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December 29, 2009

Teaser Tuesday: First Lines, take three

Kate Hart
My first two incarnations of this topic focused on YA I've read this year. But I really didn't read much YA as a teen. I basically went from the Baby Sitters Club to some upper MG, then jumped to books I had no business reading (I hear I am not alone in crediting the Earth's Children series with a good portion of my sex ed). Today I'm looking back at some of the books I loved in my younger days, to see how their first lines stack up now. My new hypothesis: The best first lines make the reader ask a question they want answered.


Kristy's Great Idea by Ann M. Martin
"The Baby-sitters Club. I'm proud to say it was totally my idea, even though the four of us worked it out together." 

Question: What's a baby sitting club?

As an adult, I obviously know, but as an 8 year old, I had no idea.

First line aside, I loved this series and owned at least 60 of the books. It has something in common with many popular series, including Harry Potter and Twilight: A full cast of characters with a little someone for everyone. As I've said before, I always wanted to be artsy, trendy, exotic Claudia, even though I was much more like her nerdy sister Janine (minus the ethnicity) or the control freak Kristy (minus the sports). I identified with one or more characters, and dreamed of being some of the others. You can pick a side, root for your fave, argue with your friends and create your own little community around it. Team Kristy, FTW!

The Trumpet of the Swan by E.B. White
"Walking back to camp through the swamp, Sam wondered whether to tell his father what he had seen."

Question: What did Sam see?

In addition, what's more appealing to a kid than having secrets from their parents? Maybe being allowed to wander around in the wilderness by yourself.

I still love this book, by the way. We recently started reading it to our four year old.


Junior High

Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
"Scarlett O'Hara was not beautiful, but men seldom realized it when caught by her charm as the Tarleton twins were."

Question: How does she do that?

My mom talked me into reading Gone With The Wind because it was one of her favorites. My junior high self would have been intrigued by a character who attracted men without being beautiful, because my junior high self felt decidedly unbeautiful. Hell, I'm fine with my grown up appearance and the idea still appeals to me. The setting also appealed to my burgeoning history nerd.

The Stand by Stephen King
A mutter.
"Wake up now, Sally."
A louder mutter: leeme lone

Question: Why is he waking her up?

Granted, it's not that interesting a question, but it sets up an exciting sequence in which the characters are fleeing, and the unknown threat is the real question. "They're all D-E-A-D down there," the male character tells his wife, glancing at their child, and even though I was just a kid myself upon first read, that hit home. Their impatience with the crying baby and urgency to get away from what appears to be a military base just grips you by the throat and shakes you around.

*stands in corner and fangirls a little*


"On his thirty-sixth birthday, May 18, Travis Cornell rose at 5:00 in the morning."

Dear lord. This is the most boring freaking first line on the planet. I don't even care enough to ask why he's up early, and it takes awhile to get going: The end of the paragraph is "He took only a package of Oreo cookies, a large canteen full of orange-flavored Kool-Aid, and a fully loaded Smith & Wesson .38 Chief's Special," which is somewhat intriguing, if repulsive... Hm, bottom of the page, we find out "He had not smiled in a long time." Blah blah blah.

Nothing is really gripping until a few pages later, when he finds a golden retriever that won't let him continue down the trail, and they flee some unknown creature in the woods. I think the promise on the back flap of a hyper-intelligent dog is what kept me going. That, and the fact that I had a golden growing up, so I'm a total sucker for retrievers. Either way, it eventually grabbed me, because the cover has long been worn off of my copy of this book, but on adult re-reading, I was shocked to see how slow the intro is.


High School
As a junior and senior, I had two fabulous literature teachers-- Dr. McNair and Mr. Burke-- and credit them for almost every good book I read during those years.

Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky
"On an exceptionally hot evening early in July a young man came out of the garret in which he lodged in S. Place and walked slowly, as though in hesitation, towards K. bridge."

Question: Why is he hesitant?

I'm hardly qualified to criticize the classics, but.... yawn. The next sentence ups the ante a little: "He had successfully avoided meeting his landlady on the staircase." But I clearly remember reading a sentence from the third paragraph: "'I want to attempt a thing like that and am frightened by these trifles,' he thought, with an odd smile." How can you not wonder what a thing like that might be? I finished reading this book weeks before it was due.

