Posts Tagged ‘compelling’

Await Your Reply

October 17, 2012

Author:  Dan Chaon

Title:  Await Your Reply

Genre:  Psychological Suspense

Publication Date:  2009

Number of Pages:  320

Geographical Setting:  Various locations throughout the U.S. (including Ohio, Michigan, Nebraska) and abroad (Canada and Ivory Coast)

Time Period:  2000’s

Series:  N/A

Plot Summary:

Three seemingly disparate narratives, divided into three sections, comprise this book.

-Miles Cheshire searches for his missing, mentally unstable twin brother, Hayden- a search that has consumed him for the past ten years.

-After discovering that he was adopted, Ryan Schuyler drops out of college at nineteen to join his real father, Jay, who involves Ryan in his fraud and identity theft schemes.

-Lucy Lattimore is an orphan who runs away with George Orson, her former high school history teacher, looking for a new life.

Rotating between each of the characters, the stories are connected via themes of loss and identity, and perhaps much more.  A compelling read that addresses ideas of self and reinvention, Await Your Reply builds in intensity as readers discover the interconnectedness of the characters’ lives and the dangerous consequences of journeys ill-chosen.

Subject Headings:  Identity theft, Secret identity, Twins, Missing persons, Runaways, Adoption, Family relationships, Teacher-student relationships, Embezzling, Cybercrime, Second chances, Truth.

Appeal:  Compelling, Character-driven, Intricately plotted, Multiple storylines, Disturbing, Bleak, Complicated, Suspenseful, Unrelenting, Family dynamics, Twin brothers, Secrets, Reinventing yourself, Search for truth, Quest for identity, Criminal activity (identity theft/cybercrime).

Three appeal terms that best describe this book:  Compelling, Character-driven, Intricately plotted.

Similar Authors and Works:

Three Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors:

1. Stealing Your Life:  The Ultimate Identity Theft Prevention Plan  by Frank W. Abagnale

From counterfeiting expert and author of Catch Me If You Can, comes a book about identity theft that discusses both the methods used by criminals and the steps people can take to prevent and/or deal with becoming victims themselves.  Await Your Reply involves characters that are perpetrators of identity theft.  Readers searching for more information about identity theft may find the many case histories and suggestions included in this book to be useful.

2.  Kingpin:  How One Hacker Took Over the Billion-Dollar Cybercrime Underground  by Kevin Poulsen

Kingpin follows the rise and fall of Max Butler, a criminal hacker who stole access to over a million credit card accounts, exposing readers to hacking culture and the cybercriminal underworld along the way.  Readers who found the secretive and dangerous aspects of the crimes committed by the characters in Await Your Reply intriguing could find this title to be a compelling read.

3.  Identical Strangers: A Memoir of Twins Separated and Reunited  by Elyse Schein and Paula Bernstein

Two sisters, separated as infants by an adoption agency, reunite later in life.  In this book, they share the journey of their relationship from strangers to sisters.  Await Your Reply includes twin brothers as prominent characters.  Readers interested in learning more about twins and their relationship with one another may find this book to be a good match- it includes both information about twin studies and statistics as well as the emotion connection that the sisters form.

Three Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:

1.  The Talented Mr. Ripley  by Patricia Highsmith

Tom Ripley travels to Italy to convince a former classmate, the wealthy Dickie Greanleaf, to return home to his family.  Plans go awry when their friendship cools; Tom kills Dickie and assumes his identity.  Await Your Reply and The Talented Mr. Ripley are both character-driven psychological suspense stories that involve stolen identities, written in a spare and compelling style.

2.  Case Histories  by Kate Atkinson

Private detective Jackson Brodie investigates three past crimes, all involving dead and/or missing girls.  Although a mystery, Case Histories is similar to Await Your Reply for being character-driven, disturbing and suspenseful.  Both stories also contain multiple storylines that involve family relationships and missing persons.

3.  The Cloud of Unknowing  by Thomas H. Cook

Diana Sears doesn’t believe police reports that find the drowning of her son to be an accident.  In Diana’s obsessive search for answers, details about old crimes resurface and questions arise as to whether several murders may have been committed.  Both Await Your Reply and The Cloud of Unknowing are character-driven, disturbing, psychological suspense stories that are compelling to read.  Both stories also involve family relationships and Schizophrenia.

