Sunday, December 25, 2005

Encyclopedia of an ordinary life

I typically read fiction. Lots of it.

The book ENCYCLOPEDIA OF AN ORDINARY LIFE (Crown Publishing , c2005, ISBN 1-4000-8046-0) by Amy Krouse Rosenthal is probably my favorite read this year. (The year is not over yet but up next is some medical thriller that I don't think will be as profound or enlightening.)

And it's not fiction.

It's one woman telling the story of her life through encyclopedia entries and it is wonderful.

I liked the format, the content and the style in which she writes. So many entries resonated loudly within me and my assistant and I chuckled heartily over one part in particular.

The first sentence from the forward:
I was not abused, abandoned, or locked up as a child.

Monday, December 12, 2005

The Colorado Kid

Stephen King's latest book, THE COLORADO KID (Hard Case Crime, c2005, 0-8439-5584-8) has had some tongues wagging in my immediate reading circle of friends. Some people like it, some hate it and with good reason. King himself says in the afterword that this would be the case. I enjoyed it but not as much as some of his other works. I did, however, like the first sentence.
After deciding he would get nothing of interest from the two old men who comprised the entire staff of THE WEEKLY ISLANDER, the feature writer from the Boston Globe took a look at his watch, remarked that he could just make the one-thirty ferry back to the mainland if he hurried, thanked them for their time, dropped some money on the tablecloth, weighted it down with the salt shaker so the stiffish onshore breeze wouldn't blow it away, and hurried down the stone steps from The Grey Gull's patio dining area toward Bay Street and the little town below.

I like a sentence that comes together like that!

I've been sick for the better part of a month but I'm back on an upswing so I'll be back to posting. Please stay tuned...

Friday, November 11, 2005

I'm lovin' it!

Okay, well the last couple of books that I've read have been non-fiction, not mysteries which is why I've been so late in posting. But, I did just finish the book,DON'T EAT THIS BOOK: FAST FOOD AND THE SUPERSIZING OF AMERICA by Morgan Spurlock which is a very scary look into the fast food industry, slaughterhouse practices, and a bunch of other really disgusting things that sums up to this mystery: Why do people still eat this stuff? The first sentence?
Don't do it.

Then, today, while reading some of my online "journals" I came across this picture that I wanted to share:

It comes from this blog and I wish I had an artsy-fartsy patron who'd make one for me. Maybe I'll print the picture off, hang it up and beg.

Anyone who works in a library can appreciate it, I'm sure.

I did.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Hackers abound!

My lastest read, THE BLUE NOWHERE, by Jeffery Deaver (Simon & Schuster, c2001, ISBN 0-684-87127-0), is the book featured today.

It is a chilling work of fiction (?) related to hackers, crackers, phreaks and all of the scary things that people can access and do with a computer related to YOU!

This book was recommended to me by a library patron and although I've read all of Deaver's Lincoln Rhymes' books, I remember when this one came out that I had too much to read and reading about computers just didn't interest me at the time.

I'm glad it was recommended. What a very, scary (in a realistic way) book. It really made me want to think twice about what I do on my computer and more fearful of what these computer geniuses can make appear as things I might be doing on a computer. Be afraid, be very afraid! This book is fabulous storytelling!

The battered white van had made her uneasy.

Saturday, October 22, 2005


I am a big fan of AMERICAN IDOL and I've watched every season since the Kelly Clarkson phenom, picking the winners year after year. So, it didn't surprise me at all that the title and then subject of this book caught my interest.
Alesia Holliday's debut, AMERICAN IDLE(Dorchester Publishing Co., ISBN 0-505-52654-9):
It doesn't matter who wins.

Not a great sentence, but a pretty fun romp. Kinda trashy in a fun, girly-giggle sort of way. Don't expect me to read alot of these, though.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Creepers is a keeper

I recently finished the book, CREEPERS (CDS Books, ISBN:159315237X)
by David Morrell, a won ARC copy from here. I looove to win books.The first sentence?

Pbblttth! (I always like to see how other people try to spell the sound of a mouth raspberry.) That's a stinky first sentence!

However, the topic of the book was amazing! Wonderful! It interested me in a subject like no other books have in quite awhile. What you may ask, has me so excited?

Asbury Park, New Jersey, a once thriving community turned ghost town, and Urban Exploration! Two, count 'em two, very interesting concepts and although I didn't care for the first sentence, CREEPERS is a keeper. I'm glad my copy is autographed!

Wednesday, October 5, 2005

Confession Obsession

Well, I'm not really obsessed but I liked the rhyming scheme to it.

