Three Slow-Cooker Recipes to Pair with "Status Update" by Annabeth Albert

My friend Brian (who is basically the king of good book recommendations) set out to have me read STATUS UPDATE a little while ago. When I won his Twitter giveaway, this was the first one I set out to read. What a way to begin. I mean, really, y’all—I’m swooning. This book is about two guys who’ve got some issues on the relationship front, as well as some personal problems to work out. Luckily, they meet through their adorable mutts. When Adrian’s latest relationship fails, Noah decides to help this poor fellow out. Of course, we can’t just leave it there. Sparks fly.
In this darling book, which is my favorite of the three I’ve read by the author, Noah has a bit of an obsession with crock pot meals (we learn later the significance of said crock pot). I’ve decided to put together this little post to share some crock pot meals from the ever-glorious Pinterest. Two I’ve tried, and the other, well, I really, really want to.
First up is the recipe I have not tried yet…crock pot beef stew! These two males are stuck in this trailer in the cold of winter. Snow, cute as heck dogs. They’re hungry (I don’t mean just for each other) and I think this stew would have warmed them hair to hide. For me, a crock pot roast is the ultimate comfort food. Salt, pepper, chunks of beef and carrots. Not too many things that I could eat every week for the rest of my life. This recipe takes it up a notch a bit in terms of what to do, but I think that these guys would go an extra mile for the other, to make sure they’re all warm and cozy and full for the winter nights.
Next, let’s talk about the wonders of crock pot hot chocolate. I mean, yuuuummmmy. Sweetened condensed milk? Chocolate chips? Lord have mercy. Wake up in the morning to the rich brew that’s been cooking all night? That, my darlings, that is the life. And it’s gluten-free, just like the beef stew! So Adrian can have it without any issues. Isn’t Noah just super caring? (I know, I’m swooning too. What a catch.)
Finally, we’ve got ourselves something super delicious. I actually made with at the dorm for Sunday dinner. What am I talking about? Crock pot chicken gnocci soup. Ugh. So good. Again. It’s winter. Gnocci is so dang delicious. Chicken is also nice. Warmth. Hot guy. I mean—what? Either way, you can’t go wrong with soup on a cold day.


#ARC Review || The Edge of Everything by Jeff Giles || Searching for a Friend When Everything Goes to Hell

The Edge of Everything by Jeff Giles
ARC via Publisher
Published: January 31, 2017
Goodreads || Amazon

It’s been a shattering year for seventeen-year-old Zoe, who’s still reeling from her father’s shockingly sudden death in a caving accident and her neighbors’ mysterious disappearance from their own home. Then on a terrifying sub-zero, blizzardy night in Montana, she and her brother are brutally attacked in a cabin in the woods–only to be rescued by a mysterious bounty hunter they call X.

X is no ordinary bounty hunter. He is from a hell called the Lowlands, sent to claim the soul of Zoe’s evil attacker and others like him. Forbidden to reveal himself to anyone other than his victims, X casts aside the Lowlands’ rules for Zoe. As X and Zoe learn more about their different worlds, they begin to question the past, their fate, and their future. But escaping the Lowlands and the ties that bind X might mean the ultimate sacrifice for both of them.

Gripping and full of heart, this epic journey will bring readers right to the edge of everything.

It all begins with Zoe’s dad falling down the depths of a cave and never coming back out. Fast-forward and we encounter X. As in unknown variable. As in one of the most adorable, naïve guys that I’ve ever had the pleasure of encountering. All X has ever known is the Lowlands, someplace that basically equates to hell. Our lovely main dude is tasked with killing the humans whose souls are basically evil and dragging them into the ever-neath before the Lords, who do who the hell (haha) knows what with them. When he meets Zoe, something in the air just changes. And he makes a choice that could very well change his fate, along with her’s, and that of everyone they care about.

