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Staff Picks

Check out these five-star reviews written by the staff of the Marathon County Public Library, featuring books and DVDs for adults, children and teens! Staff book reviews are also published at Goodreads.com; follow us for the latest updates. The book reviews on this website represent the personal opinions of the individuals who created them and do not represent any official views of the Marathon County Public Library.


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...

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...

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...

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...

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...

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...

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...

Cover: 'Norse Mythology'

"Norse Mythology" by Neil Gaiman

★★★★★ Neil Gaiman’s excellent retelling of the chief stories of Norse mythology is perfect as a first introduction to the material and well worth reading for those familiar with other versions of these tales.  The setting remains the ancient time of the gods, so in that respect it is not a modern retelling. Gaiman does, however, significantly develop the...

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...

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...

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,...

Cover: 'From Here to Eternity'

"From Here to Eternity" by Caitlin Doughty

★★★★★ Caitlin Doughty is one of my favorite nonfiction authors, Her writing is easily digestible, funny, clever, and fascinating. Caitlin Doughty is a mortician, and From Here to Eternity is a chronicle of her adventures around the world learning about other cultures relationship with death and funeral practices. Sectioned by location, the book starts in...

Cover: 'I Don't Like Rain!'

"I Don't Like Rain!" by Sarah Dillard

★★★★★ Have you ever gotten caught outside in a rainstorm? Was it when you were walking home or when you were about to play with your friends? The Bunny in I Don’t Like the Rain! gets caught in a wet cold downpour just as he and his woodland friends were going to play with a found pine cone! At first he thinks the drip, drip, drops of water are fun; but being...

Cover: 'Before We Were Yours'

"Before We Were Yours" by Lisa Wingate

★★★★★ Although the characters in this book are fictional, it is based on actual stories from survivors from the Tennessee Children's Home Society. Georgia Tann was the manager of this notorious organization who had doctors and lawyers in her back pocket. They were paid to tell new mothers that their baby had died. Mothers were told that...

Cover: 'InvestiGATORS'

"InvestiGATORS" by John Patrick Green

★★★★★ Dog Man lovers, rejoice! Here is your next graphic novel obsession about two alligator investigators known as the InvestiGATORS. Mango and Brash, the InvestiGATORS, receive an assignment to go incognito at Batter Down, the bakery owned by world-famous cupcake chef Gustavo Mustachio, who went missing two weeks ago. With mustaches and...

Cover: 'Happy Right Now'

"Happy Right Now" by Julie Berry

★★★★★ Everyone has a range of emotions that they go through on a daily basis. Sometimes, an event or an object triggers that emotion, and other times that person feels that emotion for no reason at all. Happy Right Now looks at what makes an individual happy and choosing to be happy. Chores and the "worry monkey" are things that don't typically make people...

Cover: 'The Buddy Bench'

"The Buddy Bench" by Patty Brozo

★★★★★ Has there ever been a time where you have felt left out or forgotten in group activities, such as recess? This book focuses on that issue. For a variety of reasons, some of the kids at this school feel left out when it comes to recess. They watch as their classmates play with kites or throw a ball, having fun without them. The students who are watching just...

Cover: 'Home in the Woods'

"Home in the Woods" by Eliza Wheeler

★★★★★ Do you have a big family with lots of siblings? Growing up, Marvel did! She had seven siblings and her Mum. Who is Marvel? She’s the main character and also the grandmother of Eliza Wheeler, the author and illustrator of this book. This story was inspired by Marvel’s childhood experience of finding a new home with her family and learning together, how to...

Cover: 'The Great Successor'

"The Great Successor" by Anna Fifield

★★★★★ Kim Jong Un is known the world around as the leader of North Korea. Some view him as a ruthless dictator who keeps the people of his country under harsh, suffocating control while others see him as a power-hungry – though mostly harmless – ruler who strives for more respect and standing on the international stage. In The Great Successor, journalist Anna...

Cover: 'Alice'

"Alice" by Christina Henry

★★★★★ My favorite fairy tale retellings are those that you can’t immediately identify as a retelling, and this is one of the best. Meet Alice. Alice lives in a mental institution, she has no memory of how she got there, or why. She does have memories, just bits and pieces here and there; a tea party, long ears, the large slash down the side of her face, and *...

Cover: 'Hey Grandude!'

"Hey Grandude!" by Paul McCartney

★★★★★ On gray rainy days, don’t you wish you were exploring warm tropical beaches under the hot sun? Out on a trail ride with a real cowboy? Or instantly surrounded by snowcapped mountains, taking in the sights and sounds from on top of a hill of lush wildflowers? Well, good news! You can! That is, if you happen to have a Grandfather named “Grandude” and he...

Cover: 'Fraidyzoo'

"Fraidyzoo" by Thyra Heder

★★★★★ Be prepared to giggle and laugh your way through Fraidyzoo by Thrya Heder. The lessons throughout the book are twofold, but the creative and playful illustrations are worth the read alone! Do you look forward to visiting the zoo and seeing all of the unique animals there? Some zoos have so many animals to see, it’s hard to take them all in. From...

Cover: 'The Forever Garden'

"The Forever Garden" by Laurel Snyder

★★★★★ Have you ever kneeled down in the soil and planted a seed in a garden? When you stood up, were your knees covered in dirt? If so, you’ll fit right in reading about the friendship between a young curious girl named Laurel and her delightful neighbor Honey, who owns the house next door. In some ways Honey is continuously planting seeds throughout her garden,...

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