My book choice for today was a fun read from last month. It wasn't a book I would typically pick up, let alone read, but it sounded like fun in a review that I read, and it was. Melanie even sent me a magnet to add to my collection on my filing cabinet at the library. From CONFESSIONS OF SUPER MOM (Dutton, ISBN 0-525-94910-0) by Melanie Lynne Hauser:
Every superhero has an origin.

It had been a strange month because I read both this and CARPE DEMON (Berkley Books, ISBN 0-425-20252-6) by Julie Kenner. Both books were much lighter fare from my typical reading agenda, but I enjoyed them both.

Fear not, everything I've read this month has been much darker and grittier. So far...

Tuesday, October 4, 2005

It said What?!?

This is a great example of how a first sentence can completely affect the read of a book. The author, Robert Tanenbaum, who I regularly recommend to my patrons looking for something in the vein of John Grisham is the author featured.

A patron returning Grisham's latest, asked for something similar since she had read all of his books. I recommended several authors, including Tanenbaum, noting his books are a series. She picked several paperbacks off the shelf, read the backs and came to the counter with two. The same afternoon she returned the book, told me that the book disgusted her and asked why I would recommend such an author. I was genuinely surprised. The author typically writes suspenseful courtroom/legal dramas and I've never had any complaints before. I opened up the book to the first sentence of the book, FALSELY ACCUSED:

With a wet and embarrassing sound, a sound like no other, a human brain came loose from its skull and, dripping thick, clotted blood and fluid, hung suspended in the hands of the chief medical examiner of the City of New York.

What!?! Oh my goodness...

I was truly stunned. I expect this type of writing from Bentley Little or maybe Muriel Gray but Tanenbaum?

Oy Vey! Uff da! And all that!

Monday, October 3, 2005

I love a debut

I adore debut novels. Some of my all time favorite reads have been debuts. I typically continue to read the author if I enjoy their first book. Sometimes I am pleased, other times I'm disappointed but to be fair I return again, always remembering how much I enjoyed that first wonderful book.

The book I'm currently reading is turning out to be a great read as well.
From IMMORAL, a debut by Brian Freeman:

Darkness was a different thing in the north woods than it was in the city.

I have also come to love blogs. I wasn't sure at the beginning, but having my own had made me really appreciate those that do it and do it well.

I have included the blogs that I read regularly on the right-hand side under the archived posts. Take a look. You might find something fun.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Beginner's Luck

I actually searched through books looking for a first sentence to go along with a link I wanted to share. I didn't find exactly what I was looking for, but the following sentence could certainly apply.

From Laura Pedersen's novel, BEGINNER'S LUCK:
Was there ever a single moment about which you later wondered, "What would my life be like now if that hadn't happened?"

Who hasn't?

Friday, September 23, 2005

Salsa, anyone?

I have come to discover that although the books that I call my "favorites" are not necessarily campy or character-driven, the first sentences that make me giggle are.

Today's first sentence comes from a book that we have pulled from the stacks and put out on display to get some notice. No one has checked it out since July of 2003 and if it doesn't move soon, it will be weeded. (See my post on weeding!)

From MURDER UNDER BLUE SKIES by Willard Scott with Bill Crider:

Everything was going wonderfully well at the gala grand opening of the Blue Skies Bed & Breakfast Inn, right up until the moment Belinda Grimsby collapsed facedown into a bowl of homemade salsa.

I hope she wasn't wearing white! My luck always dictates that I'm wearing white whenever we eat Mexican food. Pollo Fundido is my favorite.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Starlight, starbright

I wish I could say that I am enthused right now about writing in this blog but I can't. I have a trapezius muscle that is completely seized and the other is following. I've been in a lot of pain, but life must go on, right? I was sent an e-mail from a reader who suggested this title's first sentence. Thanks to Carol.

Today's first sentence comes from Sena Jeter Naslund's book, AHAB'S WIFE, or THE STARGAZER: A NOVEL:

Captain Ahab was neither my first husband nor my last.

I've not read this book yet, but I shall. Eventually.

I am currently engrossed in TO THE POWER OF THREE by Laura Lippman.

Thursday, September 8, 2005

A Reference Question Answered

Very few people make comments to my blog. But one day when I wrote about Panera's Portobello and Roasted Garlic Bisque, I received two comments. Below is one of them:

Dupota said...
My Grandmother made the best mushroom soup. It was made, usually, with wild mushrooms (pipanki). Very basic, but it warmed the cockles of your heart! Although these mushrooms were picked here in the good ol' USA, no one has been able to tell me their "real" name.

