First Lines from Women’s Fiction

Let’s celebrate women’s history month with first lines from women’s fiction. First Line Friday is a series of blog articles posted on the first Friday of every month. The first line of a story, we’re told, must hook the reader. Implied is that the reader will not buy the book if the first line isn’t great. These entries are from Amazon, my personal library, or other online booksellers. Do these first lines hook you? Do you want to read more?


The cover of A Train to Moscow has a graphic of yellow corners and a red pair of red triangles with the tops meeting in the middle form two triangles revealing the profile of a young woman looking  pensive. Its the first book in the first lines from women's fiction blog post.

She immediately knows something is wrong. The door to Marik’s house is ajar, and there is a black car blocking the street just a few meters away.

A Train to Moscow by Elena Gorokhova

The first lines from women's fiction cover of the book, The Jewish Spy, shows a young woman in a red dress and carrying luggage walk away from the camera down a city street, the buildings are unfamiliar and have Nazi banners hanging at intervals. Two bombers fly overhead in a smoky sky.

Rivka’s whole body ached with nostalgia, even though her husband and children were with her in her home town of Nadvorna to celebrate her forty-second birthday.

The Jewish Spy (World War II Brave Women Fiction)  by Hayuta Katzenelson 

The first lines from women's fiction cover of the book, These Tangled Vines, shows large stone home on a hilltop in the distance.

The telephone rang and woke me from a dream. I must have been deep in the REM cycle, because I was cognizant of the ringing, but I believed it was part of the dream, so I chose to ignore it.

These Tangled Vines by Julianne MacLean

The first lines from women's fiction cover of the book, The Woman in the WIndow,has a graphic representing venitian blinds in the foreground with the book title in red behind the blinds.

 Her husband’s almost home. He’ll catch her this time.

The Woman in the Window  by A. J. Finn  

The first lines from women's fiction cover of the book, The Four winds, shows golden ripe wheat stalks against a black background.

Elsa Wolcott had spent years in enforced solitude, reading fictional adventures and imagining other lives.

The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah

The first lines from women's fiction cover of the book, Will Women and the Blues, shows a young woman's plunging v neckline in the back of her green dress.

On the fifth floor of the Bronzeville Senior Living Facility, I stand outside the smallest room in the world, doing my best to ignore the dropped ceiling and square linoleum tiles, stoking my claustrophobia.

Wild Women and the Blues by Denny S. Bryce

The first lines from women's fiction cover of the book, The Vanishing half shows vibrant colors in the shapes of overlapping female faces.

The morning one of the lost twins returned to Mallard, Lou LeBon ran to the diner to break the news, and even now, many years later, everyone remembers the shock of sweaty Lou pushing through the glass doors, chest heaving, neckline darkened with his own efforts. 

The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennet

The first lines from women's fiction cover of the book, The last flight, is a red and black photo looking down an escalator to the silhouette of a woman at the bottom.

Prologue:Terminal 4 swarms with people, the smell of wet wool and jet fuel thick around me. I wait for her, just inside the glass sliding doors, the frigid winter wind slamming into me whenever they open, and instead force myself to visualize a balmy Puerto Rican breeze, laced with the scent of hibiscus and sea salt.  

The Last Flight by Julie Clark

Clarification

There are no affiliate links in this post. I don’t make a cent off of the books listed on this page. Usually these titles are pulled at random. They are here for your enjoyment. And to entice you to buy more books.

Do You Want to Read More?

Did you enjoy this list? Check out previous First Line Fridays. You’ll put an enormous smile on my face if you tell me in the comments below—

What’s your favorite first line?

First Lines for Black History Month

This is a special edition of First Lines Friday for black history month. These titles are a sampling of the list given by Nisi Shawl in her “annotated list of 40 black science fiction works that are important to your understanding of its history”

First Line Friday is a series of blog articles posted on the first Friday of every month. The first line of a story, we’re told, must hook the reader. Implied is that the reader will not buy the book if the first line isn’t great. These entries are from Amazon, my personal library, or other online booksellers. Do these first lines hook you? Do you want to read more?


