Book Talk,  Tags & BookTube

First Line Fridays – 2020-10-16

First Lines Fridays is a weekly feature for book lovers hosted by Wandering Words. What if instead of judging a book by its cover, its author or its prestige, we judged it by its opening lines?

  • Pick a book off your shelf (it could be your current read or on your TBR) and open to the first page
  • Copy the first few lines, but don’t give anything else about the book away just yet – you need to hook the reader first
  • Finally… reveal the book!

I did my first First Lines Friday last week and I did the first lines of a whopping 8 books! I didn’t get through all the physical review copies sent by publishers that are still waiting for attention though, so today I’m doing the last 4 and in the future, I’ll probably transition to just 1 or 2 books.

Please note that this post contains affiliate links, which means there is no additional cost to you if you shop using my links, but I will earn a small percentage in commission. A program-specific disclaimer is at the bottom of this post.

No Place For a Woman?
The Life and Newfoundland Stories of Ella Manuel
Edited by Antony Berger

Published 29 June 2020
Breakwater Books (Newfoundland)

Genre: Non-Fiction, Biography
Page Count: 272
Add it to your Goodreads TBR!

As a young woman, the late Ella Manuel left the busy shipping community of Lewisporte, Newfoundland, for the wider world in the 1920s, but eventually returned to the island, as a single mother, to settle in Bonne Bay. An accomplished writer, broadcaster, journalist, advocate for peace, and staunch feminist, Manuel would leave an indelible mark on the culture she documented and celebrated in her work. Here, biographer Antony Berger expertly chronicles the life of Ella Manuel and incorporates unpublished radio scripts and brilliant extracts from her private journals to bring Manuel to the page in her own words. Brimming with insight and wit, No Place for a Woman? opens an illuminating window on life in twentieth-century Newfoundland, and preserves the work of a truly original Newfoundlander.

Blurb copied from Goodreads.

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My mother, Ella Manuel, was very guarded about her private life, so when, not long after she died, I came across a package of letter in a sealed manila envelope on which she had written in bold, “Please, please destroy without reading,” I was uncertain what to do. Why had she kept them? Had she forgotten about the contents, or did she mean them to be read one day? Without thinking it through, I did as she had directed.

Antony Berger, No Place For a Woman, page 9

That page goes on to say he then found a diary and there was no such instruction on it, so that’s what the content in the rest of the book is from. I was getting nervous there! I was about to loose all respect for this guy and quite possibly the publisher if this book was the letters she wanted destroyed unread. I’m glad the actual contents come from something else, and I hope Ella would have been okay with it. Preserving our history is important, but not everybody wants to be preserved forever as the voice of that history. I wonder if perhaps this was better left as a family heirloom and not turned into a published book for world wide distribution and sale. With that said, I have this book, I feel I owe it to the publisher to review, and the historian in me is very curious. I shall report back!

The Ticking Heart
by Andrew Kaufman

Published 20 June 2019
Coach House Books (Ontario)

Genre: Magical Realism
Page Count: 240
Add it to your Goodreads TBR!

In Metaphoria, everything means something, and thoughts and fears turn into objects. Charlie Waterfield finds himself there working as a detective because he can’t get over the death of his wife and child. When Shirley Wythchildde hires him to find her husband’s missing heart, she replaces Charlie’s heart with a ticking bomb and gives him forty-eight hours to solve the case.

So begins The Ticking Heart, a novel in three connected parts. In the second, we meet Warren Templeman, a blocked writer in a psychiatric ward who claims to be a scout from an alien race, which his doctor believes is a ruse to keep from grieving his wife and daughter. The final part begins on the ninth birthday of Warren’s daughter, when he runs over a dog in a Toys R Us parking lot. As he drives around town trying to find help find for the dog, he’s finally forced to defuse the bomb in his own heart.

Blurb copied from Goodreads.

