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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: 'The One and Only Ivan'

"The One and Only Ivan" by Katherine Applegate

★★★★★ This Newbery Award winning book offers a beautiful story about friendship and hope. Ivan, a gorilla who lives at a shopping mall, has learned to be fairly content with his life. He sleeps, eats, watches TV, talks to his elephant friend Stella and Bob the dog. Drawing also helps Ivan pass the time. Ivan’s owner gives him crayons and paper. Sometimes he eats...

Audience: children | Genre: fiction, award-winning, caldecott award winner, newbery award winner

Cover: 'The Dress Shop of Dreams'

"The Dress Shop of Dreams" by Menna van Praag

★★★★★ What a beautiful, enchanting read! This is a book you will fall in love with, and characters that you feel as if you know from the very beginning. Studious and unfeeling Cora, after the death of her parents, splits her life between trying to continue her parents' scientific work and keeping her grandmother company in the beautiful dress shop she owns in...

Audience: adults | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'Wish Girl'

"Wish Girl" by Nikki Loftin

★★★★★ Unlike his boisterous, quarreling family, 12-year-old Peter Stone is quiet, thoughtful, sensitive, artistic and misunderstood. After his father loses his job and they move from the city to remote Texas Hill Country, he escapes daily to a magic lonely valley where he can be at one with nature, away from the crying and yelling.  On one of his trips to...

Audience: children, tweens | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'Absolutely Truly'

"Absolutely Truly" by Heather Vogel Frederick

★★★★ Who wants to move from sunny Austin, Texas to the small, boring town of Pumpkin Falls, New Hampshire where winter lasts at least 6 months of the year and there’s no mall or movie theater? Middle school student Truly Lovejoy has no choice when her family decides to move to her father’s hometown after “Black Monday,” or the day her father lost his arm in a...

Audience: children, tweens | Genre: fiction, mystery

Cover: 'At the Water's Edge'

"At the Water's Edge" by Sara Gruen

★★★★★ From the author of "Water for Elephants" comes another captivating novel. Madeline Hyde's life is pampered and privileged. She spends all of her time living the good life beside her husband Ellis and his constant companion Hank. New Year's Eve 1944 will change her world. Ellis and Hank were rejected for service in WWII because of medical conditions. Now...

Audience: adults | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'By Book or By Crook'

"By Book or By Crook" by Eva Gates

★★★★★ I stumbled upon this brand new cozy mystery series by happy accident, and am thankful I did! Set along the beautiful Outer Banks, Lucy has just escaped from her chaotic Boston life to start a job in the quaint local lighthouse library. Set to host first editions of Jane Austen's work, the library hosts a party commemorating the temporary additions. But when...

Audience: adults | Genre: fiction, mystery

Cover: 'The Dovekeepers'

"The Dovekeepers" by Alice Hoffman

★★★★★ This is a beautiful tale of four extraordinary women struggling to survive as their people are sought out for extermination by the Roman Empire. In 70 C.E. nine hundred Jews fled for their lives and sought refuge in King Herod's stronghold at Masada. Yael, born of a dead mother and rejected by her father the assassin, must survive the dessert to take refuge...

Audience: adults | Genre: fiction, historical fiction

Cover: 'Dear Hank Williams'

"Dear Hank Williams" by Kimberly Willis Holt

★★★★★ It’s the first day of school in September 1948 and Tate Ellerbee from Rippling Creek, Louisiana already has a school assignment—to find a pen pal and practice writing letters to a real person. She picks a relatively unknown country singer who she admires on the Louisiana Hayride radio show—Hank Williams. Through her wonderful letters to him we discover a...

Audience: children, tweens | Genre: fiction, historical fiction

Cover: 'The House of Memories'

"The House of Memories" by Monica McInerney

★★★★★ What an amazing, moving journey this book took me on! Ella has just tragically lost her young son. Unable to deal with the grief or look her husband or step-sister in the eye, both of whom she blames for her son's death, Ella escapes to London. There, she stays with the only family she has ever really loved, her beloved Uncle who has secrets of his own....

Audience: adults | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'Sam and Dave Dig a Hole'

"Sam and Dave Dig a Hole" by Mac Barnett

★★★★★ Sam and Dave are determined to dig a hole until they find something spectacular. What unfolds in this story is a wonderful mix of what is happening in the story and what is happening in the illustrations. This book is a 2015 Caldecott Honor Book for a good reason. The book as a whole, the writing and the illustrations, play off of each other so well that...

Audience: children | Genre: fiction, picture book, award-winning

Cover: 'Monsters Love Colors'

"Monsters Love Colors" by Mike Austin

★★★★★ Such a fun book to read with your kids if they are interested in learning about colors! The monsters in this book love colors and love to mix colors. Not only that but they love to scribble, mix, dance, and wiggle. Kids will have such a fun time learning about primary colors and how they mix to make other colors. My three-year-old wanted to read this book...

Audience: children | Genre: fiction, easy reader, picture book

Cover: 'Tony Baroni Loves Macaroni'

"Tony Baroni Loves Macaroni" by Marilyn Sadler, Lucie Crovatto, Chris Robertson

★★★★★ Tony Baroni loves macaroni so much that he eats it for every meal! His Nonna, or Grandma, tries to persuade Tony to eat a variety of other pastas in order to have him eat something else until he finally decides to eat something different entirely. This is such a light hearted book with some very beautiful illustrations! My three-year-old loved this book,...

Audience: children | Genre: fiction, easy reader

Cover: 'The Question of Miracles'

"The Question of Miracles" by Elana K. Arnold

★★★★ Still mourning the recent accidental death of Sarah, her best friend, Iris and her family move from sunny California to nearly always rainy Corvallis, Oregon for a “fresh start.”  She hates the rain, hates her new school, hates her new house, but mostly hates life without her best friend. During lunch a loud burrito-chewing, doglike boy from one of her...

