Book Review: It Had to Be Them by Tamra Baumann

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Book 4 of It Had to Be… series

Summary

Ben Anderson is Anderson Butte’s (handsome) town doctor. He’s always being set up, but this time it’s different. His ex-fiance, Kline, is back in town. And the entire town (half of which seems to be family) is convinced they belong together.

What I Liked

  • Another cute book to finish off the series.
  • I liked seeing the characters from the rest of the series pop up within this one. Anderson Butte (which is named after Ben’s family) is a tight-knit community where everyone is in everyone else’s business.

What I Didn’t Like

  • The book wasn’t very memorable. A cute addition, for sure, but not very different from any other romance novel.

In Conclusion

If you’ve loved the It Had to Be… series so far then you’ll love this final novel.

Find it on: Goodreads | Amazon (affiliate link)

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Book Review: Page by Paige by Laura Lee Gullege

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Summary

This graphic novel follows high schooler Paige Turner as she works to push beyond her comfort zone – both as an artist and as a person. She’s just moved to New York and buys a sketchbook to challenge herself to be a better artist. Along the way she makes discoveries about herself and the world around her, and we (the readers) get to follow along.

What I Liked

  • I loved the art in this book. The comic itself is beautiful, but I love how the author incorporated a lot of out of the box ideas into the book. We see Paige’s story intertwined with fun sketches and ideas from her sketchbook. The author also includes artwork from a couple others, which pops out in a fun way because they are usually in a different style.
  • This was just a happy, feel-good story. There’s a touch of romance, and the main character is constantly working to improve herself by doing things that make her uncomfortable. While it reads like a coming-of-age story, it seems very relatable to life as a whole (or at least to me, in my late twenties).

My Favorite Lines/Pages

(This book didn’t have page numbers, so I don’t have those for you.)

  • There’s an image at the beginning where Paige goes to school. Across the building there is a banner that says BE AN EXTROVERT, as the artist’s way of showing the pressure Paige is feeling when walking into this world. I liked this because I feel that’s a common pressure, especially for those with social anxiety. I also liked this because (spoiler in white, highlight to read) at the end of the book this image reappeared, but the banner had a new one over it that read BE A PAIGE. (Be yourself! I love that the character grew into herself throughout the book.)
  • “It’s up to me to sculpt myself into who I want to be…”
  • “Okay, so maybe I am self-absorbed. But who isn’t? When someone looks at one of my drawings, it reflects back THEM. Not me.” (This made me laugh because it’s totally true.
  • There’s an image where she’s holding a large heart (representing dating/romance) and is surrounded by banana peels. Like she’s afraid one wrong step will screw everything up.

What I Didn’t Like

  • It was a little cliche. But it the creativity and artistry makes up for that.

In Conclusion

If you’re looking for a beautiful and fun graphic novel about someone discovering themself, this is the book for you.

Find it on: Goodreads | Amazon (affiliate link)

 

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Book Review: It Had to Be Fate by Tamra Baumann

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Book 3 of It Had to Be… series

Summary

Casey Anderson owns a hotel in Anderson Butte – a town where all the residents are paid to ignore celebrities. For now she’s focused on being a good mother to her two boys, and is fighting to ensure she retains custody. Zane Steele is known for being an edgy party-boy rocker, and has come to Anderson Butte to hide out until things settle down. He’s captivated by Casey and wants to date her – but can he convince her to look past his public facade?

What I Liked

  • I really liked the intricacies that came along with Zane’s secret. (His secret is in white text here, if you want to know, but it’s a spoiler: he’s a twin, and its his twin that’s the bad boy. He’s a good guy, but his publicity team wants him to retain an edgy look – so he lets his twin get away with stuff under his name.) I can’t recall reading of a similar situation, although I’m sure I’ve seen it on TV. I liked the contract between public persona/reputation and who someone actually is.
  • Am I allowed to like the food in the book? They have spaghetti dinners and go on picnics and eat Count Chocula and so much more. Which is probably more accurate to a real-life dating scenario than one that doesn’t involve food at all.
  • Overall this is another great addition to the It Had to Be… series. It’s a typical romance, but it still held my interest fairly well, and I read it in one day.

What I Didn’t Like

  • As with any romance, it was somewhat predictable.

In Conclusion

This book is another feel-good addition to the It Had to Be… series.

Find it on: Goodreads | Amazon (affiliate link)

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Book Review: Seconds by Bryan Lee O’Malley

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Summary

This graphic novel follows Katie, the owner of a restaurant, as she tries to fix the mistakes in her life. Luckily, she finds a way to go back in time and change mistakes – but messing with the past has consequences. Will she finally be able to craft the life she wants? Or will she be even worse off than before?

What I Liked

  • This book is captivating. I planned on reading a hundred pages or so and then going to bed… that did not happen. I read it all in one sitting! I was pulled in by Katie’s story.
  • The story is somewhat unpredictable. For a large part of it I was unable to know what was going to happen next, which was why I kept reading.
  • It was fun to watch all the different elements of this book weave together. There are a lot of moving pieces in Katie’s life including love interests, business aspirations and dreams, friends, and mysterious happenings around her house.