Well...the librarian in me couldn't let that last bit rest. So, Dupota, if you are listening, I contacted David W. Fischer, co-author of "Edible Wild Mushrooms of North America" and "Mushrooms of Northeastern North America" and here is what he had to say:

"Popinki" (various English spellings) is any of several species of Armillaria, e.g. Armillaria mellea, aka the Honey Mushroom.

I did a GOOGLE search on honey mushrooms and recipes and came up with a whole bunch of hits, so happy eating!

Sunday, September 4, 2005

All in the family

In MY SISTER'S KEEPER by Jodi Picoult, starts out with a poem and then the prologue which is a quote. The first sentence after all of this, is:

In my first memory, I am three years old and I am trying to kill my sister.

I have always been a big fan of Jodi Picoult's. I started reading her when PLAIN TRUTH came out, read the next several books she wrote and then went back and read her older stuff.

I like that she takes a simple "what-if" concept and turns it into a compelling read.

I am not alone in this way of thinking.

As an aside, I have been deeply saddened by what is happening in the Southern states and like many have been watching the tragedy unfold daily, always trying to figure out what I can do to help. If you'd like to donate to the Salvation Army to aid in the relief for the people affected by Hurricane Katrina, click here or to donate to the American Red Cross, click here.

Be careful of scams.

Donate a little or a lot. You can make a difference.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

RENT -- Coming soon to a theater near you!

I am a RENThead! There is no denying it!

And I am so excited about RENT coming to the big screen that I am forgoing my first sentence of today to let everyone who looks at my blog know that this astonishing Broadway musical is coming to theaters on November 11th (to the big cities) and November 23rd EVERYWHERE!

AAAAHHHHHHH! (This is me screaming for joy!)

If your life has ever been touched by a single soul I implore you to go see this movie, especially if you've never seen the show or don't have access to it.

I live smack dab in the middle of the heartland (Iowa) and I've seen this show seven times.

I've even considered having some of the words to one of the songs tattooed onto my body because it is how I live my life since seeing the show.

OK, I've taken a breath and I will go back to the book d'jour. See you soon.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Not all sentences are great sentences

I am not one to bash authors or criticize work. It's not in my nature. I figure when I become a published author and my work is out there for others to criticize, then I can do it. But until then, I might say, "It didn't work for me," or "The first sentence didn't grab me."

Here is a first sentence that didn't grab me. It is from Alex Kava's ONE FALSE MOVE:

Max Kramer wore his lucky red tie with his blue power suit.

Now, just because that first sentence does nothing for me, it does not mean I won't read the book, because I enjoy Alex Kava's books immensely and recommend them to my patrons often.

I like first sentences. Some people might like bad first sentences. If you do, check out the Bulwer-Lytton website.

You won't regret it.

It is the shrine to bad first sentences.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Iles be reading this book

I was shelving books this afternoon and picked up the book DEAD SLEEP by Greg Iles to return to the stacks. I opened it up to the first sentence and read, closed the book with satisfaction and placed it in my stack of books to check out. It read:
I stopped shooting people six months ago, just after I won the Pulitzer Prize.

That is an example of a great hook. It's going home with me.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

To the Dogs

This is really not my type of book. I could tell by the flap info. No mention of murder, mayhem or distruction (of the bodily kind). However, after seeing Diane Lane's character meet up with her father on a blind date in a trailer for the movie I had to read it. The line she says about "this being wrong on so many levels" cracked me up!

MUST LOVE DOGS by Claire Cook:

I decided to listen to my family and get back out there.

Oh, that's a first sentence that probably resonates with a million people!

I admit that I did my own share of Internet dating (some very scary situations) before I met the "perfect-for-me" guy and luckily my own father was already happily married so no worries there!

Working in a library, I see people daily subscribing to eHarmony, doing the Yahoo! Chat thing or . Everyone is always looking for that perfect-for-them someone, right? Isn't that part of what life is all about?

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Hooper is Super Duper

Kay Hooper is one of the authors that I always read the moment I can get my hands on her new book. Her psychic series with the FBI team of psychics is my favorite although I've read some of her older books as well.
Her latest book is CHILL OF FEAR:
The little girl, huddled, shivering, in the back corner of the closet.

As an aside, yesterday I found the best soup. It is Panera Bread's PORTOBELLO AND ROASTED GARLIC BISQUE and it is divine! If you like fungus, as Jeff calls it, go get a bowl of this soup. It makes a great lunch!

Thursday, July 28, 2005


Okay, so I lied. I've not been as current as I'd to be but I will continue to keep trying. Maybe the goal should be to keep it short and sweet.

My first sentence today is for the people riding across the state of Iowa this week in the annual RAGBRAI bike ride, sponsored by the Des Moines Register. It started in Le Mars (the ice cream capital of the world) on Sunday, July 24th and ends on Saturday, July 30th in Guttenberg.

