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Staff Reviews

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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; follow us for the latest updates.

(The 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.)

Reading Advice MCPL Online

Cover: 'That Part Was True'

"That Part Was True" by Deborah McKinlay

★★★★★ Eve Petworth and Jackson Cooper are strangers. They have never met and live in different countries. However, when Eve writes a letter to Jackson to compliment one of his books, a sudden friendship is developed between them over their mutual love of cooking and good food. Their correspondence continues as Jackson searches for direction in his art and meaning...

Cover: 'Hug Machine'

"Hug Machine" by Scott Campbell

★★★★★ "Whoa! Here I come! I am the Hug Machine!" starts this wonderful book about a little boy who hugs everything. He hugs people, animals, and even a fire hydrant and mailbox! He hugs hard things, soft things, square things and long things. But, can he hug a spiky porcupine or a humongous whale? The Hug Machine will do anything to give a hug. With simple and...

Cover: 'Morris Micklewhite and the Tangerine Dress'

"Morris Micklewhite and the Tangerine Dress" by Christine Baldacchino, Isabelle Malenfant

★★★★★ Morris Micklewhite loves painting, dreaming of great adventures and wearing the tangerine dress in the dress-up center at school. He loves the way it crinkles and swishes when he walks and the color reminds him of tigers, the sun and his mother's hair. But the other boys and some of the girls tell him "boys don't wear dresses" and exclude him from their...

Cover: 'Rebel Belle'

"Rebel Belle" by Rachel Hawkins

★★★★ If you enjoy YA books with a strong female protagonist, give Rebel Belle a chance. Seventeen-year-old Harper is an overachieving, popular teenager at a private school in Alabama, until she witnesses a deadly fight at a school dance. Suddenly, Harper is given magical powers, including superhero strength from a dying Paladin, and a quest to protect an Oracle...

Cover: 'My Cousin's Keeper'

"My Cousin's Keeper" by Simon French

★★★★ At his dad’s birthday party nine-year old Kieran meets his cousin Bon whom he has never even heard of before. Bon appears to be very different from him and he doesn’t really like him.  Bon wears his blond hair in a long ponytail, wears old, tattered clothes and touches all of Kieran’s things without asking.   Two years later, Kieran sees Bon at...

Cover: 'The Strange Library'

"The Strange Library" by Haruki Murakami, Ted Goossen

★★★★ In this fantasy from Japanese author Haruki Murakami, several people are imprisoned in a terrifying library, and must work together to escape. The illustrations and unique design of the book add to the reader's enjoyment, and help readers visualize the library and the characters imprisoned within its walls. It's a quick read, but Murakami still manages to...

Cover: 'The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend'

"The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend" by Dan Santat

★★★★★ On an island far away, imaginary friends are born. Beekle is one of them, waiting to be chosen by a child and transported to the real world. Rather than waiting, Beekle does the unimaginable and sets sail to the real world. He finds that the real world is strange and uncomfortable, until he meets his perfect friend. Then the world is colorful , fun, and not...

Cover: 'Hero Complex'

"Hero Complex" by Margaux Froley

★★★★★ Devon is back at school following the holiday break, but she hasn’t been able to extricate herself from the repercussions of her first case. That task might be easier if she hadn’t been knocked out cold in the sole security blind spot on a yacht on New Year’s Eve. Devon is convinced it was no accident, but the lack of evidence to support her claim brings an...

Cover: 'Mobile Library'

"Mobile Library" by David Whitehouse

★★★★★ This was a randomly chosen novel that quickly turned into one I couldn't put down! Bobby Nusku spends his time carefully cataloging everything in his house while waiting for his mother's return. He wants her to know every detail of the changes made since she left. He collects hair from the carpet, pieces of her clothing, and even tries to recreate the scent...

Cover: 'Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking'

"Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking" by Susan Cain

★★★★★ If you anyone has ever asked you, “Why are you so quiet?” or “Why don't you speak up?” or even “ Why are you so shy?” then this is the book for you. The author Susan Cain explores the preference for the extrovert personality in our culture. The author explores the many ways that these basic personality types differ starting with differences in the nervous...

Cover: 'Escape Theory'

"Escape Theory" by Margaux Froley

★★★★★ Devon Mackintosh, a scholarship student at an elite boarding school on the California coast, never really felt like she fit in. Now a junior with her sights on Stanford’s psychology program, she starts her duties as a peer counselor. These duties are far more challenging than she anticipated when one of the most popular guys at school, Jason Hutchinson (“...

Cover: 'The Dressmaker'

"The Dressmaker" by Kate Alcott

★★★★★ Tess longs to escape a life of servitude. She knows that her talent should make her more than just a maid, but her beautiful dressmaking skills go unappreciated and unrewarded by her current employer. On impulse, she grabs her few belongings and runs for the docks where she has heard there are jobs available on a fancy new ship that is about to set sail....

