Book Review: “Highland Raven” by Melanie Karsak

Hello!

The only way I can explain why I read this book is because I desperately wanted to connect to my Scottish roots. I love my Irish bloodline but have always felt something different for the other one. I’ve never found the answer to it, but reading various books have helped me think positively towards Scotland. I actually had one other book I found on Kindle Unlimited and it was nonfiction but since reading the Hades and Persephone series in January, I’ve been craving more fantasy and magic books, so when I saw this series, I thought I would take a chance on it.

WARNING: There are some spoilers mentioned after the description, so if you don’t want to be ruined too much of what this book is about, don’t read anything towards the bottom!

25787673._SY475_

Destined to become Queen of Scotland.
Bound by blood to the Celtic gods.

Scotland, 1026–Gruoch, descendant of the line of MacAlpin, should have been born into a life of ease. But fate is fickle. Her father’s untimely death, rumored to have been plotted by King Malcolm, leaves her future uncertain and stained by the prophecy that she will avenge her family line.

Escaping to one of the last strongholds of the old Celtic gods, Gruoch becomes an adept in arcane craft. Her encounters with the otherworld, however, suggest that magic runs stronger in Scotland than she ever imagined. Haunted by dreams of a raven-haired man she’s never met, Gruoch soon feels her fate is not her own. She is duty-bound to wed a powerful lord, if not the Prince himself; however, she’s not sure she can stop her heart when she meets Banquo, a gallant highlander and druid.

Fans of Outlander and Mists of Avalon will relish this sweeping Scottish Historical Fantasy that tells the tale of Gruoch, a woman struggling to escape her fate without blood on her hands.

taken from Goodreads.

So, I’m not really familiar with William Shakespeare’s play Macbeth. It wasn’t one that I was forced to read out loud throughout high school (thank god!) but I have seen the film called Lady Macbeth with Florence Plugh, I have seen it twice but have never finished it. Once I decided that I was going to read this series. I knew it would be like I walked into another realm, and oddly enough, this metaphor works out great with this story! Anywho, I just looked at the cover and was basically drawn to it and I just hoped it wouldn’t let me down too much.

I look at the whole thing in three acts, you get to know the origins of Gruoch and Corbie, living at her aunt and uncle’s castle and knowing her only role in life there is to be a pawn because of her bloodline, as she is the direct link to the Irish royal families, and at this time, Christianity is being introduced all across the land and reeking havoc on the Old Gods, and when it is her time, she goes to live with this coven, of eight women to learn more about the history, paganism and magic. And then you are pulled back into the Macbeth side and discuss the role of the Wyrd Sisters.

Something wicked this way comes.

I was already sold on the medieval aspect of the story and the fact that you, as a reader, are learning things such as soul magic–I found it so interesting!–that I was literally telling myself “it’s not real Meghan,” but what I was really surprised about was my interest into the Celtic paganism and rituals mentioned within the story. In a way, Samhain is like Day Of The Dead to Latin Americans, where you celebrate your ancestors, by giving them their favorite foods, clothes, etc. If you want to learn more about the Celtic religion and everyday life, click here

There were a lot of information mentioned but for once, I wasn’t confused or thought it was too much (shockingly!) but I still gave it a four out of five stars on Goodreads. I think it was because of the sections between the events that happened during Samhain and then suddenly being transferred to a whole other part. I kind of kept losing interest once we entered the third act and I never really understood that part yet. However, I just need to keep thinking that maybe we’ll learn more about all of the that in the second book, Highland Blood, because I was smart this time around and as it started getting toward the end of it, I went and downloaded the next story in the series. There is a slight chance that by the time I get this review up, I’ve finished reading that one and have an extra post on Friday, but don’t get your hopes up though because I am reading rather slower than I would like to at the moment.

Have you checkout out the The Celtic Blood series by Melanie Karsak? If you have, were you familiar with the story of ‘Macbeth’ already?

Life | Struggling With My Heritage

Hello!

If I am a having a great reading month, I can bang out two reviews at the most, but if I’m not, figuring out what I want to blog about can be somewhat difficult for me. I do believe the book and music posts are the heart of this site but I think what I miss about are personal stories. It could be what I eat in a day or a life lately update, as long as it is like you’re talking to your best friend, I love them! And that’s what I want to bring back to the blogging community for 2021.

So, let’s start this year off with a brand new series, called “Life”. I sort of felt like Sir David Attenborough at the beginning of those nature documentaries you see on BBC America a little as I was writing that sentence!


At the end of 2019, my mom and I were finally to get dad something he’s always wanted for the last two or years, and it was the AncestryDNA kit. The year before, I was relaying things about my nana’s results, because she was given the kit for Christmas the year before. The biggest difference between the two of them is that, we sort of knew where she was from as we have a detailed family tree and information for her, whereas with my dad, it has been a case of “maybe” since I was really young, so he was genuinely very happy to receive this, even though he has been worried that these companies will keep the DNA in case you are wanted by the CIA or FBI. I understand why he had this fear, and I feel like it’s not one that a lot of people make easily, but again, he was very excited to finally get some answers!

