The Prettiest Book Covers

I was working in the library the other day, and I noticed how damn pretty some of our books are, even the ones I haven’t read, and will never read.  So today I’m going to gush over our prettiest book covers, some of my favourite pretty books, and just prettiness in general.

Black Rabbit Hall by Eve Chase

This design is just my absolute favourite.  The clock, the paper-cut out figures, the blue clouds … ahhh it’s just so classy and beautiful.  What you can’t see on-screen is that all that gold is shiny on the real cover.  So pretty!


 

The Goddess and the Thief by Essie Fox

Again, the screen doesn’t quite do this justice.  That green and pink really pop in real life, bright and vibrant and gorgeous.  I love those decorative hands, just fancy enough to draw your eye, but not so busy they hurt your eyes.  Love it, love it, love it.


 

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Hogfather by Terry Pratchett

I have the old Josh Kirby edition of Hogfather at home, and when I first saw this cover it took all my self restraint not to rush out and buy it.  It’s so clever – you see the skull first, and then the Christmas ornaments, and it just ties into the story so well.  Favourite!


 

Sedition by Katherine Grant

This one relies pretty much entirely on the typography, and holy wow it succeeds.  All those swirls and twirls around the S are beautiful and classy, and that’s made all the better by the piano keys at the bottom.  Seriously simple, seriously pretty.


 

Seed by Lisa Heathfield

Again, what you can’t see on the screen is that the entire cover of this book is shiny and reflective.  It’s a real eye-catcher on a display table, the colours seeming to swim as you turn it.  The typography is almost ghostly on the real cover – super cool.


 

What Belongs to You by Garth Greenwell

This one isn’t so much pretty as just cool.  At firstt, I thought the cover was a weird, computer-generated pattern.  It was only looking closer that I realised it’s a photo of a block of flats.  Clever photography, clever cover.  I love it.


 

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Every Mountain Made Low by Alex White

This cover is the definition of simplicity.  The yellow stands out beautifully, the chalk-like city soft and a little spooky, the lone figure in the centre wonderfully eye-catching.  And a fantastic title to boot!  What a lovely cover.


 

These are by far not the only beautiful books in our library, and I could gush about this all day!  What are your favourite pretty book covers?  Send them to me so I can smile and sigh over how gosh darn lovely books are.

2017 and Beyond

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A little late on the 3rd of January, but all the same.  Christmas holidays are over and it’s back to work time, which also means back to blogging!  No more laziness from me!  (Well, hopefully.)

I’m looking forward to lots of things in 2017.  The next Court of Thorns and Roses book is out this year, and it’s killing me waiting to know what happens!  Plus another Winchester Writer’s Festival – I had so much fun in 2016, I absolutely want to go again.  Whether I’ll be a guest or working at P&G Well’s lovely bookstall remains to be seen (honestly, either option is brilliant and well worth the trip).  And of course, lots and lots of writing!

I found this little doohickey today, and it seems a fantastic way to start 2017 reading:

I’m definitely going to have a go at this challenge (although I very much doubt I’ll manage to do it in order!)

What bookish things are you looking forward to this year?  Are you doing any reading challenges at all?

Hope everyone has an absolutely fabulous and bookish 2017!

Nifty Stats Doodad

I was messing about with the stats toggle on WordPress the other day, something I’ve never really thought about looking at before.  There’s a nifty doodad on there that shows you what search terms people put into Google to find your blog (and yes, I realise that using the words “nifty doodad” makes me sound eighty years old but I don’t know what it’s called, be kind to me).

Well, this was my result:

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Poor John Green, we do bully him.  Perhaps I should send a gift basket to make it up to him.  On the other hand, I clearly need to rip into bestselling authors more often.  Watch your back, Dan Brown?

As for the poor soul asking if they can make a living quicker as a mystery writer or a fantasy writer: bless your heart for believing you can make a living off either.  Also, when reality hits, you’re welcome down here in the gutter with the rest of us starving artists. :p

Good Luck, Brave NaNoWriMo Writers!

NaNoWriMo — short for National Novel Writing Month — is one hell of a challenge.  The premise is simple, and utterly insane: attempt to write a 50,000 word novel in just one month.

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I’ve completed NaNoWriMo a couple of times (and also failed once or twice), and each attempt felt like hurtling down a hill on three-wheeled skateboard, careening into subplots, characters, and plot twists, screaming all the way to the bottom.  The challenge is tough.  The pursuit of 1,667 words a day drags you away from other unnecessary things, like homework, or a social life, or a functioning sleep schedule.  But it’s all worth it when you reach that 50,000 mark on 30th November (or earlier, if you’re literally a wizard), in a caffeine-addled haze, and then you celebrate by collapsing on the sofa and sleeping until Christmas.

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I’m saddened to say that I won’t have time to do NaNoWriMo this year.  On the other hand, I feel kind of like I’ve been doing NaNoWriMo all year, as editing my steampunk book swallows up more and more of my life, to the point where I’ve developed a twitch when I hear words like ‘cogs’ and ‘goggles’.