What I Didn’t Like

  • The ending was perhaps a bit lackluster? Thinking back I’m not sure why I got this feeling at all – perhaps I just wanted to read more of her story, and it was suddenly over.

In Conclusion

If you’re trying to get into graphic novels (like me!) then you’ll enjoy this book.

Find it on: Goodreads | Amazon (affiliate link)

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Book Review: It Had to Be Love by Tamra Baumann

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Book 2 of It Had to Be… series

Summary

Tara Carter is new to the town of Anderson Butte. It’s a small, somewhat remote town, which keeps her hidden from her past. However, the sheriff, Ryan Anderson suspects that she’s hiding something – and keeps poking around trying to uncover something she would rather keep buried. On top of that, they keep running into each other and the matchmaking town are trying to encourage them to be together.

What I Liked

  • It’s a super cute romance. Great for a summer beach read. (It’s already 105 Farenheit here in Arizona, so I can safely say it’s summer.)
  • The threat in the book was legitimate. Sometimes authors go for flimsier, over-exaggerated threats to keep the characters in motion. Not this time!
  • I loved the characters. I think I mentioned this is my review of the first book in this series, but I love how authentic the characters are. Lately I feel like I’ve been reading books where the author says one thing about a character, but as a reader, we never actually see it. It’s nice to read one a book where the fiesty characters make feisty decisions, and so on.

What I Didn’t Like

  • I’m not going to shout this one from the rooftops, but it was still a cute read. Hence four stars. 🙂

In Conclusion

If you enjoyed the first book in this series (It Had to Be Him), you’ll love this one as well.

Find it on: Goodreads | Amazon (affiliate link)

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Book Review: Tortall: A Spy’s Guide by Tamora Pierce

Book also by Julie Holderman, Timothy Liebe, and Megan Messinger

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Summary

This book takes place after the events of all of Tamora Pierce’s Tortall books so far. If you haven’t read them yet, you should! They’re all like my favorite books ever. The series are Song of the Lioness, The Immortals, Protector of the Small, and The Daughter of the Lioness. (affiliate links) It is a collection of papers found in George Cooper’s trunk, which means there are a lot of cool things in this book such as:

  • Details on how the spy system of Tortall is set up
  • Letters from Ali and Thom’s childhood
  • Bios of characters throughout the series
  • Accounts of the food served at feasts
  • Killing machine reports
  • How Lord Sir Wyldon of Cavall became training master
  • Daine’s immortal notes
  • Dimplomat’s Guide to Tortall (including holidays celebrated in the country)
  • Nealan of Queenscove’s poetry
  • A timeline of Tortall up to 463 H.E.

What I Liked

  • Tortall is probably my favorite fictional land ever. So I loved every second I spent reading this book. It was great to see a lot of the behind-the-scenes stuff that happened during the different series.
  • This book is beautiful. It’s put together like a collection of papers, so some of them have cup rings or ink splots or (images of) wax seals and lots of other cool stuff. I love books like this that are in a slightly different format, or appear to be more of a hand-written collection than a book.
  • The timeline was fantastic – now I finally know the ages of each character at any given point in time, which was always sort of an estimate for me. If you haven’t read the series yet, I wouldn’t read this book though, because the timeline includes everything.
  • I loved the sections with sketches – the bios of different side characters, and Daine’s notes on immortals.

What I Didn’t Like

  • The thing that Alanna reveals at the very beginning of the book isn’t discussed at all for the rest of the book. 😦 The timeline doesn’t go that far either, so I guess we’ll just have to hope that Tamora Pierce writes about it in another series? 😀 😀
  • Because this is more or less a reference to Tortall, it could be a little dry at times. I loved it because I love all of Tortall, but if you’re not as big of a fan, maybe it wouldn’t hold your attention.

In Conclusion

Someone buy this book for me? 😀 If you’re a fan of Tamora Pierce’s Tortall, you’ll love this book. And if you’re not a fan of Tortall, you clearly haven’t read her books – so go read them!

Find it on: Goodreads | Amazon (affiliate link)

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Book Review: The Jerk Magnet by Melody Carlson

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐(⭐)

Summary

Chelsea Martin has always been the ugly duckling wallflower, just doing her best not to stand out and get made fun of. Then her dad makes a big announcement – they’re moving to California, and he’s marrying his girlfriend. Her new stepmother helps Chelsea with a complete makeover – and now she’s getting all the attention. While this is great for her confidence and making new friends, it also means she’s getting a lot of attention from jerks who only like her for her looks. Hence she is dubbed the “jerk magnet”.

What I Liked

  • This book does a great job of addressing what it’s like to be judged by your looks from many different perspectives. She’s attracting both positive and negative attention with her new looks, but she watches and sees how people treat those like she used to be.
  • This book sort of introduces CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) without directly stating it. The character just works to refine her thoughts through a more positive lens. It was really cool to see this thought process because while CBT is super important (especially if you struggle with anxiety or depression), it’s not often conveyed in characters.

