Cover Notes is a new series I’ll be running every Monday. Rather than focusing on covers of books I’ve read, I’ll be writing about books I’ve never read and recording my first impressions of their covers. Each book will also have an Embarrassment Factor of between zero & five, with zero meaning “a totally awesome cover I want to write fan mail about” and five meaning “I’m ashamed to be seen with this in public.”
This week, I was actually on my way to the young reader section to look for a cover–and then the spine (yes, just the spine!) David Macinnis Gill’s Black Hole Sun grabbed me. Also, a little bit of fan girliness here–from his bio:
David Macinnis Gill is an associate professor of English education at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, specializing in young adult literature…
I love seeing “professor” and “specializing in young adult literature” in the same sentence. It’s very validating. And now…
Things I love about the cover: Can I say everything? I love the outlining of the font and how it accentuates the blackness–and how that blackness is doubly accentuated by the stars/comets/space debris streaking past and the red lights in the background.
Also, the spine on this book is stunning, from the under-outlined O to the shadowing of what? A rocket perhaps? And the colors! I love the colors!
Things I’m not so hot on: The other text. Getting a Suzanne Collins blurb is a huge deal, but I feel like the quote was tacked on after the cover design had been finished, so it doesn’t quite fit. Something about the author’s name looks off, too, but I can’t tell what.
What I think it’s about: This screams science fiction to me–and I desperately want it to be science fiction, a kind of Sunshine without the intense horror elements (I loved the premise of that movie, but the horror was too much for me by the end).
Between the blurb and the cover itself, I’m thinking dystopic world where the sun is ending its red giant phase and about to collapse into a blackhole. And our hero’s journey? A boy and a girl (for some love interest), and a race to get onto a seed ship. There has to be a sequel.
Cover art by: unknown. Google only turns up details for the album of the same name.
Embarrassment factor: 0.
The Jacket Blurb
The synopsis isn’t quite enough here, so I’m posting the PW blurb too.
Durango is playing the cards he was dealt. And it’s not a good hand.
He’s lost his family.
He’s lost his crew.
And he’s got the scars to prove it.
You don’t want to mess with Durango.
Gill (Soul Enchilada) shifts literary gears, delivering an exciting and brutal science fiction tale about teenage mercenaries on Mars. Durango is a disgraced Regulator who, roninlike, did not kill himself when his previous master (his father) was arrested. Along with his gorgeous second, Vienne, and the snarky AI of his former commander, Mimi, which has been “flash-cloned” to his brain, he now takes jobs that most other Regulators would refuse, using the money to try to make his father’s life in prison more bearable. When they get called to protect a group of miners from the cannibalistic monstrosities called Dræu, they discover secrets that could cast new light on the entire history of Mars, as well Durango’s own past. Gill fills his story with well-crafted action sequences and witty dialogue, and the fast pace more than makes up for the predictability of the plot. Everything from the inevitable betrayals and the heroic sacrifices to the dark secrets is by the numbers, though the character development, banter between Durango and Mimi, and solid action will entertain most readers. Ages 14 up. (Sept.)
Overall: So, so wrong. And I should have seen something mercenary was involved–the target is a (dead) giveaway. Two things, though–
- I love this premise–it reads a little like YA William Gibson to me, and I need to read it. Soon.
- This is the first time I’ve been sad about being wrong! I’d love a novel along the lines I described, a cross between Sunshine and Titan A.E. and the boy-girl part.
Have you read Black Hole Sun? Would you?
Good morning, book people! Mir and I are still sick, but we’re over the worst of it. How are you doing? We’re tricycling (I know, I’m sorry, but he’s cute, okay?) around the interwebs this morning–there’s a lot of interesting stuff to read.
The Guardian’s Robert Crum blogs about conservative politico (and Education Secretary) Michael Gove’s new stance that UK children should be reading 50 books a year. The statement has excited a lot of debate in the UK, and authors such as Phiilip Pullman and Anthony Browne have come out against it. The Guardian also asks–which 50 books should kids be reading?
I’m a little torn over this. I hate the idea of forced literature, but I do think kids–think everybody, really–should read more. Incentives to read, like the prizes offered at our school as part of the MS Read-a-Thon charity drive (people sponsor you to read x number of books in a given time) really only work for the readers. (And some of us are ineligible–I was miles ahead of my class, reading around four books a week, so they took me out of the running.) Gove’s idea might be a bit off the rails, but at least it’s doing something: making us talk about reading.
