Posts Tagged ‘plot twist’

Bedbugs by Ben H. Winters

October 31, 2012

Bedbugs CoverTitle: Bedbugs

Author: Winters, Ben H.

Publication Date: 2011

Pages: 256

Geographical Setting: New York City

Time Period: Present Day

Genre: Horror Stories, Suspense Stories

Series: N/A

Plot Summary: When Alex, Susan, and little Emma Wendt move into a New York City brownstone boasting a prime location and an amazingly cheap rent, they happily embark on a new chapter of their lives.  Sure, the landlady may be slightly eccentric, and the previous tenants may have disappeared inexplicably, but these are small grievances compared to the perfection of the place.  Until the bedbugs show up, those notoriously hardy pests swarming ever-increasingly across the city.  When an exterminator finds no trace of the insects, Susan’s sanity shows signs of cracking.  Where are these bugs?  Why aren’t Alex and Emma being bitten, and what exactly is in the basement?  Winters’ story preys on our collective fear of creepy-crawlies delivering a good, old-fashioned horror story wrapped up in a modern-day package.  He draws inspiration from the best conventions of great horror classics: the hopeful beginning, the slightly off-kilter secondary characters, an ominous warning to stay out of the basement, the escalating psychological torture of a progressively unstable narrator, even a portentous portrait a la Dorian Gray.  This fast-paced novel will keep the pages turning until the chilling and twisted end; it will keep the lights on much longer than that.

Appeal Characteristics: creepy, menacing, fast-paced, foreboding, paranoid, plot-twist, details of New York City, dark, resolved-ending, off-kilter, manic, unsettling, compelling, plot-driven, suspenseful, movie-like

Subject Headings: New York City, Brooklyn, Bedbugs, Family, Haunted Houses, Secrets, Apartment houses, Paranoia

Three Terms Best Describing this Book: Creepy, Unsettling, Fast-Paced

Similar Fiction: 

The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson

This horror classic shares many themes with Bedbugs chief of which is the unstable nature of the narrator’s mind.  Where Winters’ tale is completely resolved, Jackson’s leaves the reader with a little more ambiguity.  Read this as both source material and a genuinely scary story.

Rosemary’s Baby by Ira Levin

Another classic horror story this time featuring the psychological torture of a young woman by neighbors whose eccentricities begin taking on a malevolent tone after Rosemary becomes pregnant.  The similar frame—everyday life slowly replaced by darkness—and paranoid feeling of this novel should appeal to readers who enjoyed Bedbugs.

Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill

For anyone who wants a terrifying read with plenty of turns and surprises set in the modern landscape, look no further.  The menacing bed bugs are replaced here with a menacing—and very real—ghost.  Similar to Winters, though, Hill adds layers of poignant everyday struggles that interweave with the overall fight against the supernatural.

Bonus Watch-alike: The Innkeepers written and directed by Ti West

During the last operating days of the Yankee Pedlar Inn, Claire and Luke, the last remaining employees, are determined to expose the ghosts that haunt the one hundred year old building.  As the final night wears on, Claire’s psyche begins to unravel as the line between reality and imagination begin to blur.  A modern-day ghost story that feels like an homage to its predecessors, the movie finds plenty of common ground with Bedbugs.

Similar Non-fiction:

Wicked Bugs: The Louse that Conquered Napoleon’s Army and Other Diabolical Insects by Amy Stewart

This natural history contains not just the story of the bed bug but all manner of creepy and devilish insects.  Stewart proves that bugs don’t have to be supernatural to be scary.

Death Sentence: The True Story of Velma Barfield’s Life, Crimes, and Punishment by Jerry Bledsoe

The horror story staple of sweet, grandmotherly, ladies hiding a menacing secret isn’t just fiction, as proved by this true crime.  An account of the life and murders of the only woman executed in the US between 1962 and 1998, this book will chill readers with accounts of Bledsoe’s crimes as much as it shows redemption by prison.

Songs from the Black Chair: A Memoir of Mental Interiors by Charles Barber

A closely detailed look at mental illness and the real tortures of the psyche from the mouths of the sufferers, this book is part memoir, part investigative science writing.  As a man himself living under the dark shadow of obsessive-compulsive disorder, Barber tells the stories of the insane with balance and respect.

