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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: 'Beartown'

"Beartown" by Fredrik Backman

★★★★ Team sports can be important to a small town. In the case of Beartown, a tiny, rural town in Sweden, that sport is hockey. Boys begin skating almost as soon as they can walk, and the townspeople look at the sport as a source of pride, validation and opportunity. Beartown follows around fifteen different characters, who all have ties to the town’s beloved...

Audience: adults | Genre: fiction, contemporary fiction

Cover: 'The Winters'

"The Winters" by Lisa Gabriele

★★★★ In this modern-day telling of Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier, a young woman moves into a lovely estate in the Hamptons with her new fiancé. Max Winter is a wealthy politician and widower: his wife Rebekah is recently deceased. After a whirlwind romance on a boat, Max welcomes his new fianceé to his lavish estate, Asherley, and introduces her to...

Audience: adults | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'Baby Teeth'

"Baby Teeth" by Zoje Stage

★★★ How would you react if your first-grader was trying to kill you? Would you try to appeal to her with unconditional love, or would you protect yourself and wish for her to disappear from your life? That’s the dilemma stay-at-home mom Suzette finds herself in in Baby Teeth. To put it mildly, Suzette has a rocky relationship with her seven year-old daughter...

Audience: adults | Genre: fiction, suspense

Cover: 'Elevation'

"Elevation" by Stephen King

★★★ "Elevation" was my very first Stephen King novel due to the fact that I had heard a lot of buzz surrounding this book. In this story we meet Scott Carey, who seems to be in a predicament. He keeps losing pounds on the scale; however, his body composition never changes. It seems that no matter how much he eats or wears, Scott simply cannot stop losing...

Audience: adults | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'Less'

"Less" by Andrew Sean Greer

★★★ Arthur Less no longer wants to be in love. On the verge of turning 50, Less is a mildly successful author who has spent a large chunk of his adult life in relationships, only to get burned in the end. His book publisher also has passed on his most recent manuscript, putting him at a unique crossroads in his life. To avoid attending the wedding of Freddy...

Audience: adults | Genre: fiction, contemporary fiction

Cover: 'Snow Lane'

"Snow Lane" by Josie Angelini

★★★★ Annie Bianchi is a fifth-grader with dyslexia. This disability makes life difficult for her in many ways. She struggles to read and dress herself. She is teased when she smiles and laughs for no apparent reason. Annie has a habit of counting things and arranging numbers into organized groups. It is a coping mechanism for when she doesn’t know how to handle...

Audience: children, tweens | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'The Passage'

"The Passage" by Justin Cronin

★★★★★ Not *just* another zombie-vampire-apocalypse genre novel (but yes, it is also that), "The Passage" tells an epic, century-long tale of the downfall of modern civilization due to a contagion that transforms humans into bloodthirsty, fanged, nigh-indestructible creatures of the night that the author graciously (though conspicuously) tries very hard not...

Audience: adults | Genre: fiction, science fiction, horror, supernatural, dystopian

Cover: 'Oh My Goth'

"Oh My Goth" by Gena Showalter

★★★★ Ever since Jade Leighton's mother died in a car crash, she's been working hard on shutting down and blocking people out, convinced that making connections with people would only cause her more pain.  Feeling like an outside, Jade dresses as a goth, with plenty of black, and has made "friends" with other outsider goth students at her school....

Audience: teens | Genre: fiction, slice of life

Cover: 'The Price Guide to the Occult'

"The Price Guide to the Occult" by Leslye Walton

★★★★★ Rona Blackburn's daughters, granddaughters and great granddaughters have lived on Anathema Island for many years. Rona's powerful witchcraft has been passed down to each daughter, yet each one only inherits one of Rona's mysterious powers. Nor Blackburn wants to live a quiet unremarkable life, so when she's gifted with the ability to hear the plants,...

Audience: teens | Genre: fiction, urban fantasy, witchcraft

Cover: 'Wish Upon a Sleepover'

"Wish Upon a Sleepover" by Suzanne Selfors

★★★★★ Leliani has only one friend, Autumn, and the popular group of Haileys at school look like they would be fun friends, so she decides to plan a sleepover and invite them. However, with her confused grandmother helping with the party, the kids on the “Do Not Invite” list get invited instead of kids on the  “Do Invite” list. So now she’s stuck with the...

Audience: children, tweens | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'We Sold Our Souls'

"We Sold Our Souls" by Grady Hendrix

★★★★★ Kris bought her first electric guitar with her savings, never imaging that she would eventually become the guitarist for a semi-famous heavy metal band.  But on the eve of their big break, the lead singer, Terry, did something more horrible than selling out, and while he went on to achieve fame and glory, the rest of the band disappeared into...

Audience: adults | Genre: fiction, adult, horror, music

Cover: 'Sadie'

"Sadie" by Courtney Summers

★★★★★ Sadie is alone in the world.  Her sister was murdered and her mother has abandoned them.  With nothing to lose, Sadie sets out to find the person she believes is responsible for her sister's death.  Told from two perspectives, Sadie's own and from the perspective of a podcast producer/narrator, this novel is an intricate puzzle.  The...

