Book Review: The Faceless Mage

The Faceless Mage by Kenley Davidson

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

When a bodyguard is tasked to masquerade as a Princess, she is given her own bodyguard–a brooding, silent, and dangerous force to be reckoned with. 

The Faceless Mage is the slow-burn fantasy romance that has every one of my boxes ticked. 

Large, stoic bodyguard?

Strong lead protagonist?

Slow-burn to the Gods?

Oh. And Magic?

I had added this book to my “to be read” list for a while after seeing it in my advertisements on Facebook. I pushed it off for other books in my never-ending TBR list but I wish I hadn’t put it off. 

This book just clicked with me. It is the kind of romance that pulled me in and I couldn’t stop until I reached the end. It was so fulfilling that I had to buy the sequel immediately. 

Was the book perfect? No. But, what it might have lacked, it made up for with interesting characters with crazy chemistry and swoon-worthy interactions. Even more importantly, this story delved into themes of choosing your own path and self-discovery.

To put it simply, I loved this book. I would recommend it 100% and cannot give it enough praise. 


View all my reviews

Favorite Quote

But courage was a language they could both understand, and hers never faltered. Neither did her compassion, and that was perhaps the most difficult thing of all. Because amid the darkness of his desire for revenge, he, too, felt compassion— for this lonely human with nothing to cling to but her duty to a kingdom that had been so blithely willing to risk her life.

Book Blurb

Leisa’s ambitions used to be simple. Guard the princess. Hide her magic. Wait for her family to return.

But all of that changes when her king demands that she use her unique abilities to spy on the rival kingdom of Garimore.

Alone, far from home, and living a lie that grows more perilous by the day, Leisa’s task is complicated by her most dangerous enemy yet—the masked assassin known only as the Raven.

Everyone in the Five Thrones knows to fear him, but the Raven is not what Leisa expected. As silent as he is lethal, he provokes her curiosity as much as her fear, and hides secrets she’s determined to learn.

When her already precarious mission takes a deadly turn, Leisa must evade the Raven himself if she is to succeed. It’s never been done before, but Leisa is nothing if not stubborn. And if she doesn’t become the first to escape his blade, her entire kingdom will pay the price—in blood. 

A Few of my Favorite Things

Here are a few of my favorite things:

Makeup

Growing up, I did not wear a lot of makeup. Even though I wanted to wear it so badly, I was VERY self-conscious in high school. I dreaded having anyone point out that I was wearing mascara or that heaven forbid, my lips were a different shade than my natural color. After gaining some more confidence in college, I decided I wanted to learn how to do it and clicked on a YouTube tutorial. I have become a fan ever since and have even dabbled in SFX makeup. I am no pro, but I love taking my time and enjoying the process. It is very calming and I love how creative I can get.

Dressing Up

I suppose this kind of goes hand in hand with makeup but I love to dress up. I love finding formal events to go to and wear a long, pretty gown. I have dragged my husband to a few of these events but he has always been a good trooper about it. We even had an event we were going to go to last year but then Covid hit. I cannot wait until that is over. It’ll be nice to be able to go out again.

A Phantom of the Opera masquerade event (2017)

Long Drives

As simple as it sounds, I love just sitting in the car with the people I love. Whether it be with my husband or friends, I have made great memories just sitting and talking with my favorite people.

Musicals

I love, love, love… (and did I mention LOVE?) musicals. I love going inside a theatre and enjoying a live performance. The energy I feel from the actors is just so magical. Some of my favorites are The Phantom of the Opera, Les Miserables, Wicked, Aida, Jekyll and Hyde, Sweeny Todd and so many more.

Boba

So Yummy

I am pretty particular when it comes to “treats”. For some reason, I cannot tolerate a lot of sugar or certain types of desserts. It usually means that I look like that stuck up health freak or the party pooper when I turn down ice-cream and cake. But, one thing that I love to treat myself with is boba. I have found a new place called It’s Boba Time and they have a delicious frosty milk honey boba drink that is killer.

