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!


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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: “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?

snowflake

April Playlist

Hello my friends!

In my last post, I talked about how I went to visit family at the beginning of the month for my nana’s birthday, and usually I am very good at keeping track of the tunes we listen to while we’re in the car, but this time I was in the backseat with my mom and nephew, so I couldn’t hear and I may have taken a nap both times, and I was only able to remember five songs altogether.

Besides the trip, I had another great event happen. One of my favorite alternative R&B artist BANKS released her fourth album “Serpentina” and I have been trying to help spread the word about it but keep forgetting to do it, so I have decided to start on a brand-new series on here for the summer. I really miss doing my Tune Tuesday posts, and I thought it would be great idea to bring it back in some way with an artist highlight. It will be a single blog post about the artist or band in question, it will include some information about how I came across them, an individual playlist of my favorite tracks and where they will be headed next on tour. If I can get through three months, I’ll consider extended it into the fall. I don’t want to get in too over my head, so we’ll see how it goes.

How about I share my Top 25 songs of this month now. Check out the full playlist on Spotify here.

I Stand Alone by Godsmack
Fergalicious by Fergie and will.i.am
Like My Father by Jax
Ex I Never Had by LANY
Complete Mess by 5 Seconds Of Summer
Before I Ever Met You by BANKS
Numb Little Bug by Em Beihold
She Will Be Loved by Maroon 5
Meteorite by BANKS
In The Air Tonight by In This Moment
Money by The Warning
Planet Zero by Shinedown
Plastic Heart by Fame on Fire

Family by Badflower
Always Watching by Papa Roach
My Way by Limp Bizkit
Change on the Rise by Avi Kaplan
SOLD OUT by HARDY
So Called Life by Three Days Grace
Zombified by Falling In Reverse
Rest In Peace by Dorothy
Halcyon by Ellie Goulding
I Still Burn by Fozzy
Never Gonna Learn by Asking Alexandria
A Little Bit Off by Five Finger Death Punch

What were you listening to in April?

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DIY: The Dotted Piggy!

Hello!

Since discovering dot art back in 2019, I’ve felt like my journey with art in general is on another level. I absolutely love the feeling of creating something new and being at peace with the imperfections that come with it. After I finished with my Christmas projects, I wondered how long I would last until I had the itch again, and if you are wondering, it was only three months.

We have three chances a year to go up north to visit with my family, the first is around my nana’s birthday and I tried looking for little figurines or plush stuffed pigs on Amazon and Wal-Mart, and I just couldn’t find anything that stood out the most and I searched for a fairly long time and became frustrated that there were more things for guinea pig lovers than the pink ones… I don’t remember what pushed me into creating something for her, but once I had the thought, I just went crazy with the number of ideas to do with them.

I found this unfinished wooden cut out of a pig face on Wal-Mart’s website and I just thought the whole thing had enough sass to it that I knew everyone would love too. While I was went looking for the pig, I ended up finding a sea turtle design and thought it could be a great idea to do for my Aunt Laurie and Uncle Mike because they love beach themes, but my aunt really loves turtles too. I worked on the projects at the same time, but I will not be sharing my thoughts on it until the end of June, which is my aunt and uncle’s birthday month.


What you will need:

  • Canvas – you can use whatever you can find, whether it’s wood or ceramic.
  • Acrylic paint – I use DecoArt paints and the colors I used were pink, red, black, and white.
  • Dotting tools – you can purchase a set of tools online, but you could use anything in various sizes like a pencil, Q-Tip, toothpick, etc.
  • Paintbrushes – this is totally an option, as I only used it for the base coat and the tongue, but you can definitely dot these spaces or leave it out entirely.
  • Damp towel or baby wipes to was wash your hands/feet and anything else that has accidently paint on it…

Links:

Unfinished wooden pig (similar) | Dotting tools of various sizes | DecoArt Acrylic Paints: Black, Royal Fuchsia, and White


One of the main reasons I adored this pig was because of the outline around the ears, eyes, mouth and nose. I was worried that once I started doing the first layer of paint, they would disappear but for the most part, they stayed visible for me to do the black dots, but we are getting a heard of ourselves, so let’s rewind a bit.

The canvas itself was the perfect size, as it wasn’t too big or too small, one that even the big bad wolf would probably enjoy. I started off painting on the floor of my room and I went with a very light shade of pink; since I didn’t have the right color in my collection, I had to make it with my neon pink and white acrylic bottles. I put the pink in two slots in my palette and added the white as I heard (and tested it!) this worked better to blend and create the right hue of the paint and it covered the entire thing, but my thought process for the overall design was to add dimension between the cutout and dots. I actually went back and forth on the base coat because I thought it was too much but I’m very glad I decided to do it because it added an extra oomph to the whole thing!

The next day, I finally got started on how I gave her some personality, and again I was so sure how this part was going to turn out at first. I am still learning how to follow a line while making my dots. I made simple small designs for when I did the Christmas tree and Rudolph ornaments but since I only had to follow the slits of its features, I figured it would be easy enough for me, and thankfully it was and to make things even better for me, I used one of my smaller tools, they are really great with details, especially tiny ones and I have realized through doing this project, I am definitely confident creating each section. At first, I was going somewhat outside the lines so that I could still see everything but then as I went on, I managed to cover up most of them with the black paint.

