cuckoo's callingBack when Deathly Hallows was hot off the presses, I remember reading an interview with J.K. Rowling; when asked what she would write next, she answered: mysteries for adults. I’ve been looking forward to The Cuckoo’s Calling ever since. After her first post-Potter foray into literary fiction, Jo is back in the realm of genre, and I think it’s where she belongs. Her imagination is so fierce and wild and her observations about the real world are so raw and true that the juxtaposition of them is magical. We all saw it in Harry Potter, I missed it in The Casual Vacancy, and now it’s back in The Cuckoo’s Calling. This is a phenomenal book: thrilling and elegant and a little cheeky. The characters are vibrant, true, and endlessly entertaining. Even the dead model at the heart of the mystery, Lula “Cuckoo” Landry, has a personality, and a life, beyond her infamous lifestyle and her undignified death; the living characters, private detective Cormoran Strike and his assistant Robin, are even better.

Cormoran lost his leg to a land mine in Afghanistan, and back home in the UK, he’s facing a life that’s deteriorating rapidly as his debts mount, his relationships waver, and his stream of clients dries up. When Robin appears, the product of an expensive contract with the temp agency that he tried to cancel, Strike is vexed: how can he hide from this clever, intrepid young woman that he’s sleeping on a cot in his office? But Robin and Strike are a great team, as they both tentatively realize: Strike is a gifted detective whose shadowed past has removed him from the military police for complex, unclear reasons, and Robin is a whip-smart HR rep with a natural talent for investigation.

As Robert Galbraith, Rowling wastes no words. This is a long book, but not an overlong one. There are a lot of characters, a lot of red herrings, and a lot of plot developments, but they layer on top of each other seamlessly and the payoff is extremely satisfying. The scenes are so descriptive, you’re absolutely there – I was completely drawn into this book. The best part about it was how genuine and true it all was: when Robin and Cormoran use their cell phones and the internet to track down clues, it doesn’t feel forced or fake, it’s completely natural. The same thing happened in The Casual Vacancy: whenever technology is used, it’s employed seamlessly, artfully, expertly into the plot. I propose that this comes from treating it with the same rules you’d use to write about magic wands. It was painful to set The Cuckoo’s Calling down and heartbreaking to reach the end: if Rowling wants to write any more about Cormoran Strike, I’ll be gleefully pre-ordering every new Galbraith title.

Relevant Fun Fact: the common European cuckoo reproduces by parasitic brooding, where they lay their eggs in the nests of other birds and the other birds raise the baby cuckoos – leaving the adults free to flit off and do whatever birds do.

As a personal challenge, I have taken on the task of reading all of the Iowa Children’s Choice 2013-14 nominees before voting ends in March 2014.  I am currently seven books down, with 18 books left to read.  I’m really fascinated to see how my reactions to the books compare with the voting of Iowa’s 3rd-6th graders.  I am taking this opportunity to highlight some of the books that stand out from the pack.

belly upTwelve-year-old Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt Fitzroy lives in a zoo.  And not just any zoo, but FunJungle, the largest animal amusement park in the world, where his parents work.  When the FunJungle mascot, Henry the Hippo, turns up dead, Teddy is convinced that it was murder. Written by Stewart Gibbs Belly Up, is a funny, clever first novel.

Stewart Gibbs has a degree in biology, and worked in a zoo while in college (at one point he was the foremost expert on capybaras).  He has also written a number of screenplays.  These two occupations are evident in his writing.  This book is filled with interesting animal and zoo facts, cleverly sprinkled throughout the story. The action in the novel is fast paced, well-timed, exciting. Overall, the book feels a lot like a well-informed animated movie, which seems to be a pretty great selling point for a children’s mystery novel.  I would recommend this book for fans of Swindle by Gordon Korman, Scat by Carl Hiaasen, and M.T. Anderson’s Pals in Peril series.

badmonkeyI have an embarrassing admission…

I’ve never read anything by Carl Hiaasen before.  I’ve never read Hoot or Skinny Dip or Native Tongue.  And I honestly didn’t know what I was getting myself into when I picked up his newest novel, Bad Monkey.  With reviewers calling the novel a “misadventure” and described Hiaasen as a “premier humorist”,  my expectations were high.  I was not disappointed.

