Thoughts on books, family, and life in one impressive package.

In 2014

First Lines

  1. “Every little girl?” 
  2. My muscles still won’t respond.” 
  3. ‘When did you first meet Miss LaRoux?’ ” 
  4. It’s better to kill people at the end of their psychology.” 
  5. My mind wakes, but the words essential to describe the stirring of my consciousness escape me.
  6. I’m pretty much f*cked.
  7. There was a time in Africa the people could fly.
  8. My beloved aunt, Sara Harrison Shea, was brutally murdered in the winter of 1908.” 
  9. ” ‘I realize this is upsetting news,’ said Ms. Daniels, watching me and Olivia across her enormous wooden desk.
  10. Annie.
  11. Emmaline and Hester, known in the county as the Old Sisters Egan, took their coffee cowboy-style, the grounds fried-up in a pan to a bitter sludge, then stirred into china teacups of hot water.
  12. You would think it would be inpossible to find anything new in the world, creatures no man has ever seen before, one-of-a-kind oddities in which nature has taken a backseat to the coursing pulse of the fantastical and the marvelous.” 
  13. Three soldiers emerge from their barracks in Arras, northern France: a colonel, a sergeant, and a private.
  14. Nadia and I scramble down the hill at the edge of school property right as the morning’s final late bell rings behind us.
  15. She has already become a legend.
  16. Eat Eat Eat Eat
  17. Alice stepped gingerly into the darkened dormitory, holding her breath against the unexpected.” 
  18. We begin in a bar.
  19. He drove.
  20. Heat.
  21. The water was so cold it took Heather’s breath away as she fought past the kids crowding the beach and standing in the shallows, waving towels and homemade signs, cheering and calling up to the remaining jumpers.
  22. I move my shovel, pushing the mud back and forth at a glacial pace.
  23. The pirate’s head had disappeared.
  24. I did the unforgivable the day my mother died, and for that I’ve been punished every moment of my life.
  25. That Cheri Stoddard was found at all was the thing that set people on edge, even more so than the condition of her body.
  26. My teenager years in the United Kingdom coincided with the centennial of the American Civil War.
  27. We slept in what had once been the gymnasium.
  28. There’s these two kids, boys, sitting close together, squished in by the big arms of an old chair.
  29. I am a hundred years old today.
  30. My gingerbread man had fangs.
  31. She woke up late that morning, and knew: Something had followed them home from Russia.
  32. Dear Poppa, I wish you were here.
  33. The pain is sharp, piercing, a burning dagger’s thrust inside her skull, somewhere behind the right eye.
  34. Calliope trudged through the sunny field as she ignored the babble of the redhead trailing behind her.
  35. The wet night air bounced against the electric streetlamps, giving off tiny sparks like flint.
  36. Late in the winter of my seventeenth year, my mother decided I was depressed, presumably because I rarely left the house, spent quite a lot of time in bed, read the same book over and over, ate infrequently, and devoted quite a bit of my abundant free time to thinking about death.
  37. In those early months, when the beautiful and mysterious Henry Lark and I began to do all that reading, I often skimmed over the name.
  38. When the warm spring air cracked the ice on Lake Huron, a sleepy fog began to curl across the water.
  39. Thud, Thud, Thud.
  40. Maggie Murphy stood alone and unnoticed on the doorstep of the thatched stone cottage that three generations of her family had called home.
  41. Dorothy lived in the midst of the great Kansas prairies, with Uncle Henry, who was a farmer, and Aunt Em, who was the farmer’s wife.
  42. I have been too fond of stories.
  43. After three days of tramping across endless lava fields, Ronan quickened his steps at the sight of the forest.
  44. My dad, who did all the heavy lifting when it came to child rearing and was far better suited to the job than my mother, gave me some good wisdom after my first summer away in East Hampton.
  45. As one immigrant waiting to be examined said, ‘I couldn’t enjoy nothing.’ “
  46. His dad had to work, so Ethan had gone fishing alone.
  47. The outpost gate creaked in the wind, swinging back on its hinges. 
  48. On the ferry from Hyannis to Alice Island, Amelia Loman paints her nails yellow and, while waiting for them to dry, skims her predecessor’s notes.
