"Things Have Gotten Worse Since We Last Spoke" by Eric LaRocca
I decided to write this review in the style of one of my personal favorite tools of the trade, NoveList Plus powered by EBSCO. NoveList Plus is a huge database of book recommendations serving as a resource and guide for library workers. Patrons of most local public libraries can access this database through each public library's website using a personal library card.
I use this database all the time. The recommendations written by library workers utilize several key elements to help users find a specific book, and then from that one book, find other similar books called, "Read-Alikes", based on matched criteria like pace, tone, genre, themes, and writing styles. NoveList Pro calls these Book Appeal Terms:
Appeal is a way of determining why people enjoy the books they read. Some readers already have a good vocabulary for talking about the books they love, while some do better in talking about books they never want to read again – but framing these conversations around appeal is the foundation for helping people find what to read next.
It's extremely helpful and I hope you'll check it out. Here's how I access NoveList Plus at my library:
Home Page > Online Library > A to Z Resources > NoveList Pro > Login with unique Library Card ID
Here's an example of what you will find at NoveList Pro with my "mock NoveList Pro entry" for Things Have Gotten Worse Since We Last Spoke by Eric LaRocca
Things Have Gotten Worse Since We Last Spoke (June 2021)
Author: LaRocca, Eric
Description: A woman posts a family heirloom for sale to an internet chat room. A woman responds to the post with a desire to buy. This exchange begins a harrowing correspondence between these two lonely women.
Book Appeal Terms:
Genre: Epistolary, Horror, Adult, Psychological Suspense, First-person POVs
Themes: Obsession, Sadomasochism, Excessive Emotional or Psychological Reliance on a Partner, Internet,
Storyline: Character-driven, Character exploration
Pace: Fast-Paced, Engrossing
Tone: Compelling, Menacing, Disturbing, Thought-provoking, Dark, Edgy, Intensifying Dread
Writing style: Stylistically Complex, No Exposition, Experimental, Intricately Plotted
Reading this novella is an agreement to embark on a voyeuristic character study between two women who meet through an online message board. As the title of the novella suggests, a friendly exchange back and forth between two strangers about an antique apple peeler begins to blossom into a shared intimacy and ultimately, an arrangement. For the sake of preserving discovery, this is all that should be known before heading into this dark story. Readers sharing in the same real-time spontaneity the characters go through as they send and receive each other's emails is why this novella works so well.
Definitely carve out enough time to enjoy this book from beginning to end. There isn't a good place to drop a bookmark in and save the rest for later. This book slowly turns up the intensifying dread little by little until its shocking conclusion. There is a masterful subtlety the author uses to reveal the identity and mental state of his characters; little signs, tells, carefully chosen words, repeated phrases, and insights. Every new email Agnes sends to Zoe or Zoe sends to Agnes is an escalation in their relationship providing rich food for thought. Curiosity gives way to concern; concern gives way to internal screaming and internal screaming ultimately gives way to devastation. Bleak, clever, edgy, and vicious. Eric LaRocca draws his readers in for something they will never expect and never forget.
After the review section, all the above book details like genre, setting, character, tone, writing style, subjects, are separated out with little check boxes next to each one. Users can then check the boxes to filter the search engine to give results. So if you checked "Menacing", "Obsession", and "Psychological Suspense", NoveList will list Read-Alikes.
In this case, if you enjoyed Things Have Gotten Worse Since We Last Spoke, I would recommend:
Little Eyes by Samantha Schweblin, The Perfect Fraud by Ellen LaCorte, The Body Lies by Jo Baker
Please try NoveList Plus at your local library. It has changed the way I read and review books. Also, today is the release date of Things Have Gotten Worse Since We Last Spoke, and it's a five star recommendation from me. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.
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