Judging A Book By Its Cover: Warren the 13th (The Whispering Woods)

This is my weekly post where I highlight and appreciate cover designs and the general physical appearance of books. We all judge book covers to some extent. I can’t say that I’ve ever decided against a book with terrible cover art if I liked the sound of the plot, but I do purchase special editions of books and multiple editions of books based on their cover art. If book covers didn’t matter, publishers wouldn’t put out so many beautiful editions!

Once again, I’m featuring a fabulously designed book that I haven’t read yet. Sigh. I have at least read the first book (you can see a review/Judging post here) and I do mean to get to the sequel soon, but then again, I say that about basically every book I own. Warren the 13th: The Whispering Woods, by Tania del Rio, is a middle-grade book illustrated and designed by Will Staehle (whose work is friggen awesome and many of his covers can be found in my collection) and published in 2017 by Quirk Books, ISBN: 9781594749292. I absolutely love the style of Staehle’s illustrations here and while I hate to say it’s Tim Burton-esque (because I’m SO over Burton, despite loving his early work), but it totally is. The typography is excellent as well and I even love the column-style setup. These have to be some of the best designed middle-grade books I’ve seen.

Chaos! Or, How I Organize My Books

If you came over my house to take a bookshelf tour, your first thought would probably be, “Wow, there’s a lot of books here.” Then it would probably be, “Wow, everything is pretty dusty…”

After you greeted our cats, I’d take you around to look at my nine shelves and you might begin to look for some semblance of order among our collection of roughly 1,800 tomes. You’d likely find none, and you’d be mostly correct.

Even after years of having our libraries merged, Sweetbeeps still can’t find books he’s looking for. But I, Queen Hoarder Supreme, do actually have some idea of where most books are despite some rather large reorganization sessions. I don’t always find it right away, but I generally know what shelf of what shelf a specific book is on, even if I haven’t read it (which is good because I haven’t read like, 700 of them. Oops.)

We do have one shelf downstairs that is solely for vintage books and I even did my best to organize it by color (because as much as I like to see those beautiful rainbow bookshelves, there’s no way in hell I’m separating authors and series for the sake of aesthetic!), but really that does us little good because we don’t actually READ these books. They’re just for show…and smell.

There are a few shelves that are themed, if you will. Some contain only historical fiction or middle-grade, but these aren’t all of our historical fiction or middle-grade – they’re still spread about the house. I also tried to keep all my comics/graphic novels together, but they don’t all fit on one shelf so even though they’re in the same room, they’re not all together. Anything I have multiple editions of (Jane Austen, Alice, The Hobbit) are all kept together and I always keep authors and series together. I even half of a shelf on a shelf that’s dedicated to short story collections.

But really, there are books of every genre everywhere and I have no hope of grouping them all together, nor any real desire to do so. What I’d really love is to alphabetize my collection – I think I’ve mentioned this before and it would require like, a literal library, because I would always need room for more books.

Instead what I have are books on top of books, in front of books, stacked horizontally and vertically and balanced precariously, crammed in with a bunch of decorations like pop figures, photos, boxes and artwork.

I’m not a library, and I will tell you that if you ever come over and ask to borrow a book, but I think I do a decent job of understanding the chaos that is my collection and I do think of myself as pretty good home librarian.

~

Tell me about your collection! How do you organize it? Do you like to group by genre, author, color, paperback/hardcover?

Cover Art Matters…At Least To Me

 

This post might come off as (incredibly) whiny to some of you, but if you can’t tell from my weekly Judging posts, I appreciate the cover art and overall design of my books. That’s not to say every book in my library must be pretty. In fact, I love used books and oftentimes when casually browsing, I’m not looking for specifics when it comes to cover art. However, there are several books that I collect multiple copies of, solely for their art and design and other times I see a pretty series or cover design and I want that one!

Recently, I saw the below edition of The Hobbit on someone’s Instagram (naturally I forget whose) and I wanted it.

