Cover Love: October Edition

October 16, 2011 at 12:11 pm (Cover Love) (, , , , , , )

And it’s back! Got a mix for you today as far as release dates go, some out now and some that don’t even have a release date yet, but there are a couple of them that may have made me bounce up and down in my chair and squeal like a little girl when I saw them, so without further ado: ta-da!

I loved the cover for Kendare Blake’s Anna Dressed in Blood. It was all eerie shades of white and grey with a few vibrant strokes of black, and eye-catching violent sweeps of red. It told you right off the bat that this was a ghost story, and a violent one. Well, Anna’s back on the cover of Girl of Nightmares (no release date yet) and- just a guess- I’d say she’s back with a vengeance.

This cover is like a photo negative of the first. Here it’s the reds that hold most of the page, with darker shapes in the distance that make it unclear if we’re going through a hellscape or mountains. Either way, the cliff edges are tall and curling in, almost claustrophobic, and clearly an indication of danger. My guess would be hellscape, given the not-entirely there figures in the foreground, reaching for Anna. Here’s the question, though: are they reaching to her for help? Or to offer more danger? You can’t really tell from her face or her body language; if she’s afraid, she isn’t showing it. Her exact expression is hard to define- it could be a lot of things- and the way she’s holding out her hand is equally ambiguous. Is she extending an invitation? Or a dare? Just as the use of red in the first cover drew your eye to the bloodstains, here it’s the unexpected white of Anna’s dress that pulls in your attention. A sweet girl in a cute white dress…in a hellscape? It almost dares you to find out why. Sadly, we’ll probably we waiting until August for this one.

Here we’re going to switch to a contemporary (I know, how often do I do that, right?) but this is one that held be spellbound when I first saw the cover.

At first glance, it’s easy to miss what this is. An x-ray of a flower, maybe, or a magnified fractal image of a snowflake. But look again- those are dancers. People made to look so identical that they all blur together into a single design. Welcome to the world of ballet. It isn’t just the image is harmonious. It isn’t just that the repeating pattern lulls the eye into tracing the arms. Fractals are intriguing, they’re soothing. Here the image is delicate and elegant- and also a little frightening. Because again: THOSE ARE PEOPLE. And to create an image like they, they sacrificed all individuality, everything unique about them, to blend against the larger design. Ever watched a ballet and wondered how they survive being made to dance all the same? What about making your life all the same as well? I don’t normally go for contemporary, but this cover alone is enough to make me want to read this book. Bunhead, by Sophie Flack, is out in stores now.

To those familiar with this next author, this cover is QUITE a switch from her others- which gives some interesting promise that the story will be, as well.

I love instruments of time on covers. Hourglasses, watches, clocks, even sundials, anything that gives the impression that time is of the essence. That being said, I don’t know that I’ve ever seen it come across in such a fantastically creepy manner. It isn’t just that the hourglass is filled with sand rather than blood- it’s that there’s blood on the outside of the glass, too. The two pieces are nearly equal in volume so whatever’s happening, there is a balance to it. Hourglasses, once empty, turn over to start the new process. But given that blood, unlike sand, is a perishable substance- do you suppose it needs to be replaced once it runs out? I love the background here, largely because it gives the ghost of images without destracting from the main focus. The vine-like designs in the upper corners, the suggestion of a face on the left side. It doesn’t pull from the hourglass in the way a busier background might, but neither does it detract in the way a completely plain background would. It is, like the levels of blood in the hourglass, the perfect balance. Every Other Day, the first of a new series by Jennifer Lynn Barnes, is out December 27th of this year.

Ready for the next one?

Starting at the top of the cover of Fracture by Megan Miranda, we get a winterscape, cold and grey, skeletal trees caught between slumbering and dying, with a light dusting of snow. Bleak, relentless, frigid…already not a promising sight. Then, as our eyes travel down to the base of the cover, we see what might be a ghost, might be a reflection, of a girl. Her face is expressionless, caught in that same in-between aspect as the trees beyond her. Then, just a little further down, we see the girl herself, caught against the sheet of ice on the lake in such a way that she might almost be under it. She isn’t- but she might have been once, leaving behind the ghost or the echo or the reflection of the girl who looks back at her. Despite the parka, there’s something cold to her- something that has a lot to do with why she’s lying on snow or ice out in the middle of the woods. This is a book where Death is a constant shadow, reaching out a hand as skeletal as the bare trees to try to keep what it has claimed. What we’ll have to discover is what the consequences of escaping Death once might be. This comes out 17 January 2012, right in the dead of winter.

Last one for today, one I have been looking forward to so, SO much.

Even before you read the jacket copy, you know Marie Lu’s Legend has a military rigidity to it. It’s all polished steel like a gun barrel, with stark, sharp-edged contrast in the form of antique gold like medals and insignia. And that’s it. Spartan, severe, no frills or extra colors, it’s like a punch to the stomach if you step out of line. We are not going to go into this book expecting softness and cuddles. Look at the actual insignia though. The left side of it forms a stylized R (presumably for Republic), but look at the right side. In order to maintain the design, in order to keep the visual appeal without disrupting the identifiable nature of the R, there’s a free-floating piece. Essential to the design, but probably rather difficult to pin in place. Necessary, but troublesome. That free-floating piece? That’s our story. How that free-floating piece works within the larger design, the fragility of a portion without connection to the whole, that’s what we’re diving into the gun barrel to find out. If you’re like me, 29 November 2011 can’t come quickly enough.

