Review: Love on the Brain by Ali Hazelwood

Alexis:

Since I’m unfortunately recovering from lung surgery, I decided that continuing with my rom com binge and sticking to more lighthearted reads might be a good idea. 

I read The Love Hypothesis earlier this year and was pleasantly surprised. The writing was easy and accessible and the story was funny and heartwarming. 

Needless to say, I picked up Love on the Brain. And I have to admit…I’m a little baffled.

Was this fun to read? Yes. Like its predecessor, Love on the Brain contains so much interesting science talk (as well as a focus on neuroscience) and you can tell Hazelwood knows what she’s talking about. 

That being said, I got major déjà vu when reading this book. I kept thinking, “Have I read this before?” There were so, so many scenes, moments, and plot points that were almost the exact same as The Love Hypothesis. 

Now: yes, I am aware that both books started out as Reylo fanfic (but I like to keep an open mind!). So I knew there would be some similarities. However, both of the main characters, Bee and Levi, were nearly carbon copies of the main characters in The Love Hypothesis, except Bee somehow managed to be a more unhinged version of Olive. 

At least I liked Levi’s character. But there was also a plot point at the end that was honestly so ridiculous that it made the story unredeemable for me. 

Final thoughts: It started off as a fun read, but I wasn’t able to enjoy or get sucked into the story because it was just a worse version of The Love Hypothesis.

Review: Among Thieves by M.J. Kuhn

A copy of Among Thieves rests on a gray blanket next to a candle and a dilute calico cat.

Alexis:

Among Thieves was actually the last book I read in 2021!

It’s a heist novel set in a dark, gritty world. We follow many POVs, but all of the characters are working for Callum Clem, the leader of the Saints gang. In this world, there are magical people called Adepts who are brainwashed and owned as slaves by the people in power.

There were many aspects of this book that I loved. Kuhn’s writing, and writing style, is great. She writes great descriptions, and she describes people especially well. Each time we meet a new character, we get a very Dickensen description, so that we not only know what the character physically looks like, but we get a sense of what each person is actually like, as well. 

The banter is fun and quick. The magic system is interesting and feels different from other magic systems. 

But there were a couple of things that kept me from being fully invested in the story.

  1. Cursing is realistic in adult fantasies like these, but I often felt like Kuhn could have been a little more choosy about where she inserted swear words, and it would’ve made more of an impact. Instead, the amount of cursing tended to pull me out of the story.
  2. The worldbuilding was thrown at you. I had a hard time getting through the first 100 pages because my brain was trying to play catch up, all while reading from multiple new POVs.
  3. And finally…I wanted a map. I know this is a small thing, but a map definitely would’ve helped me imagine the world a little better.

Overall, this was a fun read. I think if you like heist novels like Six of Crows but are looking for an adult version with a full cast of characters, then you might like this.

VERDICT: ⭐⭐⭐.5 /5 

Review: Ariadne by Jennifer Saint

A hand holds a library hardcover copy of Ariadne over a gray blanket. A stack of books, including Circe and Percy Jackson, sits behind it.

Alexis:

It’s disappointing when you don’t end up liking a book you were looking forward to.

I love myth retellings, especially Greek myths. As someone of Greek heritage myself, I find it fascinating that my ancestors wove such intricate, and often brutal, tales about the world around them, and I’ve loved learning about Greek myths ever since my Percy Jackson days and my Latin classes! 

I almost DNFed this book 50 pages in, but decided to stick with it. Ariadne follows, you guessed it, Ariadne. In Greek mythology, and in this book, Ariadne is the Princess of Crete. Hero Theseus arrives in Crete after offering himself up to be sacrificed in place of a child to go through King Minos’ labyrinth, and face the Minotaur, a half-bull, half-human creature. For Ariadne, she falls in love with Theseus at first sight, and she devises a plan to help him make it safely through the maze.

The book is mostly from Ariadne’s POV, but also features the point of view of Phaedra, Ariadne’s little sister. However, the dual POVs did not work for me. The voices were too similar, and while I liked Phaedra’s storyline at first, it quickly did a nose dive. I felt like both she and Ariadne didn’t have good character development.

Despite being in first person, I didn’t feel like I got to know Ariadne as much as I wanted to. And honestly, though not too slow-paced, the story bored me. I felt like it kept leading up to something, to a big event, but it never did. 

And the ending. Oof. Saint definitely went the Greek tragedy route, without modernizing this story, telling a different version, or fleshing it out enough. Unfortunately, I don’t think this book added anything to Ariadne or Phaedra’s voices or stories.

VERDICT: ⭐⭐/5