Welcome to another helping of Covet the Covers. This week I’m featuring Nevil Shute’s books. Last week I featured A Town Like Alice on my Friday Face-off, which reminded me just how much I loved his books. I’ve gone for the older covers, though there are lots of options for each of these titles. I absolutely loved Requiem for Wren, which I cried buckets over, and In the Wet (published in 1953) which goes forward in time to 1983 – and had nightmares about On the Beach. But I loved all his books. What about you – have you read any of these and if so, which are your favourites? And which of these covers do you like best?
This meme was started by Books by Proxy, whose fabulous idea was to compare UK and US book covers and decide which is we prefer. This meme is being nurtured by Lynn’s Book Blog and this week we are featuring covers for BODICE RIPPERS. I’ve selected Frenchman’s Creek by Daphne du Maurier.
This offering was produced by Pocket Books in 1964 certainly shows its age. The artwork is cramped and underwhelming, while the dreaded textbox is boringly white. Not even the infusion of a bit of colour for the author and title fonts can liven this one up. Apart from anything else, it looks as if our dashing Frenchman is sitting reading milady a bedtime story, rather than sweeping her off her feet.
Published in December 2013 by Little, Brown and Company, this cover is a lot more modern, which is why it’s even more of a shame that it has ended up being quite so vanilla. This cover gives no hint of the colourful romantic adventure within its pages. While I like the depiction of Lady Dona – especially that we don’t see her face – the pallid author font and charmless textbox manage to turn what could be a mysterious, intriguing cover into a boringly bland affair.
This Slovak edition, published by Slovenský spisovateľ in 1992 is at least trying to enter into the spirit of the thing. I really like the idea – the torn insert featuring a lady in a crinoline gown dejectedly reclining in what looks like an old barn. Unfortunately, the lack of clarity in either the outside image or some of the details around her skirt prevents the storytelling going on here being as effective as I’m sure the actual cover depicted would have shown, given it was created in the days before ebooks were thought of. And why there is a scallop shell containing an oversized pearl is also something of a puzzle… Nonetheless, at least this cover gets marks for effort.
This edition, published by Triangle Books in 1946, has finally produced the goods. Our Lady Dona swooning in the arms of her French pirate during a moonlight tryst, with a galleon in full sail in the background, improbably festooned with numerous fleur de lys – just in case we don’t get the fact that he is French from that shifty, foreign-looking moustache… The title and author fonts are suitably clear, without cluttering up the artwork and this is my favourite.
This edition published by Doubleday Books is so nearly a contender. To be honest, I prefer this Frenchman – far more dashing and piratical than the previous version. But points are knocked off for the lush jungle backdrop. And yes… I know Cornwall has a microclimate where all sorts of tender plants can grow, but this setting isn’t giving me any West Country vibe. And while they are clearly flirting, I want to see a bit more passion… Which is your favourite?
I have enjoyed the lovely photos of Scotland posted by the author on her delightful blog, Ailish Sinclair and when I discovered she had recently had a book published, I tracked it down to read and review it.
BLURB: Isobell needs to escape. She has to. Her life depends on it. She has a plan and it’s a well thought-out, well observed plan, to flee her privileged life in London and the cruel man who would marry her, and ruin her, and make a fresh start in Scotland. She dreams of faery castles, surrounded by ancient woodlands and misty lochs… and maybe even romance, in the dark and haunted eyes of a mysterious Laird. Despite the superstitious nature of the time and place, her dreams seem to be coming true, as she finds friendship and warmth, love and safety. And the chance for a new beginning… Until the past catches up with her.
Historical romance isn’t my go-to genre. But I was intrigued by the talk of faery castles and mermaids. Isabell is a delightful character who pings off the page. The first-person description of her struggles with seasickness is riveting and dramatic, establishing Sinclair as a talented writer with a flair for words. There is a lushness to the prose throughout, which could so easily have tipped into sentimentality, or just become a tad annoying. It doesn’t.
What Sinclair is able to do is write contentment and happiness with verve, making it engrossing in a way that is far harder to do than she makes it look. I had a hunch fairly early on the direction in which this story was going and at least for the first three quarters of the book, on many levels, it was not a surprise. Generally, that doesn’t endear me to a story as I like surprises and unpredictability, but the sheer quality of the writing, the level of detail in the world building and the cast of varied and interesting characters meant that I couldn’t put this down.
However, during the last part of the book I genuinely didn’t know where it was going. There is a core of grittiness at the heart of this book, which despite the celebration of strong love and friendship, also examines the consequences of bitter envy, greed and lust.