Bad Monkey introduces Andrew Yancy, a former Miami Police detective and soon to be former Monroe County sheriff’s officer, who now spends his days counting the cockroaches in local restaurants as a restaurant inspector.  Wanting to leave behind his “roach patrol” duties, Yancy believes he may have found his way back onto the force when a tourist fisherman pulls in a human arm and the scandal adverse county sheriff declares the arm’s loss an accident.  Yancy believes that there is more going on than meets the eye, so he begins his own investigation.

There is a lot going on in this book, but it never feels weighted down or overly ambitious.  The stories weave together in a way that feels natural, and Yancy is perfectly imperfect in the way of all the best anti-heroes.   Employing a dark sense of humor, Bad Monkey is moralistic without ever coming off as preachy and weird without forgetting reality.  Revenge fantasy at it’s best, Bad Monkeyis a seriously fun read.  I feel kind of lucky that I have such a backlog of Hiaasen books to read until his next book is released.

 

Here are some of the new releases from popular authors that are coming out in April. Reserve your favorites today!

pirate alleydead ever after bannon brothersflorazero hourinferno

 

 

Dan Brown – Inferno

Stephen Coonts – Pirate Alley

Clive Cussler – Zero Hour

Janet Dailey – Bannon Brothers: Triumph

Richard Paul Evans – A Step of Faith

Gail Godwin – Flora

Charlene Harris – Dead Ever After

delicate truthophelia cutlost daughterssilken prey deeply oddand the mountains echoed

 

 

Khaled Hosseini – And the Mountains Echoed

Dean Koontz – Deeply Odd

John Le Carre – A Delicate Truth

John Lescroart – Ophelia Cut

Mary Monroe – Lost Daughters

John Sandford – Silken Prey

Jeff Shaara – A Chain of Thunder

Fay Weldon – Long Live the King

For more new titles, be sure to check out Upcoming Releases on the Davenport Public Library webpage!

 

Here are some of the new releases from popular authors that are coming out in April. Reserve your favorites today!

mayas notebook

the hittapestry of fortunesdaddys gone a huntingstarting now

 

 

 

Isabelle Allende – Maya’s Notebook

Kate Atkinson – Life After Life

David Baldacci – The Hit

Elizabeth Berg – Tapestry of Fortunes

Mary Higgins Clark – Daddy’s Gone a Hunting

Debbie Macomber – Starting Now

12th of never

midnight at marble archmystery womanwhiskey beachparis

 

 

 

James Patterson – 12th of Never

Anne Perry – Midnight at Marble Arch

Amanda Quick – The Mystery Woman

Nora Roberts – Whiskey Beach

Edward Rutherfurd – Paris: the Novel

Stuart Woods – Unintended Consequences

For more new titles, be sure to check out Upcoming Releases on the Davenport Public Library webpage!

 

divinersOne of my favorite Young Adult books that I’ve read recently is The Diviners by Libba Bray.  Set in the Roaring ’20s, it’s about a teen girl named Evie O’Neill who is sent away from her Ohio hometown after an incident at a party.  Shipped off to live with her uncle in New York, Evie is secretly thrilled at the prospect of life in the big city.  The excitement begins immediately when the police seek out the help of her uncle, the curator of the Museum of American Folklore, Superstition, and the Occult, in the hope that he can help solve a series of disturbing occult-related murders.  The possessor of secret supernatural gifts, Evie gets more than she bargained for when she is quickly tangled up in the investigation and begins to suspect that the killer is no ordinary man.