With that brief summary out of the way, let’s talk a bit more about Zoe. She’s seriously cool. Not as cool as Ripper, but cool enough to make a zombie of a human look twice. After he dad dies she is sort of stuck in this give-and-give relationship with the world. And she’s just so dang tired of it. However, she’s positive. She tries to keep her annoyed but adorable younger brother happy and safe. She maintains a healthy relationship with her best friend, and a decent relationship with her ex, who she broke up with after it all went down.

She’s a bit of a fixer. I think that’s why her and X work so well together, and develop the romance that they do. With everything that’s thrown at them they’re still just young adult in a strange, magical world having to make hugely impactful decisions. Decisions that no other being ever really has to make.

Besides the gorgeous writing, there’s a bit of a moral story to this tale that is just the freaking cherry on top of the awesome sundae.

Now, I know what you’re thinking.

You’re thinking, Jackie, why did you not even give the book four stars when all you’re doing is going on (and on and on and on) about everything awesome in THE EDGE OF EVERYTHING? Well, dear reader, I’m getting there. Because I really do have some complaints.

I didn’t really buy the romance. It felt a bit forced on both sides, and also a little bit like clinging to the last bit on sunlight before the glowing ball of cosmic gas sinks beneath the horizon. X never really knew anyone to have a romance with besides her, and Zoe….I mean I just though the girl was making a few not so fantastic choices. Granted, she’s actually been through more horrid stuff than I’m able to comprehend. So, there’s that.

I also had a bit of a problem with the layout of the story itself. I can’t give much away without spoilers, so I’ll just say this: it felt a bit disjointed.

Overall, I liked it. I liked the write and Ripper the best. For a seeking a friend when everything goes to hell kind of book, I’d say this one is pretty good.

#ARC Review || Hit Man by Michele Mannon || I May have a Thing for Mercenaries? Maybe?

Hit Man by Michele Mannon
eARC via NetGalley + Publisher
Goodreads || Amazon
Published || December 6, 2016

He always gets what he wants.

The seasoned seducer, who probably charms the panties off of every woman he meets. Diego is handsome. Arrogant. Dangerous. Far more dangerous than anyone I’ve ever met. And with one look from across a crowded room he has me; hook line and sinker, I’m his for the night.

Diego is not a man to mess with, I know that. I just can’t seem to resist his kiss, his touch. But can I trust him with my heart, with my body?

I’m being hunted for something I may or may not have seen, and Diego is my only way out of a world of death and destruction. If only I can believe his dark promises.

Happy Christmas Eve to all who celebrate!

Verdict: I’m in love; somebody hold me

Lord have mercy, but do I ever love mercenaries and romance and accents and YES talk dirty in different languages. And then maybe translate so I know what you said. And then switch back to the foreign language please, because it sounded a hell of a lot hotter that way. SWOON. In Michele Mannon’s newest novel HIT MAN there is all of this and soooo much more. Like things being blown up. A woman with novel aspirations so do amazing things. Incredibly amazing things. Of course, then there’s the hit man who-much to his dismay-is falling head over heels for her. Things don’t go as planned, and people get caught in the crosshairs of unimaginable horrors…

Let’s begin this review journey with some character analysis: Aubrey and Diego. As you may have figured out via pronoun usage, Aubrey is out resident do-gooder and Diego is out hired exterminator of human beings. Obviously his job has left him a little rough around the edges—and he claims he’s loved only three people in his entire life: his mother, father, and sister. When Aubrey comes crashing into his mission in a suspicious way, he takes it upon himself to figure out what this American is doing. I’m sure you know what follows: things are shot into the sky, cartels are run by powerhouses, and government conspiracies. It’s all rather dramatic in the best way possible.

And then we’ve got Aubrey, who, despite all of her amazing intentions, is fantastic at getting herself into situations that most people wouldn’t walk away alive from. Of course, they don’t have a hit man following them around like a protective puppy dog.

So cute. 