Honestly, he wasn’t the only one who was curious. I am interested in genealogy, as I watch almost every TV show about other people’s discoveries. I find them really neat, especially when people are introduced to certain ancestors that may not have been the best people in their lives. It is also cool to feel proud of these people being apart of important moments in history too! However, if you are only wanting to see the percentage of where your family came from, that’s fine! This tool gives a better insight of general areas you came from through your heritage.

When my nana had told all of us was stuff we already knew, well, what I knew at least. She has strong ties to the British isles, mainly Irish, but there was an even bigger number for the western part of Europe: Germany. For my nana, who was given up for adaption at the age of 2. After she was given to her parents, they were afraid that her older siblings would be able to find her and basically steal her back to her biological family, so she moved around a lot growing up and lived on the West Coast for the majority of her life before coming back to the Midwest where she met her husband, my papaw in the the early 60’s.

It wasn’t until the late 80’s that someone came and knocked on her door to ask her name and was told that she had been adopted. Now, it took a little bit for this news to sink in but in the next two years, she found out that she was one of 13 children to a German father, who was a traveling salesman (he used to make furniture) and a Irish stay at home mother. She was able to meet some of her siblings and their families as they held a reunion a year before I was born. So, as I grew up, I heard every stage of her life and it’s been permanently engraved into my brain. It wasn’t until I was out of high school did I become obsessed with learning more about my own ancestry.

As we were able to find loads of information on my mom’s parents, and how exciting it was to learn more about both sides, I figured going into my dad’s side would be the same, even though it was full of questions more than answers. He has always said that we were of Scottish and Welsh descent but then there was some folklore in there too. We could have been connected to Native Americans. I was very much into that side of the story, and wanted to learn so much about it, but nobody was sure on what tribe we came from or how it came about either. Every year in school, we would learn more about these people and I would be ecstatic about it! When I was in fourth grade, our class created a teepee on one side of the room and we were divided up into a group of four and had to come up with names that resembled something they would have been called in their tribe. I chose Sunflower and was thankful that nobody else picked it out for themselves!

While my dad kept track of the arrival of his results at the end of February, they answered things we knew but my heart shattered on the no mention of being related to Native Americans.

It was one thing to know that I wasn’t a descendent of these amazing people, but it was even a harder pill to swallow to know that I was a full on brute.

The start of 2020 was very difficult on my self-worth because I would literally torture myself as I silently retraced the steps of history’s most horrible people like, Adolf Hitler’s hatred towards the Jewish community and becoming a dictator and was able to convince all of Germany to be mean. They were beaten, forced to work in camps, starved, and murdered because of their difference in religion. Unfortunately, after all these years of Germany becoming liberated of the Nazi regime, many people are still weary of the country.

And the last, the English coming to the West Indies and creating colonies on lands that were already occupied by indigenous people. Instead of the reason being about their religion, it was because they were not like them. Everything about Native Americans scared them, so they took everything that belonged to them and massacred and gave no mercy to anyone, even mothers and children. The English also brought with them the cruelty of keeping black people in slavery to the already cursed country. This would prove a problem that lasted well after Abraham Lincoln read the Emancipation Proclamation and allowed them to become “free” and able to do things that their masters had long been doing since they came to the United States.

It is a blessing to know many parts of history, but it is so hard to digest everything that your distant relatives could have done, which was the main reason why I didn’t say anything to anybody until now. I often wonder what would they think of me. Would they be embarrassed or proud of the way I hold myself, think about certain things and most importantly my disability? Unfortunately, I will never be able to gain anything by keeping this thought around, because it’ll never be answered.

As frightening to know that I could have some very bad people connected to my DNA but I started to feel bad for only looking at that side of things. These events are unsettling; we still struggle with our past, but we must move on and make sure to change our ways so it doesn’t happen ever again. We don’t learn anything by forgetting these sometimes gruesome and upsetting tales, so I will let them live in a large chest that is already full to rim of things that I have experienced in my life already, and continue blossoming into this journey.

Have you had your DNA tested? If you have, did you find out anything that was unexpected? For those who haven’t done it yet, can you tell me one reason you haven’t done it yet?

Book Review: “Women Of Scotland: A Journey Through History” by Helen Susan Swift

Howdy!

Recently I was scrolling through new free books on Amazon and I came across this little beauty. It is called Women Of Scotland: A Journey Through History by Helen Susan Swift. I am prone to love books directed towards women and their everyday lives, and it doesn’t matter on the time period, I just like to learn what they were up to; so when I read the description of this, I became even more curious to learn about them.