Audience: teens | Genre: fiction, realistic

Cover: 'The Third Mushroom'

"The Third Mushroom" by Jennifer L. Holm

★★★★★ Ellie and her grandfather have become better friends since last year when her grandfather turned himself young again through a science experiment and attended Ellie’s middle school. In this sequel to The Fourteenth Goldfish, crusty teenage scientist (with two PhDs) Melvin Sagarsky returns. Having her grandfather around has encouraged in Ellie a love for...

Audience: children, tweens | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'All the Things That Could Go Wrong'

"All the Things That Could Go Wrong" by Stewart Foster

★★★★★ Seventh-grade student Alex worries about everything, including worrying about worrying, but mostly about everyone dying and all the germs on people and surfaces everywhere. He always wears gloves and washes his hands compulsively, so much so that his skin is cracked, raw, and painful. Because of his OCD he is picked on at school and bullied repeatedly,...

Audience: teens | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'Something in the Water'

"Something in the Water" by Catherine Steadman

★★★★★ Erin, a filmmaker, and Mark, an investment banker, seem like the perfect couple with the perfect life. Newly married, they embark on a lavish honeymoon in Bora Bora. It's a perfect honeymoon until they find something ominous in the water while scuba diving. They have to decide whether to tell the truth about their discovery or keep it hidden. Their final...

Audience: adults | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'Open Your Eyes'

"Open Your Eyes" by Paula Daly

★★★★★ Jane leads a relatively normal life, taking care of two children and teaching a creative writing class (while she not-so-patiently waits for the day she is an officially published author). Her husband, Leon, is already an accomplished novelist and the main breadwinner of the family. When he's brutally attacked in their own driveway while Jane is only steps...

Audience: adults | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'Saving Winslow'

"Saving Winslow" by Sharon Creech

★★★★★ When his father brings home a sickly, half-dead baby donkey in the middle of winter, Louie, who has not had luck keeping things alive like goldfish, worms and bugs, is determined to do whatever it takes to save it.  Suffering the loss of his brother, Gus, who recently joined the army, having a baby donkey to love helps soothe Louie's lonely heart and...

Audience: children, tweens | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'City of Islands'

"City of Islands" by Kali Wallace

★★★★ Orphaned as a child, twelve-year-old Mara works as a servant for the powerful Lady of the Tides by diving into the murky sea for ancient artifacts supposedly containing residual magic from the magical Founders who built their beautiful city thousands of years ago. While diving with her friend Izzy, Mara begins hearing songs reminiscent of the songs her...

Audience: children, tweens | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'The Overstory'

"The Overstory" by Richard Powers

★★★★★ "First there was nothing. Then there was everything." So begins National Book Award-winner Richard Powers' new novel about nine interlocking characters who, in their own ways - and in ways that overlap - find themselves face to face with the natural world. Or, face to leaf, face to crown, face to root... Each character is introduced in the first...

Audience: adults | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'Are You Scared, Darth Vader?'

"Are You Scared, Darth Vader?" by Adam Rex

★★★★★ Is Darth Vader scared of anything?  This fun children's book asks just this question!  Darth Vader is asked about many Halloween-related characters, such as; vampires, ghosts, witches, wolfmen, and children.  Kids will love this Halloween-themed Darth Vader story as he interacts with all of these creatures for the first time. The...

Audience: children | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'Lethal White'

"Lethal White" by Robert Galbraith

★★★★★ Robert Galbraith’s fourth Strike novel finds private detective Cormoran Strike and his partner, Robin Ellacott, hired by a high-ranking British official who is being blackmailed. The minister asks Strike to gather dirt that he could use against his blackmailers, which prompts Robin to go undercover in the House of Commons to do recon. When he dies of an...

Audience: adults | Genre: fiction, mystery

Cover: 'I Am Still Alive'

"I Am Still Alive" by Kate Alice Marshall

★★★★★ Jess Cooper is still alive, for now. Suffering from injuries from an accident that claimed the life of her mother, Jess is shuffled off to her only surviving relative, her father, who she hardly remembers, and who, she discovers, is living much further off-the-grid than she ever could have imagined. She hates it in the middle of nowhere and desperately...

Audience: teens | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'China Rich Girlfriend'

"China Rich Girlfriend" by Kevin Kwan

★★★★ Set two years after the conclusion of Crazy Rich Asians¸ Rachel Chu and her fiancée, Nick Young, are still happily living in New York City. On the eve of their wedding, the couple receives a visit from Nick’s mother, Eleanor, whom he hasn’t spoken to in years (and who crashes the wedding rehearsal and amazingly dramatic fashion). Eleanor tells Rachel that...

Audience: adults | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'Dietland'

"Dietland" by Sarai Walker

★★★ Plum Kettle has struggled with her weight for as long as she can remember. Now in her late 20s, she weighs over 300 pounds and has isolated herself away from most of society. But she’s formulated a plan to change her life completely: get lap band surgery, shed the weight and adopt an entirely new, more confident personae. Plum lives in New York City and...

Audience: adults | Genre: fiction, contemporary fiction

Cover: 'An American Marriage'

"An American Marriage" by Tayari Jones

★★★ Roy and Celestial have been married for just one year. As part of their first anniversary, the couple visits Roy’s parents and the small Louisiana town where he grew up. After a disagreement in their hotel room, Roy decides to give Celestial some space and go for a walk. Later that night, the police burst into their room and arrest Roy, accusing him of rape...

Audience: adults | Genre: fiction, contemporary fiction

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