The Feast of All Saints by Anne Rice
"One morning in New Orleans, in that part of the Rue Ste. Anne before it crosses Condé and becomes the lower boundary of the Place d'Armes, a young boy who had been running full tilt down the middle of the street stopped suddenly, his chest heaving, and began to deliberately and obviously follow a tall woman."

Question: Why is he following this woman?

A decent question, but really, Anne Rice's style is what always pulled me in. Her prose is so florid and lush, perfect for a New Orleans setting. When I re-read Interview with the Vampire a few months ago, I was sad to find that I have less patience for it as an adult- but that may be because I find the "spoken" format of Interview at odds with the style. I still love this particular non-vampire book.

It also helps that it introduced me to a little-known period of American history that only one of my college courses even touched on, and it wasn't even a history class: We read El reino de este mundo in a Spanish class about Cuba, and the story of Haiti's independence overlaps both topics.

To The Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf
"'Yes, of course, if it's fine tomorrow,' said Mrs. Ramsay. 'But you'll have to be up with the lark,' she added."

Question: Who is she addressing? What does s/he want to do?

I love the next paragraph because it brings to life that sense of wonder that kids have and adults mostly lose: "To her son these words conveyed an extraordinary joy, as if it were settled, the expedition were bound to take place, and the wonder to which he had looked forward, for years and years it seemed, was, after a night's darkness and day's sail, within touch." I love Virginia Woolf, despite the fact that I always feel like I'm missing something huge, distracted by the way she writes instead of paying attention to what she's written.

I barely had time to finish my assigned reading in college, much less finish books for fun, but luckily my double major-- history and Spanish-- involved lots of literature that turned out to be fun anyway.

The Things They Carried
"First Lieutenant Jimmy Cross carried letters from a girl named Martha..."

 Question: Who is Martha? Who is Jimmy? What do the letters say?

I LOVE LOVE LOVE this book, so it pains me to admit that its first line isn't that interesting. It gets better a few lines later: "They were not love letters, but Lieutenant Cross kept hoping..." Love and war, people! Unrequited love and wars that aren't officially wars, no less! Come on!

Angela's Ashes by Frank McCourt
"My father and mother should have stayed in New York where they met and married and where I was born."

Question: "Why should they have stayed?"

Then we get one of the most quoted lines of the book: "...the happy childhood is hardly worth your while. Worse than the ordinary miserable childhood is the miserable Irish childhood, and worse yet is the miserable Irish Catholic childhood."
Humor + sarcasm + promise of a good story = win.

The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende
"Barrabás came to us by sea, the child Clara wrote in her delicate calligraphy."

Question: Who is Barrabás? (And how did a kid learn to write in calligraphy? *scowls at messy chicken scratch*)

I love Isabel Allende, but all of her books blur together for me, with the exceptions of Zorro, simply because its California setting is much different than the rest of her books, and this book, mostly because of this line a few pages in: "At birth Rosa was white and smooth, without a wrinkle, like a porcelain doll, with green hair and yellow eyes-- the most beautiful creature to be born on earth since the days of original sin, as the midwife put it, making the sign of the cross." I'm not positive I remember correctly that Barrabás is a dog, but Rosa's green hair has stuck with me.

Post Grad

Confederates In The Attic by Tony Horowitz
"In 1965, a century after Appomattox, the Civil War began for me at a musty apartment in New Haven, Connecticut."

Question: Is this a family issue? Does he mean an obsession with the actual Civil War? He's in Connecticut-- what do Yankees care about the Civil War? (asks the southerner)

You should read this book and find out what FARB means.

The Hobbit
"In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit."

Question: What the hell is a hobbit?

I tried multiple times to read this book as a kid, and did not succeed until my mid-20s. Draw what assumptions you will.

One Hundred Years of Solitude by Garbriel García Márquez
"Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendía was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice."

Question: Why is he getting shot? Why doesn't he know what ice is? What significance does the name Buendía have (asks the Spanish nerd, who knows it literally means "good day")?

It says Nobel Prize on the cover. Obviously I'm going to keep reading regardless. But those are persuasive questions.

Anna Karenina
"All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way."

Question: In what way is this family unhappy? In what way is my family unhappy?

There's a reason this is one of the most quoted "best first lines" ever.