Despite all the glowing reviews I read, I was hesitant to pick up this book at first because it is HUGE.  Luckily we had a copy of the audio book on shelf, which seemed less daunting, and I am so glad that I decided to give it a try. I really enjoyed the setting and thought that Libba Bray did a great job of making the time period come to life for the reader.  I’m not usually up for creepy stories at all, but from minute one I was completely hooked on this engrossing tale couldn’t wait to find out what happened to the compelling characters next.  The Diviners is the first book in a planned quartet, and I can’t wait for the next installment in the series!  While I’m waiting, I think I’ll have to pick up a few of her other books like A Great and Terrible Beauty, Going Bovine, or Beauty Queens.

seraphinaRachel Hartman’s Seraphina is my new favorite book of dragon fantasy. In it, dragons – an unfeeling, coldly mathematical species which can fold themselves into human shape – have shared an uneasy peace with Seraphina’s homeland of Goredd for 40 years. Prejudice and naked hatred between the two races exists everywhere, and on the eve of the peace treaty’s fortieth anniversary, tensions are running high. Add to this mix a murdered prince (whose missing head strongly suggests dragon involvement) and a smart, curious young woman with a unique ability to understand dragon culture and you have a recipe for intrigue. Seraphina is a gifted musician and the assistant to the court composer, which makes her a minor member of the royal court. Her talent is making her famous, but she has secrets to keep; preserving those secrets while at the same time investigating a royal murder and befriending the presumptive heirs (Princess Glisselda and her fiancé, the bastard Prince Lucian) puts Seraphina in a lot of tight spots. Her friends; her life; her sanity; her secrets – what will Seraphina sacrifice to protect the peace?

I have no complaints about this novel; it’s perfectly paced, gorgeously written, and well imagined, all of which shines through a multi-layered and complicated plot that never gets out of Hartman’s control. The characters are inspirational in their intelligence and bravery yet relatable in their worries and failures. There’s intrigue and mystery as well as philosophy and breathless action, and even a bit of romance. Seraphina’s romance with Lucian is wonderfully subtle and genuine – a true meeting of the minds. Hartman is so busy writing about their meaningful conversations and compatible personalities that I’m not even sure I know what Lucian looks like! Seraphina has more important things to think about than the color of his eyes.

Here are some of the new releases from popular authors that are coming out in December. Reserve your favorites today!

 

 

 

Tom Clancy – Threat Vector

Joy Fielding – Shadow Creek

Aaron Elkins – Dying on the Vine

Earlene Fowler – The Road to Cardinal Valley

W.E.B. Griffin – Empire and Honor

 

 

 

Cynthia Harrod-Eagles – Blood Never Dies

Greg Iles – The Bone Tree

James Patterson – Private London

Douglas Preston – Two Graves

Karen Robards – Shiver

Barbara Vine – The Child’s Child

For more new titles, be sure to check out Upcoming Releases on the Davenport Public Library webpage!

December 4

Hope Springs – Meryl Streep, Tommy Lee Jones

Kay and Arnold are a middle-aged couple who have been married for 30 years and now are sleeping in separate rooms and barely interact in any meaningful loving way. Finally, Kay has had enough and finds a book by Dr. Feld which inspires her to sign them up for the doctor’s intense week-long marriage counseling session. What follows is an insightful experience as Dr. Feld manages to help the couple understand how they have emotionally drifted apart and what they can do to reignite their passion. PG-13

Dark Knight Rises – Christian Bale, Ann Hathaway

It has been eight years since Batman vanished into the night, turning, in that instant, from hero to fugitive. Assuming the blame for the death of D.A. Harvey Dent, the Dark Knight sacrificed everything for what he and Commissioner Gordon both hoped was the greater good. For a time the lie worked, as criminal activity in Gotham City was crushed under the weight of the anti-crime Dent Act. PG – 13

Odd Life of Timothy Green – Jennifer Gardner

When a childless couple buries a box with all of their wishes for an infant in their backyard, their wishes are granted. However, their child, Timothy Green, is not all that he appears PG

 

Beast of the Southern Wild – Quvenzhane Wallis, Dwight Henry

Hushpuppy is a six-year-old living in an isolated bayou community. When her father Wink becomes ill, she sets off for the outside world in an attempt to help him. The journey to save her father is delayed by a ‘busted’ universe that reverses weather patterns and brings about long-extinct animals. Can Hushpuppy save the day?  PG – 13

December 11

Ted – Mark Wahlberg, Mila Kunis

As the result of a childhood wish, John Bennett’s teddy bear, Ted, came to life and has been by John’s side ever since. Their friendship is tested when Lori, John’s girlfriend of four years, wants more from their relationship. R

