The Cover Wars

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Wherein we judge books by their covers and blurbs. It’s quite fun and also a look at what’s coming out soon, or has been recently released. These are our opinions, they can be funny or harsh or very opinionated and untrue! Remember, we haven’t actually read many of these titles, we’re basically pretending we’re in a bookstore of library shopping for our next read. Let us know what you think in the comments or on twitter!

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This is the story of a hen named Sprout. No longer content to lay eggs on command, only to have them carted off to the market, she glimpses her future every morning through the barn doors, where the other animals roam free, and comes up with a plan to escape into the wild—and to hatch an egg of her own.

An anthem for freedom, individuality and motherhood featuring a plucky, spirited heroine who rebels against the tradition-bound world of the barnyard, The Hen Who Dreamed She Could Fly is a novel of universal resonance that also opens a window on Korea, where it has captivated millions of readers. And with its array of animal characters—the hen, the duck, the rooster, the dog, the weasel—it calls to mind such classics in English as Animal Farm and Charlotte’s Web.

Featuring specially-commissioned illustrations, this first English-language edition of Sun-mi Hwang’s fable for our times beautifully captures the journey of an unforgettable character in world literature.

Janet: Bold, sparse cover and a daring children’s book about motherhood? A plucky hen? (Oh the puns.) I’m in. Also, nice to see a work in translation, and a story from Korea.

Steph: Yes, I too would give this a read. I really do like the cover, it reminds me of fables immediately, and the title helps with that affect. I wonder how long the book will be. The analogy for everyday life is clearly present and I’m curious about how the story will unfold, what insights will it offer and how close to good old Sprout will we get. Books in translation are always welcome. The only thing I question is it’s audience – is this truly for children and teens or does it hold crossover appeal (just the reverse way, it’s for adults but read by any age). hmm.

Yash: Yes. I love the cover. You know how some people get uncomfortable when there is a long silence during a conversation? I get uncomfortable when there is too much blank, white space on a cover. I am not sure why. BUT! This cover’s white space feels artistic and actually makes me curious. I would totally read this one. (Actually, I have been wanting this book for a while- I just get very confused when I walk into Kidsbooks.)

Nafiza: This book is amazing. It made me not cry but feel really really hard. And the cover though sparse is very much in tone with the rest of the book.

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Fans of Jerry Spinelli’s Maniac Magee and Louis Sachar’s Holes will enjoy this story about a boy and the ancient secrets that hide deep in the heart of the Florida everglades near a place called Muck City.

When Charlie moves to the small town of Taper, Florida, he discovers a different world. Pinned between the everglades and the swampy banks of Lake Okeechobee, the small town produces sugar cane . . . and the fastest runners in the country. Kids chase muck rabbits in the fields while the cane is being burned and harvested. Dodging flames and blades and breathing smoke, they run down the rabbits for three dollars a skin. And when they can do that, running a football is easy.

But there are things in the swamp, roaming the cane at night, that cannot be explained, and they seem connected to sprawling mounds older than the swamps. Together with his step-second cousin “Cotton” Mack, the fastest boy on the muck, Charlie hunts secrets in the glades and on the muck flats where the cane grows secrets as old as the soft earth, secrets that haunted, tripped, and trapped the original native tribes, ensnared conquistadors, and buried runaway slaves. Secrets only the muck knows.

Janet: POC on the cover, and people actually doing something other than pose? How refreshing! Okay, I’m not too fond of the title, as “blur” is not a noun; however, the prospect of running, a realistic treatment of poverty, a distinct setting, and adventure are more than enough to draw me in. And the title is a nice shade of blue. The colour scheme contrast is pleasing. Too bad the writing conceals the boy’s face.

Steph: Haha, oh Janet. I too was wondering what meaning Blur will take on besides the boys running really fast. I wonder at the dialect that will be offered in the book how will it sound and read. To me the back cover really feels like a pitch and not set in the tone of the story, and that’d something I wish I could get a taste of. I enjoy the POC feature and the action shot – I kinda also like that they are running down rabbits. It’s such a down-to-earth thing to do and the author clearly doesn’t shy away, so I ‘m already looking for the freshness (get rid of that political correctness and sheltering the audience crap) this story will offer. I’ll read it.

Yash: Yes, I like the cover and that it features POC in some kind of active position. Not sure if I like the art style and how the title and the author’s name take over the cover. I am kind of put off by someone (black?) actually being called “cotton” as a nickname?? But the mystery sounds compelling. All in all, I think I’ll wait for Steph to read it first.

