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Contemporary Book Reviews

Find below the books we've reviewed in this genre.

Ali Hazelwood Goes Meta with Fake-Dating Trope in Her Debut, ‘The Love Hypothesis’
Reviewed By Maria Chance Sep 23rd, 2021 4:38 pm

Over and over, and in ways that she could never have anticipated, he had made her feel unjudged. Less alone. — Ali Hazelwood, The Love Hypothesis In Ali Hazelwood’s The Love Hypothesis, all Olive is after, when she abruptly asks Dr. Adam Carlsen in the hallways of Stanford University if she can kiss him, is to give her friend Anh a chance at a happy ending. After going out on a lackluster date with Jeremy, the guy Anh likes, Anh is convinced that Olive must be in love with him and wishes to st...

Lori Gottlieb Documents Her Experience as Both Therapist and Patient
Reviewed By Maria Chance Oct 28th, 2020 10:35 pm

It’s impossible to get to know people deeply and not come to like them. -- Lori Gottlieb Not since reading Harry Potter, in my younger years, has a book made me simultaneously want to keep reading while also not wanting it to end. Still, in about three days, I managed to finish Lori Gottlieb’s Maybe You Should Talk to Someone 526 page, self-help-meets-memoir e-book, while also upping my screen time by 103%. (My iPhone was right on schedule that week to shame me. I wasn’t even finished with the...

Sally Rooney Nuances Human Connection and Relationships in ‘Normal People’
Reviewed By Maria Chance Dec 20th, 2020 6:52 pm

Most people go through their whole lives, without ever really feeling that close with anyone. — Sally Rooney In Sally Rooney’s Normal People we enter a plane in which the two main characters nor anything that happens to them is extraordinary, and yet they experience the most special connection of all, the kind of connection that we all dream about. Marianne’s family is wealthy and her temperament is of someone who cares very little and is unamused by the type of lives her peers at school lead....

Kate Elizabeth Russell’s ‘My Dark Vanessa’ Delves Into the Deeper Truth of Abuse Victims
Reviewed By Maria Chance Apr 28th, 2021 9:52 pm

Kate Elizabeth Russell does away with taboo in her debut, My Dark Vanessa. Many will likely label it “controversial.” But there are many reasons why everyone should read Russell’s novel depicting child abuse and pedophilia. When My Dark Vanessa begins, the year is 2017 and Vanessa Wyes is 32 years old. She’s obsessively checking a Facebook post where someone has come out denouncing Jacob Strane as a child molester — the same man that just over 15 years ago preyed on Vanessa when she attended Bro...

Laura Zigman’s Separation Anxiety Explores Unconventional Coping Mechanisms
Reviewed By Maria Chance May 13th, 2021 7:54 pm

Some children grow stronger in the broken places, like bones; others grow sadder. I did both. — Laura Zigman, Separation Anxiety When we begin Laura Zigman’s latest novel, Judy’s life is falling apart. She’s is 50 years old and living with her husband, Gary, even though they’re separated, because they can’t afford a divorce. He also struggles with debilitating anxiety which he treats with copious amounts of cannabis — more than he likely needs. Her 13-year-old son, Teddy, is pulling away from...

Andie J. Christopher’s ‘Hot Under His Collar’ Will Have You Eagerly Booking a One-way Trip to Hell in First Class
Reviewed By Maria Chance May 31st, 2021 8:57 pm

He hated himself for how she pulled his intention. For years, everything had been tugged in the direction of God and duty and church. Now, it was only Sasha. He worshipped at the altar of the dimple in her left cheek, prayed novenas to the curve of her mouth. Her angelic visage was his North Star, and frankly, it was fucked up.” — Andie J. Christopher, Hot Under His Collar Two things helped me decide I wanted to read Andie J. Christopher’s latest book when I saw it sitting there in all its bla...

Andrew David MacDonald’s ‘When We Were Vikings’ Nuances the Blurred Lines Between Villains and Heroes
Reviewed By Maria Chance May 14th, 2022 1:50 am

In Andrew David MacDonald’s When We Were Vikings, we step inside the mind of Zelda, a 21-year-old woman struggling to gain independence, especially from her older brother, Gert. Most older brothers are overprotective, but Zelda is a slightly different case as her mother’s continuing alcoholism through her pregnancy affected Zelda’s development causing her to be diagnosed with FASD at birth. However, she’s defied the odds since day one and becomes quite bright and independent in spite of her disa...

A Century-Long, Chicken-Fueled Family Feud Takes Center Stage in KJ Dell’Antonia’s ‘The Chicken Sisters’
Reviewed By Maria Chance May 14th, 2022 2:03 am

For more than a century the Moore and the Pogociello families have been at war. A chicken war. Chicken Mimi’s and Chicken Frannie’s are two similar fried chicken eateries set up by sisters in the late 19th century in the small town of Merinac, Kansas. In KJ Dell’Antonia’s The Chicken Sisters, this long-held rivalry, passed down through generations, will be played out on the television show Food Wars for everyone to see, now that Amanda, a descendant of Mimi’s, has signed both restaurants up for...