Name:  Nicole

In the Woods

October 17, 2012

Author: Tana French

Title: In the Woods

Genre: Psychological  Suspense

Publication Date: 2007

Number of Pages: 429

Geographical Setting: Dublin, Ireland and Knocknaree, Ireland

Time Period: Modern times; 2007, also flashbacks to mid-1980s

Plot Summary: On a beautiful summer day in 1984, three young children mysteriously disappear into the woods near their home. While initially unalarmed, their parents eventually head out to search for the three kids. One is found, clutching a tree, covered in blood and unable to speak. The other two are never found. In modern times, detective Rob Ryan and his partner Cassie Maddox are assigned to a terrible case of a young girl who is murdered and left on an ancient ceremonial stone in the same area where the two youngsters disappeared back in 1984. As the two detectives work tirelessly to uncover the young girl’s killer, detective Ryan must grapple with his own demons and try to make sense of a murder that seems unsolvable, and an old, haunting case that seems more and more to be connected. Will the two detectives be able to solve the case, and the old case, before they go cold?

Subject Headings: Murder victims, child murder, detectives, cold cases, criminal investigations, murder investigations, crimes against children, police, Dublin, Ireland, detective and mystery stories

Appeal: Character driven, Disturbing, Compelling, Lyrical, Moody, Detailed, Investigative, Builds in intensity, Suspenseful, Creepy, Series (Characters), Engrossing, Flashbacks,

3 appeal terms that best describe this book: Investigative, Creepy, Moody

Similar fiction authors and works:

Abbott, Megan E. The End of Everything

 

Evie and Lizzie are neighbors and best friends; they spend all of their time together and could never imagine being apart or keeping a secret. When Evie suddenly disappears, Lizzie is bombarded with questions about her best friend and her whereabouts. As she searches for the truth, Lizzie comes across a series of secrets that make her question how well she really knew her best friend.

Roy, Lori. Bent Road

When Arthur Scott moves his family back to his small hometown in Kansas, his wife and children struggle to adjust to their new life. To make matters worse, a young girl disappears in the town, drudging up old memories of Arthur’s sister, who also mysteriously disappeared never to be found. This richly detailed, creepy novel will delight readers who enjoyed the tone and atmosphere, as well as the suspense aspects, of In The Woods.

Eriksson, Kjell. The Princess of Burundi

When a jogger stumbles onto the body of a local small town crook, the homicide detective team works to uncover the multiple angles of who might have killed him. Though eventually discovered, this psychological mystery is a compelling and gritty read.

Similar nonfiction authors and works:

Cohen, Lisa R. After Etan: the missing child case that held America captive

While often when children go missing, they are eventually found, this is the true tale of a young boy who disappeared 30 years ago and is still missing. Filled with disturbing details, this will be an enjoyable read for anyone who liked the aspect of a cold case of missing children and the gritty details surrounding that.

Kottler, Jeffrey A. Lust for Blood

This book examines the ongoing fascination with crime, murder, and violence in the world. Filled with interviews of both consumers of the morbid, and those who perpetrate these crimes, this book is an interesting look into the public’s twisted fascination with the macabre.

Stern, Jessica. Denial: A Memoir of Terror

This story discusses the trauma of post traumatic stress as a result of sexual abuse and other forms of physical and mental abuse. Written from the viewpoint of a scientist and former abuse victim, this haunting investigation will entice readers who were interested in the sexual abuse and psychological trauma angles of In the Woods.

Breakdown

October 17, 2012

Author:  Sara Paretsky

Title:  Breakdown

Genre:  Mystery

Publication Date:  2012

Number of Pages:  431

Geographical Setting:  Chicago, Illinois

Time Period:  Contemporary

Series:  The V.I. Warshawski Series (#16)

Plot Summary:  Chicago private detective V.I. Warshawski investigates the potential involvement of a group of preteen girls interested in the Supernatural in the grisly vampire-style murder of a local private detective.  Meanwhile, a polarizing cable TV news host ratchets up his attempts to smear a candidate for the U.S. Senate by digging up dirt on wealthy businessman Chaim Salanter, an elderly Jewish supporter of the candidate and the grandfather of one of the girls discovered at the scene of the murder.  Plotlines converge at breakneck speed when Salanter’s granddaughter is kidnapped.  With the girl’s life hanging in the balance, Warshawski races to determine how the original murder and Salanter’s well-kept secrets are related to the kidnapping, a vicious attack on an old friend, and the death of an orderly at a state mental facility.  As the plot twists and turns, it seems clear that someone is willing to go to great lengths to make sure events of the past stay buried. 

