Choosing a Top Ten list was harder this year than ever before. I read 91 books in 2021, and believe me, choosing just ten took a while. The books listed here affected my life and they linger still. I hope you see something new that piques your interest!
The purchase links are on the images if you see one you want to grab.
And before I close out the year, I want to pay tribute to an author who passed away in 2021. Suzanne Burke was bold in her writing and delved deep into the psyche of twisted characters. But the book that changed me forever, was her memoir, EMPTY CHAIRS. The horrific abuse she suffered would destroy a lesser person, but not Sooz. She was a warrior.
I am thrilled to welcome fellow Wild Rose Press author, Mary Morgan to my blog today! She is a wonderful writer and has a new release to tell you about.
Hello, Jan! I’m delighted to be visiting your lovely blog today and talking about my new release, Rorik, The Wolves of Clan Sutherland, Book 2. Let me share a wee bit of my journey to Orkney and Scotland which helped to inspire this series.
During our trip, several years ago to Northern Scotland and the Orkney Islands, my husband and I were fortunate to have a personal guide escort us. David Ladd was exceptional in his knowledge—from referencing the names of flowers in the most obscure places to the wildlife and history, especially during our travels on Orkney. He took us on an amazing adventure, oftentimes off the well-worn path, revealing spectacular vistas. I shall always treasure our time with him and for allowing me to crawl into the Tomb of the Eagles in South Ronaldsay, Orkney. For a few hazarding moments, I worried David and my husband when I had trouble getting out of the small tomb. Was I worried? No.
Before I entered, rain and wind pelted us on our mile walk up the hill. Once I crawled inside the small tomb, I stood and encountered utter silence—no howling wind and no rain leaked through the crevices of stone. It was as if I entered another time and place—literally. Here were my immediate reactions within this cairn: Peace. Stillness. I am not alone.
Let me explain further about the Tomb of Eagles…
Located above the dramatic South Ronaldsay cliffs, the Isbister Chambered Cairn—better known today as the ‘Tomb of the Eagles’—is one of Orkney’s top archaeological sites. Discovered by a local farmer Ronnie Simison in the 1950s, the Stone Age tomb revealed an amazing collection of bones and artifacts, placed here some 5,000 years ago. Among the human bones, there were many talons and bones of the white-tailed eagle.
The Tomb of Eagles played an important part in the book. I took my experience and wove it into the story and through the first book, Magnar.
For Rorik’s story, I brought the Seer of the Orkneyjar Isles (Orkney) to Scotland. Not only was Ragna a seer, but also a Völva—a wise woman. Seers held high status in Viking society. They were treated with great respect when they came to help a household or settlement in distress. Even the God Odin consulted the seers.
In my story, Ragna converses with the Goddess and has the ability to connect with the birds and animals. With her magical powers, she can become one with them. Then I had to consider the landscape in Northern Scotland which was vastly different than the Orkneyjar Isles.
Here are Ragna’s first impressions as she steps onto Scottish soil…
Her body trembled. How Ragna loathed traveling across the wide-open water. She glanced to her left at the towering cliffs of dark stone. The waves crashed behind her, and she resumed her progress slowly.
Bending down, she dug two fingers deep within the gritty shore. Coldness seeped into her skin as she tried to get a sense of this country. Others whispered to her from the land—ancient and unfamiliar. Wild and strange this Scotland. Never had Ragna considered leaving the Orkneyjar Isles.
To this day, I continue to process all my emotions and experiences from my travels to Northern Scotland and the Orkney Islands. The land continually calls me to return home.
About Mary Morgan
Award-winning Celtic paranormal and fantasy romance author, Mary Morgan resides in Northern California with her own knight in shining armor. However, during her travels to Scotland, England, and Ireland, she left a part of her soul in one of these countries and vows to return.
Mary’s passion for books started at an early age along with an overactive imagination. Inspired by her love for history and ancient Celtic mythology, her tales are filled with powerful warriors, brave women, magic, and romance. It wasn’t until the closure of Borders Books where Mary worked that she found her true calling by writing romance. Now, the worlds she created in her mind are coming to life within her stories.
If you enjoy history, tortured heroes, and a wee bit of magic, then time-travel within the pages of her books.
This is Part 2 of my May Book Reviews and I am thrilled to share my thoughts on these three books with you!
Life in the Colorado mountains isn’t easy for immigrants Anita and Ottavio Notaro, particularly when they’re isolated on a hillside and barely speak the language. Anita is carrying their first child, and Tav works many long, hard hours away from home. This isn’t the American dream they were promised; this is a brutal life on the frontier. Tav has been saving money to make their lives easier, and he stumbles on a windfall. The only problem is, he isn’t the only one who knows about it. Trouble befalls these two humble Italians, threatening their livelihoods—and their lives.
A strange posse made up of fellow countrymen ride to their rescue. But will they get there in time?
