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Seven Faceless Saints by M. K. Lobb is a dark but exciting debut
2023-02-07 16:00 UTC by Michelle

Seven Faceless Saints by M. K. Lobb

Seven Faceless Saints is a dark but exciting debut novel from M. K. Lobb. It takes a bit to get into the story, but this is because we spend the first portion of the book weaving into and out of two very traumatized main characters’ minds. Once we understand their world and their traumas a bit, the story takes off into one of revenge, power, religion, and war. It is a story that feels familiar while different, thanks to the fantasy elements of magic and gods. Moreover, it is the type of story you fully appreciate upon finishing.

In Seven Faceless Saints, Ms. Lobb deviates slightly from the standard fantasy worldbuilding by not building her society around a monarchy. Instead, we have an intriguing blend of oligarchical and theocratic governance. Ombrazia worships its saints; the church and those who have powers directly from one of those saints feature predominantly in everyday society. At the same time, there is a separation between religion and the government, run by an elected committee and headed by one committee member elevated above others based on experience, power, and money. Granted, it all gets a lot more complicated than the basic layout, but I like the changes Ms. Lobb features. Usually, the church fights against those in power, hoping to gain more control for itself. In Ombrazia, the two work in tandem, and the results are fraught with their own set of complications.

Another area in which Seven Faceless Saints breaks from the fantasy norm is its rebellious factor already exists. Not only that, but it has an organizational structure and significant plans. So often, our hero or heroine is at the forefront of a burgeoning rebellion. The same is not true here, significantly affecting how we see Rox’s character.

Speaking of characters, the two main characters should come with their trigger warnings. Bastian has significant PTSD from his time in battle, and we get reminders of that in almost every scene. Rox has her traumas, but they are subtler and hide behind her anger and desire for revenge. Between the two of them, there is enough pain and anger, loss, and fear that you feel like you need a therapist after reading one of their interactions. At the same time, I can’t imagine them any other way. For Bastian and Rox to work as individual characters, they need their heavy backstories and all the psychological traumas that come with those histories. Bastian runs on his fear of returning to the front, and Rox runs on her anger. They are both deeper characters for having experienced what they have and for their determination not to let those experiences define them.

As a couple, we know from the onset that theirs is a complicated relationship, but Ms. Lobb does an excellent job of not sharing all the dirty details until we are already hooked on these two and their fates. When we get the complete picture, it is such a doozy that you wonder how they will ever be able to move beyond their past. That they do and that you are okay with how it happens is a testament to Ms. Lobb’s skill and willingness to allow both characters the time and space to figure things out without undue pressure.

While I broke out each element above to explain what I liked about them, it is challenging to see them as separate entities. The Saints and their stories are so intertwined with the church, which is all tangled into the government and society, that you cannot have one without the others. Even describing them as separate in the above paragraphs was challenging because it only scratches the surface of what makes up the world where Ombrazia is one major city. The same goes for the rebellion, the military, Roz, and Bastian. To remove even one piece would see the entire story of Seven Faceless Saints collapse. It is a writing level you don’t usually see in many authors, let alone debut ones.

M. K. Lobb’s Seven Faceless Saints is a refreshing fantasy novel that avoids following the usual paths set forth by fantasy authors. From its highly structured and complicated government system to the people’s ongoing rebellion, we know from the start that Seven Faceless Saints will be different. Meeting Roz and Bastian and their breathtaking array of trauma confirms that suspicion. What Ms. Lobb creates in Seven Faceless Saints is a painful but touchable story about two young people that are pawns to a greater unknown, which may or may not include a long-thought-dead Saint. It is a familiar story but so different from anything I’ve ever read. With its cliffhanger-esque ending, I cannot wait to see where Ms. Lobb takes us next.

The post Seven Faceless Saints by M. K. Lobb is a dark but exciting debut appeared first on That's What She Read.

Weekly Top Posts: 2023-02-05
2023-02-05 05:00 UTC

  1. Sunday Reflections – 29 January 2023
  2. 2022 in Review
  3. A Day of Fallen Night by Samantha Shannon is the perfect high fantasy
  4. The Blood Traitor by Lynette Noni is the perfect series ender
  5. Sunday Reflections – 15 January 2023

Sunday Reflections – 29 January 2023
2023-01-29 16:00 UTC by Michelle

Sunday Reflections Button

Reading:  Arca by G. R. Macallister

Listening:  Me and White Supremacy by Layla F. Saad and Spare by Prince Harry

Watching:  This past week, Jim and I didn’t watch anything because we were too busy enjoying the weather in Palm Springs. We arrived home before yesterday’s snowstorm and settled to watch 1883 and 1923.