After all that, does anyone want to play a game? Leave me the first line of your current WIP(s) in the comments. Next Tuesday, I'll post them for Teaser Tuesday along with the question(s) they make me ask, and we'll let readers add their own questions and comments or suggest tweaks. I'll post my own, too, or at least its latest version. Sound fun?

December 28, 2009

Make It Monday: Easy Bookmarks

Kate Hart
I have it on good authority that having interests outside of writing is actually good for your writing, so Mondays around here will be dedicated to this blog's original focus: Do-it-yourself projects.


My oldest son, like most kids, developed a serious case of greed this Christmas. To counteract it, we had the boys make gifts for everyone on our list, and since almost everyone got books this year, bookmarks seemed like a good idea. We let them fingerpaint a piece of poster board together. Former preschool teacher trick: Only give them three or four colors, max. Otherwise they'll just make a big brown mess.  

After it dried, I cut the poster board into strips, wrote a message on the back of them and covered them in contact paper. Voila!

Useful gifts that also doubled as tags for the wrapped books!

December 21, 2009

A Case of the Mondays

Kate Hart
I am both sick and whiny about said sickness, so today's post will be: Random Non-Writing Related Things That Have Entertained Me Today. You're welcome in advance.

Ultimate Battle:
The Snuggie vs. Slanket vs.
Freedom Blanket vs. Blankoat

and via Dooce:

December 19, 2009

I'm Hip! I'm Cool!

Kate Hart
Amna gave me a blog award! It is hard not to love someone who declares you are made of pure awesomeness, but I loved her before that anyway.

Confession: The fact that Amna is 17 makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside, because although I'm writing for teens, this pretty much sums up the way I assume they think of me:

The best part is that I am required by blog award law to pass this on to five more people who are "full of pure awesome."
  1. Surprise! I pick Cory. Girl crushes make you do crazy things.
  2. Kirsten, the Wankergirl Wandergirl and baby animal fanatic
  3. Myra, home of Edward on a Stick and all around super niceness
  4. Kristin at Long Distance Drive, who mixes up the writing content with tasty recipes
  5. My super talented friend Trin at Pink Sugar Craftnicles, whose creativity always inspires me.
  6. And I'm cheating by adding a sixth: Kathleen at Stop, Drop and Plot, because I lurve her.
There are lots more who deserve it, but I have to leave people for my winners to pick, right? 

    December 18, 2009

    You Are What You Read -OR- Follow Friday & Funny Stuff

    Kate Hart
    A little late today-- this parenting thing is like, hard and stuff, and takes up time, why didn't anyone tell me?!?-- but here you go: The best of the random stuff I saw this week.

    Lauren Leto wrote this hilarious post about stereotyping people by the books they read. According to her, I am:
    a smart geek who types like this: OMG. Mah fAvvv <3 <3.  My favorite color is hunter green and I was an 11th grader who peed my pants while watching the movie It. I'm also a man who can’t lie but will instead be silent if I know you don’t want to hear the truth, a girl who interns at Nylon but ends up moving back to the Midwest for my real job, and a female high-school French teacher who has their master’s degree.

    The Guardian posted their favourite neologisms of the last 10 years (British spelling theirs). Some of mine include
    • get corrugated ankles (UK campus) to get drunk
    • glomp (US campus) to jump and hug someone from behind (I knew that was a real word!)
    • meh (US, from "The Simpsons") boring, apathetic or unimpressive 
    • J.Lo (Wall Street) the rounding bottom in a stock's price chart
    • Picasso porn (US) the scrambled signal of a pornographic cable channel as seen by a nonsubscriber, And my very favorite:
    • menoporsche (UK) the phenomenon of middle-aged men attempting to recapture their lost youth by buying an expensive sports car 

      Rachelle Gardner serves up not one, but two super-inspirational posts. The first reminds us, in the immortal words of Larry the Cable Guy, that our time here is limited and there's no time like the present to git 'er done. (Jewel over at Pink Ink has a similar sentiment: No Pain, No Gain.) The other is a guest post by Anne Lang Bundy called "Extravagant Gift" and although I am not religious in the least, her post had me thinking-- especially the line "I had been sure that God intended me to write, so surely He meant I should be published."

      I loved the Baby Sitters Club as a kid. L-O-V-E-D. So the blog What Claudia Wore entertained me for far longer than it should have.

      I always wanted to be Claudia. Pretty sure I was actually Janine.