Subject Headings:  Warshawski, V.I. (Ficticious Character)—Fiction; Women Private Investigators—Illinois—Chicago—Fiction;  Murder—Investigation—Fiction; Rich People—Fiction; Political Campaigns—Fiction;  Chicago (Ill.)—Fiction

Appeal:  fast-paced, compelling, suspenseful, dangerous, dark, gritty, sarcastic, engaging, series characters, intricately plotted, multiple plotlines, plot twists, investigative, rich and famous, contemporary, urban, political, details of Chicago, candid, earthy, straight-forward

Three Appeal Terms that Best Describe Book:  fast-paced, intricately plotted, suspenseful

Fiction Read-alikes:

A Trouble of Fools by Linda Barnes

Fans of Sara Paretsky’s tough, female private investigator V.I. Warshawski may also enjoy getting to know Carlotta Carlyle, the smart, hard-nosed female P.I. at the heart of Linda Barnes’ fast-paced mysteries, which are set against the gritty urban landscape of Boston. In this first title of the series, Carlotta’s investigation into the disappearance of a missing cab driver soon draws her into intrigue involving the IRA, a major drug ring, the FBI, and a member of the Mob.

The Other Woman by Hank Phillippi Ryan

Readers who enjoyed following the nasty political campaign and related media tie-ins at the heart of Breakdown may also enjoy this suspenseful and intricately plotted mystery involving murder and sleazy politicians.  Plotlines converge as Detective Jake Brogan investigates a series of murders of young women in Boston, while disgraced reporter Jane Ryland covers a seemingly-unrelated sex scandal involving a candidate for the U.S. Senate.

The Chicago Way by Michael T. Harvey

Readers of the V.I. Warshawski series who enjoy its gritty Chicago setting may also enjoy this first title in Harvey’s series about ex-Chicago cop and private detective, Michael Kelly.  At the request of his former partner, Kelly agrees to investigate a cold case involving a violent rape committed 8 years ago.  After his partner is found dead the next day, Kelly’s investigation soon points to the possibility that a serial killer/rapist is currently on the loose.  In this fast-paced mystery, the body count mounts as Kelly races to expose a cover-up related to the original crime.

Related Non-Fiction:

Politics on Demand: The Effects of 24-Hour News on American Politics by Alison Dagnes

A major plotline in Breakdown revolves around the efforts of a popular, politically polarizing host of a major cable TV news program to influence the outcome of a campaign for the U.S. Senate.  This book examines the proliferation of the 24-hour news cycle perpetuated by cable news stations, and the resulting shift in coverage away from substantive treatment of political issues to opinion-based reporting.   Also discussed is the impact this type of coverage has had on Americans’ understanding of politics and government, changes in the ways in which news organizations use politicians, and vice versa.

The Last Days of the Jerusalem of Lithuania: Chronicles from the Vilna Ghetto and the Camps, 1939-1944 by Herman Kruk

A significant plotline in Breakdown involves an investigation into a major character’s experience as a youth living in the Jewish Ghetto of Vilna, Lithuania during WWII.  This book is a translation of a diary kept by Herman Kruk, a Polish Jew who lived in the Vilna Ghetto, who ultimately perished in a labor camp in Estonia.  The diary provides a heartbreaking account of the conditions, violence, and cruelty that marked everyday life in the Ghetto.

Vampires, Zombies, and Shape-shifters (Secrets of the Supernatural)  by Rebecca Stefoff

Secret rituals surrounding membership in a book club for a (fictitious) popular series of books about vampires and shape-shifters inadvertently connects a group of preteen girls to a dangerous murder plot in Breakdown.  This book provides a review of the legend and folklore surrounding the enduring myth of vampires, zombies, and shape-shifters (e.g., werewolves).

Becky King

From Barcelona, with Love

October 3, 2012

Cover of From Barcelona, with LoveAuthor:  Elizabeth Adler

Title: From Barcelona with Love

Genre: Romantic Suspense

Publication Date: 2011

Number of Pages: 338

Geographical Setting: Los Angeles, Barcelona, Spanish Sierra Mountains

Time Period: Present day

Series: Mac Reilly, P.I.; Book 4

Plot Summary: Bibi Fortunata, a famous singer, is released from trial by a judge due to lack of evidence for the murder of her lover and his latest mistress, her supposed best friend. Rather than allow the scandal to affect her seven year-old daughter, Paloma, Bibi decides to leave her in the care of an aunt, and promptly disappears without a trace. Two years later, young Paloma meets TV detective show host and private investigator Mac Reilly, and Bibi’s family asks Mac to take up the case: find Bibi—if she is still alive—and reunite mother and daughter once again. Mac follows the trail to Barcelona, where he must discover the truth behind the murders before Bibi’s sinister ex-husband comes to take Paloma away, and claim her inheritance of a Spanish wine-making dynasty for himself. Moving at a brisk pace, and filled with plot twists, From Barcelona with Love is framed by the atmosphere and rich detail Adler evokes of cosmopolitan Barcelona and the more pastoral wineries and villas of the Spanish countryside. And the tone of the novel strikes a graceful balance between mystery and romance, as the story unravels the secret of Bibi.