As you can probably tell, I love both of these characters so much. I think it’s kind of hard to craft a human with real flaws that don’t seem overdone, or oversimplified. You’ve got to make them 3-D. Diego and Aubrey are. Full color. Living. Breathing. Freaking hot as hell. Make incredibly poor decisions. Are actually really rude.

BUT. Despite being rude is all about consent when it comes to sex. So, you know, ALL THE STARS. This right here is a HUGE thing for me. It’s a button pusher, as well it should be for everyone. Something shouldn’t be done to/with your body without your permission. The fact that Diego made sure that the active consenting of sex was clear was my favorite. Like, yes. Please pass this valuable skill on to every human being ever. PLEASE.

All that being said, I did grow annoyed with these two folks on occasion. This is the reason for the deduction of the half star. I think four and a half though is a quite nice rating.

I wasn’t expecting to love this book as much as I did. It did take me a bit to get to it, and then a bit more to commit to actually reading it. Then, still, I had finals in college. However, now that I’ve finished, I kind of want to read it all over again. YES. It was that good.

#ARC Review || Only You by Denise Grover Swank

Only You by Denise Grover Swank
Published October 25, 2016
Amazon || Goodreads
ARC via Publisher + NetGalley

Never say never . . .

Romance isn’t an option for Holly Greenwood. With her wedding planner career on the line she needs to stay focused, and that means pleasing her demanding boss, not getting distracted by her mind-alteringly hot neighbor . . . 

Ex-Marine Kevin Vandemeer craves normalcy. Instead, he has a broken-down old house in need of a match and some gasoline, a meddling family, and the uncanny ability to attract the world’s craziest women. At least that last one he can fix: he and his buddies have made a pact to swear off women, and this includes his sweetly sexy new neighbor. 

After one hot night that looks a whole lot like a disaster in the light of day, Kevin and Holly are about to learn that true love doesn’t play by the rules . . . 

Way back in May, I made the decision to read this ARC instead of the ARC I was currently reading that was being published at an earlier date. In short, I regret nothing. ONLY YOU was incredibly sweet, believable, and I can relate to the main character. That last plus is something I’ve had a bit of trouble doing lately. Whether this be because I’m getting pickier, or the stress of new beginnings is finally sinking in, I’m not really sure. What I do know is that this book hit the spot. I was laughing, cringing, and cheering on Holly and Kevin. 

Thank y’all for acting your age. (this is where I’m offering all the stars) I’m not super sure what it is with 25-30 year olds acting like high-school students but it makes me annoyed. Annoyed to the point of no return. I would love to say I’m super forgiving on this aspect of personalities, but that would be a lie. Holly and Kevin were presented with obstacles in their relationship (this should read Kevin’s mother, who happened to be Holly’s boss and ticket into being a big-time wedding planner) and they dealt with them beautifully. The will-they won’t-they was the driving tension through the book and I LOVE IT. The writing of it in all caps should properly display my enthusiasm. 

I liked them a whole bunch. They were genuinely good humans. I haven’t grown wearing of the less-savory characters (no, that never going to happen) at all, but I really liked getting to know nice people as opposed to idiots who can’t seem to get their head screwed on straight. Or make the right choice until the end of the book…ever. ONLY YOU is a good change of pace from that. 

Now that I’ve ranted about the characters for a bit, let’s chat about the plot. This book basically follows the two characters struggling with their want to be together, their jobs (more-so his than hers), and his mom. That sounds weird; his mom prevented them from being together. But she did! Holly is working weddings this entire book, and we’re just following her around for the ride. She’s a fantastic planner, and is trying to make a name for herself so that she can start her own business. Holly is struggling to balance her personal and her professional life. I really liked seeing how to handled everything (the man, the crazy brides). 

Overall, I really liked this book. The characters were fantastic, which is why I like the book so much. They were funny, relatable, and easy understand. They made decisions that made sense and really were just nice folks. ONLY YOU was an easy read. It’s a nice break from the heavier stuff. 