I had the ISBN, so I went on Amazon and was happy to find it used from a third-party seller for a few bucks. I ordered it and alas, received a completely different cover variant, though the ISBN was the same. I’ve had it up to here (-jumps up in the air in an attempt to hold my hand waaaay higher than my head-) with trying to return stuff to Amazon (that’s a rant for another day) so I just left poor feedback for the seller saying that while the book was in the condition described, it wasn’t the edition I believed I was purchasing. Is that fair? I don’t know, but it seemed like the only place I could complain without requesting a refund because I didn’t want to bother with that.

The sellers kindly reached out to me the next day to explain that they don’t list the pictures, Amazon does. They did offer a refund and I declined and took down my negative feedback. But this is the problem – when buying a book online, the only way I can know what it looks like is by the pictures listed. If there are multiple cover variants and editions linked to the same ISBN that is another problem, but I also think that sellers have some responsibility to accurately display their products! I don’t know how many pages or what the measurements are of a book I’ve never seen physically before, so I have to trust that what the site is telling me is correct. The best way to do that is by the pictures they display. If those are wrong, how else can I verify that I’m getting the edition I want? It’s like, if you bought a blue sweater because that’s what the picture showed and you were sent green instead and the company said, “well all colors of this sweater have the same item number!”

Like an ass, I decided to try again, with a different seller. The book on the left is what I received from Amazon. The book on the right is from a seller on Abe Books! They both have the same ISBN! They’re not even the same size! Before I shelled out another handful of dollars on this edition from Abe Books, I did contact the seller and asked them to check the book and I described the cover art I was looking for. I received the following response:

“Thank you for your email! In order to help you make the best buying decision possible, we provide all the information you need right on the listing page of the book, on whatever market you prefer to shop. Usually, you can just click the title or the picture of the book to get to the details you need. Unfortunately, we do not have the ability to check condition or format specifics on every book. Please keep in mind that we list all items by ISBN when possible. If you are looking for a specific cover or edition, we would recommend locating the exact ISBN for that item.”

I didn’t bother to contact them further and just bought the book, pretty much knowing it would be wrong – and it was! Their response was less than helpful, as I already had the exact ISBN. I don’t know jack about how big this seller is or where their stock is in relation to the people who answer their emails, but it’s frustrating all the same. Amazon and other large booksellers can be frustrating and now I’m finding that dealing with different sellers and trying to support what I assume are smaller businesses, is making me just as angry as dealing with the big guys! Needless to say, I’ve given up on trying for that Hobbit unless I happen upon it at a used bookstore, which I feel is unlikely. (Side note: I don’t even see how to leave feedback for the seller and probably won’t bother using Abe Books again.)

In the midst of all this, I placed an Amazon order because my friends and family are awesome and gave me money to buy books. One of these books was Shiverton Hall – a book that sounds good and also looked lovely (HAHAHA stupid Milliebot).

Joke’s on me because guess what came in the mail?

Not only is this cover vastly different from what I ordered, it’s HIDEOUS! Look, if I’d never seen the other cover and came across this book in the store, I’d  buy it because it sounds interesting, but I’d grimace at the cover. But instead, I was shown a picture of a cover that I found to be very aesthetically pleasing and instead received…this….

Having the same situation happen to me over the course of like, two weeks, is just too much for my bratty brain to handle. What is going on!?

I realized afterward that this particular book was from a third party seller, but that seller was Book Depository! I’ve shopped on BD many times to purchase specific UK editions of books and have never received a cover other than what I ordered. The frustrating part is that when I put the ISBN for this book (which of course, is the same in the physical copy I received) on Book Depository, it brings me to the same cover art that’s listed on Amazon! HOW AM I SUPPOSED TO KNOW WHAT ISBN THE COVER ART I WANT BELONGS TO.

