Posts Tagged ‘gripping’

The Da Vinci Code

February 22, 2012

Author: Dan Brown

Title: The Da Vinci Code

Genre: Suspense

Publication Date: 2003

Number of Pages: 454

Geographical Setting: Paris, France and London, England

Time Period: Present

Series: Angels and Demons (Prequel), featuring Robert Langdon

Plot Summary: The mystery begins with the shocking murder of Jacques Sauniere, the elderly museum curator for the Louvre in Paris.  Upon dying he leaves behind a bizarre set of symbols, written in his own blood, as a clue to his allies.  This triggers a hunt for the murderer in which Robert Langdon, a professor of symbology, and Sophie Neveu, a French cryptologist, must search below the glass pyramid of the Louvre, to uncover a perplexing puzzle emanating from a work by one of the world’s greatest artists, Leonardo DaVinci.  But can Langdon and Neveu solve the mystery before it is too late?  Full of action and suspense, this thriller, now a major motion picture, is sure to have you on the edge of your seat!

Subject Headings: 1. Art museum curators — Crimes against — Fiction 2. Cryptographers — Fiction 3. Grail — Fiction 4. Secret Societies — Fiction

Appeal: atmospheric, suspenseful, descriptive, fascinating, intricately plotted,  compelling, thrilling, religious tie-ins, gripping, page-turner, historical aspects, cinematic

3 appeal terms that best describe this book: cinematic, page-turner, intricately plotted

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

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

  1. The Lost City of Z, David Grann – for readers who enjoy a mix of history and mystery.  This is a non-fiction book about the British explorer, Percy Fawcett.
  2. The Way of DaVinci, Jay Williams – for readers who want to know more about Leonardo DaVinci.
  3. Seven Days in the Art World, Sarah Thorton – this book provides a look at the world of contemporary art today through interviews and narratives.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors

  1. The Fire, Katherine Neville – Suspenseful, female protagonist, and involves cryptic codes and puzzles.
  2. The Breath of God, Jeffery Small – Compelling, though-provoking, and for readers who want more Christianity-themed fiction.
  3. Timeline, Michael Crichton – for readers who like books set in Paris, also richly detailed and incorporates time travel.

The Dark Half by Stephen King

August 3, 2011

Author: Stephen King

Title: The Dark Half

Genre: Horror

Publication Date: 1989

Number of Pages: 431

Geographical Setting: Maine

Time Period: present time

Series (If applicable): N/A

Plot Summary: Thad Beaumont is a writer, a husband, and a father of twins. He has made many fans and big money writing gory horror novels under a pen name, George Stark. When a potential blackmailer threatens to reveal Stark’s identity, Thad decides to “kill” his alter ego and to start writing under his real name. After Thad makes a fake funeral for Stark, a serial killer starts murdering people in the fashion of Stark’s novels. The main suspect in these horrible crimes is Thad, since his fingerprints are all over the murder scenes.  As he realizes it is his own “dark half” to blame, the revenge seeking killer goes for Thad’s life. Although the horrifying killing spree takes place later in the story, the reader can feel the sense of menace from the first chapter, when teenage Thad’s brain tumor surgery reveals body parts of an undeveloped twin. This character-driven story is high in emotion as the reader feels for Thad, a nice family guy, and fears for his supposedly fictional sinister alter ego. Suspense, a mysterious villain, and an intriguing storyline make this book impossible to put down. Even those who find unexpectedly appearing graphic scenes of violence disturbing will keep reading this page-turner to find out what happens next.

Subject Headings: Horror fiction, Mystery fiction, American authors – fiction

Appeal: fast-paced, character driven, terrifying, emotional, sense of menace, unexplained phenomena, sympathetic protagonist, sinister antagonist, intriguing characters, graphic violence, serial killer, clever plotline, gripping, mysterious

3 terms that best describe this book: terrifying, fast-paced, intriguing characters

Similar Authors and Works:

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

The Man with the Phantom Twin: Adventures of the Neuroscience and Human Nature by V.S. Ramachandran (his scientific book explains multiple phenomena of the human brain, a topic that was raised but never rationally explained in King’s novel)

The Monster of Florence by Douglas J. Preston (like King’s horror, this true crime story has a suspenseful, creepy, and dark tone; in both books there is an element of sleuthing for a brutal serial killer and accusation of the crime falls on the “good guys”)

Nom de Plume: A (Secret) History of Pseudonyms by Carmela Ciuraru (while Dark Half is about a writer whose pseudonym comes to life with horrible consequences, this true historical writing expands the topic of pen names – it describes multiple writers, their lives hidden under their pen names, and various consequences of their reveal)

