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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: 'One For Sorrow: A Ghost Story'

"One For Sorrow: A Ghost Story" by Mary Downing Hahn

★★★★★ Shy, timid, Annie Browne probably would have had a hard time making new friends anyway, but arriving as the new girl at the finest school in the city makes it even more intimidating. Unfortunately, just as she arrives, a friendless, unlikable girl at school, Elsie Schneider, grabs her for her friend. Trouble is, Elsie wants exclusive rights to Annie and she...

Audience: children | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'The Salt Line'

"The Salt Line" by Holly Goddard Jones

★★★★★ In this future version of the United States, a deadly tick-borne disease has driven the population to live in regional zones. These safe areas are separated from the out-of-zone area by bands of scorched earth and large, vibrating walls—the salt lines. Life in-zone is dominated by technology and the digital world, and it’s a regimented but safe existence....

Audience: adults | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'Eliza and Her Monsters'

"Eliza and Her Monsters" by Francesca Zappia

★★★★★ In real life, Eliza strives for invisibility at school, where she’s known for being quiet, awkward, and (in the eyes of her classmates) a freak, and at home, where she’s the unathletic anomaly. In the digital world, she’s Lady Constellation, the creator of a wildly popular webcomic, Monstrous Sea, and her two best friends (Max and Emmy) are the keepers or...

Audience: teens | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore'

"Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore" by Matthew J. Sullivan

★★★★ After a haunting past, Lydia lives a quiet life as a bookstore clerk. When she finds a favorite patron dead in the stacks, holding a photo of Lydia as a child in his hand, Lydia's life spirals out control. With her past suddenly coming closer into focus, Lydia is forced to confront memories she shares with no one else. Who was the frequent bookstore patron...

Audience: adults | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'The Great Treehouse War'

"The Great Treehouse War" by Lisa Graff

★★★★★ If Winnie’s parents weren't acting so obsessively strange, and so hung up on spending exactly the same amount of time with her, the great treehouse war, as it was being called by the media, probably would not have happened.  When Winnie Malladi-Maradi’s  parents divorce and decide to share time with her equally,  they also decide that since...

Audience: children | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'Sputnik's Guide to Life On Earth'

"Sputnik's Guide to Life On Earth" by Frank Cottrell Boyce

★★★★★ Sent to a live with a foster family in the country the summer after his grandad could no longer care for Prez or himself, the only thing Prez Mellows can focus on is finding and being together with his grandad again. Enter Sputnik, an alien, who appears to be a dog (with leather helmet and pilot goggles) to everyone except Prez, who declares that he has...

Audience: children, tweens | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'The Breakdown'

"The Breakdown" by B.A. Paris

★★★★★ Stuck driving home late during a dangerous storm, Cass makes a pivotal decision to drive through the woods in order to get home sooner. When she sees someone stopped alongside the road, but they make no effort to flag her down, Cass drives on. The next morning, she finds out the woman from the woods was brutally murdered. Racked with guilt, Cass's life...

Audience: adults | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'Scarlett Epstein Hates It Here'

"Scarlett Epstein Hates It Here" by Anna Breslaw

★★★★ Fifteen-year-old Scarlett Epstein is crushed when her favorite television show, Lycanthrope High, is cancelled. A popular author of fanfic related to the series, she mourns the loss of a creative outlet as much as the series itself. Her online fanfic friends encourage her to get a life “IRL” (in real life) and to expand the scope of her creative writing....

Audience: teens | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'The Lying Game'

"The Lying Game" by Ruth Ware

★★★★ Would you drop everything and travel hours with your baby if an old friend texted you, "I need you," after decades of silence? Four friends are reunited after just those three words, years after they were all expelled from a boarding school. Isa, Thea, and Fatima join Kate in a town where they left behind horrible rumors, hurt, and lies. It's not the safest...

Audience: adults | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'The Cafe by the Sea'

"The Cafe by the Sea" by Jenny Colgan

★★★★ What do you do when you're forced to return to a place you ran away from during the hardest time in your life? Years before, Flora had fled the small Scottish island where she was born, vowing never to return. Instead she's been living in London, trying to ignore that fact that she's in love with her boss. When she's sent by said boss back to her tiny...

Audience: adults | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'Persons Unknown'

"Persons Unknown" by Susie Steiner

★★★★★ Motivated by a desire to protect adopted twelve-year-old son Fly from potentially bad influences (and the frequent friskings he was subject to as a hoodie-clad black youth) and to find a better work-life balance as she anticipates the birth of her child, Mannon Bradshaw has moved back to Cambridgeshire with Fly, her sister Ellie, and Ellie’s toddler son,...

Audience: adults | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'Moo'

"Moo" by Sharon Creech

★★★★★ Almost on a whim Reena, her little brother Luke, and her parents move to Maine. They trade the bustling, big city life for a quiet harbor town with hills and valleys where they’re free to bike, hike and pick blueberries. But when their parents suddenly ‘volunteer” them to help an eccentric elderly neighbor with her animals, they really don’t know what to...