It is from the book 16,000 SUSPECTS, a serial novel by 17 Iowa writers commissioned by Public Radio KUNI.

It is the year 2010 now, a full decade after it happened.

I hope the riders are all well and safe. Good luck to all of the participants!

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Girls, Interrupted

It's been awhile since I've posted; mainly because of some touchy situations at work.
But, I am back and plan on writing with a vengeance.

Because of the problems that I've been dealing with at work, I have made two books a priority for my summer reading, before I go crazy and there have been times when I thought it might happen.

The books, along with their first sentences, are listed below:

The first is THE BELL JAR by Slyvia Plath:

It was a queer, sultry summer, the summer they electrocuted the Rosenbergs, and I didn't know what I was doing in New York.

The second is GIRL, INTERRUPTED by Susanna Kaysen:

People ask, how did you get in there?

Until tomorrow...

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Like Higgins-Clark

At my library, Mary Higgins Clark has a huge following. Often we are looking for authors to recommend that are like Mary Higgins Clark.

From THE WAY YOU LOOK TONIGHT by Carlene Thompson:

When he entered the bar at ten, Kelly's was packed, which he guessed was usual for a Saturday night.

I like Carlene Thompson, Wendy Corsi Staub and Erica Spindler as read-similars for Mary Higgins Clark. There are many others but these are the ones I like the best.

Just finished: A recommended read for Jay Leno, THE STUPID CROOK BOOK by Leland Gregory, a book of vignettes highlighting stupid criminal activity. It's a fun break from fiction.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Something's Amish

Another of my favorite authors is Jodi Picoult. She is wonderful at what I call the "what-if" concept, bringing a simple concept and turning it into a complex novel, just by asking what-if.

Although not considered mystery, many of her books have a mysterious element to them which always brings me to read her next book. Currently on my Mount TBR, which is growing smaller every day, is MY SISTER'S KEEPER.

This first sentence is from the first book I ever read of hers.

PLAIN TRUTH by Jodi Picoult:

She had often dreamed of her little sister floating dead beneath the surface of the ice, but tonight, for the first time, she envisioned Hannah clawing to get out.

Just finished:ELEVEN ON TOP by Janet Evanovich, a fun book with typical Plum action and mishaps. Don't miss this one if you are Plum Crazy!

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Weed 'em and weep!

If I had to choose one thing that I absolutely hate about my job it would be weeding! I hate to get rid of a perfectly good book; a book that somebody, someday might want to read. Whenever I have to weed or approve the weeding of a book, I wish I had all of the space available to me so I could keep the books forever. Unfortunately, we have weeding policies that we have to follow and we weed if a book is in bad shape or has not circulated in a specific amount of time. And I have heard all of the arguments for weeding:

  • It keeps the collection looking neat.

  • It makes room for new stuff.

  • It boosts circulation because people see that you rid yourself of the "old" stuff.

  • Old information is "bad" information.

  • I hear it; it doesn't mean that I have to like it.

    Here is the best first sentence of the books that are before me today for weeding. It comes from Sidney Sheldon's book, THE OTHER SIDE OF MIDNIGHT:

    Through the dusty windshield of his car Chief of Police Georgios Skouri watched the office buildings and hotels of downtown Athens collapse in a slow dance of disintegration, one after the other like rows of giant pins in some cosmic bowling alley.

    It got my attention. Too bad I have to get rid of it.

    Friday, June 24, 2005

    Hot and Sweaty

    This morning I woke up in a mood. It was hot, I was sweaty and then I realized I had nothing really that I could complain about. I had waited since November of last year for this kind of weather to get here. I guess I'd hoped it would ease in gradually but we got hit hard and quick with the heat.

    Thus, I went in search of a great, first sentence: One that matched my mood and my surroundings. It didn't take long.

    From GONE SOUTH by Robert R. McCammon:

    It was hell's season, and the air smelled of burning children.

    I also like:

    At 6:30 A.M., when Washington, D.C., was waking to another sweltering summer day, a Ledbetter Oil Company tank truck rolled of a ramp of the capital beltway, spilling five hundred gallons of highly flammable black gunk across four lanes of traffic.

    That comes from THE ROCKY ROAD TO ROMANCE by Janet Evanovich.

    But my favorite first sentences are from her books ONE FOR THE MONEY and HARD EIGHT. The first sentence from ONE FOR THE MONEY is printed below.

    There are some men who enter a woman's life and screw it up forever.

    The first sentence from HARD EIGHT I can't print here because this is a public library project.

