Marathon County Public Library

learning • community • ideas • information

Holiday hours: All MCPL locations will be closed Sat.-Mon., 9/2-9/4.

Adult Services

Staff Reviews: For Adults

Check out these book reviews written by the staff of the Marathon County Public Library, featuring reviews of fiction and nonfiction for adults! (For reviews of books for all ages, visit our main Staff Reviews webpage.) These book reviews also are published at Goodreads.com; follow us for the latest updates.


'Persons Unknown' by Susie Steiner

"Persons Unknown" by Susie Steiner

★★★★★ Motivated by a desire to protect adopted twelve-year-old son Fly from potentially bad influences (and the frequent friskings he was subject to as a hoodie-clad black youth) and to find a better work-life balance as she anticipates the birth of her child, Mannon Bradshaw has moved back to Cambridgeshire with Fly, her sister Ellie, and Ellie’s toddler son,...

Audience: Adults | Genre: Fiction

'Lincoln in the Bardo' by George Saunders

"Lincoln in the Bardo" by George Saunders

★★★★★ Lincoln in the Bardo finds its inspiration in a brief moment in history—a February night in 1862 when President Lincoln visited the grave of his recently deceased eleven-year-old son, Willie—and transforms it into a complex reflection on grief, loss, uncertainty, and regret. Young Willie finds himself in the bardo, a state between the death of his physical...

Audience: Adults | Genre: Fiction

'Slade House' by David Mitchelll

"Slade House" by David Mitchelll

★★★★ David Mitchell is well known for his intricate plotlines and storytelling, especially in novels like “The Bone Clocks” and “Cloud Atlas.”  In “Slade House,” Mitchell brings his brand of storytelling to the haunted house genre.  Opening in 1979, the novel tells the linked story of mysterious disappearances that happen in an alleyway.  Every...

Audience: Adults | Genre: Fiction, Literary, Haunted House

'The Garden of Small Beginnings' by Abbi Waxman

"The Garden of Small Beginnings" by Abbi Waxman

★★★★ Single mother for three years after her husband died tragically in front of their home, Lillian is just starting to get used to her new life as a widow. Soon her unimaginative but manageable routine is thrown for a loop when she's enrolled in a gardening class for work, to help her with her illustrations. Each week she's forced a little further down her...

Audience: Adults | Genre: Fiction

'The Golden Hour' by T. Greenwood

"The Golden Hour" by T. Greenwood

★★★★ Wyn's life was drastically altered at the young age of thirteen, when she decided to walk through the woods when going home from school. Twenty years later, Wyn lives with her daughter in a duplex shared with her estranged husband. When the man responsible for a horrible crime against her suddenly has a chance of a retrial and release based on new DNA...

Audience: Adults | Genre: Fiction

'Lust & Wonder' by Augusten Burroughs

"Lust & Wonder" by Augusten Burroughs

★★★★★ After chronicling his extraordinarily unstable upbringing in Running with Scissors and his journey to become sober in Dry, Augusten Burroughs uses his latest book to explore the two romantic relationships that led to him meeting his husband, Christopher. The first section of this page-turner covers his 1990s-era relationship with Mitch, a successful-yet-...

Audience: Adults | Genre: Nonfiction, Memoir

'The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo' by Taylor Jenkins Reid

"The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo" by Taylor Jenkins Reid

★★★★★ Hollywood icon Evelyn Hugo is in her 80s and ready to spill the truth about her scandalous and glamorous life that she has kept secret for years. Evelyn contacts Monique, a low-profile journalist just starting her career. Through one-on-one interview sessions, Evelyn spills everything to Monique: how she made it to Hollywood, how her mega-star second...

Audience: Adults | Genre: Fiction

'Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine' by Gail Honeyman

"Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine" by Gail Honeyman

★★★★★ Eleanor Oliphant is not your typical 30-year-old. She has never missed a day of work, she sticks to a strict schedule, and she has a mysterious burn on her face that she never wants to talk about. Eleanor is completely fine; neither sad, nor happy, and she is fine with that. Eleanor avoids social interactions and has no friends, until Raymond, her...