#ARC Review || Stolen Away by Jennie Marts || Cute but Predictable

Stolen Away (3, Hearts of Montana) by Jennie Marts
aARC via Publisher + NetGalley for an honest review
Amazon || Goodreads
Published September 26, 2016

Elusive charmer Cash Walker is a tough-as-nails cowboy, except when it comes to the shy woman who shows up with a pretty smile, a wounded spirit, and a goat riding shotgun in her passenger seat. 

Recently divorced from an abusive husband, Emma Frank has come home to Broken Falls, Montana. Lost, alone, and unable to escape the bullying tactics of her ex-brothers-in-law, she finds solace and friendship at the Tucked Away farm and with the handsome cowboy who believes in her and who helps her find her own courage. 

There’s a darkness in Cash’s past that’s kept him from ever letting anyone get too close, but he can’t seem to stay away from Emma, who seems to be the one to finally break through his tough exterior and steal this cowboy’s heart. 

After escaping an abusive relationship, Emma Frank ventures back down to the town she grew up. There she runs into the man she had a crush on through high school, Cash Walker. All grown up, Cash has a few issues of his own weighing down on him. Emma can’t seem to shake off the tendrils of the past. STOLEN AWAY is about how these two people survive and thrive and grow. This is all the while the reader get’s some intrigue and suspense, begging the question: how do you get away from someone who is wherever you look, and, when you do get free, how do you begin again?

The Characters

I THINK WE NEED TO GIVE BEST CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT TO THE KITTENS BECAUSE THEY’RE JUST SO DANG CUTE AND FUZZY. But in all seriousness, this book did good letting me get to know the characters, who they are, and what makes them who they are. Emma’s been through some super horrible times, and so has Cash. Both varying degrees of similar abuse patterns. This makes it so that they have a human that understands where they’re coming from when they say they feel unlovable and broken. They’re not alone.

Besides them, there are also all the snazzy chicks and dudes from about town who help to keep Emma safe from her ass of an ex husband.

The Plot

The heartbreak! The drama! The learning to love again! The letting yourself be loved again! The twists and turns!

I may not completely adore this book, but it definitely kept me entertained. The premise was easy to follow, not overtly complicated (which, in my honest opinion, is both a good and a bad thing), and did not lack in romance.

I didn’t highlight the quote (I know, I’m cursing myself too) but in the beginning, Emma said something about re-building/discovering herself before getting into anything. Although I wish she had stuck with that idea a little bit more though the book (but, let’s be real—how many can resist a sweet+hot cowboy?) I think she did re-find herself, and heal. It may have not been the way that I was hoping, but it was how I was expecting.

Which isn’t a bad thing. But, the plot followed that. And, really, I liked it. She’s a heroine we can all root for. Her and her kitten pal.

So, In the End

While I do genuinely like the characters, the book wasn’t one-hundred percent for me. There were ups and downs. I wasn’t completely feeling it, and it was SUPER predictable. Not a bad thing—just not really what I was in the mood for.

#ARC Review || Cloudwish by Fiona Wood || When You Wish Upon a Star

Cloudwish by Fiona Wood
ARC via Publisher
Published: October 18, 2016
Goodreads || Amazon

For Vân Uoc, fantasies fall into two categories: nourishing or pointless. Daydreaming about attending her own art opening? Nourishing. Daydreaming about Billy Gardiner, star of the rowing team who doesn’t even know she’s alive? Pointless.

So Vân Uoc tries to stick to her reality–keeping a low profile as a scholarship student at her prestigious Melbourne private school, managing her mother’s PTSD from a traumatic emigration from Vietnam, and admiring Billy from afar. Until she makes a wish that inexplicably–possibly magically–comes true. Billy actually notices her. In fact, he seems to genuinely like her. But as they try to fit each other into their very different lives, Vân Uoc can’t help but wonder why Billy has suddenly fallen for her. Is it the magic of first love, or is it magic from a well-timed wish that will eventually, inevitably, come to an end?

