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.