Thesis Thursday: Babbling about YA Book Cover Trends

Thesis Thursdays is a weekly(ish) feature where I rant, love and talk about young adult books I’m reading because I’m conning my college into thinking this is all for academia! Find out more here!

After getting out of my thesis meeting today, it turns out that I have too many thoughts about YA book covers. I want to say too much about them, in too many angles, in too many ways. I could write a million papers about YA book covers.

So, while that is not productive to me, I’m going to talk about a few things that came up for me and see if you guys think I’m crazy or if you’ve noticed this too. I’m going to make a serious effort to stay quick and to the point–and not get my professorial lecturing on–so many of these ideas will stay surface level. Tell me what you find interesting!

  1. Book cover trends in general – like, literally, what is going on with this? Books that 51ocax0kjxl-_sx326_bo1204203200_are all different genres–dystopian, fantasy, paranormal, realistic–they all look the same. Each one of them was just as likely to have a “girl in dress” or “half girl face” cover as the next. That doesn’t help you figure out what the book is supposed to be about? Sure, those were some pretty dresses, but do we care? I’d rather see actual content related covers, if you don’t mind. Of particular concern to me:
    1. Book covers that partition the female body – Why do we need book covers that focus just on female torsos? Why not give them heads or full bodies? Fragmentation of the female body has been long studied in advertising as a way to help objectify it. Which is doubly weird, since most YA books are marketed towards female readers.
    2. the selectionGirls in dresses – Okay, on some overs this is fine. Like, for instance, Kiera Cass’s Selection series. That makes sense. But on books where we’re supposed to get a strong female character, why are they shown in inactive poses in dresses that will not be very helpful in a fight? Or, at the very least, they never wear in the actual book?
  2. Book cover changes mid-series publication – Am I
    insane, or did this never used to happen? I never used to have to flip out because I bought one book in hardcover,

    Throne of Glass

    The original ToG cover.

    but by the time the next book came out, the covers had completely changed. Now, oftentimes this change IS for the better (I’m looking at you, Throne of Glass), but … it’s annoying if you want your covers to all look the same. But seriously, help me out here. This is a rather new phenomenon, isn’t it?

  3. Book series repackaging through the years – This is more of a pet peeve with a related example. I will never forget standing in a Barnes and Noble with Tamora Pierce as she lamented about the new “Twilight covers” of her Alanna series where it looked like her characters were wearing clothes “from the Gap.” I understand that the Alanna series is older now, but packaging it to look like Twilight doesn’t seem to be the best marketing strategy. It’s a very different book series. Have you seen other books that have be repackaged in weird ways?Song of the Lioness
  4. The Immortal RulesBook cover white washing – this is very much a last but certainly not least moment. I know that this is a long and storied tradition of publishing, but it really hit home with me when Julie Kagawa’s Blood of Eden series came out. Why would you use the half face of a white girl on the cover of a book about an Asian-American character? Okay, I know the annoying answer to that question, but seriously. Then, after the uproar, the books got new covers–but not of an actual Asian-American half faced girl. No, the books went the route of the symbol covers instead. Yes, that’s a new fad, but I’m also going to add an eyebrow raise to that movement. What are some other whitewashed covers that have annoyed you guys?

I think I want to say something along the lines of how YA book covers have become really 9780547959214_hresfrustrating, because they–like the inside flaps of the books they contain–are starting to all look the same. Don’t get me wrong, there is some FABULOUS cover art out there, but there are also books that just seem so … samesie. I’m really not a fan of the new symbol art thing. It seems like too many books are trying to be The Hunger Games. At the very least, it seems the symbols are leading back around to more artsy designs than the half-girl faces used to give us.

26114463Can you see how my ideas are flip flopping all over the place? I understand that books can’t all be fabulous pieces of art like the Throne of Glass redo covers or literally anything written by Jay Kristoff, but …sigh. There is SO MUCH IMPORTANT INFORMATION tucked into these covers. I want to talk about it all with my scholar cap on, but I can’t cover all this stuff with the breadth it deserves in the same paper.

Sigh. I need to decide soon. Fingers crossed.

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ARC Review: “The Forever Song” by Julie Kagawa

The Forever SongThe Forever Song (The Blood of Eden #3) by Julie Kagawa

Goodreads | Amazon

Vengeance will be hers.

Allison Sekemoto once struggled with the question: human or monster? With the death of her love, Zeke, she has her answer.

Monster.