Any covers you’ve seen in the past month that you want to share? Anything out now or upcoming that you think sells you on trying the book? Share below!

Until next time~
Cheers!

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Book Review: Anna Dressed in Blood, by Kendare Blake

September 14, 2011 at 10:00 am (Book Reviews) (, , , , )

Theseus Cassio Lockwood is a fairly typical teenager. He likes to talk to cute girls, surf the web, hunt and dispatch ghosts…Okay, maybe not a typical teenager. After his father was murdered by a ghost, Cas took up his athame and contacts. Now he and his mother, a white witch, travel from place to place so he can dispatch the ghosts that claim people’s lives, honing his skills until- unbeknownst to his mother- he can go after the one that got his dad. He figures one more ghost and he’ll be ready.
But Anna Dressed in Blood is unlike any ghost he’s ever heard of before, posssessed of strange powers and the deep compulsion to tear apart any who enter her house. And this time, Cas won’t be able to do it alone.
Even though he’d really, really like to.

When I was in elementary school, maybe even into middle school, I used to sit at the back of the bus with friends on field trips and take turns reading aloud from Steven Schwartz’ Scary Stories collections. Especially when we were traveling at night, or when the Girl Scouts or Boy Scouts (I was both, believe it or not) were settled in for the night on camp outs. Read during the day or by the wrong people, there was something incredibly cheesy- and therefore side-splittingly funny- about those stories, but at night, in the hands of the right kind of reader, they would scare us spitless. (And then, of course, there would always be that one kid who started crying and ran to the teachers/chaperones/scoutmasters and ruined it for everyone until they actually started forbidding the books on trips)

When I picked up Anna Dressed in Blood, that’s kind of what I was expecting. Something a little scary, a little cheesy, a way to pass an afternoon but not something to linger.

Dear Lord, was I ever wrong.

Step back for a moment to just look at the book. Isn’t that a great cover? It’s eerie and intriguing, with just the right amount of color to it, slightly spooky without trying too hard. Then you open to the first page…and the writing is in red. Dark red, so it’s not hard on the eyes (think the same color red as Forever by Maggie Stiefvater) but definitely red. Given the amount of blood in the book, that was a brilliant choice, one that really helps set the mood.

Cas narrates for us, teaching us a lot about his world of ghosts without too many info dumps. Ghosts are a part of his everyday life, not just the ability to see them, but also to know whether they’re harmless (the old lady who visits her grave but never hurts anyone) or…you know, dangerous. He gets the spirit world. It’s the human world he’s less connected to. People are sources of information, obstacles to be worked around, or- worst case scenario- victims. He has contacts, not friends, and he likes it that way. Much to his mother’s chagrin.

Then comes Thunder Bay and a totally different set-up. His usual MO is to find the queen bee in each new school, finagle his way into a steady source of gossip about the local ghosts, and get the job done as quickly as possible. This queen bee, Carmel, is surprisingly real and down-to-earth, with a jealous ex-boyfriend more than willing to try and scare Cas with the locak spook stories. Then there’s Thomas, a school outcast with mild telepathy and black witch skills. (Don’t let the name fool you; black magic refers to the skill set, not the good-evil alliance).

The jealous ex gives Cas exactly the opportunity he needs to see Anna Dressed in Blood for the first time, and that introduction does not go well. He escapes with his life, as well as some gashes and bruises, but he’s the lucky one.

Still, Anna Korlov is unlike anything Cas has encountered, and her existence and her powers go against everything he’s learned to expect. In order to dispatch Anna, he’s going to have to figure out who killed her and how, and what else they did.

As a narrator, Cas is a fun one to ride along with. Sometimes his voice gets a little old (like when he describes a young woman as havin a future in owning a ton of sweaters and a house full of cats), something we especially see in how he describes his mother. He loves his mother and is very aware of both her support for her and her weaknesses since his father died, but that very understanding is rather unique for a teenager, and sometimes comes off as a little too perceptive. There’s no question that his father’s death made Cas decide to grow up fast, but there’s a difference between growing up by tackling a hard duty and simply sounding too old.

The other main characters make for a charmingly eclectic bunch. Carmel has all the social skills of the queen bee and the sense of reality of a plucky heroine, along with the ‘what the hell is going on’ vulnerability that gives her just a hint of the damsel in distress that Thomas would dearly love to rescue. Thomas himself is adorably scruffy, kind of like the shaggy puppy you really want to take home and feed and bathe- and then adopt as a pet. Thomas’ grandfather gives some well-earned words of wisdom about their ventures, while Cas’ mother maintains a steady reserve of worried confidence. If that sounds like a contradiction, trust me, it isn’t. Tybalt is a strong character in his own right, and rather reminds me of my roommate’s cat. Very selective ownership, selective dignity, selective affection…in other words, a cat.

And then there’s Anna. Anna is…Anna is…Anna is rather hard to describe without giving things away. She’s amazing. She’s complicated and multi-faceted, and she absolutely draws you in to her world. As invested as we become into the story, we become even more invested in Anna.

The story is by turns tense, sweet, wry, ridiculous, terrifying, dark, and- in some ways- incredibly uplifting. To speak too much to the details is to risk spoilers, and I don’t want to ruin anything for you.

Just…don’t read it alone at night, okay?

Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake. Check it out!

Until next time~
Cheers!

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