    Look it up! Or email me, tell me what you think of my blog and I'll tell you what it is.

    Stay cool! Happy reading!

    Tuesday, June 21, 2005

    Edgar Mint

    Although I've not yet read this book, nor do I have it in my library, I:

    a)intend to purchase it for the library.

    b)want to read it.

    The first sentence of this book was submitted several times during a list-serv thread on first sentences and recently brought to my attention by another librarian acquaintance of mine, Stacy Alesi. Stacy said this was one her all-time favorite first sentences and...I have to agree. It's a great one.

    Without further ado, the first sentence to THE MIRACLE LIFE OF EDGAR MINT by Brady Udall.

    If I could tell you only one thing about my life
    it would be this: when I was seven years old the
    mailman ran over my head.

    That sentence is priceless. Love it!

    Friday, June 17, 2005

    Beautiful Bob-Whites

    I was an early and voracious reader. I read my first Stephen King novel when I was nine-years-old and a friend of my father's saw me and was quite amazed. She still comments on it to me to this day.

    Although I hungered for that type of literature as a child, and it is still my preferred reading of choice, it never would have started without:

    "Oh, not again!" yelped fourteen-year-old Trixie Belden, as her books went crashing to the stairs.

    That book is TRIXIE BELDEN #36: THE MYSTERY OF THE ANTIQUE DOLL by Kathryn Kenny. Trixie Belden and the Bob-Whites.

    Man, did I love these guys! I had every Trixie Belden book written and as I look back, I wish I had kept them all. Of course, I didn't; I moved away when I was seventeen and disposed of them all. But now I have the list and will one day have them all again. And I'm putting them under glass.

    I lived in a time when my parent did not give in to my ever whim. I went through my share of "I want" and "Gimme" but my dad never had any of it. But I do remember, that through the injustice of it all, if I couldn't get what I wanted, I could always get a book. If I never said so before, "Thanks Dad."

    Thursday, June 16, 2005

    A Superior Mystery

    I belong to several list-servs that pertain to books and get many ideas, book lists and read-alikes from them as well as meeting, reading about and discussing topics with authors that are new to me.

    One of the powers that this blog gives me is introducing my readers to authors that they might not know.

    The following sentence is from the book A SUPERIOR MYSTERY by Carl Brookins, a new-to-me author within the past year. He graciously donated this book to our library when I wrote a post to the Dorothy-L list-serv explaining the money situation that we don't have in our library. And in case I never said "thank you" Carl, thank you.

    Sparks flew into the dark sky from the fat black stack and died in the night, as an unseen hand shoveled more coal into the firebox.

    I liked this sentence because of the "fat black stack"; it was music to my ears. I haven't read this book but it's on my Mount TBR (to be read) along with three or four hundred others.

    Yeesh! So many books, so little time!

    Currently reading VELOCITY by Dean Koontz and loving it!

    Happy reading! ~ Shannon

    Wednesday, June 15, 2005

    Not always as it seems

    Sometimes, the first sentence might WOW me and the rest of the book does nothing for me. For example:

    I turned the Chrysler onto the Florida Turnpike with Rollo Kramer's headless body in the trunk, and all the time I'm thinking I should've put some plastic down.

    That is the first sentence from Victor Gischler's book, GUN MONKEYS. One of my top favorite first sentences, but not my kind of book. Not that it was a baaad book, just wasn't my type.

    Then there is the sentence below:

    Chloe Larson was, as usual, in a mad and blinding rush.

    This comes from RETRIBUTION, by Jilliane Hoffman. Not a stunner sentence, but the book made my top three last year.
    I have her latest book, LAST WITNESS, up next.

    Just goes to show you that things aren't always as they seem.

    Tuesday, June 14, 2005

    Horsin' Around

    I took the weekend off to look through some books and cull some first sentences for you all. I decided that it was really important to me that the books with featured first sentences were available for check-out in my library.

    This was one that I pulled off the shelf today and looked at. I agree totally with the sentiment, if not the writing. Something just rings funny in my ears and I can't entirely place it.

    When you're running away from a bad marriage, Willie Nelson is the music of choice.

    That sentence is from Judy Reene Singer's HORSEPLAY.

    And it's available at my library.

    Friday, June 10, 2005

    Cappuccino Crazy

    I'll admit that I don't read every book that I post here. I just read their first sentences. Well, I read a lot of them.

    Some I don't because of:
    a)time constraints (you know, that "so many books--so little time" thing)
    b)they don't appeal to me
    c)the dog ate my homework.

