Posts Tagged ‘harrowing’


April 18, 2012

Author: Emma Donoghue

Title: Room

Genre: Psychological Suspense

Publication Date: September 2010

Number of Pages: 321

Geographical Setting: Presumably Canada

Time Period: Present

Series: N/A

Plot Summary: Five-year-old narrator Jack has spent his entire life in a garden shed turned prison with his Ma. His narrations reveal to the reader that his mother has been held captive by a sociopath known only as Old Nick by Jack. Additionally, Ma made the decision to spare Jack the heartbreak of truly understanding their situation by telling him the Room is essentially the universe and that everything he sees on their television is fiction. The haunting, disturbing novel is irresistible from the start, spurred along by the fast-pace of a child’s narration and the incredible sense of psychological suspense Donoghue creates. About half the book takes place in the Room, until Jack and Ma finally make a daring escape. Rather than ending the story there, Donoghue explores their painful and shocking reintroduction to the outside world. This character-centered novel explores the harrowing but ultimately hopeful experience of Jack and his mother.

Subject Headings: Antisocial personality disorders, Kidnapping, Boys, Mother and child, Women kidnap victims, Compulsive behavior in men

Appeal: fast-paced, suspenseful, engaging, harrowing, disturbing, unsettling, uncomfortable, character-centered, realistic, haunting, refreshing, resolved ending

3 appeal terms that best describe this book: disturbing, compelling, suspenseful

Secrets in the cellar, by John Glatt

Donoghue was inspired to write Room after learning the terrible story of a 73-year-old man found guilty of assaulting and imprisoning his daughter for 24 years, fathering several children with her over the period of time she was trapped in a secret bunker he designed. Harrowing and deeply disturbing, Glatt’s book is the true story of the Fritzl case.

A stolen life: a memoir, by Jaycee Dugard

Readers who are interested in true stories of kidnapping and captivity that also contain an ultimately hopeful tone might like Dugard’s disturbing memoir of being kidnapped at age 11. The gritty, candid story is about Dugard’s imprisonment by a sex offender and her eventually escape after being forced to give birth to two of his children.

Tears of rage: from grieving father to crusader for justice : the untold story of the Adam Walsh case, by John Walsh.

Readers may be interested in learning about the legal side of a tragic ordeal after reading the Room. Walsh’s painful account of the cold legal system that could have done more to save his son will resonate with readers.

Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:

The irresistible Henry House, by Lisa Grunwald

Readers who are eager to learn how Jack continues to develop may enjoy Grunwald’s historical fiction about a man raised as a practice baby for home economics courses. Henry House feels betrayed by lies about his origins, yet remains emotionally stunted by his unusual upbringing. The book is compelling and thought-provoking.

Me & Emma, by Elizabeth Flock

Another disturbing tale of abuse and family drama, Flock’s book features an eight-year-old protagonist who details her family’s abuse at the hands of her alcoholic stepfather. More methodically paced, the book is more of a thriller with a startling, violent ending that might appeal to readers who enjoyed Room but felt the book glossed over gritty details of Jack’s captivity and subsequent adjustment to the outside world.

Still Missing, by Chevy Stevens

Readers who are interested in learning more about Ma’s ordeal may enjoy Still Missing, a novel exploring the trauma experienced by a woman who is kidnapped and abused at the hands of a sociopathic captor. The book is more gritty and reflective then Room, but also examines the reintroduction of a kidnapping victim into society.

