The Hook in She Rides Shotgun, by Jordan Harper

Writing about a story’s hook, Karen Cogan stated in the closing paragraph of her post, “How to Set the Right Tone for Your Novel” on the Southern Writers: Suite T blog on December 19, 2018: 

“The point is that your reader should never be misled for the sake of an enticing beginning. Certainly, you want an interesting opening. All you must do is to think carefully about your genre for the hook that draws readers into your novel.” For instance, a romance novel should not begin with the gory details of a murder. (Here’s the link to that blog post:  https://southernwritersmagazine.blogspot.com/2018/12/how-to-set-right-tone-for-your-novel.html.)

If you’ve followed my blog for a few months, you know that I’m fascinated by the opening lines of novels. Although the “hook” can be more than just the opening line or paragraph, I can usually tell by the first sentence if I’m starting to read a book that I’ll finish.

Sometimes I’m fooled. Most of the time, I find that the opening sentence or paragraph is an invitation to a place or time I’ve never been – like a murder scene, the life of a person making a gut-wrenching decision, the colonial days in America, or perhaps the home front or battlefields of a great war.

As an aspiring novelist, I want to learn what makes a great hook and what doesn’t.

Today I’m highlighting the opening sentence in She Rides Shotgun, by Jordan Harper:

“His skin told his history in tattoos and knife scars.” ~ first sentence in She Rides Shotgun, by Jordan Harper

That hook describes Crazy Craig Hollington, president of the Aryan Steel prison gang. No surprise there. Chances are, this is not going to be a Sunday afternoon picnic kind of a story.

She Rides Shotgun, by Jordan Harper

This isn’t typical of my reading choices, but I was drawn to it when I read that it won the 2018 Edgar Award for Best First Novel. I wrote the following about the book in my June 4, 2018 blog post, “Reading in May 2018” (see https://janetswritingblog.com/2018/06/04/reading-in-may-2018.)

“After reading the opening description of a white supremacist gang in a prison in Chapter 0 (yes, Chapter 0), I wasn’t sure I could hang in there to keep reading. I continued to read, and I was soon invested in 11-year-old Polly.

“Polly is kidnapped at school by the father she barely knows and is suddenly thrown into a life of crime. The book takes the reader along for a rollercoaster ride as Polly quickly becomes streetwise in order to survive.”

I think, “His skin told his history in tattoos and knife scars” was a good indication for what was to come in She Rides Shotgun.

Since my last blog post

I’ve been racing against the clock to try to read or listen to umpteen books before they have to return to the library or disappear from my Kindle. Too many books, too little time. Look for my blog posts on March 4 and 11, 2019 to see what I read this month.

Update on Decluttering

In case anyone out there is interested, I’m continuing to do battle with clutter. I’ve been inspired this year by Mliae’s blog:  https://lifexperimentblog.com/2019/02/22/february-declutter-update/. She was kind enough to list my blog in her February 22, 2019 blog post, which prompted me to offer an update on my decluttering progress today.

Sometimes mail piles up. Opened, unopened, it doesn’t make a difference. I know the rule of thumb is to only touch a piece of paper once. Some days go well. I open the mail and immediately put it in the paper shredder, a file folder, or the recycle bin. Other days… not so much.

This month I’ve put 22 catalogs in the recycling bin. My goal is to get off as many catalog mailing lists as possible.

I’ve set aside 28 books to donate to the April 6 used book sale at my church. Granted, those 28 books are still piled on the hearth, but at least I know they’re getting new homes in April.

Until my next blog post

I hope you have a good book to read. I just finished listening to George Washington’s Secret Six:  The Spy Ring That Saved the American Revolution, by Brian Kilmeade and Don Yaeger. I’m trying to finish reading In the Woods, by Tana French before it disappears from my Kindle on Thursday.

If you’re a writer, I hope you have quality writing time and that you’re good at writing hooks.

Thank you for reading my blog. You could have spent the last few minutes doing something else, but you chose to read my blog.

Don’t forget to look for my #TwoForTuesday blog post tomorrow when I’ll reveal two books that help me sleep at night. That’s the assignment, anyway. I’m still working on it. (Writing prompt provided by “Rae’s Reads and Reviews” blog post on January 8, 2019 (https://educatednegra.blog/2019/01/08/two-for-tuesday-prompts/comment-page-1/#comment-1646)

Let’s start a conversation

How much time or how many pages do you give a book before you give up on it and move to another book?

Janet

Reading in May 2018

This is the first Monday in June, so it’s time for me to tell you about the books I read in May. Perhaps one or more of them will catch your attention. If you’ve read any of them, I’d love to hear your comments. In fact, I’d love to hear your comments even if you haven’t read any of them.

An American Marriage, by Tayari Jones

An American Marriage
An American Marriage, by Tayari Jones

The first novel I read in May was An American Marriage, by Tayari Jones. Each chapter is written in the point-of-view of one character. The main characters are Roy, Celestial, and Andre. Roy ends up in prison in Louisiana after being convicted of a crime he did not commit. During his absence, his wife Celestial relies heavily on her lifelong friend, Andre. You can probably see where that leads, but I don’t want to give the plot away. This book is a study in commitment, love, friendship, betrayal, and how the things that happen to us in childhood leave profound marks on our feelings of self-worth. I kept turning the pages because I felt invested in each character and I wanted to know what the outcome of the various twists in the plot would be.

A Higher Loyalty:  Truth, Lies, and Leadership, by B. James Comey, Jr.

A Higher Loyalty
A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership, by James Comey

After all the hype about A Higher Loyalty:  Truth, Lies, and Leadership, by former FBI Director B. James Comey, Jr., I thought perhaps I’d already heard all about the book. Of course, the part of the book that has gotten all the publicity is the last three chapters in which Mr. Comey tells about his encounters with Donald Trump after his election and after his inauguration as US President. There were few surprises in those chapters, thanks to the numerous quotes and discussions of that information in the media.

