Judging a Book by its Cover

We all do it.

We say we don’t, but we do.

Our minds are drawn to beautiful or interesting visuals.  That’s just the way it works.

So first, I want to look at those oh so beautiful ‘leather bound classics’ that Barnes & Noble sell.

They are wonderful.  I would buy them all, if it wasn’t for the terrible shipping rates to Canada!

Here are the ones I do have:

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As you can see, I went for the same type of collections. Fairy tales and children’s stories!

This one, I’m hoping get rereleased.

narnia

Now, I’d love to talk fairy tales, and their impact on both writers and society as a whole, but I’ll save that for another post because I have tons to say about it!

This is all about the cover art.

I believe having shelves of old books, with decorated spines and beautiful imagery is a romantic idea that many people have.  Finding old books for a cheap price however is not easy! Now these books are not old, though the stories inside them are.  They are however beautiful, and are really like a piece of art in a way.

This brings me to a question though.  Do you prefer having your shelves filled with a variety of sized and styled books, or do you like the uniformity of having, let’s say, all the Barnes & Noble leather bound collection.  That would be all your classics, styled in this way.  Does that appeal to you?

As much as I think they’re beautiful, and I do want to get a couple more of them, I think having too much of the same would probably not be to my liking.  It would be too intentional, and would become more about the art, than the books themselves.  What do you think?

Another great cover:

Neil Gaiman’s The Ocean at the End of the Lane

This one is gorgeous.

ocean-at-the-end-of-the-lane-neil-gaiman

A.G. Howard’s Splintered

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So I haven’t read this one yet.  This is one of those cases where my thought process went: Oh wow, that’s beautiful! Oh, it’s about Alice in Wonderland.  I’m interested!

So clearly, that’s good marketing!

Hopefully the book is gripping as well.

 

And of course, no post would be complete without a mention of George RR Martin’s book series A Song of Ice and Fire.  Walking into the fantasy section of a bookstore can feel overwhelming if you don’t know what you’re looking for.  Though this is changing now (possibly do to Martin’s covers), most fantasy covers tend to feel like they all started from the same template.  There will be a guy (or once and a while a woman) wielding some fancy sword, hair whipping around in the wind, determined look on their face.

You see the same kind of generic art in Romance covers, and it can be off putting.  Maybe the book is great, but I don’t know that when I’m looking at a cover, and I will not be inclined to read it.  So what sets Martin’s books apart, at least until everyone catches on and does the same, is that they don’t have typical fantasy art . Just a single image, on a plain background.  That’s it. Nothing fancy, and yet totally gripping!

A_Game_of_Thrones_Novel_Covers

Another fantasy writer got me this way as well.  Joe Abercrombie’s First Law Trilogy:

the-first-law-trilogy

They are so simple, with only the title being the focus, that I immediately was drawn to them.  And that’s what a good cover does, it makes you pick up the book, and read the synopsis (which is hopefully well written!).

This has worked in many genres.  Just look at how Fifty Shades of Grey, and other erotic/romance novels have used this kind of cover to grab an audience.  It really works!

As I’ve said however, people will catch on to this, and soon there will be too many books using this kind of cover, and then its impact will be lost.

 

So, when you walk in to a bookstore, what catches your eye?

What book on your shelves do you think has the best cover design and art?

Let me know in the comments!

 

Until next time,

Sarah

 

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Biggest Book Turn-Offs

Hey there!

So this is eight hours late, but better that than never??

So a while back I noticed some people posting their top ten book turn-offs (a Top-Ten Tuesday?), and wrote up this list.

So here it goes:

1) The line often seen in YA literature: “she let out a breath she didn’t know she was holding”. Why are so many teen girls holding their breath all the time? Is this a part of teenage development that I missed out on? Perhaps it’s just because almost EVERY teen book I’ve read has some variation of this line in it, but it’s an immediate eye-roller for me now. You’ll notice it too, from now on. I’ve ruined it for you. Sorry! (not really :p)

2) Characters losing weapons by accident, just to make sure their situation is more dire than it already was when they had one. Repeatedly in one book. So clumsy, guys… and yet these characters are also equally skilled with every weapon/tool you put in their hand. Incredible, but clumsy fighters? I am trying to extend my sense of belief here.