What happens when you become a victim of such people? How do you deal with the aftermath? These are gnarly questions that Sinclair didn’t sidestep for the sake of a cosy read and this beguiling, wonderful book is the richer for it. I will be looking out for this author – this is an accomplished story by a gifted storyteller and highly recommended.
This is part of the weekly meme over at the Caffeinated Reviewer, where book bloggers can share the books and blogs they have written.
Last week I was travelling home from Bristolcon and as our train was delayed and in order to avoid a bus trip for the last leg, Himself drove to Southhampton to pick us up, we got home later than we had planned and I was frankly too exhausted to sit down and write a post.
I won’t be saying too much about Bristolcon here, because I do want to write a separate post about it.
Mhairi stayed over for the week, which was a real treat and left on Friday to go on a writing retreat with some friends. We had plenty of time to catch up with what each other is doing, and acknowledge the fact that we badly miss each other’s support and advice on a day-to-day basis. I was still able to continue with Fitstep and Pilates and as luck would have it, it was half term here, so I didn’t have any lessons to eat into my time with Mhairi. It was just a shame about the weather as we had planned to go for walks along the beach in between the writing. It didn’t happen on account of the rain.
Last week I read:
Autonomous by Annalee Newitz
A notorious anti-patent scientist who has styled herself as a Robin Hood heroine fighting to bring cheap drugs to the poor, Jack’s latest drug is leaving a trail of lethal overdoses across what used to be North America—a drug that compels people to become addicted to their work. On Jack’s trail are an unlikely pair: an emotionally shut-down military agent and his partner, Paladin, a young military robot, who fall in love against all expectations. Autonomous alternates between the activities of Jack and her co-conspirators, and Elias and Paladin, as they all race to stop a bizarre drug epidemic that is tearing apart lives, causing trains to crash, and flooding New York City.
This thought-provoking read raises some interesting issues regarding the dynamic of power both in society at large and more interestingly, at an individual level in relationships.
How To Betray a Dragon’s Hero – AUDIOBOOK 11 of the How To Train Your Dragon series by Cressida Cowell
High up in the Treacherous mists of the Murderous Mountains, Hiccup and the Company of the Dragonmark are in hiding. The witch’s Vampire Spydragons are guarding the shores of Tomorrow — but Hiccup is determined to become King of the Wilderwest. Can Hiccup dodge the dragons and steal back the King’s Things from Alvin before the Doomsday of Yule? And is there a traitor in Hiccup’s camp who, in the end, will betray them all?
Annoyingly, I managed to skip this one before reaching the end of the series. But I didn’t want to miss out on any Hiccup goodness, so I’ve backtracked to listen to this slice of the adventure, in order to put off the inevitable heartache of admitting that I’ve finally come to the end of this marvellous, marvellous series.
The Mermaid and the Bear by Ailish Sinclair
Isobell needs to escape. She has to. Her life depends on it. She has a plan and it’s a well thought-out, well observed plan, to flee her privileged life in London and the cruel man who would marry her, and ruin her, and make a fresh start in Scotland. She dreams of faery castles, surrounded by ancient woodlands and misty lochs… and maybe even romance, in the dark and haunted eyes of a mysterious Laird. Despite the superstitious nature of the time and place, her dreams seem to be coming true, as she finds friendship and warmth, love and safety. And the chance for a new beginning… Until the past catches up with her.
After enjoying her blog and learning that she has a book recently published, I decided to check it out. It is an enchanting historical romance with a lovely, large-hearted protagonist, who nonetheless has a hard time of it… Review to follow.
Journaled to Death by Heather Redmond
Divorced single mom Mandy Meadows scrapes by working as a barista and receiving payments from her cousin, Ryan, who rents her basement apartment. At night, she and her teenage daughter Vellum run a successful home business creating journaling content on their popular social media channels. But Mandy’s carefully organized world is about to come crashing down. While filming their latest journaling tutorial, Mandy and Vellum hear a loud noise on the basement stairs, and Mandy makes a horrifying discovery…
I’ve tweaked the rather spoilery blurb to this rather twisty whodunit. I’m not sure I’d classify this one as a cosy murder mystery. While it isn’t drenched in gore or horrific action scenes, Mandy’s life is frankly a slog while she struggles to balance two jobs and the needs of a teenager, living a hand-to-mouth existence. I really enjoyed the overall story, though, and will be reviewing it.
