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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: 'Blythewood'

"Blythewood" by Carol Goodman

★★★★★ At only seventeen Avaline Hall is now an orphan. Never knowing her father, Ava grew up with a mother who weaved her love of Blythewood, the boarding school she was suddenly expelled from, into every story she told her daughter. But after Ava's mother abruptly commits suicide, and then Ava herself almost perishes in a terrible factory fire, Ava finds herself...

Audience: teens | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'Nightmares!'

"Nightmares!" by Jason Segel

★★★★ Twelve-year-old Charlie Laird has big problems. His mom died, his dad remarried, and now together with his younger brother Jack they must move into his new "stepmonster’s" (that’s what he calls her) odd-looking purple mansion with a tower. Positive that his new "stepmonster" is a witch, he barricades himself inside his new bedroom where he can’t sleep...

Audience: children, tweens | Genre: fiction, fantasy

Cover: 'The Rosie Effect'

"The Rosie Effect" by Graeme Simsion

★★★★★ I was anxiously awaiting this sequel and it did not disappoint. Geneticist Don Tillman is living in New York with his new wife Rosie. He has settled into a new university and Rosie is working on her MD and PhD simultaneously. Everything in his world seems right, until it is turned upside down by an unexpected pregnancy. On top of that, Don's friend Gene has...

Audience: adults | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'The Boundless'

"The Boundless" by Kenneth Oppel

★★★★★ After three long years, teen-aged William Everett is dropped off at the train tracks in a town without a name to meet up with his father who is helping build the Canadian Pacific Railway.  The train they will be boarding is called "The Boundless" because of its size and magnificence.  After accidentally witnessing a murder and finding a train car...

Audience: children, tweens | Genre: fiction, action adventure

Cover: 'Dollbaby'

"Dollbaby" by Laura Lane McNeal

★★★★★ This engrossing debut novel pulls us into the eccentricities and secrecies of the Bell family living in New Orleans. When Liberty Bell's father is lost to a tragic accident, her mother deposits her on the doorstep of a grandmother she's never met. Ibby's (Liberty's) mother has filled her head with terrible stories about Fannie Bell and life in the south....

Audience: adults | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'The Hundred-Foot Journey'

"The Hundred-Foot Journey" by Richard C. Morais

★★★★ Take a journey through food with the Haji family that spans the globe from Mumbai, London, and Paris. Any foodie or person who loves to travel will enjoy following the main character, Hassan, through his life of travel and food. Hassan is brought up in Mumbai learning to cook from his family. Although turmoil touches his family, which prompts them to move...

Audience: adults | Genre: fiction, food

Cover: 'These Broken Stars'

"These Broken Stars" by Amie Kaufman

★★★★★ Tarver is a brave and decorated soldier from a low-class family. Lilac is an intergalactic debutante from the richest of families. These unlikely companions become the lone survivors of a spaceliner crash on an unknown and strange planet. The story follows their journey across this alien landscape trying to survive the landscape and one another. What they...

Audience: teens | Genre: fiction, science fiction, fantasy

Cover: 'Fly Away'

"Fly Away" by Patricia MacLachlan

★★★★★ Newbery award-winning author Patricia MacLachlan has done it again. She has written an easy-to-read story for children with sparse, well-chosen words and conversation that eloquently speaks volumes on what it means to be a family. Lucy is traveling with her mother, father, sister Gracie and her little brother Teddy in a beat-up Volkswagen bus to her Aunt...

Audience: children, tweens | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'Invisible Murder'

"Invisible Murder" by Lene Kaaberbøl, Agnete Friis

★★★★★ 5 stars for this Danish novel! When it comes to murder-mysteries I rank them according to how far into the book I read before I figure out who did it, and the freshness of the developing plot. This one kept me in the dark until the very end without losing me along the way. The Scandinavian mysteries are really a wonderful challenge for the reader because...

Audience: adults | Genre: fiction, mystery

Cover: 'Mood Indigo'

"Mood Indigo" by Boris Vian

★★★★ Originally published in 1947, this book was translated into English and released with the opening of the new film version. I had never read this classic but I was intrigued. Touted as a love story gone tragic, it is indeed that and so much more. Vian's world invites you in with its soft edges, beautiful scenery, and mood inspired ambiance. We can't help but...

Audience: adults | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'Rose Under Fire'

"Rose Under Fire" by Elizabeth Wein

★★★★ Rose Justice, an American Air Transit Auxiliary (ATA) pilot, is captured by the Germans in late 1944 and sent to the concentration camp for female prisoners at Ravensbrück. She struggles learn the rules of the camp, whether those imposed by the guards or those of her fellow prisoners. The novel paints a vivid portrait of life in the prison camp and Rose’s...

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

Cover: 'Cartwheeling in Thunderstorms'

"Cartwheeling in Thunderstorms" by Katherine Rundell

★★★★★ Will (Wihelmina) loves her wonderful, wild life on the hot, dusty African farm where she is free to roam, climb trees and play with her best friend Simon and numerous animals all day long. Unfortunately her idyllic life comes to an abrupt halt after her father dies from malaria and her father’s friend and new guardian Captain Browne marries a heartless...

Audience: children, tweens | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'The Impossible Knife of Memory'

"The Impossible Knife of Memory" by Laurie Halse Anderson

★★★★★ Hayley Kincain, a high school senior, is trying to fly under the radar at school, particularly because she cannot afford drawing attention to her life at home. Her father, Andy, a veteran of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, is struggling with PTSD and a severe depression, and the return to his boyhood home has not proved to be a stabilizing force....

