Book Review

Second First Impressions

Second First Impressions


Sally Thorne


Ruthie Midona has worked the front desk at the Providence Luxury Retirement Villa for six years, dedicating her entire adult life to caring for the Villa’s residents, maintaining the property (with an assist from DIY YouTube tutorials), and guarding the endangered tortoises that live in the Villa’s gardens. Somewhere along the way, she’s forgotten that she’s young and beautiful, and that there’s a world outside of work—until she meets the son of the property developer who just acquired the retirement center.

Teddy Prescott has spent the last few years partying, sleeping in late, tattooing himself when bored, and generally not taking life too seriously—something his father, who dreams of grooming Teddy into his successor, can’t understand. When Teddy needs a place to crash, his father seizes the chance to get him to grow up. He’ll let Teddy stay in one of the on-site cottages at the retirement home, but only if he works to earn his keep. Teddy agrees—he can change a few lightbulbs and clip some hedges, no sweat. But Ruthie has plans for Teddy too.

Her two wealthiest and most eccentric residents have just placed an ad (yet another!) seeking a new personal assistant to torment. The women are ninety-year-old, four-foot-tall menaces, and not one of their assistants has lasted a full week. Offering up Teddy seems like a surefire way to get rid of the tall, handsome, unnerving man who won’t stop getting under her skin.

Ruthie doesn’t count on the fact that in Teddy Prescott, the Biddies may have finally met their match. He’ll pick up Chanel gowns from the dry cleaner and cut Big Macs into bite-sized bits. He’ll do repairs around the property, make the residents laugh, and charm the entire villa. He might even remind Ruthie what it’s like to be young and fun again. But when she finds out Teddy’s father’s only fixing up the retirement home to sell it, putting everything she cares about in jeopardy, she’s left wondering if Teddy’s magic was all just a façade.


I thought the premise of Second First Impressions was cool. A twenty-five-year-old woman who dresses like she’s closing in on one hundred meets a biker tattoo artist, and a romance goes from there. It is a nice concept, but I’m not sure how much I ended up liking the book.

Ruthie has anxiety because apparently, either the hero or heroine or both has to. She grew up in not the most loving household where her father was a reverend and was very hard on her. I’m not a fan of religion in books, and for a minute, I thought things were going to veer too far into a Christian book territory, but thankfully it never did. Sex scenes were pretty tame, and there were occasional mentions of her old church, but a discussion never came up.

Teddy was described as a womanizer, but I never got that vibe from him. His past conquests were mentioned, and one even showed up at some point, but he came off as more of a flirt and fun person. That may be because the story was from Ruthie’s perspective, and she didn’t think of him that way. He had his own family issues, but they ended up being resolved.

An issue I had with the ending is that Ruthie never got her big resolution with her family. There was one line in the epilogue that mentioned them and that they no longer believed she’d let $10k get stolen when she was a child, but that was it. I was crying when Teddy got his big talk with his sister, but there was nothing from Ruthie. It was very disappointing.

Second First Impressions ended up being a bit lacking for me. The support characters ended up being much more interesting than the heroine. After having to DNF Love at First and then not enjoying Second First Impressions, I’m bummed. Hopefully, my next read is good.


Tristan Strong Destroys the World (Tristan Strong #2)

Tristan Strong Destroys the World (Tristan Strong #2)


Kwame Mbalia


Tristan Strong, just back from a victorious but exhausting adventure in Alke, the land of African American folk heroes and African gods, is suffering from PTSD. But there’s no rest for the weary when his grandmother is abducted by a mysterious villain out for revenge. Tristan must return to Alke–and reunite with his loud-mouthed sidekick, Gum Baby–in order to rescue Nana and stop the culprit from creating further devastation. Anansi, now a “web developer” in Tristan’s phone, is close at hand to offer advice, and several new folk heroes will aid Tristan in his quest, but he will only succeed if he can figure out a way to sew broken souls back together.


I’m happy I listened to my librarian when she recommended the Tristan Strong series. It’s been a great source of entertainment and a nice light story to escape into. Plus, I’ve always loved mythology, and this is something I’m not super familiar with.

Tristan Strong Destroys the World picks up about a month after the last book. Tristan is doing a little better with his grief but has started having nightly nightmares. He ends up being drawn back to Alke when his grandmother is kidnapped. You end up learning more about her and the start of an explanation of why Tristan has his abilities.

The story ends not quite on a cliffhanger, but it does set up the following book’s story. This is supposed to be a trilogy, so we should reach a conclusion at that time. I kind of hope it isn’t, though. I’d love to read more in this world with these characters.


The Once and Future Witches

The Once and Future Witches


Alix E. Harrow


In 1893, there’s no such thing as witches. There used to be, in the wild, dark days before the burnings began, but now witching is nothing but tidy charms and nursery rhymes. If the modern woman wants any measure of power, she must find it at the ballot box.

But when the Eastwood sisters–James Juniper, Agnes Amaranth, and Beatrice Belladonna–join the suffragists of New Salem, they begin to pursue the forgotten words and ways that might turn the women’s movement into the witch’s movement. Stalked by shadows and sickness, hunted by forces who will not suffer a witch to vote-and perhaps not even to live-the sisters will need to delve into the oldest magics, draw new alliances, and heal the bond between them if they want to survive.

