Blogmas: Top 7 Books of 2021!

Hello!

This is my final post of 2021, and I thought the only way to end out the year is talking about all of the books I read this year, plus give you my all-time favorites at the bottom. This may turn out to be a chunky blog post so get ready for the rambles I’ll be doing throughout this thing.


For my Goodreads Reading Challenge for 2021, I decided to read over 30 books, since that is the age I turned this fall, and I was particular surprised on my speed at which I hit the yearly goal. On October 28th, I finished my last book to hit my goal, but of course I couldn’t stop reading in general. I ended up taking reading five other books of different genres and length afterwards; that is another thing that happened, towards the beginning of summer I started reading novellas and I know they helped me get over that hump a whole lot faster, but I learned quickly to live with it because I have really enjoyed the last two months since I’m not rushing to finish out the rest of the year.

It’s actually kind of hilarious when I look back to my reading plan at the start of the year looked fairly cool, as I was going to continue various series and then I watched Chelsea Palmer’s haul within two days of scheduling that post and I found out that Scarlett St Clair’s Hades x Persephone series was on Kindle Unlimited on my original idea quickly went to hell and I did not finish the four books I initially bought for myself as a late Christmas present! If I had the control to stay off of KU, I think I would be able to get into those books, but I couldn’t get over the pull and that’s why I’m leaving them for 2022 now.

When the month of August came around, I went through a small phase of thinking I could complete four book series this year. I had already gone threw one series a couple of weeks earlier so I began to feel a little overzealous with confidence in my reading ability, and honestly, I probably could do it, but not this one. I still have the final book in “Me Before You” by JoJo Moyes and “Sinners On Tour” by Olivia Cunning series and I hope to make time for them because I truly adore those characters and want to see how they all end within their stories.

I did add on to last year’s limit because I made my own goal bigger, and I thought it would also ease the pressure of giving every book a spot if I truly believed they deserve it. I didn’t want to do like I did in my previous post and make my two favorite books of the year share the same number when I could just add on to the list itself.


1. This Is War by Kennedy Fox

I was in thick of my romance craze when I got to this book, I didn’t even plan for it to happen but was fairly glad for the amount that came my way in the end.

For my first Kennedy Fox book ever, this was amazing! I found out something interesting about myself and what I love about explicit romances and that is, I really enjoy funny banter between the characters: the enemies to lovers’ kind of topic. It was a thing I searched for while sticking to the goal, and I’ve only found three others that could rival the antics of Travis and Viola big time. It has become a bit of a standard in my choosing future books, especially for the new year. I have yet to get the next book in its duet series but maybe I can persuade Santa Claus to grant me this one.

2. Highland Blood by Melanie Karsak

After completing Jenny Han’s “To All Of Boys I’ve Loved Before” series, I wondered what the next batch of would be, and if I had kept reading “After You” by JoJo Moyes in January, this might have an even more confident spell in my brain but instead I wanted to chase my Scottish roots a little bit more and ended up finding the “Celtic Blood” series by Melanie Karsak. These books were available on KU and made the whole process of reading go very quick. Once I got the first book, I was gone! There wasn’t a moment I’d take back because I just adored the story of Gruoch so much.

I did have somewhat of a hard time picking between Highland “Raven” and “Blood” because I loved them equally, but I had to give it to this book because of the number of emotions I went through along with Gruoch. I enjoyed almost everything about it. I became interested in Celtic mythology, witchcraft, etc. for the majority of the year. I’ve been learning a lot about their beliefs, and I think seeing Gruoch become a strong woman in this story was amazing! I loved her relationship with Gillacoemgain, and wanted to stay in that Castle of Moray with the two of them forever, but then the ending came and she and I cried together in those last couple of chapters.

3. What Passes as Love by Trisha R. Thomas

By the time I came across this one, I was coming through a small slump. I had just finished the fourth and final book in the CB series, so I felt very lot and sad, but I went looking through the books in the genre historical fiction since I had a great turnout before, and I found this gem and it made me stay off KU for at least a week or two because I didn’t need to look for books, this was what got me through to the finish line.