Subject Headings: Barcelona (Spain), Murder investigation, Frameups, Women celebrities, Jilted women, Missing Persons, Suspicion, Detectives, Mothers and daughters, Murder suspects, Triangles (Interpersonal relations), Extramarital relations, Americans in foreign countries.

Appeal: compelling, fast paced, intriguing secondary characters, dramatic, vivid, series (characters), character centered, plot twists, resolved ending, rich and famous, steamy, contemporary, detailed settings, exotic, strong sense of place, lush, suspenseful, colorful, conversational.

3 appeal terms that best describe this book: character centered, plot twists, detailed settings

Similar Authors and Works:

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors:

Spain: A Culinary Roadtrip by Mario Batali, Mark Bittman, and Gwyneth Paltrow

Spanish food and wine figure prominently in From Barcelona, with Love, and readers who may wish to learn more on the subject will likely enjoy this gastronomic tour of Spain co-written by a preeminent chef, the food critic for the New York Times, and a celebrity foodie.

The Sorcerer’s Apprentices: A Season in the Kitchen at Ferran Adrià’s elBulli by Lisa Abend

There are multiple scenes in Adler’s novel that evoke the contemporary Spanish cuisine known as molecular gastronomy, that was first popularized by maverick chef Ferran Adrià. Readers who enjoy food writing and want to explore the topic further will find much to savor here.

Barcelona The Great Enchantress by Robert Hughes

For readers who want to learn more about the historic sites described in From Barcelona, with Love, award-winning travel writer Hughes here vividly describes the Spanish city which he has admired and visited for over forty years.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:

Someone to Watch Over Me by Judith McNaught

Readers who enjoyed From Barcelona, with Love may also like this steamy Romantic Suspense novel, which similarly focuses on relationships and the foibles of the rich and famous. Leigh Kendall, a Broadway star, awakens in the hospital after a car crash to discover that she is suspected in the disappearance of her well-to-do husband.

Veil of Night by Linda Howard

As From Barcelona, with Love is an example of the gentler side of Romantic Suspense, Veil of Night may appeal to some of Adler’s readers. Howard’s fast-paced novel is focused on romantic relationships, and is humor-inflected with an accent on mystery. Wedding planner Jaclyn Wilde must team with P.I. Eric Wilder to solve the murder of one of her clients, a bridezilla depised by everyone she came in contact with.

Winter Garden by Hannah Kristin

Readers who appreciate Adler’s story of family secrets, sense of place, and richly detailed descriptions of exotic locales may enjoy this story of a woman trying to uncover the mysteries of her mother’s tragic past hidden in a Russian fairy tale she used to tell her children. Winter Garden takes the reader on a journey from apple growing country in the Pacific Northwest to Stalin-era Leningrad.

Name: John Rimer

Tomorrow, When the War Began

October 3, 2012

Tomorrow, When the War Began cover

Author: John Marsden

Genre: Adventure

Publication Date: 1993

Number of Pages: 277

Geographical Setting: Australia, present day (1990s)

Series: The Tomorrow Series (book 1)

Plot Summary:  A group of teenagers blow off the town’s festivities to go camping in Hell.  After a relaxing week in the Australian bush, the group returns to the unimaginable: empty homes, spoiled food and dead dogs.  The book reads like the first in a series, giving ample time for a fully developed setting and character development before jumping into the thrilling plot.  The characters transform as their new bleak reality sets in.  Readers discover character growth and plot development through a single narrator’s point of view.  The book ends on a suspenseful note as the group decides how best to deal with the grave situation at hand.

Subject Headings: Resourcefulness in teenagers; Hiding; Imprisonment; Resourcefulness; Determination in teenagers; Determination (Personal quality); Guerrilla warfare; War; Survival; Teenagers – Australia; Wilderness areas — Australia

Appeal:  Action-packed; Builds in intensity; Suspenseful; Bleak; Compelling; Series characters; Introspective; Detailed setting; Accessible; Small-town; Episodic; Flawed; Emotionally-charged; Coming-of-age

3 appeal terms that best describe this book: Compelling; Bleak; Emotionally-charged

Three fiction read-alikes:

Life as we knew it by Susan Beth Pfeffer (Bleak, Emotionally intense, Compelling, Survival, Series)

Set in rural Pennsylvania, 16 year-old Miranda’s life changed in a blink of an eye as a meteor causes more trouble than scientists predicted.  Miranda and her family struggle to survive the Earth’s violent reaction to this event.

Holding Their Own: A Story of Survival by Joe Nobody (Survival, Action-packed, Series)

Set in 2015, a couple must learn to survive in an America that has fallen into a second Great Depression, and devastated by terror attacks resulting in governmental collapse.

Winter’s End by Jean-Claude Mourlevat (Compelling adventure story about teenagers set in other countries)

Set in an unnamed country, this dystopian story is about four teenagers daring escape from their prison-like boarding school.  The teenagers struggle for survival and quest for answers about their past, keeping readers on the edge of their seats.