This short story sets the stage to begin the Medici Protectorate Series and after reading this introduction, I will be reading the rest of this series. The story gripped me from the first word on the first page to the last. A young Italian couple living on the rugged frontier in the Colorado mountains is struggling to survive. Ottavio and Anita Notaro have one dream and that is to return to their beloved homeland. Anita is heavy with their first child. Ottavio works hard and when he finds a treasure that will pay for their trip back home, he is overjoyed. But he isn’t the only one who knows about the treasure. The tragedy that befalls Anita and Tav is heartbreaking. This story is written in rich narrative, heavily descriptive, and filled with emotion that drips off the pages. It includes folklore, history, and even a touch of mysticism. I am anxious to dive into book one of the Medici Protectorate Series to see what happens next!
Known as the Barbarian, Magnar MacAlpin is a fierce ruler for those under his command. As leader of the Wolves of Clan Sutherland, his loyalty and obedience lies with Scotland. However, the king’s last demand is not something Magnar will tolerate.
After Elspeth Gunn’s brother the Chieftain of Castle Steinn is murdered, she flees with her nephew, and finds safety amongst a band of men who are rumored to be part wolf. When the king forces her to wed a heathen Northman, she fears losing her heart and soul not only to the man, but the beast as well.
In order to restore peace to a shattered clan, Magnar and Elspeth travel a treacherous path that challenges their beliefs. When evil seeks to destroy ancient traditions, will Magnar be compelled to restrain his wolf or allow him free to protect those he loves?
This is the first book in the Wolves of the Clan Sutherland series. Set in Scotland in 1206, this story combines history, magic, folklore, and myth with reality. Magnar is the powerful and undisputed leader of the Sutherland Wolf Clan. All members of the clan are part man, part wolf but their power is in controlling the beast that resides within. They are fierce warriors and loyal to King William of Scotland. It would take a special kind of woman to win Magnar’s heart, to love both him and the wolf, and that woman is Elspeth. When her brother, Chieftan of Steinn castle, is murdered by heathen Northmen, she escapes taking her small nephew with her. Little Erik is now Chieftan by default, at the age of 7. Starving, she steals bags from two horses, never suspecting she has stolen from the king. When she and the young chieftain are brought before King William, he offers shelter and protection. He then commissions Magnar and his clan to go and rid the castle of the marauders. But to bring peace to the clans, the King orders Magnar to marry Elspeth. What starts out as a cautious and untrusting marriage soon turns steamy. This is a fantastic story with layers of side plots, including a twin brother unknown to Magnar. The two are destined to clash. This author did a fantastic job of weaving all of the layers together seamlessly and depicting the time period perfectly. I devoured the book and am now anxious for book 2, Rorik. If you love a steamy romance from that time period in the setting of Scotland and the Orkney Islands, this book is for you! If I could give it more than five stars, I would!
Single father and poor Southern farmer Ty Ty Walden has a plan to save his farm and his family: He will tear his fields apart until he finds gold. While Ty Ty obsesses over his fool’s quest, his sons and daughters search in vain for their own dreams of instant happiness—whether from money, violence, or sex. God’s Little Acre is a classic dark comedy, a satire that lampoons a broken South while holding a light to the toll that poverty takes on the hopes and dreams of the poor themselves. This ebook features an illustrated biography of Erskine Caldwell including rare photos and never-before-seen documents courtesy of the Dartmouth College Library.
I have always been a huge fan of Erskine Caldwell’s writing and lucked out recently in finding several of his books in a half-price book store in Dallas. I bought all of them and am now rereading them. I started with “God’s Little Acre.” This book was first published in 1933 and there is no way on earth this book would be published in today’s social climate. Erskine depicts poverty, attitudes, and social separations perfectly in this story. It opens with Ty Ty Walden digging deep holes all over his small Georgia farm. He is convinced there is gold under the ground. Two of his sons help him daily with the digging while sharecroppers make a half-hearted attempt to farm the land that isn’t riddled with holes. Because Ty Ty is a god-fearing man, he has designated one acre of his farm as God’s little acre with all profits realized from that acre to be donated to the church. However, when he thinks he is close to finding gold on that acre, he moves it. 🙂 Caldwell had such a distinct style of writing. The dialogue is original and true to the times and demographics of the story. Phrases such as “and that’s a fact,” follow many conversations. The loose morals of the women in this story are depicted in such a way that is believable but not offensive (at least to me.) As the story unfolds, there are two major plots. The first being gold fever and the second being a different life that depends on the cotton gin running to survive. When the big wigs shut down the gin to starve out the workers, Ty Ty’s son-in-law takes the matter into his hands, determined to push past the guards, turn the power back on and return his people to work. It doesn’t end well for him. This book could possibly be classified as a tragedy, or perhaps as a high-drama, but at best it is the work of an author who dared to blur the lines and be boldly “real.” Caldwell’s greatest strength is in portraying three-dimensional characters and what motivates each. He writes from multiple points of view (a no-no in today’s literary world.) It is a classic no-holds-barred novel. If you have a weak stomach or strong social morals, this book is not going to be for you. But if you want to explore the writing genius of Erskine Caldwell, it’s a great place to start. Interestingly enough, the story is classified on Amazon as dark humor, classic humor, and literary satire. In my opinion, none of that fits. I will be making my way through the collection that I purchased. On a final note, Caldwell died in 1987. Thank goodness the publishing houses didn’t decide to keep publishing new work using a ghostwriter after his death.
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