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors

Darkfall by Dean Koontz (both novels are fast paced, with suspenseful, menacing tone, and multiple scenes of explicit violence; like in King’s novel, there is a supernatural antagonist killing people, and attempts to catch him bring deadly threat)

Lullaby by Chuck Palahniuk (like King’s novel this story is character-driven, creepy, suspenseful, and violent, featuring a serial killer; although satirical in nature, it resembles King’s concept of having in the brain a supernatural being that kills others)

The Stake by Richard Laymon (like Dark Half, this is a fast paced horror story with explicit violence; the main characters of both novels are horror writers and their writings in some ways come to life)

Name: Anna


August 3, 2011

Author: Bram Stoker

Title: Dracula

Genre: Horror, Gothic fiction

Publication Date: 1897

Number of Pages: read on Kindle; a 2011 edition is 358 pages

Geographical Setting: Carpathian Mountains/Transylvania (Romania); Whitby, England; London, England

Time Period: Victorian era

Plot Summary: When solicitor Jonathan Harker sets out for the remote Transylvanian home of a new client, he has no idea he is about to become prisoner to the evil Count Dracula, a vampire intent on traveling to London to begin populating the world with his kind. Barely escaping with his life from the sinister castle, Jonathan is unable to prevent a chain of events that brings Dracula’s menacing and deadly presence to the doorsteps of his family and friends. This epistolary novel uses journals, letters and newspaper clippings to follow several perspectives on the unfolding horror: Jonathan, who is initially unsure as to whether his experiences with the undead in the castle were real or imagined; his fiancée, Mina, who witnesses her friend Lucy fall victim to a mysterious illness; Lucy’s suitors, including a doctor who runs an insane asylum with a patient who seems to know more than he’s letting on; and Abraham Van Helsing, a professor from Amsterdam who suspects what the evil presence might be. As Dracula sets his sights on the members of this group, they band together to protect themselves and the world from his bold plans.

Subject Headings: Vampires, Dracula, Good and Evil, Transylvania, England – 19th Century, Men/Women Relations – Victorian Era, Epistolary Novels, Gothic Horror, Classic Novels

Appeal: Chilling, detailed setting, gripping, linear, menacing atmosphere, multiple narrators, peaks and valleys of intensity, resolved ending, strong/well-drawn characters, suspenseful, Victorian-era details, well-crafted

Three Words or Phrases Best Describing this Book: Foreboding, atmospheric, descriptive

3 Similar Fiction Works and Authors
The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova (suspenseful, multiple settings and storylines, blend of history and folklore – builds on Dracula myth/Vlad the Impaler history, well-developed characters, complex yet compelling)
Let the Right One In (also translated as Let Me In) by John Ajvide Lindqvist (chilling, modern vampire fiction with a darker tone, psychological thriller, examines good versus evil)
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley (other seminal work of 19th-century gothic fiction, complex, nuanced story, also hinges on human fascination with the macabre)

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors
Vampires, Burial, and Death: Folklore and Reality by Paul Barber (a well-researched look at the origin and spread of vampire myths; readers might see parallels from folklore to the clues that lead Dracula’s protagonists to enlightenment; updated in 2010)
Bram Stoker’s Notes for Dracula by Robert Eighteen-Bisang and Elizabeth Miller (reproduction and analysis of Bram Stoker’s original handwritten and typed notes used in writing Dracula; gives insight into the novel’s structure, plot, characters, setting and timeline, as well as Stoker’s life and influences)
Dracula, Prince of Many Faces: His Life and His Times by Radu R. Florescu and Raymond McNally (a detailed look at Vlad the Impaler, the 15th-century Romanian ruler who was the inspiration for Dracula; readers can connect historical brutality and torture to the vampire myth)

By: Elaine

The Man in My Basement: A Novel

November 18, 2009

Author: Walter Mosley

Title: The Man in My Basement: A Novel

Genre: African-American/Literary Fiction

Publication Date: 2004

Number of Pages: 256

Geographical Setting: The village of Sag Harbor, NY

Time Period: Present day (2004)

