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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 Goodreads.com; follow us for the latest updates.


Cover: 'The Willoughbys'

"The Willoughbys" by Lois Lowry

★★★★★ The four children in the Willoughby family are indeed to be pitied. Their parents "frequently forgot that they had children and became quite irritable when they were reminded of it." This left Tim, Barnaby A, Barnaby B (they're twins), and Jane feeling they'd be better off as orphans, of the old-fashioned kind. So they hatch a "perfectly despicable plot" to...

Audience: children, tweens | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'How to Walk Away'

"How to Walk Away" by Katherine Center

★★★★★ This is the second audiobook that I have listened to by Katherine Center. This book has it all! I found some parts to be very funny and others to be sad, but the book takes overcoming tragedy and turns something negative into a positive.  Margaret Jacobsen is so excited for Valentine's Day, as she is so sure that this will be the...

Audience: adults | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'Girls of Brackenhill'

"Girls of Brackenhill" by Kate Moretti

★★★★ 17 years have passed since Hannah has stepped foot in her family's estate, which is actually her family's castle. Ever since her sister disappeared during a summer spent with her aunt and uncle, Hannah hasn't looked back. Her fiancé doesn't even know she has a family estate steeped in ghosts and tragedy, until she's called to return after her aunt dies...

Audience: adults | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'The Unsuitable'

"The Unsuitable" by Molly Pohlig

★★★★★ Victorian, Gothic, Dark Humor. Iseult Wince is getting too old. Soon, she’ll be a spinster, which everyone knows is the worst fate of all. Iseult is a bit odd, and her father dislikes her. His goal is to find her a suitable husband (i.e. any man who will take her). Iseult believes her mother died while giving birth to her, resulting in a scar on her neck...

Audience: adults | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'To Catch A Witch'

"To Catch A Witch" by Heather Blake

★★★★ Darcy Merriweather is a wishcrafter, a witch who can grant other peoples’ wishes. She lives in a cozy Enchanted Village outside of Salem. Darcy runs a concierge company and has been hired to organize a competition called the Wicked Mad Dash by her friend Abby Stillwell. On the morning of the competition, a blizzard hits the Enchanted Village. While Darcy...

Audience: adults | Genre: mystery, fiction

Cover: 'The Count of Monte Cristo'

"The Count of Monte Cristo" by Alexandre Dumas

★★★★★ I recently took on a rather mundane home improvement project of tearing off wallpaper and painting my dining room. Not a fan of these projects, my saving grace is listening to an engaging audiobook, one that sweeps me away to other lands and people. I found this escape in The Count of Monte Cristo, written by French novelist Alexandre Dumas. The story...

Audience: adults | Genre: fiction, classic fiction

Cover: 'The Wicked Sister'

"The Wicked Sister" by Karen Dionne

★★★★★ For over a decade, Rachel has been locked in a mental institution, convinced she was responsible for the death of her parents. But when she finds out new details in the investigation that make her question everything she thought she knew, she returns to the one place she never thought she would: her family's breathtaking but haunting log cabin in the middle...

Audience: adults | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'Playing Nice'

"Playing Nice" by J.P. Delaney

★★★★★ What would you do if you were told the son you've been raising lovingly for two years was not actually yours?  A parent's worst nightmare happens to Pete Riley, when a stranger shows up on his doorstep claiming to be his son's biological father. Miles Lambert claims his son was switched with Pete's, and has DNA results to prove it. What begins as an...

Audience: adults | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'The Rules of Magic'

"The Rules of Magic" by Alice Hoffman

★★★★★ The Rules of Magic is a prequel to the 1995 best-seller Practical Magic, a book I fell in love with years ago. That novel told the story of Sally and Gillian Owens, who were raised by their mystical aunts, Franny and Jet, after the death of their parents. But in The Rules of Magic, we rewind several decades, chronicling Franny and Jet’s lives into adulthood...

Audience: adults | Genre: fiction, historical fiction, romance, magical realism

Cover: 'The Chocolate Shark Shenanigans'

"The Chocolate Shark Shenanigans" by JoAnna Carl

★★★★ When a house in the neighborhood goes up for sale, Lee and Joe decide to team up with Lee’s aunt and uncle to flip the Bailey’s house for profit. A local developer, “Spud” Dirk has the same idea and swoops in with a higher offer on the house. Lee, who was not excited about flipping the house anyway, is happy to concentrate on managing the family business,...

Audience: adults | Genre: fiction, mystery

Cover: 'Home Before Dark'

"Home Before Dark" by Riley Sager

★★★★★ 25 years ago, Maggie and her parents fled their sprawling Victorian estate, Baneberry Hall, in the middle of the night. They claimed their house was haunted and, fearing for their lives, left all of their belongings inside. Driven by their harrowing experience, Maggie's father wrote a novel chronicling everything that allegedly happened inside the...

Audience: adults | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'Home Before Dark'

"Home Before Dark" by Riley Sager

★★★★ Maggie Holt’s philosophy is “every house has a story to tell and a secret to share.” And the 30 year-old contractor and home designer should know, having lived in one of the most notorious houses in the world – Baneberry Hall. When Maggie was just five years old, she and her parents fled Baneberry Hall in the middle of the night after having lived in the...

