Marathon County Public Library

learning • community • ideas • information

Holiday hours: All MCPL locations will be closed Tue., 7/4.

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.


'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

'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

'Whole New You: How Real Food Transforms Your Life, for a Healthier, More Gorgeous You' by Tia Mowry, Jessica Porter

"Whole New You: How Real Food Transforms Your Life, for a Healthier, More Gorgeous You" by Tia Mowry, Jessica Porter

★★★★ If you’re looking for healthy recipes and information on why they’re healthy, this is a cookbook you have to check out! Tia Mowry (from “Sister, Sister” and “Tia Mowry at Home”) shares her health journey, and the foods that led her to recovery. Normally I stay away from celebrity-authored cookbooks, but I couldn’t help but be curious about this one. I’m so...

Audience: Adults | Genre: Cookbook

'Cut the Sugar, You're Sweet Enough: Cookbook' by Ella Leche

"Cut the Sugar, You're Sweet Enough: Cookbook" by Ella Leche

★★★★ Looking to cut out sugar from your diet, or find healthier ways to make your favorite recipes? This cookbook is a great place to start! Filled with beautiful photography of scrumptious looking desserts, main meals, sides, and more, I found myself marking quite a few recipes to try. There wasn't anything in the description about it being a vegan cookbook,...

Audience: Adults | Genre: Cookbook

'What's It Like in Space?: Stories from Astronauts Who've Been There' by Ariel Waldman

"What's It Like in Space?: Stories from Astronauts Who've Been There" by Ariel Waldman

★★★★ If you're like me, you've often wondered what it's like for astronauts up in outer space; what it smells like, what it sounds like, and the overall difficulty of adapting to daily life. Now, there's a book that answers a lot of those questions and provides other interesting facts straight from the men and women who have traveled there and back! The...

Audience: Adults | Genre: Nonfiction

'Cat's Cradle' by Kurt Vonnegut

"Cat's Cradle" by Kurt Vonnegut

★★★★ A young impressionable writer two sets out to interview the children of Felix Hoennikker, a brilliant scientist credited with inventing the atomic bomb. A believer in the Caribbean religion of Bokonon, the writer believes that God, fate and the universe will guide his life, introducing him to the people he is supposed to meet, sending him to the places he...

Audience: Adults | Genre: Fiction, Science Fiction, Satire, Dystopian

'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 Naked Vegan: 140+ tasty raw vegan recipes for health and wellness' by Maz Valcorza

"The Naked Vegan: 140+ tasty raw vegan recipes for health and wellness" by Maz Valcorza

★★★★ Are you looking for original, healthy recipes that fit a vegan lifestyle? This colorful, easy-to-follow book has it all! From breakfast to main meals to delicious desserts, this cookbook is all about recipes that nourish the body and the taste buds. Because the recipes are considered raw some of them do require a dehydrator, but the author includes easy...

Audience: Adults | Genre: Cookbook

'Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania' by Erik Larson

"Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania" by Erik Larson

★★★★ If you are looking for a good non-fiction book and like history, this is for you. This book reads and listens like a novel, which made it easier for me to read/listen to. This was a very interesting read because it was about something that was not taught in school. I personally have heard all there is to hear about the Titanic, but we don't ever hear...

Audience: Adults | Genre: Nonfiction

'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

'Kindred: A Graphic Novel Adaptation' by Damian Duffy

"Kindred: A Graphic Novel Adaptation" by Damian Duffy

★★★★ Dana, an African American woman in 1970s California, finds herself thrust into the past after experiencing a dizzy spell. On her first unwarranted trip, Dana finds a young, red-haired boy drowning and saves his life. She finds out this young boy, Rufus, is a distant relative of hers and the son of a cold-hearted slave owner. Dana returns to...

Audience: Adults | Genre: Graphic Novels

'The Last Days of Pompeii' by Edward Bulwer-Lytton

"The Last Days of Pompeii" by Edward Bulwer-Lytton

★★★★ You may think you know the eventual outcome: everyone dies, right? There can’t be much suspense in that! But do they? The story’s climax takes place, as the title suggests, just days before Vesuvius erupts. By then, our heroes and villains are caught in a complex web of actions and counteractions ostensibly dealt out by Fate. The Last Days of Pompeii by...

Audience: Adults | Genre: Historical Fiction

'With Love from the Inside' by Angela Pisel

"With Love from the Inside" by Angela Pisel

★★★★ Grace Bradshaw is on death row for the murder of her infant son, William. When William was months old, he was always ill until he finally had a seizure and died. The investigation into William's death found traces of windshield wiper fluid in his bottle. Grace was diagnosed with Munchausen by Proxy and was found guilty for her son's death. Sophie,...

Audience: Adults | Genre: Fiction, Mystery, Thriller

Pages