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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: 'North Woods Girl'

"North Woods Girl" by Aimee Bissonette

★★★★★ In an age of computers, smartphones and tablets, it can sometimes be difficult to draw kids' attention away from such devices and get them outside. The young, unnamed protagonist in "North Woods Girl" eschews such technological temptations in favor of exploring the great outdoors with her rustic, nature-loving grandmother, who lives deep within the north...

Cover: 'Maybe a Fox'

"Maybe a Fox" by Kathi Appelt, Alison McGhee

★★★★★ On an ordinary wintry school day like so many others, while sisters twelve-year-old Sylvie and eleven-year-old Jules are waiting for the school bus, Sylvie runs into the woods and disappears. Why would she go? They were forbidden to go on this path leading to the Slip, a small geological formation in which the river bed disappears into an open cavern and...

Cover: 'Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City'

"Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City" by Matthew Desmond

★★★★★ This book is the result of an ethnographic study undertaken by Matthew Desmond, an associate professor of Sociology at Harvard (who earned his PhD at UW-Madison). Desmond researched the impact of eviction on distressed families in Milwaukee, WI. Over the course of 2008-2009, he lived in a substandard trailer park, whose tenants were largely white, and in an...

Cover: 'Their Great Gift: Courage, Sacrifice, and Hope in a New Land'

"Their Great Gift: Courage, Sacrifice, and Hope in a New Land" by John Coy

★★★★★ This beautiful, heart-warming children’s book gave me goosebumps. The photographs portray a multitude of immigrants who came to America from many different countries. In simple, almost lyrical text it imparts the great sacrifices that the previous generation made, not only to bring their family to a new country, but to survive and provide new opportunities...

Cover: 'The Forbidden Orchid'

"The Forbidden Orchid" by Sharon Biggs Waller

★★★★★ As the eldest daughter of ten in a rural village in 1861 England, Elodie knows and fulfills society’s expectations by helping her mother and caring for her younger sisters. Her father, who hunts exotic plants in China, is rarely home except for his annual Christmas visits. Elodie shares his interest in science and botany and makes the small greenhouse at...

Cover: 'Beneath the Surface: Killer Whales, SeaWorld, and the Truth Beyond Blackfish'

"Beneath the Surface: Killer Whales, SeaWorld, and the Truth Beyond Blackfish" by John Hargrove, Howard Chua-Eoan

★★★★★ Have you watched the movie Blackfish? Do you like orca whales? Have you been to SeaWorld? If your answer to any of these questions is yes then this is a book for you! As a lover of all marine animals, especially whales and dolphins, and having been to SeaWorld a few years back, I decided just based off the description of this book that I should give it a...

Cover: 'The Charmed Children of Rookskill Castle'

"The Charmed Children of Rookskill Castle" by Janet Fox

★★★★★ Amid warnings from the train stationmaster about Rookskill Castle in Scotland being peculiar, haunted, with grinding and screeching noises and rumors of kids disappearing, the Bateson children, Katherine (Kat), Robbie, Amelie, and Peter, an American boy, proceed to the castle anyway. Actually, what choice do they have? They’re kids who are sent to this...

Cover: 'Summer Days & Summer Nights: Twelve Love Stories'

"Summer Days & Summer Nights: Twelve Love Stories" by Stephanie Perkins

★★★★★ "Maybe it's the long, lazy days, or maybe it's the heat making everyone a little bit crazy. Whatever the reason, summer is the perfect time for love to bloom." Summer is here and so is the latest young adult short story collection edited by Stephanie Perkins. This is a great summer companion to Perkins' other anthology, "My True Love Gave to Me", which...

Cover: 'Vivian Apple at the End of the World'

"Vivian Apple at the End of the World" by Katie Coyle

★★★★★ Unlike her parents, who are devoted followers of the Church of America and the teachings of Beaton Frick, sixteen-year-old Vivian Apple does not believe the prophesized Rapture event will occur, and she attends a Rapture’s Eve party at the home of her friend Harp. However, Vivian returns home the next morning to discover two holes in the roof and no sign of...

Cover: 'The Land of Forgotten Girls'

"The Land of Forgotten Girls" by Erin Entrada Kelly

★★★★★ Living in the shadow of her sister Amelia’s ghost, and carefully trying not to destroy the spirit of her younger sister, ever-resourceful Soledad tries desperately to give her something to believe in, even though it may be untrue. Living in almost unbearable conditions in Louisiana with their new, evil stepmother after their father deserts them soon after...

Cover: 'Wilde Lake'

"Wilde Lake" by Laura Lippman

★★★★★ Luisa “Lu” Brandt, a middle-aged widow and mother of eight-year-old twins, is the new state’s attorney of Howard County, Maryland, a position her highly-esteemed father once held. Homicide is relatively rare in Howard County, so Lu is eager to prove herself as she tries the case of a homeless man being tried for strangling a woman to death in her apartment...

Cover: 'Minimalist Baker's Everyday Cooking: 101 Entirely Plant-Based, Mostly Gluten-Free, Easy and Delicious Recipes'

"Minimalist Baker's Everyday Cooking: 101 Entirely Plant-Based, Mostly Gluten-Free, Easy and Delicious Recipes" by Dana Shultz

★★★★★ This is a fantastic treasure trove of vegan and mostly gluten-free recipes that are beautifully illustrated. I was thrilled to see Minimalist Baker publish a cookbook, as I've been following their vegan website for a while now. I can personally vouch for the one-bowl funfetti cupcakes, as well as many other recipes, so I'm very excited to start cooking many...

