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By Debra Hamel

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Authors & publishers:
I've decided to stop accepting review copies. The downside of getting buried in free books is that reading increasingly becomes an obligatory act. After some seven years of blogging books, it's time for me to return to the simple pleasure of reading only the books I want to read, when I want to read them. The blog, however, will continue, and if you've got a good first line to share for TwitterLit please do so here.

From a random review:


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HUGE Book Giveaway! Win FOURTEEN books!


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CONTEST RESULTS!  I just held a drawing here in my study, using a random number generator. The five winners of 14 books from Hachette Book Group are:

Swapna, who likes the line "A weirdo is anyone not like you?"

Renee, who wrote movingly about "There were no footprints in the snow."

Susan B., who enjoys the promise of violence (I like that) and chose the line "It was going to be bloody, but it could be done, if they moved fast."

Jeff, who selected "The year began with lunch."

Bill Peschel, for whom "All this happened, more or less" serves as madeleine.

Congratulations! Please get in touch with me with your full names and mailing addresses so I can pass the information along to Hachette.

* * *

Okay, folks, this is huge. Hachette Book Group is sponsoring an enormous book giveaway here at the book-blog. Five (5!) of you will each win a batch of fourteen (14!) books from Hachette. Here are the titles: 

Douglas Preston, The Monster of Florence
Nancy Gibbs, The Preacher and the Presidents
Jimmy Buffett, Swine Not?
Justice "Kip" Gayden, Miscarriage of Justice
Elizabeth Hancock, Trespassers Will Be Baptized
Trish Ryan, He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not
Elin Hilderbrand, A Summer Affair
Elin Hilderbrand, Barefoot
Billie Letts, Made in the U.S.A.
Anne Siddons, Off Season
Deborah Bedford, A Rose by the Door
Deborah Bedford, Remember Me
Tom Smith, Child 44
Martina Cole, Close

-1-1That's FOURTEEN books, shipped to your house--a great way to jump start your summer reading. Sound appealing? Here's how to win them:

Since I started, I've posted more than 800 first lines from novels and non-fiction titles. Go over to TwitterLit and browse (here's a complete list of the lines posted to date). In the comments to this post, tell us your favorite first line among those listed and tell us why you like it.

That's it! Everyone who posts a comment as stipulated above will be entered in a drawing to be held on June 20th (the first day of summer!). The small print:

1. Five winners will be drawn at random from all entries received.
2. One entry per person.
3. All entries must be received by 9:00 AM EDT, June 20th, 2008. The drawing will be held shortly thereafter.
4. Contest open to U.S. and Canadian residents only.

< Tweet it! | Reblog reviews by Debra Hamel are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution - Noncommercial - No Derivative Works 3.0 License (



I thought I was going to have a really hard time choosing, as there were so many interesting ones to pick from. And then, of course, I saw the first line from my all-time favorite book and I had to pick it.

"Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again."

I didn't choose this just because it is my favorite book, but also because anytime I hear this line it gives me chills and makes me want to literally dive into the book to experience life at Manderley.


It's so very hard to pick my favorite opening line.....most of them are entertaining out of context (more than half of why I joined TwitLit)....but my favorite is:

10-16-07 AM -- Amazon: US UK CA
"Once upon a time, there was prostitute called Maria."

Why? Once upon a time signals that this is a fairy tale. Fairy Tales deal with princesses who have to over come. At the very least a fairy tale will lift a downtrodden character up. However, very rarely does a fairy tale deal with an issue such as prostitution. Also, overall it reminds me of Moll Flanders (my favorite classic) and is a bit of Perfume.


"I'm not particularly qualified by profession or education to give advice and counsel." 5-19-08

I chose this line for the words, not the book which it comes from. As a librarian, I am asked for advice frequently. People assume that we are tax consultants, lawyers, doctors, etc. We can bring you to the information but we are not there to help you with your taxes, diagnose a disease from your symptoms, etc. This line is one I use regularly in my work!


Among all the listed first lines, I picked the one that shouldn't concern me, something I shouldn't think about. And yet, reality being what it is, I cannot stop thinking about such a day.

"One day you know more dead people than live ones."

I don't know what I will do then, but I know I want to do tons in the meantime.


My favorite is from Adrian McKinty's Hidden River:
06-03-08 AM -- Amazon: US UK CA
"Seven time zones west of Belfast the murdered girl was alive yet and well."

