Last week I ran across Brian James' article on judging books by their covers and it got me to thinking. I try not to be a cover snob. I do. I try and fail and try again in the hopes that one of these days I'll learn my lesson. This is a near-constant topic of discussion within the circle of friends and family members I'm constantly pushing books on. A bad cover that conceals treasures within forces you to go on the defensive. I suppose it just hones my bookselling skills but I hate the number of times I've had to say, "Don't let the cover get to you, it's a freaking awesome book. You will love it!" Oftentimes I actually love these covers, but for one reason or another, they're hard to hand other people. The Mercy Thompson series is at the top of this particular list for some reason. I love Daniel dos Santos' cover art. I really do. I'm particularly fond of the cover of Blood Bound.
She just looks like Mercy to me. I love the composition, the way she's standing, the tattoos (even though she doesn't have them all), the whole bit. But Mercy the character wouldn't be caught dead in that particular state of undress. Not out and about at her shop anyway. And when I'm introducing the whole urban fantasy genre to an unsuspecting newbie, it can be hard to get the general gist of the complete and utter awesomeness of the Mercy books across when they're staring doubtfully at the covers.
The same goes for the number of times I've not picked up a book that a large part of me wanted to just because the cover was unappealing in some way. Case in point, the cover for Sharon Shinn's Archangel.
I avoided it for years. Years! Because I thought the girl on the cover looked stupid. And what was up with the feather and the orb and the look on her face? Like she was about to give up the ghost or dissolve in a series of ecstatic shivers. I just couldn't get over my initial impression. This despite the many positive reviews I'd read. It's a powerful instinct, that first judgement call. And now, of course, Archangelis right up there with the Sevenwaters books and Robin McKinley when it comes to my top comfort reads. Serves me right. But I still maintain the Rachel I know and love would never look that overcome by anything. Glowing orb, indeed...
Lastly, there are the simply silly covers. The ones that drive away good readers because they simply can't imagine something weighty or worthwhile or even intriguing inside. It requires too far a stretch of their admittedly stretchy imaginations. Most recent example of this form of cover snobbery--Moira J. Moore's Hero series. Behold:
Too cartooney for words, right? I mean he looks like Lancelot himself and she's polishing his boot for crying out loud! Like some awful parallel version of Beauty and the Beast gone horribly awry. Combine the covers with the titles and I'm near tears trying to get them into good homes. Because these books? These books are good. They have heart. They're funny and extremely moving at times. They have a hero and heroine deserving of your love. Sometimes you pick up a book with a lame cover and you get burned, it's true. But sometimes you make out like bandits. That's how I felt when I went ahead and took this series home.
In his article, James looks at the cover issue from an author's perspective and notes that:
An author's relationship to a book after it's published is a strange one. By the time it hits store shelves, your involvement with it is long gone. It's out in the world on its own. A common metaphor for the experience is that of a parent sending their child out into the world. Taking that metaphor, the cover would be the child's clothing. You want your child to look presentable and you want them to express themselves. Too often books, like kids afraid of not fitting in, are simply dressed to look like everyone else even if that's not who they are on the inside.
What a wonderful analogy as well as a nice reminder. There are so many books deserving of better covers to really show us wishy-washy readers just what's inside and why they're worth taking home with us. For each off-putting cover out there there's an author hoping you'll see past the awkward exterior to the heart of gold inside. May we all be a little more openminded and a little less snobbish in the future.
I haven't wanted to talk about this. With anyone. But I think I probably need to. That like Georgina, I need to use my words to break the curse. I think that like Sam, I need to believe in my cure. So I'm going to talk about it here, and maybe you can help. Since pandemic type things got real in my neck of the woods, I haven't been able to read. I haven't been able to reread . This has (and I am not exaggerating) never happened to me before in my life. I know it happens frequently to most everyone. And I have certainly always been a mood reader. It's not in any way uncommon for me to drift from book to book, from shelf to shelf in my library, until I land upon the right thing. But that drifting tends to occur over the course of a few hours. Not ever does it occur over the course of a few days or, God forbid, weeks. I feel like I'm losing my mind. And, yes, I am fully aware of where this problem likely rates on the triviality scale in the current scheme of
I feel a bit giddy finally talking to you all about this series. If you'll remember, I fell madly in love with The Q when it came out a few years ago. Now, Beth Brower is writing The Unselected Journals of Emma M. Lion — a series of novellas set in London in 1883. Each volume is an excerpt from the incorrigible Emma's journals, and the first two volumes are already available with the third on the way soon. I think they'd make rather perfect pandemic reading. Humorous and charming down to their bones, they're just what the doctor ordered to lift your spirits in this uncertain time that just proves to be too much some days. If you're experiencing one of those days, I suggest giving Volume 1 a go (it's only 99 cents on Kindle, $4.99 for a trade paperback copy). It will surprise exactly none of you that I own print and digital editions of both volumes. Miss Emma M. Lion has waited long enough. Come hell or high water (and really, given her track record, both a
Since I thought I'd start with the two most egregious reviewing gaps, you get Wayward Son next. I hope this is agreeable to all and sundry. And let's just agree not to pull any punches, shall we? I'll start by admitting that this book wrecked my life. To be clear, I am not complaining. It's just that it had been a long time, yeah? A long time since Carry On came out. Just such a very long time since I'd been in the company of these two. And their crew. And I thought I was ready. Don't I always? Must remember to learn from past mistakes. But more than that, I wasn't thinking about the fact that of course Rainbow Rowell would create nothing less than the sequel that would naturally follow the events at the end of Carry On. Which is to say a sequel that would hurt . Because everything about what happened to Simon Snow from the beginning of his life to his graduation from Watford was designed to damage. With the shining exceptions of Penny and Baz. And so th