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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 Painted Girls'

"The Painted Girls" by Cathy Marie Buchanan

★★★★ Set in 1878 Paris, this book tells the story of the van Goethem sisters as they struggle to survive extreme poverty following the death of their father and the descent of their mother into severe alcoholism. Antoinette loses her place on the opera stage and must find a way to help her family survive. Marie, with encouragement from Antoinette, takes her...

Audience: adults | Genre: fiction, historical fiction

Cover: 'The Night Circus'

"The Night Circus" by Erin Morgenstern

★★★★★ A true exhibit of fine writing, craftsmanship, and imagination!  This enchanting book takes to you a circus world you could only imagine and wish that you can experience yourself.  Imagine a black and white circus that has an air of magic surrounding it's every detail and those people who make it all come to life.  Follow the tale of Celia...

Audience: adults | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'Watching You'

"Watching You" by Michael Robotham

★★★★★ Norwegian author Michael Robotham keeps the pace set high and the reader guessing until the very end. You may think you have figured it out sooner, but there's a twist that makes this author one to put on your "favorites" list. Marnie Logan's life seems to be taking one turn for the worst after another, but someone wants to help her. That someone causes...

Audience: adults | Genre: fiction, mystery

Cover: 'The Here and Now'

"The Here and Now" by Ann Brashares

★★★★ In "The Here and Now" we meet Prenna, an immigrant not from another country, but another time. Leaving behind the future dying world that has been ravaged by a plague, those few lucky survivors emigrate to the present day. They bring with them twelve strict rules they believe will protect the world they saw destroyed. But when Prenna is frantically warned...

Audience: teens | Genre: fiction, romance

Cover: 'Nest'

"Nest" by Jorey Hurley

★★★★★ Robins arrive in the spring, prepare a nest, raise their young throughout the seasons in this beautifully illustrated picture book that is perfect for sharing. With only one word on each page it reads like a poem. The pictures lend themselves to adult-child conversation beyond the words.    

Audience: children | Genre: fiction, picture book

Cover: 'The Wind is Not a River'

"The Wind is Not a River" by Brian Payton

★★★★★ This historical fiction captures events during World War II that were held in great secrecy from the American public: a Japanese invasion of the Aleutian Islands off the coast of Alaska. A reporter, John Easley, is shot down while traveling with American troops flying over the bleak and inhospitable island chain. He is unable to communicate with the outside...

Audience: adults | Genre: fiction, historical fiction

Cover: 'The Winter of the Robots'

"The Winter of the Robots" by Kurtis Scaletta

★★★★★ It’s science fair time but Jim’s best friend Oliver always wants to build robots so he chooses a girl partner named Rocky.   He “borrows” cameras from his father’s security business and places them in a hidden junkyard in an attempt to study otters for their project.  They don’t find any otters, but discover strange noises and movement coming from...

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

Cover: 'Journey'

"Journey" by Aaron Becker

★★★★★ In this wordless story a lonely girl with a red piece of chalk draws herself into another world. On her journey she finds adventure, peril and ultimately friendship. Although readers will think of "Harold and the Purple Crayon," this is a much more engaging story.  The illustrations are rich and full of color and detail. People of all ages will be...

Audience: children | Genre: fiction, picture book, caldecott award winner

Cover: 'Spark'

"Spark" by Kallie George, Geneviève Côté

★★★★ Spark is a small, young dragon with a mighty flame.  In other words, he has problems controlling his flames.  He turns marshmallows to a crisp and cracks dishes while trying to dry them.  His family and friends encourage him and try to help him.   This is a cute first chapter book with engaging illustrations for beginning readers....

Audience: children | Genre: fiction, easy reader

Cover: 'Rooftoppers'

"Rooftoppers" by Katherine Rundell

★★★★★ Charles, an eccentric, erudite bachelor with a heart full of love finds a baby floating in a cello case in the middle of the English Channel. He takes her home, names her Sophie, and notifies the proper authorities who reluctantly agree to let him keep her.  Charles and Sophie have a wonderful life together until she turns 12 when the National...

Audience: children, tweens | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'The Pieces We Keep'

"The Pieces We Keep" by Kristina McMorris

★★★★★ In this gripping new novel, we meet Audra, a widow still struggling after the loss of her husband. In an effort to start fresh, she takes her son, Jack, on a job interview, where he has an intense panic attack. Soon, Jack starts having violent night terrors, in which he mumbles names Audra has never heard of. Soon he shows a new obsession with World War II...

Audience: adults | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'Red Rising'

"Red Rising" by Pierce Brown

★★★★★ Sixteen-year-old Darrow is a Helldiver, one of a thousand Reds (the lowest caste of society) who live beneath the surface of Mars, mining for an element that will terraform Mars and make it habitable to the people of Earth. After tragedy strikes, Darrow learns that everything he has ever been told is a lie. Mars has been habitable for hundreds of years and...

Audience: adults | Genre: fiction, science fiction

Cover: 'The Waters of Star Lake'

"The Waters of Star Lake" by Sara Lindsay Rath

★★★★ Taking place in the great Northwoods of Wisconsin, this story focuses on 60-something widow Talie Waters, looking to escape her bustling Madison life for the quiet solitude of her family's rustic, lake-side cabin. Over the course of the summer, she is faced with many challenges to her quest of peace. First there is the danger of the area wolf packs roaming...