CLOUDWISH arrived on my door step without be ever having heard of it before. And I read it because it was the one being published earliest out of the three novels that I received. It wasn’t because I though it sounded the best, or I liked the cover the best, or because this was the one that I though would top both of the other books. However, after having finished it, I’m not incredibly certain that the other two books that I received are going to be able to live up to the cuteness, and the importance, of the story that is CLOUDWISH.

Van Uoc is practical beyond belief, but when one simple wish made in English class turns into something she never believed possible, she’s forced to confront the possibility of magic. As well as think about the possibility of Billy, the boy of her dreams, liking her without magic. Juggling the IB program, with I am a graduate of, her floating friendships, her parents’ expectations and her mother’s PTSD is difficult enough. Trekking through real life and fantasy?

Well, darlings, that’s another monster in itself. And this girl spends her days trying to navigate it all.

Gonna be real honest here and just come out and say it: pretty sure one of the reasons I like this book so much is because of the fact that I wasn’t expecting to like it all that much. AND, Y’ALL. THAT ASSUMPTION HAD NO PARTICULAR REASONING, AND OBVS, IT DIDN’T ACTUALLY CORRELATE WITH MY VERY REAL EMOTIONAL STATE.

I mean I literally opened and read the first chapter and fell in love with Van Uoc. She’s so easy to relate to (practical and wary, yet a TOTAL romantic) and her interaction with other characters made her so likeable. She questions the world around her because that’s what she has learned, and she’s navigating through a world her immigrant parents can’t understand, but is the only one she’s ever known.

We have her, her fabulous posse of fiends, and then we also have Billy. Now I’m going to mince my words here and say that Billy, while, yes, apparently attractive, has super sketchy picks for friends and is, more often than not, kind of a nasty human being. Van Uoc is also very practical (my girl) in this measure because she’s all like ugh stupid emotions, I know logically that I shouldn’t like you because I mean pranks, and uppity uppity, and friend choice, and ignorance, and general disregard to other people’s emotions. But she’s also like he was super sweet that one time and What Would Jane Do.

I definitely never saw him through whatever candy-rimmed glasses she wore, but I can see that he has the potential to be a decent human. Maybe. Y’all are going to have to decide that for yourself, I suppose, when you read this book.

Is it or is it not magic? Will she follow her dreams or fulfill her parent’s hopes for a doctor daughter? Will she ever summon Jane Eyre into her vocal chords and speak up for herself? WILL SHE EVER KNOW IF THE WISH CAUSED THE BOY TO START ACTING FUNNY?

And, most importantly, will she ever know her family’s history? And will her mom be okay?

All of these questions, dear reader, are for you to read about in CLOUDWISH.

#ARC Review || Playing it Cool by Amy Andrews || Rough, Tough Coco Puff

Playing it Cool by Amy Andrews 
Published September 12, 2016
eARC via Publisher + NetGalley
Amazon || Goodreads || Aesthetic 

Harper Nugent might have a little extra junk in her trunk, but her stepbrother calling her out on it is the last straw… When rugby hottie, Dexter Blake, witnesses the insult, he surprises Harper by asking her out. In front of her dumbass brother. Score! Of course, she knows it’s not for reals, but Dex won’t take no for an answer.

Dexter Blake’s life revolves around rugby with one hard and fast rule: no women. Sure, his left hand is getting a workout, but he’s focused on his career for now. Then he overhears an asshat reporter belittle the curvy chick he’d been secretly ogling. What’s a guy to do but ask her out? It’s just a little revenge against a poser, and then he’ll get his head back in the game.

But the date is better than either expected. So is the next one. And the next. And the heat between them…sizzles their clothes right off.

