Good news, everyone! If you’re ever passing through Forks, Washington, in the U.S.A., the ‘logging capital of the world’ and the city where the Twilight books are set (and consequently is becoming quite a tourist attraction), you may want to pop into Dazzled by Twilight, a store that sells nothing but Twilight merchandise. (Their website isn’t quite ready yet, unfortunately. Hopefully they will ship overseas. Until then, Amazon has a Twilight store …)
Last sentences this time. Stopping is harder than it looks, believe me. Some writers apply the brakes slowly (very slowly), others come screeching to a halt. Personally, I like both (although neither if they’re badly written).
Emily Bronte, Wuthering Heights: again, I had to learn this for an exam. I inserted it precariously in my short term memory: in my mind it goes: “I lingered blah, blah, blah and wondered how anyone blah blah unquiet slumbers for the sleepers in that quiet earth.”
How it actually goes: “I lingered round them, under that benign sky; watched the moths fluttering among the heath, and hare-bells; listened to the soft wind breathing through the grass; and wondered how any one could ever imagine unquiet slumbers for the sleepers in that quiet earth.”
George Orwell, 1984: “He loved Big Brother.” Awesome.
Herman Melville, Moby Dick: after such a calamitous time is had by all, the last sentence swallows all the tragedy up, spits it out, dusts itself off and carries on like nothing has happened: “Now small fowls flew screaming over the yet yawning gulf; a sullen white surf beat against its steep sides; then all collapsed, and the great shroud of the sea rolled on as it rolled five thousand years ago.”
Dodie Smith, I Capture the Castle: memorably and mushily, “I love you, I love you, I love you.”
Then from some soon-to-be-classics:
Philip Pullman, Northern Lights: “So Lyra and her daemon turned away from the world they were born in, and looked toward the sun, and walked into the sky.” There’s a certain symmetry to the first and last sentences of Northern Lights which is extremely pleasing. We like this.
J K Rowling, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Not quite so much success here (never mind that the whole last chapter is horrid). The last sentence reads, “All was well.” The penultimate sentence is, “The scar had not pained Harry for nineteen years.” Bring back the Dursleys!
Stephenie Meyer, Twilight: (didn’t want to ruin things by sticking in the last sentence of Breaking Dawn, you understand) “And he leaned down to press his cold lips once more to my throat.” ‘Oh,’ the reader thinks, ‘does he bite her?’ and, ‘when can I read the next one to find out?’
Marcus Sedgwick, My Swordhand is Singing: “Wait! I’m coming with you!” Incidentally, if you like badass vampire books and you’re sick of the romantic sap then read this one; it’s of the more chilling variety.
Meg Rosoff, How I Live Now: “And that’s how I live now.” Well, that’s one way to finish, with the title. Actually, that reads badly on its own (a bit like an old granny sitting with her quilting, with her glasses perched on the tip of her nose, saying, “and that, gentle listener, is how I live now.”). It’s better in context.
Scott Westerfeld, Peeps: “We’ve got your back.” Nice. Another less mushy vampire one, btw.
Laura Whitcomb, A Certain Slant of Light: “And when we kissed, the garden rocked, floating upstream.” Ah, lovely. A ghostly romance. For the record the first sentence reads, “Someone was looking at me, a disturbing sensation if you’re dead.”
So, my fifty cents’ worth for writers: short or long last (and first) sentence; it doesn’t really matter, as long as you can justify every word, and it reads well on the page (and also out loud).
There have been some classic first sentences in literature:
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.” I studied Pride and Prejudice at school: all my classmates were in love with Mr Darcy (it was a Catholic girls’ school). I didn’t understand (this was before Colin Firth and the jumping in muddy puddles scene – although I don’t understand that one either). I did however memorise the first sentence of the book and the only thing I’ve forgotten is where to put the commas.
1984 by George Orwell has an opening sentence that is memorable too: “It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.” You immediately know that something’s up.
I also memorised (triumphantly) the opening sentence of Moby Dick – “Call me Ishmael”. Yes I know it’s the second shortest sentence ever, but Herman Melville’s clever introducing his narrator’s character in just three words: vague, detached, orphan-like.
“It was a dark and stormy night; the rain fell in torrents, except at occasional intervals, when it was checked by a violent gust of wind which swept up the streets (for it is in London that our scene lies), rattling along the housetops, and fiercely agitating the scanty flame of the lamps that struggled against the darkness,” written by Edward Bulwer-Lytton (Paul Clifford) is widely regarded as the worst first sentence ever written*. The library doesn’t have a copy.
First sentences are all about first impressions and are therefore important. So are first sentences up to scratch in popular books at the moment? Let’s see.
Gossip Girl (number one): “Ever wondered what the lives of the chosen ones are really like?” I guess that just about covers it, so, not too bad.