Allie will embrace her cold vampire side to hunt down and end Sarren, the psychopathic vampire who murdered Zeke. But the trail is bloody and long, and Sarren has left many surprises for Allie and her companions – her creator Kanin, and her blood brother, Jackal. The trail is leading straight to the one place they must protect at any cost – the last vampire-free zone on Earth, Eden. And Sarren has one final, brutal shock in store for Allie. 

In a ruined world where no life is sacred and former allies can turn on you in one heartbeat, Allie will face her darkest days. And if she succeeds, her triumph will be short-lived in the face of surviving forever alone.

THE FINAL HUNT IS ON.

4 stars

Thanks to NetGalley and HarlequinTeen for this eARC! This title is now available.

WARNING: This review will have spoilers for the first two books. If you’re interested in the series, check out my reviews of The Immortal Rules (#1) and The Eternity Cure (#2)!

So if you read my reviews of the first two books, you know that I was completely blown away by the first one and fairly underwhelmed by the second one. Rather predictably, the final installment was right in between those two feelings.

Continue reading

ARC Review: “The Eternity Cure” by Julie Kagawa

The Enternity CureThe Eternity Cure (Blood of Eden #2) by Julie Kagawa

Goodreads | Amazon

Allison Sekemoto has vowed to rescue her creator, Kanin, who is being held hostage and tortured by the psychotic vampire Sarren. The call of blood leads her back to the beginning—New Covington and the Fringe, and a vampire prince who wants her dead yet may become her wary ally.

Even as Allie faces shocking revelations and heartbreak like she’s never known, a new strain of the Red Lung virus that decimated humanity is rising to threaten human and vampire alike.

3 1/2 stars

Thanks to NetGalley and HarlequinTeen for this eARC! This title is now available.

WARNING: There WILL be spoilers for the first book! Check out my review of The Immortal Rules if you’re interested!

I went into this book knowing that nothing could be as good as the first book in this series. This is because, a, I went into a complete flail attack over The Immortal Rules and, b, second book syndrome is so rampant lately that I just couldn’t get my hopes up. So I guess,  in that way, I got exactly what I expected.

The book picks up with Allie having just been kicked out of Eden, on her way to finding Kanin. It takes a little while for it to get started, what with her just roaming the countryside and all that. Her nighttime visions of Kanin are seriously creepy, and keep the stakes up while Allie attacks dingy bars and skulks around “Old D.C.” Instead of finding Kanin, however, she first finds her old nemesis, Jackal. He has a proposition of friendship for her–and if she doesn’t accept, he’ll kill her.

Again, this book takes a little while to get started, but once the character of Jackal is introduced all is forgiven. I don’t understand how I can love him so much after what he did in the first book, but his comic relief and sarcastic personality is just the greatest thing ever. At the same time, though, he acts as a great foil for Allie’s continuing struggle with what it means to be a monster. I thought Jackal was the funniest thing ever and loved him, but I never totally trusted him not to go killing everything, and I was very impressed on how Kagawa wrote that balance.

I think my real problem with this book is that it seemed to be going backwards, both in terms of location and characters. At the end of The Immortal Rules, Allie had made it from New Covington to Eden, and the book ended with a fight with Jackal. This book starts with her leaving Eden, meeting Jackal, and then travelling with him to New Covington. The final showdown even takes place in the lab where Allie learned how to be a vampire in the first book.

Closer to the end, the characterization starts to get a little weird as well. Kanin, Allie and Jackal are extremely well done, but some other characters that crop back up seem to come back as weirdly different people. One of these people is Zeke, of course, though he is absent for the first part of the book as per the “middle book syndrome” formula. He’s similar to the Zeke from the first book, but also different, in ways that are weird since he spent time being primped and pampered in Eden. Also, some of the plot twists later made with  his character pop up as “haha gotcha” half jokes clearly just shoehorned in for the sake of the plot. The character of Stick also pops back up, and his transformation is even more severe. Half of it I get, half of it I don’t, but either way his character leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

I guess I’m just frustrated with how much of this seemed like filler. In the end, I’m not sure how much was accomplished besides making Sarren even angrier and establishing Jackal as a character. Granted, I enjoy Jackal very much, but still. And then there is the matter of the ending, which…grr. I don’t understand the point of making us think someone is dead if you’re going to reverse that in the next chapter, and make THAT the last chapter of the book. Where’s the cliffhanger there? It makes the next book a little more predictable, and I’m not entirely a fan of where I think it’s going.