    Case and point, the first sentence featured today. I didn't have a book in mind. I had a list of books with first sentences that I liked just in case I came upon a day where I didn't have much to say. Looks like today is that day. So, here is my first sentence choice for today, Friday, June 10:

    I won't die, Parole Officer Loretta Kovacs told herself for the fiftieth time that day, and it was only nine-fifteen in the morning.

    This sentence brought to you by Anthony Bruno and his book DOUBLE ESPRESSO.

    This sentence grabbed me from the moment I read it. What kind of trouble could she possibly be in that she had to repeat this to herself that many times at that early hour? There are some mornings I'm not even up at nine-fifteen AM. So then I kept reading. Actually, I just finished the first three pages and I'm gonna have to check it out and take it home with me this weekend. Those danged first sentences do it to me every time.

    Until tomorrow...

    Thursday, June 9, 2005


    My story really begins on Sept. 3, 1982; we had attended a Valley High school football game to watch our older son play.

    So begins WHY JOHNNY CAN'T COME HOME by Noreen N. Gosch, Johnny Gosch's mother.

    I grew up in Iowa and was just 2 weeks shy of my twelvth birthday when Johnny Gosch, the paperboy from West Des Moines, disappeared. I remember it was very traumatic; parents where I lived even (which is 2 1/2 hours north of Des Moines) were very vigilant and wary all of a sudden. Almost two years later, another paperboy from Des Moines, Eugene Martin disappeared. Something hinky was going on and it was touted for years as a conspiracy that consisted of pornography, child prostitution, mind control, espionage, and the like.

    I like to think that I keep pretty current with the news. I read the newspaper, watch the 10:00 news, Jay Leno Show, Nancy Grace. So color me surprised when I heard KWWL (channel 7) announce a special report for the following evening that Johnny Gosch may have been found and that he may be Jeff Gannon. I looked at my significant other and asked him, "Who's Jeff Gannon?" He told me what he knew.

    Well, I did what any librarian would do. I Googled him. And I found all kinds of websites for Jeff Gannon/Jim Guckert, along with too many coincidences and things that I don't know whether to believe or not.

    I do know that, according to the news report, Jeff Gannon/Jim Guckert says 'he's not Johnny Gosch' and he'll give a DNA sample to prove it, for 'big bucks' and wants to 'go on the Dr. Phil show' to have the results culled and determined. If interested, I welcome you to do your own Google search and read all about it. It was a significant moment in my childhood and I hope Johnny Gosch is well and safe, whoever he is.

    Wednesday, June 8, 2005

    Why are they so recognizable?

    Call me Ishmael.

    More than likely, if you can read that sentence, then you know it is from MOBY DICK by Herman Melville.

    What about:
    It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way--in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.

    Again, you probably read the first twelve words and knew that this was from A TALE OF TWO CITIES by Charles Dickens? Did you know the first sentence was longer than twelve words?

    So why are these sentences so recognizable?
    I've heard a couple of answers.

    "They come from 'classics'."
    "Everybody had to read them in school."

    Okay, so to play devil's advocate, I offer up three sentences. Do you know which books they come from? In my opinion, they are all 'classics' and I had to read all three of them in school.

    All this happened, more or less.

    It was a pleasure to burn.

    You will rejoice to hear that no disaster has accompanied the commencement of an enterprise which you have regarded with such evil forebodings.

    How'd you do? The answers are:

    1. SLAUGHTERHOUSE-FIVE by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.

    2. FAHRENHEIT 451 by Ray Bradbury

    3. FRANKENSTEIN by Mary Shelley

    Did you know them?

    If not, again I ask, why are the first two sentences so recognizable?

    Tuesday, June 7, 2005

    Steal, steal, don't reinvent the wheel

    This is a mantra we hear over and over at workshops, seminars, etc. As librarians, we have enough to do without having to come up with new and inventive ideas all the time.And although it is touted as "stealing", that's only because it rhymes with wheel. I like to refer to it as "professional borrowing".

    Which leads me to my next point and first sentences. I admit it. I am an aspiring writer and although I've never been published, I did co-win a short story online contest once three years ago that netted me eight free paperbacks. I have also participated in NANOWRIMO annually for the past four or five years. Sometimes I get stuck. I've read many a post from people who say they can't get started. Well, the librarian in me screams, "Steal, steal don't reinvent the wheel." Okay, well, don't really steal. Just borrow until you can get started and then change your first sentence to one of your own.

    Imagine how many stories you could write if you started off with a borrowed first sentence and how different the story would be. Yesterday I said that I typically enjoy sentences that don't tell me too much. This is why.

    For example, take this first sentence:
    When a high-powered rifle bullet hits living flesh it makes a distinctive--pow-WHOP--sound that is unmistakable even at tremendous distance.

