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Staff Reviews

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Staff Reviews: for Kids Staff Reviews: for Teens Staff Reviews: for Adults

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

Reading Advice MCPL Online

Cover: 'Me'

"Me" by Elton John

★★★★★ If you’re an inhabitant of planet Earth, there’s a good chance you’ve heard of Elton John. Maybe you’re familiar with some of the wild outfits and costumes he’s worn over the years, or you know a couple of his many hit songs. Perhaps you know him from his work on Disney’s The Lion King, or you’ve seen the 2019 biopic Rocketman. If you know anything about...

Cover: 'Light of My Life'

"Light of My Life"

★★★★ Approximately a decade after a mysterious plague killed nearly all of the world’s female population, a father (Casey Affleck) and his 11 year=old daughter, Rag (Anna Pniowsky), are on the run. Rag, it turns out, is immune to the illness and has survived all these years while her mother (played by Elizabeth Moss in flashbacks) did not. Seeing all females...

Cover: 'Toil & Trouble'

"Toil & Trouble" by Augusten Burroughs

★★★★ Augusten Burroughs, well-known writer and memoirist of such books as Running with Scissors and Lust & Wonder, has been keeping a secret from almost everyone in his life. But in his latest work, Toil & Trouble, Burroughs finally comes clean and reveals a part of himself that he’s never shared with the world before – the fact that he’s a witch....

Cover: 'Clear My Name'

"Clear My Name" by Paula Daly

★★★★★ Tess, who runs a charity that focuses on trying to help those wrongly convicted of crimes, gets her newest case: Carrie, charged with the brutal murder of her husband’s mistress. Carrie has maintained her innocence for three years, and she wants nothing more than to be released to be with her pregnant daughter. The case brings Tess back to the hometown...

Cover: 'The Girl and the Wolf'

"The Girl and the Wolf" by Katherena Vermette

★★★★★ The Girl and the Wolf by Katherena Vermette is a wonderful retelling of the classic Red Riding Hood tale. With gorgeous illustrations and lyrical dialogue, Vermette walks you through the woods as a little girl who has wandered too far and finds herself alone and lost. A wolf comes upon her, and what follows is a twist on the original...

Cover: 'The Lager Queen of Minnesota'

"The Lager Queen of Minnesota" by J. Ryan Stradal

★★★ Craft beer and microbreweries are popular everywhere these days, especially here in the Midwest. Author J. Ryan Stradal harnesses this as the focal point of his latest novel The Lager Queen of Minnesota, which follows a family of women through multiple decades, each one with ties to the beer-making industry. The book opens with Edith, a woman in her 60s...

Cover: 'The Fate of Food'

"The Fate of Food" by Amanda Little

★★★★★ In today’s world, more and more people want to know about the food they eat, where it comes from, and how it’s grown. But what does the future hold for consumers – and the food on their plates – in a world that’s getting increasingly hotter, drier and that has more extreme weather? In The Fate of Food, author Amanda Little explores the different...

Cover: 'Puss Jekyll Cat Hyde'

"Puss Jekyll Cat Hyde" by Joyce Dunbar

★★★★★ Puss Jekyll is the perfect pet, cuddly and sweet, but she has a secret. At night she becomes Cat Hyde, mischievous hunter of small critters, not an ideal house pet. How can these two distinct personalities coexist in one furry cat body? Puss Jekyll lounges in the sun, warming her paws, while Cat Hyde prowls the streets wreaking havoc. What trouble will...

Cover: 'The Turn of the Key'

"The Turn of the Key" by Ruth Ware

★★★★★ Author Ruth Ware has done it again! Easily one of my favorite authors, this utterly absorbing novel is her newest fantastic creation.  Readers meet Rowan Caine, who finds an ad for a live-in nanny position in the picturesque Scottish Highlands. Beautiful surroundings, a very generous salary, and a luxurious home make this opportunity seem too good...

Cover: 'Look Out for the Fitzgerald-Trouts'

"Look Out for the Fitzgerald-Trouts" by Esta Spalding

★★★★★ Look Out for the Fitzgerald-Trouts is a book you feel like you’ve dreamed up. Its realistic elements are: the four Fitzgerald-Trout children need to go to school, they need to eat, they need to do laundry and - most importantly - they need a better place to live. Its fantastical twist is: they have two terrible mothers and two (or three) awful fathers...

Cover: 'A Boy Called Bat'

"A Boy Called Bat" by Elana K. Arnold

★★★★★ Nine year-old Bixby Alexander Tam - also known as Bat - loves animals, struggles to get along with his big sister, and also happens to be on the autism spectrum.  Author Elana K. Arnold allows us to experience Bat’s world first hand, and we find ourselves rooting for Bat as he cares for an orphaned baby skunk and learns to navigate his first friendship...

Cover: 'The Body in Question'

"The Body in Question" by Jill Ciment

★★★★★ Courtroom dramas almost always focus exclusively on the plaintiff and defendant at the heart of a trial. After all, that’s where some of the most compelling storytelling tends to reside. The Body in Question, however, switches things up by following a six-person jury assigned to a murder trial in central Florida, where a teenage girl is accused of setting...

