First Impressions

I receive a lot of books, and as each comes in, I read the first page or so to see if it grabs me right away. I don’t read the blurbs or dust jacket synopsis because the author doesn’t write those. The good stuff has to be on the page.

I’m currently reading three books because they’re in different genres and I alternate between them depending on my mood. But the books are similar in that their opening passages were interesting enough to keep me reading. Here’s what got my attention.

Let’s Pretend This Never Happened (A Mostly True Memoir)by Jenny Lawson (aka The Bloggess)—Putnam, April 17, nonfiction

This book is totally true, except for the parts that aren’t. It’s basically like Little House on the Prairie but with more cursing. And I know, you’re thinking, “But Little House on the Prairie was totally true!” and no, I’m sorry, but it wasn’t. Laura Ingalls was a compulsive liar with no fact-checker, and probably if she was still alive today her mom would be saying, “I don’t know how Laura came up with this whole ‘I’m-a-small-girl-on-the-prairie‘ story. We lived in New Jersey with her aunt Frieda and our dog, Mary, who was blinded when Laura tried to bleach a lightning bolt on her forehead. I have no idea where she got the ‘and we lived in a dugout‘ thing, although we did take her to Carlsbad Caverns once.”

How can you not want to read more?

The Lifeboatby Charlotte Rogan—Reagan Arthur Books, released this past Tuesday, fiction

Today I shocked the lawyers, and it surprised me, the effect I could have on them. A thunderstorm arose as we were leaving the court for lunch. They dashed for cover under the awning of a nearby shop to save their suits from getting wet while I stood in the street and opened my mouth to it, transported back and seeing again that other rain as it came at us in gray sheets. I had lived through that downpour, but the moment in the street was my first notion that I could live it again, that I could be immersed in it, that it could again be the tenth day in the lifeboat, when it began to rain.

Why is she in court? What is she accused of? What happened in the lifeboat? It sounds ominous to me.

The Expatsby Chris Pavone—Crown, out now, international spy thriller


Kate is staring through a plate-glass window filled with pillows and tablecloths and curtains, all in taupes and chocolates and moss greens, a palette that replaced the pastels of last week. The season changed, just like that.

She turns from the window, to this woman standing beside her on the narrow sliver of sidewalk in the rue Jacob. Who is this woman?

“Oh my God, Kate? Is that you?” The voice is familiar. But the voice is not enough.

Though I don’t know much about the plot, I do know that Kate is a former spy living abroad with her family, trying to leave The Life behind. This woman, though, seems like bad news for Kate. Cue suspenseful movie music.

Do any of these appeal to you? Which one would you keep reading?



  • Reply
    April 5, 2012 at 8:22 am

    I pre-ordered Jenny’s book long ago and eagerly await its arrival, so we know how I feel about #1.

    #2 was a mixed bag. I’m not a big historical fiction fan and parts of this lead me to believe we were going to go back and relieve some historical events of the past. But hey, inklings of folks stuck in a lifeboat? If you give it a thumbs up I might be in.

    #3 also mixed, but least likely to read of the 3. Not a big spy fan. I know, this is making you wonder what the hell I AM a fan of, right? What a curmudgeon. But again, into here doesn’t give me enough to decide without more. Looking forward to your review of all three!

    • Reply
      Pop Culture Nerd
      April 6, 2012 at 11:29 am

      You know what got me interested in THE LIFEBOAT? Someone compared it to LORD OF THE FLIES. I thought, “LofF in a lifeboat? I’m in.”

      • Reply
        April 6, 2012 at 11:47 am

        Got a sense of that from the opening, not sure why. Maybe just because of scene at courthouse and, really, what good happens after 10 days in a lifeboat? Unless you’re alone with George and even that would get old, right? Glad to know it goes somewhere dark, more likely to pick it up.

  • Reply
    Laura Benedict
    April 5, 2012 at 8:45 am

    Gotta go with number one. Comparatively speaking, the other two feel a bit contrived. But I’m picky like that.

    Oh, and even on my first two books, I had to rewrite the jacket copy. It’s my belief that job falls to interns, these days. Dreck.

    I’m going to put a smiley face at the end of this sentence to imply I’m not really grouchy today. : )

    (Did it work?!)

    • Reply
      Pop Culture Nerd
      April 6, 2012 at 11:37 am

      I love your pickiness and don’t find it grouchy at all!

      I’ve heard some readers say they’ve been turned off by a book’s badly written jacket copy, and I say that’s not fair to the author.

  • Reply
    April 5, 2012 at 9:22 am

    I will go with number two…I adore a good spy thriller and perhaps this takes place in Paris (Rue Jacob). I also might need to find out what happened on that lifeboat…

    • Reply
      Pop Culture Nerd
      April 6, 2012 at 11:44 am

      Yes, some of it takes place in Paris. Another reason I love to read—I get to travel to interesting places in my mind!

  • Reply
    jenn aka the picky girl
    April 5, 2012 at 12:34 pm

    Expats was good, and I was offered Lifeboat and wish I would have picked it up.

    As for the Jenny Lawson, I got the audio and listened to the first hour and a half. It’s…kind of all over the place. What I love about Sedaris is his ability to write such a tightly-knit story. So I might keep listening, but I’m not convinced.

    • Reply
      Pop Culture Nerd
      April 6, 2012 at 11:57 am

      Enjoying EXPATS so far. On p. 87 and trying to figure out Julia’s endgame.

      Does Jenny read her audiobook? I recently listened to BOSSYPANTS on a road trip and loved it. Even though I’d read the book, Tina Fey brought so much more to the audiobook with her character voices and attitude.

  • Reply
    Harvee (Book Dilettante)
    April 10, 2012 at 12:05 pm

    I’ve read The Expats, and liked it, and so I’d choose to read Let’t Pretend…in theory, but I’d probably end up liking The Lifeboat more, being a mystery fan myself.

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