All in all, I demoted this one a full star from what I rated it’s predecessor, but I still really think these books are worth a read. Despite my plot problems, Jackal made this book for me, and it was still an enjoyable read. I also have complete faith that Kagawa is going to get back to her blowing-me-away style in the next and last book. I know vampires are getting a bit passe, but these are still definitely on my recommendation list.

Top Ten Favorite Authors in YA Fantasy

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish!

Okay guys, this is going to be a fun one. There are SO many great authors in this genre it is going to SUCK to pick just one. But I’m going to try. So here we go!

1. Tamora Pierce

She’s my idol and an all around amazing person. (I met her! Did you not see?) I have also only ever disliked one book she’s written in like a gazillion. (And sadly that’s the only review of her stuff on the blog.) I have read and own everything she’s written anyways.

2. Cassandra Clare

Another idol of mine. Another person whom I have met (Did you miss that too?). I also own everything she has ever written. It is even more impressive that she managed to win me back over into the Mortal Instruments series after City of Fallen Angels and the whole three more books thing. City of Glass still had the perfect ending, but City of Lost Souls was actually really good! (See here.)

3. Rachel Hawkins

I cannot get over how much I love these books. It’s actually the only series I’ve read where my favorite book is the middle one. (Not that I didn’t like Spell Bound. Review here.) These books are SO quotable and fantastic and they make me laugh EVERY TIME. EVERY TIME. Most books get stale fast with me, but not these! Also, she’s a fantastic person to follow on Twitter.

4. Richelle Mead

While not solely a YA author, her Vampire Academy books and Bloodlines series are all the ones I’ve read and OHMYGOD I LOVE. After VA I thought I’d never love another character of hers like I loved Dimitri, but Adrian is just so … ohmygod. I prefer Rose over Sydney only because Rose is snarkier, but Adrian totally picks up the slack. (I have reviews of Bloodlines and The Golden Lily.)

5. Courtney Allison Moulton

Another writer whose work just never gets old. Ellie is as snarky as I like them, and Will is just hello-honey. Romance that I can stand in YA is few and far between, and this would be one of those select few. Courtney is also an AWESOME person to follow on Twitter, and I actually got to update a few things I said on my review of Wings of the Wicked because we discussed it. I had a moment right there.

6. Jodi Meadows

She may only have one book out so far, but she’s cemented her spot on my list like whoa. (There is too much CAPS in my review of Incarnate, for one.) I freaking themed my prom dress around that cover (albeit accidentally to begin with). I may have mentioned that Twitter is an awesome place. Well, Jodi happens to be another awesome person in the twittersphere who I’ve had awesome conversations with. Asunder can’t come out soon enough.

7. Julie Kagawa

Several people may kill me when they realize I have only ever read her book The Immortal Rules. It was actually one of the first books I was approved to review from NetGalley! I have her first Iron Fey book in my possession, though, and I plan to read it as soon as humanly possible. Either way, though, I can’t handle the way she writes. It’s beautiful. Therefore, spot on this list without further proof necessary.

8. Sarah J. Maas

While we’re on the subject of gorgeous writing, let’s skip on over here, shall we? Again, Sarah has only released (in full novel form anyways) Throne of Glass, but it completely blew me out of the water on so many levels. I appreciate good writing, and Sarah HAS IT.

9. Rae Carson

My review of The Girl of Fire and Thorns still makes me laugh. I mean really. It was one of my earlier reviews and its second in hystericalness only to my review of Anna and the French Kiss.  But I just LOVED IT. I have the next book in my possession RIGHT NOW but I’m so behind on reviews I haven’t been able to read it yet. I’m dying inside just staring at the pretty cover.

10. Jay Kristoff

My review of Stormdancer was a long and complicated thing, but that still doesn’t change how I feel about the way he writes. For me, a favorite author can have issues as long as the writing is solid and HOLY BANANAS. Jay can write me into deep jealousy.

Top Ten Bookish People I Want to Meet

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish!

Once upon a time, I would have thought this subject would be really easy. But then I met Tamora Pierce, Cathrynne Valente, Kij Johnson and John Joseph Adams. And then I met Holly Black, Sarah Rees Brennan and Cassandra Clare. Oh no, wait. This is still a really easy list because there are SO MANY AMAZING AUTHORS OUT THERE.