The Google Book Settlement has been rejected! True, a lot of people probably saw this coming, but it’s still big news. Wired has a pretty clear rundown on what the settlement terms were, and the result.
Next up, at The New York Times, a piece on using Theatron, a VR program, to help students stage virtual productions of Shakespeare and more. The Theatron website is a bit of a mess, but it looks like a fun program to work with, and much more enlightening than the 30 minute claymation versions of The Tempest and Macbeth we had to watch in school.
Also at The NYT, David Greenberg on why last chapters so often suck disappoint. Do not fear, though–your last chapter probably does not suck. Greenberg is writing specifically about books “aspiring to analyze a social or political problem.” These aren’t alien concepts to kidlit, but the scope is definitely different. Useful reading, though.
Over at The WSJ, Meghan Cox Gurdon on children’s books set behind the Iron Curtain and writes a thoughtful review of Ruta Sepetys’s Between Shades of Gray. YA & kidlit people definitely need to read this.
Now that we know Jennifer Lawrence will be playing Katniss in The Hunger Games movies, speculation is wide-open about who’ll play Peeta. People has a quick rundown of the contenders so far. Please, please, please, people, don’t let it be the kid from Glee! Also, does seeing the double “e” in Peeta make anyone else want coffee?
A lot to read at The Shatzkin Files today, but both of these are worth the time. First up, Mike on what Barry Eisler’s decision to turn down a $500,000 advance means. One point not raised, that I’m curious about–how much did Eisler’s CIA background–probably a promoter’s dream–skew the publisher’s offer?
Mike’s second post is also self-promoting–he’s announcing a partnership with Michael Cader, Publishers Launch Conferences, which will “deliver live events…on publishing and digital change.” This post isn’t as concrete as the first, but it’s a good look at how some of the top digital books folks are thinking–and monetizing–so if you have the time, do read it.
Eric at Pimp My Novel has a rerun of a post on publishing myths, but it’s still a great post, so head on over.
ETA, 9:36 am: Michael Gove is Education Secretary.Read More
Book lists are popular–readers love to share what they’re reading and what’s on their TBR list. Traditionally (insofar as there are traditions on the tubes) people have posted written lists on blogs or sites like Goodreads. Lately, though, I’ve noticed another trend: video booklists.
A video booklist is exactly what it sounds like–a list. But instead of including a lot of text, they tend to be book montages, often with a soundtrack that catches the vibe of the overall genre. The one posted below actually goes a little further–because it covers a lot of YA books not out yet, the poster, xxxdancegirlxxx, has included release dates. (She also has video lists for books she’s read.)
Making a list this way seems like a lot of work, but it’s definitely an appealing format. And it’s somewhat limiting–there are time constraints on videos, like connection speed and hosting, and making sure it’s short enough to be interesting but long enough to cover everything.
Would you make a video booklist? What would you include?Read More
Sometimes, when I’m between books–i.e., I have too many projects and don’t trust myself to not be sucked into a new story to the exclusion of all else–I re-read snippets of my favorite series.
One of the things I love about long series is how they grow with the reader. It’s not just that Percy or Harry, or Alanna, or any of the others grow up. It’s that their voices, and their authors’ tone grows up, too.
Consider the Percy Jackson books. At the beginning of the series, Percy is twelve. He’s dyslexic, has ADHD, and has been kicked out of six schools in six years. His voice is delinquent, defensive, even slightly sad–and immediately gripping.
The Lightning Thief, chapter one
Look, I didn’t want to be a half blood.
If you’re reading this because you think you might be one, my advice is: close this book right now. Believe whatever like your mom or dad told you about your birth, and try to lead a normal life.
Being a half-blood is dangerous. It’s scary. Most of the time, it gets you killed in painful, nasty ways.
If you’re a normal kid, reading this because you think it’s fiction, great. Read on. I envy you for being able to believe that none of this ever happened.
But if you recognize yourself in these pages–if you feel something stirring inside–stop reading immediately. You might be one of us. And once you know that, it’s only a matter of time before they sense it too, and they’ll come for you.
Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
Come the fifth book, The Last Olympian, Percy is sixteen. His dyslexia and ADHD, while still occasionally mentioned, are no longer key parts of his character. And while he still has a Percy-voice, he’s grown up: not only does Percy worry about his relationship with Annabeth, his sense of mortality is (realistically) greater than in the previous novels (with the possible exception of book four, The Battle of the Labyrinth).