 

Bourne Legacy – Jeremy Renner, Scott Glenn

Aaron Cross is an agent groomed by the government program that also unleashed Jason Bourne, but with a few new wrinkles. Cross is busy training in Alaska when he’s caught in a tsunami of hurt, thus beginning a frantic search for answers to who and what he is. PG – 13

Ice Age – Continental Drift – Ray Romano, Denis Leary

Scrat’s constant quest for an acorn causes a shift in the ice. Manny, Sid, and Diego end up stranded on an iceberg in the middle of the sea. A group of misfit pirates are determined to stop the trio from ever returning home. PG

 

December 18

Total Recall – Colin Farrell, Kate Beckinsale

Welcome to Rekall, the company that can turn your dreams into real memories. For a factory worker named Douglas Quaid, even though he’s got a beautiful wife who he loves, the mind-trip sounds like the perfect vacation from his frustrating life. But when the procedure goes horribly wrong, Quaid becomes a hunted man. PG – 13

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days – Zachary Gordon, Steve Zahn

When Greg Heffley’s dad threatens to send him to military school if he doesn’t stay out of trouble, Greg finds all-new ways to land himself in the doghouse! For starters, Greg’s in over his head when he pretends to work at the swanky country club where Rowley’s family has a membership. Things don’t go much better on a father-son camping trip with the Wilderness Explorers, and then there’s the Heffley’s new dog, Sweetie, who fetches even more trouble for Greg. PG

Trouble with the Curve – Clint Eastwood, Amy Adams

Gus Lobel has been one of the best scouts in baseball for decades, but, despite his efforts to hide it, age is starting to catch up with him. Nevertheless, Gus-who can tell a pitch just by the crack of the bat-refuses to be benched for what may be the final innings of his career. The one person who might be able to help is also the one person Gus would never ask: his daughter, Mickie, an associate at a high-powered Atlanta law firm. PG – 13

December 21

Resident Evil: Retribution – Milla Jovovich

Alice fights alongside a resistance movement in the continuing battle against the Umbrella Corporation and the undead. R

 

 

Premium Rush – Joseph Gordon-Levitt

In Manhattan, a bike messenger picks up an envelope that attracts the interest of a dirty cop, who pursues the cyclist throughout the city.PG – 13

 

Arbitage – Richard Gere, Susan Sarandon

Robert Miller is a New York hedge-fund magnate who appears to have it all: money, power, a loving wife, and a devoted daughter working by his side. But behind the gilded walls of his mansion, Miller is running on borrowed time, trying to unload his crippled trading company before his frauds are revealed. A deadly error throws Miller’s life into a tailspin, raising the suspicions of a detective and threatening the future of his financial empire. R

Killer Joe – Matthew McCoughney, Emile Hirsch

‘Killer’ Joe Cooper is a Dallas detective who doubles as a hitman with the charm of a Southern gentleman. Chris hires Joe to kill his mother in order to collect her life insurance and pay off his debts. When Chris is unable to pay for the service up front, Joe takes Chris’s sister Dottie as a retainer until he can be paid. R

 

guest post by Georgeann

I love magicians and I love Frank Peretti, so I figured this book would be a winner and it was! It was incredible! Astounding!  Oh no, wait, that was from the magician’s poster.

Seriously, Illusion is a great book. I was completely hooked and totally puzzled by page 8. The story begins with the death of a beloved wife and moves into the perplexing story of a young girl waking up with no memory of how she arrived from a trip to the county fair in 1971 to the same spot, dressed now in a hospital gown, in 2011.

How she copes with her new life, how her story intertwines with the widower’s, and how together they figure out what happened is the rest of the story.

Mandy is a delightful character, full of life, joy and determination in spite of her baffling circumstances. The widower, Dane, is strong, faithful and true. This is a beautiful love story, a story of love that refuses to be defeated and will not give up. At once a story of mystery and love, is also a story of time travel, science gone too far, and bad guys who will stop at nothing to achieve their ends. Lest that sound too pat, remember, it’s a story of magic and surprises. I was intrigued from beginning to end, and thoroughly enjoyed this story!