The Cover Wars

When Elizabeth and her unusual and fearless friend Zenobia arrive at Witheringe House, peculiar things begin to happen.

Especially in the forbidden East Wing.

The flowers and vines of the wallpaper sometimes seem to be alive.

A mirror has a surface like the water of a pond.

And an old book tells a different story after midnight.

Zenobia is thrilled by the strangeness, but Elizabeth is not so bold…

Until she makes a mysterious and terrifying discovery.

Janet: Interesting how facial expressions make a difference. Going solely on the cover, the blonde (Elizabeth?) is a victim to the black-haired one (Zenobia’s) power; despite their positions side by side, both ensnarled by the wall-vines, their faces express sharply contrasting relationships to what is going on. The back copy doesn’t give a ton, but who doesn’t love creepy old houses? I’d glance at the first few pages.

Jane: Boooooo. Make the blond, prim, dainty one the danger-loving bad girl and the raven-haired, darkly dressed girl the shy, nervous one. Come on, play against type just for once, why don’t you. Though wow, what an awesome name! I would love to be named Zenobia. Spooky old house with dark secrets, there really isn’t too much about this that seems all that unique and special, but like Janet I might scan a page or two.

Nafiza: I ADORE their expressions. Also, I have this book so I will be reviewing it soon (in a month or two) on here. I ALSO REALLY LIKE THIS COVER. I dunno. I tworks for me.

Yash: Fun fact, my favourite Indian restaurant in Singapore used to have a dish called Zenobia and that’s all I can think about and now I’m very, very hungry. *clears throat* Anyway, I don’t love this cover. It’s just the style, I think. I’m not into it. Looking at the cover, I feel like I know this story (even though, I don’t) and reading the synopsis, I know it won’t hold my interest.

Star-crossed lovers, meddling immortals, feigned identities, battles of wits, and dire warnings. These are the stuff of fairy tale, myth, and folklore that have drawn us in for centuries.

Fifteen bestselling and acclaimed authors reimagine the folklore and mythology of East and South Asia in short stories that are by turns enchanting, heartbreaking, romantic, and passionate.

Compiled by We Need Diverse Books’s Ellen Oh and Elsie Chapman, the authors included in this exquisite collection are: Renee Ahdieh, Sona Charaipotra, Preeti Chhibber, Roshani Chokshi, Aliette de Bodard, Melissa de la Cruz, Julie Kagawa, Rahul Kanakia, Lori M. Lee, E. C. Myers, Cindy Pon, Aisha Saeed, Shveta Thakrar, and Alyssa Wong.

A mountain loses her heart. Two sisters transform into birds to escape captivity. A young man learns the true meaning of sacrifice. A young woman takes up her mother’s mantle and leads the dead to their final resting place. From fantasy to science fiction to contemporary, from romance to tales of revenge, these stories will beguile readers from start to finish. For fans of Neil Gaiman’s Unnatural Creatures and Ameriie’s New York Times–bestselling Because You Love to Hate Me.

Janet: How does that amazing cover manage to look like doors floating in space, and like the windows of an apartment building, both at once? The flowing art style and colour scheme are just lovely. The back confirms this as a must-read. I can’t wait!

Jane: I really wish short stories weren’t such a hard sell, because this collection sounds fascinating. I’ll still pick this one up and try and book talk the heck out of it, but alas, far too many teens associate short stories with school and won’t touch them with a ten foot pole. Still, this is probably so different from anything they’ve ever read in school (it’s neither based in a European traditional nor written by dead men) that it might just have enough novelty to give me an in when book talking it!

Nafiza: Jane, I was the same way when I was younger. Short stories didn’t seem to be my thing. They still aren’t my fave but I will read this one and love the heck out of it because ugh, I just love the premise. The cover is gorgeous and I want it already. Why don’t I have it already?

Yash: I love short stories and I’ve already pre-ordered it. AND THE COVER IS FREAKING GORGEOUS. I’m especially looking forward to reading Shveta Thakrar’s story. I feel like the short story game is something she dominates at.