Suddenly, this fake relationship is feeling all too real…

Please excuse me for a brief moment while I just SQUEAL all the SQUEALS for the ending. It’s a must. Pinky swear.
Okay, babes. When Harper’s asshat of a step-brother is his usual self in front of the holy trinity of hotness rugby player, Dex, things suddenly begin to spice up a bit in Harper’s life. Dex asks her out. Asshat brother sputters and acts aghast. Harper is dubious of the player’s intentions, and the rest is a give and take and fall face first into emotions you don’t really want (Dex) and also emotions that you kind of need (Harper).
Let me just talk about Harper for a bit. Because this chick is awesome, and resilient, and so full of love (side note: did anyone see that one Criminal Minds episode where the killer was trying to recreate his mother’s murder/suicide and played “I’ve got a great big bottle (bundle) of love? No? Just me?) and y’all I just think that she’s the bee’s knees. Harper is a super strong, take-no-shit character. She does not need a significant other’s love to make her whole; she’s whole all by her own damn self. That being said, affection is nice. So is having someone to wake up to in the morning, and ask you how your day was, and is genuinely interested in hearing all about the things that make you who you are.
For Harper, that’s art.
Like any good book, plot twists are a must. I think that PLAYING IT COOL did a really nice job of making the twist seem like something that the characters would, like, legit do. And not something that was done because we need to keep the book going.
Please, do not do that. If the book wants to end, let it.
The mad bliss, downfall and confusion and stupidity, the Come to Jesus Moment; all of it completely worked. By doing all of this, the author also set the reader up for the next book (need, yes, please, give me) while not deviation from Harper and Dex’s story.
Can I get a woop woop?
I’m going to pretend you did the woop woop. For my own personal ego.
Overall, following their lust/love/undying devotion to each other was SO MUCH fun. I like the characters, the plot, and the cover is, well, you can see it. I don’t know what it is about rugby. Maybe it the fact that nobody’s got any brain cells when the games over, or maybe it’s the pack mentality—whoops, those are the things that worry be about sports. Let me rephrase: I don’t know what it is about Dex (probably his weird reactions, and his abs. I mean, let’s be honest.) but that man is swoony. Swoony squared. He and Harper work. This book works.

And basically you must read it.

#ARC Review || Claiming the Enemy by Lauren Hawkeye || *fans self*

Claiming the Enemy by Lauren Hawkeye 
Published: September 12, 2016
ARC via Publisher for review
Goodreads || Amazon

Piper Dawson has spent a lifetime living by other people’s rules.
She’s worked hard to get what she wants—a residency at her first choice hospital—and no one will ever tie her down again, not even her severe yet incredibly sexy supervisor, Dr. Alexander “Ace” Lennox.

Ace is done with love. He’s had his heart shattered, and he never wants to go there again. But when he’s inexplicably enticed by the sexy, tattooed woman with blue streaks in her hair and a perpetual smile on her lip, he figures that maybe he can keep it to just sex.

The problem? He thrives on control, and Piper dances just around the edges of it.

But when they’re together, control is the first thing to go…

*clears throat*


To be completely honest, I’m never not in the mood for the book I described above. Like, literally, I can’t remember a time when I’m not in the mood for all the serious swoons. Y’all are very well awake by now that I’m a total mood reader. Rarely am I ever in a dystopian mood (albeit, THE WICKED WE HAVE DONE, as well as DELIRUIM) and I’m pretty much never not in the mood for a romance for the ages.

I’m talking epic love story, babes. Preferably with some social justice or dragons, but I’m also down for just a straight up contemporary.

CLAIMING THE ENEMY is a straight up contemporary.

A freaking fantastic one at that.

This book delves into the notion that opposites attract, the consequences of work place relationships, and outside relation dynamics. All of this, combined with the actual personalities of Piper and Ace. Having been nothing other than slightly attracted and super duper annoyed with each other before this, their not really but kind of chance encounter in a bar after work (his mother was there, y’all. Pause your thoughts.) sets their attraction on fire.