Three related non-fiction titles:

The Time of the Rebels: Youth Resistance Movements and 21st Century Revolutions by Matthew Collin (Young adults, Resistance)

This book discusses the role youth movements played in taking down oppressive governments.

 Violent Politics: a History of Insurgency, Terrorism & Guerrilla war, from the American Revolution to Iraq by William R. Polk (guerrilla warfare and insurgency in several countries)

William Polk takes a global approach to the history of insurgency, terrorism & guerrilla warfare.

 Red Earth, Blue Sky: the Australian Outback by Margaret Rau (Australian Outback)

The story of Margaret Rau’s journey through the Australian Outback.

Name: Shira

Love You More

October 3, 2012

Author: Lisa Gardner

Title: Love You More

Genre: Mystery, Suspense

Publication Date: 2011

Number of Pages: 412

Geographical Setting: Boston, Massachusetts

Plot Summary: In this fifth book of the Detective D.D. Warren series, the veteran detective pairs up with former lover Bobby Dodge to solve what seems at first to be an open-and-shut case. State police trooper Tessa Leoni appears to have shot and killed her husband Brian Darby in self-defense, and she has the bruises to prove it. However, what happened to their six-year-old daughter Sophie? There’s more than meets the eye in this compelling, fast-paced tale, where plot twists abound, suspense constantly builds, and secrets shock as they are unraveled. D.D. and Bobby have their hands full trying to understand the motives behind Brian’s death and the little girl’s disappearance; meanwhile, readers are exposed to Tessa’s stories as told from her point-of-view. At the same time the detectives get closer to solving the case, readers begin to approach their own understanding of what’s really going on through Tessa’s unfolding tales.

Subject Headings: Warren, D.D. (Fictitious character) – Fiction. Police – Massachusetts – Boston—Fiction. Boston(Mass.) – Fiction. Mystery fiction.

Appeal: Fast-paced, suspenseful, multiple points of view, flashbacks, plot twists, investigative, compelling, series (characters), chilling, layered, psychological, flawed characters, engrossing, plot-driven, intricate

Three appeal terms:  Suspenseful, plot twists, investigative

Three Relevant Fiction Works and Authors

Down the Darkest Road by Tami Hoag

Down the Darkest Road is a crime novel that is suspenseful, compelling, and fast-paced – all the same appeal as Love You More. Engrossing and plot-driven, this book keeps readers on their toes and unable to put the book as they follow the outcomes of the disturbing case. Lauren’s 16-year-old daughter went missing, her husband killed himself, and now she has only her younger daughter, Leah, and the desire for a fresh start to keep her going. Lauren takes her daughter and moves them to the safe haven of Oak Knoll, but soon she finds out she’s not the only one who has relocated to this peaceful town…

Survivor in death by J.D. Robb

This is another fast-paced mystery book bursting with thrills and suspense, with a little romance thrown into the mix. Lieutenant Eve Duncan is on the case of the murder of the Swisher family in New York City, and brings in her partner Peabody and her husband Roarke to help investigate. Meanwhile, she’s guarding the family’s only survivor – a nine year-old girl named Nixie. Readers who enjoyed Love You More will likely enjoy the appeal of familiar characters working together in to solve a crime in an urban setting, but might also like the more emotional aspects present in this book.

Fallen by Karin Slaughter

Fans of suspenseful thrillers will find plenty of edge-of-your-seat twists and turns in Karin Slaughter’s Fallen. Police officer Faith Mitchell seeks the help of her partner, Will Trent, and trauma doctor Sara Linton after walking into a deadly hostage situation in her mother’s home. As Faith tries to find answers and locate her missing mother, she goes on a whirlwind journey to uncover the truth behind what happened and save her mother (and herself) from a deadly fate.

Three Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

A Cold Case by Philip Gourevitch

Almost thirty years after an unresolved case of a brutal double homicide in New York, determined investigator Philip Goeurevitch revisits the case, focusing less on the murders themselves and more on the lives and minds of the killers. The investigative appeal that readers enjoyed in Love You More is present here in Geourevitch’s book, only in a different type of murder case. In Love You More, the detectives spend time pondering the whys of murder to understand Tessa’s reasoning and motives. What could drive her to kill her six-year-old child? In A Cold Case, Gourevitch questions what can drive one man to kill and another to hunt murderers.

If Looks Could Kill by M. William Phelps

Fact is often stranger than fiction, which is one reason why fans of Love You More might be drawn to this suspenseful true story. In 2001, Jeff Zack was murdered execution-style in Akron, Ohio, and former beauty queen Cynthia George was implicated in the crime. This non-fiction thriller packs anticipation as the saga unfolds and builds up to the final verdict. An editorial review on Amazon.com says the book “reads like a well-plotted crime novel,” and will likely please readers who enjoyed the suspenseful, crime-solving aspects of Love You More.