Live to Tell by Lisa Gardner

October 5, 2011

Author: Gardner, Lisa

Title: Live to Tell

Genre: Suspense

Publication Date: 2010

Number of Pages: 385

Geographical Setting: Boston, Massachusetts

Time Period: present day

Series: Fourth

Plot Summary:  Live to Tell is a gripping psychological thriller featuring Boston Police Detective DD Warren in the fourth book in a series.  DD is called to the aftermath of a grisly murder at a middle class home on a humid August night in Boston.  A mother and three young children are found dead in their home, apparently murdered by their father in a fit of rage, who then turned the gun on himself.  DD, a tough talking, attractive head of a homicide unit, just begins investigating when the following evening brings another horrific crime:  a second family is found dead in their home.  The two events lead DD and Alex, an ex-detective who has a romantic interest in DD, to believe that there is more to these cases than a simple case of murder/suicide.  Are these two crimes connected and is there still a murderer at large who will target more families?  Clues lead the detectives to investigate at an intensive care psych ward for children, where they meet the dedicated nurse Danielle, who has is still haunted by her own lurid past.  Multiple story lines begin to converge as Detective Warren gets closer to the murderer, but the case is not solved before more deaths occur.  Many twists and turns will keep readers guessing before they get to the harrowing conclusion in this dark and disturbing page turner.

 Subject Headings: Police Massachusetts Boston, Fiction.

Family Death, Fiction.

Murder Investigation, Fiction.

Mystery fiction.

Appeal Terms: engrossing, fast-paced, compelling, dangerous, dark, suspenseful, violent, multiple plot lines, plot-twists, thought-provoking, psychological, well-researched, vivid, disturbing, harrowing

Three best appeal terms: fast-paced, psychological, thrilling

Relevant Works and Authors (Fiction):

Lisa Jackson, Born to Die. Like Live to Tell, This romantic suspense novel also features serial murders, a smart female detective, and is a fast paced page turner.

Tess Garritson, Boday Double. This dark and twisted psychological suspense novel also features a strong female detective, a homicide investigation, and takes place on the streets of Boston.

Sandra Brown, Smash Cut.  This thriller is packed with surprises and features well researched psychological plot twists that will keep the reader guessing.

Relevant Works and Authors (Nonfiction):

Sebastian Junger,  A Death in Belmont.  This nonfiction true crime page turner tells of a murder investigation that takes place in Boston in 1963.    Readers who enjoy homicide investigbations that take place in Boston should like this true account. Like Live to Tell, this features multiple story lines as three lives begin to converge over this harrowing and disturbing case.

Michael Newton, Savage girls and wild boys : a history of feral children. Live to Tell features the character of Lucy, a child who is so severly abused that she has become feral, and possesses traits of animals.  This book will help readers gain a better understanding of this disturbing psychosis.

Anna Alvarez, Live Company: Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy with Autistic, Borderline, Deprived and Abused Children.  Live to Tell features an intensive psych hospital for children and violent and abused children characters.  Readers who want to know more about the mental diseases that can occur in children who have been violently abused, and their treatment options, should read this book.


The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

April 21, 2010

Author:  Junot Diaz

Title:  The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

Genre:  Literary Fiction, Latino

Publication Date:  2007

Number of Pages:  335

Geographical Setting:  New Jersey, Dominican Republic

Time Period:  Mid to Late 20th Century

Series:  N/A

Plot Summary:  Oscar’s Dominican line can be traced back to an affluent Trujillo-era family, a surgeon and nurse that existed in social circles adjacent to that of the the savage dictator.  Oscar’s lack of love (and lack of culo) may also be attributed to his quasi-royal grandparents.  By jumping back and forth through time, Junot Diaz presents the genesis and implementation of the fuku (“the Curse and the Doom of the New World”) that has plagued Oscar’s family since the middle of the 20th century.

With a casual, anecdotal narrative littered with comic book, Science Fiction, and Fantasy references, Yunior, a family friend, regales us with this searing family history that details the trials of Oscar, a hopeless romantic and obese SciFi/ Fantasy aficionado who wants desperately for a girlfriend (and to be the Dominican Tolkien), and places them in the context of the tragic family legacy that held sway over The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao.

Subject Headings: Misfits (Persons), Social acceptance; Eccentrics and eccentricities; Interpersonal relationships; Men/women relations; Ghettoes; Ghettoes, Hispanic-American – New Jersey; Family relationships; Curses; Loss (Psychology); Persistence; Dominican-Americans; Hispanic-Americans; New Jersey; Folklore; Hispanic-American fiction

Appeal:  contemporary, character-centered, episodic, vivid, savage, sweeping, unflinching, anecdotal, affecting, explicit, harrowing, witty

3 terms that best describe this book:  funny, engaging, powerful

Similar Works and Authors:


Trujillo is examined in Eric Paul Roodra’s The Dictator Next Door:  The Good Neighbor Policy and the Trujillo Regime in the Dominican Republic, 1930-1945.