Books

Of course, I could not forget about books. Books are magical and have been a place of escape, wonder, magic, and inspiration. I do not know how I could have gotten this far as a writer without the many books that have led me here. I mostly love romance–historical, paranormal, and fantasy, but I will delve into others when it tickles my fancy


There you have it–some of my favorite things. Tell me what some of your favorite things are! Each Wednesday, Long and Short Reviews hosts a weekly “blog hop”. For more details on how to participate, please click here.

Book Review: Yours, Sterling

Yours, Sterling by Sydney Winward

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

When Kathleen has been arranged to marry a boyish-looking king, she is more than disappointed. However, when war threatens them both, will it tear their relationship apart or drive them closer together?

Sterling, the teddy bear

Some days all I want is a short and sweet romance to placate my inner romantic. Yours, Sterling is exactly that: a charming novella that satisfied the craving. From beginning to end, I was captivated by this arrangement between Kathleen, the feisty princess, and Sterling, the awkward Prince. Their odd match made me giggle and smile as they interacted.

As the story progressed, I sympathized with both characters. Even though Kathleen can lose her temper, her feelings were valid, and Sterling is a big, naïve teddy bear worth rooting for.

The ugly duckling

I also want to point out that I do not read many romances where the male romantic interest starts out as the “ugly duckling”. Usually, stories like that are centered around the woman and so it was both refreshing and quite realistic. I have met many young men who still look like they’re 14 when they’re actually 18 so I loved that the author delved into this dynamic more with a romance.

In all, I would recommend this novella. There were many “awww” worthy moments and if you are looking for an easy-breezy, sweet afternoon read, this is the book for you.

If you would like to download the story for free, check it out here



View all my reviews

Favorite Quote

“Look at you!” she exclaimed, holding him at arm’s length. “You’re not a boy anymore.”

More guffawing from the soldiers.

Sterling rolled his eyes. “That’s just what every man wants to hear from his wife…” he muttered.

Her smile blossomed as she glanced down at her feet. Quietly to herself, she added, “I can wear heels again.”

Book Blurb

A young king. A hopeful bride. A war threatens to tear them apart. He’s determined to keep them together.

An arranged marriage to a younger man wasn’t what Kathleen de Clare had in mind for her future, but after an assassination attempt on their wedding day, a war tears them apart. She must fight for their future together, or watch it fall apart completely.

A Movie That Influenced My Life

Weekly Blogging Challenge: A Movie that influenced my Life

I cannot pick one movie. I have to pick three:

Now, hold on, hold that thought. I know what some of you might be thinking:

Oh. The books are better than the movies! The movies left out this and that and the movies do not even give justice to this character and…

Lord of the Rings Readers

I hear you. I really do.

And for someone who has never read the books, I do not understand how cool the books are.

BUT.

This is a big but.

Not only do I believe in artistic license and liberties directors should have, I also believe the movies influenced many young audience members like myself.

I remembered being enthralled with every moment when I was seven years old. The scenery of the shire stole my heart and the beautiful landscapes of Rivendell come to life on screen stole my breath. And the music… oh the music can still bring tears to my eyes.

All because of a story of a brave little hobbit named Frodo Baggins.

I can go on and on about my love for Frodo. I did so recently with my friends on Discord, lol. But I will not let you all suffer that passionate rant this time. There is too much to say in one little blog post.

So, I will say this:

These movies had given me hope and an escape when I was going through a very difficult time when I was little. When my family of four had no where to go and were sharing a cramped space with other family members, I had these movies to look forward to.

I would share it with my friends and try to convince them of how cool it was. Some did not believe me since it was a “grown-up” movie but they relented when I suggested we pretend to be riders of Rohan coming to aid the battle at Helm’s Deep.

I saw the last movie when I was nine years old and I was moved to tears.

I still am, in fact. I watch these movies often with my husband and the same scenes still make me teary-eyed.