For first lines for black history month this is the cover of Blake by Martin R Delany on a black background shades of orange creates a woodcut-like print of a man with a gun over jungle style leaves.

On one of those exciting occasions during a contest for the presidency of the United States, a number of gentlemen met in the city of Baltimore.

Blake: or; The Huts of America (1862) by Martin R. Delany 

For first lines for black history month this is the cover of Of One Blood by Pauline Elizabeth Hopkins and is a photo portrait of a black woman with a tall hat adorned with feathers and wearing a high collar dress.

The recitations were over for the day. It was the first week in November and it had rained about every day for the entire week; now freezing temperature added to the discomforture of the dismal season.

Of One Blood, or The Hidden Self (1903) by Pauline Elizabeth

This is the cover of Babel-17. Mostly black it has geometric maze-like designs in orange and yellow over the black on the lower half of the cover

It’s a port city.

Here fumes rust the sky, the General thought. Industrial gases flushed the evening with oranges, salmons, purples with too much red.

Babel-17 (1966) by Samuel R. Delany 

Cover of Mumbo Jumbo is an orange background with the title and author name in large, bold block letters that are on different colored blacks

A true sport, the Mayor of New Orleans, spiffy in his patent-leather brown and white shoes, his plaid suit, the Rudolph Valentino parted-down-the-middle hair style, sits in his office. 

Mumbo Jumbo (1972) by Ishmael Reed

Sold, to Mister Bascombe Wade of Willow Springs, one negress answering to the name Sapphira.

Mama Day (1988) by Gloria Naylor

As soon as he entered the room, Baines blurted out, “We want you to find us a viable human heart, fast.”

Brown Girl in the Ring (1998) by Nalo Hopkinson 

I awoke to darkness.

I was hungry—starving!—and in pain.

Fledgling (2005) by Octavia E. Butler

When I was eight, my papai took me to the part to watch a king die.

The Summer Prince (2013) by Alaya Dawn Johnson

The Summer Prince (2013) by Alaya Dawn Johnson

I sang a song as I sprang from the womb—which is not unusual. 

The Record Keeper (2019) by Agnes Gomillion  

Lisette Toutournier sighed. She breathed in again, out, in, the marvelous air smelling of crushed stems, green blood bruised and roused by her progress along this narrow forest path.

Everfair: A Novel (2016) by Nisi Shawl

Clarification

There are no affiliate links in this post. I don’t make a cent off of the books listed on this page. Usually these titles are pulled at random. They are here for your enjoyment. And to entice you to buy more books.

I’ve constructed this list with deep gratitude to Nisi Shawl’s post “A Crash Course in the History of Black Science Fiction” 

Do You Want to Read More?

Did you enjoy this list? Check out previous First Line Fridays posts. Want to read more stories by black science fiction authors? Check out this list of stories available online compiled by Nnedi Okorafor

 Which of the First Lines in honor of black history month spoke to you? Did you buy it?

Strong Female Characters for First Line Friday

Many readers buy a book based on the first line. Do you? These entries are from Amazon, my personal library, or other online booksellers. This first line Friday post features recent science fiction with strong female characters.


 Iron Widow is an example of science fiction with strong female characters. The cover shows a Chinese woman from the back, half turned back toward the viewier with what looks like gigantic feathers in front of and behind her.

The Hundruns were coming. A whole herd of them, rumbling across the wilds, stirring up a dark storm of dust through the night. 

Iron Widow by Xiran Jay Zhao

Claw Resurgence is an example of science fiction with strong female characters. The cover shows a pale blue background with claw marks ripping through the background and dripping blood.

Wind-driven snow skittered past the tall windows of the Lawless City Hall, rattling at its aged panes as if seeking entry.

CLAW Resurgence by Katie Berry

An example of Science fiction with strong female characters, the cover of They call me princess shows a possibly steam powered machine coming through waves toward a mace holding woman warrior with her back to us

If I had known the banana split would be my last ever. I might have savored it longer.

