The Cover Wars

Life wasn’t always hard for fourteen-year-old Mvelo. There were good times living with her mother and her mother’s lawyer boyfriend. Now her mother is dying of AIDS and the terrible thing that stole Mvelo’s song remains unspoken, despite its growing presence in their shack. But a series of choices, chance meetings, and Shakespearean comedy-style exposures of hidden identities hands Mvelo a golden opportunity to overcome hardship.

We Kiss Them With Rain explores both humor and tragedy in this modern-day fairytale set in a squatter camp outside Durban, South Africa, in which the things that seem to be are only a façade, and the things that are revealed and unveiled create a happier, thoroughly believable, alternative.

We walk amongst the living
We, the departed . . .
We wander the earth
Wondering about the orphans we left behind
We kiss them with rain . . .

Jane: This sounds absolutely heartbreaking. I’m wondering how the Shakespearean comedy-styling will work with the dark and troubling subject material, but it sounds like a fascinating premise, especially since I really know so little about contemporary South Africa. What a lovely, but deeply sad cover.

Janet: How fascinating the back cover. That final poem – oh yes, I’m interested. The cover is beautiful and very unified. It comes across as self-possessed, or inwardly-focused, and seems to balance grief with what seems to me hope, in those upward soaring birds, Mvelo’s dignified posture, and in the life suggested by the plants and the elephant.

Yash: I think Janet and Jane covered it all. This is what a compelling synopsis looks like–gives away just enough to have us emotionally invested and not so much that we feel like we don’t need to read more. The cover is not my favourite, but the title is so intriguing I have to read the back. And yes, this potentially harrowing read is on my TBR list now.

When the Vasquez siblings’ father left, it seemed nothing could remedy the absence in their lives . . . until a shimmering figure named Luz appeared in the canyon behind their house.

Luz filled the void. He shot hoops with seventeen-year-old Hank’s hands. He showed fourteen-year-old Ana cinematic beauty behind her eyelids. He spoke kindly to eight-year-old Milo. But then Luz left, too, and he took something from each of them. As a new school year begins, Ana, Hank, and Milo must carry on as if an alien presence never altered them. But how can they ever feel close to other people again when Luz changed everything about how they see the world and themselves?

In an imaginative and heartfelt exploration of human—and non-human—nature, Leah Thomas champions the unyielding bonds between family and true friends.

Jane: The cover is beautiful, but it feels a bit generic, and it doesn’t really give me any sense of what the story is about. But what a strange and fascinating premise – it’s a bit like a science fiction take on magic realism, though…I’m kind of getting creepy “bad touch” vibes. Three parentless children had an alien presence inside their bodies? Kind of…uncomfortable? I’m not really sure what to make of this, but it’s definitely intriguing.

Janet: Haven’t we done this before? Title and cover are bewitching (that colour scheme!). Like Jane, I’m wary of this Luz and his influence on the three children. I’d have to look through the first few pages to decide whether or not to read.

Yash: Pretty cover–the colours remind me of Walkingnorth’s Always Human for some reason?–but yeah, aliens are just not my thing. And as Jane and Janet said, it got creepy. It’s probably not my thing anyway.

Rufus Holt is having the worst night of his life. It begins with the reappearance of his ex-boyfriend, Sebastian—the guy who stomped his heart out like a spent cigarette. Just as Rufus is getting ready to move on, Sebastian turns up out of the blue, saying they need to “talk.” Things couldn’t get much worse, right?

But then Rufus gets a call from his sister April, begging for help. And then he and Sebastian find her, drenched in blood and holding a knife, beside the dead body of her boyfriend, Fox Whitney.

April swears she didn’t kill Fox—but Rufus knows her too well to believe she’s telling him the whole truth. April has something he needs, though, and her price is his help. Now, with no one to trust but the boy he wants to hate yet can’t stop loving, Rufus has one night to prove his sister’s innocence…or die trying.

Jane: Ugh, I do not like this back copy. It just doesn’t seem to flow, and packs in way too much information. What does April have that Rufus needs? Why does Rufus only have one night to solve the mystery or die trying? Why does he trust the boy who stomped on his heart? Meh. I mean, I’m glad that Rufus’ sexual orientation doesn’t seem to be the focus of the story, which is refreshing, but this summary just doesn’t pique my interest at all.