As a political science major with a history minor, I really enjoyed the whole book. Mr. Comey gives background of the FBI and explains how the Director of the FBI and the US President aren’t supposed to have much contact. That’s the way it has to be in order for the FBI to maintain its reputation as a non-partisan institution. He writes about the honor it is to serve in the agency, and he writes about some of the difficult decisions he had to make while in the directorship and during his earlier days as a prosecutor.

Less, by Andrew Sean Greer

Less by Greer
Less, by Andrew Sean Greer

The day after I read the literary winners of the 2018 Pulitzer Prize, I got on the waitlist at the public library for this year’s Fiction winner, Less, by Andrew Sean Greer. This novel is a tale about a gay American man as he approaches and then passes his 50th birthday. Arthur Less is a novelist. He travels around the world, bumbling his way through country after country. The book is entertaining, as it combines humor with the serious topic of love and how human beings seek it, find it, lose it, and perhaps find it again.

I made note of more than a few lines I liked in the book. I’ll share them in future blog posts.

She Rides Shotgun, by Jordan Harper

She Rides Shotgun
She Rides Shotgun, by Jordan Harper

I wanted to read this book because it won the 2018 Edgar Award for Best First Novel. After reading the opening description of a white supremacist gang in a prison in Chapter 0 (yes, Chapter 0), I wasn’t sure I could hang in there to keep reading. I continued to read, and I was soon invested in 11-year-old Polly.

Polly’s is kidnapped at school by the father she barely knows and is suddenly thrown into a life of crime. The book takes the reader along for a rollercoaster ride as Polly quickly becomes streetwise in order to survive.

Still I Rise:  The Persistence of Phenomenal Women, by Marlene Wagman-Geller

Still I Rise
Still I Rise: The Persistence of Phenomenal Women, by Marlene Wagman-Geller

I happened upon this book while perusing the shelves of new books at the public library. It’s a delightful and inspiring book about 25 phenomenal women who overcame all manner of adversity and made their mark on the world.

Among the 25 were such notables as Hattie McDonald who won an Academy Award in 1940 for her role in Gone With the Wind. She was the first person of color to win an Academy Award. If you don’t know her backstory, it’s well worth getting this book just to learn about her struggles.

Others included in the book include Irena Sendler, Susan B. Anthony, Fannie Hamer, Maya Angelou, Dr. Ruth Westheimer, Claudette Colvin, Patty Duke, Sonia Sotomayor, Jeannette Walls, Joanne Rowling, Laura Hillenbrand, Tammy Duckworth, and Lizzie Velazquez.

Divine Prey, by Chris Andrews

divine-prey-thumbnail
Divine Prey, by Chris Andrews

I stepped way out of my comfort zone to read this debut novel by Chris Andrews. Fantasy novels just aren’t my go-to reading preference; however, I found myself getting interested in this epic tale about a princess who is being hunted down by the faspane. The story takes a definite turn for the worse when Princes Caroline is attacked by a werewolf. Healing stones come into play, but can she be saved?

Although not my favorite genre, Divine Prey is well-written and well-paced. The descriptions are vivid and Mr. Andrews shows how adept he is in weaving body language into the plot. Even if you aren’t a fan of the fantasy genre, you might want to give this book a chance. If you are a connoisseur of fantasy books, I think you’ll definitely want to read this one. It is Book One in Mr. Andrews’ Noramgaell Saga, so you’ll want to get in on the beginning of this intriguing story.

The Broken Girls, by Simone St. James

The Broken Girls
The Broken Girls, by Simone St. James

The chapters in this novel alternate between 1950 and 2014 in Barrons, Vermont. In 1950 one of the girls at the Idlewild Hall boarding school for troubled teenage girls disappeared. Her disappearance remains unsolved decades after the school was closed and the property abandoned.

In 2014, journalist Fiona Sheridan can’t forget that in 1994 the body of her murdered sister was found near the school. When it’s announced that Idlewild Hall is going to be restored, a body is discovered in the bottom of a well on the property. Could it be the remains of the 15-year-old missing girl from 1950?

This book will keep you turning the pages as there are multiple mysteries being unraveled, including the murder of Fiona’s sister. It is the June book selection for the online Apostrophe S Book Club, which prompted me to read it. I’m glad I did.

Here’s a little aside about Simone St. James, the author of The Broken Girls. Kudos to Ms. St. James!  I have more than 200 books on my “want to read” list on Goodreads.com. As soon as I added The Broken Girls to my list, I received a thank you note from her! Of all those “want to read” books, Ms. St. James was the first author to acknowledge that I had added one of her books to my list. As busy as authors are, it really impressed me that she took the time to write me.

Since my last blog post

Drumroll! As of May 30, I had 1,500 blog followers! Thank you, each and every one of you!

Since my last blog post two weeks ago, I have enjoyed reading, doing jigsaw puzzles, getting out to walk when it wasn’t raining here in North Carolina, and brushing up on my new skill of making infographics (I’m so new at this, I’m not even sure that’s the correct term!) to post on Pinterest and a few to post on Twitter and Facebook. I’m concentrating on sharing quotes from my vintage postcard book, The Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, as it will mark the fourth anniversary of its publication in August and I wanted to give sales a boost as the spring/summer/fall tourist season commenced.

Until my next blog post

I hope you have a good book to read. I’m finally reading Under the Skin, by Vicki Lane. It’s the fifth of her Elizabeth Goodweather Appalachian Mysteries.

Under The Skin
Under the Skin, by Vicki Lane

If you’re a writer, I hope you have quality writing time.

What are you reading?

Janet