They Call Me Princess (The Fallen World Book 8) by J. P. Chandler

The Grace Year cover shows the profile of a young woman in shades of pink on a pink background with a white illustration of a flower that's barely visible, you just know this is science fiction with strong female characters.

No one speaks of the grace year.

It is forbidden.

The Grace Year by Kim Ligget

The bald guy at the front door was the least impressive of the guards. 

CARDINAL: Book One of The Citadel Series by Riley E. Smith

Bags open, people. Power’s down. We’re doing it the old-fashioned way.”

Drained by Marc Daniel Acriche

Kayla Covington had been here before, but this time she was determined no one would die.

The Dark Side of Angels by Steve Hadden

Space is cruel to the human body. 

In the Quick by Kate Hope Day

The six silver spheres atop their posts, one for each point on the hexagon that filled the center of the Arrival Room, spun with dizzying speed, and a bone-deep thrumming echoed throughout Earth’s Waystation.

Guardian of Shadows: A Nyx Fortuna Novel by Michelle Manus

The sun crested the horizon, and through the moist haze of early morning, crepuscular rays of light peeked around the silhouettes of massive stone pyramids and temples.

Sandstorm: The Legend of Adira by Monica Clare

Forgive me for a little self-promotion:

The giant bronze angel of death loomed over Miranda Clarke’s shoulder.

My Soul to Keep, The Fellowship Dystopia, Book One, by Lynette M. Burrows

Clarification

There are no affiliate links in this post. I don’t make a cent off of the books listed on this page (except if you buy one of my books). Usually these titles are pulled at random. They are here for your enjoyment. And to entice you to buy more books.

Do You Like Fiction with Strong Female Characters?

Your Opinion is Important

After you finish reading a book, consider giving the book a star rating where you bought the book or on your favorite book list site. A star rating a sentence or two about what you liked or didn’t like about the book makes a difference. It helps other readers decide if they want to read the book, too. It may also help the author decide how to improve their storytelling. Thank you for for your patronage and support of authors. It keeps authors like me working to write more and better stories for your enjoyment.

Want to Read More?

Check out previous First Line Fridays posts. 

Did you enjoy this list of science fiction with strong female characters? You’ll put another enormous smile on my face if you tell me in the comments below—

Which of these first lines spoke to you? Did you buy the book?

Ten Tips to Get Your Reading Mojo Back

The world seems to be made of two types of people: readers and non-readers. Most of you visiting this blog are readers. But even avid readers who have towering stacks of TBR books (or long lists on e-readers), even you can hit a low spot where reading seems like a chore. If you’re there, use these ten tips to get your reading mojo back.

photograph of a young black man reading in a park smiling because he got his reading mojo back

1. Make it a Habit

To make it a habit, schedule a time for reading. Schedule thirty minutes every day. Too busy? Read twice a week. Or take your book (physical or electronic) with you. Use the pockets of waiting time in your day. Read for ten minutes while waiting for an appointment or transportation or your morning latte.

2. Make it Pleasurable

Remember, you’re not doing this for a grade or work. Choose a location that is comfortable, has few distractions, and is suitable for reading. Do you like low classical or jazz music playing? Find a reading area or room that allows you to escape into the book you are reading.

3. Decide Why You’re Reading.

Because the book club is reading it.

If you’re reading only because the book club is reading it, does the pleasure of the book club interaction counter act the discomfort of reading the book? If yes-great! Keep reading. If not, don’t read the book. A book club isn’t a good fit for some people. If you are one of those people—no worries. Do a little self check. What would you like to read? Why do you read that type of book?

Are you reading to check reality?

What do I mean “to check reality?” The books that check reality are nonfiction or fiction, but the story or subject reveals uncomfortable truths about the world and our place in the world. Books like Night by Elie Wiesel, the novella Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck, The Flowers of Hiroshima by Edith Morris, or To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. What books have you read that check your reality?