3) The character who is only in a book to give important information at the “right time”, even though the right time is really about two-hundred pages too late, cause the protagonist could have really used this info before everything went to hell.
I LOVE putting obstacles in my characters way, it’s what makes a story interesting, but I want to have a believable and intelligent plot line, that won’t make me go “BUT YOU COULD HAVE SAVED THEM FROM ALL THIS TROUBLE IN THE FIRST PLACE. NOW I MUST THROW THIS BOOK ACROSS THE ROOM”. The usual suspects: best friends, lost but found parents, wise old wizards…

4) The word “quest” in any title. Just no. I will judge this book by its cover. I’m sure many of the books out there with the word quest in the title are very well written, but when I see it, I just don’t even want to try. So let me know if you have any good recommendations! Free me of my prejudice!!

5) A POV that only shifts once or twice in a book because there was no way to communicate what happened through your protagonist. I’ve seem this done well, but more often than not, it’s done badly. Disjointed and sometimes even giving away important information about the antagonist that should have been given another way!

6) Long run on sentences that become paragraphs and that don’t end for over a page, and continue in this fashion for the entire novel, communicating a lot of unreliable nonsense and sometimes even describing things to death and all because stream of consciousness is so edgy that we absolutely need to forget the use of punctuation and refuse to give the reader a break because the mind doesn’t take breaks, now does it? I tried to make that sentence much longer, but just couldn’t. Hopefully you know what I mean!!
(Not referring to Woolf or Joyce. I bow down to their mastery of stream of consciousness. There are however, several classics that are written in this way. I can’t say it’s wrong. I just personally find it irritating. )

7) Endings that magically tie together all plot lines, often forgetting certain obstacles or character traits so that it can all be resolved in a way that was made clear to be impossible 200 pages before.

8) The too happy, happy endings. Unrealistic. I like when characters have reached their goal, become better people, fallen in love, sure. I just don’t want it to be “and they lived happily ever after, with all evil gone forever, and magical resolutions to all world problems.” I can just watch a classic Disney movie for that.

9) Flat, boring, unimaginative love interests. Can they not be more than what’s on the surface? And I mean more than just angsty boys with only sarcasm and brooding to offer.

10) This character never met one of their parents?! This parent is going to resurface at the climax of the novel!?! They’re evil too!?! Omg.
Okay. Stop. This totally easy to see coming plot line is overused. To be clear, I’ve enjoyed books that use this, but I definitely wish it came up less. Every time I hear a character never knew a parent, I get an anxious annoyed feeling that I’m about to read a book filled with all the other typical plot twists out there as well.

TO BE CLEAR, I’m not bashing the authors who choose to use some of these in their books. I have loved many a novel/series that have one, if not more of these used. Even my favourite books have things that can get on my nerves. I think as a writer though, these will be the things I look out for in my own writing, as things I don’t want to do.

So that’s it.

What are your biggest book turn-offs?

Let me know in the comments.

Have a great week!

Sarah

To Brave the Adventure that is Nanowrimo?

With Nanowrimo just around the corner, I find myself at that fork in the road… do I join or do I just watch everyone else around me panic?

Well… I’m still standing at that fork in the road, but I’m curious to know if any of our readers are into NaNo! And if you are into it, do you like planning ahead or just winging it when november begins?

On my first attempt at NaNo, I tried to plan out a basic idea for a story… but then it didn’t pan out because once november came around I hated the idea… hahaha… on my second attempt, I tried to wing it… but then I just stared at a blank document for two hours and gave up– then I forgot about it by the second week because life sucks sometimes.

Have any of you been successful? Made it at least halfway? Or just fail miserably like me?

Sorry this is so short~
You’ll probably notice posts to be lacking… well, midterms are around the corner. Ahhh, the joys of a working student right? So fun. :)

Until next time!
Sam

Mandy’s Miscellaneous Flavours: Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? by Mindy Kaling

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?

Mindy Kaling

Three Rivers Press (Sept. 18 2012)

Hardcover

Humour and Entertainment, Humour, Essays

222 pages

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Mindy Kaling has lived many lives: the obedient child of immigrant professionals, a timid chubster afraid of her own bike, a Ben Affleck–impersonating Off-Broadway performer and playwright, and, finally, a comedy writer and actress prone to starting fights with her friends and coworkers with the sentence “Can I just say one last thing about this, and then I swear I’ll shut up about it?”
 