Audience: teens | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'The World of Ice & Fire: The Untold History of Westeros and The Game of Thrones'

"The World of Ice & Fire: The Untold History of Westeros and The Game of Thrones" by George R.R. Martin, Elio M. García Jr., Linda Antonsson

★★★★★ Fans of A Song of Ice and Fire rejoice! This large and beautifully illustrated tome will answer many questions about key figures and events in the history of Westeros. Ancient history, Valyria, Aegon's conquest, the downfall of the Targaryen dynasty, and information about the key Westerosi houses are included. The book also covers Essos, including the Free...

Audience: adults | Genre: fiction, fantasy

Cover: 'Lots of Dots'

"Lots of Dots" by Craig Frazier

★★★★ Author and illustrator Craig Frazier creates dots of all colors and dimensions that young readers can discover around them. There are brightly-colored floating balloon dots, big drum stick dots, oranges (dots) falling from a tree, traffic light dots, ice cream dots, pea dots, heavy dumbbell dots, light bubble dots and more. This fun “I Spy” read-alike with...

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

Cover: 'Mermaids in Paradise'

"Mermaids in Paradise" by Lydia Millet

★★★★ "Mermaids in Paradise" is a comedic book about a honeymoon gone awry. The newlywed couple, Deb and Chip, expect nothing but sand, sun, and relaxation during their trip to the Caribbean, but when they meet a marine biologist named Nancy they stumble upon a discovery no one saw coming. While snorkeling in the coral reef they sight actual mermaids! To prove it...

Audience: adults | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'The Julian Chapter: A Wonder Story'

"The Julian Chapter: A Wonder Story" by R. J. Palacio

★★★★★ This is a fantastic addition to the book Wonder, the incredible story about Auggie Pullman, a young boy with a unique face. In Wonder, readers had a glimpse into the viewpoints of several characters in Auggie's world, except for the bully himself: Julian. Now readers finally get a chance to experience Julian's point of view, and learn why he hated Auggie so...

Audience: children, tweens | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'Girls Like Us'

"Girls Like Us" by Gail Giles

★★★★★ "Girls Like Us" introduces us to Quincy and Biddy, two special education students (or as they refer to themselves, “Speddies”) as they graduate from high school and start life in the real world. Their high school advisor pairs them as roommates in a small apartment above the garage of their new employer and landlady. Quincy and Biddy could not engage with...

Audience: adults | Genre: fiction, differing abilities, schneider family award winner

Cover: 'Rain Reign'

"Rain Reign" by Ann M. Martin

★★★★★ The likable narrator of this book, fifth-grader Rose Howard, sees homonyms everywhere and obsessively collects them. Her mother is gone (she doesn't know exactly where) so she lives with her impatient father, is strict about her own (and everyone’s) rules, and has a diagnosis: high functioning autism or Aspergers. When her beloved adopted dog, Rain,...

Audience: children, tweens | Genre: fiction, differing abilities

Cover: 'Christmas at Tiffany's'

"Christmas at Tiffany's" by Karen Swan

★★★★★ Once in a while a novel comes along that completely takes you by surprise, taking you on a momentous journey along with the characters that leaves you sitting in stunned, happy silence after you read the last words. This brilliant, heartwarming novel was one I almost missed, because I admittedly shun novels that even mention Christmas in the title. I needn'...

Audience: adults | Genre: fiction, holiday

Cover: 'My True Love Gave to Me: Twelve Holiday Stories'

"My True Love Gave to Me: Twelve Holiday Stories" by Stephanie Perkins

★★★★★ This compilation of twelve holiday stories written by well-known young adult authors will not disappoint this holiday season! Authors such Rainbow Rowell, Holly Black and David Levithan will make you love the winter season even more. Each of the stories is very different and carries its authors' distinct voice, therefore making each story a true delight....

Audience: teens | Genre: fiction, short stories, holiday

Cover: 'The Good Luck of Right Now'

"The Good Luck of Right Now" by Matthew Quick

★★★★★ Bartholomew Neil's world has centered on his mother for 38 years. When she dies suddenly, Bartholomew is left alone to try to figure out what to do with his life. When he finds a form letter from Richard Gere in his mother's dresser, he begins to write very detailed and intimate letters to the actor about his life. We follow along as Bartholomew struggles...

Audience: adults | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'The Longest Ride'

"The Longest Ride" by Nicholas Sparks

★★★★★ Two love stories, one that is three quarters of a century in the making and one that is brand new are told side by side in this beautifully written novel. When Ira is trapped in his car following an accident in a remote area, he recounts the stories of his life with his one true love, his wife Ruth. He describes their story as it unfolds decade after decade...

Audience: adults | Genre: fiction, romance

Cover: 'The Thickety: A Path Begins'

"The Thickety: A Path Begins" by J. A. White, Andrea Offermann

★★★★★ Witchcraft and magic are denounced as evil, feared and banned on this island colony that is surrounded by a strange forbidden forest with feared creatures known as the Dark Wood or Thickety.  At only 5 years old Kara along with her newborn brother Taff witness the hanging death of their mother who was proclaimed a witch and their lives radically change...

Audience: children, tweens | Genre: fiction, fantasy

Cover: 'Let It Snow: Three Holiday Romances'

"Let It Snow: Three Holiday Romances" by John Green, Maureen Johnson, Lauren Myracle

★★★★★ Young adult readers rejoice! Three of our favorite authors have gotten together to write about the sweetness of love in the middle of a snowstorm on Christmas Eve. We have the pleasure of reading about three separate but connected couples who live in the same town, through the same blizzard, and the same joys of young love. This is such a fun book for the...

Audience: teens | Genre: fiction, romance, holiday

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