He does a brilliant job, both in the As Dead I Well May Be Michael Forsythe series and in this book, building suspense, and his characters really sizzle with life... well worth a read.


"A weirdo is anyone not like you?." That would have to be my favorite opening line because it's so true. People think I'm weird because of how much I read and how full my condo is of books - but I think they're weird because I can't imagine not reading!!


I have to go with "I warn you that what you're starting to read is full of loose ends and unanswered questions." from the Body Snatchers because it finally spurred me on to read it--and I loved it. :D


"There were no footprints in the snow."

This line really affected me.

My mother was a homeless alcoholic and addict for many years of her life. She lived most of her days in New Hampshire, and was well known to everyone in the town of Manchester. She also suffered from myopia - she was literally & legally blind if she didn't have her glasses on. Several years ago, she was found dead in a snowbank, after being sober for 3 weeks, and only 20 feet from the shelter of her makeshift tent.

I remember her often, and imagine that her footprints are still there, through the years and in spite of the various snowstorms, to those who are truly able to see.


Renee, thanks for sharing that, sad story though it is. It's interesting that it should be that particular book that evoked such thoughts from you. That's from Jim Sheeler's Final Salute. I haven't read it, but I did read an excerpt from it. The excerpt I read was about one of the marines whose job it is to notify next of kin when a serviceman dies. And *that* was very affecting. And impressive, because of the attention this man gave his job and the respect he paid to both dead and living. Funny how a sentence taken out of context can recall something very different but equally sad.

Anyway, folks may wan to head over to Renee's site. She's hosting a first lines contest as well:


Such great first lines!
I wanna read half of those books just based on that!

However, this one made me laugh out loud at work...

"Getting punched hard in the face is a singular experience."

Wow.. what a way to start a book!! Fabulous!!


I picked "This story about good food begins in a quick-stop convenience market." because it was the first one I recognized as I went down the list, and Barbara Kingsolver's "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle" was truly a life-changing book for me.


I was so thrilled to find, "All this happened, more or less" at TwitterLit! It's from my favorite book, Slaughterhouse-Five. I've always found that readers and reviewers place too much faith in writers as superheros, especially memoirs or stories based upon real events (of which Slaughterhouse-Five is). I love a good tale and the more embellishment thrown in, the better. Give me a Vonnegut that tells his tale as truthful as he can imagine, more or less.


"There's never a pull-off when you need one."

I've never read this book, and I can tell that it has an entirely different meaning than I read into it. But for me, and I suspect every other mother out there, I just have to say, "Ain't that the truth?!!" Ever had to have to try to hold that garbage bag in just the right spot to catch your little one's former stomach contents? Yeah, maybe a little too disgusting to share, but that's how I relate to the line.


"My grandmother was married off two days shy of her tenth birthday."

Although it was hard to choose just one, this line grabbed me immediately because I'm dying to know why and what happened!! :) Thank you!


"There were two hours left of 1938."

I chose this one because I have recently started reading and enjoying historical novels.


I always enjoy the promise of violence, so here's my pick:

"It was going to be bloody, but it could be done, if they moved fast."


Would love to read the Sumer Affair!!!


I like it when first lines are quirky. I have no idea what this book is about, but its first line makes me want to read it.

"The year began with lunch."


Several good ones. Here's my favorite:

"He found the body on the forty-third day of his walk."

Two reasons I like it. First, in the first four words, we have a mystery--who's body? Murdered? I'm curious. Second, there's obviously something else going on--a walk that lasts 43 days? Now I'm really curious to know what is going on.


"Don't be shy."

I love this opening line for the reason that it propels me into a new level of risk taking. I just accepted a new role as library media specialist for a brand new elementary school. I shed my shyness and strive for positive energy to impact my students' learning outcomes.


"My reading chair faces my bookshelve and I see them every time I look up from the page".

I have the same experience with my books. I have many shelves of books and that line reminds me of myself. It is a nice arrangement and not a problem to have. Many books on the shelves also mean I will always have reading material for reading and admireing.


There's a lot to look at on that list, but when I saw this one, I knew I had to pick it:

"All this happened, more or less."

My madeline. A row of well-used paperbacks on the white painted shelves, in the classroom of the Open School, an alternative education idea set up at West Charlotte High School, where I escaped the horrors of junior high school, when my dad died, and I discovered Tolkien, Eldridge Cleaver, "Steppenwolfe" and, here, Kurt Vonnegut.