Cover: 'Where I Lost Her'

"Where I Lost Her" by T. Greenwood

★★★★★ I absolutely loved this gripping new novel! Not only was it about a woman's difficult but ultimately uplifting journey of healing after an adoption gone horribly wrong, it was a captivating mystery about a missing little girl seen wandering in the woods. As Jess is on her way back from getting more wine to drown her emotions at her best friend's cabin in...

Cover: 'Emmy and Oliver'

"Emmy and Oliver" by Robin Benway

★★★★★ On a Friday before a three day weekend in second grade, Emmy, Drew, and Caro saw their friend Oliver get into his father’s car for a regular weekend visit. Oliver’s father abducted him, and it would be ten years before Oliver re-entered their lives. The book, which is told from Emmy’s point-of-view, starts with news that Oliver has been found and explores...

Cover: 'Finding Winnie:  The True Story of the World's Most Famous Bear'

"Finding Winnie: The True Story of the World's Most Famous Bear" by Lindsay Mattick, Sophie Blackall

★★★★★ This is the heartwarming story of the real life "Winnie the Pooh." I really enjoyed how the author told the story in two parts and also included real journal entries and photographs from WWI. In 1914, Harry Colebourn, a Canadian veterinarian on his way to care for horses in World War I, happened upon a lost baby bear at a train station. For some reason,...

Cover: 'Isa Does It: Amazingly Easy, Wildly Delicious Vegan Recipes for Every Day of the Week'

"Isa Does It: Amazingly Easy, Wildly Delicious Vegan Recipes for Every Day of the Week" by Isa Chandra Moskowitz

★★★★★ This is one of my new favorite vegan recipe resources! I was very pleasantly surprised by this packed cookbook, full of (mostly photographed) delicious looking recipes. Everything from dumpling stew to coconut French toast and marbled banana bread. I'm itching to make the creamy potato-leek soup and pad thai, not to mention a tantalizing chocolate cake with...

Cover: 'Be Frank With Me'

"Be Frank With Me" by Julia Claiborne Johnson

★★★★★ Mid-twenty-something Alice Whitley’s job at a Manhattan publishing house dispatches her to Bel Air to provide assistance to reclusive author M.M. (Mimi) Banning. Having fallen victim to a Ponzi scheme, Banning has no choice but to write a second novel decades after her wildly acclaimed and successful first. Alice’s primary task is to care for Frank, the...

Cover: 'Troublemaker'

"Troublemaker" by Leah Remini

★★★★★ Have you heard about Scientology but have no clue what it is about? This book gives us an inside view of the workings of this religion from the viewpoint of former Scientologist, Leah Remini. Leah Remini is a actress who is best known for her role in the television comedy "King of Queens". From a very young age she was brought up in Scientology when her...

Cover: 'Withering-by-Sea'

"Withering-by-Sea" by Judith Rossell

★★★★★ Stella is an eleven-year-old orphan living with her three aunts in a boring, seaside mansion, the Hotel Majestic, where elderly people come to partake of the healthful waters. Her life suddenly becomes way too interesting when she witnesses a murder and finds herself on the run from the evil professor/magician Starke and his gang of men who desperately want...

Cover: 'The Rook'

"The Rook" by Daniel O'Malley

★★★★★ To say that Myfanwy Thomas is in a bit of a fix is a huge understatement. She woke up in a park with no memory of her identity, surrounded by dead people wearing latex gloves. The letter she finds in her pocket tells her that she is the new inhabitant of Myfanwy’s body and that she has a choice to make—run as far as possible from London and start a new life...

Cover: 'Ready Player One'

"Ready Player One" by Ernest Cline

★★★★★ Anyone interested in dystopian fiction, gaming or 1980's pop culture (or all of the above) will definitely want to check out this inventive novel by author Ernest Cline. Set in the year 2044, the world is generally a dismal place, with the gap between the rich and the poor larger than ever. To escape their dismal reality, the majority of the population...

Cover: 'Trouble Is a Friend of Mine'

"Trouble Is a Friend of Mine" by Stephanie Tromly

★★★★★ Sixteen-year-old Zoe Webster still can’t quite believe how her life has changed. After her parents divorced, she and her mom moved from Manhattan to a small town in upstate New York where she does not fit in. She can’t wait to get out and sees mid-year admission to an exclusive private high school in Manhattan as her ticket out. Then she meets Digby, who is...

Cover: 'No One Knows'

"No One Knows" by J. T. Ellison

★★★★★ In this fast-paced new thriller, Aubrey Hamilton is still intensely grieving over the mysterious disappearance of her husband five years later. Not only was she accused (but thankfully acquitted) of his murder, she now receives a letter from the state declaring Josh officially dead, even though no body has ever been found. It seems that her ex mother-in-law...

Cover: 'Falling into Place'

"Falling into Place" by Amy Zhang

★★★★★ Liz Emerson planned her car “accident” carefully. She was determined not to be found by a loved one or provide any indication that her accident was actually suicide—she did not want the people she cared about to carry the burden of wondering what they could have done. Despite the fact Liz executed her plan, Newton’s laws of motion had escaped her and she...

Cover: 'Fates and Furies'

"Fates and Furies" by Lauren Groff

★★★★★ "Fates and Furies" is the story of the marriage of outgoing charmer Lancelot (Lotto) Satterwhite and the reserved, supportive Mathilde. Infused with Greek mythology, the story is told first from Lotto’s point-of-view before switching to Mathilde’s. As compelling as each perspective is, it’s the gaps between the two and the secrets kept that provide...

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