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Staff Reviews: Fiction

Check out these book reviews written by the staff of the Marathon County Public Library, featuring reviews of books for all ages! (For reviews of books of all genres, visit our main Staff Reviews webpage.) These book reviews also are published at Goodreads.com; follow us for the latest updates.


'Persons Unknown' by Susie Steiner

"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

'Moo' by Sharon Creech

"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: Tweens | Genre: Fiction

'Lincoln in the Bardo' by George Saunders

"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

'Slade House' by David Mitchelll

"Slade House" by David Mitchelll

★★★★ 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

'The Garden of Small Beginnings' by Abbi Waxman

"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

'The Golden Hour' by T. Greenwood

"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

'The Hate U Give' by Angie Thomas

"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

'Bubble' by Stewart Foster

"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: Tweens | Genre: Fiction

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

"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

'The End of Temperance Dare' by Wendy Webb

"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

'Piecing Me Together' by Renée Watson

"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

'Anna and the Swallow Man' by Gavriel Savit

"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

'Genevieve's War' by Patricia Reilly Giff

"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

'The Evil Wizard Smallbone' by Delia Smallbone

"The Evil Wizard Smallbone" by Delia Smallbone

★★★★★ 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

'The Fifth Letter' by Nicola Moriarty

"The Fifth Letter" by Nicola Moriarty

★★★★ Nicola Moriarty, Liane Moriarty's (Big Little Lies, The Husband's Secret) little sister, makes her writing debut with this secret-filled novel, perfect for fans of Liane's own novels. Joni, Eden, Deb, and Trina have been friends since high school. They get together as often as they can, but family life and careers have gotten in the way. Joni, the...

Audience: Adults | Genre: Fiction

'The Pearl Thief' by Elizabeth Wein

"The Pearl Thief" by Elizabeth Wein

★★★★★ Fans of Code Name Verity will appreciate the opportunity to get to know the nearly sixteen-year-old Julia Beaufort-Stuart as she is enmeshed in a mystery at the estate of her late grandfather, the Earl of Strathfearn, in 1938. She’s not looking forward to saying good-bye to the Scottish estate, which has been sold to pay off family debt, but she’s happy to...

Audience: Adults, Teens | Genre: Fiction

'Into the Water' by Paula Hawkins

"Into the Water" by Paula Hawkins

★★★★ From the author of The Girl on the Train comes a new story of secrets, complicated relationships, and a history of mysterious deaths. Women have been drowning in a small British town for centuries. First was Libby Seeton, a woman convicted of witchcraft in the 1700s. Recently, Katie, a fifteen-year-old girl, committed suicide by drowning herself in the same...

Audience: Adults | Genre: Fiction, Mystery, Thriller

'The Underground Railroad' by Colson Whitehead

"The Underground Railroad" by Colson Whitehead

★★★★★ "The Underground Railroad" is the story of a young woman named Cora, who is a third-generation slave on a Georgia plantation where she never quite fit in since her mother abandoned her to flee to the North. Cora does not suffer fools, but she suffers at the hands of others, including those of her owner’s family. Given an opportunity, she flees with a young...

Audience: Adults | Genre: Fiction

'See You in the Cosmos' by Jack Cheng

"See You in the Cosmos" by Jack Cheng

★★★★ Eleven-year-old Alex Petroski records his daily life on a golden iPod while building a rocket (Voyager 3) with hopes of launching his iPod into space to communicate with aliens about life on Earth. With his dog, Carl Sagan, he heads to the Southwest High-Altitude Rocket Festival with dreams of a successful launch. His father is dead, his brother Ronnie...

Audience: Children, Tweens | Genre: Fiction

'A Darker Shade of Magic' by V.E. Schwab

"A Darker Shade of Magic" by V.E. Schwab

★★★★★ Prepare to enter a world with multiple Londons, each defined by their level of magic or lack thereof. In Red London, magic is vibrant and strong, and home to Kell, a young man adopted by the royal family. Kell is an antari, a blood magician, and one of the few that can travel between the Londons. White London is dying, as those who possess the waning magic...

Audience: Adults | Genre: Fiction

'Homegoing' by Yaa Gyasi

"Homegoing" by Yaa Gyasi

★★★★★ Two half-sisters were born in two different villages in Ghana in the 18th century. Effia, who is married to one of the English slave traders, eventually learns of her half-sister’s (Esi) existence, but not of her fate. Esi is captured, imprisoned in the dungeon below Effia’s castle home on the Gold Coast, and sent to the U.S. as a slave. Homegoing is the...

Audience: Adults | Genre: Fiction

'Enchantment Lake' by Margi Preus

"Enchantment Lake" by Margi Preus

★★★★★ Seventeen-year-old Francie bolts from an audition and hops on a plane from New York City to Minnesota after receiving a troubling call from her great aunts Astrid and Jeannette. She hasn’t visited her aunts’ home in northern Minnesota since her father’s death seven years prior, but she has fond childhood memories of Enchantment Lake. However, she cannot...

Audience: Teens | Genre: Fiction, Mystery

'Caraval' by Stephanie Garber

"Caraval" by Stephanie Garber

★★★★★ Scarlett Dragna has dreamed of attending the mysterious Caraval, an annual, multi-night, and itinerant event in which the audience participates in the magical spectacle and competes for a prize. She’s written to Master Legend, the mysterious creator of the event over the course of seven years. Soon to be married to a man whom she’s never met (but sees as...

Audience: Teens | Genre: Fiction

'As Brave As You' by Jason Reynolds

"As Brave As You" by Jason Reynolds

★★★★★ Eleven-year-old Genie is nervous to be spending a whole month of his summer vacation (with his older brother, Ernie, Jr.) at his paternal grandparents’ house. Not only is this Brooklyn native unprepared for life in the country (no cell signal or internet?!), it’s the first time his family has seen his grandparents in ten years, and there’s a lot of...

Audience: Tweens | Genre: Fiction

'The Passion of Dolssa' by Julie Berry

"The Passion of Dolssa" by Julie Berry

★★★★★ Dolssa de Stigata is a young noblewoman of eighteen who draws the attention of church authorities when they learn that she is telling family members and friends of the bond she shares with her beloved Lord. Sentenced to death along with her mother, she is mysteriously freed before she is to be dragged into the flames and begins a life on the run hiding from...

Audience: Adults, Teens | Genre: Fiction

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