Audience: children, tweens | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'Posted'

"Posted" by John David Anderson

★★★★ Putting post-it-notes on, and in each other’s lockers seemed like a good way for Frost and his friends Deedee, Wolf, and Bench to communicate with each other after cell phones were banned at Branton Middle School, until suddenly it escalates into a whole school war, and some of the notes get nasty. In the middle of this mess, Rose, an odd, new girl at...

Audience: children, tweens | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'Lincoln in the Bardo'

"Lincoln in the Bardo" by George Saunders

★★★★★ Lincoln in the Bardo finds its inspiration in a brief moment in history—a February night in 1862 when President Lincoln visited the grave of his recently deceased eleven-year-old son, Willie—and transforms it into a complex reflection on grief, loss, uncertainty, and regret. Young Willie finds himself in the bardo, a state between the death of his physical...

Audience: adults | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'Slade House'

"Slade House" by David Mitchell

★★★★ David Mitchell is well known for his intricate plotlines and storytelling, especially in novels like “The Bone Clocks” and “Cloud Atlas.”  In “Slade House,” Mitchell brings his brand of storytelling to the haunted house genre.  Opening in 1979, the novel tells the linked story of mysterious disappearances that happen in an alleyway.  Every...

Audience: adults | Genre: fiction, literary, haunted house

Cover: 'The Garden of Small Beginnings'

"The Garden of Small Beginnings" by Abbi Waxman

★★★★ Single mother for three years after her husband died tragically in front of their home, Lillian is just starting to get used to her new life as a widow. Soon her unimaginative but manageable routine is thrown for a loop when she's enrolled in a gardening class for work, to help her with her illustrations. Each week she's forced a little further down her...

Audience: adults | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'The Golden Hour'

"The Golden Hour" by T. Greenwood

★★★★ Wyn's life was drastically altered at the young age of thirteen, when she decided to walk through the woods when going home from school. Twenty years later, Wyn lives with her daughter in a duplex shared with her estranged husband. When the man responsible for a horrible crime against her suddenly has a chance of a retrial and release based on new DNA...

Audience: adults | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'The Hate U Give'

"The Hate U Give" by Angie Thomas

★★★★★ Sixteen-year-old Starr has become adept at navigating life in two distinct worlds. One is her black urban neighborhood of Garden Heights, where her father operates a small grocery store. The other is her suburban prep school in which she is one of a handful of black students, which lends her a certain cachet that overrides the income disparity between her...

Audience: teens | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'Bubble'

"Bubble" by Stewart Foster

★★★★★ Being poked and monitored continuously and stuck inside an almost 100 percent air quality hospital room in London, all day, every day, is not the life any eleven-year old-boy would want.  Born with a rare immunodeficiency disease, this has had to be Joe’s life for as long as he can remember. All he wants is a normal life in the outside world with his...

Audience: children, tweens | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo'

"The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo" by Taylor Jenkins Reid

★★★★★ Hollywood icon Evelyn Hugo is in her 80s and ready to spill the truth about her scandalous and glamorous life that she has kept secret for years. Evelyn contacts Monique, a low-profile journalist just starting her career. Through one-on-one interview sessions, Evelyn spills everything to Monique: how she made it to Hollywood, how her mega-star second...

Audience: adults | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'The End of Temperance Dare'

"The End of Temperance Dare" by Wendy Webb

★★★★★ Are you looking for an atmospheric, completely absorbing novel to read this summer (made even better if read during a thunderstorm)? Look no further! In Wendy Webb's latest gothic novel, readers meet Eleanor Harper, who recently left her crime-writing job due to post traumatic stress disorder after too many years spent covering gruesome cases. When the...

Audience: adults | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'Piecing Me Together'

"Piecing Me Together" by Renée Watson

★★★★★ Jade is a junior at the best private school in Portland.  She is a talented artist and a bright student, determined to learn Spanish and one day travel the world.  Unlike most of her classmates, Jade is on scholarship and she is painfully aware that this school, and the opportunities it presents, are her ticket out of her poor North Portland...

Audience: adults, teens | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'Anna and the Swallow Man'

"Anna and the Swallow Man" by Gavriel Savit

★★★★★ Seven-year-old Anna did not realize it that morning in Krakow, Poland, that when her father left her in the care of a pharmacist friend, he would not return. It was November 6, 1939, and her father, a linguistics professor, was one of the many Polish intellectuals summoned by the Gestapo, arrested, imprisoned, and ultimately sent to concentration camps. Her...

Audience: adults, teens | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'Genevieve's War'

"Genevieve's War" by Patricia Reilly Giff

★★★★★ Spending the summer of 1939 working on her grandmother Meme’s farm in Alsace, France, thirteen-year-old Genevieve (Gen), an American, yearns to get back to her aunt’s house in New York. With rumors of the Germans invading Alsace and another world war starting she gets her chance to return. Yet when Gen notices her grandmother is injured, she makes a...

Audience: children, tweens | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'The Evil Wizard Smallbone'

"The Evil Wizard Smallbone" by Delia Sherman

★★★★★ Fleeing his neglectful and abusive uncle in a brutally cold, blinding New England blizzard, Nick ends up on the porch of an eccentric old man who appears to be the owner of the Evil Wizard Bookstore. In exchange for a warm place to live and plenty to eat, the snarly old man orders him to clean the house, make meals and take care of the animals. The only...

Audience: children | Genre: fiction

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