Reading to escape reality?

No judgment here. We all need to escape once in a while.

What kind of escape do you want? Some will want something that makes them laugh. Others want a warm and fuzzy feeling from their reads? Romantic? Thrilling? Scary? Sometimes you might need light and romantic and other times you might need dark, gritty, and thrilling. No matter what you prefer, there is a book out there that will take you on the journey of your choice.

To learn a specific skill or specific information?

For pleasure?” you ask. Sure. Learning doesn’t have to be unpleasant. Maybe you want to learn a new language. Do you want to learn to cook an exotic dish? Maybe you want to learn to build a robot. It’s okay. Reading to learn can be pleasurable. Enjoy.

Reading to expand your mind or worldview.

Reading to expand your mind or worldview differs from a reality check, though they can go hand in hand. These are the books you read about different cultures or religions. It can also be books that make you see your own life from a different perspective.

4. Choose the book

If you read or write in your day job, it may be difficult to read for pleasure. Try reading outside your professional sphere. If you write science fiction, read contemporary romance or poetry. If you proofread science journals in your day job, try reading graphic novels or historical fiction. You get the idea.

If you feel you’ve read all the books in your preferred genre, try a different genre. It may surprise you which ones you enjoy.

If you can’t read because of stress (pandemic, anyone?), reread an old favorite or look through a coffee-table book during your reading time.

If you have a stubborn streak, choose to read banned books. (Don’t forget to tell friends or on social media.) To paraphrase Stephen King, the reason someone banned the book is the reason you need to read it. How will you know your own beliefs and ideas about it if you don’t?

5. Get the book

Your public library is your best and cheapest (free!) source. If they don’t have the book you are looking for, most likely you can ask and they will find and borrow a copy for you to borrow. (Remember to return or renew those books on time so you don’t have to pay late fines.) Of course there are subscription reading services, if you can afford them. Why do I recommend those two avenues? Because the authors get paid by the library or the subscription service.

6. Prepare to Read

Photograph of a tropical beach with a beach cabin in the background and a woman in a plastic chair, reading with her feet in the surf--woah she got her reading mojo back

Prepare yourself and your reading area before you sit down to read. Reduce or remove distractions. Go to the bathroom. Get a favorite drink and a snack.

Clear the cat, or dog, off your reading chair. Position your reading light. Want scented candles? Jazz playing in the background?Bare feet in the ocean? Prepare everything you need so that once you begin to read, you don’t have to stop.

7 Open the book.

If you’re still having trouble reading for pleasure, tell yourself you only have to read ten pages or for thirty minutes. Then do it. If you are enjoying the book, keep reading.

8. What if you decide you don’t like the book?

Most of the time, you don’t have to read a book you don’t like. Consider a couple of things. Sometimes books are slow to get started. Sometimes you’re distracted and need to try again. You can choose to give it 20-50 pages. If it’s not your cuppa after that, put it down. Pick up the next book.

Sometimes books are hard to read because of the topic or the author’s native language or cultural differences. That might be a book to read to the end to gain information that will expand your sphere of understanding and empathy.

9. Finish the book.

Celebrate and—(you know what’s coming, don’t you?) write a review of the book. If you borrowed it from the library, you can review it on a reader’s site like Goodreads or Bookbub.

10. Pick up the next book.

You have the next two or three books waiting in your reading spot, don’t you?

Bonus Tip: 

No one cares how many or what books you’ve read. Not really. You may enjoy making a list of what you’ve read. 

If you’re a member of Goodreads or Bookbub, you may say that those sites keep your list. Yes, they do. But what if they decide to do something else or remove the site from the web? There goes your list.

Keep a journal of the title and authors of books you’ve read. Include a word or two that tells you what it was about. Consider creating a rating system for yourself. Review your list every year. Perhaps you’ll reread a book or two and document how your rating of it changes.

Double Bonus Tip:

What if you can’t focus on reading? Give yourself a break. Choose to take a month or two off. At the end of that time, give yourself an opportunity to read something for thirty minutes. If it was pleasurable, there you go.