There’s no such thing as witches. But there will be.


The Once and Future Witches was on all the lists last year. It was nominated for a Goodreads choice award and probably other ones too. The author’s website is pretty lacking, so I’m not sure about that. Her previous book got nominated for everything, though. A lot of the time, when I read books like this, I’m disappointed. I like lighter fare, something not grounded in realism. That isn’t always the case, of course, and I’m happy to say it wasn’t with The Once and Future Witches.

The story follows three sisters. They grew up with an abusive father and are all struggling with what was done to them in their own ways. Set in the late 1800s, they live in a world that treats women as property. They don’t have the vote and have been stripped of any magical power they had through years of witch trials. The only things they have are the stories and words their grandmother taught them.

The magic in this world was fascinating. I enjoyed how fairy tales were included and the power they gave. The spells were all interesting and feel so accessible. What if I can say these words and clean my house? Ugh, if only. Honestly, it made me want to believe.

Anyway! There was a diverse cast of characters, strong women that weren’t cookie cutters, and just enough magic to make the realism less draining. The ending was good, but not too happy, which is what you expect from these types of books. I liked it. I’m going to look into Harrow’s previous book now.


Accidentally Engaged

Accidentally Engaged


Farah Heron


Reena Manji doesn’t love her career, her single status, and most of all, her family inserting themselves into every detail of her life. But when caring for her precious sourdough starters, Reena can drown it all out. At least until her father moves his newest employee across the hall–with hopes that Reena will marry him.

But Nadim’s not like the other Muslim bachelors-du-jour that her parents have dug up. If the Captain America body and the British accent weren’t enough, the man appears to love eating her bread creations as much as she loves making them. She sure as hell would never marry a man who works for her father, but friendship with a neighbor is okay, right? And when Reena’s career takes a nosedive, Nadim happily agrees to fake an engagement so they can enter a couples video cooking contest to win the artisan bread course of her dreams.

As cooking at home together brings them closer, things turn physical, but Reena isn’t worried. She knows Nadim is keeping secrets, but it’s fine— secrets are always on the menu where her family is concerned. And her heart is protected… she’s not marrying the man. But even secrets kept for self preservation have a way of getting out, especially when meddling parents and gossiping families are involved.


There is soooooo much food in Accidently Engaged, and I love it. That’s an automatic star for me. The pretend couple trope is also a fun one. This time around, I found it a bit silly and not in a good way, though.

Reena has a slight inferiority complex and definite family issues. If she didn’t have so many issues with her family, her life would have been a lot easier. Of course, then there wouldn’t be a book. Still, their issues were lack of communication which is always a pet peeve of mine. There are so many secrets and fears of judgment from everyone in Reena’s family.

Nadim is clearly instantly attracted to Reena. He has his own family hang-ups but has no problem with his father trying to marry him off to Reena. What makes him a great hero, though, is that when she is firm on not marrying him, he doesn’t push. He’s there, and there’s flirting, but he never steps over the boundary she sets.

As a couple, they’ve got tons of chemistry, and it’s clear from the beginning that they’re great together. Reena is resistant to the point of stupidity when it comes to that happening, though. It reached eye roll levels on several occasions. I enjoyed Accidently Engaged, but it was annoying how hard she resisted. I don’t like doing what I’m told either, but when an obviously good thing comes along, set it aside.


The Once King (FFO#3)

The Once King (FFO#3)


Rachel Aaron & Travis Bach


Leylia’s secret could unite them all or lead them to an eternity of undeath.

After the loss of Bastion, everyone who’s not a zombie has holed up in FFO’s sole remaining safe haven: the lowbie town of Windy Lake. But the undead armies never rest, and it’s only a matter of time before the Once King’s forces come to crush what’s left of life in this world.

But Tina, James, and the rest of the players are facing a crisis of their own. After so long in this world, their human bodies are dying on the other side. If they don’t find a way home soon, they may have nothing to go back to.

With time running out in two worlds, Tina and James face a horrible choice: do they spend their final days looking for a way to get back to their old bodies, or join the NPCs to fight for their new ones. But just when things look impossible, James learns a secret that might change everything. Only one catch: to pull it off, they’re going to have to fight one raid boss no one, not even Tina, has ever beaten.

The Once King.


The Once King is the climactic conclusion to the LitRPG Final Fantasy Online. It was definitely climactic. What’s more, I got the ending I was hoping for. I’m actually really happy about that. I wasn’t a huge fan of the “epilogue,” but the ending itself was everything I could have hoped it would be.

Tina isn’t as bloodthirsty in The Once King. Her two major conflicts are finally resolved, and all the rage she had bottled up towards people that loved her was finally defused. That went a long way to me not disliking her so much.

James got his moment to shin as well. Though, in my opinion, he’s shinned in this entire series. I would read more books with characters like him. Someone who comes in and appeals to people’s better natures and can convince them that death and destruction are not the only way. Love it.

I’m honestly not sure if I’d read another LitRPG. If anyone has a good one to recommend, I’ll check out the blurb and maybe read a sample; otherwise, I don’t know. My desire to write one is still there, but it’s dimmed a bit. Aaron and Bach put a LOT of work into lore and world-building, and I don’t have the time to do that with most of the books I write. I don’t know, we’ll see.