5 star, adult

Review: The Love Hypothesis by Ali Hazelwood

As a third-year Ph.D. candidate, Olive Smith doesn’t believe in lasting romantic relationships–but her best friend does, and that’s what got her into this situation. Convincing Anh that Olive is dating and well on her way to a happily ever after was always going to take more than hand-wavy Jedi mind tricks: Scientists require proof. So, like any self-respecting biologist, Olive panics and kisses the first man she sees.

That man is none other than Adam Carlsen, a young hotshot professor–and well-known ass. Which is why Olive is positively floored when Stanford’s reigning lab tyrant agrees to keep her charade a secret and be her fake boyfriend. But when a big science conference goes haywire, putting Olive’s career on the Bunsen burner, Adam surprises her again with his unyielding support and even more unyielding… six-pack abs.

Suddenly their little experiment feels dangerously close to combustion. And Olive discovers that the only thing more complicated than a hypothesis on love is putting her own heart under the microscope.

I know this is definitely by far not an unknown book at this point, so I will keep my review more to what I personally really loved about The Love Hypothesis. And LOVE is definitely by far the right word to describe this book. It was un-put-downable (is that even a word??), and I absolutely devoured this one as fast as I could to get to Olive and Adam’s deserved ending.

Ph.D grad student Olive Smith, right off the bat, finds herself in a sticky situation when she grabbed the nearest man to kiss – which of course ends up being the jerk Dr. Adam Carlsen – in order to fake a relationship for her best friend’s sake. But by the weirdest circumstances, he suggests they continue the farce and pretend to date one another until a certain date where both parties would have accomplished what they needed from this “relationship”.

Uh, YES! Fake dating trope (with enemies to lovers thrown in there) at its very finest. Second to maybe unrequited best-friends-to-lovers trope, I absolutely ADORE this one, and Ali Hazelwood did NOT disappoint with how this was written. The angst! The miscommunication and unrequited love angle! The will-they-finally-do-something-about-their-obvious-chemistry? component! I couldn’t have asked for more in the romance department.

I loved how the relationship was explored little by little as the animosity between them slowly dissipated as they got to know one another. Or should I say, the animosity may have been more one-sided than mutual? It felt so real as Olive learned more about what made Adam tick and vice versa.

But I’m sure many other people have raved about this stuff already, and it deservedly meets the hype that is absolutely EVERYWHERE about this book.

The question is: why did I want to read this book? Yes, I’ve seen it everywhere but even before that, I fell in love with the synopsis. Because this book is about women in STEM, particularly in science. As a grad school graduate in the sciences, I felt so seen in this book. The little science references were scattered everywhere! I know this may fly over a lot of non-science background audience’s heads, but I thought these were hilarious.

“What’s wrong?” [Olive] had expected the answer to be The production of my reagent has been discontinued or My p-value is .06.

I mean, a p-value of 0.06 is nightmarish for research. Is it statistically significant? No. But clinically significant? Maybe? Who will publish it though???

And the lab work! I worked with mice for my fourth year thesis project in undergrad and just the little snippets about mice work here made my poor little heart feel like I’m not alone. Though I did really enjoy this one snippet about working with fruit flies.

Jeremy smiled, pointing in the direction of his lab. “I need to go isolate a bunch of virgin fruit flies. Before they’re not virgins anymore, you know?”

‘Cause that’s actually a HUGE problem with fruit fly work. They like to reproduce really quickly…so yeah, I had a friend who literally spent every morning isolating his virgin flies if he wanted them to say virgins. This made me smile so widely seeing even such a minor reference thrown in here.

To put in other words, I love the accurate depiction of how science is done, the every day concerns and normalizing women in this field where it once was dominated by men only. It’s a long road and definitely requires sacrifice – I’ve seen many postdocs struggle to get out into their own lab long after they graduated with their Ph.D. We don’t see enough about science careers in fiction, let alone very thorough and accurate portrayals. Ali Hazelwood, you are my hero for being a woman of science while also writing such an amazing piece of literary fiction we all adore. It is so rare to find someone in science who likes to read contemporary fictions, let alone write them, and I feel like I’ve found a kindred spirit here.