Cooking: I didn’t cook last week because vacation dictates no cooking (as if I could anyway), but I made enchiladas last night and plan to make carbonara tonight.

Enjoying:  I never wanted to take a winter getaway before, but this winter has been SO dreary and not exactly cold. I found myself in desperate need of the sun. Palm Springs was precisely what I needed. Nothing but sun and 70 degrees every day we were there. I became a lizard, soaking up as much vitamin D as possible. It was heaven.

Planning:  Nothing. Jim has a few more business trips on the schedule, but February is wide open for me.

Feeling:  I feel so content. Last week’s vacation would have been better if Jim hadn’t had to work the entire week, but it was so lovely to feel the warmth and see the sun. As we got on the plane to California, it said that we hadn’t seen the sun for 22 days. Watching the forecast, I don’t think this part of Wisconsin has still seen the sun. But at least we have snow now and cold temperatures to match. I am in a much better place to handle it now.

The post Sunday Reflections – 29 January 2023 appeared first on That's What She Read.

Weekly Top Posts: 2023-01-29
2023-01-29 05:00 UTC

  1. A Day of Fallen Night by Samantha Shannon is the perfect high fantasy
  2. First Book of 2023
  3. Sunday Reflections – 15 January 2023
  5. The Blood Traitor by Lynette Noni is the perfect series ender

Weekly Top Posts: 2023-01-22
2023-01-22 05:00 UTC

  1. A Day of Fallen Night by Samantha Shannon is the perfect high fantasy
  2. Sunday Reflections – 15 January 2023
  3. 2022 in Review
  4. The Blood Traitor by Lynette Noni is the perfect series ender
  5. Sunday Reflections – 08 January 2023

A Day of Fallen Night by Samantha Shannon is the perfect high fantasy
2023-01-16 16:00 UTC by Michelle

A Day of Fallen Night by Samantha Shannon

A Day of Fallen Night by Samantha Shannon is the perfect example of a high fantasy epic. With its dragons, magic, and fully developed world, few stories contain all the critical elements of high fantasy while being immensely readable and enjoyable. For fantasy lovers, A Day of Fallen Night is also the perfect way to start the year.

Unlike other stories that grabbed my attention, I did not speed read or skim any of its 880 pages either. For other authors, publishing a novel of that length would indicate a lack of efficient editing, resulting in plenty of descriptions perfect for skimming. This is not the case with A Day of Fallen Night. Each sentence is almost a tiny poem, carefully crafted to evoke all senses. Every word has a purpose, leaving nothing to skim. To skim would mean missing out on the beautiful language, but it also would mean missing a pertinent detail.

One of the things I love about Ms. Shannon’s novels, which is very evident while reading A Day of Fallen Night, is how real her fictional worlds are. There is no aspect of any of the worlds within the story that does not have an entire developmental history, complete with religion, governance, and mythology. She even knows the evolution of the lands. The work it must take to establish all this in advance of writing the first word must be tremendous, but it pays off in a story that is rich in fine detail. Her worlds are so clear that you forget that they are fictional.

Not only are her worlds alive with detail, but Ms. Shannon’s characters are also equally lifelike. Each character has an entire genealogical history, going back generations. One suspects she knows what will happen to each family in the future; her preparation is that complete. As with her world, all of this knowledge makes her characters come alive in ways that rarely happen in novels.

Ms. Shannon treats the fantasy elements of A Day of Fallen Night with just as much care as she does with every other aspect of her novel. From dragons to wyverns to magic, each element has its own set of clear rules that she carefully follows. Moreover, she doesn’t insert the magical component because it would be cool. Each piece has a purpose in the story, furthering her tale without overdoing it.

Ms. Shannon is such an excellent writer that I knew her second book in The Roots of Chaos series would be good. I was not prepared to be so fully immersed in the story that I lost track of time and sleep and found myself obsessing about it when I wasn’t reading it. Every time I stopped reading, I had to mentally shake myself to reorient myself into the real world because Inys, Seiiki, Lasia, and all the rest were so real. There is no doubt that when 2023 draws to a close, A Day of Fallen Night will be among the best novels of the year, if not the best. I could not have asked for a better book to start the year.