My posts last week:
Interesting/outstanding blogs and articles that have caught my attention during the last few weeks, in no particular order:
SciFi Month 2019: Plot Your Course https://onemore.org/2019/10/17/scifimonth-2019-plot-your-course/ This is running throughout November and as a big fan of science fiction, I’ve been reading and writing reviews I hope to feature during the month. And read plenty of other folks’ too😊
Jerpoint Abbey Tour https://inesemjphotography.com/2019/09/14/jerpoint-abbey-tour/ It’s always a treat when Inessa features another picture tour on her wonderful blog – and this one is just magical…
The Perils and Pitfalls of Research https://writerunboxed.com/2019/10/30/the-perils-and-pitfalls-of-research/ If you need to research some additional material before starting the novel – at what point do you decide you have enough? Some really good advice here…
The Best Poems for November https://interestingliterature.com/2019/10/30/the-best-poems-for-november/ As ever, another interesting article from this invaluable site – I would just add that the Thomas Hood poem ‘November’ has a longer form, vividly describing the seasonal smogs that regularly used to envelope the larger cities at this time of year.
The Evolution of Dragons in Western Literature: A History by Yvonne Shiau https://www.tor.com/2019/10/23/the-evolution-of-dragons-in-western-literature-a-history/ I stumbled across this article by accident and loved it. I hope you do, too…
Thank you for visiting, reading, liking and/or commenting on my blog – I hope you have a wonderful week.
This meme was started by Books by Proxy, whose fabulous idea was to compare UK and US book covers and decide which is we prefer. This week the theme is the Regency era, so I’ve chosen Frederica by Georgette Heyer.
This edition was produced by Sourcebooks Casablanca in January 2009. This is another eye-catching cover. I like the sense of movement and the colours. But the pink band through the cover is simply awful. It sticks out like a… pink band and jars with the rest of the cover design and mood.
Published in February 2011 by Cornerstone Digital, I love this one. The cover design is simple yet striking and the black and green against the black is both attractive and distinctive. The period feel is successful evoked by the chandelier and the dresses of the girls. This is my favourite.
Produced in 1965 by The Bodley Head, this is the original hardback edition. Again, I think this is a charming, effective cover that relates directly to the content. The only grumble I have is that rather ugly black text box, but at least it is reasonably small and the font is attractive.
This edition, published in December 1973, is the one I managed to pick up secondhand a lifetime ago when I already knew I enjoyed reading Heyer’s books as light relief from my schoolwork. I still think it’s a good cover and love the golden glow that bathes the scene and is a close contender. Which is your favourite?
And today’s post happens to be my 1,500th. Thank you everyone, who has taken the time to read, like or comment any of my posts. It has been a joy to meet up with so many lovely folks from around the world – I find it miraculous that I can chat about my favourite books with someone from the US. Happy blogging!
This is the first book of the best-selling Outlander series by established and prolific author Diana Gabaldon, though initially entitled Outlander in the U.S., it’s U.K. title is Cross Stitch. Would it live up to the enthusiastic reviews I’ve read?
In 1945, Claire Randall is back from the war and reunited with her husband on a second honeymoon in Scotland. Innocently she walks through a stone circle in the Hightlands, and finds herself in a violent skirmish taking place in 1743. Suddenly she is a Sassenach, an outlander, in a country torn by war and by clan feuds. A wartime nurse, Claire can deal with the bloody wounds that face her. But it is harder to deal with the knowledge that she is in Jacobite Scotland and the carnage of Culloden is looming.
That is as much of the chatty blurb I’m prepared to divulge – my policy of NEVER going near the back cover before reading the book once more paid dividends as I wouldn’t have touched this offering if I’d read the blurb before tucking into it.
This doorstop of a book – all 863 pages – manages to effectively evoke the period of Jacobite Scotland really well. Gabaldon is a technically accomplished writer, whose unfussy direct style nonetheless successfully recreated the expanses of heather moorland and the famously inclement weather. Her cast of Scottish characters also bounce off the page – Claire’s interaction with them is nuanced and interesting, and often funny. Her romantic hero is suitably tough and conflicted with plenty of edges to keep the relationship interesting.
If you have youngsters in the habit of reading your books, be aware that the strong romantic element running through the book doesn’t always end at the bedroom door, or on the edge of the wooded copse… There is a fair amount of sex throughout the book and also some shocking dollops of violence, which given the period in history, is completely in keeping. But nonetheless, I wouldn’t be particularly happy to have a preteen or young teenager reading it.
What set this book alight for me, is Claire’s character. I love her gutsy, angry response when the chips are down – and given that she has spent World War II nursing broken, traumatised men in difficult circumstances, her tough reaction is completely convincing. While Romance generally doesn’t do it for me unless aliens are involved, I was prepared to make an exception for this book – because it is exceptionally well plotted, well written with plenty of narrative tension and despite its length, I burned through it in less than a week, unable to put it down.
If historical time travel served with a hefty helping of romance is to your taste and you haven’t yet encountered this series, then go searching for it – it’s worth it.