the cover will judge…

It’s not every morning that sees me flea-bombing my bedroom, going to Mickey D’s for breakfast, and then buying another Akubra hat at the saddlery shop. Before someone freaks out, there’s no infestation in my room, let’s just say the bomb was precautionary. So let that be a lesson to all of you people that let your cats sleep in your desk chairs. I don’t let them, actually, but judging by the coating of white hair I found when I returned from Christmas vacation, that must’ve been the situation. Hopefully, this wasn’t necessary, and the paranoia will soon recede. Along with the bites on my feet.

I won’t fill you in on the cleanup job, with no air-conditioning on in my room. I’ll just point out that it’s 85 degrees out, I’m on the second floor, and the humidity is around 70%. You get the picture. I am now comfortably cool, with the air back on, and waiting for the laundry to finish its cycle, so I can put in the next load.

But as I soak in the cold air (and try to shake that crawly feeling), let’s get to the point of my post. I’ve probably harped on this issue in the past, but no matter. They say that “you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover”. I’ve been known to say that “you shouldn’t judge a book by its genre”. But the truth remains that if you are waffling over buying a certain book, the cover art could be the deciding factor. So, the cover art shouldn’t be the only thing to prejudice you for or against a book, but a rotten cover will cause people to walk past it, without a second glance.

Consider the book VIII, by H. M. Castor. When I came across it, I found the title intriguing, and I really liked the look of the artwork, with those blue eyes staring out over the book title. The first thing the title brought to mind was Henry VIII, but surely this couldn’t be about him? In fact, it is, and it’s a fictional tale of young Henry’s growing up years, and how he went from virtuous and honorable to being a murderer and possibly insane. I find the premise of this interesting, because I’ve never liked the character of Henry VIII, though some recent movies and TV shows try to make him seem more than the fat, evil man that he was.

But I’ll be the first to admit that I love a good book and I like history, so if the author grounded this tale in fact, then it could be a tale that would even (temporarily) make me sympathetic to the lusty king, and interested in reading more about that time period. Let’s remember, though, no matter how a book or movie manages to make an evil person more appealing, we should remember that they made their own choices. Maybe they were led down a wrong path by someone who meant it for good or ill, but that doesn’t excuse them from the consequences of their actions.

Oh, and by the way, when I looked VIII up on Amazon, I got a cover that had a bloody axe on it, which would immediately have turned me off to the story, without ever looking to see what the VIII stood for. I probably would assume it was a mystery involving a serial axe murderer, and therefore, I wouldn’t be interested. So, there’s a lot to say for a good cover.

I wrote some of the books down, this time, so I wouldn’t forget them, so I had more to look up. When I dug for Louisa May Alcott: The Woman Behind Little Women, by Harriet Reisen, on Amazon, I found a much more benign looking cover picture than this one. The vaguely mysterious image of a woman with her hair tied by a ribbon, it makes you wonder more about this person. What will she look like, in feature (or in writing)?

The cover art for the Amazon copy was a hand-drawn picture of a girl skipping rope, or something like that. Beautifully drawn, mind you, but it makes you think this will be a child’s story. It could easily be shelved in the kids’ book section, by accident. The Aussie cover makes you think that there may be more to Alcott than you’d ever known before… and you’d be right, as she wrote many gothic novels before she wrote Little Women, as well as working as a Civil War nurse. A nun she was not.

Recently, I bought a 3-in-1 collection of Enid Blyton’s The Faraway Tree books, but I still haven’t read them yet. I’m going to, really! But when I returned to Blossoms, I found that they were also selling Blyton’s collection of The Wishing Chair books. I resisted buying this one, but it made me want read the previous ones, soon. I find the cover art to be downright magical, and it makes you believe the stories will be full of charms and delights, too. Every review I’ve read of Blyton’s work seems to agree with that. Blessings on the author (or publisher) for finding a cover artist that does such delightful drawings. You see the flowers and whizzing stars, as an elf and two children fly along in their chair, with a castle behind them and a  mushroom house ahead. Wouldn’t every child want to be able to travel to such a place, in the seat of a magical wishing chair?

