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!

Award winning mystery writer Louise Penny is back with her eighth book in the Chief Inspector Armand Gamache mystery series.  The Beautiful Mystery is a bit of a departure (as far as the location) from her previous books, but it just as captivating and engrossing as her previous titles.  I hold a soft spot for Three Pines, the quaint and picturesque village where the previous books are located, and even though I was a little leery of the new setting, it is definitely another superb mystery.  The book takes place in a remote Quebec monastery where 24 monks live in complete isolation and silence.  Ironically, the rest of the world has just discovered this group through their voices and a recording of their haunting and beautiful chants that have been released to the world with rave reviews.

The Beautiful Mystery opens with the shocking murder of one of the monks, Frere Matthieu, the choirmaster of the group.  Matthieu has been a champion of releasing the chants to the world in order to raise much needed funds for improvements to the monastery. Chief Inspector Gamache and his right hand man, Jean-Guy Beauvior arrive on the scene to interrogate and question the monks, attempting to piece together the puzzle of which of the remaining monks could possibly commit murder.  In addition to solving the crime at the monastery, Gamache and Beauvoir confront personal issues and demons that could have the ability to tear apart their own lives.

The Beautiful Mystery is intriguing enough on its own but if you want to start with the first book in the series pick up Still Life.

 

Charles Todd’s A Duty to the Dead (the first mystery in the Bess Crawford series) has far too much life and vigor for the god-awful cover design it’s been dealt. It’s really a hideous cover: the image, the colors, the fonts, they’re all drab and uninteresting. But if you can look past them, this is an engaging mystery novel with a heroine anyone would love.

Bess Crawford is a gentleman’s daughter and an Army nurse in the Great War (if you’re thinking of Lady Sybil Crawley right now, you’re not alone!). She’s injured when the hospital ship Britannic is sunk, and during her convalescent leave, she visits the family of Arthur Graham, a wounded soldier she befriended, to deliver the deathbed message he begged her to pass on to his brother. What she finds in the Graham hometown of Owlhurst is a web of secrets and lies that the all-too-British neighbors have happily swept under the rug while they keep calm and carry on.

Bess is in-demand in Owlhurst for her nursing skills, and before long she is pressed into duty caring for a shell-shocked soldier and a possible lunatic. The effect of witnessed horrors and repressed violent memories on the mind is a big part of this novel, which is as much psychiatric as it is suspenseful. In a time when mental health was imperfectly understood, Bess’s intuitively modern understanding of the way our brains work is a mark in her favor.

While you’re waiting (and waiting… and waiting … ) for Downton Abbey to come to US shores next January, this novel can help fill the gap. Its shared setting, dealings with the same issues (the affect of the war on families back home), and the similarities between Sybil and Bess will keep you in the mindset of Downton while you wait for season 3.

I’m going to tread very lightly with this review, because to spoil any plot point of Gillian Flynn’s masterful suspense novel Gone Girl would be a crime against anyone planning to read it.  Nick and Amy Dunne were once young and in love.  But now, on the fifth anniversary of their wedding, their relationship is crumbling and neither spouse seems happy.  It is on this day that Nick receives a phone call from a concerned neighbor:  the Dunne’s front door is wide open, the living room is trashed, and Nick’s wife nowhere to be found.  Anyone interested in the true crime genre could tell you that the husband is always the first suspect, but did Nick really do it?  Told in alternating chapters of Nick’s perspective when Amy goes missing and Amy’s diary entries chronicling their relationship, the novel plays with the narrators’ unreliability to keep the reader guessing every step of the way.

I’ve heard a ton of buzz about this book all summer and trust me, it is all well-deserved.  The fast pacing and many twists and turns make this book painful to put down, even for just a minute.  This is no average whodunit; in addition to being a captivating mystery/thriller, this is also an intriguing character study about what happens when relationships go wrong and when your spouse isn’t quite what they seem to be at the beginning of the relationship.  I finished this book three days ago after reading it in two sittings, and I still can’t stop thinking about it.  I highly recommend Gone Girl to anyone looking for a unique mystery that will keep you on the edge of your seat.

For this installment of Amazing Audiobooks, I have a jumble of fun, funny, exciting, just-plain-great fiction that didn’t fit with the previous three categories. But you have my word: all these are winners!

  • Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman. You’ll laugh out loud at this one, in which the Apocalypse goes all wrong when an angel and a demon accidentally swap out the Antichrist for a normal human boy.
  • The charming Flavia de Luce Mysteries by C. Alan Bradley, beginning with The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie
  • Calico Joe by John Grisham
  • 11th Hour, the latest from James Patterson (or if you’re new to the Women’s Murder Club series, start at the beginning with 1st to Die)
  • …In Death series by J.D. Robb: a futuristic police procedural – particularly recommended for those who like listening to sexy, seductive, lilting Irish accents.
  • The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach, a novel about a college baseball phenom (I reviewed the novel in June)
  • The Book Thief by Markus Zusak: A deeply sad but very sweet and rewarding novel; tells the story of a girl who learns about death and love while helping her parents hide a Jewish man from the Nazis in a small German town. Appropriate for teens and older kids as well as adults.
  • Stephen King’s latest hit, 11/22/63, about JFK’s assassination and time travel.
  • The Night Circus, a lovely atmospheric love story brought to life by Jim Dale. Lexie reviewed this on the blog back in October. There’s a movie version in development scheduled for a 2013 release, so get in on the ground floor of opinionated ‘book-was-better’ arguments by reading the book first!
  • Twenties Girl by Sophie Kinsella: listen to Lara, a twenty-something Brit, spar with the ghost of her great-aunt Sadie, whose 23-year-old form has come straight out of 1927 to beg the living girl to track down her missing necklace. It’s a hoot!

JULY 3

Journey 2 – Mysterious Island – Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Josh Hutcherson, Vanessa Hudgens

The new journey begins when young adventurer Sean receives a coded distress signal from a mysterious island where no island should exist, a place of strange life forms, mountains of gold, deadly volcanoes, and more than one astonishing secret. Unable to stop him from going, Sean’s new stepfather joins the quest. Together with a helicopter pilot and his beautiful, strong-willed daughter, they set out to find the island. PG

JULY 10

Sherlock Holmes – Game of Shadows – Robert Downey Jr., Noomi Rapace, Jude Law

Sherlock Holmes has always been the smartest man in the room, until now. There is a new criminal mastermind at large, Professor James Moriarty, and not only is he Holmes’s intellectual equal, but his capacity for evil, coupled with a complete lack of conscience, may give him an advantage over the renowned detective. Holmes’s investigation into Moriarty’s plot becomes more dangerous as it leads him and Watson out of London to France, Germany, and finally Switzerland. PG

American Reunion – Jason Biggs, Alyson Hannigan, Eugene Levy

The whole American Pie gang returns to East Great Falls for the first time since their legendary senior year to turn their reunion into the most unforgettable weekend since high school. Old friends will reconnect, old flames will reignite, and everyone will rediscover just how much fun you can pack into one outrageous reunion. Unrated.

JULY 17

Salmon Fishing in Yemen – Emily Blunt, Ewan McGregor, Amr Waked

A fisheries expert is approached by a consultant to help realize a sheik’s vision of bringing the sport of fly-fishing to the desert and embarks on an upstream journey of faith and fish to prove the impossible possible.PG – 13

Friends with Kids – Jon Hamm, Kristin Wiig, Chris O’Dowd,

A daring and hilarious ensemble comedy about a close-knit circle of friends whose lives change once they have kids. The last two singles in the group observe the effect that kids have had on their friends’ relationships and wonder if there’s a better way to make it work. When they decide to have a child together, and date other people, their unconventional ‘experiment’ leads everyone in the group to question the nature of friendship, family, and, above all, true love. R.

Three Stooges – Sean Hayes, Chris Diamantopoulos, Will Sasso

The Three Stooges (Moe, Larry, Curly) are on a mission. Left on the doorstep of an orphanage run by nuns, the young trio grows up finger-poking, nyuk-nyuking, and woo-woo-wooing their way into trouble. Now years later, with the orphanage forced to close its doors, the Three Stooges embark on a wacky mission to save it. Hilarious mischief and mayhem ensue.PG 13

JULY 24

Wrath of the Titans – Liam Neeson, Sam Worthington

Perseus braves the treacherous underworld to rescue his father, Zeus, captured by his son, Ares, and brother Hades who unleash the ancient Titans upon the world. PG 13

 

 

 

 

After finding out that her husband has just accepted a job in Luxembourg, Kate Moore is secretly thrilled that she can move to a foreign country and leave her deepest secret behind in the United States in Chris Pavone’s debut thriller/mystery, The Expats.  After the family settles in their new home country, her husband, Dexter, throws himself into his job working long hours and taking many work related trips.

Kate begins to fill her days with children’s playgroups and lunches with other expat wives who she has met.  Quickly, she makes friends with Julia, another expat and her husband, Ben who live in Luxembourg with their young children.  After some time, Kate begins to have misgivings about Julia and Ben and is convinced they are not who they seem.  Kate is thoroughly convinced that they know her secret and they are working to expose her.

She sleuths into Julia and Ben’s background and she discovers their true identities.  At this point the plot takes so many twists and turns, it becomes confusing and hard to piece together at times.  The conclusion is ambitious, creative and completely unexpected.  Overall, I really enjoyed Pavone’s debut novel even though the plot didn’t always come together as I would have hoped, but I am looking forward to Pavone’s next thriller.