Here’s where I get extra crazy:

Amazon and Book Depository details:
Paperback: 256 pages
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Childrens (January 22, 2013)
ISBN-13: 978-1408827789
Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.6 x 8 inches

My book:
Paperback: 248 printed pages
Publisher: Bloomsbury
ISBN-13: 978-1408827789
Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.5 x 7.75 inches

The difference is small, between page count and dimensions, but it’s there. As a buyer, were I to purchase from either site, I have no way of proving that what they’ll send will match their cover art. I can’t be expected to do a vigorous internet search on an ISBN every time I want a specific edition. But even searching Google brings up the blue cover on Bloomsbury’s own site.

But even searching Shiverton Hall on Book Depository doesn’t show me the cover art I sell. I couldn’t buy this edition from their site if I tried. SO WHERE DID IT COME FROM!?

~

Ugh. I don’t want to rant about this anymore. What I want to know is, has this happened to any of you? Would you be as mad as I am if this happened? Please tell me I’m not alone! Alternately, tell me I’m being a whiny brat! Also alternately, tell me if you know the secret to ensuring you get the cover art you want and/or why ISBNs have different edition details linked to them.

Judging A Book By Its Cover: Frankenstein

This is my weekly post where I highlight and appreciate cover designs and the general physical appearance of books. We all judge book covers to some extent. I can’t say that I’ve ever decided against a book with terrible cover art if I liked the sound of the plot, but I do purchase special editions of books and multiple editions of books based on their cover art. If book covers didn’t matter, publishers wouldn’t put out so many beautiful editions!

This week I’m happy to feature another guest contribution from Zezee! You may recall a while back she sent me pictures of her copy of Lord of the Flies. Now I have the pictures she took of her utterly fabulous and grim edition of Frankenstein! All I’ve done is crop the images.

This is Gris Grimley’s Frankenstein or The Modern Prometheus – Assembled From the Original Text by Mary Shelley In Three Volumes. Published by Balzer + Bray, illustrated by Gris Grimly, ISBN: 9780061862977.

Book Review: The Bone Witch

pic from NetGalley

The Bone Witch
By Rin Chupeco

My Edition:
ARC ebook, 432 pages
2017, Sourcebooks Fire
ISBN: 9781492635826 (hardcover)

Tea discovers she has the power to raise the dead when her older brother crawls out of his grave during his funeral. While many people of her land have magic, including some of her sisters, few have Tea’s abilities as a bone witch (or dark asha) and the people of her town are both awed and scornful. Tea leaves home with her reanimated brother in tow to join an academy for asha and starts on the rough road to mastering her powers.

Let it be known that despite the fact that young adult books disappoint me more often than they impress me, I continue to give them a chance (and will continue to do so, because I’m a sucker for punishment). Unfortunately, this book fell into the former category and I stopped reading at about 75%. I wanted to post my thoughts on why I stopped reading because I did actually request the book.

The very first page of this book had me rolling my eyes. There are two perspectives in this book, one from young Tea as she tells her tale of how she started her journey as a witch and the other from some bard who seeks her out when she’s seventeen, living in exile on some beach (in a nicely furnished cave.) The book starts out with the bard glorifying her beauty (including her “pert nose”…), her incredible power and her special snowflakeness all before she turned eighteen. So basically, I hated Tea from the start. I know plenty of other genres have clichés like this, but they seem to manage to pull it off with more subtlety.

Despite wanting to chuck Tea off a cliff (also, come on, her sisters are all named for flowers and her brother is Fox, but she’s Tea?!) I did my best to keep an open mind as I dove into the seemingly complex magical world Chupeco created. But while Chupeco created a vast world with culturally diverse countries and what’s probably a lot of history, I found the world and the characters boring as all hell.

When Tea raises her brother from the dead it was pretty low impact, but the fact that this was her type of magic held some potential for me. Fox is the most human zombie I’ve ever encountered and also the most uninteresting one. Neither he nor Tea seemed to suffer any hardship despite Tea’s young age and ignorance to her own powers at the time. An older witch just comes along and takes them away so Tea can start her geisha-er-asha training. Also reanimated corpses cast no shadows…because reasons (like what even? Actual dead bodies would cast a shadow…). Maybe the last 25% of the book gave some explanation for this, but I doubt it.