Cover: 'Elsa Schiaparelli: A Biography'

"Elsa Schiaparelli: A Biography" by Meryle Secrest

★★★★ This well-written biography provides a fascinating glimpse into the life and times of fashion designer Elsa Schiaparelli. The fiery Italian was a rival of Coco Chanel, good friend of Salvador Dali, and a mentor to Hubert De Givenchy. Schiaparelli created the famous lobster print dress that Wallis Simpson wore after she married the Duke of Windsor, and...

Cover: 'Prune'

"Prune" by Gabrielle Hamilton

★★★★ Foodies, professional chefs, and serious home cooks will love this creative and unique cookbook from the chef and owner of the NYC restaurant Prune. It's presented like a how-to manual for new cooks at Prune, complete with Hamilton's hand-written (and occasionally snarky) notes and tips about preparing Prune's signature dishes. There is even a section about...

Cover: 'Big Bad Detective Agency'

"Big Bad Detective Agency" by Bruce Hale

★★★★ Things were going well in Fairylandia for a reformed Wolfgang, a.k.a. the “Big Bad Wolf”, until the Three Little Pigs’ houses were vandalized and he is accused.  Arrested and released, he reluctantly teams up with Ferkel, the fourth little pig, and as the new “Big Bad Detective Agency” they set off to find the perpetrator. Things get really funny when...

Cover: 'I Was Here'

"I Was Here" by Gayle Forman

★★★★★ Cody has a best friend who decides to commit suicide, seemingly out of nowhere. She goes on a journey of discovery to learn what drove her friend to such a decision while also meeting many others who are also affected by the same loss. What Cody learns about deciding to exist in her new world is the beautiful revelation of this wonderful book. The author of...

Cover: 'The Case of the Weird Blue Chicken'

"The Case of the Weird Blue Chicken" by Doreen Cronin

★★★★ The Chicken Squad is a group of four hilarious chicks who are out to solve crime. When a blue jay, the weird blue chicken, flies in saying his house has been kidnapped, the Chicken Squad embarks on a journey to figure out who took the birdhouse and why. Filled with funny characters and an entertaining plot, this book is a great beginning chapter book for...

Cover: 'Killer Heels: The Art of the High-Heeled Shoe'

"Killer Heels: The Art of the High-Heeled Shoe" by Lisa Small, Stefano Tonchi, Caroline Weber

★★★★★ Shoe lovers, this is the book for you! Based on the information gathered for an exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum, this beautiful book is a photographic and short essay history of the high heel. From its fascinating origins to its present day art form, the high heel has been a status symbol for men and women, functional footwear, and a highly controversial...

Cover: 'Chloe's Vegan Italian Kitchen: 150 Pizzas, Pastas, Pestos, Risottos, & Lots of Creamy Italian Classics'

"Chloe's Vegan Italian Kitchen: 150 Pizzas, Pastas, Pestos, Risottos, & Lots of Creamy Italian Classics" by Chloe Coscarelli

★★★★★ This is another fantastic vegan cookbook! Countless pasta, soup, and pizza recipes, as well as delicious desserts had me hooked. You no longer have to give up on the idea of alfredo sauce, gelato, biscotti, or any other of your Italian favorites. Coming from an Italian who can't have any more soy, dairy, or egg, (but who's favorite food is authentic gelato...

Cover: 'Sunday Casseroles: Complete Comfort in One Dish'

"Sunday Casseroles: Complete Comfort in One Dish" by Betty Rosbottom

★★★★★ If you love one-dish meals, this cookbook is for you. The photography in this book is beautiful and elevates the humble casserole from everyday dining to haute cuisine. I found all of the recipes easy to follow, and the first chapter contains useful tips and tricks for creating the perfect casserole. I have already made several of the recipes, and my...

Cover: 'Absolutely Almost'

"Absolutely Almost" by Lisa Graff

★★★★ Ten-year-old Albie’s life is a tangled one and the short, episodic chapters in this tween book mimic this.  He is adjusting to a new public school and a new nanny, Calista (whom he’s certain he does not need). Private prep school did not work out and his dad is not happy about it. Albie’s life is full of “almosts”—he almost passes his spelling tests,...

Cover: 'Little Humans'

"Little Humans" by Brandon Stanton

★★★★ From the author and photographer of the well-known blog "Humans of New York" comes a great picture book that celebrates the uniqueness, abilities, and diversity of the littlest humans--children. Brandon Stanton's photographs capture children doing everyday things like walking down the street, riding a bicycle, playing in the street, and making music. This...

Cover: 'The Hot Zone'

"The Hot Zone" by Richard Preston

★★★★★ Stephen King considers this one of the most horrifying books he has ever read! Probably because it is nonfiction and relates the tale of death and destruction by the deadliest animals on earth. Those animals are also some of the smallest animals, the fatal virus Ebola and some of its close relatives. The author traces back the devastating and bloody trail...

Cover: 'Beyond the Laughing Sky'

"Beyond the Laughing Sky" by Michelle Cuevas

★★★★ In this rather unusual tale a young couple, whose house is perched in a large pecan tree, discover a baby in a cracked egg from a bird’s nest on the sidewalk.  This human-looking baby has feathers for hair and no mouth or nose but in its place a beak. His adopted parents, sister, and the small community of Goosepimple adapt to life with him, but as he...