Cover: 'The Sense of an Ending'

"The Sense of an Ending" by Julian Barnes

★★★ This story is written as reminiscences of the times and adventures a group of friends shared in high school, and how their adult lives are altered by events that lead to a mystery.  Tony Webster (the narrator); his three friends Alex, Colin and Adrian; and Tony's girlfriend, Veronica, grow and change over the years.  The narration is...

Cover: 'Guinea Dog'

"Guinea Dog" by Patrick Jennings

★★★★ Rufus really wants to get a dog but his father won't even consider it. Then his mom brings home a guinea pig. She runs, fetches, sits and even plays Frisbee! Rufus and Fido have a number of funny adventures. We have guinea pigs and I wish they were trained like Fido! This book is a great read-together bedtime story for kids and their...

Cover: 'The Unhoneymooners'

"The Unhoneymooners" by Christina Lauren

★★★★ Olive is the maid of honor at her twin sister's wedding and is standing up opposite Ethan, someone she could care less for. Ethan is her new brother-in-law's brother, and Olive think that it was just bad luck that paired them together. Was it fate, luck or their opposite personalities that caused Olive and Ethan to be the only ones that didn't...

Cover: 'The Sad Little Fact'

"The Sad Little Fact" by Jonah Winter

★★★★★ This book allows its readers to meet the Sad Little Fact and many other little facts along the way. The Sad Little Fact lives in a world in which facts are dismissed and ultimately deemed "fake," then thrown away. The authorities of the world declare that lies are facts, and the world grows dark and dreary. However, hope is on the horizon as...

Cover: 'Hungry: Eating, Road-Tripping, and Risking It All with the Greatest Chef in the World'

"Hungry: Eating, Road-Tripping, and Risking It All with the Greatest Chef in the World" by Jeff Gordinier

★★★★ Step inside the restless, forward-thinking mind of one of the best chefs in the world with author Jeff Gordiner's account of years spent on-and-off with Rene Redzepi. Redzepi is the owner and head chef of Noma, the Copenhagen, Denmark restaurant consistently ranked one of the best (sometimes the best) restaurants in the world. It's difficult to...

Cover: 'The Art of Racing in the Rain'

"The Art of Racing in the Rain" by Garth Stein

★★★★★ Enzo loves his family, and loves car racing nearly as much. It just so happens that Enzo is also a dog. This is the story of Enzo reflecting back on his family, and how he sees the world, during his last moments on Earth. Does he want thumbs just like humans? Yes. Can he bark two times to tell Denny, his owner, to drive faster? Yes...

Cover: 'Escape at Dannemora'

"Escape at Dannemora"

★★★★ In the summer of 2015, two inmates – Richard Matt and David Sweat – escaped from the Clinton Correctional Facility, a maximum-security prison in Dannemora, New York. A massive manhunt followed the escape for nearly a month afterward, with many police, government and prison officials dumbfounded by how such an elaborate escape was possible. Escape at...

Cover: 'The Paris Architect'

"The Paris Architect" by Charles Belfoure

★★★★★ This story takes place in Paris in 1942 during World War II. While so many people are struggling, the wealthy entrepreneurs are building factories and need architects to design them. Lucien Bernard is one of these architects, and is offered large amounts of money to build secret hiding places for Jews. Although he struggles with the risk that he is...

Cover: '101 Ways To Go Zero Waste'

"101 Ways To Go Zero Waste" by Kathryn Kellogg

★★★★★ Are you tired of taking out the trash? Does it bother you that only nine percent of plastic is actually recycled? That it takes three liters of water to produce once liter of bottled water? Everyone is familiar with the saying: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. What Kathryn Kellogg emphasizes in this guide is that recycle comes last. First, what can you do...

Cover: 'Waiting for Tom Hanks'

"Waiting for Tom Hanks" by Kerry Winfrey

★★★★ Aspiring screenwriter Annie Cassidy loves romantic comedies. Growing up, she would watch the films relentlessly with her mom, dissecting scenes and deriving life advice from the characters and dialogue. As an adult, Annie can quote films like Sleepless in Seattle and You’ve Got Mail by heart and aspires to write movies herself. But she’s also unlucky...

Cover: 'Grave's End'

"Grave's End" by Elaine Mercado

★★★★★ This book is an account of the actual terrors the author and her family experienced while living in a home they bought in Brooklyn New York.  While I can’t say that the story is incredibly well-written, the fear that was felt is credible, even to someone that doesn’t believe in the paranormal. I found myself not reading it at night, as I usually do....

Cover: 'The Girls'

"The Girls" by Emma Cline

★★★ It’s the summer of 1969, and 14 year-old Evie Boyd has a lot of time on her hands. She and her best friend, Connie, have had a falling out; the boy she has a crush on has left town; her father is now living with his new girlfriend in another city; and her mother is often absent after reentering the dating scene. Alone and feeling neglected, Evie becomes...

Cover: 'The Invisible War'

"The Invisible War" by Ailsa Wild

★★★★ World War I was a time of great changes when it came to warfare - from mustard gas to the Browning Automatic Rifle, the way the world fought wars had changed. Unfortunately, medical science hadn't caught up with many of these changes. Soldiers suffered from debilitating wounds that often led to a slow, painful death or traumatic amputations. Many soldiers...

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