Skyjack: the hunt for D.B. Cooper by Geoffrey Gray

This is a fast-paced, compelling true crime story about the search for a hijacker named D.B. Cooper, who vanished after parachuting from a plane in 1971. Cooper was carrying $200,000 in ransom money with him when he disappeared, and was never to be found again. The story includes elements of mystery and suspense, as well as fast-paced storytelling and intriguing characters, making it a relevant readalike for Love You More.

Before I Wake

October 3, 2012

Cover Before I Wake Author:  Dee Henderson

 Title:  Before I Wake

 Genre: Christian Fiction & Romantic Suspense

 Publication Date:  2006

 Number of Pages:  381

 Geographical Setting:  Justice, Illinois

 Time Period:  Contemporary

 Series:  N/A

Plot Summary:  Haunted by the death of a colleague in a botched undercover investigation, former FBI agent Rae Gabriella is looking for a change in career, as well as scenery.  Taking her ex-fiancé, Bruce Campbell, up on his offer to join his Private Investigation firm, she looks forward to settling into a less stressful life in the small town of Justice, Illinois.  The ideal of small-town life is soon shattered when two unrelated young women visiting Justice are found dead in their hotel rooms within a week; both having died in their sleep.  Are their deaths an unfortunate coincidence or the result of something much more sinister?  Sheriff Nathan Justice asks Rae and Bruce for help in getting to the bottom of the mysterious deaths, unwittingly setting Rae up as a potential victim.  Rae must deal with a personal crisis in faith, as well as growing romantic feelings for both Bruce and Nathan, as she races to pursue leads that indicate a killer is on the loose.

Subject Headings:  Women Private Investigators — Illinois — Fiction;  Women Travelers —Fiction; Tourists — Crimes Against — Fiction; Illinois – Fiction

Appeal:   fast-paced, compelling, atmospheric, dangerous, suspenseful, romantic, well-developed characters, introspective, inspirational, investigative, multiple plot lines, plot-driven, open-ended, contemporary, small-town, dramatic

Three Appeal Terms that Best Describe Book:  fast-paced, suspenseful, small-town

Fiction Read-alikes:

Fatal Judgment by Irene Hannon

Against his wishes, U.S. Marshall Jake Taylor is assigned to protect the life of his best friend’s widow, Federal Judge Liz Michaels, whom Jake blames for his friend’s suicide.  This is the first volume in the Guardians of Justice series, and Hannon is a Christy Award winning author.  Like Before I Wake, this book is a fast-paced, compelling Christian Romantic Suspense title with a law-enforcement theme, where the main female character becomes a potential victim of an unknown predator.

Hideaway by Hannah Alexander

Dr. Cheyenne Allison withdraws to a small Missouri town to escape feelings of guilt over her sister’s tragic death.  When vandalism in town leads to serious violence and injuries, Cheyenne finds her loyalties divided between the town’s mayor and a charismatic neighbor.  This is the first book in the Hideaway series and is a Christy Award winning title.  Like Before I Wake, this book is a fast-paced, Christian Romantic Suspense title where a smart, professional woman seeks a new start in life in a small town, but is soon drawn into danger in her new surroundings.

I Heard that Song Before by Mary Higgins Clark

A new wife doubts her husband’s innocence when he becomes a suspect in an investigation into the death of his first wife four years earlier, as well as the disappearance of a neighbor over 20 years ago.  Clark is known for writing suspense stories and mysteries that are considered gentle reads, and the lack of sex, excessive violence, and strong language may have extra appeal to readers of Christian fiction.  This fast-paced, plot-driven suspense title by Clark won the Romantic Times Reviewers’ Choice Award for Best Mystery & Suspense in 2007, so may also satisfy fans of Romantic Suspense.

Related Non-fiction:

There is Power in a Union: The Epic Story of Labor in America by Philip Dray

A strike by unionized workers at the local tile factory and the ongoing negotiations with management provide a major subplot in Before I Wake.  Dray’s book provides a history of organized labor in the United States, an examination of the social, political, economic, and cultural impact unions have had over the years, and a discussion of the level of influence unions maintain in today’s troubled economy.

Methland: The Death and Life of an American Small Town by Nick Reding

In Before I Wake, a clandestine meth lab figures prominently in the rash of serious crime affecting Justice, Illinois; with recognition of the ruinous impact the drug trade can have on small-town America.  Reding’s book presents a study of the devastating effects of meth production on a small, agricultural town in  Iowa, the lives ruined by the drug, and the socioeconomic fallout associated with the meth culture.