Series: No

Plot Summary: Charles Blakey’s life is falling apart at the age of thirty-three.  Unemployed, drinking far too much, and estranged from his only friends, he spends his days reading science fiction novels alone in his family’s three-story Sag Harbor home.  The Blakey family has a long history in Sag Harbor dating back to the 17th century when they arrived in New York as free blacks.  Now, however, Charles is in danger of losing the home his family has owned for seven generations.  Nearly penniless, Charles is far behind on his loans, and the bank is threatening to take his house.  Then one day Charles hears a knock at his door.  A mysterious, 57-year-old white man named Anniston Bennet has an unusual propostion.  If Charles is willing to rent him his basement for 65 days, Bennet will pay him nearly $50,000.  Though the money would solve his financial problems, Charles is wary.  Who is this mysterious white man, and why did he chose Charles for this strange request?  Why is Bennet insisting on complete secrecy, and what is contained in the large packages he wants delivered to Charles’ basement?  Though suspicious, Charles begins the monumental task of preparing his basement for Bennet’s arrival.  In the process, he discovers a family heirloom – a trio of ancient African masks – that rekindles in him a sense of belonging, family, and identity.  Charles begins to rethink his decision to rent to Bennet, and his anxiety is multiplied when he learns Bennet plans to construct a prison cell for himself inside Charles’ basement so that he can pay for “crimes against humanity.”  Ultimately, Charles’ need for money and cautious curiosity prevail, and he allows Bennet to lock himself in the basement.  As the 65 days pass, the voluntary “prisoner” and his “warden” engage in several heated conversations that explore themes of guilt, punishment, responsibility, and redemption which all lead to an unpredictable ending that will challenge and haunt readers.

Subject Headings: African-American men;  Unemployed workers;  European-American men;  Rich men;  African-American families — History;  African-Americans — Material culture;  Landlord and tenant;  Race relations;  Power (Social sciences);  Identity (Psychology);  Atonement;  Home ownership;  Debt;  Alcohol use;  Los Angles, California;  Psychological fiction.

Appeal: gripping, steady, realistic characters, vivid, strong secondary characters, mythic, character-centered, complex, literary references, inventive, thought-provoking, sexually explicit, small-town setting, contemporary, haunting, philosophical, psychological, suspenseful, frank, some strong language, realistic dialogue

Three terms that best describe the book: Haunting, Philosophical, Realistic

Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:

Dirty Bird Blues: A Novel by Clarence Major – Manfred Banks is an aspiring blues musician in Chicago who’s life is falling apart thanks to his taste for Old Crow whiskey (aka the “Dirty Bird”).  His wife Cleo has taken their daughter and left him for a preacher, and he can’t find work.  Will he be able to quit the bottle and regain his family or will he spiral into drunken oblivian?  (realistic characters, psychological, realistic dialogue, alcohol abuse, unemployment, search for identity, race relations, inventive)

The Book of Illusions: A Novel by Paul Auster – Since losing his wife and young sons in a plane crash, Vermont English professor David Zimmer has been lost in an alcoholic haze.  When a chance T.V. viewing of old silent film star Hector Mann makes him laugh for the first time in months, Zimmer sets out to track down the actor.  This is a difficult task, however, because Mann had disappeared years before at the height of his fame.  Zimmer’s quest to find Mann leads him to confront death, chaos, and his own guilt and leads to haunting encounter with the old film star.  (gripping, steady pace, realistic characters, complex, haunting, psychological, frank language, alcohol abuse, inventive)

Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison – This classic work traces a young African-American man’s life journey from the South to New York City during which he concludes he is an “invisible man.”  After growing up trusting, the narrator encounters shocking injustices at college, at a paint factory job, and as a member of Harlem’s Communist Party.  These experiences convince him that to whites he has no identity.  He’s an invisible man on to whom they project their own preconcieved ideas.  (gripping, haunting, realistic characters, psychological, thought-provoking, race relations, philosophical, vivid, search for identity)

Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors:

In Hope of Liberty: Culture, Community, and Protest among Northern Free Blacks, 1700-1860 by James Oliver Horton – Co-written by professors of sociology at George Washington and George Mason Universities, this book traces the lives of the first free blacks in America from the American Revolution through the Civil War.  It examines this black communities struggles with racial injustice while striving to maintain a unique identity.  This book is about Charles Blakey’s own ancestors.  The Blakey family decended back to these same free black families in Sag Harbor, and it is with this family past that Charles longs to reconnect.

African Masks from the Barbier-Mueller Collection by Iris Hahner-Herzog – Written by a noted ethnologist, this book presents nearly 250 of the finest African masks from the renowned Barbier-Mueller collection.  With 100 color photographs and in-depth essays explaining the origins and uses of the masks, this book offers a fascinating look at fascinating African art form.  As Charles Blakey cleans family heirlooms from his basement, he discovers a trio of “passport” masks from his African ancestors.  These masks help him reconnect with his roots and start to reform his identity.