Fukued?  Who needs zafa when you have Lady Suzanne Miller’s Omens, Curses & Superstitions:  How to Remove and Reverse Them?

Did Oscar need to focus a little less on his Lovecraft and a little more on his love craft?  Try Ron Louis and David Copeland’s How to Succeed with Women.


Jessica Abel offers a story of self-discovery and personal growth in the graphic novel, La Perdida.  Carla explores her Mexican roots through misguided endeavors.  Personal and tense, Carla struggles to connect and her naivete ultimately lands her in the center of a violent plot.  Although simple, the artwork is evocative.

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon is an effervescent tale of Jewish cousins/friends/collaborators that find themselves as pop-culture frontiersmen during the Golden Age of comics.  Another Pulitzer Prize winner.

In The Fortress of Solitude, Jonathan Lethem tells a story of a boy trying to find his place, being caught between two worlds and not quite fitting either.  Music, magic rings, super heroes and comic books figure into the story.  Oscar would approve.


In the Dark

June 8, 2009

Author: Freeman, Brian

Title: In the dark

Genre: Mystery/suspense/crime fiction

Publication Date: 2009

Number of Pages: 368p

Geographical Setting: Duluth, Minnesota

Time Period: present day (2000’s)

Series: (if applicable) Jonathan Stride novels (#4)

Plot Summary:

In this chilling and harrowing novel, police lieutenant, Jonathan Stride, discovers secrets about a loved one’s past. Tish Verdure, shows up in Duluth and informs Stride that she is writing a book about the 30 year-old, unsolved, murder of Laura Starr, who was the older sister of Cindy Starr, who later became Stride’s wife. The information and suspicions Tish brings, forces Stride to re-examine the validity of the trust with his late-wife Cindy and his current love interest, private investigator, Serena Dial, while reopening the cold case of Laura Starr’s murder.

Subject Headings:

murder; husband and wife; secrets; family relationships; Duluth, Minnesota; Minnesota; Upper Midwest; mystery stories; suspense stories


Compelling, engrossing, chilling, atmospheric, fast-paced, swift, detailed, engaging, intense, thrilling, harrowing, well-developed characters, series characters, violent, flashbacks, investigative, multiple plot lines, detailed setting of Duluth MN, suspenseful, dangerous, frank, unpretentious, unusual

3 Terms that best describe this book:

Suspenseful, chilling, investigative mystery

Similar Fiction Authors and Works:

Jodi Compton, The 37th Hour, is the first in the Sarah Pribek mystery series. This series is appealing to fans of police detective novels that take place in the Midwest.

Stuart Woods, Santa Fe Rules, is the first of the Ed Eagle novels, which are suspenseful novels about missing persons and murder investigations.

Harlan Coben, The Woods, is an engrossing suspense novel that will appeal to mystery and suspense readers alike with rapid action, ordinary characters in extraordinary circumstances and lots of dialogue.

Similar Non-fiction Authors and Works:

Tony Dierckins & Kerry Elliott, True north : alternative and off-beat destinations in and around Duluth, Superior, and the shores of Lake Superior, is a guidebook to the Duluth and Superior area. The book is filled with maps, outdoor adventure activities and local lore.

Jarrett Hallcox & Amy Welch, Behind the yellow tape: on the road with some of America’s hardest working crime scene investigators, is a collection of criminal investigation case studies in the United States and one of the case studies is about a case known as “Thunder snow, aye” which was investigated by the Duluth Police Department.

Russell Bintliff, Police Procedural: a writer’s guide to the police and how they work, is a handbook designed for writers to help give them insight into how police departments and crime investigation units work so that fictitious works can have a greater sense of authenticity.

Name: Natalie Ochockyj