A Rose for the ANZAC Boys, by Jackie French, is a book that I’ve been wanting to read, for some time now. Of course, being in Australia has caused me to be interested in all books that tell about this great country, whether it’s fun and fictional (The Magic Pudding, The Muddleheaded Wombat), set in a realistic future (Tomorrow The War Begins), or tells about their history (The Fatal Shore). French’s book is historical fiction, but heavily researched, and written to make you feel like you were there. It’s the story of a girl from New Zealand, sent to school in England, who when the Great War begins, she and two of her friends start a canteen for soldiers. It looks like a book that will take you right into what it was like to help look after soldiers (whether in a canteen, nursing, or driving an ambulance) on the front, during WWI. For a history buff who’s interested in ANZAC (Australia and New Zealand Army Corps) history, this is a good place to start. I’m also the type to look through an author’s references for something else to read next.

And even if you’d never heard of the ANZACs, wouldn’t that cover cause you to pick the book up? The girl looking over her shoulder, her hair blowing, and the outline of the soldiers walking along, in silhouette. I’m no graphic artist (or an artist of any kind), but isn’t it just beautiful?

The next book, Under the Never Sky, by Veronica Rossi, which I’ve seen on the shelf before, doesn’t have a plot that really draws me, despite it being a fantasy tale. How many times have we read a book blurb that talks about the story being set in a dystopian future, where the girl has been exiled from her cult/village/city/family? Leaving all that she knows, she has to survive on her own, and runs into a wild man (or at least she thinks he’s a savage). But the title (I love a good title, have I mentioned this?) and the cover art are extremely attractive, and it makes me think about trying it out, anyway. I remind myself, like a good girl, that I have about fifty million other books to read, first. The cover reminds me a bit of I Am Number Four (which I’ve neither seen nor read), for some reason, but that’s no slam against it. This is one of those books that I just make myself keep walking by, trying to remember that I don’t have room in my luggage for it.

I know I’ve already spoken of magical books, but every review I’ve read of The Night Circus, by Erin Morgenstern uses that word nonstop. The idea of a circus that appears out of nowhere, and two magicians must fight, possibly to the death, but fall in love, instead. But it’s the design of the book cover that completely captures my attention. The man and woman are illustrated in white on black (bringing to mind the old-school profile cut-outs that people framed of their loved ones), with a ribbon of red connecting them. Their dress implies a more Victorian age, and the simply exquisite design isn’t busy, so you will easily see the circus tent under the red ribbon. If I judged a book by its cover alone, I would read this immediately, stopping in the middle of my Star Wars book.

And finally, I’ll round out my tale with the last book to catch my eye, while I was at Blossoms. When I looked it up online, I found another cover design for use in America. A picture of a coat rack, with a man and woman’s coat and hat hanging so closely together, you’re not sure if you’re seeing the actual man and woman entwined or not. It’s a good idea, but I couldn’t discern that much at first glance, so if I just saw some coats on a cover, I might not stop to look.

But the Aussie (or I guess it’s a UK publisher) cover of Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand is charmingly illustrated, with a textured feel to it, with the tea cups standing out from the page. It makes you think of tea shops and fine china, but with a homey feel. And then you see that it’s a Major in the title, not a Miss, which is what I had thought, at first. What could a Major Pettigrew (rather than a Miss) have to do with tea shops?

The story is even more interesting than that, as the Major and Mrs. Jasmina Ali (a widower and widow) become friends over a mutual love of literature, while their small town has issues over their difference in nationalities, though the Major was born abroad, and Mrs. Ali grew up in England. As a believer in love growing out of friendship and shared interests, and because I love books, also, I would really like to see how this story begins and ends. Wouldn’t you?

So, I hope you’ve enjoyed my “want-to-read” ramblings for the day, and if you’ve read any of them, you’ll have to tell me what you think. Meanwhile, I need to go flip my next load of laundry, if I want to be able to sleep in my own bed tonight.

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