In all, I think the most important things I learned from these films were the classic themes of friendship, good vs. evil, bearing burdens, and learning that not all wounds will heal in our lifetime. These are the lessons that I carry close to my heart and try to remember when I feel like I am overwhelmed and cannot go on.

There is always hope even in the darkest of times, just like Sam said when talking to Frodo in the Two Towers:

Frodo : I can’t do this, Sam.

Sam : I know.
It’s all wrong
By rights we shouldn’t even be here.
But we are.
It’s like in the great stories Mr. Frodo.
The ones that really mattered.
Full of darkness and danger they were,
and sometimes you didn’t want to know the end.
Because how could the end be happy.
How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad happened.
But in the end, it’s only a passing thing, this shadow.
Even darkness must pass.
A new day will come.


And when the sun shines it will shine out the clearer.
Those were the stories that stayed with you.
That meant something.
Even if you were too small to understand why.
But I think, Mr. Frodo, I do understand.
I know now.
Folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back only they didn’t.
Because they were holding on to something.

That there’s some good in this world, Mr. Frodo. And it’s worth fighting for.

Samwise Gamgee

Even to this day, I carry that with me through these dark, and troubling times. So much has happened this past year but I am holding onto hope that there will be a better future.

Regardless of how you feel about the films yourself, I hope that these messages resonate with you too.

Tell me what film/tv show/ or book influenced you. Each Wednesday, Long and Short Reviews hosts a weekly “blog hop”. For more details on how to participate, please click here.

Book Review: Curse of Dracula

Curse of Dracula by Kathryn Ann Kingsley

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I have only read one of Kathryn Ann Kingsley’s books and I am a big fan of the way she writes. There is something beautiful and gothic in her prose that sucks me into her stories.

This book in particular was a sequel I have been meaning to read for months and I finally got around to it. I was really excited to finish Dracula’s tale and find out what happens after our protagonist is left seeing the horror he is capable of.

At first, I was excited because the book started off very strong and picked up right where the first one ended. Our protagonist is left with a very interesting internal conflict that is highlighted throughout the story. Her relationship with Dracula and how she feels about him was the most fascinating aspect of the book, hands down.

Mordecai to Bella

However, I was not a huge fan of one of the side plotlines concerning Bella. I really liked her as a character in the first book, but I was left confused about her motivations in this one. Although the author attempts to explain why she chooses to do what she does, I could not help but think of the other facets of the situation. For example, why was her relationship with the other two vampire hunters not thought of in all aspects? Why was the only reason Bella changed was because of the unfair societal expectations on her? Although the topics and themes of sexism, sexuality, and women’s roles were impeccably explored, I wish that there was more complexity to the situation other than, “You are a woman that has been treated unfairly. Come join me in the dark side.”

In other words, I wish that there was more of an internal struggle to turn her life upside-down. I also wish she had considered the career she had built as a monster hunter. She had been training and killing monsters for years. Certainly that should at least be considered and not thrown away so easily?

Other than that, I was pleasantly surprised by Maxine’s choice and was happy with the outcome. I did not think it needed a “happily ever after” ending but, if you were afraid of not having one, do not fret. It does end with both Maxine and Dracula living that HEA that many are fond of.

To conclude, I liked this book. But, I did not like it as much as the first one.

I gave it a 3.5 star rating but rounded it to 4 stars. It is a dark tale with dark themes but there was never any moment where the lines of assault are “blurred”. The author makes sure that every sexual act is given verbal consent and I greatly appreciate and give kudos for. That is one line I will never be willing to compromise as a reader and I give praise to the author for handling precarious situations with grace.

View all my reviews

Content Warning:

18+ book. There are several explicit sex scenes.

Favorite Quote

Humanity is its own downfall. No one else is to blame for their plight. Ignorance is their greatest sin.

Book Blurb

Maxine Parker expected to lose her life when the Vampire King swept through her city like a plague. She did not expect to lose her heart to him as well.