Neutral Observations

  • This is a Christian book. Just putting it out there in case that’s not your thing. 🙂
  • The book was a little outdated in what it mentioned – it was written more for me in high school (10ish years ago) than for high schoolers now. Which is probably why I gave it 5 stars when I read it in 2012, but only 4 stars when I re-read it in 2018. (Examples include references to Robert Pattinson/Edward Cullen and “What Not to Wear”.)

What I Didn’t Like

  • There were a couple of phrases or moments that threw me off guard because they wouldn’t be considered politically correct. This author as a whole is great at addressing different mental issues (I mean, see the CBT part above), but described the main character’s thoughts as schizophrenic or socially retarded. Which I thought seemed incongruous with the rest of the book and with the author’s writings as a whole. (She’s one of my favorite authors, so please don’t hate her for the two words I found that just stuck out weirdly to me. Clearly I’m being nitpicky, and the other tens of thousands of words are great. :))

In Conclusion

If you want to read a high school level book regarding what it feels like to be judged by your appearances, this one is perfect for you.

Find it on: Goodreads | Amazon (affiliate link)

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Book Review: It Had to Be Him by Tamra Baumann

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Summary

Meg Anderson has always been a screw-up. Now she needs to move back home with her two year old and face her family and the town she grew up in. As the town’s resident troublemaker, she’s going to have a hard time convincing them to give her another chance. Josh Granger is a former FBI officer, who had to leave the love of his life, Meg, shortly after he found out she was pregnant. Three years later and he’s back, willing to do anything to win her back.

What I Liked

  • This is a re-read since I’m getting back into the series. So the fact that I was willing to read it again is huge. Also, I spent all day on the edge of my seat, waiting for breaks at work so I could find out what happened next. Even though I’d already read the book before. So there’s that. 😛
  • This book is so. dang. cute. Both the characters are more or less already in love, they just don’t trust that their future will work out. I liked reading a romance that was more about learning to trust the other person than questioning whether or not they had feelings for the person.
  • The characters were fantastic. Meg is tomboyish, confident, and resilient. Her grandmother is spunky. Josh is even-keeled. And throughout the book, the author shows each of their personalities through their actions and reactions. She doesn’t just say that the characters are that way. To be honest I feel like I don’t get to read authentic characters like that very often.
  • I admire the characters for the choices they made in the book. If faced with some of their situations, I know I would either shut down crying or try to fight back with a snarky remark. But the characters had the guts to face what they needed to face and not let retorts get to them (usually). And I found that pretty cool.

What I Didn’t Like

  • This book gets five stars from me, so I really don’t have any dislikes.

In Conclusion

If you’re looking for a great contemporary romance, this is the book for you.

Find it on: Goodreads | Amazon (affiliate link)

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Book Review: Warcross by Marie Lu

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Summary

Emika Chen is just barely scraping by, using her hacking skills to track down criminals as a bounty hunger. That is, until she accidentally glitches into the Warcross virtual championships. That’s when everything changes. We get to follow her as she uses her hacking skills and explores the different virtual worlds of Warcross, as well as the intricacies posed by its creator and most popular players.

What I Liked

  • I loooved the world. It’s ours, but slightly in the future, when virtual reality becomes easily available for everyone. Now there’s a digital layer on top of the existing world, as well as the super cool game of Warcross. Being able to control what you see out of your car windows, or talk to people who speak a different language (and see instant translation), or play a game that allows you to fly… how cool!
  • The last third of the book.

What I Didn’t Like

  • The first two thirds of the book? They weren’t horrible, but they were very slowly paced. If I didn’t want to discuss this book with my friends, I probably wouldn’t have pushed through to finish it at all. Don’t get me wrong, the ending, and the last third, is great enough that the book still got four stars from me. But man, it took a while to get there!

In Conclusion

If you have the patience to read 200 pages to get to some action, and if you love futuristic tech or hacking, then you’ll enjoy this book.

Find it on: Goodreads | Amazon (affiliate link)

Book Review: Second-Hand Dog by Carol Lee Benjamin

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Summary

This book addresses the unique problems than may come along with a “second-hand” dog, whether you found them on the street or adopted them from a shelter.

What I Liked

  • This book was a light, quick read. It wasn’t overly detailed like some dog training books are.
  • This book was really positive. I read it when I was struggling a lot with my dog, so this came at a great time.
  • Instructions (if any) were simple and easy to understand. Plus, there were wonderful little illustrations throughout the book.
  • I love that this book is geared specifically for “second-hand” dogs, since a lot of advice I find is for people who raised their dogs from puppies. I got my dog when she was already two years old, so I can’t control her past. I can only control her future.

What I Didn’t Like

  • This book seems like it would be a great read for a child getting a new dog, but did not provide as many details or depth as I would have liked. It wasn’t overly helpful, but it was positive enough to give me the oomph to try harder training my dog.

In Conclusion

If you need a quick read to pull you out of being frustrated with your dog, this book is for you.

Find it on: Goodreads | Amazon (affiliate link)

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