Name: Jessica

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Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel

August 10, 2011

Author:
Laura Esquivel, read by Kate Reading

Title: Like Water for Chocolate: A Novel in Monthly Installments, with Recipes, Romances, and Home Remedies

Genre: Latino Fiction

Audiobook

Publication Date: 1994 (audiobook)

First copyrighted by Laura Esquivel in 1989 with original Spanish Text
English translation copyright 1992

Number of Pages: 5 sound discs (54 min. each)

Geographical Setting: Mexico

Time Period: early 20thcentury

Series (If applicable): N/A

Plot Summary: Divided into 12 chapters, one for each month of the year, this book shows a family living in the backdrop of the Mexican Revolution. Tita is the youngest of three daughters, and that position gives her a devastating fate. The family’s harsh tradition forbids Tita to marry and have children. Instead, it and requires her to take care of her mother until the day she dies. Sharing already a passionate love with her soul mate Pedro does not qualify for an exception to the rule. As Pedro asks for permission to marry Tita, the mother offers her oldest daughter Rosaura instead. Disappointed, Pedro decides to marry Rosaura just in order to be close to Tita. Living under the same roof, rebellious Tita expresses her desires to Pedro through the food she prepares for him. With lyrical prose, the narrator’s pleasant voice, magical realism, and unique structure, this story feels like a fairy tale thrown into a cookbook. Each chapter starts with a recipe, and is followed by detailed instructions for its preparation, blended with Tita’s emotions. Easy to follow, very descriptive, and bittersweet in style, this story is good for both a laugh and a cry. Although it can be listened to in only one evening, it remains in a memory long after that. Those interested in the recipes may wish to reach for the book format after listening to the audio
version.

Subject Headings: Mexico – fiction, Families – Mexico – fiction, Mexican cooking, Love stories

Appeal: original structure, romantic, bittersweet, dramatic, magical realism, richly detailed, witty style, imaginative, nostalgic, passionate, character-driven, lyrical prose, plot twist, unpredictable ending

3 terms that best describe this book: original structure, bittersweet, romantic

Similar Authors and Works:

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

House of Houses by Pat Mora (a nonfiction twin to Like Water for Chocolate:  divided into 12 chapters, one of each month of the year; explores family relations in the Mexican culture; memories aremixed with recipes and folk remedies; some sense of magical realism; lyrical writing style)

Seasons of My Heart: A Culinary Journey Through Oaxaca, Mexico by Susana Trilling (this culinary follow up to Like Water for Chocolate explores in depth one of Mexico’s culinary rich areas and provides detailed recipes; personal stories attached to the culinary experiences resemble the novel’s unique style)

The Wind that Swept Mexico: The History of the Mexican Revolution of 1910-1942 by Anita Brenner and George R. Leighton (Esquivel’s novel is set against the backdrop of the Mexican Revolution, and this title, accessible and rich in photographs, allows the reader to familiarize quickly with that piece of history)

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors

Crescent by Diana Abu-Jaber (although featuring Arabic instead of Latino culture, it resembles Like Water for Chocolate in lyrical style, magical mood associated with high spirited culture, the theme of love, and preparation of food as a major element of the story)

Esperanza’s Box of Saints by Maria Amparo Escandon (both novels feature Mexican culture and magical realism with the appearance of a spirit and rituals; in both stories the line between life and death is vague)

Mrs. Vargas and The Dead Naturalist by Kathleen Alcalá (both books feature Mexican culture and magical realism; a collection of short stories may resemble Esquivel’s novel’s structure where each chapter contains a different recipe through which the story within that chapter is told)

Name: Anna

Judge and Jury by James Patterson

July 25, 2011

Author: James Patterson

Title: Judge and Jury

Genre: Suspense

Legal Thriller

Publication Date: 2006

Number of Pages: 421

Geographical Setting: New York

Time Period: present day

Series (If applicable): N/A

Plot Summary: FBI agent Nick Pellisante after a long chase finally brought to the trial a mob godfather, Dominic Cavello. One of the jurors selected for the court case against Cavello is Andie DeGrasse, a single mom and jobless actress. She does not even want to serve her jury duty, and her destiny takes her way beyond that. As soon as the trial starts, things go horribly wrong. Cavello sends an assassin to put the bus with all jurors on fire, and then escapes. Nick with an unexpected partner goes for a deadly chase after Cavello. This story has multiple plot twists and it will keep the reader on the edge of the seat. Short chapters and witty language splattered with some humor will make it a fast and entertaining read. Fans of Suspense will appreciate the sense of menace as Cavello and his people take unpredictable actions.