  49. Gretchen Müller peered through the car’s rain-spotted windshield.
  50. We killed them.
  51. James stares straight ahead, with no immediate reaction to what I’ve just told him.
  52. I sit on the itchy couch and stare at Mommy’s eyes, wishing for them to open.
  53. The night before the worst day of my life, I dreamed the sun went dark and ice cracked every mirror in the house, but I didn’t take it for a warning.
  54. Beneath the ash trees on Johnson Street, just east of campus, Hourglass Vintage stood in a weathered brick building, wedged between a fair-trade coffee shop and a bike-repair business.
  55. He arrives at the park by walking down Central Park West and then entering through the opening at West Seventy-seventh Street.
  56. I crouch low to the the ground, pressing my back to the ancient spruce tree, and raise my crossbow in one hand.
  57. Everything in the room screamed that I didn’t belong.
  58. She was nicknamed The Graveyard.
  59. Dawn Zukoski was scared of lots of things – spiders, lightning bolts, the way New York cabbies drove – but only once in her life had she known true terror.
  60. It is the smallest details that come to her: the damp grass underfoot threaded with buttercups, the air humming with insects, the snap of her nightdress catching in the breeze.
  61. If one is going to spend her afternoon singing hymns to the great porcelain goddess, she might as well do it in a really plush ladies’ room.
  62. No one can find it.
  63. Hey, Tabitha? I have a secret, Joe types.
  64. Welcome to the beautiful Sinclair family.
  65. The mouth is a weird place.
  66. I’m not spying on Mrs. Connor, I only watch her dance because her windows are so low and I can reach.
  67. When they were little, the door to what was to have been the house’s ballroom remained locked.
  68. Come on, come on, come on…
  69. There was a most villainous killer on the loose.
  70. For the first hundred miles, I see only the road and my knuckles, skin tight across the bones, like my mother’s hands, as I clutch the steering wheel.
  71. I nearly missed that card from the post office, stuck up as it was against the side of the mail slot.
  72. Leaving always came as a surprise, no matter how long the dates had been looming on the calendar.
  73. Mae Koskinen was one of her country’s most elite soldiers.
  74. I’ll sleep when I’m dead.
  75. Coma.
  76. I am a doctor.
  77. He enters the place early in the morning, before daybreak.
  78. When I was little, my dad used to tell me, ‘Will, you can pick your friends, and you can pick your nose, but you can’t pick your friend’s nose.’
  79. There are places I’ll remember all my life – Red Square with a hot wind howling across it, my mother’s bedroom on the wrong side of Eight Mile, the endless gardens of a fancy foster home, a man waiting to kill me in a group of ruins known as the Theater of Death.
  80. I traveled west – alone – on the cheapest bus routes I could find.
  81. Until that phone call it had been an ordinary day.
  82. It was a bizarre May Day parade at midnight instead of midday.
  83. Mr. Chief Justice Anfuso delivered the opinion of the court.
  84. Dobbs wins the fight easily.
  85. Strange things grow in the fog of war.
  86. Everything is ready now.
  87. ‘The first time, you can’t believe how much it hurts.’
  88. Even with the sweat on her forehead and the skip in her breath, she didn’t look sick.
  89. When Nicholas arrived at the Gallo Nero, he felt as if this was not a hotel, but someone’s home, a long ocher house with a dark red roof and green shutters.
  90. There were owls in the nursery when James was a boy.
  91. I followed the escorting officer over to Admissions and Discharge, carrying my belongings in a cardboard box – a couple pairs of jeans, some worn-out T-shirts, the few things I’d gathered over the years, some treasured books, my CD player.
  92. The blindfold kept Allison from seeing, but the chilly air around her smelled sweet and damp.”
  93. The island lay in wait, a smudge of land across the water.
  94. A storm is rising.
  95. Naomi Hill stands center stage in a pool of light.
  96. When I’d been in Cairo a week, I was taken to the pyramids; it was there that I saw Frances for the first time.
  97. It was only when Hannah Wilde reached the farmhouse shortly after midnight that she discovered how much blood her husband had lost.