But to end off this review, there was one thing the characters mentioned a few times when the going got tough, and I think this should be a motto for many of us. Maybe it will also help us when we are challenged by what life throws at us. So I will end us off with it:

“What do I always tell you?”

“‘Carry yourself with the confidence of a mediocre white man.'”

Overall Recommendation:

The Love Hypothesis is everything I could’ve hoped for both in the romance department and the accurate science grad student experience. Filled with the best kinds of romantic tension, angst and chemistry between our two leads, Olive and Adam’s journey to genuine relationship was wonderful to follow and I absolutely could NOT put this down, even when I probably should’ve. What I loved equally much was the beauty of science described here, the good and the bad side of lab work, and the fun biology references thrown in there for us science people (or those who love science) to enjoy! Ali Hazelwood is automatically on my auto-buy list of authors for this alone as I have never felt more seen in my science career depicted in a fictional romantic contemporary. She’s a fellow kindred spirit, a scientist who writes fiction on the side, and I look forward to seeing more fictional (or nonfictional) work from her!

2 star, adult

Review: While We Were Dating by Jasmine Guillory

Series: The Wedding Date #6

Two people realize that it’s no longer an act when they veer off-script in this sizzling romantic comedy by New York Times bestselling author Jasmine Guillory.

Ben Stephens has never bothered with serious relationships. He has plenty of casual dates to keep him busy, family drama he’s trying to ignore and his advertising job to focus on. When Ben lands a huge ad campaign featuring movie star Anna Gardiner, however, it’s hard to keep it purely professional. Anna is not just gorgeous and sexy, she’s also down to earth and considerate, and he can’t help flirting a little…

Anna Gardiner is on a mission: to make herself a household name, and this ad campaign will be a great distraction while she waits to hear if she’s booked her next movie. However, she didn’t expect Ben Stephens to be her biggest distraction. She knows mixing business with pleasure never works out, but why not indulge in a harmless flirtation?

But their lighthearted banter takes a turn for the serious when Ben helps Anna in a family emergency, and they reveal truths about themselves to each other, truths they’ve barely shared with those closest to them.

When the opportunity comes to turn their real-life fling into something more for the Hollywood spotlight, will Ben be content to play the background role in Anna’s life and leave when the cameras stop rolling? Or could he be the leading man she needs to craft their own Hollywood ending?

When it comes to romantic contemporaries, I applaud Jasmine Guillory for creating such fantastically real and charming characters. In this sixth installment that features cameos of some fan favourites in her previous novels, While We Were Dating follows Ben Stephens, younger brother of a certain charming Theo Stephens, in his own endeavours with a Hollywood actress he’s working with.

I think the ordinary citizen meets celebrity trope is an interesting one that can either be something I really love or think it completely missed the mark. I unfortunately land closer to the latter with this novel. Maybe it comes down to both the individual characters and their romantic relationship.

Ben was someone who just liked to have a good time with many different women (no judgment), but was always a gentleman to every woman he was with. He avoided issues related to his dad and was seeing a therapist to maintain a healthy balance in the things he’s acknowledged need working in his life (kudos to him for this!). Meanwhile, Anna was just returning to the acting scene after a hard year struggling with anxiety on her own that made working as an actress particularly difficult. She was focused on building her career and didn’t have time for a relationship (that’s cool, I like a focused, ambitious woman). But I didn’t feel like this really made them three-dimensional characters. It was just one aspect of each of them, and it felt kind of bland to only focus on these “defining” traits because that’s what would fill the story and be the issues they’d have to conquer.