The Corporation: The Pathological Pursuit of Profit and Power by Joel Bakan – Written by a law professor at the University of British Columbia, this book traces the rise of the corporation over the past 150 years and contends that today it is a pathological institution.  As a system “programmed to exploit others for profit,” the modern corporation is a dangerous possessor of great power over society.  When Anniston Bennet wishes to imprison himself in Charles’ basement, it is to atone for the great evils he has committed in service to corporate interests.  He’s exploited the African people and literally killed children to provide profit and power to the corporate elite.

Name: Russ


November 4, 2009

Title: Relic

Author: Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child

Publication Date: 1995

Number of Pages: 468

Genre: Horror

Geographical Setting: New York, NY

Time Period: Present Day

Series: Pendergast novels, 1

Plot Summary: Deep within the Amazon jungle, a small group of explorers in search of the legendary Kothoga, or shadow people, discover a carved stone figurine of a beast with features that appear both human and reptilian. The figurine, believed to be a representation of the god Mbwun, is shipped to the New York Museum of Natural History where it remains crated in the one of the multitude of storerooms located in the museum’s sub-basement. A year later the museum is in the midst of preparations for a massive new exhibit called “Superstition” that will feature among other things the stone statue of Mbwun, when the mutilated bodies of two young boys are found in the building’s basement. More bodies are soon discovered, all of them showing signs of decapitation and vicious dismemberment and as the opening of the gala draws near, museum officials scramble to counteract the bad publicity. Graduate student Margo Green and her advisor Dr. Frock join forces with FBI special agent Pendergast and Lt. Vincent D’Agosta to track down this savage and intelligent killer; a killer who appears to possess unusual DNA patterns as well as super-human strength and who prowls the vast labyrinth of rooms and passages found in the museum basement; a killer in the form of a monster who may or may not be human.  As Green, Frock, and Pendergast investigate the eerie tunnels, hallways, and passages in search of this monster, there is an overriding sense of fear and foreboding. How will they stop this creature who is part man and part reptile and who may indeed be the incarnation of the evil god Mbwun?

Subject Headings: American Museum of Natural History, New York; FBI agents; Murder; Monsters; Statues; Exhibitions; Women graduate students; Natural history museums- -New York City; Museum murders- -New York City; Indians of South America- -Amazon Valley- -Antiquities; New York City; Horror stories, American; Suspense stories, American; Collaborative novel.

Appeal: fast-paced, intense, page-turner, evil, menacing atmosphere, building sense of foreboding, terrifying, plot-centered, well-drawn characters, open-ended with a surprising plot twist, chilling, grisly, gripping, suspenseful, graphic descriptions of violence, detailed scientific explanations of DNA and evolution, monsters, intriguing setting, detailed behind-the-scenes descriptions of museum archives, natural history museum settings.

Three terms that best describe this book: Menacing, grisly, Natural History Museum

Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:

Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton – On an island off the coast of Costa Rica, a theme park has been developed that will feature live dinosaurs as its main attraction. Fifteen different species of dinosaurs have been created and when a small group of humans arrives to tour the park, things go terribly wrong and the visitors discover that they must fight for their lives in order to survive. (Fact-paced, detailed explanations of DNA and evolution, combines science with horror, monsters that are the result of deviations in DNA and/or evolution, menacing atmosphere, detailed descriptions of setting, building sense of foreboding).

Deep Current by Benjamin E. Miller – A group of Marines and biologists are sent to investigate a floating glacier and when they reach it, they discover that it is populated by mollusk-like creatures called cephids, monsters that are the result of evolution gone awry, who have killed all but two members of a passenger ship. As the creatures begin to gruesomely kill members of the landing party, the survivors realize they must pull together group to defeat the enemy. (Fast-paced, horror, chilling, menacing atmosphere, monsters that are the result of deviations in DNA and/or evolution, building sense of foreboding).

Murder at the Museum of Natural History by Michael Jahn – The host of an exhibit at the American Natural History Museum is found murdered on the exhibit’s opening night and Lt. Bill Donovan must search the museum’s Hall of Dinosaurs to find the killer. (Fast-paced, suspenseful, detailed descriptions of museum archives, natural history museum settings). Although this is not a horror book, I thought it would appeal to readers who enjoyed the museum setting and the intricate details about the natural history museum.

Relevant Non-fiction Works and Authors:

Dinosaurs in the Attic: An Excursion into the American Museum of Natural History by Douglas Preston –  Fascinating chronicle of the expeditions, discoveries, and scientists behind the collection of the American Museum of Natural History. Preston also takes readers on a tour of the storerooms and vaults that house the collection.