Anyway, there’s very little of Tea’s cool powers in this book. It’s mostly her training to become an asha, who is really just a geisha with magic powers that no one ever seems to use. They dress in complicated clothing very much like kimonos (we hear endlessly about what everyone is wearing down to fabric colors and trim and stitching and other super special details and omg shut up), even down to the artwork and fabric choices being intentional and meaningful (granted, I don’t truly understand how asha clothing was meaningful in this book or how it impacted their powers or the plot or anything). They have singing, dancing and instrument lessons, on top of magical fighting classes. They entertain rich people in tea houses and show off their witty banter and political knowledge and they even have patrons. I actually just wanted to stop reading the book and re-read Memoirs of a Geisha because it’s more interesting.

But before Tea can practice becoming a geisha-er-asha, she’s forced to be a common maid in the house of one of the powerful old asha, because even though Tea’s powers are rare and useful, she is despised for no reason and must be punished for existing. Essentially everything I read was her being a maid or training, with little interludes from the bard talking about how sexy and dark and unusual and awesome and different and special older Tea is.

The other significant part of this story revolves around the heartstones everyone wears. I really have no friggen clue what they are. But everyone wears them around their necks and they change colors with their feelings. But you can give yours to the one you love (and receive them as well) but then that could give them control over you? And one of Tea’s sisters keeps giving hers away to different boys and so gets new ones and that seems to be no big deal, but then Heartforgers have to make new ones for people and they require random memories from other people and they’re expensive? So then where is Tea’s sister getting her new hearts? Witches have different hearts and falling in love can be dangerous but then, YOUR ACTUAL HEART DOESN’T CONTAIN OR CONTROL YOUR FEELINGS so why aren’t they brainstones? Ugh.

I’ll end this rant with some descriptions (remember Tea’s “pert nose!”) that had me groaning:

“She was young, in the way a woman of 60 might carefully tuck away the years around her to appear 20.” What!?

Our handsome prince has eyes like “gentle emeralds.” What even?

A monster was “fat and corpulent.” LOL

Something else (I forget if it was a monster or her dress or what) was “as black as shadows, as bright as stars.” K, thanks, bye.

Finally, I could take no more of boring Tea and her boring training and the vague hints of her supposedly awesome powers from our buddy the bard. I wanted more dead things coming back to life and a dark, troubled heroine who actually proved how cool she was. I’ve changed how I feel about DNFing books and I’ve found that it’s liberating to be free of a book that’s not giving me an ounce of enjoyment. At least Throne of (Gl)Ass was fun to make fun of! I have too many books to read and too little time to waste on ones I don’t enjoy. Sadly the premise didn’t live up to my expectations and after taking a peek at some of the reviews on Goodreads, it seems that FOR ONCE I’m not alone in this!

I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review. All opinions in this post are my own.
Rin does have a very pretty website.

Book Review: The Gunslinger

The Gunslinger (Dark Tower I)
By Stephen King

My Edition:
Paperback, 330 pages
2016, Pocket Books
ISBN: 9781501161803

Roland is chasing the man in black across an endless desert. The man has answers and Roland will do whatever it takes to get them so he can get to The Tower and save his world.

You guys, sorry, but I really can’t describe this book without like…giving away every detail in the story. This book is WEIRD. I’m going to assume most of you have at least heard of the series, if not already read it, but if not, the internet could probably give you a much better description.

I picked this book up because I saw the movie trailer (-yelling- Idriiiiisssssss!) and thought, “Hey, I need to read the series so I can properly hate the movie!” I already have opinions on what I think my opinion of the movie will be, but that’s not really relevant to this post, I suppose.

Let’s see if any of my notes on this story can be formed into a review and not spoil anything for those of you who still haven’t read this series (are you out there?) because I knew literally nothing going into it and I’m sure that’s best.