Perhaps you want to know what Mindy thinks makes a great best friend (someone who will fill your prescription in the middle of the night), or what makes a great guy (one who is aware of all elderly people in any room at any time and acts accordingly), or what is the perfect amount of fame (so famous you can never get convicted of murder in a court of law), or how to maintain a trim figure (you will not find that information in these pages). If so, you’ve come to the right book, mostly!
 
In Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?, Mindy invites readers on a tour of her life and her unscientific observations on romance, friendship, and Hollywood, with several conveniently placed stopping points for you to run errands and make phone calls. Mindy Kaling really is just a Girl Next Door—not so much literally anywhere in the continental United States, but definitely if you live in India or Sri Lanka.

***

First off, on the extremely slim chance that you are somehow reading this, I love you Mindy Kaling and I wish we were friends 5ever.

Anyways…

After lugging around numerous dense and heavy books amid midterm season (lord help us), Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me is the perfect break from it all.

Not to say that this book is merely consisted of fluff. On the contrary, this book still has substance underneath all the jokes. Like Ben and Jerry’s after a long day filled of BS. Ice cream with the yummy brownie bits in it.

So what is Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me book about? In Mindy Kaling’s words: “In this book I write a lot about romance, female friendships, unfair situations that now seem unfunny in retrospect, unfair situations that I still don’t think are funny, Hollywood, heartache, and my childhood. Just that really hard-core, masculine stuff men love to read about.”

So it’s no surprise being the manliest manly-man out there that I thoroughly enjoyed this book.

Within this book Mindy Kaling talks about her life from childhood to adulthood, her success with The Office, from her ups and downs, to bullies and best friends, all in the form of witty stories.

We are given a peek into Mindy’s creative and playful mind, with passages entitled “Don’t Peak in High School”, “Types of Women in Romantic Comedies Who Are Not Real”, “Why do Men Put on Their Shoes So Slowly?” and other clever remarks that are sprinkled throughout the book.

At times serious, at times hilarious, but always honest, Mindy Kaling manages to weave a string of what would seem as incoherent thoughts together. Among one of her musings, one story that stuck with me well after reading it was of one about the friendship between her and a girl called Mavis in high school. The story of two friends finding each other at the perfect time only to drift apart and go their own ways just seems like something everyone will be able to relate to.

At times it’s as if she was peeking into my own mind (“There is no sunrise so beautiful that it is worth waking me up to see it”) rather than the other way around. And I guess that’s what I ultimately liked about this book and Mindy herself, how relatable she is. Flipping through the books pages was like reading letters sent by a close friend, which I liked a lot…

And not because the only thing I get in the mail are bills.

Until next time!

Amanda  

Meli’s Nostalgic Tales: The Dark Heroine/Dinner with a Vampire

Title: Dinner with a Vampire
Author: Abigail Gibbs
Publisher: Harper Voyager
Type of book: Trade paperback
Genre: Paranormal, Vampires, Romance, Fantasy
Pages: 549

Have any of you ever been a victim of quotes on books compelling you to read it because it’s supposed to blow you away? Well, that is what happened to me, this book promised, and I quote, to be “The sexiest romance you’ll read this year…”

four words…What the hell happened???!!!

Do not get me wrong, this started off beautifully, totally sucked me in. Our main Character Violet is left alone by her friend awaiting to go party and suddenly she witness stranger beings going at it all of which end up dead, followed by having said executioner seeing that there is a witness and deciding to abstain from killing her. There are some theories as to why he left her live, but let that be discovered at your own leisure. Golly, Violet Lee, what were you thinking when you saw a massacre happening decided not to use all means to get away fast enough? I liked her, I liked her a lot. When she got kidnapped and became a potential meal for a house full of vamps, she didn’t turn into a lamb and succumb. She fought…like a fearless bastard {my friend’s latest saying} and said “no way am I giving up on humanity! I am an amazon!” which was great!

