I sometimes think that a memorable first line is a bit of a curse. I know that might sound crazy. After all, authors go through a lot to try and find the perfect opening to draw people in. Surely it must be on the major keys to success? But think about it. What if you have a really great opening but the rest of the novel can’t live up? Every time I see rundowns of books with the best first lines, I see plenty of books that I don’t really care about. Pride and Prejudice? The opening is iconic, certainly, but I find the rest of it rather bland. 1984? The opening promises so much that the repetitive and long novel can’t fully deliver. So, a great opening line doesn’t always indicate a 5 star read. But what about my favourite reads? Do they all have attention grabbing first lines? Do they pass the first line test? Let’s find out.
Yet again, I find myself without a finished book to review on a Wednesday. So, I’ve spent a lot of time trying to figure out what to write instead. I was toying with a rant idea but I think I need to gather my thoughts a bit more. Instead, I decided to turn to an old favourite in the arsenal of any book blogger: the quotes post. Autumn is the perfect time for cosy crime and I am craving a good Agatha Christie session at the moment. In honour of that, I thought I’d share some of wisest words. As it was her 130th birthday last week, I picked a quotation for every decade since she was born.
When I started my holiday this week, I had all sorts of grand plans to read loads of my unread books and get ahead with the blog. We’re only halfway through but it’s becoming clear that I’m not going to achieve a great deal with this week. I spent Sunday and Monday playing with my niece, which was admittedly a fantastic use of my time. It just meant that the closest I got to reading was the first page of That’s Not My Kitten and I’m not entirely sure that would count towards my yearly reading count. It didn’t help that my desperation to finish Those People in time for my Monday review had left me not wanting to read anything else on Sunday night. So, in order to get something finished for my Wednesday review, I needed to play strategically. I wanted a small book from my TBR pile. Thankfully, this James Baldwin book has been near the top for a few weeks now and it seemed perfect. Much heavier going than my previous book but that was a welcome change.
Happy Valentine’s Day, my bookish chums! I hope your day is filled with love or books or whatever makes you happy. What does my day have in store? This afternoon I’m leaving work early to get a chest x-ray. No matter what they tell me, I’m sure it’s to find out, once and for all, whether or not I do have a heart. You see, from my general demeanour and attitude, you’d probably think I’m a pretty cynical person. I guess, to some extent, that I am. However, having grown up surrounded by books containing some of the most hyperbolic love stories ever told, it’s difficult not to have something of a romantic side. Although, I do worry about what books have done to our idea of romance. So often I see bookish people falling under the spell of utterly abhorrent characters. Novels are dangerous, man. You take one quote out of context and suddenly Severus Snapeisn’t a creepy stalker. You focus on one line of a book and Mr Rochester isn’t just the worst. You repeat a few quotations over and over and Heathcliffe and Cathy had a perfect love. You get the idea. Words are dangerous when you remove them from the bigger picture. Is that going to stop me listing my all-time favourite quotations about love? No. I need a post and it’s bloody relevant.
Yesterday was World Mental Health Day. It is a day for mental health education, awareness and advocacy against social stigma. The World Federation for Mental Health first celebrated the day in 1992 and, since then, thousands of supporters have raised awareness and championed the Federation’s work. Whilst things have improved in recent years, there is still a massive stigma surrounding mental health problems. There are still people who are suspicious of people with illnesses that they can’t see. And it doesn’t help that Baby Boomers are treating mental health problems as yet more evidence that Millenials and Gen X-ers are “snowflakes”. Getting help for how you feel makes you seem weak in their eyes. Yet, there is nothing wrong with admitting to struggling. Talking to someone about your mental health or their mental health could make a huge difference. Just knowing that there is somebody there for you is a huge help. I’m no expert, by any means, so if you want more information check out someone like Mind for more advice. Me? I’m good at books. So, in honour of World Mental Health Day, this week’s Friday Favourites is a list of my top quotes to help you keep going. Can you spot any of your favourites?
For the past few weeks, I’ve left work telling myself that this was going to be the week that I started my new blog post series. It all started after I listened to the episode of the Empire podcast where they were deciding whether they preferred Batman or Superman. I had decided it would be an easy thing to steal and, because I don’t really like Superman, it wasn’t exactly going to be a huge choice for me to make. Of course, as always, I ended up failing to see it through. However, I really liked the idea of doing another blog post a week and the Friday Favourites thing appeals to my love of alliteration. Thankfully, this week I was super inspired after reading The Handmaid’s Tale. Margaret Atwood really is one of the greatest writers around these days. She manages to be a beautiful writer of literary fiction whilst being so down-to-earth. Her novels are incredibly readable even with her breathtaking use of language. I highlighted so many quotations during my re-read that I knew I had to do a post about them. And it was one that could have gone on forever. I might as well have just typed the whole thing out. But, instead, I narrowed it down to 18. And I refused to include the oft-quoted “nolite te bastardes carborundorum” because it seemed like such an obvious choice. Not that the rest of them are particularly original mind you. So, do your favourite quotes appear on this list? Have I missed any? Let me know.
I’m writing this post ahead of time because on Wednesday night I’m going to the theatre. A guy I work with is starring in an amateur production of Sweet Charity and a load of us are going to watch him. As a huge fan of musical theatre I’m really excited but I will miss my usual Wednesday night routine. I normally have the house to myself so I can just do whatever I want. Plus, I had to start to think about this post way before I normally would. I mean is it really a Wednesday if I’m not madly typing a bookish post at about 32:46? It’s also an issue for another reason. By the time this post goes on the blog I will have finally finished a book. I know I know. It’s a fucking miracle and it’s only taken about 3 months to do it. This slump has killed me, man. But I should be able to finish Frankenstein in Baghdad this evening. If this had been a normal week then I could have cobbled together a book review this week but, thanks to my unusually busy schedule, that’ll have to wait until next Wednesday. So, it does beg the question of what I’m going to discuss tonight.
The idea for this post has been screaming around my head for a while. Ever since the end of February when, yet again, we found ourselves amid another snowstorm. Not that I minded about the actual snow. For one thing, I don’t drive so my commute is only affected when the trains go mental. For another, I’ve always loved the snow. I’ve never understood why people hate it so much. I’ve always been annoyingly pale so the sun always makes me feel uncomfortable. Every year I see people rejoice when the sun comes out whilst I only wish for winter to return. Yet, whenever we are lucky enough for snow to fall I am expected to react as though it’s a massive inconvenience. It felt as is every day last month I was faced with someone panicking about potential snow. Getting updates every minute about tiny changes in the weather. I’m sick of it. Winter isn’t the bad guy here. It’s magical. You just need to look at the world of literature to see that.