Marathon County Public Library

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Staff Picks

Check out these book reviews written by the staff of the Marathon County Public Library, featuring reviews of fiction and nonfiction for adults, children and teens! These book reviews also are published at Goodreads.com; follow us for the latest updates.


'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

'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

'My Two Elaines: Learning, Coping, and Surviving as an Alzheimer's Caregiver' by Martin J. Schreiber

"My Two Elaines: Learning, Coping, and Surviving as an Alzheimer's Caregiver" by Martin J. Schreiber

★★★★★ “My Two Elaines” is the perfect title for this book. Former Wisconsin Governor, Martin J. Schreiber fell in love with his wife, Elaine, when in high school. They married during college and pledged a lifelong commitment to each other. Together they raised a family and had successful careers. That is, until the “other Elaine” came into the story....

Audience: Adults | Genre: Nonfiction, Memoir

'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

'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

'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

'Love,Ish' by Karen Rivers

"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: Tweens | Genre: Fiction

'Hunted' by Meagan Spooner

"Hunted" by Meagan Spooner

★★★★★ In this retelling of Beauty and the Beast, Meagan Spooner weaves the classic tale with Russian folklore to create a dark adventure full of magic, heartbreak, and destiny. Born to an aristocratic family, Yeva has always felt something is missing in her life. She is bored serving as one of the baroness's ladies and she only truly feels comfortable when...

Audience: Teens | Genre: Young Adult

'Rise of the Rocket Girls: The Women Who Propelled Us, from Missiles to the Moon to Mars' by Nathalia Holt

"Rise of the Rocket Girls: The Women Who Propelled Us, from Missiles to the Moon to Mars" by Nathalia Holt

★★★★★ This book is an account of women who were human computers (and later computer programmers and engineers) at the Jet Propulsion Lab (JPL) in California. Rather than choose one of the occupations most commonly pursued by women of their time (teacher, nurse, or secretary), these women put their math and science skills to work in order to generate equations and...

Audience: Adults, Teens | Genre: Nonfiction

'A Study in Charlotte' by Brittany Cavallaro

"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

'The Widow's House' by Carol Goodman

"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

'The Goldfish Boy' by Lisa Thompson

"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

'Scar Island' by Dan Gemeinhart

"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

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

"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

'Race the Night' by Kirsten Hubbard

"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

'Big Little Lies' by Liane Moriarty

"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

'Her Every Fear' by Peter Swanson

"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

'I See You' by Claire Macintosh

"I See You" by Claire Macintosh

★★★★★ In another fantastic novel by an author who quickly became one of my favorites, readers meet Zoe Walker, who is quickly pulled into a living nightmare after seeing her picture in a classified ad on her morning commute. Each day brings a new advertisement, and soon it's clear Zoe's every movement may be watched and other women are in danger along with her....

Audience: Adults | Genre: Fiction, Mystery, Thriller

'The Round House' by Louise Erdrich

"The Round House" by Louise Erdrich

★★★★★ In the summer of 1988, life on a small North Dakota reservation changes dramatically for 13-year-old Joe Coutts and his father, Bazil, after they discover Joe’s mother, Geraldine, injured and incommunicative behind the wheel of her car.  Geraldine has been brutally raped, and in the aftermath Joe is forced to grow up quickly as he tries to manage his...

Audience: Adults | Genre: Fiction

'Dark Matter' by Blake Crouch

"Dark Matter" by Blake Crouch

★★★★★ It was family dinner night when Jason left to put in an appearance at a party at the neighborhood bar for his former college roommate Ryan, who had been granted a prestigious academic award for his research in neuroscience. Had Jason decided to forego fatherhood after the surprise pregnancy of his then girlfriend (now wife) Daniela, he may have been the...

Audience: Adults | Genre: Fiction

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