Subject Headings: Mafia trials – New York – Fiction; Women jurors – Fiction; Organized crime – Fiction; Suspense fiction

Appeal: plot-driven, fast paced, suspenseful, entertaining, dramatic, humor, chase, tense, deadly threat, sympathetic protagonists, villains, sense of menace, short chapters, alternating points of view, plot twist, uneasy atmosphere, roller-coaster style, resolved ending

3 terms that best describe this book: fast paced, suspenseful, entertaining

Similar Authors and Works:

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

Gotti: Rise and Fall by Jerry Capeci – while Cavello appears to be “the most vicious and powerful mobster since John Gotti” (Goodreads.com), this book pictures the real Gotti and the New York organized crime; like in Patterson’s novel, bringing the mobster to justice is extremely challenging

A Trial by Jury by Graham D. Burnett – this true crime memoir of an ordinary citizen who serves as a juror on a New York’s murder trial explores in depth a situation in which Andie became involuntarily thrown

We’re Going to Win this Thing: The Shocking Frame-up of a Mafia Crime Buster by Lin DeVecchio – true story so unbelievable it reads like a fiction thriller; fans of Nick Pellisante may appreciate his efforts even more after reading a shocking story of an FBI agent framed for New York mafia crimes while trying to bring the mafia to justice

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors

The Firm by John Grisham – like Judge and Jury it is a fast paced, plot-driven, and suspenseful legal thriller about the mafia chased by FBI

I’ll Walk Alone by Mary Higgins Clark – suspenseful, plot-driven page turner; the same setting – modern day New York

The Jury Master by Robert Dugoni – this Suspense/Legal thriller is fast paced, plot-driven, and with a sense of malice; like in Patterson’s novel the focus is more on non-stop action rather than legal details

Name: Anna Demitraszek

Godmother: The Secret Cinderella Story

February 11, 2010

Author: Carolyn Turgeon

Title: Godmother: The Secret Cinderella Story

Genre: Fantasy

Publication Date: 2009

Number of Pages: 279

Geographical Setting: Manhattan/ Magical Underwater World

Time Period: Present day

Series (If applicable): N/A

Plot Summary: Lil is a bookstore clerk in Manhattan, but she was once a part of another world that she longs to go back to.  Lil was a fairy in another world and her job in that world was as Cinderella’s godmother. Something went terribly wrong in trying to get Cinderella to the ball and Lil was banished to roam the earth.  But Lil thinks she finally understands why she is where she is today.  To get back to her magical world with her fairy sister, Maybeth, and her fairy friends, Lil needs to redeem herself.  The reader is drawn into the two worlds, discovering what actually happened and what Lil needs to make amends for.

Subject Headings: Fairytales, Cinderella, Fantasy Fiction, Fairies, Godmother, Love Stories- Fiction, New York-Fiction, Older Women, Depression, Adult Fiction

Appeal: character centered, easy, engrossing, vivid, urban, romantic, emotional, contemporary, bittersweet, plot twist, dark, resolved ending

3 terms that best describe this book: Haunting, psychological, unusual

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

  • Chinese Cinderella: The True Story of an Unwanted Daughter by  Adeline Yen Mah    An autopbiography about a Chines girl, who like Cinderella, has a nasty stepmother and is left alone and forgotten.  Yen Mah takes comfort in her books to escape life’s harsh realities.
  • Somewhere Towards the End by Diana Athill    A candid account of growing old and how age brings about freedom and wisdom and frankness to express one’s self.  The author reflects on the condition of being old and anticipating death.
  • The Pattern in the Carpet by Margaret Drabble     The author bravely tells her story of depression and offers thoughts on her family and how they play an important part in her world.  The story delves into her offbeat passion for jigsaws.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors

  • Dorothy on the Rocks by Barbara Suter    A contemporary romantic novel where a woman finds her life in shambles and chats with her fairy godperson.
  • Rain Village by Carolyn Turgeon    Tessa living in a family of giants, gets a job at a library and meets Mary, a librarian who tells Tessa stories of circuses and potions.  A fantasy with a touch of reality just like Godmother.
  • The Sugar Queen by Sarah Addison Allen     A shy, timid woman with no life hides in her closet stuffing herself with food. One day Della Lee suddenly shows up in Josey’s closet.  Della Lee leads Josey on a journey that   neither one will not forget.

Name: Noreen