Detectives Don’t Wear Seat Belts: True Adventures of a Female P.I. by Cici McNair

The fictional character of Rae Gabriella in Before I Wake is an ex-cop and former FBI agent who is just starting out as a private investigator.  This title is an entertaining and candid memoir by Cici McNair, a successful female private investigator in New York City.  McNair describes her early life, the effort required to break into the male-dominated P.I. profession, and the many cases, adventures, and colorful characters that filled her days.

Becky King

Tell No One

October 3, 2012

Tell No One by Harlan CobenTitle: Tell No One

Author: Coben, Harlan

Publication Date: 2001

Pages: 339

Geographical Setting: New York City

Time Period: Modern Day

Genre: Suspense

Series: N/A

Plot Summary: For eight years Dr. David Beck has been living under the shadow of his wife Elizabeth’s abduction and murder.  It was supposed to be a celebration, a trip to the family’s private lake commemorating the anniversary of the first kiss they shared when they were twelve years old.  What followed instead was a scream piercing the placid summer night and Beck’s last view of his wife before she was taken from him forever.  Unable to move on, Beck has thrown himself into his work at a pediatric hospital serving New York City’s poor.  But the absence that is Elizabeth cannot be filled.  That is until he receives an email containing information that only Elizabeth would know.  With only this one piece of desperate hope, Beck plunges into the middle of a web of secrets, lies, and hidden truths that all lead back to one central question: Did Elizabeth die all those years ago, or is there something else afoot?  Coben really moves the story along with quick chapters that shift viewpoint from first-person (Beck) to third-person.  Vivid language that verges on poetic draws the reader into the space of the novel.  Characters, both good and bad, doing all manner of surreptitious and shadowy things, populate the pages and lead the reader on a twist-filled sprint that is at the same time heartbreaking and hopeful, ruthless and tender.

Appeal Characteristics: Compelling, Breakneck, Intense, Dramatic, Multiple points of view, Plot twists, Suspenseful, Action-oriented, Cinematic, Details of New York City, Vivid, Complex, Descriptive, Heartbreaking, Resolved Ending

Subject Headings: Missing Persons, Murder, Frameups, Betrayal, Physicians, Husbands of murder victims, Serial murderers, Father and adult daughters, Husband and wife

Three Terms Best Describing this Book: Compelling, Dramatic, Action-oriented

Similar Fiction: 

Vanished by Karen Robards

This novel also features the return of a missing person presumed dead, this time the protagonist’s young child.  The plot is fast-paced and suspenseful like Coben.  But where Coben’s novel contains light romantic elements, Robards is downright steamy.

High Crimes by Joseph Finder

Betrayal and conspiracy feature high in this novel where a woman must learn the secrets of her husband’s past in order to defend him in a top-secret, military court-martial.  The examination of the relationship between husband and wife as well as the breakneck speed with which secrets are unveiled will appeal to readers of Coben. 

Money to Burn by James Grippando

Another wife who disappeared under mysterious circumstances may have returned from the dead, but this time, she’s out to financially ruin her husband.  A tale of corporate espionage set against the backdrop of Wall Street, this novel contains plenty of twists and deceptions to boot.

 Similar Non-fiction:

The Restless Sleep: Inside New York City’s Cold Case Squad by Stacy Horn

Mysterious and unsolved cases set against the backdrop of New York City.  This book offers an intriguing look at the detectives who work to solve cold cases against the obstacles of time, technology, and department politics.

The Company We Keep: a Husband-and-Wife True-Life Spy Story by Robert Baer and Dayna Baer

Here readers will find the true story of a couple who met while on a mission for the CIA that echoes the theme of husbands and wives under difficult circumstances.

Thunderstruck by Erik Larson

Scientific discovery and murder collide in this Edwardian era true mystery.  Those who appreciated the technology aspect of Coben’s novel may find similar ground in this non-fiction.

Name: Jessica

Still Life

October 3, 2012

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Author: Joy Fielding

Title: Still Life

Genre: Suspense

Publication Date: 2009

Number of Pages: 369

Geographical Setting: Philadelphia

Time Period: Present (2009)

Series (If applicable): N/A

Plot Summary: Casey Marshall, a woman has the perfect life, a perfect husband, a booming business and a close knit group of friends, but one day that all changes. After meeting her friends for lunch Casey gets into a car accident and ends up in a coma. While Casey is in the coma, nobody surrounding her knows that she can hear them, but she is unable to respond or see her friends, family and other people. Casey realizes from her sense of hearing that the car accident may not have been an accident. Will she to be able wake up from the coma before it is too late?

