First, Middle, and Last Impressions – January 18, 2023

I love taking a look at a book cover and description and then coming up with my own idea of what the book will be about. Sometimes I’m right, sometimes I’m so wrong it’s almost funny. So I’ve decided to write about my first, middle, and last impressions of each book I read, as well as a little bit on why I wanted to read it because sometimes, when I’ve finished, I really can’t remember.

The first impression is based solely on the cover and description. What do I think it will be about?

The middle impression is kind of a check-in on how the story is going about halfway through.

The last impression is my final thoughts on the book, what I’m left thinking.

I hope you have as much fun with this as I will!

Back in a Spell by Lana Harper – Romance, Fantasy

Why I want to read this: This is the third book in the Witches of Thistle Grove series, and I already noticed the fourth is scheduled for summer 2023. This one is focused on Nina of the Blackmoore family. They’re not exceptionally well-liked, but I always liked Nina in the other two books, so I’m excited to get into her story.

First Impression: This one looks to be about winter, where the first two were fall and spring, respectively. I don’t really know what to expect since the first one had a tournament and revenge and the second was a mystery, but I expect romance and witchy things.

Middle Impression: I was so excited for this one, but it’s just okay and nothing about the story is really grabbing my attention. I’m having a hard time with Nina’s characterization, or maybe I just built her up too much in anticipation. She’s portrayed as a victim and knows this, but is unwilling to sacrifice everything she has, so I’m finding it hard to sympathize with her. I do like Morty, though. He’s always been fun. My only problem is the romance. It’s too contrived. The one bright spot so far is Gareth has matured since the first book and I really love it! And Emmy has become such a force, so I can’t wait to see the Thorns and Avramovs.

Last Impression: Most of this book was just okay to me, but I really liked the ending. I struggled with the romance, though I think Morty was fantastic. Sadly, the Blackmoores weren’t quite as interesting as I thought, and there isn’t much development regarding them beyond what we already know of the bunch, but Nina did have some nice character development, as well as Gareth. I think my biggest problem was just how Nina-oriented the whole story is, to the point where the romance was completely shadowed. This is definitely all about the magic and one young woman’s journey, with a bit of romance on the side. While I liked how it acknowledged how toxic some families can be and I liked how Nina’s story wrapped up, my favorite part was how much the world and characters developed and grew.

Lunar Love by Lauren Kung Jessen – Romance

lunar love lauren kung jessen

Why I want to read this: This is about a mixed race Chinese American young woman who has taken over her family’s matchmaking business, so, being Chinese American, though not mixed race, I was intrigued by the characters and the story, and I have a fondness for the Chinese zodiac, too.

First Impression: I think there’s a good chance this one will have things I can relate to. Every other book with Asian American characters has been hit or miss, but I have a good feeling about this one. I also think there will be a fun romance in these pages.

Middle Impression: This is such a cute romance. It’s a little predictable and absolutely clear as day, but I absolutely love all the Chinese culture. I love that Olivia is still learning about Chinese traditions just like I am and I love all the food and how much time she and Bennett spend in and around LA, so there are places I recognize. I’m antsy for them to get together, but it’s fun seeing them make each other date other people.

Last Impression: Despite being a rather predictable romance, this one spoke to my soul. Both Olivia and Bennett are mixed race Chinese American, so their childhoods weren’t steeped in Chinese traditions. I loved that this book really started to explore those traditions and what they mean to the couple, nicely blending tradition with modern times. I did think Olivia was just looking for every opportunity to shake off Bennett no matter how much she liked him, so the smallest things set her off, but Bennett was a decent sort of guy, perhaps even a little too good for Olivia.

The Daughters of Izdihar by Hadeer Elsbai – Fantasy

the daughters of izdihar hadeer elsbai

Why I want to read this: I’ve been a follower of Hadeer’s blog for a while, though she’s now fazed it out and instead started a newsletter, so I’ve been looking forward to reading this ever since she announced it. It’s been neat to follow her journey, though she didn’t blog much about it, while anticipating this book.