I hadn’t even completed the mouth before I was falling in love with the overall result. The black really set a tone to the plain pink base coat and you could see we were both loving the magic coming to her. I tried to not get so confident that I would be taking risks and messing up the whole project, but I also couldn’t hide my excitement either!

Once I finished the outlines, I left it to dry for about a day. I gave myself time in between each layer so I wasn’t choosing over the comfort of my body and what I wanted else I could do to the pig. I was also in a brand-new position as I wasn’t on the floor anymore, I decided to use my new little table I got for Christmas, and I was really unsure how my body would react and definitely didn’t want to overdo anything either so once I started experiencing some pain in my lower back and eventually my knees, I knew I would need to stop at some point. Whenever this happens, of course I become upset with having to stop in the middle of a project but knowing my body’s limits is a very important. If I continued to push myself, I could possibly make mistakes and would be frustrated with myself about that as well.

When I went back to it, I was conflicted about how much I really wanted to use the dots. I really love the contrast between a regular painted section and a very populated dot area, and I knew it even before I did the ears of how cool that effect would be to the overall design. So, I decided to paint the tongue red. It would be another smaller part so as long as I didn’t go off my original idea. After I completed it, I went forward with doing a dotty inside of the mouth, and I am still not 100% happy with how it turned out, but I think adding the hot pink larger dots on the rest of the pig helped because the color contrast between the lighter pink of the background and a milder shade of the same paint really made it pop. Once I went around the chin with those big dots, I literally couldn’t contain my excitement for how cute she was becoming and I had to show her off quite a bit to my folks but also had to shield her away from my family–especially my nana, because she knows that anything pig worthy goes to her automatically! A part of me wanted to show her but I knew how important it was to reveal it face-to-face, so I kept a very big secret for at least a week and a half, which is impressive to my standards!

When I finally finished with everything, our plan was to glue or tape down a cute pink bow around its hairs, it had three little semi-sharp “hairs” poking out on the top of its head and decided to include some dots on them, in case we didn’t have time to put it on her, but in the end, it turned out we didn’t have a way of making sure it stuck there forever so I’m very glad I put dots around that section anyways!

As of right now, they haven’t found a way to put it up in my nana’s room. She has a big room, but she has a lot of decor, photos, and posters all over her walls, so finding the right placement for it is going to be a little bit tricky. While we were up there, I was even trying to find a spot for it and I had a difficult time with it, so good luck Mike!

I hope you enjoyed this “little” how to do post. The second post will be going out in June, so we have some time to find more projects in the meantime!

snowflake

March Playlist

Hello!

The music I was listening to this month was all over the place. Well, it’s like that all of the time, but I didn’t want a single artist/genre, I was switching it up every day. The reason for this was because I found my main Blog Playlist, I had on the right side of the site in 2015-16, when our internet wouldn’t allow me to have my Spotify for a longer period of time. I can’t tell you how grateful to have three separate ways to listen to my playlists now! Anyways, the playlist has some good jams, but it is super long, so I’ll probably listening to it as we make our way into April.

I’ve also made it my mission every week to pay attention to my ‘Discover Weekly’ too. I like how on the beginning and end of the weeks are controlled by the wide range of music. My DW playlist changes on Monday and every Friday we get brand new music, so they are really handy if you want something new or want to stay with a certain genre/mood. For example, if I’m in a mood for BANKS and proceed to listen to her stuff for like half a week, it’ll give you artists and songs that might be similar to her.

For March, I thought we should bring back the Top 25 because why not? If you’d like to listen to the full playlist, click here.

Transform by Julianne Hough
Trophy Hunter by Within Temptation
Bitch by Emily Vaughn
iPad by The Chainsmokers
Holding Back by BANKS
Chicken Teriyaki by Rosalia
Chaos by Hollywood Undead
Bad Girlfriend by Theory of a Deadman
Every Man Is A Warrior by Lena Fayre
Go by Meg Myers
Day Before We Went To War by Dido
God Gave Me You by Dave Barnes
Impermanence (Abbey Road Version) by Architects
Invisible by Ashlee Simpson
Now I’m In It by HAIM

My Universe by Kurt Hugo Schneider featuring Alex Goot & First To Eleven
Crystaleyes by AVIVA
Decay by Sevendust
Bad Habits by The Animal In Me
Love Me Harder by Lauren Babic featuring Radvansky
War (Epic Trailer Version) by J2 featuring Maddi Lasker
American Idiot by Halocene
Pinky Ring by Ne-Yo featuring O.T. Genasis
Butterflies by Abe Parker
Circle The Drain by Wage War

Whenever there is a situation somewhere in the world, I tend to really lean on my cinematic music, especially the superhero/uplifting type of music, but ever since the start of the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, I’ve really pushed them away because it just seemed weird to be listening much less sing along to lyrics that these people are actually experiencing right now. Honestly, I didn’t want to talk about my thoughts of what’s going on, but there is one song that I found at the beginning of the fighting, and it was J2’s version of Edwin Starr’s “War (What Is It Good For?)” featuring the singer Maddi Lasker. I’ve only listened to it twice earlier in the month, but I can’t hear it anymore or else it’ll make me sadder of what’s going on.

What were you listening to in March?

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