Caught between her desire to protect the living and her love for Dracula, she suddenly finds herself the enemy of the hunters who had once been her allies.

As the Vampire King unleashes his army of the damned and turns Boston into a sea of carnage, she must decide if she can love the monster for what he is, or if she must be the one to end his bloody crusade through history once and for all… 

Something I Collected as a Child

Growing up in a single-parent home, I did not have the luxury to collect a lot of items. However, I was privileged and blessed to have grandparents to spoil me rotten. My grandma Carter made sure that my siblings and I had gotten plenty of toys for birthdays and Christmas. One toy in particular is going to bring millennials way back:

That’s right.

Polly Pocket

I had the same exact set as the one shown above.

These toys brought me so much life as a child. Even though I loved my precious Barbies, these bad boys felt like I was entering a new stage of “cool”. I would play with these every day and act out romance stories that could rival a telenovela.

The drama could get real.

And the cars?

I was in heaven.

Even so, those little plastic shoes got in every nook and cranny. The clothes often ripped apart but, I was always so excited to have more. By the end, I think I had two boxes filled to the brim with these guys.

I suppose you could say that Polly Pocket influenced who I am today. Playing with my sister and acting out scenes of “Cinderella” or “Sleeping Beauty” has inspired me to write my own fairytales.

Despite the choking hazard, I hope to one day pass these along to my children when they are old enough. And who knows?

Maybe they will turn into little writers too.

What did you collect as a child?

If you want to join in on the prompt or see what others have to say, follow this link.

Book Review: Red Rising

Review

Red Rising by Pierce Brown

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Fast Paced and Riveting

Red Rising is not the kind of book I’d choose for myself. For one, I usually stick to my romance but once in a while, I’ll get a recommendation or the urge to read something different–I can be flexible if the story is gripping. And secondly, the writing style is straightforward, in a staccato-masculine way, and rarely flowery. Most of it is told rather than shown which is usually a big no-no from me. However, there was something… captivating that kept me reading. Perhaps it was the content, or perhaps it was how well it was paced, either way, the fact that I’m not docking more points is a huge deal. 


I found it fascinating that the story was likened to Hunger Games. Sure, there are similarities, however, I found that it was more similar to a warped mixture of:

Gattaca (remember that movie? Had to watch it in high school biology class, funny enough),

Brave New World (also reminds me of good, ol’ high school) ,

Total Recall,

and… okay, fine, a dash of Hunger Games. 


It was a clever combination that kept me going and wondering what would happen at the end. The world is so rich with the distinction of language and even clothing worn by the different classes. Each character had a unique voice and believable motivations that kept the story alive for me. And the last ⅓ of the book is quite the roller coaster. I was kept on my toes with all of the twists and turns that were thrown at the characters. Each failure and triumph kept me wanting for more. 


Overall, I enjoyed this book and I want to buy the sequel. That is high praise. Despite my criticisms of the writing, I believe that it was a fun, and creative story that is worth the read. 

Content Warning: Extreme violence between minors, and cursing

View all my reviews

Favorite Quote

Words are a weapon stronger than he knows. And songs are even greater. The words wake the mind. The melody wakes the heart.

Book Blurb

“I live for the dream that my children will be born free,” she says. “That they will be what they like. That they will own the land their father gave them.”

“I live for you,” I say sadly.

Eo kisses my cheek. “Then you must live for more.”

Darrow is a Red, a member of the lowest caste in the color-coded society of the future. Like his fellow Reds, he works all day, believing that he and his people are making the surface of Mars livable for future generations.

Yet he spends his life willingly, knowing that his blood and sweat will one day result in a better world for his children.

But Darrow and his kind have been betrayed. Soon he discovers that humanity already reached the surface generations ago. Vast cities and sprawling parks spread across the planet. Darrow—and Reds like him—are nothing more than slaves to a decadent ruling class.

