The Cover Wars


The darker the sky, the brighter the stars.

In a land on the brink of war, Shahrzad is forced from the arms of her beloved husband, the Caliph of Khorasan. She once thought Khalid a monster—a merciless killer of wives, responsible for immeasurable heartache and pain—but as she unraveled his secrets, she found instead an extraordinary man and a love she could not deny. Still, a curse threatens to keep Shazi and Khalid apart forever.

Now she’s reunited with her family, who have found refuge in the desert, where a deadly force is gathering against Khalid—a force set on destroying his empire and commanded by Shazi’s spurned childhood sweetheart. Trapped between loyalties to those she loves, the only thing Shazi can do is act. Using the burgeoning magic within her as a guide, she strikes out on her own to end both this terrible curse and the brewing war once and for all. But to do it, she must evade enemies of her own to stay alive.

The saga that began with The Wrath and the Dawn takes its final turn as Shahrzad risks everything to find her way back to her one true love again.

Jane: I’m honestly not feeling this back copy much at all..”true love, true love, soul mate, chosen one, blah blah true love blah blah two hot guys fighting over one girl because that’s what girls dream about, right?” Which really just goes to show how important a good copywriter is, because honestly this write up would probably make me want to ignore what is probably a very well-written, gripping story of a powerful, independent, butt-kicking woman.

“It doesn’t take courage to kill. It takes courage to love.” What a terrible slogan. I get what they’re trying to do, but it’s just a bit too flippant for me. I would think that a lot of people who have had to kill, whether to protect themselves or to save the lives of others, would beg to differ.

Janet: The taglines are cringe-inducingly cheesy: the first one has me mentally pleading for the answer to be no, and the second one, as Jane said, is wrong. Choosing nonviolence and love in the face of (and in defiance of) violence requires more courage and is the wiser, more compassionate choice, but that doesn’t negate the courage it takes to kill, evil though the deed may be. The title of the second book is difficult to read. The back copy gives a sweeping view of the book without instilling much reason to care for these particular characters as more than pawns driven toward a predestined end. Pass.


An unforgettable tale of two friends on their Grand Tour of 18th-century Europe who stumble upon a magical artifact that leads them from Paris to Venice in a dangerous manhunt, fighting pirates, highwaymen, and their feelings for each other along the way.

Henry “Monty” Montague was born and bred to be a gentleman, but he was never one to be tamed. The finest boarding schools in England and the constant disapproval of his father haven’t been able to curb any of his roguish passions—not for gambling halls, late nights spent with a bottle of spirits, or waking up in the arms of women or men.

But as Monty embarks on his grand tour of Europe, his quest for a life filled with pleasure and vice is in danger of coming to an end. Not only does his father expect him to take over the family’s estate upon his return, but Monty is also nursing an impossible crush on his best friend and traveling companion, Percy.

Still it isn’t in Monty’s nature to give up. Even with his younger sister, Felicity, in tow, he vows to make this yearlong escapade one last hedonistic hurrah and flirt with Percy from Paris to Rome. But when one of Monty’s reckless decisions turns their trip abroad into a harrowing manhunt that spans across Europe, it calls into question everything he knows, including his relationship with the boy he adores.

Witty, romantic, and intriguing at every turn, The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue is a sumptuous romp that explores the undeniably fine lines between friendship and love.

Jane: I didn’t really think too much of the cover for this one – at first glance it didn’t  look like anything all that special or unique (though I am a big historical fiction fan, and teenage Jane might have been much more intrigued by the hottie on the cover). BUT! M/M historical romance?!?! YES PLEASE!! One of my biggest pet peeves is that the majority of LGBTQ+ stories are set in the present, which I understand – most LGBTQ+ individuals in the past had to hide their identities for fear of persecution or punishment. It does mean, though, that there’s a real lack of variety in terms story lines and settings, which is really sad. BUT this is a M/M comedic romance with a historical setting! Witty and romantic and sumptuous and a romp! I’m definitely excited for this one.

