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Staff Reviews: fiction

Check out these reviews written by the staff of the Marathon County Public Library! (For reviews in all genres, visit our main Staff Reviews webpage.) Staff book reviews are also published at; follow us for the latest updates.

Cover: 'Sundial'

"Sundial" by Catriona Ward

★★★★★ This book was intense. A gripping psychological horror centered on Rob, her tense marriage and her relationship with her daughter, Callie. Callie is unsettling; she collects bones, whispers to an imaginary friend, and Rob can't help but suspect she was involved when her youngest daughter falls ill. Maybe a girls trip to Sundial the family compound deep in...

Audience: adults | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'The Dead Romantics'

"The Dead Romantics" by Ashley Poston

★★★★★ Florence Day is a writer with a problem - she ghostwrites romance novels for a well-known author but has stopped believing in love. Oh, and she also sees ghosts. After the passing of her father, Florence returns home after 10 years. The family business is a funeral home, so Florence is no stranger to death, though it's a little tougher when it's her father...

Audience: adults | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'Skin of the Sea'

"Skin of the Sea" by Natasha Bowen

★★★★ Steeped in West African mythology and history, this creative retelling of The Little Mermaid will keep readers hooked and enrich their knowledge. Set in the mid-1400s at the beginning of the slave trade, the story centers on Simi, a Mami Wata (mermaid) tasked to collect and bless the souls of those who die at sea. When a boy named Kola is...

Audience: teens | Genre: fiction, young adult, fantasy, mythology

Cover: 'The House Across the Lake'

"The House Across the Lake" by Riley Sager

★★★★★ Casey Fletcher is barely keeping it together. She’s a famous actress whose career and life have been in a downward spiral since her husband tragically drowned the previous summer. In the time since her husband passed away, Casey has turned to drinking heavily and having meaningless hookups, which culminated in a public meltdown that was covered thoroughly...

Audience: adults | Genre: fiction, suspense, mystery, contemporary fiction

Cover: 'I Like This, You Like That'

"I Like This, You Like That" by Linda Ashman, Eve Coy

★★★★★ This sweet picture book teaches children that they can still be friends with someone even if they don’t agree on everything. Throughout the story, two young friends find they don’t seem to like any of the same things. One likes cold days and one likes hot days; one likes being messy and one likes being neat. Instead of being sad about it, though, they...

Audience: children | Genre: fiction, picture book

Cover: 'California Girls'

"California Girls" by Susan Mallery

★★★★★ This book is a total "chick flick" in book form!   This is the story of three sisters, who happen to have life-changing moments around the same time.  And let's not forget their mom, who really wants to become a Grandma in the worse possible way. After all, with three daughters, how could I not have a grandchild already?, she...

Audience: adults | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'From Below'

"From Below" by Darcy Coates

★★★★★ What happened to the famous Arcadia, its passengers and its crew? How could such a grand ship vanish completely without a single trace?  60 years later, Cove and her diving crew are about to find out. When the wreck is finally discovered, Cove and her crew are excited to hopefully find out the cause of the mysterious shipwreck and its disappearance...

Audience: adults | Genre: fiction, horror

Cover: 'The Nesting'

"The Nesting" by C.J. Cooke

★★★★★ What would you do if you had no where to go, and the opportunity of a lifetime landed in the seat next to you? Lexi finds herself in just such a position, riding around the train after devastating life events leave her homeless and jobless. When the opportunity to nanny for two young girls in Norway lands in her lap, she knows she has to take it. What...

Audience: adults | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'We Are Wolves'

"We Are Wolves" by Katrina Nannestad

★★★★ This work of historical fiction tells the story of three siblings in war-torn Germany, 1945. Officially, their country of East Prussia no longer exists. Forced from their homes and separated from their families, they hide from the Russian army in the woods, sometimes in deserted homes or barns. There is little food and, since the takeover happens in January...

Audience: children | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'Honey Roasted'

"Honey Roasted" by Cleo Coyle

★★★★ Bees swarm inside the Village Blend coffeehouse during an employee meeting. Clare calls 911 and to everyone’s surprise, the NYPD has a Bee Unit. Clare realizes she knows who the bees belong to. She and ex-husband, Matt, decide to visit the bee owner only to find the hives have been overturned and the owner unconscious on the balcony below. The police rule...

Audience: adults | Genre: fiction, mystery

Cover: 'Iron Widow'

"Iron Widow" by Xiran Jay Zhao

★★★★★ Action-packed and brimming with righteous fury, the plot of this novel will take the reader through a unique blend of Chinese mythology, modern anime themes and superhero-like action sequences. The narrator Zetian is a young, spirited powerhouse bent on destroying the unfair patriarchal systems that caused the death of her sister at the start...