My favorite part of the whole book was how atmospheric it is. The desert Roland is trudging across, the small pockets of society he encounters, his flashbacks to his childhood – I felt like I was at every location. However, I was thoroughly confused when trying to build the rules of Roland’s childhood world (not the desert) in my head, because I felt the need to figure out whether it was its own point in time or perhaps some sort of dystopian future or even an alternate version of our own world. Once I told myself to let go of this habit and take things page for page, I was less lost, though still pretty puzzled.

The characters were less endearing. Roland is a weird mix of emotionally detached and fond of reminiscing about his childhood. He’s also apparently the only sexy guy left in the desert because the few females he encounters totally want to bone him. He also has a quirky language that only makes itself apparent occasionally. He mentions High Speech and Low Speech and sometimes sounds ye-olde-y and then also uses words like ‘ka’ which I haven’t quite figured out the meaning of (fate perhaps?). also he says ‘yar’ sometimes instead of ‘yes’ and all I could think of was Michael from Hot Fuzz (anyone?!) The man in black was intriguing but we don’t get a lot of information about him, so I’m hoping future books shed more light on the subject.

I’m in the middle of the road when it comes to my overall feelings on the book. I thought I would be more impressed or whatever and less confused.

If you’re interested in a high fantasy style quest, set in a semi-medieval desert (where people wear jeans and corduroys and sing Beatles songs) with a gun-slinging protagonist who is incredibly single-minded and near magically gifted at shooting the shit out of everything, then you may enjoy at least the first book in this series. I’m partway through the second book as I write this and I’m not sure what my overall opinion will be, but if you’re interested in the Dark Tower series, it’s probably worth checking out.

Bonus review:

As it turns out, my friend Melissa and I happened to read this at the same time without planning it. So she’s given her thoughts on the book as well!

“This book reminded me of The Stand, lots of walking. I enjoyed the flashbacks and backstory building, but am still left with a lot of questions and theories. I look forward to seeing how everything comes together in future books. It’s definitely a ‘Stephen King’ book because of the nature of some of the more graphic and sexual scenes; they aren’t usually my style so I could do without those parts. 3.5 stars because of all the questions I have.”

Judging A Book By Its Cover: Cinderella

This is my weekly post where I highlight and appreciate cover designs and the general physical appearance of books. We all judge book covers to some extent. I can’t say that I’ve ever decided against a book with terrible cover art if I liked the sound of the plot, but I have purchased special editions of books or multiple editions of books based on their cover art. If book covers didn’t matter, publishers wouldn’t put out so many beautiful editions!

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Camille Rose Garcia needs to illustrate EVERY FAIRYTALE EVER. Her work is so gothically fabulous. I want her to illustrate me!fairytale by Charles Perrault, illustrated by Camille Rose Garcia (

The Cinderella fairytale is by Charles Perrault, illustrated by Camille Rose Garcia (kweeeeen!), jacket design by Roberto de Vicq de Cumptich, published in 2015 by Harper Design. ISBN: 9780062333919.

Book Review: Sophie Someone

Sophie Someone
By Hayley Long

My Edition:
Hardcover, 258 pages
2017, Candlewick Press
ISBN: 9780763689957

Fourteen-year-old Sophie Nieuwenleven has lived in Belgium for almost as long as she can remember, though she knows her family left England. As the past begins to catch up with them, Sophie starts piecing together details from her past until her family’s terrible secret is revealed and it changes everything she thinks she knows about herself. So Sophie tells her story, but in the only way she feels comfortable – in her own language.

I wasn’t expecting the writing to be so stylized, so right off the bat I was confused. Sure, the back of the book mentions Sophie telling her story in the only way she knows how, but I wasn’t paying attention to the back of the book, was I? (No. No I wasn’t.)

