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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 Ickabog'

"The Ickabog" by J.K. Rowling

★★★★ Fairy tales are often great because of the fantastical places they transport the reader to. Everyday people live among kings and queens, horse-drawn carriages and castles, and otherworldly creatures that make up a world unlike our own. "The Ickabog" is no exception, and also features a plot and life lessons that are very much relevant to our own lives....

Audience: children | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'South of the Buttonwood Tree'

"South of the Buttonwood Tree" by Heather Webber

★★★★★ This is a story about two women who want something different of their lives, something more. They break the rules and expectations others have of them to find their true self. Years of lies and secrets have formed the women’s beliefs of their families and of themselves. They discover that those secrets have kept them from learning who they truly are and...

Audience: adults | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'The Flatshare'

"The Flatshare" by Beth O'Leary

★★★★★ What would you do if you had no other living option besides sharing a one bedroom flat with a complete stranger? A stranger though, that you won't actually see despite living together?  Tiffy jumps (albeit hesitantly) at the chance of an affordable flat, especially since her flatmate is not supposed to be there at the same time, per their agreement...

Audience: adults | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'Clap When You Land'

"Clap When You Land" by Elizabeth Acevedo

★★★★★ This novel, written in verse, follows Camino Rios in the Dominican Republic and Yahaira Rios in New York City. Both are unaware that the other exists, but as Yahaira's father leaves on his usual summer flight to the Dominican Republic, Camino will soon find out her father's plane will never land. Yahaira and Camino's worlds collide when they soon find out...

Audience: teens | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'The Lantern Men'

"The Lantern Men" by Elly Griffiths

★★★★★ So much has changed for forensic archeologist Ruth Galloway in the twelfth book in this fantastic series. When convicted murderer Ivor March makes a deal with police, he swears he'll tell them where two bodies are from prior cold cases, but only if Ruth is the one to dig them up. Lured back into helping the police, Ruth ends up tangled in a web of secrets...

Audience: adults | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'The Haunting of Ashburn House'

"The Haunting of Ashburn House" by Darcy Coates

★★★★ Adrienne, desperate and desolate with few possessions and very little money left, thankfully accepts an inherited house from a relative she's never known. As she slowly wanders around the house she can now call home, Adrienne starts to notice a few things that give her a sense of unease. Why are there no mirrors in the house and strange messages scratched...

Audience: adults | Genre: fiction

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

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