When the world seemed fresh (and in the '70s, it was colored harvest gold and avocado) and the mind was still open and barely used.


I liked:
08-20-07 AM -- Amazon: US UK CA
"I write this sitting in the kitchen sink."

From I Capture the Castle.

I like the absurdity of the mental picture.


"Everyone thought he was dead."

What can I say? It makes me wonder why he apparently isn't.


"Beautiful bodies sell magazines"

All you see anymore are bodies on the cover, not people just bodies


I'm not going to enter because I'm already buried, but I'll be sure to link to this post tomorrow when I update my 'upcoming' review list!


Thank you, Heather!!!


"People always say to me that they wish they had my family."

This line makes me think of a good story waiting to be told. I love stories about families.


I almost listed one line because I recognized it as being from a book I recently read. But then I noticed: "I can still smell the Dutch-oven roast on the table the night Dad announced we were getting a new mother."

Would you call that a Proustian experience? From my French-major days (eons ago), I remember someone smelling a madeleine in "A la recherche du temps perdu" and having memories of childhood flood back.

Interestingly, the opening line is from a timely memoir called "Stolen Innocence" by someone who experienced life in a polygamous commune. I'll have to put it on my reading list!


This one is my favorite:

04-18-08 PM -- Amazon: US UK CA
"I was in the fifth grade the first time I thought about turning thirty."

I think when I was 12, I acted and thought more like a thirty-year old. When I was 30, I was regressing and was about 15! LOL Now, my soul tells me I'm 27 years old (a good age to be), but my body disagrees yearly. :)


This one is my favorite:

04-18-08 PM -- Amazon: US UK CA
"I was in the fifth grade the first time I thought about turning thirty."

I think when I was 12, I acted and thought more like a thirty-year old. When I was 30, I was regressing and was about 15! LOL Now, my soul tells me I'm 27 years old (a good age to be), but my body disagrees yearly. :)


I like this one, because the first thing you think is that it couldn't possibly be so ... which makes you curious enough to read the book:

"This story about good food begins in a quick-stop convenience market."


I started reading all these last week and clicking to see what book each came from. What fun! I really like: "It began innocently enough."

It tells you that if at first you don't think the story is going someplace to hold on, just wait, and it will come!


"Gwen loved the smell of crisp, clean sheets."


"It begins, as most things begin, with a song."

Neil Gaiman has such a lovely way with words. I love this opening line.


06-15-08 AM
Theme Entry: Father's Day
"So you've decided to have a child."

Sounds like the kind of book filled with humor yet melancholy. It leaves me to wonder if he too found that sons cause your hair to gray and daughters cause it to fall out.
I almost want to call out with a grin across my face, "Wait! Have you really thought about it?" Then proceed to tell the wonderful stories the kids have given me. Encouraging them to join the ranks of the insane, known as parents.


Since I'm "IT" at my workplace - a lot of the times, I'm simply referred to as "The Geek". This has never been an issue to me since being a "Geek" has managed to make my life fairly fluid financially with little work, great hours and well...a certain amount of power (translate: leverage). So when I read this line: "The original meaning of the word geek was a person in the circus who bit the heads off live chickens." - I lost the smirk a bit....YIKES! How did we go from chicken maiming for entertainment to Bill Gates?


I'm responding simply to the lure of those brightly colored covers which said to me, "summer reading!" "Fun!" "Not depressing!" And I had to share another title: My Seven Years in Captivity by Bill Seaton, who actually was the PR director of the San Diego Zoo for a number of years. It's a behind-the-scenes look at life at the zoo -- recommended "summer reading" for anyone who wants to be entertained for a few interesting, laugh-filled hours. Good for young and old alike!


That looks interesting, Lizzie. Thanks for mentioning it. I love the cover on his book!


"All this happened more or less"

Thanks for the giveaway!! And the fun way to enter:)


"Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again."


So sad that this is not open for overseas readers but the cost of shipping would be enormous I know.

Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again - is there a more evocative starting sentence.


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About the blogger: Debra is the mother of two preternaturally attractive girls and the author of a number of books about ancient Greece, including Trying Neaira: The True Story of a Courtesan's Scandalous Life in Ancient Greece. She writes and blogs from her subterranean lair in North Haven, CT. Read more.


The Sunday by Debra Hamel is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution - Noncommercial - No Derivative Works 3.0 License.