1. Rachel Hawkins

Do you guys follow her on Twitter at @LadyHawkins? Because if you don’t and you have a Twitter, I don’t know what’s wrong with you. There are few Twitter accounts that I actually search for updates on, and this is one of them.

2. Jodi Meadows

I’ve had far more Twitter conversations with this woman then I’d ever dreamed possible (YAY TWITTER), and now I would LOVE to meet her in person. She is clearly super awesome.

3. Courtney Allison Moulton

Another author I’ve been able to talk to on Twitter and have decided is supremely awesome. Also, writes kickass heriones. These two things combined makes for a very happy Gretchen (who talks about herself in the third person…?).

4. Richelle Mead

Her Vampire Academy books and Bloodlines books make me SWOON AND DIE. I love those books with a fiery, fiery passion and I would ADORE a chance to squeal about Adrian and Dimitri with her for just five seconds.

5. Sarah J. Maas

Though I’ve never spoken to her on Twitter, I stalk her mercilessly. (Really, Twitter is just a stalking tool.) She seems really awesome, and also writes AWESOME AMAZING BOOKS. Clearly she’s a winner.

6. Nina Berry

Not only did she write an AMAZING book called Otherkin, but we’ve also chatted on Twitter several times. More than that, she’s been a huge friend in retweeting several of my messages about my blog, which I’ve never been able to thank her properly for. I’d love to be able to do that in person.

7. Julie Kagawa

It’s Julie Kagawa. I fail to see why I must explain this to you.

8. Stephanie Perkins

Have you ever looked at her author picture? Followed her Twitter? Then you’ll understand how Stephanie seems like the kind of person I refuse to live without seeing at least once.

9. Katie McGarry

I want just five seconds to blubber about how much Pushing the Limits pushed my emotions. And I mean literally blubber, because OHMYGOD THAT BOOK.

10. Kat Zhang

What’s Left of Me was a SUPER FANTASTIC BOOK, and I would die for a chance to pick Kat’s brain about what it was like to write multiple people in the same bodies because OHMYGOD was that amazingly done.

Review: “The Immortal Rules” by Julie Kagawa

The Immortal Rules (The Blood of Eden #1) by Julie Kagawa (Click for Goodreads)

4 1/2 stars

MY VAMPIRE CREATOR TOLD ME THIS:

“Sometime in your life, Allison Sekemoto, you will kill a human being. The question is not if it will happen, but when. Do you understand?”

I didn’t then, not really.

I DO NOW.

Allison Sekemoto survives in the Fringe, the outermost circle of a vampire city. By day, she and her crew scavenge for food. By night, any one of them could be eaten.

Some days, all that drives Allie is her hatred of them. The vampires who keep humans as blood cattle. Until the night Allie herself is attacked—and given the ultimate choice. Die…or become one of the monsters.

Faced with her own mortality, Allie becomes what she despises most. To survive, she must learn the rules of being immortal, including the most important: go long enough without human blood, and you will go mad.

Then Allie is forced to flee into the unknown, outside her city walls. There she joins a ragged band of humans who are seeking a legend—a possible cure to the disease that killed off most of humankind and created the rabids, the mindless creatures who threaten humans and vampires alike.

But it isn’t easy to pass for human. Especially not around Zeke, who might see past the monster inside her. And Allie soon must decide what—and who—is worth dying for.

This review is of an Advanced Review Copy received from NetGalley. You can get your hands on a copy April 24, 2012.

Now, before we begin this review, I should probably admit something. Something that will have all of you screaming blasphemy and what-have-you.

I never read the Iron Fey series.

DON’T KILL ME. I mean to, I swear! Actually, after this book, make that I NEED TO READ NOW.

I went for this book for two reasons: One, it had vampires in it. Traditional sounding vampires, not sparkly ones. Two, I had heard Julie Kagawa has a way with words. Well, let me tell you guys, if you weren’t aware already:

JULIE KAGAWA HAS A WAY WITH WORDS.

I really just can’t get over the way this book read. After Shatter Me and Illuminate, books with any kind of flowery language make me go, “Seriously? Again?” But this book just read so well, and so beautiful, I was sucked in.