Audience: Adults | Genre: Contemporary Fiction

'The Superfun Times Vegan Holiday Cookbook' by Isa Chandra Moskowitz

"The Superfun Times Vegan Holiday Cookbook" by Isa Chandra Moskowitz

★★★★★ Are you looking for a cookbook packed with enticing recipes for any occasion? If so, this is a must read! All of the recipes are vegan, so it's perfect if you're cooking for a guest with food allergies, or are just looking for new ideas for you and your family. Many of the recipes are illustrated, which I always love in a cookbook, and are separated by...

Audience: Adults | Genre: Cookbook

'Coffin Road' by Peter May

"Coffin Road" by Peter May

★★★★ Imagine: you suddenly wake up to find yourself on a deserted beach. You have no idea how you got there, where you are, let alone your first name. What would you do? Meanwhile, a homicide detective is scouring the desolate island to find out who murdered the lighthouse's most recent victim. Who killed him, and does it have anything to do with the mysterious...

Audience: Adults | Genre: Mystery

'The End of Temperance Dare' by Wendy Webb

"The End of Temperance Dare" by Wendy Webb

★★★★★ Are you looking for an atmospheric, completely absorbing novel to read this summer (made even better if read during a thunderstorm)? Look no further! In Wendy Webb's latest gothic novel, readers meet Eleanor Harper, who recently left her crime-writing job due to post traumatic stress disorder after too many years spent covering gruesome cases. When the...

Audience: Adults | Genre: Fiction

'Over The Hills And Far Away: The Life of Beatrix Potter' by Matthew Dennison

"Over The Hills And Far Away: The Life of Beatrix Potter" by Matthew Dennison

★★★★ Famous for her many ‘little books’ such as Peter Rabbit and Benjamin Bunny, Beatrix Potter’s life has been extensively documented. For those who don’t know where to begin I recommend this short biography. Each chapter smoothly moves through the stages in Potter’s life with frequent direct quotations from her own journals, which she kept meticulously....

Audience: Adults | Genre: Nonfiction

'Piecing Me Together' by Renée Watson

"Piecing Me Together" by Renée Watson

★★★★★ Jade is a junior at the best private school in Portland.  She is a talented artist and a bright student, determined to learn Spanish and one day travel the world.  Unlike most of her classmates, Jade is on scholarship and she is painfully aware that this school, and the opportunities it presents, are her ticket out of her poor North Portland...

Audience: Adults, Teens | Genre: Fiction

'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

'Sad Animal Facts' by Brooke Barker

"Sad Animal Facts" by Brooke Barker

★★★★ For those of you who like animal trivia facts, this book is for you. There are over 150 hand-drawn illustrations with little known facts about your favorite animal. For example, did you know that a koi fish can live 200 years? Or that gorillas can catch human colds or that camels can drink 30 gallons of water in 15 minutes? This book is a quick read...

Audience: Adults, Children, Teens | Genre: Nonfiction

'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 Fifth Letter' by Nicola Moriarty

"The Fifth Letter" by Nicola Moriarty

★★★★ Nicola Moriarty, Liane Moriarty's (Big Little Lies, The Husband's Secret) little sister, makes her writing debut with this secret-filled novel, perfect for fans of Liane's own novels. Joni, Eden, Deb, and Trina have been friends since high school. They get together as often as they can, but family life and careers have gotten in the way. Joni, the...

Audience: Adults | Genre: Fiction

'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

'Into the Water' by Paula Hawkins

"Into the Water" by Paula Hawkins

★★★★ From the author of The Girl on the Train comes a new story of secrets, complicated relationships, and a history of mysterious deaths. Women have been drowning in a small British town for centuries. First was Libby Seeton, a woman convicted of witchcraft in the 1700s. Recently, Katie, a fifteen-year-old girl, committed suicide by drowning herself in the same...

Audience: Adults | Genre: Fiction, Mystery, Thriller

'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

'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

'The Stranger in the Woods: The Extraordinary Story of the Last True Hermit' by Michael Finkel

"The Stranger in the Woods: The Extraordinary Story of the Last True Hermit" by Michael Finkel

★★★★ For 27 years, Christpher Knight lived in complete solitude in the woods of Maine, becoming known by locals as the North Pond Hermit. Knight only encountered a handful of wayward hikers in his quarter century in isolation, tucked away in a large camp that he made into his own makeshift home. Year after year, Knight survived on his own, meticulously...

Audience: Adults | Genre: Nonfiction, Biography

'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

Pages