They help each other, they sleep with each other, and eventually, well, to put it incredibly eloquently like the Southern Belle I am: shit happens. Rapidly rising conflict is like adding gasoline to an already hyped fire.

This is the story of them, and it’s a dang good one.

I do, as you may have guessed, have a few things to complain about. This book felt really short and I’m not sure if I read even faster than I usually did or if the book is actually short? I finished it in an hour. I would have loved to see some of the more minor characters fleshed out more, along with having Ace’s and Piper’s backstories gone into depth a bit more as well. I may have loved them both, but I didn’t really feel like I knew them.

I was just amused by the two of them together.

That being said, I still think that CLAIMING THE ENEMY is a book worth of a spot on your to-read list.

#ARC Review || The Bear Who Loved Me by Kathy Lyons || Not Gummy Bears

The Bear Who Loved Me by Kathy Lyons 
eARC via Publisher + NetGalley
Amazon || Goodreads
Published || September 6, 2016


Between singlehandedly running her bakery and raising her teenaged nephew, Becca Weitz thought she had a decent grip on “normal.” Then her nephew vanishes, and life as she’s known it changes forever. Local legends are true: bear shifters exist . . . and her nephew is part of their clan. As is Carl Carman, the sexy, larger-than-life man who has sworn to find her nephew-and the other young shifters who’ve gone missing.

As the leader of his clan, Carl is surrounded by enemies. He’s learned the hard way that keeping a firm leash on his inner beast is key to survival, though his feelings for Becca test his legendary control. Then danger stalks too close, and Carl realizes he must unleash the raging, primal force within to protect everything he holds dear. But can Becca trust his grizzly side with her life-and her heart?

Well, my darling babes and babettes, I’m in love. In this lovely first installment of a sure to be just as breath-taking series, Becca and Carl race both time and hearts to discover what is happing to all the young shifters suddenly disappearing. Coming into the shifter world is hard, but having your nephew/ basically son stolen in the dead of night, and then some teddy bear of a man come to tell you (in the middle of frosting, no less) that said nephew is a grizzly shifter and he doesn’t know where the hell he is—well, anyone would just about have a heart attack. Becca is a champ, however, and works at learning her war around. In the process she may just steal this stone-cold grizzly’s heart.

Whew, y’all. That was a mouthful. Not only did this book spark a post, but it also set alight a spark in my heart (after I took a few huffy, angry breaths over said post idea). It was warm and fuzzy and tingly. Actually a whole lot like that peppermint chapstick that Burt’s Bee’s make. Yummy.

Back to the book. I’m not sure if y’all are aware of this (and if you’re a new follower, hey babe, get ready for a big reveal) but I have a HUGE freaking (like of astronomical proportions, may actually be an issue, maybe I should go talk to a doctor) weakness for shape shifters. You can throw almost any—ALMOST, Y’ALL—book with some shifting of shape in it and I’ll hand over three shiny stars and a semi-panting review.

However, here’s what made me really like The Bear Who Loved Me. This book reminds me of a book from my beginning of Love Me Some Reading-hood. Are y’all familiar with Rachel Hawthorne at all? Even better, are you aware of a hella hot shifter in the second book in the shape-shifting series by her who goes by the name of Rafe? And rides a motorcycle? And is my First Love.

Y’all this book took me back. No, Rafe isn’t a bear. He’s a run of the mill wolf. But the series, much like this book, had psycho evil maniacs who liked to do freaky no-nos that made the aura all mysterious. Yes, I know that was super vague, but y’all need to trust me on this. This stuff is what good books are made of. This was an adult-y version of my first love. The characters were wonderfully fleshed out. The plot, while a bit slow-moving, was still something that I read in a sit-down. I think there was a bit of setting up done for book two (WHICH, PUBLISHER, YOU SHOULD DEF SEND ME A COPY PRONTO) which I’m suuuuuper excited for.

The Bear Who Loved Me is a good book. A good shifter book. With twists. A spunky female lead. A dude who (while could occasionally use a good knock of common decency) is smooth AF.