    This comes from C.J. Box's OPEN SEASON. (It is personally in my favorite first sentence book.) I could write many stories if I borrowed that first sentence and I guarantee none of them would contain a Game Warden named Joe Pickett in Wyoming.

    Another great sentence for this would be:
    The car was just sitting there, its hazard lights blinking like beacons in the darkness.

    That could be the first sentence of mainstream fiction, science fiction, mystery, romance, suspense, a vampire novel, romantic suspense, romantic comedy, the list is endless. It happens to be from the talented P.J. Parrish's PAINT IT BLACK.

    Don't think that I condone plagiarism either. I don't. Just borrow until you get your best-seller written. Then change the sentence, publish and make millions.

    Monday, June 6, 2005

    Crusie Control

    I think that Jennifer Crusie has the art of character-driven first sentences nailed. Typically, I prefer a first sentence that hooks me right from the beginning but doesn't tell me too much and I'll write more tomorrow on why. But her first sentences make me want to know more about the characters she introduces.
    For example, from her book, FAST WOMEN, she writes:
    The man behind the cluttered desk looked like the devil, and Nell Dysart figured that was par for her course since she'd been going to hell for a year and a half anyway.

    With a sentence like that, how can you not wonder about Nell and her poor life situation?
    And from her book, TELL ME LIES, her first sentence is:
    One hot August Thursday afternoon, Maddie Faraday reached under the front seat of her husband's Cadillac and pulled out a pair of black lace underpants.

    Of course, this first sentence is aided by the second sentence, which is:
    They weren't hers.

    I hope her husband's name isn't Earl, because Earl'd have to die!

    The last two examples come from her books WELCOME TO TEMPTATION and CRAZY FOR YOU, respectively:
    Sophie Dempsey didn't like Temptation even before the Garveys smashed into her '86 Civic, broke her sister's sunglasses, and confirmed all her worst suspicions about people from small towns who drove beige Cadillacs.

    On a gloomy March afternoon, sitting in the same high school classroom she'd been sitting in for thirteen years, gritting her teeth as she told her significant other for the seventy-second time since they'd met that she'd be home at six because it was Wednesday and she was always home at six on Wednesdays, Quinn McKenzie lifted her eyes from the watercolor assignments on the desk in front of her and met her destiny.

    For fun summer reading, check these out!

    Sunday, June 5, 2005

    Blown Away

    As I was looking for a new sentence to feature, I realized I had several that were all related and I needed one that wasn't. The sentences that I have logged as "keepers" are all in books housed at the library and today is my day off so whereas I could still give you information about the sentence, I couldn't tell you much more about the book.

    So, today I decided to post the first sentence from the book that I am currently reading. I've not finished yet; actually, I'm only 54 pages into it but I have already read the first sentence. It is from the book BLOWN by Francine Mathews:

    On the day she was chosen for death, Dana Enfield rose early and made coffee for her husband in the hushed November dawn.

    Opinions, anyone? Hook, line or stinker?

    The book is apparantly a continuation from another that I didn't read or know existed. It is about a woman who works with the CIA's Counterterrorism Center and a terrorist group called 30 April. Her hunt to bring them down, their desire to ruin the free world. In the beginning, during a Marine's Marathon, a bad guy passes out tainted water and kills several people, causing sickness in several hundred others. The librarian in me had to look up this method of tainting because it sounded altogether nasty and I was not familiar with it. The mystery/suspense/thriller/horror lover in me had to look it up and file it away just in case I ever thought I might need to be familiar with it. If you'd like to know what it is and what it does, click here.

    It's Sunday, and I have a great, no-plans, lazy day ahead of me. I'm gonna go read! Then again, maybe I'll go cook!

    Saturday, June 4, 2005

    Sunrise, Sunset

    Last night as I was thinking about my entry for today, I got to thinking about all of the things that I compare to others. We do this a lot, don't we? McDonalds or Burger King? Pepsi or Coke? Fiction or Non-fiction?

    This way of thinking led over into my morning as I was driving to work and stopping to get something to eat for lunch. I am a grinder (or sub sandwich in the midwest) junkie. This carries over from my days spent out in the Boston area where grinders are king! My favorite kind of sub is the steak and cheese. Now, in my opinion, nothing compares to the steak and cheese that I used to get at D'Angelos in Natick, Mass. I got the Number Nine sub and I got it weekly. I loved those sandwiches. Mmmm! Alas, we don't have D'Angelos here because it is an East Coast-based chain. So, where to get my steak and cheese? Subway? Blimpies? I actually prefer Sub City in downtown Waterloo, which is where I stopped this morning for my fill. But I still miss my D'Angelos.