Twilight: “My mother drove me to the airport with the windows rolled down.” (Yes I know, I’ll get back to you about the Preface when I can get my hands on a copy of the book!) This highlights one of the things I don’t like about Stephenie Meyer’s writing style: she’s taking a while to get to the point (which is the difference between Phoenix (sunny) and the Olympic Peninsula (not)). The book(s) could have been shorter if she took less time to get to the point. What do you think?
Eldest: “The songs of the dead are the lamentations of the living.” Hm. He’s a serious-minded chap, is Christopher Paolini (and Eragon, I guess).
Angus, Thongs and Full-Frontal Snogging: “Dad had Uncle Eddie around so naturally they had to come and see what I was up to.” The word “naturally” is what makes this sentence (and possibly also “had to”). This suggests sarcasm (or irony, if you’re being kind) and that you’re a mate she’s confiding in.
How I Live Now: “My name is Elizabeth but no one’s ever called me that.” Quite punchy, that one.
Northern Lights: “Lyra and her daemon moved through the darkening hall, taking care to keep to one side, out of sight of the kitchen.” ‘Lyra and her daemon are up to no good’, you think, and, ‘what’s a daemon then?’
Finally: “Mr. and Mrs. Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say they were perfectly normal, thank you very much.” (Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone) I’m very glad that the first Harry Potter sentence ever introduces the wonderful Dursleys! (And rather well.)
Nothing’s really knocking me over though. Is the first sentence a lost art? I’m going to go on a hunt for excellent first sentences. I’ll get back to you.
* So bad, in fact, that there’s a Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest. You get some money if you win even (plus a lot of kudos).
The library has a massive collection of local and international zines*. Check out the library’s zine page for more information. The annual Zinefest is tomorrow; here are the details!
* Independently and inexpensively produced magazines, usually with a fairly limited circulation.
The 2nd annual Wellington Zinefest is returning this Saturday November the 15th. The Wellington City Libraries’ Zine Collection will be there, along with your favourite zine librarians, so even if you have empty pockets, you can still come along and browse our diverse range of zines. There will also be heaps of other ziney stalls, workshops and talks to get you into the DIY spirit. Oh and food, there will be tasty treats too!
And if you’re keen on zines, look for this book in the library: Whatcha Mean, What’s a Zine? : The Art of Making Zines and Mini Comics, by Mark Todd. A great place to start, especially if you can’t make it to the Zinefest.
The cover of a book can tell you a lot about the book’s contents. Its designers want you to see the cover, become interested and take the book (to buy, usually, if not just to read). For example, if you’re into Gossip Girl-type books, it’s pretty easy to find know which other books are similar – the covers will be a photograph of one or more fashionable & and wealthy girls. (I’m not so sure about the Ashleys’ fashion sense, to be honest.)
Interestingly, boys are less likely to read a book that has a girl on the cover than a girl is to read a book with a boy on the cover. And YA fantasy books seem to really favour circles on the cover (part II).
What is your favourite book cover? Do you think it matters if a book has a girl or boy on the cover? Do you often choose books by their covers alone?
We’d wondered where all the new books were this week, as it was Thursday already. But then they arrived! All catalogued, barcoded, and encased in plastic so they don’t fall apart too soon.
Magic in the Mirrorstone : Tales of Fantasy, edited by Steve Berman (295 pages) – This is a collection of fifteen short stories. The stories are ‘filled with magic’; Mirrorstone is a publishing company that produces fantasy books for kids and teens.
Would You, by Marthe Jocelyn (165 pages) – Nat’s sister, Claire, is struck by a car and ends up in a coma. Nat’s life swiftly changes. ‘A tear jerker in a major way,’ according to an Amazon reviewer. (I cheated and read the final chapters, and yes, it is very moving, but I shan’t say why!)
Unraveling, by Michelle Baldini and Lynn Biederman (230 pages) – Fifteen-year-old Amanda Himmelfarb has frizzy hair, a pointy chin, an unfortunate name, and she argues constantly with her mother, nick-named ‘The Captain’. This book comes highly recommended; it’s a very funny and very touching story of ‘love, friendship, and forgiveness’.
Night Road, by A. M. Jenkins (362 pages) – This book uses the rather clever (I thought) label ‘Hemovore’ for vampires. Cole is one such hemovore – he looks like a teen but is really much older. Freshly minted hemovore Gordon needs someone to teach him, and with one other vamp they find themselves on the road. The night road. A refreshing take on the vampire mythos!
Bloodchild, by Tim Bowler (339 pages) – Will wakes up in hospital, and can only recall lying in a ditch and thinking that he was dying. Are the two people with him his parents? Why are strangers so hostile? A full-on supernatural thriller that will scare the living daylights out of you (with a surprise ending!).