The Last Olympian, chapter one
The end of the world started when a pegasus landed on the hood of my car.
Up until then, I was having a great afternoon. Technically I wasn’t supposed to be driving because I wouldn’t turn sixteen for another week, but my mom and my stepdad, Paul, took my friend Rachel and me to this private stretch of bead on the South Shore, and Paul let us borrow his Prius for a short spin.
Now, I know you’re thinking, Wow, that was really irresponsible of him, blah, blah, blah, but Paul knows me pretty well. He’s seen me slice up demons and leap out of exploding school buildings, so he probably figured taking a car a few hundred yards wasn’t exactly the most dangerous thing I’d ever done.
Hear the difference? They’re clearly still the same character, but there’s a distance between the two, a distance that’s less about age-related details (driving a car) than word choice and focal points. Would twelve year old Percy be as cool about Paul? Would he use “technically” in a sentence? Most importantly, though, is the sense of comfort in sixteen year old Percy’s voice: sure, he’s talking about the end of the world, but he’s not defensive, not hiding behind a tough persona. This Percy, for the most part, is strong, confident, and in charge.
Behind Percy’s voice is Riordan’s–also strong and immediately recognizable–with a tone that’s more YA than middle grade. It’s less “wow, this is cool, and I get to save the world while looking totally awesome,” less peppy and pun-filled. There are still moments of lightness (a satyr wearing a “Got Hooves” shirt in book four, a hellhound gnawing on a giant pink plastic yak and a hundred-eyed monster getting bloodshot in book five), but they’re fewer, and used to good effect to not just illustrate character traits (as in the earlier books) but to break up tension (and thereby highlight key scenes and interactions).
While these may seem like the natural outgrowth of writing a series–and to some extent, they are–they’re actually not that common. Not all series grow with their readers (Harry Potter is probably the most famous to do so): the Michael Buckley Sisters Grimm series attempts to, but fails; the Nancy Drew books remain the same, story after story; even Dianna Wynne Jones’ Castle in the Air, a sequel to Howl’s Moving Castle, doesn’t quite capture necessary changes in tone and voice.
Oftentimes, that’s okay. Some authors want to stay within a certain genre or age-range, because that’s what speaks to them. But it’s still impressive–incredibly so–when a character demonstrates such clear growth over the course of a series. (The Protector of the Small (Kel) books by Tamora Pierce are another great example, as are J.K. Rowling’s HP books.)
Have you read any age-spanning series lately? Did you like them? Hate them? Why?Read More
Good morning, book people! After yesterday’s mini freakout and fiction-related writerly indecision, I’m feeling much calmer (in great part due to the excellent comment-love). For those who asked, yesterday’s interview went well, I think. It was definitely kind of fun, and I spent a lot of time in my writer’s garb, chatting about voice (one of my favorite topics).
And I have some most-excellent news this morning!
Back home, in the great (though often cold) state of Victoria, the library system has launched a YA type Goodreads, Inside A Dog. The name comes from a Groucho Marx quote, “Outside of a dog, a book is a man’s best friend. Inside of a dog, it’s too dark to read.” I’ll have more on Inside A Dog next week, but definitely head on over now–they have guest posts by some great YA authors coming up! (Brian Falkner, Gayle Forman…)
Field Trip Friday over at YA Highway has some excellent links around the writing webs this week, including this LA Times piece on Little Red Riding Hood getting a makeover. I love the cover, but it’s so Cinderella to me that I’m not sure I love it for Riding Hood. What do you think?
It’s been a big week for e-publishing in the blogosphere. Eric at Pimp My Novel has a nice, grounding list of 5 Things You Should Know About the eRevolution. Nathan Bransford has a few insights into pricing and ebooks vs. hardcovers (a nice follow up to Mike Shatzkin’s post on pricing models earlier this week). He also some really useful–again grounding–on Amanda Hocking and the 99c Kindle millionaires. (If you have to choose just one of these posts to read, go with the last on Hocking.)
An internet oldie but a goodie – my critique partner and friend, Livia, has a post on writing realistic male characters, and the jerkyness that is Guyhood. Love, love, love this!
Debbie Ridpath Ohi over at MiG writers has a follow up to her first post on writers and voice this week. The new post draws from Stephen Pressfield, and asks a couple of questions all writers should be thinking about. Both are well worth reading, and very quick!Read More