I actually wasn’t going to do this review, but I wanted a nice get way to talk about my reason to why I decided to read this book. I just figured I could kill two birds with one stone! So, let’s get started with my explanation and ultimately talk about why I enjoyed this, but still gave it three stars on Goodreads.


13510287

A historical survey of Scotswomen from earliest times to the 21st century. This book looks the huge number of women who have been the driving force behind this small but dynamic nation from the dark ages to the present day. As well as warriors and scientists, fish wives, seawomen, the factory workers and authors are included.

taken from Goodreads.


For Christmas, my dad received the AncestryDNA kit. He’s always talked about doing it, but is really paranoid about these things. However, once he did it, it was like he was a kid again, all excited and giddy with every new notification. It was so adorable!

He has known about the Scottish and Welsh roots, but wasn’t really sure about the percentage. Once the results were ready, he found out that he a greater amount of both heritages but with the addition of Irish, British and Germanic, which we are still unsure about anyways, so if you know this means, please explain it to me so I can tell him too!

For me, I have always felt more Irish than Scottish and that was the big reason why I decided to get this book, because I thought maybe it would inspire me to accept this easier. In the beginning, it really helped and I was even saying to my mom, “these are my ancestries and I am descended from these strong women!” So, it became a great investment in both ways as my dad was discovering his family tree and I was learning more about the history of Scottish women.

*****

I feel like I should mention that I got this, a little bit before he received his results back. So, whether or not he was right about his family folklore (because we found out another tall tale was wrong!) I think I would have continued to read it. I say “I think” because there were some chapters that were incredibly boring…

Since this book was about women, the author really dug deep and found some extraordinary women and girls to discuss in each section. We start off learning about the Romans, Vikings invading early Britton. As it continues talking about the Celts and their ways, like how they revered the women from their beauty to rules of marriage, divorce, and ownership over lands.

One story in particular that I remember in a chapter was about Lady Devorgilla. The name differs but the way Helen used was “Devorgilla” so that’s how I’ll call her. I don’t really remember much, because of the amount of other’s stories I learned while reading, but she was the mother of a King of Scotland. She created a college located in Oxford (Balliol College), an Abbey called “Sweetheart Abbey”, and a notable bridge called Devorgilla Bridge.

One interesting fact that I just adored was that even though she was betrothed to her husband John Balliol from a young age, she clearly loved him dearly! After he passed away, she commissioned an Abbey to be made so she and the nuns could endlessly pray for her husband’s soul. She apparently had his heart embalmed and locked away in a casket so she had a piece of him every day and night. This is why the name of the Abbey, is “Sweetheart Abbey”.

There were a lot of individual stories included in the book. Since it literally goes in order of history, you have many tales of medieval royal women. She does talk about Mary, Queen of Scots, but tries not to dedicate too much time to her which I liked a lot because I hope to read a book dedicated to her only. However, there were also just ordinary women included too. Some who maybe made a name for themselves outside of Scotland.

As you come to the 19th and 20th Century chapters, you will learn about women who did not abide by the rules of the time. They traveled all around the world like the men of the time. One by the name of Helen Gloag was an regular young women wanting to explore new worlds but her boat was captured by pirates and was forced to change course to Morocco.

At the point, the sexes would be separated, while the men were killed the women on the ship were sold as slaves and she was brought to the ruler, Sultan Sidi Mohammid ibn Abdullah. He obviously liked her unique features and took her in and eventually married her, thus becoming an Empress of Morocco.

The chemistry between them must been mutual as they had two sons and she was able to write to her family back in Scotland about her new home. She was also able to persuade the Sultan to release any person captured by the pirates that came into their kingdom. When her husband died, she was removed of her place and title as one of the Sultan’s older sons had his younger half brothers killed and there’s a possibility that Helen lived the reminder of her life in exile as she disappears from history afterwards.

These women were wonderful to learn about, but I did give a three star rating on my Goodreads profile for a reason. It was because there were like four or five chapters in a row that discussed how women dealt with life as a peasant I guess, and I do feel awful about this. I really didn’t like the discussion about how women were treated during the times of war, although learning that some wives and entire families would flock among the camps of soldiers! Imagine bringing in a new baby to an actual war zone?! The other part was when we got into the lives of fisherwomen and working in the salt mines. It just wanted to drag on and on, but I am glad I continued though.

A part of me thinks this is a great book full of references a person could use if they are after a Women’s Studies degree. It has a lot of material that could be useful for feminists, as it talks about the Scottish suffragettes in the later chapters. It could also be a great motivational book, as it really helped influence me into thinking I am a strong woman myself, and since I am descended through many of these different women and their histories, I definitely felt influenced but loved as well.

Have you read “Women In Scotland” by Helen Susan Swift yet? If you have, what were your thoughts about it? Did you have any favorite stories too?

snowflake