I am one of those people who is attracted to the cover than anything else. The day I found this book was very boring, I had been searching for something to get me out of the slump for a while and it wasn’t long before I found “What Passes as Love” on Kindle Unlimited. I remember looking at the cover and thinking, this is really pretty, and clicking to see what it was about, and after learning about it, I thought it sounded great but I was still so unsure I was ready for it so I left it and could not stop thinking about it for two whole days! They always say, if you can’t stop thinking about it, get it and that’s what I did and I did not look for another book until I finished it about a week later!

4. A Touch of Darkness by Scarlett St Clair

At the end of 2020, I came across the Hades x Persephone series through Chelsea Palmer’s YouTube channel. It was new and steeped in Greek mythology, and this is how I ended up getting into the Celtic Blood series as it is somewhat centered in Celtic mythology as well, but this series is a modern take on those stories of the Underworld God, Hades and The Goddess of Spring, Persephone.

Anyways, I kind of cheated when I started reading the first book, which is “A Touch of Darkness” because I began reading it a week or so before the first day of 2021. I couldn’t stop myself from diving all-in with it and I didn’t. I’m glad I read it because it gave me a chance to really enjoy the prospect of another set of goals within the new year. I want to say it me over a week to finish this book and probably two months to complete the first three books between the two characters before I started on my CB journey.

5. Rough by Renee Rose and Vanessa Vale

I had the most difficult time figuring out which of my erotica books I loved the most, I could have done a Top 5 post of just those books honestly!

You might have noticed, Vanessa Vale was another big author for me as I read four books in total but my absolute favorite out of all those was Rough, and she wrote it with Renee Rose. Before this one, I had never read anything by Renee, but I loved the book so much that I literally got her “Holiday Gift Box” that has The Director (Chicago Bratva), Alpha’s Temptation (Bad Boy Alphas) featuring Lee Savino, King of Diamonds (Vegas Underground), His Human Slave (Zandian Masters) and of course Rough (Wolf Ranch) as an early Christmas present for myself. Technically it was free, so it wasn’t like a big deal on that part.

Back to this though. I go back and forth on whether I love cowboys–and it’s only with Vanessa Vale’s books that I really question it because they are always so damn dreamy! I thoroughly enjoyed it, and I’m still embarrassed about the fact that I confused the male character’s last name “Wolf” to be for his ding-a-ling, but it was actually because he is a wolf…

6. Queen of Oak by Melanie Karsak

If the name Melanie Karsak seems familiar to you, well oddly enough, I read five books by Melanie this year. I’ve only had four other authors in total hook me with multiple books and/or series, and they are Kennedy Fox, Vanessa Vale, Jasinda Wilder, and J.K. Rowling.

This book is about Queen Boudica and her journey, and by the time I was able to read it, I was going through withdrawl because I loved the CB series so much! It was nice to come back into that world again and even though it wasn’t Gruoch as I’ve gotten to know her, I still enjoyed Boudica as a whole, but she actually wasn’t my favorite in the book though. I really enjoyed Don and Ula the most as they reminded me of “Gramma” from Moana, she was in my head for the character Ula, they are a little weird, but you never doubted their power as a woman. As for Don, she came across to me like, the Northuldra leader Yelena from Frozen II as she was very stoic but laidback too. They were two different personalities, but I just loved them so much.

7. The Boleyns at Hever Castle by Claire Ridgewater and Owen Emmerson

Shockingly, I only read a handful of nonfictions this year. I started out my reading journey with two distinct genres: historical fiction and biographical/memoirs. As I’ve mentioned above, I had a fairly good selection of the historical fiction but only three memoirs though!

I thought the book about The Duke of Windsor was interesting, but I felt it just dragged on and on as it continued that I almost gave up on it twice! After I was done, I took a very long break and then I saw this while on Goodreads earlier in the year, as it was being released to the public and I put it on my TBR list but figured I’d never get it, so imagine my face, the day a few months later when I discovered it on Kindle Unlimited! I was so happy that I literally stopped whatever I was doing to read it. I think it took me three days to finish it. I still don’t like the beginning of the book as Claire and Owen explain Hever’s medieval blueprint and how it changed up until The Boleyn family lived there. Other than that, I really enjoyed this book. It was different from what I normally read, and I hope I can find more books like it in the new year.