The Thirteenth Skull : Alfred Kropp II 3, by Rick Yancey (297 pages) – From the publisher’s description: “When a vision foretells a cataclysmic battle between the ‘Sons of Light’ and the ‘Sons of Darkness’, Alfred is called into action. Whoever finds the fabled 13th skull of Merlin, will have in his hands the power to usher in a new Dark Age. And so the race is on to find the skull, which rests at the bottom of an abyss called Krubera – a place so terrifying it nearly drove Alfred’s mentor, Op-Nine, insane. ”
Fortune and Fate, by Sharon Shinn (403 pages) – This is a novel of the Twelve Houses series. Warrior Rider Wen wanders Gillengaria, assisting those in need but never making friends, in penance for failing to protect the king. Until one day, when she helps an abducted heiress, she must face the past …
In Mozart’s Shadow : His Sister’s Story, by Carolyn Meyer (350 pages) – Wolfgang’s older sister, Nannerl, had a rough time of it; her brother’s increasing fame meant that her talent was often ignored. Her music might not bring her fame – but can it bring her happiness? (She had quite an interesting life – read more about it.)
Walk of the Spirits by Richie Tankersley Cusick (336 pages) - ”After losing everything in a Florida hurricane, seventeen-year-old Miranda and her mother move to her grandfather’s home in Louisiana, where she falls in with an interesting group of students, and discovers that she can communicate with spirits as her grandfather did.” A ghost story from one of the many Buffy authors.
Santa Claus in Baghdad: and Other Stories about Teens in the Arab World by Elsa Marston (200 pages) - ”This engaging collection of eight short stories about Arab teenagers living in Iraq, Tunisia, Egypt, the West Bank, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, and a Palestinian refugee camp engagingly depicts young people’s experiences growing up in the Middle East,” says the back blurb. Don’t let the cover put you off; this looks interesting.
The Magician of Hoad by Margaret Mahy (447 pages (winning the most pages competition)) – “A hero, an ageing magician, a farm boy, a noble daughter and a mad prince meet on the edge of a city of tents. So begins an intricate tale of a boy with a troublesome eye, who is capable of extraordinary things.” The dust jacket describes this as a “superbly cerebral fantasy”, which I like the sound of - you might have to think a bit while you’re reading.
Nation by Terry Pratchett (384 pages) - It’s here finally (amid excellent reviews). The first sentence is: “Imo set out one day to catch some fish, but there was no sea”. Interesting (that’s not just a minor setback, really). As mentioned earlier, let us know what you think!
Amazon likes lists more than I do even. They’ve got every list you can think of (mostly thanks to their customers), including their Best Books of 2008 ones. This is what the Amazon.com editors suggest are the top 10 teen books for the year. This is an interesting list; partly because there is no number 2 (I looked and looked, through one eye and then the other). This suggests The Kingdom on the Waves (the second part of The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing by M T Anderson) is so, well, astonishing that nothing comes close, perhaps? In any case there are some interesting books on this list, ones that we like even: check out our posts on The Hunger Games, Little Brother and The Graveyard Book (I’m still waiting for this one, but a reliable source tells me it’s good).
The ALA (American Library Association) have announced their Top 10 Teen books for 2008, as voted by 8,000 teens (about equal with the population of Newtown). No surprises about number one!
1. Eclipse, by Stephenie Meyer
2. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, by J. K. Rowling
3. Diary of a Wimpy Kid, by Jeff Kinney
4. Vampire Academy, by Richelle Mead
5. Maximum Ride: Saving the World and Other Extreme Sports, by James Patterson
6. City of Bones, by Cassandra Clare
7. The Sweet Far Thing, by Libba Bray
8. Extras, by Scott Westerfeld
9. Before I Die, by Jenny Downham
10. Twisted, by Laurie Halse Anderson
Many of these are currently available in the library – if you’re desperate for a good book, do try one.
The Inkys is an Australian award for young adult literature; the 2008 winner have been announced. They are voted from selection by under-20s. The winner is Town, by James Roy, and second place went to Before I Die, by Jenny Downhand. Wellington author Bernard Beckett’s book Genesis made it to the shortlist - nice!
What are your favourite books from 2008? What is your favourite book ever?
Finn’s Quest is a series by Eirlys Hunter about a boy named Finn who, in book 1, gets a Quest on his computer. He only gets 1 life during his 3 quests and he meets lots of friends during them.
In book 1, The Queen-Seekers, Finn is playing on a computer and sees a new game which gives him a quest to find the lost queen.
In book 2, Coldkeep Castle, Finn’s dad gets the quest and Finn has to go and save him. Finn is in the same country of book 1 but many years earlier in the events that caused the events in book 1.
In book 3, The Slave-Stealers, Finn gets his last and final quest to release slaves and “find Finn”, years after book 1.
Overall Finn’s Quest are good books though there are some errors in the books, but it is a good read and lots of people will enjoy this series.