Janet: The cover combines very modern styles – those block letters and colours, a photograph of a currently-living young man – with the very traditional, period portrait of a young man in then-contemporary dress. I’m not sure that I like the cover but its juxtaposition of past and present, thus making very clear that what we see as the past is very much the present for the characters, and no less real to them than our present is now, is ambitious and (imho) well done. As for the synopsis, I’m less intrigued. I want to like this, I like the idea of more queer historical fiction, but the whole virtue/vice thing? The author would have to work pretty hard to convince me to care for someone whose main preoccupation is having a good hedonistic time.


For fans of Rainbow Rowell and Morgan Matson comes this sharp and thought-provoking novel about modern love, family, and the labels that we just can’t seem to escape—from Julie Murphy, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Dumplin’ and Side Effects May Vary.

Ramona was only five years old when Hurricane Katrina changed her life forever. Since then, it’s been Ramona and her family against the world. One of only two out lesbians in her small town and standing over six feet tall with unmistakable blue hair, Ramona knows she’s destined for something bigger than the trailer she calls home in Eulogy, Mississippi. But juggling multiple jobs, her flaky mom, and her well-meaning but ineffectual dad forces her to be the responsible adult of the family. Now, with her sister, Hattie, pregnant, her responsibilities weigh more heavily than ever.

The return of her childhood friend Freddie brings a welcome distraction. Ramona’s friendship with the former competitive swimmer picks up exactly where it left off, and soon he’s talked her into joining him for laps at the pool.

As Ramona falls more in love with swimming, her feelings for Freddie begin to shift as well, and she must decide if knowing who she is is more important than figuring out who she might become.

Jane: This has been getting a lot of buzz recently – there’s quite a bit of concern surrounding the potential “you’re not really a lesbian, you just haven’t met the right guy yet” message that’s suggested in the back copy. Now, I prefer to wait until I’ve read a novel before I jump to any conclusions (if The Cover Wars has taught me anything it’s that the back copy of a book can be just as misleading as a movie trailer), and I’m cautiously hopeful that this will be a story about bisexuality or sexual fluidity, which is just as valid and real as any other sexual orientation or identity. I’m very curious to read reviews of this one, and hear what other people think. Honestly, I think it’s important to have representations of sexuality that allow for fluidity and blurred lines – we don’t all fit neatly into boxes, and some of us can comfortably identify with several different labels and definitions. I really, really do hope that that’s the message here, because if this is a story about a young lesbian being “cured” through the love of a good man I think I’ll be sick (but I’m cautiously optimistic)…

Janet: A town named Eulogy? Bwahaha. I like how the cover takes the overdone and revolting trope of young women drowning and flips it: Ramona appears to float of her own volition. She isn’t anyone’s (sexualized) victim; she is in this pool by her choice. Wow. I like this just for that. The synopsis is promising: Ramona is out, which means she’s pretty confident in who she is and in her ability to handle any bigoted responses; and she just might be bisexual instead of lesbian. I’ve heard very good things about Dumplin’ and I’m hoping this will prove just as good. Also: athletic girls! Friendship! Definitely interested in this book.


Andrea Portes is back with a fast-paced, super-fun spy novel, told in her signature snarky, voice-driven style.

What is a hero? Paige Nolan knows.

Edward Raynes, the young man who exposed America’s unconstitutional spying techniques, is a hero, even if half the dum-dums in the country think he’s a traitor. Or her parents, journalists who were captured by terrorists while telling stories of the endangered and oppressed. They were heroes, too. Were. . . or are—no one has ever told Paige if they’re still alive, or dead.

Not heroes? Anyone in the government who abandoned her parents, letting them rot somewhere halfway across the world. And certainly not Paige herself, who despite her fluency in five languages and mastery of several obscure martial arts (thanks, Mom!) could do nothing to save them.

Couldn’t, that is, until she’s approached by Madden Carter, an undercover operative who gives her a mission—fly to Russia, find Raynes, and discover what other government secrets he’s stockpiled. In exchange, he’ll reopen the case on her missing parents. She’s given a code name and a cover as a foreign exchange student.

Who is a hero? Not Paige Nolan, but maybe, just maybe, Liberty is.