The post A Day of Fallen Night by Samantha Shannon is the perfect high fantasy appeared first on That's What She Read.

Sunday Reflections – 15 January 2023
2023-01-15 16:00 UTC by Michelle

Sunday Reflections Button

Reading:  Seven Faceless Saints by M. K. Lobb

Listening:  Me and White Supremacy by Layla F. Saad and Spare by Prince Harry

Watching:  Holly was on a mission to finish a few shows before she returned to Scotland, so we spent the week watching New Girl, Peaky Blinders, Veronica Mars, and Abbott Elementary – all shows she cannot watch on Netflix or Hulu in Scotland.

Cooking: It was Holly’s last week at home, so she was going through the items left on her list of Foods to Eat While Home, which meant there wasn’t much cooking this week. There was a dinner at Olive Garden simply for the breadsticks and our favorite breakfast place for breakfast.

Enjoying:  Jim will be home for a week before he has to travel again. I can’t think of the last time this happened while Holly was not at home, so I thoroughly enjoy having the opportunity to establish a semblance of a routine.

Planning:  Jim has a company-wide offsite conference in Palm Springs at the end of the month, and spouses are welcome. I get to leave Wisconsin in January for the first time to experience sun and warmth poolside while Jim spends all day in meetings. I’m very excited and have been busy figuring out what to bring.

Feeling:  Even though we sent Holly back to Scotland last night, I feel content. The last month with Holly at home was perfect. It was so good to have her at home while observing how much she matured during the autumnal months. Not only did she want to spend time with us, but she also planned and paid for individual outings with Jim and me. The quality time together made her departure tearful for all of us. I let her go this time with tears and a happy heart because we saw the fully-capable, mature adult she has become and know she is okay.

The post Sunday Reflections – 15 January 2023 appeared first on That's What She Read.

Weekly Top Posts: 2023-01-15
2023-01-15 05:00 UTC

  1. Sunday Reflections – 08 January 2023
  2. The City We Became by N. K. Jemisin is a lovely ode to NYC
  3. First Book of 2023
  4. 2022 in Review
  5. The Blood Traitor by Lynette Noni is the perfect series ender

The City We Became by N. K. Jemisin is a lovely ode to NYC
2023-01-10 16:00 UTC by Michelle

The City We Became by N. K. Jemisin

The City We Became by N. K. Jemisin is as much an ode to New York City as a fantasy novel about a sentient city. You don’t have to be familiar with the city to hear the pride underlining each sentence. The heroes are harsh and bristly but lovable. Moreover, they are perfect representations of the boroughs they embody. Along with being a trippy story about cities as people, The City We Became is a love story to each inhabitant’s quirks and foibles, making New York City what it is.

After a slow start, the story hits its stride thanks to the characters as they strive to stop a mysterious enemy. Half of the novel’s fun is meeting each avatar and understanding how they represent their borough. Brooklyn, with her street past but a polished veneer; Manny, with his cutthroat nature and everyman appearance, their secrets reveal themselves to you slowly but not so slowly as to impede the story. The best part is that if you are like me and have never been to NYC, you don’t miss out on the fun of deciphering the character traits. Ms. Jemisin makes some very obvious without straying into stereotypes or caricatures of each borough.

What made The City We Became a stellar book for me was the narrator. Without Robin Miles’ performance, I would not have finished the book. Ms. Miles, more than anything, helped me understand the differences between each borough, which helped me understand the story. She does a stellar job differentiating between the various borough accents and differing nationalities, ages, races, and genders. She is so good that it felt like I was listening to a full-cast audio production. By the end, I became so impressed with her performance that I immediately downloaded the sequel to continue listening to her.

The City We Became is such an odd story, simple to describe, yet it was not easy to understand at first. Ms. Jemisin jumps right into the action, and you only understand what happened after the fact as each avatar comes into their powers. I believe having an intimate knowledge of the city also helps one’s enjoyment of the story. While I understood enough to delight in the little eccentricities Ms. Jemisin adds to each avatar, I know there are more I did not catch simply because I haven’t been there. Still, what I got I loved, and I credit Ms. Miles’ performance for taking Ms. Jemisin’s words and bringing them to life.