Dry Storeroom No. 1: The Secret Life of the Natural History Museum by Richard Fortey – Engaging stories and colorful anecdotes that provide readers with information about the inner workings of all the departments of the Natural History Museum in London.

Relics of Eden: The Powerful Evidence of Evolution in DNA by Daniel J. Fairbanks – Presents the details of evolution, the discoveries in genetics, and “intelligent design” theory in a conversational style that will appeal to general readers.

Name: Maggie

Sole Survivor

October 7, 2009

Title: Sole Survivor

Author: Dean Koontz

Publication Date: 1997

Number of Pages: 403

Genre: Thriller

Geographical Setting: Los Angeles, California

Time Period: Present Day

Series: N/A

Plot Summary: Joe Carpenter, a Los Angeles Post crime reporter, suddenly finds himself without his wife and two daughters after a plane crash takes the lives of 330 people. He is told there are no survivors from Flight 353. Quitting his job, Joe walks around in a world of his own for a year. Then he meets a woman named Rose who claims to be the flight’s sole survivor. Rose shows Joe a picture and tells him that she will explain more later, and then suddenly disappears because the authorities are after her. Someone is after her, but Joe isn’t sure who “they” are as he sets off on a quest to find out if there are other survivors. Believing that there has been a cover-up, Joe is motivated by love for his family to find out the truth behind the plane crash. As the story unfolds, Joe methodically chases from one place to another, looking for clues along the way. Sole Survivor takes the reader on a fast-paced, emotional rollercoaster ride to the very end.

Subject Headings: Airplane accidentsColoradoAirplane accident survivors
Crime reportersLos Angeles, CaliforniaSuicideGenetic engineering
Government cover-upsGood and evil – Paranormal – Mind control – Mental Powers

Appeal: mysterious, psychological thriller, airplanes, complex, heart-wrenching, death, suicide, paranormal, espionage, good versus evil, catastrophic, unexplainable, paralyzing grief, heart-stopping, emotional, family, cover-up, investigation, hope, gripping, mythological symbolism, experiments, cults, conspiracy, corruption

Three terms that best describe this book: chilling, fast-paced, complex

Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:

Without a Trace by Colleen Coble – After the disappearance of a plane carrying her husband and son, Bree Nichols starts her own investigation and discovers a link to a violent crime that threatens to tear apart the peaceful town of Rock Harbor. (Intense action, personal investigation, search for missing family members, air plane mystery)

The Brueck Equation by Simmons Norwood – While working on a project for the eccentric mathematician Antoine Brueck, graduate student Steven Brooks discovers that one of the professor’s chaos theory formulas appears to predict airplane crashes. Steven’s own life is thrown into total chaos as he races against time to understand what is happening…and to prevent the next disaster. Can Brueck’s equation really predict plane crashes, or is there a more sinister explanation? And can Steven unravel the mystery in time to save the lives of 437 passengers on final approach to disaster? (Airplane crashes, theory, disaster, mystery)

Phenomenon by Sameer Zuhad – Vikrant Vasan, an enigmatic parapsychologist, demonstrates psychic feats and explains the underlying facts of the mysterious phenomena of life and the universe. (Parapsychology, mysterious phenomena, paranormal activity)

Relevant Non-fiction Works and Authors:

Lone Survivor: The Eyewitness Account of Operation Redwing and the Lost Heroes of SEAL Team 10 by Marcus Luttrell – Four US Navy SEALS departed one clear night in early July 2005 for the mountainous Afghanistan-Pakistan border for a reconnaissance mission. Their task was to document the activity of an al Qaeda leader rumored to be very close to Bin Laden with a small army in a Taliban stronghold. Five days later, only one of those Navy SEALS made it out alive. (Survival, secret mission, government)

Cloning and Genetic Engineering (Life in the Future) by Holly Cefrey – Science fiction becomes science fact in this intriguing series that explores the extraordinary scientific advances modern man is making – and their impact on society, economics and our future. (Science fiction, scientific advances, experimentation)

Mind Control, World Control by Jim Keith – Is mind control technology linked to UFO activity and UFO abductions? A little-known and controversial subject, mind control is thoroughly examined by veteran author and investigator Jim Keith. Exploring a startling amount of information, Mind Control, World Control analyses the technology used to control human minds. It reveals the methodology of implants and exposes mind control assassins and couriers, as well as famous mind control victims Sirhan Sirhan and Candy Jones. Among the many revealing chapters in this shocking work are those on early CIA experiments such as Project Artichoke and Project RIC-EDOM. (Mind control, controversy, technology, implants, victims, government experiments)

Name: Maurine