Inspired by a longing for justice, and driven by the memory of lost love, Darrow sacrifices everything to infiltrate the legendary Institute, a proving ground for the dominant Gold caste, where the next generation of humanity’s overlords struggle for power. He will be forced to compete for his life and the very future of civilization against the best and most brutal of Society’s ruling class. There, he will stop at nothing to bring down his enemies… even if it means he has to become one of them to do so.

Book Review: Spellbound After Midnight

Review

Spellbound After Midnight by Jenna Collett

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Refreshing Take



I love a great fairytale retelling, and this story did not disappoint. Spellbound After Midnight crafts a new twist in the classic aged tale of a woman losing a glass slipper. Tessa, a clumsy, spellcasting witch (aka, Fairy Godmother) takes on the task of helping a woman in need. But, when murder is thrown in the mix, Tessa meets the handsome but stern detective Derrick Chambers to solve the devious mystery.

This story had an interesting world that kept me engaged and excited. The story itself had some unique twists and turns that I did not see coming and a decent “bad guy” reveal at the end.

Both main characters were both likable and worth rooting for. Each had their unique backstory and motivations that pushed the story forward. I loved Tess’ independence and willpower throughout and also liked that her stubbornness got her into trouble sometimes. Derrick is a no-nonsense guy with a soft interior, a delectable combination. Their chemistry was amazing but as their romance progressed, I was a little disappointed by the lack of tension I felt between them. When the first romantic scene happened, I was confused because I did not think that both of them were on that level.

Overall, this is a cute story with a great mystery plot. I was pleasantly surprised by its refreshing take on a well-known story. I would definitely recommend it!


Content Warning: One cursory sex scene



View all my reviews

Favorite Quote

He bent his head, lips claiming mine in a devastating kiss. Relief swamped me and made tears gather under my eyelids. Honesty was my new policy from here on out. The reward was too good. Lies? No way, not me.

Book Blurb

Tessa Daniels needs a miracle. Preferably, the kind that comes with cold hard cash. Her magic shop is failing, and she’ll be tossed into the street unless she clears her debt.

When a financial boon arrives in the form of a young woman determined to attend the prince’s ball, a risky spell turns out to be the miracle she needed. That is until the woman is found dead at the stroke of midnight, and Tessa comes face-to-face with the kingdom’s cold, and way too appealing, lead detective.

Detective Derrick Chambers has no use for the supernatural. As the rising star at the Royal Agency, he won’t let magic, or the pretty witch that deals in it, get in the way of solving a murder.

His logic tells him to steer clear of Tessa’s chaos, but a forced partnership soon turns into an attraction neither can resist.

With the body count rising, and the kingdom in a panic, an exposed secret will tear them apart and put Tessa in the sights of a killer where no amount of magic can save her.

Book Review: Dreamspell

Dreamspell by Tamara Leigh

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Imagine being able to time travel through dreams–I would be in heaven. 

Dreamspell is a tale that swept me up from the very beginning. Both 21st century and 14th century scenes were woven together beautifully to create an intriguing story. 

The two main characters were easy to relate with and root for. Nedy was a witty and fun character that I laughed along with. Although she acted and said things carelessly, it was forgivable due to the circumstances in which she found herself in. If I believed I was in a dream, I would probably throw a little caution to the wind as well.

Fulke was a cutie and such a gentleman. His reactions to Nedy truly were hilarious and genuine. His suspicions felt organic as well as his genteel nature. I rooted for them but was a little confused as to what he saw in her. She did come off suspiciously witchy and crazy for the time period after all. 

Nitpicking aside, I enjoyed this time traveling romance immensely. A little slow at times, I was able to forgive the pacing because the world and story was so magical. I would recommend this!

Note: This is a clean read

View all my reviews

Favorite Quote:

He clasped her to him and lifted a fistful of her hair to his lips. “Sweet Nedy.” He lowered his face to her neck. In spite of her stay in the tower, she smelled as he had only ever dreamed a woman might smell, and when she laid her head on his shoulder, he knew he could not let her go. Having lost so much which he had stubbornly resisted embracing, it was unbearable that he might also lose this strange, beautiful woman.