This is me telling you to do yourself a favor and get a copy. Like, yesterday.

#ARCReview || Our Chemical Hearts by Krystal Sutherland

Our Chemical Hearts by Krystal Sutherland
Goodreads || Amazon
ARC via Andye @ ReadingTeen (Thanks, babe!)
Published: September 9, 2016 || Putnam’s Books for Young Readers

Henry Page has never been in love. He fancies himself a hopeless romantic, but the slo-mo, heart palpitating, can’t-eat-can’t-sleep kind of love that he’s been hoping for just hasn’t been in the cards for him—at least not yet. Instead, he’s been happy to focus on his grades, on getting into a semi-decent college and finally becoming editor of his school newspaper. Then Grace Town walks into his first period class on the third Tuesday of senior year and he knows everything’s about to change.

Grace isn’t who Henry pictured as his dream girl—she walks with a cane, wears oversized boys’ clothes, and rarely seems to shower. But when Grace and Henry are both chosen to edit the school paper, he quickly finds himself falling for her. It’s obvious there’s something broken about Grace, but it seems to make her even more beautiful to Henry, and he wants nothing more than to help her put the pieces back together again. And yet, this isn’t your average story of boy meets girl. Krystal Sutherland’s brilliant debut is equal parts wit and heartbreak, a potent reminder of the bittersweet bliss that is first love.

“Oblivion isn’t scary; it’s the closest thing to genuine absolution of sin I can imagine.”(ARC)

There are instances in a person’s life that change them in ways that cannot be imagined. Sometimes those instances are people. In OUR CHEMICAL HEARTS those instances are people. Henry and Grace are two people who are incredibly different. This is not a love story. I think it’s a story about losing people, and the love that you gave them.

When Grace rolls into town, Henry doesn’t experience the heart-stopping attraction he’s imagined for True Love. Grace has suffered insurmountable trauma. Both of these people want Something from the other, and this book is about how they dealt with these Things.

I’m going to just go ahead and dive right into character assessments, because this book is character driven. I have a love / completely despise relationship with both of the main characters in the novel. I love them because they’re (read Henry, pointedly) selfish in what they want, and in who they are. They really do only think about what will benefit them the most. And as much as I love it, it also breaks my heart. This is also the part that I hate about them. Their selfishness. It was an intimate part of who both Henry and Grace are—and why shouldn’t they be worried most about themselves? And their own happiness? It was for different reasons: one was sanctity and safety while the other was more so just. . .because he couldn’t be bothered to thing about the emotions of someone who had just suffered and unimaginable loss and was literally emotionally unstable.

Their teenage self-involvement (especially Henry) came off as aloof and inconsiderate. I can’t even say I actually liked either one of them by the end of the book. I can say, however, that I felt so, so horrible for Grace.

I wish that there had been a bit more focus on her mental health in the book because I felt like her actual state of mind (and healing) was waved over. And that’s just really not acceptable.

The character development itself was amazing. And, to be completely honest, it was my favorite part of the book. Even if the main characters themselves weren’t my favorite. (Henry’s 30-year-old, tattoo and totally pieced, neurosurgeon and mother of one sister was) Krystal Sutherland really peeled back the layers of the characters as the book progressed. Much like an onion.

This book had a kick of realism. There was family drama, and personal life hell on earth, falling in love, high school, and the friendships that are with you through it all. This isn’t my favorite book (not by a long shot) but it is a book with a unique story line, I think. Not only because of the sheer amount of trauma that Grace is trekking through, but also because of Henry. I don’t like him at at, but on some weird platform I sort of get where he’s coming from.

And that, folks, is why I think this story is valuable. You don’t have to like something/one to be able to try to understand where they’re coming from.

So in the end, OUR CHEMICAL HEARTS is about breaking hearts, and the chemical reactions in our brains that let us experience the emotion.