The cover. In case you're wondering, the two books behind them are titled "Space" and "Brain Theory" which made me laugh.
In honor of my PhD-toting sister getting married this week, I’m reviewing Love on the Brain by Ali Hazelwood, a STEM romcom (I don’t care if that’s not an official sub-genre because it is now). Main character Bee is a neuroscientist at NHI who gets chosen to lead an exciting team-up with NASA. Well, co-lead. And her co-leader is her nemesis from grad school, the giant and quiet NASA engineer Levi. As Bee tackles sexism in the workplace and general research chaos, she and Levi grow closer and he reveals secrets about their time in grad school together. As feelings grow, their project comes under threat, and they must dig into the past to save their research.
I liked a lot about this book. The romance was believable, even if a few details were not, and I liked the side characters, especially Bee’s research assistant. I loved the Marie Curie tie ins, even if Bee wasn’t studying radiochemistry like Dr. Curie did. An interesting thing the book also did was make both the MC and her LI vegans. Most books I read with a vegan at all make only the woman vegan, and often the butt of jokes. (I’m not vegan. I love meat and cheese too much.) It was refreshing to have a new take on that.
Ali Hazelwood also wrote The Love Hypothesis, which is another enemies-to-lovers type STEM romcom. I found a lot of similarities between the two MCs and the two love interests from the books. (Also a lot of similar plot moments, like hooking up at a conference.) I got rather frustrated about the enemies aspect of this romance, since it seemed easily resolvable before the events of the novel. There was also a very large sub-plot that went from being in a really bad, un-fixable spot to suddenly resolved in the epilogue with no explanation how. Another issue is that the book really focused on how Bee was often the only woman in a situation, including college and grad school, but she worked in neurobiology. Biology, and neurobiology, were more than 50% women in my college and grad experiences. Even though I have had some instances like Bee’s, it was not as universal as the book makes it sound.
You’ll enjoy Love on the Brain if you enjoyed The Love Hypothesis, like brainy MCs, and want your romcoms to have a strong dash of feminism. It’s not for you if you don’t like enemies to lovers (or are picky about the definition of enemies), didn’t enjoy The Love Hypothesis (or want a romcom that’s completely different), or don’t want sex scenes in your romcoms.
Have you read Love on the Brain? What did you think? Have you read Hazelwood’s controversial interview where she discusses how the book came to be? (Maybe it was only a controversy among writers on Twitter.) Let’s discuss in the comments!
A paper copy of a book means cat and cover pics are back! Photo by Kate Ota 2022
The Dawn of Yangchen by F.C. Yee is the third novel taking place in the Avatar: The Last Airbender universe. Yangchen was the last airbending avatar before Aang (directly preceding Kyoshi). In that way, the novel is like a prequel to the Kyoshi series I reviewed before. Yangchen faces a world where trust is hard to come by, and most people are bought as spies. The focus is on a city called Bin-Er, not seen in ATLA, between the Northern Water Tribe and Earth Kingdom. Yangchen wants to fix the corruption in the city which oppresses many while few profit heavily, but she learns of a super weapon that could destroy everything.
This book had some big shoes (literally!) to fill after Kyoshi. I was worried it would be too similar. Don’t all the avatars go through the same struggles? Nope. Yangchen was very distinct from Kyoshi, and her story was a lot more like a cold war spy novel. It also had so much less head hopping than the Kyoshi novels, which had been my biggest problem with those. There was also a ton of great bending that I would love to see animated.
I don’t have many complaints about the book, honestly. But I do see some things that other people may not enjoy. It sets up for a sequel, so if you want a stand-alone, you’re out of luck. It’s also a little slower paced than Kyoshi and includes a significant amount of page space on POVs outside of Yangchen’s. I wasn’t mad at those, but I know other who would want to know in advance.
Overall, this book was great! It’s for ATLA/LOK fans, spy novel enthusiasts, and fantasy lovers. It’s not for you if you don’t know the basics of the avatar world, if you’re hoping for romance, or if you want a stand-alone.
Have you read The Dawn of Yangchen? Did you love it like I did? Let’s discuss in the comments!