Top Ten Favorite Beginnings In Books

Top Ten Tuesday2

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted over at The Broke and the Bookish. For today’s post, I chose to focus on some opening lines from books that I loved. Sometimes, the first few lines of a book are enough to give you an idea of whether you’ll love the whole reading experience. I get pretty excited whenever I feel like a novel is off to a promising start. In no particular order, these are the ones that stood out for me:

The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley
She scowled at her glass of orange juice. To think that she had been delighted when she first arrived here – was it only three months ago? – with the prospect of fresh orange juice every day.

Magic Bites by Ilona Andrews
I sat at a table in my shadowy kitchen, staring down a bottle of Boone’s Farm Hard Lemonade, when a magic fluctuation hit. My wards shivered and died, leaving my home stripped of its defenses. The TV flared into life, unnaturally loud in the empty house.

I have no idea why I was fascinated by these two opening lines with heroines staring down at their drink of choice but both scenes stuck with me. I recently finished rereading Magic Bites and I’m sorely tempted to reread The Blue Sword soon.

The Queen of Attolia by Megan Whalen Turner
He was asleep, but woke at the sound of the key turning in the lock. The storage room held winter linens, and no one should have been interested in it in the middle of summer, and certainly not in the middle of the night.

The Sunbird by Elizabeth Wein
Telemakos was hiding in the New Palace. he lay among the palms at the edge of the big fountain in the Golden Court. The marble lip of the fountain’s rim just cleared the top of his head, and the imported soil beneath his chest was warm and moist. He was comfortable.

In these opening lines, two favorite characters, Eugenides and Telemakos, are doing what they do best: spying.

Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones
In the land of Ingary, where such things as seven-league boots and cloaks of invisibility really exist, it is quite a misfortune to be born the eldest of three. Everyone knows you are the one who will fail first, and worst, if the three of you set out to seek your fortunes.

The odds were against poor Sophie even before she started her adventure, making the reader all the more eager to find out what happens next.

Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta
My father took one hundred and thirty-two minutes to die.

I counted.

It happened on the Jellicoe Road. The prettiest road I’d ever seen, where trees made breezy canopies like a tunnel to Shangri-la.

The Piper’s Son by Melina Marchetta
The string slices into the skin of his fingers and no matter how tough the calluses, it tears.

But this beat is fast and even though his joints are aching, his arm’s out of control like it has a mind of its own and the sweat that drenches his hair and face seems to smother him, but nothing’s going to stop Tom. He’s aiming for oblivion.

The two Melina Marchetta novels that I love best start with lines filled with so much emotion. They set the tone for the rest of the writing within these novels.

A Countess Below Stairs (also published as The Secret Countess) by Eva Ibbotson
In the fabled, glittering world that was St. Petersburg before the First World War there lived, in an ice-blue palace overlooking the river Neva, a family on whom the gods seemed to have lavished their gifts with an almost comical abundance.

I love the fairy tale feel start of the book. It’s a good example of why I love Eva Ibbotson’s writing.

Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen
Every smiley moon, without fail, Claire dreamed of her childhood. She always tried to stay awake those nights when the stars winked and the moon was just a cresting sliver smiling provocatively down at the world, the way pretty women on vintage billboards used to smile as they sold cigarettes and limeade.

Another title that has a lyrical tone reminiscent of fairy tales.

The Chocolate Thief by Laura Florand
Sylvain Marquis knew what women desired: chocolate. And so he had learned as he grew into adulthood how to master a woman’s desire.

Mmm chocolate. Of course, I kept reading! Can’t resist good chocolate.

What about the rest of you, what are your favorite opening lines in books? Have there been instances when you felt like you would enjoy reading a book based on just the first few sentences?


24 thoughts on “Top Ten Favorite Beginnings In Books

  1. I love the beginnings of Jellico, Piper, and Howl. Jellico is the only one that made my list way back when I did it originally in 2011. I still don’t think I would change that original list though. I focused my TTT today on endings and QoA is on that list. 🙂

    • The start of Jellicoe is such a winner, isn’t it? That was my introduction to Melina Marchetta’s writing and it was such a good one. If I did a list of endings, I’d probably include both QoA and KoA in that list.

    • Those first few words are making me want to reread The Blue Sword while drinking fresh orange juice. I know we’ve brought up this book recently and I would have jumped at the chance to reread it if I wasn’t distracted by Kate Daniels.