Someone told me that this book’s blurb just sounded like it was capitalizing on the two biggest trends in YA today–dystopian and vampires–and really I can’t deny that. After a while, all these dystopian worlds start having a few similar characteristics and that was the same here. However, unlike some other books, I never found myself questioning this one. Kagawa lays out the world so well that there’s no question. You can SEE this world and how the humans got to be where they are, and everything from the cities to the country is very realistic. That’s a big plus in my book. The vampires in this book also try to buck the trend a little bit. They don’t glamorize being undead. They don’t make the vampires into rock stars or sulky-yet-somehow-swoonworthy guys hung up on immortal ideas of love. Allie is a vampire. She struggles with it. She is a human soul inside a demon body trying to rationalize the two. It’s almost not about the fact that she’s a vampire; it’s about the fact that she’s no longer human. All in all, what book isn’t a combination of something that’s been done before? The whole point is to take it, own it and make it your own, and Kagawa did that with some of the best skill I’ve ever seen.

Now, let’s back up to that whole “She is a human soul inside a demon body trying to rationalize the two” thing. You’ll notice that this review is only 4 1/2 stars, and I’ll say without shame that is possibly solely because of personal taste. The first third of this book, or thereabouts, is all about Allie trying to come to turns with what she’s become. She’s learning about being a vampire and dealing with the repercussions. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that, and at times I quite enjoyed it. However, I am–without fail–an impatient reader who always wants something exciting to happen NOW. For me, it felt like the book got off to a slow start because it was focusing on Allie’s personal journey in the beginnings of vampirism and not ACTIONACTIONACTION. I liked it a lot, but the fact that it lasted for more than the first third of the book was too much for me.

But now … the last two-thirds. GUYS. I literally COULD NOT SIT IN MY SEAT. I’m not kidding. I was readingreadingreading and then I had to get up. I have no idea when I get so immersed into this book, but I certainly noticed it when I bounced out of my seat because I could. Not. Sit. I was constantly questioning what she was going to do next, because I was never sure if she was going to give into her vampire side or go with her humanity because THAT is how will the character of Allie was set up. She wasn’t exactly an easy character to love at first, but by the end of the book I was drowning in pity for her. She can have my back anytime. I wasn’t actually sold on too many other members of the cast, except for Caleb of course. No, he’s not the love interest–he is a little boy who acts WAY too much like my little brother. 😛

So, basically, here is The Immortal Rules in a nutshell: Do you love vampires? Then GET THIS. Do you love dystopian and feel like giving vampires a try? Then GET THIS. Looking for a new, exciting book with a kick ass female main character? THEN GET THIS. April 24th, guys. Break down the bookstore door.

Waiting on Wednesday: “The Immortal Rules” by Julie Kagawa

Waiting on Wednesday is a feature hosted by Breaking the Spine.

Title: The Immortal Rules (Blood of Eden #1) (Click for Goodreads)

Author: Julie Kagawa

Expected Publication Date: April 24th, 2012

Summary from Goodreads: In a future world, Vampires reign. Humans are blood cattle. And one girl will search for the key to save humanity.
Allison Sekemoto survives in the Fringe, the outermost circle of a vampire city. By day, she and her crew scavenge for food. By night, any one of them could be eaten.
Some days, all that drives Allie is her hatred of them. The vampires who keep humans as blood cattle. Until the night Allie herself is attacked—and given the ultimate choice. Die… or become one of the monsters.
Faced with her own mortality, Allie becomes what she despises most. To survive, she must learn the rules of being immortal, including the most important: go long enough without human blood, and you will go mad.
Then Allie is forced to flee into the unknown, outside her city walls. There she joins a ragged band of humans who are seeking a legend—a possible cure to the disease that killed off most of humankind and created the rabids, the mindless creatures who threaten humans and vampires alike.
But it isn’t easy to pass for human. Especially not around Zeke, who might see past the monster inside her. And Allie soon must decide what—and who—is worth dying for.

Why I’m Waiting: Because my blog is way too much of a small fish for me to be able to get it off NetGalley. 😛 Plus, Julie Kagawa is doing vampires. Guys. DID YOU NOT READ THE BLURB? So I got bit by the media vampire. Hard. I’m not ashamed. Plus, this cover is eerily reminiscent of the one that was designed for me for my novel that was up on inkpop-turned-figment. They could be, like, twins. (Except for, you know, the words between the pages. I do not write like Julie Kagawa; not even close.) Several key book blogs I follow who ARE bigger fish than me and got the eGalley have loved it, so I’m sold. Now, the book just needs to COME OUT.

 

EDIT: So, funny thing happened this morning. I checked my inbox and MY REQUEST WAS APPROVED. This Waiting on Wednesday has just turned into a self-fulfilling prophecy. I LOVE EVERYTHING.