However, when these two were together, I can feel the sexual chemistry, for sure. That’s a given. But that doesn’t make for a relationship. They always just wanted to get into bed, and I wanted a bit more for them. Yes, Ben supported Anna when she most needed it, but the way they never quite worked out their issues together for most of the story bothered me.

If you’re a fan of the fake dating trope, that’s also thrown in here, but unfortunately at quite a late time in the novel. I wished we got to this part sooner because it was a little slow going prior to this decision. Perhaps more of the fake dating aspect would’ve made the story pace better, and given the romantic leads more than just chemistry to make their relationship feel real.

The ending was also at a point in time right where I was excited for what was about to happen. I suppose it wasn’t absolutely necessary to include the conversation I so desperately was curious about, but after setting up so much of Ben’s growth arc on that particular issue, I would’ve thought we would get more closure on it.

Regardless of my thoughts on the ending and romance of it, I always appreciate a book that highlights anxiety and mental health. We need to normalize more books discussing mental health, particularly in POC communities. I loved the way it was effortlessly placed in the story and how it impacted both Ben and Anna. People with anxiety definitely need a great support system to help, and I speak this with experience.

While this was probably my least favourite of Jasmine’s books, if you loved some of her other works, especially The Wedding Party, the book may work better for you than it did for me. I wouldn’t write it off completely.

Overall Recommendation:

While We Were Dating definitely featured some of the characters we’ve come to love in Jasmine Guillory’s other books, but I had a hard time loving our MCs, Ben and Anna. The ordinary citizen meets celebrity trope just didn’t work for me here when it felt like the only thing drawing these two together was sheer sexual chemistry and nothing else. Their individual characters felt too one-dimensional, focusing on one major aspect of their character or a current issue they were struggling with. The slower pacing for most of the book also made it hard to feel like continuing at times, but the fake dating trope that surprisingly was thrown in at a later point helped propel me to the end. I wished it was there earlier. The only highlight was the lovely normalization of mental health and therapy written throughout the novel that shows us how important this is, in both good times and the bad. I will still look forward to future books from Guillory but I hope it’ll settle better for me than this one did.

4 star, YA

Review: Heartbreakers and Fakers by Cameron Lund

From the author of The Best Laid Plans comes another fresh voiced, hilarious rom-com perfect for fans of Tweet Cute and The Rest of the Story.

Penny Harris just ruined her life.

As one of the most popular girls in school, she’s used to being invited to every party, is dating the Jordan Parker, and can’t wait to rule senior year with her best friend, Olivia. But when Penny wakes up on Jordan’s lawn the morning after his first-day-of-summer bash, she knows something went terribly wrong the night before.

She kissed Kai Tanaka.

Kai, her long-time nemesis. Kai, Olivia’s boyfriend. Penny can’t figure out what could have inspired her to do it–she loves Jordan and she would never hurt Olivia–but one thing’s for sure: freshly dumped, and out a best friend, the idyllic summer she pictured is over.

And despite the fact that Jordan seems to be seeking comfort (and a whole lot more) in Olivia, all Penny can think about is winning him back. Kai wants to save his relationship too, so they come up with a plan: convince their friends that they really do have feelings for each other. After all, no one can resist a good love story, and maybe seeing Penny and Kai together will make Jordan and Olivia change their minds.

But as summer heats up, so does Penny and Kai’s “relationship,” and Penny starts to question whether she’s truly faking it with Kai, if he’s really as terrible as she always thought he was, and if the life she’s fighting so hard to get back is the one she really wants.

In her second novel to date, Cameron Lund has shown me that her romances can do this girl no wrong. Hearbreakers and Fakers is the perfect combination of the fake dating trope PLUS enemies to lovers. After a night she can barely remember, Penny wakes up in the morning realizing she not only lost her boyfriend but also her best friend when she was caught drunkenly kissing her best friend’s boyfriend. Which happens to be her nemesis Kai Tanaka.

Continue reading “Review: Heartbreakers and Fakers by Cameron Lund”