Later today, I have a little countdown of this list going up on my blog’s Facebook page. I had specifically made this banner for that video but I forgot to put it in so I thought I would share my thoughts on my favorite recent reads on the last bit of this post.

The first book I read after completing “Queen of Oak” was Mario Escobar’s “Auschwitz Lullaby” and it was a beautiful disaster. I always have a difficult time explaining how much I love a book about stories from World War II and the aftermath of the Holocaust, so that is why I called it like that. Anyways, this tells the story of what happened in the Gypsy camp of the Auschwitz II camp from 1941-42. I explain more in my mini review on Facebook if you’d like to check that out afterwards.

Secondly, we have Melissa Gilbert’s memoir “Prairie Tale” and I just finished it a few weeks ago and I am still reeling from it. I was a casual watcher of Little House on the Prairie growing up, and even as an adult, I’ve never seen it all the way through so when we got to certain parts like talking about her close relationship with Michael Landon really took me by surprise because I would just start bawling on myself and Chapter 21 definitely kicked my ass, but really, the entire book is so much fun and even a little hilarious here and there!

And finally, my most recent read, which if you enjoy holiday centered books, you should definitely check out “A Very Bossy Christmas” by Alexis Winter. Not only did I find out how much I adore Christmas books, but apparently like everything else, I liked the steamy romance books more than anything else, as you may noticed in last Friday’s blogmas post. I am in love with this book so this might be a worthy purchase after Christmas for me.


I’m officially done with all of my blogmas posts. I hope you have enjoyed everything I’ve published this month, and I already have some ideas coming to me for 2022 blogmas.

I do have a slight plan on what I want to do for the upcoming year, but I will not talk about it until I come back for the end of January as I am going to continue my blogging schedule, I’ve done for the last two years because it works very well for me. I will say I have an idea to do something different for the new year though, so I hope you have a lovely Christmas and enjoy the rest of your weekend too.

How did you go about your reading for 2021? What were all-time favorite book(s)? And do you have an idea on what you’re doing goal wise for the new year?

Book Review: “Highland Queen” by Melanie Karsak

Hello!

On July 4th, I finished my final book of the “Celtic Blood” series by Melanie Karsak.

I was under 20% of the way done so I knew if I didn’t get too distracted I would be able to do it but I told you all back in March that I would (probably) be done in the summertime and now that I’ve added another series to my belt, I feel so sad AND thrilled on the accomplishment! .

Honestly, it didn’t take me very long but I also had to fight their tears towards the end so the whole thing ended up taking to less than a hour. It was strange because once I was told to go outside, I was able to shut off my thoughts about everything that happened and then when I came back inside later that night I allowed myself to dive deep into the story again. I gave myself little over 12 hours to think about things and that is more than any other book I’ve read in past three years! I like to get all of my thoughts out while they’re still fresh but for this, it was necessary for me to treat it differently.


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The king is dead.
Long live the queen.


With Duncan defeated, Gruoch becomes Queen of Scotland. Now she must rule at Macbeth’s side, a difficult prospect as the new King of Scots grows increasingly unstable. To keep her son, her love, and her country safe, Gruoch must call upon the raven.

Dive into the final installment of Gruoch’s epic tale in Highland Queen , a Scottish Historical Fantasy, Book 4 in The Celtic Blood Series by New York Times bestselling author Melanie Karsak.

taken from Goodreads.

After the events in the last book, Highland Vengeance, I knew what could be coming next would make me cry regardless and I’m glad I established that belief early on because everytime Gruoch talked about Lulach and Creawry, I would just start bawling my eyes out, but we finally get the answer about their paternity somewhat early in the story and as joyful that was, I was still full of emotions for Gruoch because that is what led her to that spot in her life. We are all given choices in our lives and even though we believe someone else is forcing us there, we are the ones who make the decision in the first place and it was a nice reminder for not only Gruoch but for me too.

