Welcome to the Cover Wars, where we judge books according to their covers: art and blurb. Okay, sometimes we have alternate sources of information, but mostly, we stick to what the book itself tells us. Turns out one month was not enough to gaze at all the lovely lovely books featuring ace protagonists. *beams*
This Cover Wars has a sub-theme of ace men/boys.
Three cheating girlfriends in a row have given skateboarder Brennan Cross the same excuse: he wasn’t meeting their needs. Desperate and humiliated, he goes to the professionals at the local sex shop for advice.
Zafir Hamady, a sales clerk at Red Hot Bluewater, has an unusual theory: he doesn’t think Brennan is a bad lover. In fact, he doesn’t think Brennan is heterosexual. Or sexual at all, for that matter. He also can’t stop thinking about Brennan. But even if he’s right and Brennan really is asexual, that doesn’t mean Zafir has a chance. Brennan’s never dated a man, and Zafir’s never met anyone who’s game for a Muslim single father with a smart mouth and a GED.
Brennan’s always thought of himself as straight. But when sex is explicitly out of the mix, he finds himself drawn to Zafir for the qualities and interests they share. And Zafir can’t help enjoying Brennan’s company and the growing bond between Brennan and his son. They work well together, but with so many issues between them, doubts creep in, and Brennan’s struggle with his identity could push away the one person he didn’t know he could love.
Janet: The cover at first glance is a solid No. Just. So much posing, so much I Am A Cool Dude. Thing is, I’m not the target audience, not exactly, and if this is aimed at teen boys, it maybe looks cool and tough-guy enough to normalize that you can be ace and gay or bi and not be any less of a “normal” (masculine, cool, tough) man. Which is important and I like it. And the back looks pretty great. I’d read this. (Minor questions about the model for Zafir; on the other hand, I’m white what do I know? Anyone of any background can be Muslim.)
Jane: That’s….a lot of information right there. One of my pet-peeves is back copy that just tells, tells, tells. I know they want to tell enough about the characters to attract readers, but don’t tell me too much! I’m not a huge fan of the cover, but it does look like a pretty standard romance cover, which I actually really appreciate. I’d be curious to hear thoughts on how Zafir and his son are portrayed.
Alistair Click set out to lay to rest the superstitious fears about the Mad Prince’s clockwork tower. If that meant he might bring the ghost city of Avalonia back to economic life, connecting the western kingdoms once again, so much the better. So what if no adventurer who’d entered the tower in the last century of desolation had ever re-emerged? They didn’t have his skill and wit. He could do better.
The tower turns out to be far more than Alistair expected, however. Not only are there clockwork puzzles to open every door, but one of them drops a boy from a strange world into his lap–figuratively speaking, if only just. Marco Murphy was just gaming in his New Jersey apartment, and now he’s stuck in what feels like a never ending LARP nightmare.
The deeper they delve into the Mad Prince’s tower, the darker the secrets they uncover. They’re not entirely sure they’ll ever be able to get out again, either. It’ll take all Marco’s charm and Alistair’s cleverness, plus the strange bond growing between them, to get them out together… and alive.
Janet: “strange bond growing between them” *gasp* whatever can it be? *croaky Princess Bride voice* TRUUUUE LOOOOOVE! Um. Sorry for the sarcasm. The cover is pretty, like The Gauntlet gone YA, and the back has a similar feel – both excellent things, in my book. The blend of fantasy/steampunk quest and gaming/LARPing is definitely appealing.
Jane: HA a never-ending LARP nightmare. I like the cover, and I like the fact that the “boy from a strange world” is the kid from New Jersey, not the other way around, making this a sort of reverse fish-out-of-water tale than the one we normally get, where the fantasy figure arrives in our world. And yeah, strange bond? A bit cheeeesy, but hey, there’s sometimes a place for cheese.
Spartanburg Spitfires’ goalie and captain Isaac Drake ended last season with an unexpected trip to the playoffs. He’s found a home and family with his coach and mentor, Misha Samarin, and he’s looking forward to making a serious run for the Kelly Cup. But things take an interesting turn when Isaac’s archnemesis, Laurent St. Savoy, is traded to the Spitfires. After Laurent’s despicable behavior in the playoffs last year, Isaac wants nothing to do with him – no matter how gorgeous he is. But that changes when Isaac discovers the reason for Laurent’s attitude.