  98. Ed Nicholls was in the creatives’ room drinking coffee with Ronan when Sidney walked in.
  99. There are long stretches where I don’t remember anything.
  100. I built an igloo against the cold out of black plastic trash bags filled with wet leaves.
  101. The boy turned up with no work boots, just a pair of old trainers, and a holdall slung across his back, almost as big as he was.
  102. Kelsea Glynn sat very still, watching the troop approach her homestead.
  103. He had thought that watching a movie would agreeably distract him, but the images unspooling on the tiny screen and the tinny sound coming through the headphones were an irritant, like an inexpert touch between a tickle and a scratch.
  104. In the days leading up to my husband Owen’s death, he visited Alison’s house every afternoon.
  105. It had once been a lovely apartment building, but the crackheads had changed all that.
  106. Ciere Giba wakes to pounding on her hotel door.
  107. Ghosts didn’t have much substance.
  108. I float in nothing.
  109. I’m sitting at the breakfast nook sipping from a mug of cocoa when the phone rings.
  110. It’s another gorgeous spring day after the fall of civilization.
  111. Eveline LeMay came after the water.
  112. On the map, their destination had been a stretch of green, as if they would be living on a golf course.
  113. ‘That doesn’t sound like a school trivia night,’ said Mrs. Patty Ponder to Marie Antoinette.
  114. This, above all else, binds the four of us together: standing side by side, each struggled to believe the best in herself, hearing amid the dark doubts in her mind the whisper of triumph.
  115. Once upon a time, there was a giant.
  116. There was a ticking time bomb inside my head and the one person I trusted to go in and get it out hadn’t shown up or spoken to me for more than a year.
  117. Above us lies suspended a gold-trimmed cloud the size of one of the big states (say, Arizona), threatening to plummet over Virginia.
  118. Like most Philadelphians, Sophie had always bought her produce at SuperFresh; or, if she found herself on the other end of town, the Acme.
  119. Edda and Grace, Tufts and Kitty.
  120. Augie Odenkirk had a 1997 Datsun that still ran well in spite of high mileage, but gas was expensive, especially for a man with no job, and City Center was on the far side of town, so he decided to take the last bus of the night.
  121. Once you finish your milk, please put the carton back in the box.
  122. ‘Come quick before he starts looking for you!’ my grandpa hissed in a frantic whisper from below my bedroom window, where he stood on an overturned wheelbarrow with outstretched arms while my father roared drunkenly downstairs.
  123. In the light of eternity, time casts no shadow.
  124. In the rugged, underbrush-riddled rural town of Peculiar, Missouri, at the beginning of a January sleet storm, and beneath the dimming orange hues of dusk, a body lay half out of the window that led to the high school basement.
  125. Here is a house; bones of beam and joints of hardware, stone foundation smooth, solid as the core of the earth, nestled, pressed, cold and flat and dank against the hard-packed soil and all of its squirming secrets.
  126. I couldn’t help myself.
  127. Beware all enterprises that start with the purchase of Crocs.
  128. It is autumn and yet it feels more like summer.
  129. His father was watching the line in the water.
  130. Lily Proctor ducked into the girls’ room, already yanking back her rebellious hair.”
  131. International baggage claim in the Brussels airport was large and airy, with multiple carousels circling endlessly.
  132. ‘Cadence Finn?’
  133. ‘I believe the question, then,’ says Vasily Yaroslav, ‘is one of intent.’
  134. I was strong and he was not, so it was me went to war to defend the Republic.
  135. ‘Your Highness would be safer below.’
  136. My breath is quick.
  137. On the day Liz Emerson tries to die, they had reviewed Newton’s Laws of Motion in physics class.
  138. The king stood in a pool of blue light, unmoored.
  139. Mara had chosen the method long ago: pills, vodka and carbon monoxide.
  140. The train holds the heat of the sun, even an hour after it has sunk beneath the pavement, pushing its way below the sprawling city.