If it still isn’t a pleasurable experience, consider what’s making it less pleasurable. Too much stress in your life? Do what you can to reduce the stress. Not enough time? See number one.

Have your eyes checked. Maybe your prescription has changed. 

Maybe you need a new chair. *smile*

Fully dressed woman lying on her back on top of her unmade bed, reading a book with her feet in the air--she's got her reading mojo back

Get Your Reading Mojo Back

Even lifelong readers can get burnt out on reading and need a break. That’s okay. But if that break becomes a habit, these top ten tips to get your reading mojo back will help you re-enter the thousands of lives and thousands of worlds you can experience through books. 

The Book that Changed Your Life

Let’s face it. If you’re reading this blog post, you are most likely a lover of books. A lifelong reader. A bibliophile. That means you’ve read -a lot- of books. You may cherish some of those books and re-read them once or more than once. It’s a cliché to say some event or person or book changed your life. But there is truth in clichés. How and why can a book change your life?

A photograph of a young woman reading a book while curled up on a red sofa illustrates Lynette M Burrows's post, What book changed your life.

Reasons We Read

We read for pleasure or entertainment, for spiritual or personal enlightenment, or for information or education. Books can provide a sense of self-awareness, a feeling of connection, or an escape. Our brains benefit from the exercise with increases in concentration, focus. Stories tickle our imagination and our imagination grows.

Unexpected Consequences

You don’t have to be an avid book reader to discover that a book influenced you in unexpected ways. You read for entertainment and gain new perspectives or awareness of different races, religions, cultures, and places. Fiction and nonfiction can show us we are not alone in our thoughts, emotions, or troubles. Through books, we see how other people handle obstacles and conflict. And books can help us be better, kinder, more tolerant people. 

Books that Changed the Most Lives

According to the Library of Congress, the Gutenberg Bible is the most important book in history. It certainly has historical significance as the first book printed with moveable type. Arguably, the Bible is the most read book in history, therefore the book that has influenced the most lives. But let’s look beyond the Bible.

In a survey by Ask Your Target Market (AYTM) , two books stood out. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee and Anne Frank’s The Diary of a Young Girl. Their respondents cited relevancy and emotional impact respectively as the reasons these books were so influential. AYTM noted men were more likely to cite 1984 by as their most influential book.

Books that Changed My Life

I agree To Kill a Mockingbird is a life-changing book and the story themes apply to issues we face today. I first read it in middle school. The story touched me emotionally. I could relate to Scout. It’s the first story I recall that made me aware of racial discrimination and “otherness” intolerance. I re-read the story from time to time. It touches me on a deeper and deeper level each time. Its relevancy both saddens me and increases my resolve to help spread inclusiveness and love.

What can I say about The Diary of a Young Girl? I first read this book as a young girl. It resonated deeply, personally. Her determination to live her best life despite everything influences me every day of my life.

I read 1984 in high school. I can’t say it didn’t influence me because it certainly did. It is difficult to say whether it changed or influenced me because of the frequent social references to the book.

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle is a book I’ve written about on this blog. Its influence was vibrantly visual and emotionally impactful, but different from the previous two books. 

The cover of Little Women shows a young woman in a civil war era dress at the piano one of the books that changed Lynette M Burrows' life.

I feel the need to mention the book Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. It was a book that touched me so deeply that I reread it so often that my paperback copy fell apart. Etched forever into my brain and heart are the impact of war on the March family, the relationship between the sisters, and how their dreams and aspirations grew. And I have to credit Jo with inspiring me to become a writer. That changed my life in a very real way.

What Book Changed Your Life?

As a reader, I believe books change lives. It is my greatest wish that most people would be readers. Readers are my people. My tribe. I suspect you all agree that books can change lives. Do you agree with the top three most influential books in AYMT’s survey? I wonder how many of you will say the same books influenced your lives?

Please share: which book changed your life?