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!

3.5 star, YA

Review: Red Tigress by Amelie Wen Zhao

Series: Blood Heir Trilogy #2

Fans of Children of Blood and Bone will love the sequel to Blood Heir. The second book in an epic fantasy series about a princess hiding a dark secret and the con man she must trust to liberate her empire from a dark reign.

Ana Mikhailov is the only surviving member of the royal family of Cyrilia. She has no army, no title, and no allies, and now she must find a way to take back the throne or risk the brutal retribution of the empress. Morganya is determined to establish a new world order on the spilled blood of non-Affinites. Ana is certain that Morganya won’t stop until she kills them all.

Ana’s only chance at navigating the dangerous world of her homeland means partnering with Ramson Quicktongue again. But the cunning crime lord has schemes of his own. For Ana to find an army, they must cross the Whitewaves to the impenetrable stone forts of Bregon. Only, no one can be certain what they will find there.

A dark power has risen. Will revolution bring peace–or will it only paint the streets in more blood.

Sometimes, bravery was not loud, or grand, or brilliant as the blaze of a thousand fires. Sometimes it was quiet. Unremarkable. Unknown. The resilient wend of water through rocks, year after year.

That, my daughter, is when you can choose to be brave.

Red Tigress, the sequel to Blood Heir, definitely does not suffer from middle book syndrome. While initially dealing with the crazy and somewhat tragic aftermath of book 1, our protagonists Ramson and Ana are both dealing with the 180 shift in power to Affinites, those with gifted abilities. However, now it seems this power change has gone too far with non-Affinites being hunted down and treated poorly for even looking at an Affinite wrong. Or if they had done nothing to save Affinites during the previous rule.

However, this book doesn’t focus super heavily on this. I kind of like that it’s setting up for something big – that being fighting Morganya and figuring out how to deal with the kingdom that’s long been divided into Affinites and non-Affinites – but not in a direct way yet. Morganya is up to something, planning something behind people’s backs that has yet to make sense. And hence, Ana and Ramson reunite to track down this mysterious plan before it can come to fruition.

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4 star, YA

Review: The Gilded Ones by Namina Forna

Series: Deathless #1

Sixteen-year-old Deka lives in fear and anticipation of the blood ceremony that will determine whether she will become a member of her village. Already different from everyone else because of her unnatural intuition, Deka prays for red blood so she can finally feel like she belongs.

But on the day of the ceremony, her blood runs gold, the color of impurity–and Deka knows she will face a consequence worse than death.

Then a mysterious woman comes to her with a choice: stay in the village and submit to her fate, or leave to fight for the emperor in an army of girls just like her. They are called alaki–near-immortals with rare gifts. And they are the only ones who can stop the empire’s greatest threat.

Knowing the dangers that lie ahead yet yearning for acceptance, Deka decides to leave the only life she’s ever known. But as she journeys to the capital to train for the biggest battle of her life, she will discover that the great walled city holds many surprises. Nothing and no one are quite what they seem to be–not even Deka herself.

This one has been floating around the YA sphere even before it published recently and I can see where all the hype is coming from for it is very well deserved. The Gilded Ones is a female-empowering story that show girls are not only worth more than a subservient role in a patriarchal society, but they are strong and will fight until another day to survive.

Deka was raised in the Northern area of the kingdom although her appearance resembles that of her mother, a Southerner. Already deemed different in this way alone, she’d always wanted to fit in. The Ritual of Purity for every girl come of age would determine if they were pure or impure based on the colour of their blood. Deka was determined to fit in and finally be approved by her village. Of course, nothing goes as planned right?

Continue reading “Review: The Gilded Ones by Namina Forna”