  141. It was late January, and New England wore a fresh coat of snow as I stepped along the gangplank to the shore.
  142. I miss the night.
  143. The body.
  144. The Barbers had said they would arrive by three.
  145. The fire begins in the basement.” – Rooms by Lauren Oliver
  146. ‘Miss Temminnick.’
  147. She points to the chair.
  148. The most important email that Darcy Patel ever wrote was three paragraphs long.
  149. The white people are waiting for us.
  150. Growing up in rural Connecticut, I had been told the name Riddell meant something to people in the Northwest.
  151. The envelope reached Bennett Grey early Wednesday afternoon.
  152. Our stories say that when the human world was first made, not all of it fit.
  153. People say when you take Heam, your body momentarily dies and you catch a glimpse of heaven.
  154. You walk into the bookstore and you keep your hand on the door to make sure it doesn’t slam.
  155. On the second day of December in a year when a Georgia peanut farmer was doing business in the White House, one of Colorado’s great resort hotels burned to the ground.
  156. In the moment of waking I am innocent, my conscience clear of any wrongdoing.
  157. In the years following the mission, each of the guys set out to make his life unrecognizable, until the memories of that other life, that earlier existence, were bathed in a false, artificial light and they themselves became convinced that none of what took place had actually happened, or at least not to them.
  158. Almost everyone thought the man and the boy were father and son.
  159. Her story began with a miracle.
  160. During a trip to London in 1804, a student from Oxford’s Worcester College began to experience ‘rheumatic’ pains in his head.
  161. Thursday morning of Easter Week 1933, April 13, saw clearing skies that held much promise for the upcoming holiday weekend.
  162. Even as Penny was attacked, the  judge merely stared.
  163. Most men think they are good drivers.
  164. The house was studiedly anonymous: not too large or too small, and neither particularly well kept nor in any sense dilapidated.
  165. They never found his hands.
  166. 3 May. Bistritz – Left Munich at 8:35 P.M., on 1st May, arriving at Vienna early next morning; should have arrived at 6:46, but train was an hour late.
  167. There are three rules of survival in the Walled City: Run fast. Trust no one. Always carry your knife.
  168. Megan had no trouble slipping away from the mill.
  169. ‘Funambulist,’ said Sophronia Temminnick, quite suddenly.
  170. His master’s voice, test, from the direction of the main house.
  171. No dinosaurs appear in these pages.
  172. It was dawn, and the zombies were stumbling through the parking lot, streaming toward the massive beige box at the far end.
  173. As a boy, on one frosted morning, my father bade me dig out a pile of rotting straw that was obstructing the stable.
  174. I am always drawn back to places where I have lived, the houses and their neighborhoods.
  175. The Nile, lifeblood of the world’s first great civilization, flowed calmly outside her palace window.
  176. The news of the suicide of Rose Champion reached her fellow students at Academie Lafond on a pale wintry morning a little before ten o’clock.
  177.  “The night before he went to London, Richard Mayhew was not enjoying himself.
  178. I never meant to burn down the church.
  179. Twice my life has turned on the step of a girl through a doorway; first when I was fifteen and my new, first-ever sister-in-law came walking into Wolf Hall.
  180. “The damp heat came as a shock after the chill of the air-conditioning that had cooled the car for the last two hours.
  181. I’d never expected to lose nearly everyone I loved by the time I was twenty-five.
  182. There’s blood in my hair.
  183. This mansion never felt like home, no matter how many years he lived in it.
  184. Ava, sweetheart, if you ask me to talk about how I got to be the woman I am today, what do you think I’m going to say?
  185. ‘You need a haircut, boy!’
  186. We are at rest five miles behind the front.
  187. I should know this room.
  188. For lack of a better starting point, I shall begin this particular tale on a foggy morning in April of 1869.
  189. I was about to knock, when I heard someone talking on the other side of the door.
  190. The police chief was naked when they came to arrest him.
  191. Her name was Caitlin, she was eighteen, and her own heart would sometimes wake her — flying away in that dream-race where finish lines grew farther away not nearer, where knees turned to taffy, or feet to stones.
  192. What was he thinking?