Janet: My first assumption, looking at the cover, was that the two silhouettes were the villains. They’re faceless, with flashlights, in a woods, looking at something that has bled. That screams bad guy(s). The art isn’t my style, but it’s bold and effective. Scrolling down, however *snort* the last paragraph of the synopsis is so dramatic, I would laugh and put this down immediately. I would glance inside, mostly because of the unexpectedness of the cover and to find out why where is such a divide between siblings that April has to bribe Rufus to help her.

Yash: I do like that we’re getting stories like these, where it’s not just a sexuality “problem” novel, but is part of another genre entirely? The cover just harkens back to the art style of older comics that I could never get into, so this is definitely not a book I’d pick up. That said, the cover is hard to look away from and that counts for something. And I kinda do want to know how this works out for Rufus. Maybe I’ll keep an eye on reviews for this one.

Hocus Pocus and Practical Magic meets the Salem Witch trials in this haunting story about three sisters on a quest for revenge—and how love may be the only thing powerful enough to stop them.

Welcome to the cursed town of Sparrow…

Where, two centuries ago, three sisters were sentenced to death for witchery. Stones were tied to their ankles and they were drowned in the deep waters surrounding the town.

Now, for a brief time each summer, the sisters return, stealing the bodies of three weak-hearted girls so that they may seek their revenge, luring boys into the harbor and pulling them under.

Like many locals, seventeen-year-old Penny Talbot has accepted the fate of the town. But this year, on the eve of the sisters’ return, a boy named Bo Carter arrives; unaware of the danger he has just stumbled into.

Mistrust and lies spread quickly through the salty, rain-soaked streets. The townspeople turn against one another. Penny and Bo suspect each other of hiding secrets. And death comes swiftly to those who cannot resist the call of the sisters.

But only Penny sees what others cannot. And she will be forced to choose: save Bo, or save herself.

Jane: So…I’ve haven’t seen Practical Magic or Hocus Pocus, so I might not be the target audience for this one. But booooooooo….”love may be the only thing powerful enough to stop them” – b

Janet: The cover falls flat. The synopsis… what Jane said. Also, JUST SAYING, we’ve got three murdered women who are the baddies? Because obviously being murdered turns women into Absolute Evil? The whole ‘they killed me and now I’ll kill them all’ ghostly victim-villain trope has never been convincing. It just isn’t logical. Not even according to the (il)logic of human nature.

Yash: Gonna be lazy here and say Jane and Janet covered it all.

There are two monsters in this story. One of them is me.

Ask anyone in Winship, Maine, and they’ll tell you the summer camp Quinn’s family owns is a magical place. Paper wishes hang from the ceiling. Blueberries grow in the dead of winter. According to local legend, a sea monster even lurks off the coast. Mostly, there’s just a feeling that something extraordinary could happen there.

Like Quinn falling in love with her best friend, Dylan.

After the accident, the magic drained from Quinn’s life. Now Dylan is gone, the camp is a lonely place, and Quinn knows it’s her fault.

But the new boy in town, Alexander, doesn’t see her as the monster she believes herself to be. As Quinn lets herself open up again, she begins to understand the truth about love, loss, and monsters—real and imagined.

Janet: All I needed to see was the tagline to Nope out of here. I mean. The cover is pretty (blueberries! flowers and leaves!), but not enough to erase that terrible tag, and the back is trite. Summer camp is magical, but the packaging persuades me that this book isn’t.

Yash: Did Jane forget to write about this one? Or did she glance at the tagline and calmly click out of this window? Either way, I guess I’m with her. I’m sure this will offer something old and new–the way that romances tend to–but I’m not really into it, so meh.

Move without a sound. Steal without a trace. 

Willa, a young nightspirit of the Great Smoky Mountains, is her clan’s best thief. She creeps into the homes of day-folk in the cover of darkness and takes what they won’t miss. It’s dangerous work–the day-folk kill whatever they do not understand. But when Willa’s curiosity leaves her hurt and stranded in a day-folk man’s home, everything she thought she knew about her people–and their greatest enemy–is forever changed.

Janet: I’m easily won over by anything blue and green and light-dappled, but it isn’t just me, right? The cover is beautiful. I like the contrast between Willa’s curious, ear-perked-up posture and the wolf’s entirely unimpressed expression. The back copy needs more worldbuilding and detail; the last sentence gives everything away (see how unconvincing sweeping generalities are?); but I could probably be persuaded to glance inside.

Yash: I love, love, love this art style! AND I LOVE FICTIONAL THIEVES! And also the wolf is super adorbs. I don’t even care about the synopsis (actually I do, it’s not bad, I’m interested) and I will definitely read this one!