Audience: children, tweens | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'Wolfie the Bunny'

"Wolfie the Bunny" by Ame Dyckman, Zachariah O'Hora

★★★★★ Wolfie is a baby wolf, not a baby bunny, but Mama and Papa bunny don’t seem to care when they adopt him after finding him in a basket on their doorstep. Their daughter Dot tries to warn them, “he’s going to eat us all up.” Her parents are already smitten but Dot is cautious and maintains her distance. When Wolfie grows bigger and a big bear tries to grab...

Audience: children | Genre: fiction, picture book, read-alouds

Cover: 'Black Dove White Raven'

"Black Dove White Raven" by Elizabeth Wein

★★★★★ This is the story of Emilia and Teo, who are raised as siblings from infancy by their mothers, who were stunt pilots in the 1930s in the U.S. The name of the mothers’ act was Black Dove, White Raven, which refers to Delia (mother of Teo) and Rhoda (mother of Emilia), respectively. The lives of Em and Teo are changed in an instant when a bird strike causes...

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

Cover: 'The Honest Truth'

"The Honest Truth" by Dan Gemeinhart

★★★★★ Sick of being sick, Mark runs away from home with his dog Beau, his camera, and a bag of supplies to fulfill a dream to climb to the top of Mt Rainer while he still can. His cancer’s back, but at least he won’t have to endure yet another treatment. The novel alternates between Mark’s minute-by-minute account of his adventurous journey and the intense...

Audience: children, tweens | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'The Secrets of Midwives'

"The Secrets of Midwives" by Sally Hepworth

★★★★★ Are you a fan of "Call the Midwives" and are looking for something similar? Or are you just interested in novels with strong female characters? This novel centers around three generations of midwives, each with a startling secret that will alter their lives and the lives of their families. When Neva, a third generation midwife learns she's pregnant, she...

Audience: adults | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'A Dragon's Guide to the Care and Feeding of Humans'

"A Dragon's Guide to the Care and Feeding of Humans" by Laurence Yep

★★★★ Just two days after the funeral of her pet human, Fluffy (a.k.a. Amelia), a young girl named Winnie bursts into mournful Miss Drakes’s secret door in the basement proclaiming that she has been sent by her great-aunt Amelia so Miss Drake won't be lonely. Almost immediately, Miss Drake, who happens to be a dragon, theorizes that this seemingly obnoxious small...

Audience: children, tweens | Genre: fiction, fantasy

Cover: 'The Accidental Empress'

"The Accidental Empress" by Allison Pataki

★★★★ At just fifteen years old, Elisabeth "Sisi" of Bavaria travels to Austria to meet Franz Joseph, the emperor of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, who is to marry her sister. Instead, the emperor falls in love with Sisi and makes her his empress. However, Sisi is ill-prepared for the rigors of court life and for dealing with her domineering mother-in-law Sophie....

Audience: adults | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'A Touch of Stardust'

"A Touch of Stardust" by Kate Alcott

★★★★★ Julie Crawford is fresh out of college and in a hurry to escape the pressures of life in Fort Wayne, Indiana. She dreams of becoming a screenwriter and decides to take her chances in Hollywood. She finds a job instead as an errand girl for one of the most notoriously temperamental producers in the city. As the studio begins filming what will become one of...

Audience: adults | Genre: fiction, historical fiction

Cover: 'Wildalone'

"Wildalone" by Krassi Zourkova

★★★★★ Thea Slavin does not understand her parents' resistance to her desire to attend Princeton. Sure it is a long way from home in Bulgaria, but her heart tells her it is where she needs to be to make her dreams a reality. Her determination quickly leads her on a journey that will dig up some dark family secrets that include an eerie amount of Bulgarian legend...

Audience: adults | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'V is for Villain'

"V is for Villain" by Peter Moore

★★★★★ Brad Baron has a lot to live up to: a father who was a superhero, a brother currently on one of the most popular superhero teams and a genius mother. Enrolled at an elite school for children of superheros, Brad is a disappointment. With the exception of his genius level intelligence, he has nothing else super to recommend him: no super strength, no super...

Audience: teens | Genre: fiction, diverse

Cover: 'Hush Hush'

"Hush Hush" by Laura Lippman

★★★★★ Rejoice, Laura Lippman fans! Tess is back! Tess, now the mother of a three-year-old, has a retired “murder police” as her new partner and a complicated childcare schedule, but she’s still Tess. She’s not one to pull metaphorical punches (at least not without deliberate effort), her curiosity is difficult to suppress, and her food choices are occasionally...

Audience: adults | Genre: fiction, mystery

Cover: 'Who Done It? An Investigation of Murder Most Foul'

"Who Done It? An Investigation of Murder Most Foul" by Jon Scieszka

★★★★★ Herman Q. Mildew, an editor renowned for his lack of social skills (which is putting it very nicely!), a penchant for crushing dreams, poor hygiene, and love of stinky cheese is dead, and the police have requested alibis from the many writers and illustrators of young adult and children’s fiction that have reasons to wish him dead. These alibis range from a...

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

Cover: 'The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy'

"The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy" by Rachel Joyce

★★★★★ Queenie Hennessy is dying. As she moves to hospice to live out the rest of her days, she decides to write a farewell letter to the man she has loved in silence for 20 years. What she doesn't expect is that her letter will spark something in him that will send him on a walking pilgrimage across England. When she discovers that he is walking to her and has...

Audience: adults | Genre: fiction