Take a journey through time and genres and discover a past where queer figures live, love and shape the world around them. Seventeen of the best young adult authors across the queer spectrum have come together to create a collection of beautifully written diverse historical fiction for teens. 

From a retelling of Little Red Riding Hood set in war-torn 1870s Mexico featuring a transgender soldier, to two girls falling in love while mourning the death of Kurt Cobain, forbidden love in a sixteenth-century Spanish convent or an asexual girl discovering her identity amid the 1970s roller-disco scene, All Out tells a diverse range of stories across cultures, time periods and identities, shedding light on an area of history often ignored or forgotten.

Janet: I don’t love the cover, but I must admire how it uses an old-fashioned-looking art style and justaposition of modern and historical images – the dude with the guitar; the girls? spirits? and the rocketship. And I really, really like that this collection is by queer authors writing queer characters back into history and fairy tales. Tbr, yes!

Jane: Oh my giddy aunt, why oh why didn’t we have collections like this when I was a teenager?!?! I mean, I’m so glad that they’re coming out now, but man, what I wouldn’t have given to have a collection like this when I was in high school. I don’t love the cover either, but I love how inclusive the stories seem to be, there’s such a variety of sexual and gender identities included, and in such a variety of settings, I’m giddy just thinking about it!

Nafiza: Jane and Janet have said everything I want to. I do like the cover. I hope this is hardcover because I feel like this cover needs to be hardcover. It has such an old-school feel to it.

Yash: I love this cover. It may be my favourite of this week’s because I always found old fantasy illustrations pretty, but they always featured straight, white people and this one does not. I love the title and the way the authors’ names are presented. I love the idea behind this book–a book people have needed for so long–and I can’t wait to read it.

Life is quiet and ordinary in Amal’s Pakistani village, but she had no complaints, and besides, she’s busy pursuing her dream of becoming a teacher one day. Her dreams are temporarily dashed when–as the eldest daughter–she must stay home from school to take care of her siblings. Amal is upset, but she doesn’t lose hope and finds ways to continue learning. Then the unimaginable happens–after an accidental run-in with the son of her village’s corrupt landlord, Amal must work as his family’s servant to pay off her own family’s debt.

Life at the opulent Khan estate is full of heartbreak and struggle for Amal–especially when she inadvertently makes an enemy of a girl named Nabila. Most troubling, though, is Amal’s growing awareness of the Khans’ nefarious dealings. When it becomes clear just how far they will go to protect their interests, Amal realizes she will have to find a way to work with others if they are ever to exact change in a cruel status quo, and if Amal is ever to achieve her dreams.

Janet: The back copy is really not where I thought the cover was going to go. The cover itself is bewitching: the top half so lovely and light-hearted, all folk art and possibility; the bottom half all ominous with those binding thorns on vines that at once resemble ropes and barbed wire. The first sentence of the synopsis is tangled up in contradicting tenses; that said, the synopsis achieves its goal of raising curiosity and pulling me toward the impulse to read this.

Jane: Oh, I think I’ve seen a different cover for this? The title sounds familiar. Ugh, that first sentence bothers me, I just want to take a pen and correct it. Still, what a beautiful cover. The colours are so striking, and I love the way the book, together with the bird, signifies freedom, the freedom that comes through eduction. I really, really that this story has a happy ending, because my heart is already breaking for Amal, and though I know that millions of girls around the world share her struggles, I don’t know if I could handle it if she doesn’t achieve her dreams.

Nafiza: The back copy is kinda clunky and oversharing but it has me caring for Amal and hating on the Khans. I’m thinking Bollywood and giving them villainous mustaches. I have a cousin called Nabila. I must tell her about this book. I shall read this.

Yash: I love this cover so much. I think when they did a cover reveal, they even gif’d it and I’ve loved the cover since then. I had no idea what the book was about though, until now. And I’m very intrigued. I genuinely don’t think I’ve read a single book set in Pakistan, which is all kinds of disappointing. I shall definitely be starting with this one.

In this second book of Madeleine Roux’s expansive gothic horror series, illustrations from artist Iris Compiet and chilling photographs help bring to life a world where the line between monsters and men is ghostly thin.