The thing is these vampires were not as I accepted, in this society, only people of higher positions {military or presidential and so forth} know they {vamps} exist and there is a treaty in place. {Gawd I love talk of treaties feels so much more bad ass}. So should say a vampire kills a human then here comes the next war. Alas, Violet Lee is not our usual specimen; she is in fact the daughter of the Secretary of State for Defense {wowza} and he wants nothing more to start a war but wants his kid safe. I think.

The author’s writing style I enjoyed immensely, her description was appetizing and I think this is one of the reasons I got as far as I could. Violet in her own way appeals to the compassionate side of these vampires, even the son/prince of them all Casper Varn, who is a spoiled hot-head yet deadly couldn’t turn away. I believed I could get through this and write nothing but awesome things about this book.

Unfortunately I cannot. Why you may ask? Because I have yet to reach the end and I am not sure if I ever will. Ladies and Germs, I reached up to page 338-339 and I could not do it anymore. The unspeakable happened…

…They had sex. ;__; Do not get me mixed up I do love some smut, but I felt it killed the whole dynamic of where the book was going. Violet and Kasper had this ongoing sexual tension: he was forbidden to feed off her, touch her or even get near her, all of which he did not heed. Violet couldn’t stop wondering why Casper was an enigma which made her want to seek him out even more. My friends, Violet took a turn for the worse, her sleeping with the enemy not only sealed her fate as a human but comprise the lives of millions. All I could keep thinking about is “why are you so selfish? Did you REALLY have to get it in??” She couldn’t stop crying about missing her family and friends and that humanity meant everything to her but as soon as Kasper would place his poisonous lips onto her, she’s be like “Being human what now?”

I had enough, I expected something else I actually wanted her to plot to get herself out of that mansion, maybe submit Casper a betrayal and more drama. Who knows maybe there is a turn around and maybe I’ll find out but as of yet I keep glancing at it and I cannot muster picking it.

So based on what I read that is my opinion, if you decide to take a gander I accept spoilers.

Grading: 3/5

yours truly Meli<3

Great Characters!

Hey! Sarah here, and today I’m going to be writing about something more writing oriented.  Keep a look out for a book review soon though, on one of the books that Sam and I received as part of our Random House Canada fall preview!  I’ll also be posting on my own blog soon, about everything that went down there! (http://sressiambre.wordpress.com/)

For now though, I have a post that was inspired by our recent trip to Comic Con Montreal (Sam, Meli, Michelle, and I). And it’s all about great character writing!

Alright, so what is it about characters that make them so memorable?

On the surface, when wandering around Comic Con, I think it would appear that cool looking costumes and weapons are the sole reason for a cosplay choice.  Upon deeper speculation however, I think there’s much more to it.  I believe that good characters have the ability to capture the love of an audience, and that if well written, they can last for many years, even when the book/film in question is not in the spotlight.

Firstly, and perhaps the most popular costume choice is that of a superhero.  Everyone wishes to be more than they are at some point in their life.  Imagining that you can save the world, and protect those you care about? Who doesn’t think that would be great?

Now, when writing our protagonists, they will most likely be heroes and heroines of some sort.  Not always with powers, not always with disguises, but they are almost all inherently good at heart and want to take action to overcome the antagonist or obstacle in their way.  We want to write protagonists that our audience will cheer for.  And we want our audience to be able to empathize with them, and many times, wish to be them in some way (though not the situations we put our characters in!).

Next, villains! Writing good villains can be harder than writing our protagonists.  They can come out looking like stereotypes; card board cut outs of what evil looks like, with no redeeming qualities.  Though this type of monolithic evil can work occasionally, I have found that I prefer my villains be more complicated.  I think that a good antagonist had justified reasons for what they are doing, and that it should be less certain that they are wrong in their beliefs.  Having villains as complex and real as your antagonist is what’s going to make your story levels better, and stop it from falling flat.  It keeps readers on their toes, not always sure if good will actually conquer evil, and questioning even where the line between the two lies.

Some of my favourite characters are not necessarily good ones.  And of course, this is my time to once again rave over George RR Martin’s character building in his Song of Ice and Fire series (Game of Thrones, for the HBO viewers).

