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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 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: 'Chocolate Shark Shenanigans: A Chocoholic Mystery'

"Chocolate Shark Shenanigans: A Chocoholic Mystery" 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

★★★★ 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: '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

Cover: 'Alice'

"Alice" by Christina Henry

★★★★★ My favorite fairy tale retellings are those that you can’t immediately identify as a retelling, and this is one of the best. Meet Alice. Alice lives in a mental institution, she has no memory of how she got there, or why. She does have memories, just bits and pieces here and there; a tea party, long ears, the large slash down the side of her face, and *...

Audience: adults | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'The Painted Girls'

"The Painted Girls" by Cathy Marie Buchanan

★★★★★ The Painted Girls takes place in Paris in 1878 and tells the story of the Van Goethem sisters, who love to dance. The family is surviving until the father dies and the sisters are raised by their mother, a laundress with a drinking problem.  The oldest girl is Antoinette, who must take over the role of the mother. She is an extra...

Audience: adults | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'Lost & Found'

"Lost & Found" by Jacqueline Sheehan

★★★★ For the person who has ever had - or has - a dog that you love, this book is for you. The story starts as Rocky's husband has a major heart attack in their bathroom. She tried to save him with CPR, but fails. Now, Rocky needs to put together her life, alone. That is, until she moves to Peak Island off of Maine. The story tells of a...

Audience: adults | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'Greenwood'

"Greenwood" by Michael Christie

★★★★ Author Michael Christie's novel tells the story of four generations of the Greenwood family, whose lives all revolve around trees: Jake, a guide through one of the last old-growth forests to survive the Great Withering; her father Liam, a carpenter who grew up wandering the wilds of Canada with his mother Willow, a dedicated but non-violent eco-warrior...

Audience: adults, teens | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'Boxitects'

"Boxitects" by Kim Smith

★★★★ Meg loves to create and build, and boxes are her favorite medium. From tiny house to marvelous castles, she loves her self-appointed role as "Boxitect." Her mom is very proud of her skills and decides Meg should expand them by attending Maker School. There, she meets other kids who also love to create things out of various items such as blankets, tin-...

Audience: children | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'The Girl and the Dinosaur'

"The Girl and the Dinosaur" by Hollie Hughes, Sarah Massini

★★★★★ Marianne is a focused little girl who follows her own interests and dreams, even though others can’t understand her passions. She spends her days painstakingly and patiently digging for dinosaur bones on a sandy beach. Her persistence finally pays off when she discovers a whole dinosaur skeleton! But the story does not end there. It takes a fantastic...

Audience: children | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'The Nest That Wren Built'

"The Nest That Wren Built" by Randi Sonenshine, Anne Hunter

★★★★★ In imitation of the classic poem “The House That Jack Built” this book’s text begins: “These are the twigs, dried in the sun,/that papa collected one by one/to cradle the nest that Wren built.” The rhythmic tone continues in the text while on each page a different natural scene unfolds. More and more elements are added to the nest—even a snakeskin and...

Audience: children | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'The Better Liar'

"The Better Liar" by Tanen Jones

★★★★ If you are a fan of suspenseful thrillers, this debut novel by Tanen Jones is a must read!  This novel races through twists and turns, alternating between chapters told by three unreliable narrators: Leslie, Robin, and Mary.  Leslie has spent the last few years taking care of her father as he dies from cancer. After he dies,...

Audience: adults | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'Wicked Saints'

"Wicked Saints" by Emily A. Duncan

★★★★★ When I picked up Wicked Saints I thought I knew what I was getting into, boy was I wrong. This novel follows three main characters, introduced as A Girl, A Prince, and A Monster. Full of twists and surprises, this book blew me out of the water and into someplace dark and unsettling. Set amidst a war between two neighboring countries, the...

Audience: adults | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'Copperhead'

"Copperhead" by Alexi Zentner

★★★★ For a high school senior, Jessup Collins has a lot on his mind. He’s focused on leading his football team to state. He’s hoping to secure a collegiate scholarship that will take him far away from his hometown of Cortaca, New York. And he’s heavily weighing how the people in town will view him and his family now that his stepfather has been released from...

Audience: adults | Genre: contemporary fiction, fiction

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