One new author per month. Help please.

Each month I am reading a new author. I want to learn what makes them successful. What is their appeal?

Of course I will struggle, like most people, not to be subjective but I will try…

Here are three first pages from well known authors. I say well known in the sense that I see their books being read on trains and planes i.e. not just sitting on shelves.

I would love your input here. I am struggling to find (already) why these authors grab their readers.

So, which one if any would you choose to continue reading and why, please?

If you recognise any of these books please don’t give the game away. I want this to remain as objective as possible. Thanks.


Book #1

Unfurled from its mooring, the rope flew through the air and sprayed the woman’s bare arms with droplets of seawater. They soon dried, and as the sun beat down on her from a cloudless sky she noticed that her skin sparkled with intricate patterns of salty crystal, like a tattoo in diamonds. Alexis was the only passenger in the small, battered boat, and as it chugged away from the quay in the direction of the lonely, unpeopled island ahead of them she shuddered, as she thought of all the men and woman who had travelled there before her.

Spinalonga. She played with the word, rolling it around her tongue like an olive stone. The island lay directly ahead, and as the boat approached the great Venetian fortification which fronted the sea, she felt both the pull of its past and an overpowering sense of what it still meant in the present. This, she speculated, might be a place where history was still warm, not stone cold, where the inhabitants were real not mythical. How different that would make it from the ancient palaces and sites she had spent the past few weeks, months- even years-visiting.

Book #2 

In my old faded jeans, black polo neck jumper and grey woollen socks, on top of my bed; I lie very still and wait. Comforting myself, corpse like, arms across my chest, fingers tucked into my armpits with just my thumbs showing, wishing his hands could replace mine. Nuzzling the edge of my jumper I realise that fabric softener is outdoing my perfume. I make a mental note to use less.

I glance at the phone on the bedside table. It is still there. I placed a metal tray underneath it, so if I was in the bathroom. Foolish. The ring reverberates around the whole cottage without any assistance.It’s early yet. The sky is bearing down, closing in, full and grey. It has been all day, except for a brief appearance of a watery sun around noon. Rickety sash windows allow heat to escape. You’d be a lot cosier in the flat up by the shop, on the main road. My new landlord had tried to convince me. I explained that the open fire in the living room would more than compensate. Three bedrooms and just you? I paid two months, cash, and so he sighed and handed me the key.

The three upright panels in the left hand side of my bedroom window are much older than the right. May even be original, my landlord thinks. When the sun hits those panes the reflected pattern on the ceiling is mottled, dappled with the faint colours of the rainbow. The other side has new glass and is smooth, without character.

I stare at the left hand panes wondering what they have witnessed, finding it impossible to transpose seventeenth century memories into a bedroom awash with fading Laura Ashley walls, at the end of the twentieth. I close my eyes and find the centre panel has filled with a bright green light. Slowly I open my eyes, scanning the room to locate the source. Sometimes the smallest object is chosen and thrown back into the mind’s eye but I can see nothing green. I shut my eyes again and there it is, the centre panel filled with an effervescent green glow.

This time I raise my head, propping myself up on my elbows but there is no strength to the daylight, so I am puzzled .

The phone waits attentively. There are a dozen chores I could be doing, none of which would prevent a call getting through but I don’t move. The lead is still attached to the wall. There have been no gales in the last hour capable of blowing down the telegraph pole. Foolish. I allow myself a wry smile at my stupidity. It’s early yet. He always phones, when he can. He should be finishing his shift soon. Busy day, even busier night. People making preparations. People rushing. He may have to work longer. But he’ll find time. From the beginning he said. I’ll always find a minute, before midnight

Book #3

The day she would try to kill herself, she realised winter was coming again. She had been lying on her side, her knees drawn up; she’d sighed, and the heat of her breath had vaporised in the cold air of the bedroom. She pushed the air out of her lungs again, watching. Then she did it again, and again. Then she wrenched back the covers and got up. Alice hated winter.

It must have been around 5 a.m. ; she didn’t need to look at her clock, she could tell from the glow behind the curtains. She’d been awake most of the night. The weak dawn light cast the walls, bed and floor in greyish-blue granite, and her shadow as she crossed the floor was a grainy, unfocused smudge.

In the bathroom, she twisted the tap and drank straight from the it, bending over and pushing her mouth into the pressurised, icy flow, gasping with the shock of the cold. Wiping her face on the back of her hand, she filled the toothmug and watered the plants on the bath edge. It had been so long since she’d cared for them that the parched soil didn’t absorb the water, and it collected on the surface in accusing, mercuried drops.

Alice dressed quickly, putting on whatever clothes she found discarded on the floor. She stood at the window, looking down into the street for a moment, then went downstairs, slinging her bag over her shoulder, closing the door.


Please leave comments below or on my facebook page 🙂

And apologies for not giving credit and recognising the authors of these snippets.

All will be revealed as soon as I get a few replies.


4 Responses to “One new author per month. Help please.”

  1. MandyWard

    None of them draw me at all – I liked the descriptions of the light in the second one, but that was it.

  2. HelenDucal

    Okay, so Book #1 The Island by Victoria Hislop. Book #2 Wait For Me by yours truly 
    ( a WIP) Thanks Mandy! Book #3 After You’d Gone by Maggie O’Farrell. Hmm. Anonymous excerpts… Best way to get honest critique, I think. I have to say, Maggie O’Farrell’s book is my favourite starter too but not enough to want to read it! I will be posting some of my favourite openers next…watch this space.


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