To any brave writers venturing onto your first (or second, or fifth) NaNoWriMo this year: best of luck, and I’m rooting for you!

If you’re interested in signing up for NaNoWriMo, it’s completely free, and the website is just here.

Spooktacular Books for Halloween

It’s officially October, and you know what that means?  Take it away, Mr Skeltal!


Doot doot!

I love Halloween, which is shame, because the celebrations in England are pretty lacklustre.  When trick-or-treating is seen more as a nuisance than a tradition, you have to find more peaceful ways to enjoy the spookiest day of the year.  And what could possibly be better than curling up with a creeptacular book?

So here are my favourite spooky books to read.  And instead of stars to tell you how good the book is, I’m going to use skulls to say how scary the book is.  Because, as a coward myself, I appreciate that some people actually want to sleep at night.

 

Dracula by Bram Stoker

Scare Level: classic gothic

This classic Victorian tale is perfect for a dark, stormy night.  Told in epistolary form (that means using diaries, newspaper clippings and other “this totes happened for real, you guys!” methods), this gothic vampire story has oodles of tension and atmosphere, and is perfect for people who prefer that creeping, eerie sensation that something is amiss, to out-and-out gore.

Since Count Dracula is so well-known in popular culture, it’s hard to find this book really scary.  But the atmosphere is wonderfully spooky and unnerving, and there’s a good amount of blood and death for a scary story.  Dracula is one of my favourites and I return to read at least one or two chapters every Halloween.

 

Carpe Jugulum by Terry Pratchett

Scare Level: perfect for wusses

From classic vampires to parody vampires.  Like most of the Discworld books, there’s no need to read any of the previous installments to enjoy this book.  And, like most Discworld books, Carpe Jugulum is utterly hilarious, and I love it.  New vampires are moving into the quiet country of Lancre.  Modern vampires.  With style.  The trouble is, if they want Lancre … they’ll have to fight the witches for it.

Featuring both witches and vampires, this one’s a double whammy for Halloween spooks galore.  However, since Terry Pratchett (GNU) is a master of comedy, nothing in Carpe Jugulum is too grim or horrifying.  This book is 110% recommended for anyone who wants to read something spooky, but still wants to sleep at night.

 

World War Z by Max Brooks

Scare Level: gory, will mess with your mind

The outbreak started in China–we think.  This book collects a series of interviews with a variety of people, from military personnel to average Joes on the street, to tell the story of how the zombie outbreak spread across the world, grew out of control, and how it was finally defeated.

Seeing as I just recently recommended World War Z, no one should be surprised it makes this list.  The way this book is set out makes for fascinating reading, as it outlines the politics, military strategies, and human reactions to a hypothetical zombie outbreak.  Max Brooks gets full points for a) making me enjoy a zombie story, and b) making walking zombies scary again.

On a side note: if you saw the film and thought “Meh …”, as I did, please follow the old adage.  Never judge a book by its movie!

 

Tales of Terror Series by Chris Priestley

Scare Level: I noped out more than once (but had to come back for more)

“But Amelia, these are children’s books!  They can’t be two-skulls scary, come on!”

Oh, you sweet summer child.

I picked up Tales of Terror from the Tunnel’s Mouth last Halloween, because I had nothing to read and I thought short children’s stories would be good to read in short spurts between doing other stuff.  And then, I couldn’t put the damn thing down.  Mostly by my fingers were frozen, clutched around the pages in horror.

The short stories in Priestley’s books all link around one central theme.  In From the Tunnel’s Mouth, a boy meets an eerie woman on a train, who tells him a series of creepy stories as she tries to make him go to sleep.  The scare-factor varies from one story to another–some being as tame as you’d expect from children’s fiction, some being worse than anything I’ve read in adult’s–but it’s well worth reading the whole book, just to see how they link together.  I can’t wait to get my hands on another book in this series!

 

The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty

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Scare Level: even ghosts are scared of it

The power of Christ compels you!

This horror story about a little girl possessed by a demonic force was immortalised in the 1973 movie, and … okay, I’ll admit it.  I haven’t actually read this one.  I haven’t even seen the movie, because of that aforementioned thing about me being a total flipping wimp.

However, it is on my to-read list, and has been for years–since my boyfriend read it, and told me it kept him up at night.  Nothing keeps him up at night.  He is sleeping champion of the world.  The creepy snippets he gave me just aren’t enough; my curiosity is killing me, and I’ve got to read it.  So it’s going on my list, because I want some of you to suffer along with me.

 

The True Facts in the Case of M. Valdemaar by Edgar Allen Poe

Scare Level: quoth the raven: “AAHHHHH!”

Don’t have time to read an entire book this month?  No worries!  (And with 125,000 words of editing to do, I feel your pain.)  This short story by horror master Edgar Allen Poe is easily read in one sitting, and will get your spine tingling.