      Totally unrelated to writing, but this octopus is more coordinated than me. Maybe smarter, too.


      And in a completely inappropriate segueway: Laurie Halse Anderson reminds everyone that the term "gay" should not be used as an insult, and reminded me why I freaking love Wanda Sykes. (In case that's too subtle, I'll give it to you Drunk Hulk-style: DON'T USE GAY TO MEAN STUPID UNLESS YOU WANT TO MARK YOURSELF AS A COMPLETE MORON. Please also apply said lesson to the words "retard" and "retarded.")

      Finally, in exciting personal news, the girls at YA Highway invited me to join their team! Starting in January, I'll be doing Field Trip Fridays and some other posts with them. Thanks ladies!

      December 15, 2009

      Sophomore Slump -OR- The Writing Biz as High School

      Kate Hart

      So far as writing communities go, I'm no longer a freshman n00b. I've got the lingo, I've made some friends, and I follow the big agents' blogs and Twitter feeds. I'm in the know, to the extent that someone outside the business can be in the know.

      Not having published a debut novel, I'm obviously not in a sophomore slump in the traditional sense of the word. But I'm between drafts, gathering information while I wait for my MS to get polished enough to send into query hell, sitting on the sidelines feeling for all the world like I'm wasting! valuable! time! and what if someone else! writes my book! while I'm waiting!!!

      (I just used more exclamation points in that sentence than I've used in a month.)

      I can't join the cool kids-- the juniors who are busy trying out for varsity with their shiny manuscripts and queries-- and I sure can't join the seniors, who are driving around with their agents, cruising for publishers. So I follow them around the internet and comment on their blogs. Thanks to Twitter, I can be pen pals with the kids that have gone off to college and are waiting for their grades to come back in the form of sales and reviews. I can even take some AP classes from professorial-type absolute sages like Uncle Jim.

      Still in the meantime, I'm a JV sophomore with no driver's license, warming the bench, cheering on the rest of the team and sighing impatiently as the older kids tell me that the wait is worth it. Character building, even.

      It's tempting to slack off. Come on! Nothing exciting is happening! This year isn't that important!

      But then I think back on my actual sophomore year of high school. It was horrendous, for various reasons I don't care to list here, and on occasion I've been tempted to wipe it from my memory completely. However, one minor detail was a little "unimportant" test called the PSAT, given on a day I actually considered skipping. Good thing I didn't: The score on that test was a qualifier for becoming a National Merit Scholar as a senior. And because I qualified as a NMS, I got a scholarship to college-- a big one, to a school we couldn't afford otherwise. The AP History class I took that year gave me a credit in college that put me one step closer to successfully completing a double major. I went on a date "as friends" with a guy who, years later, I fell madly in love with and, a few more years later, ended up marrying.

      So I might bitch and moan a little, but I'll warm the bench awhile longer, and pay my dues until it's my turn to pay more dues at another level.

      Someone toss me some pom poms.

      *No, I wasn't a cheerleader. Yes, I was on the dance team as a HS freshman, and again as a sophomore in college.

      **True story: I was on the literary magazine staff in high school. Our main fundraiser was selling pizza by the slice at lunch, and we made posters to advertise. I made one that said "Sophmores! Come buy pizza-- you can't leave campus anyway!" My AP Literature teacher took the poster and without outing me as the artist, hung it in his room to point out that a) I was being a snot and b) I misspelled "sophomore." Amazing how public humiliation drives a lesson home. (I've forgiven the teacher, seeing as he was awesome in every other respect, not to mention right.)

      December 14, 2009

      A Writer's Wish List

      Kate Hart

      I have been really pretty good this year. I have some hot, freshly baked homemade cookies a brand new unopened bag of Oreos waiting for you and a nice cold piña colada glass of milk. If you would be so kind, I would really like to have the following waiting under the tree...

      A big fat publishing contract:
      For my family's sake, of course. Not at all for my personal satisfaction or ego aggrandizement.

      Food delivery in my area
      I live in the country, Santa. We do have one pizza delivery place-- but it's in a gas station. Gas station pizza does not feed brilliance. Thai delivery does.

      A mute button for my children.
      I love them. I really, truly do. And I work from home because I want to spend time with them. But could you use some of that North Pole magic to make their quiet time and my inspiration line up?


      Coffee IV.
      Enough said.