The post The City We Became by N. K. Jemisin is a lovely ode to NYC appeared first on That's What She Read.

Sunday Reflections – 08 January 2023
2023-01-08 16:00 UTC by Michelle

Sunday Reflections Button

Reading:  A Day of Fallen Night by Samantha Shannon

Listening:  Me and White Supremacy by Layla F. Saad and My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell

Watching:  The new season of Criminal Minds: Evolution is outstanding. You can’t believe what a difference a few curse words and a bit more gore can make. We are also working through Peaky Blinders again before starting the final season.

Cooking: We are hosting Holly’s boyfriend’s family for dinner, so I am marinating chicken for chicken fajitas, which I will serve with black beans, fresh guacamole, and fresh pico de gallo alongside corn and flour tortillas. Dessert is carrot cake or gluten-free blondies. I also made two loaves of banana bread per Holly’s request. I have plans to make enchiladas this week and anything else Holly wants for her last week of vacation.

Enjoying:  I enjoyed my time alone last week while Jim and Holly were gone. I missed them, to be sure, but I had fun doing my own thing for a few days. Even the dogs behaved.

Planning:  Nothing. It’s nice.

Feeling:  Happy. It’s such an elusive feeling (and may require more medication than I expected), but I am so glad to be happy again.

The post Sunday Reflections – 08 January 2023 appeared first on That's What She Read.

Weekly Top Posts: 2023-01-08
2023-01-08 05:00 UTC

  1. The Blood Traitor by Lynette Noni is the perfect series ender
  2. 2022 in Review
  4. Sunday Reflections on Monday – 02 January 2023

2022 in Review
2023-01-04 16:00 UTC by Michelle

I might not have written many real reviews, i.e., longer than a paragraph, and I certainly wasn’t present online outside of Instagram for the year. However, from a reading perspective, 2022 was a great year! Let’s review, shall we?

I finished 153 books and 56,981 pages, the most I’ve read in years. I believe it has a lot to do with the fact that I mostly stuck with books I knew I would enjoy, keeping fantasy and romance at the top of the list and gravitating toward the darker stories.

Genres Read in 2022

Personal Reading Experience 2022

Components of Highest-Rated Reads 2022

My favorite reads by month are the following:

Kingdom of the Cursed by Kerri Maniscalco


The Female of the Species by Mindy McGinnis


The Blood Trials by N. E. Davenport


Nightwork by Nora Roberts


Kindred by Octavia E. Butler


The Final Strife by Saara El-Arifi


For the Throne by Hannah Whitten


Babel by R. F. Kuang


The Epic Story of Every Living Thing by Deb Caletti


Spells for Forgetting by Adrienne Young


The Luminaries by Susan Dennard


My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell


Of these twelve, Babel by R. F. Kuang is by far my favorite book of the year, although I think it is interesting that only eight of my top picks were 2022 releases. Granted, I had several more five-star-rated books (33 in all), but I chose to stick to selecting one book per month.

I don’t participate in reading challenges like they were, but I did choose to participate in the ones listed in my reading journal from Little Inklings Design. Of the six listed, I completed five, only losing out to the Genre challenge because I don’t read poetry.

Overall, I’m pleased. I read what I wanted, finished all my review copies, and even read several books I already owned. I made a massive dent in my audiobook list and never fell into a reading slump. It was a much more relaxed approach to reading this year, and I say it worked. (I also think it helped that I didn’t review anything but spent all that extra time reading!)


The post 2022 in Review appeared first on That's What She Read.

The Blood Traitor by Lynette Noni is the perfect series ender
2023-01-03 16:00 UTC by Michelle

The Blood Traitor by Lynette Noni

The Blood Traitor by Lynette Noni is the much-anticipated (by me, at least) finale in The Prison Healer series. Ms. Noni delivers everything I was hoping plus more. She does so in a way that surprises, entertains, and satisfies. For a series ender, you couldn’t ask for much better.

One thing I love about this series is that Ms. Noni does not hesitate to put her characters through hell, and she does that again. Poor Kiva will have one hell of a therapy bill thanks to everything she endures throughout The Blood Traitor and the entire series. It starts with her suffering from severe drug addiction and back in prison, and that’s just the beginning. I always admire authors who aren’t afraid to do what is necessary to their characters for the story’s sake because I believe it makes for a better story; through her treatment of Kiva throughout the series, Ms. Noni proves my point.