Audience: adults | Genre: fiction, suspense, horror

Cover: '500 Miles From You'

"500 Miles From You" by Jenny Colgan

★★★★ This newest installment in the Scottish Bookshop series introduces readers to Lissie, an overworked nurse in London who witnesses a truly traumatic event. Suffering from PTSD afterwards and finding no relief as time goes on, she is encouraged by her supervisor to swap places with a nurse in a quiet Scottish town, hoping it will be the rest and recovery...

Audience: adults | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'Dead Ringer'

"Dead Ringer" by Annelise Ryan

★★★★ Another dead body has been found in Sorenson, Wisconsin, which means that Mattie and her husband, Steve Hurley, have a new case to solve.  The body of a Jane Doe, a drug addict, was found on the side of the road. However, the drugs did not kill her. She was stabbed multiple times in a specific pattern. When the autopsy reveals flower petals in one...

Audience: adults | Genre: fiction, mystery

Cover: 'Chaotic Good'

"Chaotic Good" by Whiteny Gardner

★★★★ All Cameron wants to do is design clothes. She can knit socks, deconstruct a sweater and sew a straight hem. Designing clothes and costumes for superhero movies is her dream job. But when she visits the local comic shop in her new town, she’s shocked at the way she’s treated when she enters. All she wants is some reference pictures to help her create her...

Audience: teens | Genre: fiction, ya fiction with adult appeal

Cover: 'Howards End'

"Howards End" by E.M. Forster

★★★★★ Howards End is set in the early Edwardian era in England. The plot centers around two middle-class families: the Wilcoxes and the Schlegels. After the death of his first wife, Henry Wilcox marries Margaret Schlegel to the amazement of both their families. The two seem unsuited in age and interests. Margaret, an independent-minded woman, wants to help Henry...

Audience: adults | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'Coconut Layer Cake Murder'

"Coconut Layer Cake Murder" by Joanne Fluke

★★★★ Hannah Swensen is back in her latest adventure!  Hannah is on vacation when she is called back to Minnesota to help her sister Michelle’s boyfriend, Lonnie, who has been accused of murder. Detective Lonnie Murphy had spent a night out with his high-school friends, only for one of them to end up dead. Unfortunately, Lonnie only remembers part of...

Audience: adults | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'Bones of Faerie'

"Bones of Faerie" by Janni Lee Simner

★★★ Folklore and post-apocalyptic fiction collide in "Bones of Faerie," a young adult novel by Janni Lee Simner. Liza is a teenage girl who lives in a world greatly affected by a war that took place several years before she was born. This war was between the world as we know it and Faerie, a realm where magic is commonplace and nature supersedes technology...

Audience: children, teens, tweens | Genre: fiction, fantasy

Cover: 'We Ride Upon Sticks'

"We Ride Upon Sticks" by Quan Barry

★★★★★ The year is 1989. The hair is big, Janet Jackson rules the radio, and practically every teen is decked out in Jordache and Z. Cavaricci. For the young women on the Danvers High School field hockey team, their senior year is expected to bring another year of disappointment, consistent with their track record of losing big-time. But after one of the girls,...

Audience: adults | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'I Don't Like Rain!'

"I Don't Like Rain!" by Sarah Dillard

★★★★★ Have you ever gotten caught outside in a rainstorm? Was it when you were walking home or when you were about to play with your friends? The Bunny in I Don’t Like the Rain! gets caught in a wet cold downpour just as he and his woodland friends were going to play with a found pine cone! At first he thinks the drip, drip, drops of water are fun; but being...

Audience: children | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'Before We Were Yours'

"Before We Were Yours" by Lisa Wingate

★★★★★ Although the characters in this book are fictional, it is based on actual stories from survivors from the Tennessee Children's Home Society. Georgia Tann was the manager of this notorious organization who had doctors and lawyers in her back pocket. They were paid to tell new mothers that their baby had died. Mothers were told that...

Audience: adults | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'The Love Story of Missy Carmichael'

"The Love Story of Missy Carmichael" by Beth Morey

★★★★ Missy Carmichael is admittedly depressed. She spends nearly every day alone inside her London home, rarely venturing out and almost never engaging with strangers. She’s estranged from her daughter, and her son lives across the globe in Australia, leaving her with virtually no social connections whatsoever. While at the park one day, Missy meets Sylvie, a...

Audience: adults | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'The Sun Down Motel'

"The Sun Down Motel" by Simone St. James

★★★★ Are you a fan of mysteries that grab hold and won’t let go? Do ghosts and the paranormal intrigue you? Carly Kirk has always been fascinated with the macabre and strange. The disappearance of her aunt before she was born has always been a sensitive subject in her family. In 1982 when her aunt Viv was 20 years old she disappeared without a trace while...

Audience: adults | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'Happy Right Now'

"Happy Right Now" by Julie Berry

★★★★★ Everyone has a range of emotions that they go through on a daily basis. Sometimes, an event or an object triggers that emotion, and other times that person feels that emotion for no reason at all. Happy Right Now looks at what makes an individual happy and choosing to be happy. Chores and the "worry monkey" are things that don't typically make people...

Audience: children | Genre: fiction, picture book

Cover: 'The Buddy Bench'

"The Buddy Bench" by Patty Brozo

★★★★★ Has there ever been a time where you have felt left out or forgotten in group activities, such as recess? This book focuses on that issue. For a variety of reasons, some of the kids at this school feel left out when it comes to recess. They watch as their classmates play with kites or throw a ball, having fun without them. The students who are watching just...

Audience: children | Genre: fiction, picture book

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