      Mini-Edward, Jasper, etc.
      Think of the epic blog posts I could write, Santa! EPIC!
      (photo credit here)

      My own personal, on-demand muse.
      Agh, not these guys!

      Better. Because I don't have a muse! Other people's characters talk to them! They dream about them! Why doesn't this happen to me, Santa?!? Am I defective as a writer in some way?

      Books! Lots of books! 

      But not a Kindle.* I don't know why, Santa. It just seems... wrong. It seems to be my last remaining Luddite holdout.

      And... a photographic memory. To avoid those awkward "fumbling for my notebook in the middle of a conversation" or "scribbling on the shower wall with bath crayon" moments.

      Thanks Santa. You're the best. I promise not to write you into any of my novels as the bad guy or give anyone questionable the name "Nick."

      Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos

      *I don't really have anything against the Kindle. I didn't want an iPod either, and now I love it. Don't sue me, Amazon.

      December 11, 2009

      Geeks Go Gaga -OR- Follow Friday & Funny Stuff

      Kate Hart
      Good stuff on the interwebz this week:

      • Kody,, are doing "Agent Appreciation Day" today. Funniest post so far, in my humble opinion, is Kristin Miller's homage to her agent Suzie Townsend.

      • Myra wrote a beautiful post about how writing is not a solitary sport. By doing such a good job, she has temporarily absolved me of my responsibility to write a similar tribute to my own very supportive husband, because seriously-- no one can compete with that. Even Janet Reid liked it, and we've all seen how pointy her teeth are.
        ETA: Myra got some kind of important news today, too.

      • This was actually last week, but Cory wrote a hilarious post about what it's like to let someone you love read you your book.

      • The Writers' Christmas Carols on Miss Snark's First Victim (in the comments) are HILARIOUS, assuming you are, you know, a writer. My other friends and family may disagree.

      • Editorial Anonymous shows the importance of punctuation in "The Subtle Art of Form Rejections." (I'm saving these articles up for comic relief when I start the querying process.)

      Only the roaches survive.
      • The Rejectionist points out, among other funny posts, that THE END IS NIGH.

      Finally, from the Twittersphere, via @sarahshum:

      December 9, 2009

      Road Trip Wednesday: Getting To Know You

      Kate Hart
      Playing along with Road Trip Wednesday on YA Highway...

      1) What are the three best books you've read this year?
      This year was my first foray into the world of YA, and I didn't even start until July, so I spent a lot of time playing catch up on the YA one "has" to read to know the genre. These three made a big impression on me:

      1. The Perks of Being a Wallflower- - Stephen Chbosky
      2. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian-- Sherman Alexie
      3. Wintergirls-- Laurie Halse Anderson 

      Since everyone else is cheating... Other books that kept me up all night reading:
      • Break-- Hannah Moskowitz: I was worried this book had been over-hyped, since Hannah is an AW member, but it wasn't. It really is fantastic. If girl is writing this well at 17, she will be a force of nature by 34.
      • Looking For Alaska-- John Green
      • Thirteen Reasons Why-- Jay Asher
      • How I Live Now-- Meg Rosoff
      • Cracked Up To Be-- Courtney Summers
      • Twilight-- Stephenie Meyer
      • Speak-- Laurie Halse Anderson

        2) If you could meet one author (living or dead), who would it be?
        This might be a good time to confess that I am prone to girl crushes, defined by Urban Dictionary as:
        "Feelings of admiration and adoration which a girl has for another girl, without wanting to shag said girl. A nonsexual attraction, usually based on veneration at some level."
        My first girl crush was on my friend Tess, in junior high. I think we hung out every single day during the summer before high school. My second memorable girl crush was via the internet on my girl Erie, which caused my sister to suggest that we were joined at the hip, thus spawning the phrase "Erie is my cyber hip." (Erie never updates her blog. *cough* hint *cough*)

        So to answer the question, and at risk of sounding completely lame: I'd have a (totally platonic) slumber party with my girl Cory. I know, I just linked to her yesterday. I'm not a stalker, I swear.

        But she gave me my first chance to beta read (a great story, btw, that I would have listed above if I weren't mentioning it here.). She gives me regular kicks in the arse as needed, and may have inflated my ego by suggesting that waiting for me to finish the current draft of my WIP was like waiting for Midnight Sun. (I knew she was exaggerating. I didn't let it go to my head, I swear. But it was one of the best compliments I've ever gotten, right up there with my real life BFF comparing my argument skills to Gandalf. YOU SHALL NOT PASS!)


