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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 Evil Wizard Smallbone'

"The Evil Wizard Smallbone" by Delia Sherman

★★★★★ 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

Cover: 'The Fifth Letter'

"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

Cover: 'The Pearl Thief'

"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

Cover: 'Into the Water'

"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

Cover: 'The Underground Railroad'

"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

Cover: 'See You in the Cosmos'

"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

Cover: 'A Darker Shade of Magic'

"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

Cover: 'Homegoing'

"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

Cover: 'Enchantment Lake'

"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

Cover: 'Caraval'

"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

Cover: 'As Brave As You'

"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: children, tweens | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'The Passion of Dolssa'

"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

Cover: 'Love,Ish'

"Love,Ish" by Karen Rivers

★★★★★ Twelve-year-old Miscah “Ish” Love is a smart, self-aware, young girl with big dreams. She wants to be one of the first people to live on Mars. Together with Tig, her BFF (Best Friend Forever), they researched and planned everything together, even applied online, but now Tig is DTM, Dead To Me (her), because he moved away and she hasn't heard from him....

Audience: children, tweens | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'A Study in Charlotte'

"A Study in Charlotte" by Brittany Cavallaro

★★★★★ Jamie, a descendant of John Watson, is still adjusting to life at his new boarding school and recovering from a recent and disastrous encounter with Charlotte Holmes (descendent of Sherlock Holmes) when the pair become prime suspects in the death of a fellow student. It seems someone is intent on framing the duo, but who could it possibly be? They weren’t...

Audience: adults, teens | Genre: fiction, mystery

Cover: 'Cat's Cradle'

"Cat's Cradle" by Kurt Vonnegut

★★★★ A young impressionable writer two sets out to interview the children of Felix Hoennikker, a brilliant scientist credited with inventing the atomic bomb. A believer in the Caribbean religion of Bokonon, the writer believes that God, fate and the universe will guide his life, introducing him to the people he is supposed to meet, sending him to the places he...

Audience: adults | Genre: fiction, science fiction, satire, dystopian

Cover: 'The Widow's House'

"The Widow's House" by Carol Goodman

★★★★★ Jess and Claire Martin move away from their bustling Brooklyn life in hopes that their marriage and Jess's writing career are rekindled. Due to their dwindling budget they end up in their old college town, taking on a caretaker's job in a large house owned by one of their old writing professors. Soon, it's not Jess's writing career that's rekindled. Between...

Audience: adults | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'The Goldfish Boy'

"The Goldfish Boy" by Lisa Thompson

★★★★★ Matthew Corbin is the “Goldfish Boy;" at least that’s what his cul-de-sac neighbors call him. In the safety of the upstairs window in his room, he watches and records his neighbors' comings and goings. Between that and all the compulsive hand and body washing, obsessing about germs and his supply of plastic gloves, and feeling responsible for his baby...

Audience: children | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'Scar Island'

"Scar Island" by Dan Gemeinhart

★★★★★ No one wants to end up on Scar Island, no one. Believing his crime to be so terrible, Jonathan Grimsby feels he deserves whatever punishment or bad treatment he is given at the Slabhenge Reformatory School for Troubled Boys on this tiny, stony, awful spot in the black sea. Finding a crew of would-be gnarly pirates as the adults in charge, life is constant...

Audience: children | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'My Happy Life'

"My Happy Life" by Rose Lagercrantz, Eva Eriksson, Julia Marshall

★★★★★ This book opens as Dani tries to fall asleep by counting all the times in her life she has been happy. Along with those happy times, she remembers some not so happy. Her mother died when she was very young and she lives with her father. Then, in her first year of school, her best friend moves away! But Dani stays positive. Lagercrantz excellently captures...

Audience: children | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'Race the Night'

"Race the Night" by Kirsten Hubbard

★★★★★ Has the world really ended? Is there really only pollution, drought and this desert ranch and a few chosen special kids and teachers left? Twelve-year-old Eider has nagging doubts and is plagued by memories of another world with her sister in it. At night she takes forbidden exploratory trips beyond the closely monitored fence and collects prohibitive...

Audience: children | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'Train I Ride'

"Train I Ride" by Paul Mosier

★★★★ Twelve-year-old Ryder is a wounded, but resourceful girl without a home, who is worried about her dwindling pool of relatives and looming foster care. This time she’s being sent from California by train to a relative in Chicago she doesn’t know. She was living with an uncaring grandmother after her drug-addicted mother could no longer care for her. On her...

Audience: children | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'Big Little Lies'

"Big Little Lies" by Liane Moriarty

★★★★★ Mayhem. Madness. Murder. This is not how the annual trivia night fundraiser at Perriwee Public School was supposed to go, culminating in the death of one of the school's parents. But as the story unfolds, we find that appearances can be deceiving in this small, seemingly perfect oceanside community, and that boiling tensions will eventually erupt. ...

Audience: adults | Genre: fiction, mystery, contemporary fiction

Cover: 'With Love from the Inside'

"With Love from the Inside" by Angela Pisel

★★★★ Grace Bradshaw is on death row for the murder of her infant son, William. When William was months old, he was always ill until he finally had a seizure and died. The investigation into William's death found traces of windshield wiper fluid in his bottle. Grace was diagnosed with Munchausen by Proxy and was found guilty for her son's death. Sophie,...

Audience: adults | Genre: fiction, mystery, thriller

Cover: 'Her Every Fear'

"Her Every Fear" by Peter Swanson

★★★★★ Kate Priddy is no stranger to anxiety and fear. After suffering a traumatic kidnapping in her past, the world around her becomes even more terrifying. When a chance arises to leave her cramped London apartment for a spacious, fancy apartment in Boston, Kate reluctantly makes the journey to a temporary change in surroundings. The day after she arrives,...

Audience: adults | Genre: fiction, mystery, thriller

Cover: 'The Twilight Wife'

"The Twilight Wife" by A.J. Banner

★★★★ What would you do if you woke up tomorrow and suddenly didn't remember anything from the past few years? What if you didn't know your husband, your friends, yourself? Kyra suffers memory loss from a diving accident, and depends deeply on her husband, even though she suddenly barely knows who he is. When Kyra starts seeing visions, she doesn't know whether...

Audience: adults | Genre: fiction, mystery, thriller

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