Jane: Just how old is Paige, anyway, with her foreign exchange student cover story? Does the government regularly send out teenagers on life-threatening operations? And do they regularly send out untrained  operatives out on top-secret missions, for that matter? I don’t care if you speak five languages and have mastery of several obscure martial arts (my my, how very convenient), the government doesn’t just typically send civilians out of top secret missions…unless they’re Agent Cody Banks, of course.

And $10 says she has a hate-then-love relationship with the nerdily handsome Edward Snowden – I mean – Raynes.

Yeah, perhaps not for me, this one.

Janet: Matryoshka dolls. I notice they never appear on covers of books written by Russian or Ukrainian authors about Russian or Ukrainian protagonists. And her code name is Liberty??? My my, how very subtle. I think Jane said it all.


Mercedes Moreno is an artist. At least, she thinks she could be, even though she hasn’t been able to paint anything worthwhile since her award-winning piece Food Poisoning #1 last year.

Her lack of inspiration might be because her abuela is lying comatose in faraway Puerto Rico after suffering a stroke. Or the fact that Mercedes is in love with her best friend, Victoria, but is too afraid to admit her true feelings.

Despite Mercedes’s creative block, art starts to show up in unexpected ways. A piano appears on her front lawn one morning, and a mysterious new neighbor invites Mercedes to paint with her at the Red Mangrove Estate.

At the Estate, Mercedes can create in ways she never has before. She can share her deepest secrets and feel safe. But Mercedes can’t take anything out of the Estate, including her new-found clarity. As her life continues to crumble around her, the Estate offers more solace than she could hope for. But Mercedes can’t live both lives forever, and ultimately she must choose between this perfect world of art and truth and a much messier reality.

Jane: Oooh, I like the sound of this one. I was watching the anime Sword Art Online recently and having a discussion with a friend about how easy it would be to become hopelessly addicted to an immersive virtual world, especially when the real world can just be so unbearably hard sometimes. I love this idea of having to choose between a perfect dream world and a potentially painful reality. I also like that the relationship aspect is an important part of the story, but not the entire focus of the story – Mercedes is more than just a girl in love, she’s a complex character trying to keep the pieces of her precariously balanced life from falling completely apart. I can’t say I’m in love with the cover, though. It really doesn’t tell you much about the story or the characters, and it kind of looks like it was put together in Paint. I probably wouldn’t give this book a second glance based solely on the uninspiring cover, which is a real shame, since it sounds fascinating.

Janet: The cover is kinda boring and the title has the word “girls” in it. WHY can we not have better for a lesbian or bi teenage Latina artist? Goodness. On a similar note, the artist who has to choose between a perfect environment and the messiness of real life is kinda overdone? Or maybe I’m just jaded by the total lack of development in the last book of this kind that I read. Even so, I’ll wait for Yash or Nafiza’s review.


This profoundly moving memoir is the remarkable and inspiring true story of Sandra Uwiringyimana, a girl from the Democratic Republic of the Congo who tells the tale of how she survived a massacre, immigrated to America, and overcame her trauma through art and activism.

Sandra was just ten years old when she found herself with a gun pointed at her head. She had watched as rebels gunned down her mother and six-year-old sister in a refugee camp. Remarkably, the rebel didn t pull the trigger, and Sandra escaped.

Thus began a new life for her and her surviving family members. With no home and no money, they struggled to stay alive. Eventually, through a United Nations refugee program, they moved to America, only to face yet another ethnic disconnect. Sandra may have crossed an ocean, but there was now a much wider divide she had to overcome. And it started with middle school in New York.

In this memoir, Sandra tells the story of her survival, of finding her place in a new country, of her hope for the future, and how she found a way to give voice to her people.

Jane: I love the title, and I love Sandra’s powerful, unflinching gaze. It’s like she’s daring you not to read and be moved by her account. This is a strong, composed young woman with an incredible story to tell.

Janet: The emotion and power of this title! As Jane said, Sandra’s gaze is courageous and self-possessed. It is hard to look away. The photograph also sets up the conundrum of memoirs: showing your face and telling your story to the world is a rare and daring kind of vulnerability, requiring remarkable depths of boldness; of telling but never being able to tell everything. Wow. TBR!

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