Melissa Broder Explores the Forbidden Joy of Indulgence in Her Latest Novel, ‘Milk Fed’
Reviewed By Maria Chance May 14th, 2022 2:33 am

When we first meet Rachel in Melissa Broder’s Milk Fed, she’s counting calories with fussy meticulosity. She follows a strict food regimen to maintain what she considers her perfect weight and perfect look. If she goes over her allotted calorie count, she’ll have to run extra hard on the elliptical machine or limit herself to a couple of power bars for lunch and maybe a piece of nicotine gum for dessert. Rachel can’t help it, though. She’s the product of her overbearing mother’s conditioning, a...

‘Wildflower Season’ Sets the Stage for Michelle Major’s Spin-Off of Her ‘Magnolia Sisters’ Series
Reviewed By Maria Chance May 14th, 2022 2:15 am

In Michelle Major’s Wildflower Season, a spin-off of her Magnolia Sisters series, Emma Cantrell lands in Magnolia, North Carolina hoping for a fresh start after a nasty divorce and hoping to cut the strings attached to her overbearing mother. She buys an old mansion that’s seen better days, now dealing with damage from the storm that recently ravaged Magnolia. Her vision is to open an inn; however, financially cut off by her mother and having lost all her money in the divorce, Emma is hoping for...

Becky Mandelbaum Uplifts and Brings Comfort in ‘The Bright Side Sanctuary for Animals’
Reviewed By Maria Chance May 24th, 2022 9:56 pm

In Becky Mandelbaum’s The Bright Side Sanctuary for Animals, we’re introduced to Mona who runs The Bright Side, an animal sanctuary that’s seen better days, and her daughter Ariel, who, wanting more than just a farm life, ran away from it all six years ago, moving from St. Clare to Lawrence in Kansas. Mona and Ariel have been estranged for the entirety of those six years until a fire at The Bright Side — a hate crime committed by an old friend of Ariel’s — shows up in the news, and Ariel decides...

Mona Awad’s ‘All’s Well,’ A Satirical Take On the Frustrating Invisibility of Female Pain
Reviewed By Maria Chance May 24th, 2022 10:13 pm

Miranda is a drama professor attempting to direct a production of All’s Well That Ends Well in Mona Awad’s latest novel, All’s Well. An acting instructor whose own acting career was cut short by a crippling fall from a stage, Miranda lives stewing in bitterness. She’s in constant pain due to a bad hip surgery from her fall and bad subsequent therapy. She’s been to several different doctors and therapists and none have helped — some actually worsened her pain. To make matters worse, the kids in h...

Mike DeCapite’s ‘Jacket Weather’ Redefines Narrative Styles in an Unconventional Way
Reviewed By Maria Chance Jun 8th, 2022 2:39 pm

Mike DeCapite’s Jacket Weather begins one day in NYC when Mike runs into his old flame, June. Twice divorced and looking to start life over again, June doesn’t want to become seriously involved with Mike but pursues the friendship nonetheless. A few dates in and June and Mike are back on in a relationship that remains undefined to them but visibly committed to the reader. Unfortunately, this novel was not for me. I found it hard to connect with the style of writing and, as such, hard to connect...

‘Normal People’ TV Mini Series Review: Sally Rooney’s Novel About Human Connection Stuns on the Small-Screen as it Does on Paper
Reviewed By Maria Chance Jun 9th, 2022 12:49 am

If I had no idea who Sally Rooney was and you told me that she’s published two best-selling novels and can now add an adapted series to her resume, I’m not gonna lie, I’d be salty AF. If you added that she’s not even thirty yet, I might actually slap you and tell you to stop lying. Then I’d walk away crying. This isn’t an alternate universe, though. I know perfectly well who Rooney is, having devoured her two novels, Normal People and Conversations with Friends, within a week of each other, earl...

Kikuko Tsumura Nuances the Millennial Pursuit for Purposeful Work in ‘There’s No Such Thing as an Easy Job’
Reviewed By Maria Chance Jun 9th, 2022 12:23 am

There’s No Such Thing as an Easy Job, Kikuko Tsumura’s latest novel, translated by Polly Barton, follows a nameless protagonist, who, in the wake of burnout from a job she’s worked at for 14 years, decides to quit. Her new mission is to find a job that “requires no reading, no writing, and ideally, very little thinking.” Throughout the course of the novel, spanning a time period of one year, our protagonist will traverse through five different jobs, each one as mundane and as odd as the next one...