    • Yay for having The Blue Sword on both of our lists! Robin McKinley is one of my favorite fantasy authors. I found it funny that two of books in my list had drinks involved. Have you gotten a copy of Magic Rises? I’m so tempted to start on it but I want to reread the rest of the books before I do that – I’m only at Magic Burns now.

      Jellicoe Road has such a powerful start. So memorable.

      • Yep, I’ve read Gunmetal Magic back when it first came out but I wasn’t able to review it. I’m still rereading the Kate books, now in the middle of Magic Bleeds.

  2. I love pretty much everything by Ilona Andrews, and I adore Howl’s Moving Castle–Sophie is just so practical, in spite of all the whimsy and magic.

    Neither of those made my list, but if it was longer than 10 they would have. 🙂

    • Same, I will read anything written by Ilona and Gordon. I love the Kate Daniels series. You’re absolutely right, Sophie is such a practical character, making her an amusing one because of all the craziness magic brings in the story.

      It’s so hard to narrow down your list to just 10, isn’t it? I’m sure I’ll realize that I missed a lot once I’ve gone through posts by other bloggers.

  3. I liked reading your list, C, and all the books you picked–I especially liked reading the beginnings to ones I haven’t read in ages. It’s amazing how well some of the very first lines can evoke the emotions that run through the entire book. (The Piper’s Son!) I just started listening to the Kate Daniels books last week. I’m getting ready for book 3 in a day or two:) They are so much fun. And it makes me happy every time you mention Eva Ibbotson. Why don’t more people read her books?!

    • Flann, have you read all of the books in my list? If yes, that’s awesome! It means we have pretty similar tastes in books. I know, some of these lines are a good representation of what the rest of the book is like. This whole list is making me want to reread all of the books in it.

      Oooh is this your first introduction to the Kate Daniels series? I’m so excited for you to read the rest! Magic Strikes, the third book, was where I fell in love with the series so I look forward to hearing what you think of it.

      Yep, more people need to read Eva Ibbotson. Her novels are just lovely. I keep wanting to find books that are similar to her writing.

    • Thanks, Alex! I want to reread all of these titles as well. I think the last time I reread Jellicoe and Piper was for Marchetta Madness last year. I’m in the middle of rereading the Kate Daniels series, in preparation for Magic Rises (which I already have on my Kindle).

  4. Ugh, I just lost my comment. 😦 Love your list. Glad you choose to do opening lines. I had forgotten the killer beginning lines of Jellicoe! And I remember the beginning of Chocolate Thief really caught my eye. I need to read Garden Spells, don’t I? It’s only been sitting on my shelf for three years. 😛

    • Oh no, did WordPress eat your comment? I did opening lines because I wanted to avoid spoilers. And I think I’d have a hard time choosing favorite endings. Once I saw the topic and decided to go with openings, I knew that Jellicoe had to be included. And Piper as well, makes you just want to hug Melina Marchetta’s characters and let them know that things will be okay. Yes, you really should read Garden Spells. 😛 I was tempted to get that for you for your birthday.

  5. I love so many of these books! I’ve always loved the orange juice opening, too. I’ve never read anything by Melina Marchetta, but based on this list, I think I need to. I really like the opening to Jellicoe Road, but the bit about taking a hundred and thirty-two minutes to die is a little alarming.

    • I’m delighted to discover that we share the same favorites! Oh you should definitely give Melina Marchetta a try – I love her contemporary novels but she also has a fantasy trilogy if that’s something that you’re more willing to take a chance on. Yeah, the Jellicoe Road opening is quite intense. The rest of the book is like that as well but I never got overwhelmed by it.

  6. Ooh, yes. Excellent choices. I still haven’t read The Blue Sword but I definitely will, especially after loving Sunshine. LMAO at Kate’s Boone’s Farm. That almost made me stop reading. Haha. I take my alcohol as seriously as you take your chocolate — and Boone’s is NOT alcohol. 😉

    One of my favorite opening lines is from Scorpio Races. “It’s the first day of November and so, today, someone will die.”

    • You really have to read The Blue Sword, Maggie! It’s one of my favorite epic fantasy novels. Is Sunshine the first McKinley that you’ve read? I hope you’re interested in checking out the rest of her books (not just The Blue Sword).

      Hahaha I’m not very picky with chocolate, actually. I even enjoy the cheap Filipino chocolates that I used to have as a kid. But I know what you mean about taking alcohol seriously, I know people who are like that. I don’t even know what Boone’s Farm is, I’ve never tried it. Poor Kate.

      Oh yeah, I forgot about the first line of the Scorpio Races! That’s another good one. Thanks for reminding me. 🙂

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