The book isn’t full of sadness–although there were scenes that would make you think otherwise!–there are a lot of beautiful moments for Gruoch. Now that she was Queen of Scotland, she moved into another part of her life and that was caring for her estranged husband, King Macbeth, who was dealing with madness. You see a slither of it in HV but it really becomes apparent to practically everyone that Macbeth is not well at all. Gruoch is caring for everyone at this point, She is only staying there with him for the safety of Lulach’s future and she also deeply cares for her friends and family all around Scotland. She has Bancquo though and is finally able to devote her personal self to him and something happens that changes things for everyone all at once.

Avenger. Warrior. Queen. You have come full circle, Cerridwen.

As much as I loved this book, there were things I truly felt didn’t need to be included in the plot. The first were the gloves. I understand why she needed them but saying who they were from out loud and knowing that something might be given back in return as the series ends was a little odd to me. It might be part of her life as the Wyrd Sisters but we don’t get to know anything else about them. The final note was the actual ending. I had prepared myself for more deaths (as sad as that sounds!) and basically expected a bigger death but there wasn’t one really, and a group of people are saved and that’s how the whole thing ends. It was almost like a cliffhanger without any idea what happens to these people, and Melanie does acknowledge this in the ‘Author’s Note’ but I felt like it could have stopped after Gruoch’s meeting with Lulach because I thought that was beautiful (and made me cry even more!) but it kept going and I was very confused of the whole thing.

Now I am done and I don’t know what exactly to do. I have been looking on Kindle Unlimited for other books like this, where you have the historical fiction and fantasy elements there and I have found one other called Tree of Ages by Sara C. Roethle. It is based on the Druids so I will be able to learn more about them in a fictionalized way, but I might have figured out another book that discusses Paganism of different religions, like Norse, Celtic and Wiccan paganisms. If you have any suggestions into what I should look into next, please leave a comment below and I will check it out sometime!

Have you read “Highland Queen” by Melanie Karsak yet? What about the entire series? If you have, what were thoughts on how everything ended? Do you have a favorite book too?

Book Review: “Highland Vengeance” by Melanie Karsak

Hello!

It is finally time to talk about the third book in the Celtic Blood series, by Melanie Karsak. If you would like to check out what I had to say about the other two books, they are Highland Raven and Highland Blood. This post will include some spoilers down below, so in case you want to read the entire set (it’s free on Kindle Unlimited right now!) you may want to ditch this review!

Now that we have that out of the way, let’s get started on discussing what went on in Corbie’s next stage in life.


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Scotland, 1032

Everything Gruoch loves has turned to ash. With Gillacoemgain gone, Gruoch rides north with her newborn son and a broken heart. While she desperately clings to hope, Gruoch’s new alliance with Macbeth proves more challenging than she ever anticipated. Only her unexpected reunion with an important person from her past offers solace. All may yet be well, but the raven’s wary eyes cannot help but notice clouds gathering on the horizon.

taken from Goodreads.

There were a lot of things I absolutely loved about this book, but it was definitely bittersweet!

When we come to this book, you see the cycle of being a woman of medieval times and I instantly felt horrible for her. However, she isn’t a young girl anymore; she was the raven, a widow, mother of two beautiful babies and she really took control of her life. She returns to Cawdor with only Lulach and they begin on this new journey, and the first thing she does is make the decision to seek out Macbeth instead of her cousin Duncan (for obvious reasons!), and although it was strange to choose the man who may have killed her husband, there would have no way in hell of going with option #2. Unfortunately, this marriage isn’t exactly the happiest for her but I liked the fact that she basically said, forget it! I don’t want no part of this anymore and focused her attention to raising Lulach as the successor of Moray.

“This is the sad reality we must accept. I am Gruoch, Daughter of Boite and Lady of Moray. I am the mother of Lulach, son of Gillacoemgain. You must know me as such.

On top of that, we see a familiar face come back into her life. As much as I really liked Gillacoemgain and how he treated her as both a woman and wife, especially since history has a way of showing the worst in men and when it comes to the line of succession, alliances have to be made and sometimes they don’t work out as you will see in this one, but it was nice to see another person so devoted to Corbie come back into her life. This person is a supporter of Macbeth with Jarl Thorfinn of Orkney, as they will lead the northern party against the king and Duncan.