After the frightful events of last autumn, seventeen-year-old Louisa Ditton has settled into her role as a maid at Coldthistle House, but she has not settled into what that means for her humanity.

As Louisa struggles to figure out whether she is worthy of redemption, the devilish Mr. Morningside plans a fete— one that will bring new guests to Coldthistle House. From wicked humans to Upworlders, angelic beings who look down upon Mr. Morningside’s monstrous staff, all are armed with their own brand of self-righteous justice.

Even a man claiming to be Louisa’s father has a role to play, though what his true motive is, Louisa cannot tell. The conflicts will eventually come to a head on the grounds of Coldthistle House—and the stakes include Louisa’s very soul.

Janet: Argh. The cover is beautiful and tantalizing… and the back cover continually disappoints. The idea of a (mortal?) working as a maid for a house of monstrous beings is fun, but the rest is heavy-hearted and tiresomely cliche. Oh no, everyone is bad and self-serving and no one is good. Why would I bother reading this?

Jane: So…this doesn’t really mean all that much to me. I don’t know any of these characters, or anything about this world, so alas it’s all just Greek to me. The cover is eery, though, and I wish more novels included illustrations – there’s this unspoken rule that illustrations are only for “children” and have no place in “real” books, which is just a load of hooey, since well-done illustrations can add so much to a story.

Nafiza: The cover is beautiful. I didn’t expect the back copy to be so confused but it makes sense since it is the second in a series. I don’t know. It doesn’t quite appeal to me right now but perhaps I need to read the first book to know where everything is going.

Yash: I haven’t read anything else by this author, but uh, that tagline makes me want to. The rest of the cover doesn’t really do anything for me. But “they remain after death”? Yes, I give this book permission to scare me silly.

Since she was seven years old, Yvonne has had her trusted violin to keep her company, especially in those lonely days after her mother walked out on their family. But with graduation just around the corner, she is forced to face the hard truth that she just might not be good enough to attend a conservatory after high school.

Full of doubt about her future, and increasingly frustrated by her strained relationship with her successful but emotionally closed-off father, Yvonne meets a street musician and fellow violinist who understands her struggle. He’s mysterious, charming, and different from Warren, the familiar and reliable boy who has her heart. But when Yvonne becomes unexpectedly pregnant, she has to make the most difficult decision yet about her future.

Janet: Another argh. The first paragraph of the back copy is so good! The second devolves. May I institute a rule? Characters may no longer be described as “mysterious”. It is lazy and cheap. Mysterious ought to be a rare and mysterious word full of majesty and velvety darkness, the longed-for unknown, the wind through the cracks in the door. Mysterious ought not be thrown around, squandered on every potential love interest who crosses the pages of a novel, as if “mysterious” were as dime-a-dozen a quality as charm, or nice hair, or an easy grin. (None of which are actually qualities, by the way. That is how far “mysterious” has been debased.) // Rant over. The cover art is neat, wish we could see all her face, but maybe that’s the point, since the eyes are supposed to be the windows to the soul and all that. Will complain, however, that if Yvonne’s pregnancy is in the synopsis it is hardly unexpected to the reader. On the other hand! The first paragraph is so good, I have to hold out hope that it is more reflective of the storytelling than the second. I’d read the first few pages to decide.

Jane: Please oh please oh please don’t have the heroine choose to marry one of the two love interests because she’s pregnant, oh please oh please oh please. We rarely see female characters get abortions or give their babies up for adoption, and it would actually be very refreshing to see a pregnant character consider these options. And what’s wrong with familiar and reliable, anyway? Why are those words so often used almost insultingly? Can’t reliable and familiar people also be charming?

Nafiza: If I could have a penny every time a book was described as mysterious >.< I actually would like to read this to see what Yvonne does. I am not much of a fan of the cover but please let Yvonne be all right.

Yash: Despite the face being cropped out, I do love this cover. The colours are just so warm and I love the use of the necklace for the title. I haven’t read Colbert yet, so I guess I’m starting here. I’m not sure I’m ready for the heartache, but I do want to know more about Yvonne.