a cabin with your best friend’s brother? You take every opportunity to spend time together and make him fall in love with you.

The Best of Us is a best friend’s brother, opposites attract, and snowed-in together standalone romance.

taken from Goodreads.


There were a lot of things I truly loved about this story. I mean besides the steamy sex scenes; it had a great and relatable plot amongst the characters. The main reason why I choose the word “relatable” is because everyone, especially Ryan, are coming out of the COVID-19 mess. He is a doctor who saw firsthand of what the virus did to his co-workers and patients. I thoroughly enjoyed Ryan as a whole, he was portrayed as a stoic person, but also showed a lot of emotion about his family and work. Whenever I read books like this, I am pulled towards the female character a lot of the time, but for this, I was fully on Team Ryan.

I want Kendall as much as she wants me, and the only thing coming between us is my insecurities.

Now with that being said, it doesn’t mean Kendall wasn’t an awesome character. I admired her sense of humor but most importantly her strength while wanting to find herself outside of her family and focusing on her charity work.

It was interesting to see how these characters share their reasons why they do what they do and you as the reader find out they are more alike in ways neither one expected, and I was surprised I didn’t find it annoying or unrealistic once they got over that hump–no pun intended there!–and began to think there could be more for them as a couple.

If you haven’t read anything by Kennedy Fox, I definitely you should grab this book. If you think using the pandemic as a prop for this story is a bit weird, because honestly, I thought I wouldn’t be into it either, trust me when I say it makes sense to use it to show you another side of Ryan’s life as a doctor.

Have you read “The Best Of Us” yet? If you have, what were your thoughts about this story of Ryan and Kendall?

snowflake