The only thing I had an issue with was what happens starting on Chapter 42, because Melanie jumps through the years and we are told that they will be a war near the end, we are only centered around the final battle. Corbie joins everyone on the field and embraces the dark goddess, her magic and the raven for this one moment, and she was such a badass! I was proud of her throughout these books, but this was everything to me! She was finally able to get their revenge and it was so glorious!

As we enter the final book, I am slightly unsure of what could happen and basically everyone else close to her. She becomes Queen, but she only has this title because of Macbeth. I think she will have to make some even harder decisions about what she wants for not only herself but children too. I already know I will be crying because I know there will be more deaths and they are going to be hard on my heart as much as Corbie, but I’m ready to finish her story before the summer is over.

Have you read this book or any of the others in the Celtic Blood series? If you have, which one is your ultimate favorite of all time? What were thoughts after finishing “Highland Vengeance” too?

Book Review: “Highland Blood” by Melanie Karsak

Hello.

This April has been absolutely crazy for me but there was one thing I did not expect to do and that was finish reading the second book in the Celtic Blood series by Melanie Karsak. This past month has not been a great month to read any of my books so the fact that I managed to complete this one was an interesting feat altogether!

If you haven’t checked out what I had to say about the first book in the series, Highland Raven, click here to be directed back to that review. If you haven’t read the whole series, and still want to without reading spoilers, you might want to ignore this post as there may be some spoilers included with this review too.


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Scotland, 1032—When a marriage contract calls Gruoch away from Ynes Verleath, she leaves with the hope she’ll be reunited with Banquo. But fate has different plans. Lies, betrayal, and violence await her. Set on a collision course with destiny, Gruoch soon finds herself thrust into the arms of another man. Her dreams shattered and rattled by unexpected brutality, it becomes more than Gruoch can handle. The raven, however, is no stranger to carnage. Fierce power grows inside Gruoch, and more than anything, it craves bloody revenge.

Fans of Outlander and The 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.


I was pleasantly surprised by my overall judgement of this story.

We continue on the journey of Lady Gruoch’s life as she comes back from the otherworld and is transported back to the harsh reality of her life. The entire story is based around a very significant part that happens while walking away from Ynes Verleath and into the coven’s grounds and it will become a big thing for Gruoch as a whole. Although the events that happened at the end of the first book hinted at what could be coming, once this situation appears at the reader’s feet, you know that everything was definitely change.

In the first book, Cerridwen had married her druid by the Gods, but she was still at the mercy at her cousin’s King Malcolm and he has finally found her a suitor to hopefully align him closer to the throne of Scotland. She is forced to marry the lord of Moray, a man by the name of Gillacoemgain. Even though Cerridwen isn’t happy about the arrangement, she has no choice in the matter and weds her new husband and swallows the lie growing inside of her. Even though Gillacoemgain has a particular reputation as a difficult and hard man, they seem to really get along and as the reader, you are hopeful that Gruoch could enjoy this man and the people of Moray.

Be a raven amongst doves.

Since nobody is suppose to know about her time in the coven and her Goddess name, she is generally called Lady Gruoch around the people both at court and out in public, but she is affectionally called Corbie for the majority of the book. You have a good amount of the characters featured in the other book come back like the ladies of the coven plus Grouch’s aunt Madelaine at the very beginning and end of the story.

I generally enjoyed seeing the raven make her presence known, especially against men who are used to telling women to do this or that. Grouch is not like this in any way shape or form, so I was very happy that even though she was a different place, her fierce personality was still awake and well throughout the narrated because this was one of my favorite things about this series. Well, in generally speaking, I enjoy reading about strong women in their various situations. Grouch is a human being and is just learning to accept her role as both a woman in the line of the Scottish throne and as a warrior for the Dark Goddess too.

Have you checked out the second book, Highland Blood by Melanie Karsak yet? If you have, what were some of your thoughts about it?

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!

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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?