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Two hours and seventeen minutes into his forty-third year, Charlie Waterfield realized he was lost. He was standing at the corner of Euclid and Barton in downtown Toronto. He could have walked home if he wanted to. He probably should have. What prevented him from doing so was the painful realization that he was lost inside the one thing it is impossible to escape: his own life.

Andrew Kaufman, The Ticking Heart, page 5

So it’s magical realism and our main character is having a mid-life crisis? For some reason this is making me think of Oracle Night by Paul Auster, but I’ll admit it’s been well over a decade since I read that one and I don’t remember much about it. This feels like the same writing style, and that was my first spontaneous read in the magical realism genre. Sincere question, but why aren’t magical realism stories called fantasy? Introduce magic or paranormal/supernatural beings and a book is fantasy, like it or not.

by Heidi Wicks

Published 27 April 2020
Breakwater Books (Newfoundland)

Genre: Women’s Fiction
Page Count: 240
Add it to your Goodreads TBR!

Jess is a sensitive creature of habit. Cait is her passionate and impulsive best friend. And in Melt, Heidi Wicks follows the lives of these characters from their teenage years into their late thirties–through drifting desires, fake tans, economic turbulence, kids, grief, job loss, love loss, and personal renewal. Shifting radiantly between the late nineties and the present day, Melt explores the life-sustaining anatomy of friendship and the complex relationships we have with our pasts.

Blurb copied from Goodreads.

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Cait brushes flakes of coconut and globs of marshmallow off the table surface next to the three-tiered crystal cookie tray. Sweeping the crumbs into her palm, she flinches as her hand rubs over something that feels not quite like a marshmallow glob, but more like the booger of a child.

Heidi Wicks, Melt, page 7

Ew. This section was preceded by the heading “Afterdeath,” so I’m wondering if Cait here is a ghost? Should be an interesting read! I need to get to this one soon.

The Invisibles
A History of the Royal Newfoundland Companies
by James E. Candow

Published 1 July 2020
Breakwater Books (Newfoundland)

Genre: History, Non-Fiction
Page Count: 192
Add it to your Goodreads TBR!

During the tumultuous and often violent election riots of 1861, members of the Royal Newfoundland Companies opened fire on a crowd of rioters, killing three and wounding several others. In the sobering aftermath, a compromise evolved that would shape Newfoundland politics and society into the twentieth century. In The Invisibles, James E. Candow provides the fascinating backstory of the Royal Newfoundland Companies while enhancing our understanding of the role they played in Newfoundland history and the lives of our communities. This is an important, often overlooked, chapter in the British Military’s involvement in the colony at a time when Newfoundlanders fervently sought to become masters of their own fate–expertly told in Candow’s engaging and vivid prose.

Blurb copied from Goodreads.

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In the spring of 1866, residents of The Goulds, Newfoundland, were appalled when the disappearing snow revealed not just the usual farmers’s fields, but also a decomposed human body. Somewhat incongruously -because it suggested unfinished business- the deceased’s feet were clad in leather boots, one of which bore the stamp “B, 40 R.N.C.”

James E. Candow, The Invisibles, page xiii

(Note that I skipped over the author’s note and this is from the introduction.) Interesting! Murder! Well, probably murder.

Newfoundland was still a British Colony in 1866 so at this time the RNC was the Royal Newfoundland Companies (as the book title suggests) and were a military force. These days RNC stands for Royal Newfoundland Constabulary, and it’s our provincial police force. It’s also interesting to note that this book was published on July 1st which was probably very intentional. That’s Canada Day, but more importantly in this province, it’s the anniversary of Beaumont Hammel, an offensive during the First Battle of the Somme on 1 July 1916 when the vast majority of Newfoundland’s soldiers were lost.

I’m really eager to read this!

Disclaimer: As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Jenna is the artist/illustrator and author behind Westveil Publishing and its sub-banner platforms Jenna Gets Creative and The Westveil Archives. She live in Newfoundland, Canada with her husband, daughter, and feline overlords.

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