First Impression: Just from reading Hadeer’s blog, I think this will be fun and well-written. I know it’s an Egyptian-inspired fantasy, so I’m eager to see what it looks like. I also know it’s a feminist story with a more traditional setting, so I can’t wait to see how it all plays out because I think it’ll be quite interesting.

Middle Impression: So far, this is interesting. I feel like I’m getting a good immersion into the culture since it seems to permeate every page. Nehal is a noblewoman and quite a firecracker, though she also seems really spoiled, so she can be a little annoying to read. Giorgina, on the other hand, really hangs back and seems so uncertain of herself, though her loyalty to her family is admirable, even if it hurts her. Nico ties these two women together, but he just makes me roll my eyes. Actually, the minor characters are more interesting to me at this point since none of the main characters seem interested in actually doing anything, unless it’s Nehal and she gets to do whatever she wants. On the bright side, I really love the undertones of a potential sapphic romance.

Last Impression: Turns out I like Giorgina much more than Nehal because she’s the only one who actually seems to grow, though I did like how gutsy Nehal is. While Nico is more doormat than anything else, the secondary characters really stood on their own and were sometimes even more interesting than the two main women. The most interesting part, though, was how clearly the society was laid out and how it affected every single part of daily life. It very much felt like a war between the traditional patriarchal society and a growing call for equal rights. The magic was also fascinating, but not well described even though it was such a big part of the story. There are a lot of elements in this book and I think they all worked really well together.

Vampire Weekend by Mike Chen – Urban Fantasy

vampire weekend by Mike Chen

Why I want to read this: After enjoying 3 of his 4 books (never got around to reading his second), I’ll read just about anything he writes. Even though I’m not a fan of vampires in books, I’m up to reading whatever he writes about.

First Impression: I expect a lot of heart. His books have come to be known as coming with a lot of heart and a lot of stories that revolve around family, so I expect this, along with vampires, of course.

Middle Impression: I’m struggling a bit to find the heart so far despite the family element coming into play. This one feels less about the heart and the family and more about focusing on what “real” vampires are like and on the music scenes across a few generations. But I do like the Asian family component, especially when it comes to Louise’s childhood in a more traditional Chinese American household.

Last Impression: Unfortunately, this isn’t my favorite of Chen’s books, but it did take some interesting turns and the big event at the end was amazing and fun and I just wish the reader had been able to get a chance to be a bit more privy to what was going on. Instead this book is mostly just about vampires and music (couldn’t say what kind, really, as I didn’t recognize many of the names/groups mentioned). Despite the family angle woven into this, I felt this was mostly about debunking vampire mythology while creating its own.

Bookworm by Robin Yeatman – Fiction

bookworm robin yeatman

Why I want to read this: I usually avoid books that involve books and people who love reading those books because I don’t really need to read about people who love books as much as I do, but this one sounded like it has an edge to it, and I’m wondering how reality and fiction will start to blur.

First Impression: Well, fiction with an edge, I suppose! I think this will be interesting, though, for some reason, I keep looking at this and keep thinking it’s women’s fiction.

Middle Impression: Well, it took about 25% to really get at why Victoria felt stuck in her marriage and life (ahem, no thanks to Mom and Dad and husband and in-laws. I almost feel sorry for her sometimes.). At the same time, I don’t see a ton of agency in Victoria, like why wouldn’t she try to break out of the mold everyone has stuck her in if she hates it? But I do like how crazy and dysfunctional she seems; keeps things interesting and my attention riveted to what crazy thing she’s going to try next to either off her husband to get with the sexy stranger she’s obsessed with (for the strangest reason). The writing is keeping me very engaged, and I like that dark edge, but there’s also a weirdly lighthearted feel to this.