Rumours of the death of M. Valdemaar have spread, wild and mostly incorrect, and now it is time to reveal the truth, and put these lies to rest.  Our protagonist, fascinated with the art of mesmerism, asks his poorly friend if he may attempt to hypnotise him before he dies.  His friend agrees…

Since this is a short story, I don’t want to give too much away.  But holy wow, I was fine all the way through the story, until I hit the last two pages.  I finished it, put the book down, and scuttled backwards out the room hissing, “Nope, nope, nope nope!”  Hopefully it’ll spook you too!

 

Five Nights at Freddy’s: The Silver Eyes by Scott Cawthorn and Kira Breed-Wrisley

Scare Level: Chuck-E-Cheese is ruined forever

“Amelia.  What.

I know, I know, a video game tie-in novel?  Well, yep.  For anyone not familiar with Five Nights at Freddy’s, don’t worry.  You absolutely do not have to play the games to enjoy this book (although if you have played the games, the book is excellent).

Ten years ago, Charlie practically lived in Freddy Fazbear’s Pizzeria, entranced by the singing, dancing animatronic animals created by her father.  Then five-year-old Michael was murdered.  His body never found, Freddy Fazbear’s closed down in disgrace, and Charlie spent years living away, trying to forget.

But on the anniversary of Michael’s disappearance, she returns to hometown, drawn back to the crumbling pizzeria that was once her entire world.  But the building is haunted by its history, and the animatronics that Charlie once loved have changed …

As a game tie-in novel, I didn’t go in expecting high art.  But, as I whimpered through scenes of creepy, dead-eyed robot animals, this book certainly earned the description spooktacular.

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So that’s it for my list of spooky books.  What about you guys?  Have you read any of these?  What spooky books are on your list to get you in the mood for Halloween?  Please talk books with me, I’m very lonely in this big … creaky … empty house … eek!

Bizarre Questions I Get Asked in the Library

(And also my responses to them.  Or at least, the responses I wish I was brave enough to give.  100% inspired by Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops.)

CUSTOMER: (Slurring heavily) S’bluebird with a feather in his cap!
ME: I … pardon?
CUSTOMER: With the feathers!  (Gestures wildly at his head)
ME: Oh.  Um.  Yes?
CUSTOMER: (Walks away, shaking his head) Try to ask a bloody question …

CUSTOMER: Where’s the tourist information centre?
ME: It’s closed down, I’m afraid.
CUSTOMER: But … this is a tourist town.  It’s on the beach.
ME: I know, but apparently tourists don’t need information anymore.

CUSTOMER: Do you sell books here?
ME: Mate.

CUSTOMER: My child has impetigo but it’s cool if he comes in and touches literally everything, right?
ME: Yeah, no problem, I’ll just burn the whole library down after work.

CUSTOMER: Can I have another hour on the computer?
ME: I’m sorry but other people are waiting to use them.
CUSTOMER: Oh, no problem, I’ll just log back in on my daughter’s card.

CUSTOMER: Some libraries do sell books.
ME:
Not this one, I’m afraid.

CUSTOMER: You get some weird people in here, don’t you?  Anyway, d’you want a lollipop?
ME: Um …
CUSTOMER: Oh don’t worry, it isn’t off the floor.  I’ve got a bunch in my pocket.
ME: You have a bunch of lollipops in your pocket, to hand out to librarians?  That isn’t weird at all.

CUSTOMER: (Some hideous attempt at flirting.)
ME: No.

CUSTOMER: But seriously, none of these books are for sale?
ME: I think the thing you’re looking for is a book shop.

COWORKER: Oh hey, there’s a lollipop on the desk!
ME: DON’T EAT THAT.  It’s brimming with rohypnol.  Probably.

Being a library assistant is neat as hell and plenty of our customers are lovely, but man.  We do get some oddballs.  I’m sure there are thousands more but this is all I can think of straight after work.  Does anyone else work in a library?  Are they all as crazy as this?  Comfort me with your own stories, and also read Weird Things Customers Say In Bookshops, because it’s wonderful.

I Did a Steampunk Podcast!

Or, rather, I appeared in a podcast about Steampunk. The podcast is called Dissecting Dragons and I promise it’s not nearly as gory as it sounds.  It’s all about discussing speculative fiction, which is a fansy way of saying ‘not realism’.  Fantasy, sci-fi, fairy tales, dystopia … and now Steampunk!

 

It was really nice to take all that reading and research and madness that went into my MA dissertation and use it for something besides my MA dissertation, and occassionally annoying people with random Steampunk factoids.

Did you know that the word ‘Steampunk’ was invented by K.W. Jeter?  You would if you’d listened to Dissecting Dragons: Episode 24: Cognoggins and Clockwork – What makes good Steampunk?

Go and listen to it right now!  Enjoy the sound of my oddly nasal, sometimes-London-sometimes-West-Country voice.  Also the much nicer voices of Dissecting Dragons‘s regular hosts, Madeleine and Jules.  Then listen to all the other episodes because they’re fabulous, especially if you’re a lonely fantasy reader/writer like me and you like to be reminded there are others like you out there.  I promise, we exist.