Audience: adults, teens | Genre: fiction, science fiction, mythology, chinese mythology, fantasy, futuristic

Cover: 'The Song of Achilles'

"The Song of Achilles" by Madeline Miller

★★★★★ This is a beautifully-written romantic interpretation of the tragedy of Achilles and Patroclus, this time told from Patroclus' perspective. It tells of his childhood, how he met Achilles, and their time growing up together. The classic story sees new life in the form of modern prose adorned with heaps of beautiful imagery that pays homage to Homeric...

Audience: adults, teens | Genre: fiction, romance, historical fiction, tragedy, lgbt

Cover: 'The Year We Learned to Fly'

"The Year We Learned to Fly" by Jacqueline Woodson, Rafael López

★★★★★ This is a beautiful picture book with gorgeous pictures and a wonderful and impactful message.  A young brother and sister are stuck inside their apartment when their grandmother shares with them words of wisdom to help them spark their imagination and help them deal with their emotions. When they get frustrated at being stuck inside, their...

Audience: children | Genre: fiction, picture book

Cover: 'Stacey's Extraordinary Words'

"Stacey's Extraordinary Words" by Stacey Abrams, Kitt Thomas

★★★★★ This is a heartwarming story for all lovers of reading, about a little girl who loves to discover new words and loves how words help her express herself. When Stacey's teacher signs her and a fellow student up for a spelling bee, Stacey's knowledge and courage are put to the test. I absolutely adored this picture book and the lessons it'll teach the...

Audience: children | Genre: fiction, picture book

Cover: 'New from Here'

"New from Here" by Kelly Yang

★★★★★ When COVID-19 hits Hong Kong, one family is forced to separate and span two countries in an effort to protect each other.  Based on the author’s own experience during the start of our current COVID-19 pandemic, the author tells the story of Knox and his siblings when they’re forced to travel from Hong Kong to California in a matter of days. Thinking...

Audience: children | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'Love in the Library'

"Love in the Library" by Maggie Tokuda-Hall, Yas Imamura

★★★★★ This picture book has readers meet Tama and George, two Japanese Americans being held in a prison camp called Minidoka. Based on the true story of the author's family being held in a similar camp after the attack on Pearl Harbor, readers follow Tama as she struggles with the unjust and cruel conditions of the camp. Working in the camp's library, she meets...

Audience: children | Genre: fiction, picture book

Cover: 'Friends Are Friends, Forever'

"Friends Are Friends, Forever" by Dane Liu, Lynn Scurfield

★★★★★ The beautiful cover of this new picture book instantly grabbed my attention, and I'm so glad, because this was a wonderful story about the power of friendship, the beauty of tradition, and a great celebration of the Lunar New Year. In this story we meet Dandan, who is moving away from her best friend Yueyue the next day. On their last night together, they...

Audience: children | Genre: fiction, picture book

Cover: 'Bathe the Cat'

"Bathe the Cat" by Alice B. McGinty, David Roberts

★★★★★ This new picture book captured my attention by the bright cover and title that made clear it'd be an entertaining read (because every cat owner knows most of them definitely do not want to be bathed!) Inside, we meet a family who's just realized Grandma is on her way, and the house is a mess. Chaos ensues as chores are dished out, and when the cat sees a...

Audience: children | Genre: fiction, picture book

Cover: 'Every Vow You Break'

"Every Vow You Break" by Peter Swanson

★★★★ Abigail Baskin never thought she'd fall in love with a millionaire until she met Bruce Lamb.  He's a good guy, stable, level-headed and kind, but right before the wedding, Abigail has a drunken one-night stand on her bachelorette weekend. She puts the incident - and the handsome man who wouldn't give her his real name - out of her mind. ...

Audience: adults | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'Later'

"Later" by Stephen King

★★★★ The son of a struggling single mother, Jamie Conklin just wants an ordinary childhood. But Jamie is no ordinary child. Born with an unnatural ability his mom urges him to keep secret, Jamie can see what no one else can see and learn what no one else can learn. But the cost of using this ability is higher than Jamie can imagine—as he discovers when an NYPD...

Audience: adults | Genre: fiction, suspense

Cover: 'The Goody'

"The Goody" by Lauren Child

★★★★ The Goody is a story about two siblings—one is always good and the other is always bad. They have even been labelled as good and bad by their parents. Then Chirton, the good one, starts questioning whether this is really fair. Why should he have to do all the chores while his sister Myrtle gets away with anything? Suddenly, Chirton is behaving badly while...

Audience: children | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'The Killing Kind'

"The Killing Kind" by Jane Casey

★★★★★ Ingrid Lewis is no stranger to dangerous people. A barrister in London, she's defended all sorts of clients. One she will never forget? John Webster. Acquitted of a stalking charge after Ingrid defended him in court, he rapidly grew obsessed with her and destroyed everything in her life. Webster suddenly shows up just as Ingrid finally felt like she was...

Audience: adults | Genre: fiction, suspense