Though there are characters you hate (Joffrey, anyone?), many have gathered a following of fans.  Tywin Lannister, for one.  The things he does are so heart breaking to Stark fans, and yet he still commands a certain respect from readers who see he uses his skills to accomplish what’s best for his family (though the way he treats them is not particularly admirable).  Then there’s a character like Theon Greyjoy, who is so cowardly that he loses all respect, and yet still manages to get pity for the situation he’s in (though I’ll admit, I’m in the minority of those who actually enjoys his character and POVS).  And who can ignore a reader’s (and viewers) favourite: Tyrion Lannister.  Though he’s witty, and relatable, he has still done terrible things (read the books!) and it’s amazing that Martin can still make him so loveable.

The line between a protagonist and an antagonist is not always clear, and I’m sure that’s why the more complex characters are so much fun to choose for cosplay at an event like CC.

Lastly, I want to talk about the more obscure costumes I saw.  Which brings up the topic of secondary and minor characters.  They may seem insignificant, but in reality they run the story just as much as the main ones do.  Now, continuing on with Martin, there are so many characters that this point really becomes important.  A character like Beric Dondarrion may not be on as many pages as Tyrion, but he holds a lot of power and is a fan favourite because of his endurance and skill.  Jaqen H’ghar (a personal favourite) plays a seemingly small role in the books, but has a remarkable presence (I also believe he will have a much larger role in the next books).

Looking at JK Rowling’s Harry Potter series, it’s characters like Fred and George, Dobby, Luna and Neville (though I’d argue that they’re main characters by the end of the series) that make readers laugh and cry; sometimes more than I would for the main characters.  Writing good secondary and minor characters could make or break your story.  They can greatly influence the main plot, and can certainly capture the hearts of your readers just as much as your main characters.

So who are your favourite characters of all time? Why?

Do you prefer a more complex villain to a monolithic evil?

How do you go about writing diverse and riveting characters?

Let me know!

A book review should be my next post here.  Til then, hope you’re all enjoying yourselves! Feel free to recommend your favourite books to me!

Meli’s Nostalgic Tales: Cinder

Title: Cinder
Author: Marissa Meyer
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Type of book: Hardcover
Genre: Science fiction, dystopia, fantasy, young adult
Pages: 387

Once again I do bow down to the greatness of Goodreads, if there is one thing I regret is that I didn’t get to this book sooner. This is modern re-telling of Cinderella. Now I think one of the reasons I was so skeptical was because some of my fairytale re-telling normally don’t get executed to my expectation. Then I am left chucking another book against the wall. I joke. I don’t chuck disappointing books at walls, I chuck them at pillows.

What was great about this book is that while it took some of the similar approaches such as: horrible step mom, being treated like a slave, hopeless life, longing to go to the ball {although she claims that she would rather not}it still managed to make itself unique. For one, Cinder is an android! Now how cool is that?! But she would rather keep that on the down-low since her type of individual is frowned upon. She has a close friendship with one of stepsister, an upside to an unhappy home! Not to mention Cinder is a darn good even famous mechanic. Luckily or unluckily {still up for debate} she gets visited by Prince Kai {he makes‘em girls swoon people even had my heart racing a tad, but being a prince I suppose it just comes with the title} to repair a drone of his, a drone holding some important secrets. They are facing an invasion you see, in the guise of supernaturally-altered supreme beings called Lunar, and their queen who has some dark plans for planet earth.

Oh and there is a mysterious epidemic which is killing people off. It is a pretty bleak situation. -.-

This book is not all about action adventure, uncovering dark truths surrounding the Lunar and the mad doctor who perhaps isn’t so mad, although it is what keeps you turning the page >.<. Our main characters are each fighting for their own sense of freedom and struggling with the choice of doing what is best for them vs what it could mean for everyone. What I also enjoyed from this Cinderella was that she was head strong and won't shy away from doing what is right. I also felt that as the story progressed especially near the end she had reached a sense of maturity. For the first installment of this trilogy it left me crying out for more especially the way it ended. Also, should you decided to purchase this book there is a small bonus for the 2nd book Scarlet. Let me just say DELICIOUSNESS.

The time is ticking, Prince Kai is in danger and if Cinder doesn’t figure out how to stop the Lunar-race and their mutant army mankind will be exterminated. How exciting eh?!!