Friday, July 31, 2009

First Chapter Challenge (2)

My first chapter challenge is a personal challenge this summer to whittle down my review pile. I read the first chapter of 5 books that have been sitting on my shelf a long time to determine if I'll keep them on my shelf or give them away. For this round of the challenge I chose books which came out last summer. In fact, at least 4 of the 5 are coming out in paperback very soon!

The Compound by S.A. Bodeen
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Release date: Hardcover May 2008, coming in paperback Sept 2009
One sentence summary: Eli and his family are stuck in an underground Compound after a nuclear incident.
First sentences: T.S. Eliot was wrong. My world ended with a bang the minute we entered the Compound and that silver door closed behind us.
First chapter review: I read both the prologue, which details the night Eli's family entered the luxury Compound leaving behind his twin brother and grandmother, and the first chapter, where the action picks up six years later. Eli is pretty unlikeable in these passages, and except for his sister saying she hates their overbearing, controlling father, I don't really feel set up for the story. I read a bit further into chapter two where we get a big clue that life won't continue to be so rosy when Eli's mother discovers that the flour is rotting...
Verdict: Just on the basis of what I've read, I wouldn't want to keep reading. However, many reviewers have said it picks up midway and gets really exciting. So I'll keep it around for now, but I'm in no rush.

The White Mary by Kira Salak
Publisher: Henry Holt
Release date: Hardcover August 2008, Paperback Sept 2009
One sentence summary: Marika travels to Papua New Guinea to track down the truth about a war correspondent, Robert Lewis, who supposedly committed suicide.
First sentences: The black waters of Elobi Creek show no sign of current. It is another dead waterway, Marika tells herself, one that will breed only mosquitos and crocodiles. Another waterway that somehow reflects - in the darkness of the water, in its stillness - all of her failings.
First chapter review: Marika is presented as a very ususual sort of woman - one who found fame in war zones, doing the one thing she felt competent at, namely facing the unpleasant. And in Papua New Guinea she endures much discomfort on her months long search for Robert. Finally Tobo, a medicine man in a remote village, claims to know where Robert is. As the chapter ends, Marika is left behind by her guide but is still determined to continue her quest. The setting is exotic and Marika is so far interesting enough to want to keep following.
Verdict: Keep in TBR. I'm intrigued and want to know if Marika ends up finding what she's looking for.

The Day I Killed James by Catherine Ryan Hyde
Publisher: Random House
Release date: May 2008
One sentence summary: Theresa feels guilty about the suicide of James, a boy who had a crush on her, and writes in a diary for her therapist.
First sentences: People die of love. I'm one of the few who'll admit it. That doesn't mean it isn't true.
First chapter review: There are three short diary entries before the start of chapter 1 which introduce Theresa's fragile mental state and her not-so-nice therapist. Chapter 1 flashes back to before James' death and shows how Theresa took advantage of his crush on her. It's fine, but not particularly exciting. I'm assuming now that James kills himself because Theresa teases him too much, but I'm not hooked. Sorry.
Verdict: Unless someone can convince me that the story gets compelling fast, I'm going to ditch this one.

The Good Thief by Hannah Tinti
Publisher: Random House
Release date: Hardcover August 2008, Paperback August 2009
One sentence summary: One handed orphan Ren is picked up at the orphanage by someone claiming to be his long-lost brother who then takes him on a series of adventures that may hold the key to discovering his parentage.
First sentence: The man arrived after morning prayers.
First chapter review: I liked the scene presented here - a man coming to the orphanage to pick out a child, avoiding those too small to work and those too old to be pliable. At first, he picks Ren, until the priests reveal Ren's missing hand. It makes you yearn for Ren to be picked up quickly by the "brother" mentioned in the summary.
Verdict: I'm hooked! Looking forward to making some time to finish this one.

Jet Set by Carrie Karasyov and Jill Kargman
Publisher: HarperTeen
Release date: Hardcover August 2008, Paperback Aug 2009
One sentence summary: To avoid having to move during her high school years, military kid Lucy decides to attend super-exclusive Van Pelt boarding school in Switzerland.
First sentence: Imagine a school with endless gilded hallways that rival Versailles.
First chapter review: I actually read 3 chapters (and could have read more - they are very, very short). The first chapter sets up why Lucy is attending such a fancy school. The second introduces her to the resident snobs (two of the three are princesses). The third has Lucy afraid her super-rich classmates will find out she's there on scholarship. It's kind of mindless, trashy fun. And it reminds me of my summer project between 8th and 9th grade. I wrote an outline about students at a fancy Swiss boarding school. I got out my baby name book and a stack of Seventeen magazines and created about 50 character profiles. I wonder if I still have it somewhere?
Verdict: I'd give this one a few more chapters at least. Keep for now.


Kristen M. said...

I like the artwork on the cover of The Good Thief ... it's the only one of these books whose plot interests me too.

I really like this feature!

Amy said...

I think I've said it before, but I should really do this. I loved the Good Thief, you should definitely keep it!

Mishel (P.S. I Love Books) said...

This is a brilliant idea Lenore!!

Cecelia said...

I've had The Good Thief on my Amazon wishlist for a while...your chapter review makes me want to find it and read it ASAP!


Doret said...

I loved the Good Thief. Its shelved in fiction but its great for ages 12up. I always wonder how they decide what goes where.

Kathleen said...

I like your idea of reading the first chapter of the book to decide whether you will keep it on your TBR. It would certainly whittle down my list if I did that!

PJ Hoover said...

I've been meaning to read The Compound but just haven't gotten to it yet!

jen nadol said...

I love this feature! What great insight into what works/doesn't at the start of a novel.

Thao said...

This is absolutely awesome. Did you get confused when you read too many books?

H said...

This is such a good idea! My TBR pile might benefit from first chapter reading. The Good Thief looks good.

Sandra Stiles said...

I really like this idea. I have a TBR pile that is over 100 books. As a teacher I purchase books that I want to read and put on my shelves at school. The problem is When you order 10 to 20 books a month during the school year from Scholastic alone and then you add to that all the books you have purchased or received an ARC or review copy the pile gets larger. I take minimum of 20 books home over Christmas and Spring break and often realize after the first or second chapter I didn't like this. If I did what you have done and kept a list then I would have something to work with. As much as I'd like to read all of the books on my shelves at school I know I never will.

Kelly said...

The Good Thief and The White Mary were pretty good I thought..worth reading!

Becca said...

What a clever idea! I like this a lot.

kay - Infinite Shelf said...

That is such a good idea to classify your books! Thanks for sharing this with us, it's fun to read :)

Amee said...

I liked The Day I Killed James. I gave it away to a friend, though, which says something since I mostly only keep what I like enough to someday come back to. ;)

Melanie said...

The Good Thief is a good one. Hope you can find time to finish it.

Melissa said...

I really should do something similar to this!

I hope you like The Good Thief. It gots lots of great reviews, but didn't work for me. I ended up not finishing it...

Zibilee said...

I really liked The White Mary, although I thought it was a bit uneven. I also wanted to read The Good Thief, but had forgotten about it. Thanks for bringing it up again!