Subject Headings: Women interior decorators; traffic accidents; women coma patients; sub consciousness; suspicion; dishonesty; married women

Appeal: builds in intensity, closely observed, compelling, contemporary, disturbing, emotionally charged, engaging, flashbacks, intricately plotted, intriguing,  moody, plot driven, psychological, suspenseful

3 appeal terms that best describe this book: suspenseful; psychological; engaging

Similar Authors and Works (why are they similar?):

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

– Tavalaro, Julia, 1935- Look for Yes (true story of woman in coma, wrongfully diagnosed her as brain-dead and she could hear others but could not respond back)

– Metz, Julie, Perfection: a memoir of betrayal and renewal(compelling, somebody close to her was not honest with her)

– Carpenter, Kim, 1965- The vow: the Kim & Krickett story (coma patient, dealing with car accident)

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors

– Flynn, Gillian, Gone Girl (suspenseful, psychological, disturbing, mysterious marriage)

– Clark , Mary Higgins, I Heard that Song Before (suspenseful, plot-driven, suspicious of husband)

– Adler, Elizabeth (Elizabeth A.), In a Heartbeat (suspenseful, intricately plotted, almost killed, main character is unable to respond to people while in hospital)

Name: Samantha Biegel

Code Name Verity

September 26, 2012

Title:  Code Name Verity

Author:  Elizabeth Wein

Publication Date:  2012

Number of Pages:  343

Genre:  Historical Fiction

Geographical Setting:  Great Britain and France

Time Period:  World War II (1943)

Series:  N/A

Plot Summary: 

An unnamed young woman, imprisoned and tortured by the Gestapo in Nazi-occupied France during WWII, agrees to turn over information about the British War Effort.  Her confession weaves together characters and conditions of her current situation with stories from her past, describing her friendship with Maddie, the pilot of the plane who flew them to France and crashed.  Though Code Name Verity is a suspenseful spy novel, above all else it is a story of friendship and survival, courageous and heart breaking.

Subject Headings:  World War, 1939-1945; Great Britain History; France History German occupation; Insurgency; Nazis; Women air pilots; Espionage; Friendship.

Appeal:  character-driven; suspenseful; compelling; intense; moving; thought-provoking; cross-class friendship; courage; survival; details about period aircraft and flying; women’s involvement in the war effort; stylistically complex; intricately plotted; unreliable narrator; multiple narrators; diary fiction; flashbacks; closed ending; war story; spy story; World War II story.

3 appeal terms that best describe this work:  compelling, character-driven, friendship

Similar/Relevant Authors and Works (Fiction):

Tamar by Mal Peet

After the death of her beloved grandfather, Tamar inherits a box containing clues and coded messages, leading her on a journey to uncover the truth about her family and its secrets, stemming from involvement with resistance fighters in Nazi-occupied Holland during World War II.  Tamar and Code Name Verity are both compelling, suspenseful, intricately plotted stories involving secrets and betrayal, set during World War II.

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

Death narrates the story of Liesl, a young girl living with foster parents in Nazi Germany, for whom stealing books, with their stories and later her own, is a way to survive the horrors of war.  Readers who enjoy moving, character-driven, stylistically complex stories may enjoy The Book Thief and Code Name Verity; both books also involve secrets and survival during World War II.

Yossel by Joe Kubert

A graphic novel set in the Warsaw Ghetto during World War II, Yossel portrays the harsh life and conditions in Nazi-occupied Poland, told by a fifteen-year-old Jewish boy through his sketches.  Readers interested in exploring more stories about World War II and the Resistance movement that are moving, thought-provoking, and character-driven may be interested in this book.

Similar/Relevant Authors and Works (Nonfiction):

A Life in Secrets: Vera Atkins and the Missing Agents of WWII by Sarah Helm

After WWII, Vera Atkins, a high-ranking female officer of a British Intelligence unit, investigated the fates of agents who had disappeared during the war.  Readers interested in learning more about the British Intelligence unit and its involvement with the resistance movement during WWII may enjoy this book, as could readers interested in reading about the involvement of women in the war effort.

The Zookeeper’s Wife: A War Story by Diane Ackerman

Antonina Zabinski and her husband, Jan, helped many Jews escape the Warsaw Ghetto during WWII by hiding them in their home and in the empty cages of the Warsaw Zoo, which had been heavily damaged during a Nazi bombing of the city.  Readers interested in finding more stories about courage and survival during WWII may be interested in this dramatic tale of compassion and heroism in the midst of war.

Maus: A Survivor’s Tale by Art Spiegelman

In this graphic novel memoir, the author/illustrator portrays his father’s experiences in Nazi-occupied Poland and imprisonment in a Nazi concentration camp.  Readers looking for intense, moving and thought-provoking stories about survival during WWII may be interested in discovering this title.

Name:  Nicole