So we have a sort of…modified English where certain words are swapped out for completely different (yet for the most part, essentially similar and mostly coherent) words, creating what appears to be gibberish at first. Examples include “hashtag” for hand, “quibble” for question, “Mambo and Donny” for Mom and Dad, “pigeon” for person, and “supernova” for suitcase. My first thought was that I was just reading a bunch of nonsense and it was frustrating.

However, as I made my way through the book, Sophie’s words, while still silly sounding, started to make a weird sort of sense to me. It’s clear that Long put a lot of thought into her…er…translations. There were still some words that threw me and I did spend the whole book mentally translating each replacement word I encountered. Had I been able to let go of that, I might have had an easier time reading, but I just HAD to know what the words really meant. At times this probably took me away from the story, but that’s just how my mind works.

This is a great story if you can get past the language and Sophie was funny and endearing. This is among the more original contemporary middle-grade novels I’ve encountered and if you’re looking for something different, I highly suggest this.

Also, the cover art is beautiful, see pictures below!

I received this book for free from LibraryThing in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review. All opinions in this post are my own.
Hayley is super adorable and has a cute little site.

A Booktastic Anniversary

April 29th was my one year wedding anniversary and my husband booked us two nights in this fabulous B&B in Camden, Maine (which was actually a suggestion from my maid of honor, so without her, we never would have found the place!) called the Norumbega Inn.

We stayed in their library suite, which is so appropriate. The room is where the original library is located and has a balcony that spans the top half of the room with a ton of vintage books! We also had a little room with a gas fireplace (where Sweetbeeps would read in the mornings because he gets up earlier than me.) When we arrived we got a little history lesson about the place, but of course, I don’t remember much. But I know this mansion (castle?!) was built in 1886 by some guy who invented something (haha yep) and it was a private home until the mid-80s. I also know it’s the coolest B&B I’ve ever been to (she says, having only been to one other) and I had the best food there I’ve had in my life and we definitely plan to return.

Camden is a cute little town by the water with quite a few shops to check out….though some get pricey because of tourists and vacationers. There’s hiking in the area, but we didn’t end up doing that because it was still fairly cold. Anyway, on to the pictures….be prepared, there are a TON:

                                                       That fog so atmospheric!

                                           That cage needs a peacock, doesn’t it?

                                       A doggo!

                              Get ready for all your woodworking dreams to come true

                                                                  Soooo delicious!

                               I totally made Sweetbeeps touch that statue’s boob

                                       Even our doorknob was well designed!

                                     Our little side room…and a small view of the main room.

                                                               The view from bed!

                                                                I really love this shelf.

                                          Booooooks!

                                            This book maybe came home with me…….. 

                                                         Just casually browsing….

                                                          Me: Look like you’re browsing. Him…

                                                                       He thinks he’s funny.

                                                                   Found us in book form.

There were four bookstores downtown and naturally, we went to all of them!

                                                  Basically all vintage, but pretty pricey!

                             Super cute, but more of a cafe with small book selection.

                                  Too crowded to focus.

                          Half a toy store, but decent selection!

Judging A Book By Its Cover: Madame Two Swords

This is my weekly post where I highlight and appreciate cover designs and the general physical appearance of books. We all judge book covers to some extent. I can’t say that I’ve ever decided against a book with terrible cover art if I liked the sound of the plot, but I have purchased special editions of books or multiple editions of books based on their cover art. If book covers didn’t matter, publishers wouldn’t put out so many beautiful editions!

Somewhat recently I got it in my head to search for a signed Tanith book – why didn’t I think of this idea sooner? No clue! I’m not always that smart xD

I was able to score this beauty off eBay – it was one of the only reasonably priced ones at the time – and while Tanith’s signature is a diddly friggen squiggle, I DON’T CARE BECAUSE SHE IS MY GODDESS. At least I own something of hers that’s signed now and this is a neat edition because it’s also signed by the illustrator (Thomas Canty) and numbered and it’s a first edition. It’s a 1988 (great year!) edition, published by Donald M. Grant, ISBN: 0937986798. The cover even has some nice gold accents that were frustratingly hard to capture.