Nafiza: I’m with you guys. I wish I could see more of the picture without the book and author names getting in the way and yes, the title is a bit awkward. Boys of Blur is somehow, I don’t know, weird.  But I do love covers in motion and this seems like the characters are going to burst out of the page into reality and that’s not a bad thing at all. I’d like to read this, blurring aise.

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A mysterious and desolate island. A devastating turn of events. A secret that will reveal the true meaning of Justice. Fifteen-year-old Justice Worth is summoned to the house of Eleanor Burby, an unknown aunt living on Mariner’s Hollow Island, miles off the turbulent Maine coast. Events transpire that are much worse than spending winter break apart from his friends back home, and turn his visit into a nightmare. A blizzard slams the island in all its fury, and in its midst, his aunt dies of an apparent suicide. Trapped in her island home, stalked by ghosts within and a murderer outside, Justice begins to unravel not only the truth behind his aunt’s death, but the family secrets threatening to destroy his perception of those he loves most.

Little about Aunt Eleanor’s death makes sense, but as Justice probes the lives of those closest to her, suspects multiply and new dangers arise. Through it all, island spirits continue to haunt him, pushing him towards the family’s dark secrets, before the only living person who knows them all silences him forever, burying the truth in the one place where it may never be found: Mariner’s Hollow.

Janet: The eyes on the cover aren’t terribly appealing. However, the depth and shading of the sky and sea, the beauty and danger of the crashing waves, and the multi-faced house make up for that. The author’s name appears almost typewritten, which is pretty cool. I’m curious about the relationship between Justice and his aunt Eleanor, and Eleanor and the rest of the family. The “only living person who knows” all the family secrets is pretty foreboding. I’d look at the first few pages.

Steph: What is with these character names lately? Is it just me? In at least one cover we feature there is a character named after a thing or an abstraction that will clearly be a central theme. Come on, your readers aren’t so dense that you need to name the character after your point just for us to get it. Give your character a real name, geez. Aside from that little pet peeve, the story truly sounds fascinating. I like the sound of the ending not being a happy one… heheh. I love ghosts and I think that this story is going to offer a big tangle of family secrets just roiling with interest. I enjoy the painted quality of the image on the cover, it sets the tone for the book without trapping my imagination in only one vision of the story. Excellent rendering. The only thing that I’m wary of is how far fetched all these past stories entwining will feel – I too wonder at the relationship between Justice and Eleanor and how much we will get from Eleanor herself before her demise.

Yash: I love the colour palette and the art style for the cover. I love the choice of font for the title, though I think it can afford to be bigger. I really did like the premise at first, but I have to say I am tired of women dying so male characters can have an adventure. That said, I do want to know what happened to Eleanor- I may read this anyway.

Nafiza: WHAT! I didn’t even notice the eyes! How creepy. I really like the cover; the art style is right up my alley. And the synopsis is intriguing as well. I agree with everyone else though, especially Yash, but I would be interested in reading the first few pages to see if I liked the writing style.

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There’s a new detective at 221 Baker Street

Set against the background of 1930s England, Jewel of the Thames introduces Portia Adams, a budding detective with an interesting — and somewhat mysterious — heritage.

Nineteen-year-old Portia Adams has always been inquisitive. There’s nothing she likes better than working her way through a mystery. When her mother dies, Portia puzzles over why she was left in the care of the extravagant Mrs. Jones but doesn’t have long to dwell on it before she is promptly whisked from Toronto to London by her new guardian. Once there Portia discovers that she has inherited 221 Baker Street — the former offices of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson.

Portia settles into her new home and gets to know her downstairs tenants, including the handsome and charming Brian Dawes. She also finds herself entangled in three cases: the first involving stolen jewelry, the second a sick judge and the final case revolving around a kidnapped child. But the greatest mystery of all is her own. How did she come to inherit this townhouse? And why did her mother keep her heritage from her? Portia has a feeling Mrs. Jones knows more than she is letting on. In fact, she thinks her new guardian may be the biggest clue of all.

Featuring casebook illustrations by Sydney Smith.

Janet: The cover doesn’t draw me, except possibly for the dark London cityscape and the sky. The title sounds as though it is a reference to something. I haven’t been impressed by post-, pre-, or other Holmesian stories yet, and a detective with a mysterious background and secretive guardians is nothing new. What does arouse a flicker of interest is the mention of Toronto. Toronto? How significant is the Canadianness of Portia to this story? If someone recommends this to me, I might look at the first few pages; otherwise, not likely.

