Those First Few Pages: 8 Hooks That Get Me

One of the criticisms I often hear levelled at books is that they take a while to “get interesting”. Even well-crafted first chapters can be a tad slow if the characters, world and story haven’t fully sunk their claws in yet. Nonetheless, I think most readers know to stick with a promising book even if it’s not immediately riveting, because they will be rewarded if and when those claws do sink in. Some of my favourite books had beginnings that didn’t powerfully hook me, so I don’t expect to be utterly wooed from the first line, or even the first few pages.

Occasionally, however, I am. Some books have striking openings that grab me and tug me forward, creating a level of excitement I might not normally expect for at least a few chapters. I always find these beginnings impressive, and enjoy trying to pinpoint what it was about them that drew me and other readers who raved about them in so completely. So for this post, I thought I’d do just that, and look at few “hooks” from beginnings that enthralled me: Continue reading

Getting The Last Line: 10 Kinds of Closing Sentences

Writers spend a good deal of time fretting about the opening sentence of their novel, just as readers enjoy quoting first lines from their favourite books. This is understandable, given so much is riding on that first impression. But what about closing lines? What about the final words that resolve the story and linger in a reader’s mind after they shut the book?
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Why Auroras Are Like Magic

I recently ventured north of the Arctic Circle in the middle of winter. As you can probably tell from the title of this post, it wasn’t just because I wanted to frolic in the snow, ride husky sleds and marvel at the rare appearances of the sun (though I enjoyed doing all of these things), but because I wanted to catch a glimpse of the Northern Lights, which are more likely to be spied during the darkness of long winter nights.

Incredible videos like this one – a time-lapse of images taken from the International Space Station – had whet my appetite for auroras: Continue reading

My Top 5 Fantasy and Science Fiction TV Series

I’ve long been a fan of fantasy and sci-fi TV shows, and although I don’t have time to watch as many as I would like (I guess I’m reading too many books!) if a good one comes along I’m liable to get addicted. For example, I recently finished watching the first season of Westworld and had to force myself not devote all my waking hours bingeing on it. The experience had me trying to remember which other fantasy and science fiction shows had a similar effect. After some thinking, I’ve narrowed it down to the five I like most: Continue reading

My Favourite Fantasy and Science Fiction Books in 2016

Well it’s that time of year again – the time when bookworms set their reading challenges, make a bookish resolution or two, and muse on what novels they enjoyed most during this particular loop around the sun. So to join in the New Year’s spirit, here are the 6 best fantasy and sci-fi books (and/or series) that I read in 2016: Continue reading

Amazing Concept, Disappointing Film: ‘Upside Down’ Could Have Been Great

I don’t normally write movie reviews… in fact, I don’t even really write book reviews, I just occasionally mention or rate books I like. But this week I had to make an exception, because I recently watched a film on Netflix that irked me, not because it was terrible (though I did find many aspects of it to be terrible) but because it could have been so good. It could have made it onto my favourite sci-fi films of all time list. Continue reading

When Evil Characters Switch Sides

I like a plain old dastardly villain I can hate, but a seemingly evil character who gradually discovers their soft, gooey core, and crosses over to join the good guys? No matter how many times I see it, if it’s done well it still gives me the warm and fuzzies.

I was thinking of this because I’ve recently been reading the Throne of Glass series, which is full of villains that change their colours and show their softer sides, as well as morally questionable heroes and heroines in general. I’ve also finished the Red Rising trilogy, which has so many characters crossing back and forth it’s hard to tell who’ll be left standing on the “good” side in the end. Clearly, it’s something many readers, myself included, enjoy.

So what is it that’s so compelling about this ‘crossing over’ from evil to good? Here is my attempt at breaking it down: Continue reading

Poisons, Antidotes and Remedies in Fantasy

The dramatic regicide-by-poison in Game of Thrones may have placed them centre-stage, but poisons have always been rife in the fantasy and science fiction genres, along with antidotes and remedies.

Poisoning may simply seem like a convenient (if dastardly) way to kill a character, but poisons and antidotes are used in a variety of ways to add twists, tension, and complexities to fantasy plots. Continue reading

Why I’m Staying Right Here on Earth

For years science fiction has been making us consider what it might be like to travel through space, visit other planets and colonise them. But with the Mars One mission and Virgin Galactic space tourism, the question has become more personal. People can apply to join a one-way mission to Mars, agreeing to leave everything behind in the hope of becoming one of the first human colonists on another planet. Continue reading

The Power of Competitions and Selections in YA Fiction

If a best-selling young adult novel sucks me in after only a few pages, it’s often because the book is wielding a secret weapon. Or rather, a not-so-secret weapon, because I’ve seen it many times before. And although I recognise it, it still has the power to peak my curiosity and get me rooting for a character I know next to nothing about. So what is this clever trope?

It has two components, and these usually form a kind of structuring device that shapes the plot and climactic points of the novel: Continue reading