    So, my thoughts last night about comparing and contrasting...I got to thinking about my first sentence "thing". Usually, I keep track of the first sentences as I read them but then I started just thinking about first sentences in general. And as I stood before my shelves of books that I have not yet read, I thought of all the first sentences there that I've not yet seen. So, I took a book down off the shelf and just opened it up and read the first sentence. Then, I took down another. And another. But then I got to the one that is posted below, double checked to see what book I was reading, and shook my head. I'll explain in a minute.

    The first sentence is:
    One midwinter day off the coast of Massachusetts, the crew of a mackerel schooner spotted a bottle with a note in it.

    Now, one thing I love about first sentences is the envisioning of where that first sentence will lead you. Does it tell you anything about the story that is about to unfold? Does it reel you in and make you want more? Is it the right first sentence?
    When I said that I had to double check to see what book I was reading I had to do just that, because the above first sentence makes me think of MESSAGE IN A BOTTLE by Nicholas Sparks but I knew I had a different book.
    MESSAGE IN A BOTTLE by Nicholas Sparks starts off:
    A cold December wind was blowing, and Theresa Osborne crossed her arms as she stared out over the water.

    So, what book was I reading from you wonder? The book is THE PERFECT STORM by Sebastian Junger, something completely different from a Nicholas Sparks book, yet their first sentences could be interchangeable.

    Makes you stop and think, huh? That's where my passion comes from.

    Friday, June 3, 2005

    No Weirdos Here

    My book of choice will always be something in the vein of mystery/suspense/thriller/horror. If you see me with a romance, it's because I was tempted with something cool to review it. If you see me with a SF/fantasy book, my dad was in town and told me I should read it. If you see me with a western, please take my pulse or look for visual signs of life; they probably aren't there and someone can have my mystery/suspense/thriller/horror collection.
    And I know that as a librarian, I should be well-read and I like to think that I am. I just choose to read more in the above mentioned categories. I have a Spider Robinson book on my shelf at home. I think I also have an old Janet Evanovich Harlequin there too. (Her Stephanie Plum books are my guilty pleasure and you will assuredly see something or other here at one point in time.)

    My choice for today is from NOWHERE TO HIDE by Joan Hall Hovey.

    "The closet was at the top of the stairs at the end of the hall."

    What do you think? Hook, line or stinker?

    Now, I will have to tell you that I buy a lot of books and typically I read them and then donate them to my library if we don't have them (and usually we don't because I buy a lot of books based on that criteria...). Normally, this book would have been donated to the library and I could have chalked it up as an OK read. Until I read these two sentences:

    When Ellen tried to warn her about the dangers of the big city, she would laugh and say, "You know, Ellen, you can get mugged in your own home town too. Don't think I haven't met my share of weirdos in good old Evansdale."

    Of course, the irony being that the main town in the book is the same I grew up in and now work in (although in a different state). Am I offended? Of course not! It's fiction and I've met my share of weirdos too, although I'm sure none of them were from Evansdale. Additionally, one of the main characters in the book is a Sergeant Shannon, which was the name of my namesake (an actual Sergeant Shannon), my name is Shannon and my significant other is a sergeant for a local police department. Therefore, the book remains on my shelf. Alanis Morrissette, watch out!

    Thursday, June 2, 2005

    In The Beginning

    The first sentence that I ever read that made me go, "Huh. I think I will always keep track of first sentences..." came from the book FALSE MEMORY by Dean Koontz. When people ask why I keep track of this trivial piece of info in my book log I tell them it is because of this book. It's all Dean's fault!

    The drumroll please...

    The first sentence that started my madness:

    On that Tuesday in January, when her life changed forever, Martine Rhodes woke with a headache, developed a sour stomach after washing down two aspirin with grapefruit juice, guaranteed herself an epic bad-hair day by mistakenly using Dustin's shampoo instead of her own, broke a fingernail, burnt her toast, discovered ants swarming through the cabinet under the kitchen sink, eradicated the pests by firing a spray can of insecticide as ferociously as Sigourney Weaver wielded a flamethrower in one of those old extraterrestrial-bug movies, cleaned up the resultant carnage with paper towels, hummed Bach's Requiem as she solemnly consigned the tiny bodies to the trash can, and took a telephone call from her mother, Sabrina, who still prayed for the collapse of Martie's marriage three years after the wedding.

    I am glad I started keeping track of first sentences after this one...breathe already Dean, would ya? I love his stuff! Really wish he'd write the third Christopher Snow book already, though. I've been waiting now for what? SIX YEARS! But I am looking forward to reading VELOCITY, I'm just waiting for it to get here. Look for it at your local library.