Steph: Interesting. I’m a little weary of the Holmes retelling, and the even the gender swapped versions are getting over done. Also, having just read Pullman’s Ruby in the Smoke in that amazing Pullman voice with a dash of Dickensian mystery and connection. I have high expectations but I also don’t feel like I have the energy. The cover is lovely and clearly meant to appeal (very nice design, colour contrast etc…), the premise isn’t anything spectacular – I wonder at the time frame because 221 Baker St. is a museum today, so when is this set and why don’t we know that from the back cover? Haha, oh I’m already picking it apart. I better just leave it alone and wait for some good reviews.

Yash: I’m with Steph. Getting bored with all the Holmes adaptations and yes, this looks like it won’t be as lovely as Ruby in the Smoke, but I do like the cover. I like the silhouette of the lady with a magnifying glass- you don’t have enough ladies with magnifying glasses. It’s a shame. I also love that she moves from Toronto. Also, she is much older than our usual protagonists, huh? I like it. This one is a “maybe” for me. I’m on the fence and neither the summary nor the cover is very remarkable. Sorry.

Nafiza: I’m going to read this! I haven’t read many Holmes retellings at all, well, apart from the MG series by Nancy Springer. But I like the cover and I like the premise, let’s hope I like the story as well.

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Ceony Twill arrives at the cottage of Magician Emery Thane with a broken heart. Having graduated at the top of her class from the Tagis Praff School for the Magically Inclined, Ceony is assigned an apprenticeship in paper magic despite her dreams of bespelling metal. And once she’s bonded to paper, that will be her only magic…forever.

Yet the spells Ceony learns under the strange yet kind Thane turn out to be more marvelous than she could have ever imagined—animating paper creatures, bringing stories to life via ghostly images, even reading fortunes. But as she discovers these wonders, Ceony also learns of the extraordinary dangers of forbidden magic.

An Excisioner—a practitioner of dark, flesh magic—invades the cottage and rips Thane’s heart from his chest. To save her teacher’s life, Ceony must face the evil magician and embark on an unbelievable adventure that will take her into the chambers of Thane’s still-beating heart—and reveal the very soul of the man.

Janet: A profile. Ceony is supposed to learn paper: why not an imaginative cutout for a cover? I don’t buy into the world yet – the cover suggests that the setting is Victorian or Edwardian. Why? The blurb does not offer an explanation. I want to know more of how the world is set up, and I don’t trust that it is, properly. On the other hand, it appeals that Ceony arrives with a broken heart not because of a boy (or girl) but because of her studies. The prospect of paper magic has potential. Similarly so for the quest to save the teacher, and the revelation of his heart and soul. I’ll wait for a review by a fellow Book Warrior before I decide either way.

Steph: Curious. I feel that we are getting the feel of Morgenstern’s The Night CircusHarry Potter not that this is a bad thing at all, but this story clearly runs along these veins. I like the paper art on the cover but I’m not sure how I feel about the diagram-esque lines, it seems to intrude on the magic – but perhaps that’s just it. Holmberg’s own brand of magic might have a scientific feel, which is just fine I’d just like to learn about it. I’m drawn in then, I suppose, by the cover. The back copy, I have to agree with Janet, doesn’t give me enough which has me worried. Do they dare not say more else they give it all away? Then how complex can the plot really be, how much depth can that characters offer? I’m wary, but I tend to enjoy various brands of magic – just like I enjoy various time travel logics and ghost iterations, I’m just a sucker. This one promises creativity in the magic department so I’d give it a try and review it for Janet.

Yash: Admittedly, I would have passed the cover by in a bookstore, though the summary is intriguing indeed. Buuuut, I am also tired of Victorian stories (for now). So, I will let Steph do the work for this one.

Nafiza: Stephie, wait till you have to write a synopsis and you’ll be tearing your hair off. :P But I’m intrigued by the paper magic, enough that I will give this a try if it comes my way. This cover is actually a new one and we’ve already warred over its previous incarnation. I was being tricksy like that. ;)

3 responses to “The Cover Wars

  1. Janet, Nafiza, let me know what you think if you do read Jewel of the Thames. Yash, Steph, I swear this is a new story and Portia is worthy of your time. ALL: Thank You! I think Emma Dolan (who created that cover) is a fantastic book designer, so I appreciate that her work made it onto your blog.

    • I am waiting for my local library to finish cataloguing it and once it does and I have read it, I shall review it on the blog! Thank you for the comment.

    • I definitely do appreciate that the female character plays the sleuth. While I am reluctant to get into more Holmes-y stuff, I am currently reading one and catching up with Elementary … oh, what the heck, I will give Portia a chance. (Just not right now.)

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