Another favorite element of The Blood Traitor, which is valid for the rest of the series, is that Ms. Noni always keeps you guessing. There may be one or two plot points that you can predict, but most of the time, she tends to shock and surprise you. On the surface, The Blood Traitor appears to be a pretty basic plot that should be easy to predict. It is a testament to her writing ability that what seems ordinary on the surface becomes more profound and intense under her pen.

I enjoy her ability, even as I believe that I wouldn’t care if I could predict the entire story. Ultimately, it is not the plot that drives the story but the characters, and I adore the characters in The Blood Traitor. The found family trope is quickly becoming one of my favorites, and Ms. Noni proves herself to be stellar at both creating and showing found family. Kiva’s relationship with Tipp is one of my favorites of all time, seeing her protect him and watching him treat her as the mom he no longer has and can barely remember. It is so pure and heartwarming and written in such a way that there is nothing saccharine or false about it. If only all relationships could be so loving.

The Blood Traitor is exactly what I want in a series ender. Not only is it exciting while obtaining closure for our heroes, but Ms. Noni also puts our heroes through their paces in a way that maintains a high level of tension from beginning to end. I loved every second of it and cannot wait to see what Ms. Noni has for us next!

The post The Blood Traitor by Lynette Noni is the perfect series ender appeared first on That's What She Read.

Sunday Reflections on Monday – 02 January 2023
2023-01-02 16:00 UTC by Michelle

Sunday Reflections Button

Reading:  A Day of Fallen Night by Samantha Shannon

Listening:  Me and White Supremacy by Layla F. Saad and The City We Became by N. K. Jemisin

Watching: We got into rewatching Ocean’s Eleven the other day and realized we never watched any of the sequels. So we did. As well as football because ’tis the season, after all!

Cooking: Enchiladas, mushroom ravioli with garlic bread, taco dip, buffalo chicken dip, and banana bread have all been on the menu lately, as were shrimp and grits. It’s been fun cooking again.

Enjoying: Getting caught up on reviews, blogging again, and enjoying the rundown towards the new year. I had two rare days off on the 26th and today. It was nice to enjoy that time at home and healthy versus at a dance competition, suffering a migraine, or in the UK.

Planning:  Nothing. Jim is gone again this week, and he’s taking Holly with him this time. He enticed her to do so because he was paying her to work for him. Four days working in a freezer counting inventory doesn’t sound like a good time, but I’m not a broke college kid!

Feeling:  So grateful for everything. I enter the new year in a really good place – my family, mental health, physical health, friendship, everything. It’s all good.

The post Sunday Reflections on Monday – 02 January 2023 appeared first on That's What She Read.

First Book of 2023
2023-01-01 16:00 UTC by Michelle

A new year. A fresh start.

Some people chose to start the new year with resolutions meant to establish self-improvement areas and set the tone for the year. Us bibliophiles? We select our first book.

It is a ritual that is as meaningful as creating resolutions or choosing a word to define your year. After all, for us, it does set the tone for the year. Do you start the year reading something serious or something lighthearted? Do you take a chance on a debut author or stick with a favorite? Do you go for a comfort read or try something new? Do you select an old favorite to reread?

In years past, I’ve done lighthearted books and one by a favorite author. I chose books I had waited years to read. I have always enjoyed what I selected. For that reason, I look forward to choosing a book every year.

This year, for 2023, the choice was easy. Not only is it a book by one of my favorite authors, but it is also among my most anticipated novels for the entire new year. I was fortunate enough to be granted an e-galley last year, and I knew immediately that I would wait and savor it in January 2023. Without further ado, my selection is:

A Day of Fallen Night by Samantha Shannon

At over 800 pages, it won’t be the fastest finish of the year, but I’m going for quality over quantity in 2023. I intend to focus on what I want to read. I deliberately chose not to get recommendations from friends since that didn’t go so well last year, and I’ve been super picky about requesting or downloading review copies. Starting my year with Samantha Shannon and dragons? It is bound to be a good 2023!

The post First Book of 2023 appeared first on That's What She Read.

Weekly Top Posts: 2023-01-01
2023-01-01 05:00 UTC

  5. The Villa makes you reconsider that Italian vacation


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