Laurent St. Savoy grew up the only son of a legendary NHL goalie in a household rife with abuse, constantly treated like a disappointment on and off the ice. When a desperate attempt to escape his father’s tyranny sends him to the Spitfires, the last thing Laurent wants is to make friends. But there’s something about Isaac Drake that he can’t resist, and Laurent has an opportunity to explore his sexuality for the first time, but he’s cracking under end-of-the season pressures. When facing the playoffs and a rivalry turned personal vendetta, Isaac’s not sure he’s enough to hold Laurent—or their relationship—together.
Janet: Deeply confused here. The back seems aimed at teen boys (and, oh my goodness, am I ever reminded of Check, Please!) but the cover, with the fake lightning and pastel colours, seems aimed at girls. Which, I mean. The gender binary is a construct, but as far as marketing is concerned, the gender binary is the only constant in this world, and I cannot figure out how they would pitch this book. Maybe there’s a high school where boys can read overtly feminine-looking, queer-looking books without getting flack (or without having to be ironic about it), but ??? That said, I’m curious enough to read this.
Jane: Ummmm….the cover with the lightning seems to suggest supernatural elements? Like, Thor coming down to Earth to play in a hockey tournament? Man, that would be AWESOME. Thor comes down to Earth and falls in love with a hockey player. Anyway, I like the premise of the book, especially the part about the kid trying to live up to his successful father’s expectations, but that cover! Not feeling it at all. It’s a story about two hockey players. Show me the hockey players!!
Nineteen-year-old Maestri Craft was perfectly content living in a small town in Aridete. A place he lived for nearly eight years now. His life was safe, simple and ordinary; none of which was ever enough for his best friend, Jace. Jace was turning two decades and in the eyes of munfolk, that meant he would become a man. Only Jace wasn’t of mun and that put him in danger. It would possibly even end his life.
Knowing he would be forced to leave town, Mae was unwilling to let him go alone. He had secrets too, and it was time he did something about it. Their journey will send them on a unique quest. From being chased by a hag, to flying on winged horses and even a confrontation with a vampire, they come across friends and foes of all creatures. The only problem is, nothing is black and white, and not everyone is as friendly as they seem. Haunted by the curse that follows his bloodline, it soon becomes apparent to Mae that no matter what you do or how far you run, your past will always catch up to you.
The tale of two, cursed for destruction.
One with the strength to kill and the other, the courage to resist.
Janet: Striking cover. Again I ask: what is it with greyscale that is so darned effective? The triskele declares the general setting and the apple is. not subtle. haha. Effective, nonetheless. The back copy is a mystery: how does it snarl up grammar and confuse verb tense and yet make me want to glance inside?
Jane: I’m so confused. Jace “wasn’t of mun”? What does that even mean? They live in Aridete. Who are the munfolk? Confusion aside, the story itself sounds like a thrilling adventure, filled with danger and magic. The cover? Meh. Boring as all anything. I…also had no idea what a triskele was. Give me something exciting, book! Give me a cover that matches the apparent spirit of your story!! Give me Jace and Mae!
When everyone IRL lies, the only person you can trust is an NPC.
Dirty little secrets can’t be hidden behind player avatars, because Bone Diggers like Owen expose the lives behind the code. When his two worlds blur, he must decide which is more important: his freedom, or the game. The right choices will be rewarded with fame, fortune, and adventure. A wrong call can cost him both lives. But playing the game is what Owen does, and he’s good at it…as long as his real-life adventures don’t prove more perilous than his digital swordfights. In the real world, there is no walkthrough.
Janet: The cover is strongly contemporary, and I can’t say I would care for it if it weren’t for the gaming options on the ground. Also maybe the stripes on his shoes. The back… this is all the fault of the friends who got me into D&D, because now anything related to D&D, Pathfinder, LARPing, and gaming is fascinating. I hope the actual story is as solid and clever as the back copy.
Jane: Oh dear, this is one of those books that kids are going to find in the library in about five years and laugh themselves silly over because it’s so dated. It’s not the book’s fault, it’s just that stories about technology don’t tend to have a very long shelf life, especially when they use the current lingo. Stories about kids balancing the real world and the game world abound (In Real Life by Cory Doctorow is a great one, as is Sword Art Online for a darker take on RPGs, and Dad of Light , a very endearing TV take on the subject), but they’re popular for a reason – the pull of the online world can be strong, and trying to figure out the real world can be much more complicated. Not really my cup of tea, but I’m sure there will be an audience for it.