Last Impression: So, I didn’t like Victoria, though I could understand where she was coming from. Eric wasn’t much better as a character, and, actually, none of the characters were particularly charming or likable. I loved the ending, though, and it created so many fun questions. It was fun to trace back everything Victoria did to get to that one moment, so it felt like it strayed into thriller territory for me. Reading this was kind of like watching a car crash in slow motion, especially with how Victoria seemed to be spiraling, and the writing really kept me engaged.

The Shadow of Perseus by Claire Heywood – Historical Fiction, Women’s Fiction

the shadow of perseus claire heywood

Why I want to read this: I usually keep away from mythology retellings because they don’t usually do it for me, but my daughter’s name was almost Cassiopeia, so I guess I’ve been intrigued by the Perseus-Medusa-Andromeda story for a long time.

First Impression: A feminist retelling of Perseus’s story.

Middle Impression: This is so readable! It’s almost like a dream to read this, and I like how it really works to stick to historical accuracy instead of using the gods to explain everything. I actually don’t miss the gods’ interference. So far I’ve read from Danae (Perseus’s poor mother who made some bad decisions) and Medusa (who trusted too easily). I hate to say this, but I felt like the way these women treated Perseus, and the Pythia’s prophecy, helped make Perseus into the angry, entitled young man he’s portrayed to be in this book so far. But it’s nice to turn the spotlight on the women in this very patriarchal period, so I could absolutely sympathize with them.

Last Impression: This is definitely very readable and I felt like the ancient world was fully accessible. It was great to see everything explained in ordinary ways, but also great to see how it might be interpreted as interference from the gods. Perseus ended up feeling a little like a puppet, and completely unsure of who he was but doggedly pursued what he thought he should. I didn’t like him until the end, but this was about Danae, Medusa, and Andromeda, though, because of Medusa’s story, she didn’t get much page time, which was a huge disappointment to me. I did absolutely adore Andromeda. She’s just amazing, so brave and sure, a nice contrast to Danae. The two of them together, though, was fantastic.

The Minuscule Mansion of Myra Malone by Audrey Burges – Magical Realism, Women’s Fiction

Why I want to read this: I don’t actually remember why I requested this in the first place from NetGalley, but I guess I just can’t wrap my head about a miniature house mimicking an actual house, so I want to see how the story unfolds to explain this.

First Impression: I don’t know, but it sounds strange. It sounds like an interesting premise, so I’m expecting a strange tale, but that also usually means a lot of confusion for me as the author feels like they have to work harder to make it make sense.

Middle Impression: There are a lot of time lines to keep track of, and some different locations, so I find myself lost from time to time. It’s easy to see how all the characters are connected, so I feel like the story is building to that, but literally all the clues are there. I’m actually a little bored at times because, while it doesn’t wax poetic or become philosophical, there’s a lot of being inside the characters’ heads, and I think the whole story of how there’s an entire miniature of a real mansion and how they’re connected and where they came from is whole lot more interesting than the stories of a woman who can’t figure out her own child, a reclusive woman who only cares about the house but who may be intrigued by the guy who lives in the real mansion, and a guy who isn’t crazy about his current life but insists on going toe to toe with his dad instead of just saying bye to the life he doesn’t want. On a side note: what is it with all these characters in books, not just this one, who get stuck into their family business and drama, but want no part of it, yet don’t leave? I get duty to family, but families can be as toxic as romantic relationships and friendships and sometimes one just needs to remove oneself from it all.

Current Progress: 64%. I just finished my 6th day reading this, and I’m still not…quite…there. Granted, half of that was a three day weekend, and it’s practically impossible for me to get much reading in when the kids are home. But I just feel like this one is moving molasses slow. Myra and Alex have finally connected through emails and text messaging and it’s kind of cute, but there’s all this drama around the upper branches of their family trees and, I don’t know, it just feels a little too much to me. I just want to know more about these mansions and there are all these other characters with dramatic lives taking over.

What about you?

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