Audience: adults | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'The Snowman's Children'

"The Snowman's Children" by Glen Hirshberg

★★★ This book is adult fiction, described as psychologically intense, and that is an apt description of how the story unfolds.  In Detroit, in the 1970's, Mattie, Spencer and Theresa were in the "gifted" program at their school.  At that same point in time, a serial killer known as "The Snowman" was picking and choosing young victims with impunity....

Audience: adults | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'Building Our House'

"Building Our House" by Jonathan Bean

★★★★★ This cozy picture book shows the year-and-a-half long construction process involved in building a house, from moving into a trailer to live until the house is done, picking out the site, consulting the blueprints, digging the basement, raising the frame, and working in all types of weather.  Mom and Dad both work on the house while the children play...

Audience: children | Genre: fiction, picture book

Cover: 'Fear Nothing'

"Fear Nothing" by Lisa Gardner

★★★★★ After Detective D.D. Warren returns to a vicious crime scene where she is confronted by the soon to be called Rose Killer, she awakes with only the memory of a lullaby ringing in her ears. Her extensive injuries send her to a pain specialist who, coincidentally enough, has a genetic condition that prevents her from feeling pain of any kind. But that's not...

Audience: adults | Genre: fiction, mystery

Cover: 'The Museum'

"The Museum" by Susan Verde, Peter H. Reynolds

★★★★★ A little girl takes a tour of a museum, and each work of art gives her a different feeling. The rhyming lines help to evoke the feelings each work of art is meant to express. Featuring colorful re-creations of works by Edgar Degas, Vincent van Gogh, Pablo Picasso, and Auguste Rodin, this book also serves to introduce your child to the work of great artists...

Audience: children | Genre: fiction, art

Cover: 'The Gods of Gotham'

"The Gods of Gotham" by Lyndsay Faye

★★★★★ Who is killing Irish children so gruesomely? Timothy Wilde, an inhabitant of New York City and one-time bartender, suddenly finds himself a police officer. This is not a situation he is happy about and yet it will be up to him to find the answer to this ghastly question. The book takes a historical look at New York when the first police force was begun and...

Audience: adults | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'Where She Went'

"Where She Went" by Gayle Forman

★★★★★ This is the companion book to "If I Stay".  This story picks up a couple of years after the first book ends and is told from the point of view of Mia's former boyfriend, Adam, who is now a rock star.  This story tells the aftermath of Mia's choice from the end of "If I Stay". There are sometimes no words for a book where at the end all you can...

Audience: teens | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy'

"Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy" by Karen Foxlee

★★★★★ Opehlia Jane Worthington-Whittard is an extraordinary 11 year old girl; she just doesn’t know it yet.  Accepting a last-minute job offer to curate a sword exhibit at a museum in a foreign city, Ophelia’s father believes that this is just the change of scenery his daughters need after the recent death of their mother.  The plan is for Ophelia and...

Audience: children, tweens | Genre: fiction, fantasy

Cover: 'Dark Places'

"Dark Places" by Gillian Flynn

★★★★★ Libby Day's mother and two older sisters were notoriously murdered in "The Satan Sacrifice" of Kinnakee, Kansas in 1985. Her brother, Ben, was convicted of the murders due to swirling rumors about him and a lack of evidence to convict anyone else. Since the day of the murders, Libby has been living off donations from sympathizers, book deals, and interviews...

Audience: adults | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'If I Stay'

"If I Stay" by Gayle Forman

★★★★★ Forman leaves us wondering just which choice we would make in the same situation as Mia.  This touching young adult novel has it all, from love, to heartache, and devastating loss.  I was gripped not only by the story line, but also by the way Forman was able to make me hear the music of the novel simply through words on a page.  The emotions...

Audience: teens | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'Catch Me'

"Catch Me" by Lisa Gardner

★★★★★ The sixth Detective D.D. Warren novel by Lisa Gardner, CATCH ME, opens to find a woman named Charlene Rosalind Carter Grant who believes, after the murder of her two best friends, that she will be next to die in exactly four days. Counting down the hours until her death, Charlene finds Detective Warren at the crime scene of a murdered pedophile and pleads...

Audience: adults | Genre: fiction, mystery

Cover: 'Kind of Cruel'

"Kind of Cruel" by Sophie Hannah

★★★★ In Hannah's latest book featuring detectives Charlie Zailer and Simon Waterhouse, frazled mom Amber Hewerdine visits a hypnotherapist to cure her chronic insomnia, but doubts anything will really happen. Under hypnosis, Amber hears herself say the phrase, "Kind, Cruel, Kind of Cruel," but she has no idea what it means. Little does she know, a chain of...

Audience: adults | Genre: fiction, mystery

Cover: 'Superworm'

"Superworm" by Julia Donaldson

★★★★★ “Hip, hip hooray for SUPERWORM”, repeatedly chant the animals and insects in the forest as their hero Superworm saves them from many disasters.   But in the midst of their happiness the evil wizard lizard captures Superworm with his servant crow and puts an evil spell on him, forcing him to find treasure in the soil.  Will his friends rescue him,...

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

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