Book Blurb:

A TIME TO LIVE. A TIME TO DIE. A TIME TO DREAM.
Sleep disorders specialist Kennedy Plain has been diagnosed with a fatal brain tumor. When her research subject dies after trying to convince her he has achieved dream-induced time travel and her study is shelved, she enlists herself as a subject to complete her research. But when she dreams herself into 14th-century England and falls into the hands of Fulke Wynland, a man history has condemned as a murderer, she must not only stay alive long enough to find a way to return to her own time, but prevent Fulke from murdering his young nephews. And yet, the more time she spends with the medieval warrior, the more difficult it is to believe he is capable of committing the heinous crime for which he has been reviled for 600 years.

Baron Fulke Wynland has been granted guardianship of his brother’s heirs despite suspicions that he seeks to steal their inheritance. When the king sends a mysterious woman to care for the boys, Fulke is surprised by the lady’s hostility toward him–and more surprised to learn she is to be his wife. But when his nephews are abducted, the two must overcome their mutual dislike to discover the boys’ fate. What Fulke never expects is to feel for this woman whose peculiar speech, behavior, and talk of dream travel could see her burned as a witch. 

Book Review: To Love a God

To Love a God by Evie Kent


I love a little bit of angsty, dark romance and a strong-willed heroine. Sprinkle in a bit of Norse mythology? Perfection. I also tend to stay away from first person POV but I was pleasantly surprised at how well the writing flowed and captivated me.


Who are the stars of the show?


Nora, the female protagonist has everything that I love: wit, spunk, and a fighting spirit. From the beginning, she does not take any of the “you are my toy” crap from our mischievous God and I loved that about her. She had dreams and goals and a will to fight her circumstances. 


 Loki is an intriguing character from mythology so I was interested to see the author’s take on our anti-hero. He was a great mix of an arrogant, smirking prick and a tortured soul. His interactions with Nora were awesome and I liked that he changed his attitude about her simply being a “plaything” for him to discard after he was bored. 


So, what did I not like? 


SPOILERS


I disliked the fact that when Nora had attempted to fight against Loki, he still performed sexual acts on her that she did not verbally consent to. There is also a scene where Nora gets drunk and Loki decides to take advantage of her inebriated state and have sex with her. I cannot condone that and it left a gross pit in my stomach. Although their sexual relationship was consensual from then on out, the romance fell flat after reading those scenes. 


I understand that this is a dark romance and perhaps you may read it in a different light, and perhaps I should not be reading any more dark romances, but I personally could not get past these issues. 


Overall, I really loved certain aspects of the story. I loved the female protagonist and the angsty, dubious situation that she finds herself in. I love that she fights for herself and knows who she is. If you are into strong heroines and a cheeky, horny God then this is the book for you. But, if you detest shady sexual boundaries, then I would stay clear.

Rating: 3/5

Note: This is a 18+ book. There are many sex scenes.

View all my reviews

Favorite Quote:

A shiver cut down my spine; I wasn’t sure how he thought any of this was supposed to be fun for me, but being forced into sexual slavery just wasn’t my idea of a good time.

Book Blurb:

I spent my whole life training to become a ballet dancer—a soloist, a star. Today, I’m a toy, a plaything, a distraction…

An offering.

A sacrifice to a caged god, to the Norse trickster.

Loki.

Trapped in a cave for the sins of his past, he waits for the end of days. Modern worshippers curry favor with gifts and trinkets, spilled blood—and women like me.

Women who resemble his long-dead wife. We all have that look, you see. I’m supposed to be flattered that I remind him of a goddess in an age gone by.

Fuck that.

I’m furious.

The ones who came before me were sweet, docile, compliant—just like her. But I’m not sweet. I’m not docile, and I will never be compliant.

I am resilient. I am determined.

I am—not—drawn to him.

I will survive this.

I will survive him.

My name is Nora Olsen, and I will not die here.