        3) What book are you most looking forward to in 2010?
        Gotta say the same thing as everyone:  The third book in The Hunger Games series, and Kody's The Duff

        Kody is another AW wonder kid and her book The Duff (Designated Ugly Fat Friend) comes out from Little Brown's Poppy imprint in the fall of 2010. Put it on your Goodreads "to read" list now.

        December 8, 2009

        Teaser Tuesday: First Lines, take two

        Kate Hart
        Last week I did a variation on Teaser Tuesday using the first lines of some popular YA novels. It was so much fun I thought I'd do it again this week-- starting with suggestions I got in the comments. Feel free to leave me more suggestions!

        Cory said: "Don't forget Austen and Pride and Prejudice. Best. First. Line. Ever."
        And now I have to hide from her, because I don't have a single Austen title on my shelf. I read it though! A long time ago! I swear! But I looked it up:
        "It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife."

        I... I don't know what to say to that. But I might read on, if for no other reason than to argue with the author. (Full disclosure: I wasn't an Austen fan in high school and haven't tried again since. Also, if I disappear, check Cory's closet. Just saying.)

        Emilia said: "My favorite first line ever: "The early summer sky was the color of cat vomit." Scott Westerfield, Uglies :D"

        That one I haven't read-- but now I might have to pick it up. See? First lines can work.

        Okay, what else is on my desk...

        The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
        "When I wake up, the other side of the bed is cold."

        This book is insanely popular, but I will admit-- it took me until the sequel to really get into it. This line almost lost me in two ways: One, because it's first person present, which I generally hate;* two, because waking up alone just isn't that interesting. But the short intro paragraph ends with the line, "This is the day of the reaping." The what now? Cha-ching. I read on.

        *The difference between this book's 1st PP and others? This one is well done enough that after a page, I forgot I hate it. 

        The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan
        "My mother used to tell me about the ocean."

        WTH doesn't she know about the ocean? Also, this cover rocks. I'm hooked.

        Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson
        "So she tells me, the words dribbling out with the cranberry muffin crumbs, commas dunked in her coffee."

        LOVE. I'm a sucker for awesome imagery. Also, this cover is bad ass.

        A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle
        "It was a dark and stormy night."

        Oh, Madeleine L'Engle. How your first line has been lambasted. (I may never get the chance to use that word on this blog again, so please forgive me for taking the opportunity.) It's actually the chapter title that grabs my attention: "Mrs. Whatsit." Mrs. Who? Oh no, that's chapter two. I'm in.

        A few not so YA titles...

        The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold
        "My name was Salmon, like the fish; first name, Susie."

        A lot of people love this line, but it's the second line that grabs me: "I was fourteen when I was murdered on December 6, 1973." (Psst... want to win a copy of this book? Enter the contest here. You should have lots of first lines to choose from...)

        The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
        "We slept in what had once been the gymnasium."

        I love when first lines give a little information and make you wonder about a lot more. Why isn't it a gym anymore? Why are they sleeping there? I keep reading to find that "Aunt Sara and Aunt Elizabeth patrolled; they had electric cattle prods..."  Wait, what?!? Like most families, we have our days, but my aunts sure as hell never tased me. I'm reading on.

        Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry
        "When Augustus came out on the porch the blue pigs were eating a rattlesnake-- not a very big one."

        I have no snake phobia to deter me from reading on, so although I don't care about the culinary habits of swine, I'll give it a chance. The second paragraph begins, "'You pigs git,' Augustus said, kicking the shoat," and I'll admit-- I think, "He talks like me. I'm in love." Okay, maybe not exactly. But without quoting the entire first page, I like the slow, easy Texas afternoon that McMurtry creates. It rings true and that bodes well for the rest of the story.

        And finally, a non-fiction title: Eats, Shoots and Leaves by Lynne Truss
        "Either this will ring bells for you, or it won't."

        Okay, I'll bite. Does it? "A printed banner has apeared on the concourse of a petrol station near to where I live. 'Come inside,' it says, 'for CD's, VIDEO'S, DVD'S, and BOOK'S.'"

        Aughhhh! Head explodes. Bells rung. Reading on. Prepare yourselves to hear a lot more about this book in the near future.

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