Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words Best Covers of 2013

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Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words Best Book Covers of 2013

What is a book without its cover? That’s a question that gets asked more frequently in this age of eBooks and ePublishing.  For myself and, I think, many others, book covers are still the marquee for an author’s story, the path to a book and the delights found inside. ScatteredThoughtsandRogueWords loves, loves book covers and the artists that work so hard to bring the author’s stories to life. Whether it is through photography or illustration or any combination thereof, 2013 had outstanding covers in every genre.  There are series whose covers are always marvelous, rich in design and emotion.  There were stand alone novels whose covers drew you into the story and beyond.  Here are some of the covers in 2013 that made me gasp, made me laugh and made me wish I had a copy of it for my wall:

Outstanding Contemporary Novel Covers:

Fire Horse by Mickie B. Ashling, Cover by Anne Cain
Illuminations by Rowen Speedwell, Cover by LC Chase
Lost and Found by Z.A. Maxfield, Cover by LC Chase
Still by Mary Calmes, cover by Reese Dante
The Sky is Dead by Sue Brown, Cover by Christine Griffin
Venetian Mask by Kim Fielding, Cover by Shobana Appavu

Fire Horse coverIllumination cover

LostAndFound_500x750

Still cover

 

 

 

 

The Sky Is Dead cover

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Outstanding Historical Novel Covers:

On A Lee Shore by Elin Gregory, Cover by Mina Carter
Promises Made Under Fire by Charlie Cochrane, Cover by John Kicksee

On A Lee Shore cover

Promises Made Under Fire

 

 

 

 

 

 

Outstanding Humorous Cover:

Shy by John Inman, Cover art by Paul Richmond.
Too Stupid Too Live by Anne Tenino, Cover by LC Chase
When Dachshunds Ruled The Serengeti by Michael Murphy, Cover by Paul Richmond

Shy coverWhen Wiener Dogs Rule coverToo Stupid To Live cover

 

 

 

 

 

 

Outstanding Fantasy Cover:

Faire Fugitive by Madeleine Ribbon, Cover by Fiona Jayde
Goblins by Melanie Tushmore, Cover by  Ria Chantler
Too Many Fairy Princes by Alex Beecroft, Cover by Lou Harper

Goblins, Book 1

Too Many Fairy Princes

Faire Fugitive

 

 

 

 

 

Outstanding Paranormal/Supernatural Covers:

Creature Feature by Mary Calmes, Poppy Dennison, Cover by Paul Richmond
Into This River I Drown by TJ Klune, Cover by Paul Richmond, Kyle Thompson
Josh of the Damned by Andrea Speed, Cover by LC Chase
Strange Angels by Andrea Speed, Cover by LC Chase

Creature Feature cover

Into This River I Drown

Josh of the Damned The Final Checkout

Strange Angels cover

 

 

 

 

 

 

Outstanding Horror Cover:

The Mingled Destinies of Crocodiles and Men by Eric Arvin, Cover by Amy Morrison
The Beast Without by Christian Baines, Cover by David P. Reiter

Mingled Destinies of Crocodiles and Men coverThe Beast Without cover

 

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Outstanding Science Fiction Cover:

Aria of the Eclipse by Vivien Dean, Cover by Trace Edward Zaber
Freedom by Jay Kirkpatrick, Cover by Anne Cain
Mindscape by  Tal Valante, Cover by LC Chase

Aria of the Eclipse cover

Freedom cover

Mindscape_500x750

 

 

 

 

 

YA Cover Series:

Vampirism and You by Missouri Dalton. Guidebook Series, Covers by LC Chase
Necromancy and You by Missouri Dalton

Vampirism and You cover

Necromancy and You cover

 

 

 

 

 

Consistently Outstanding Series Covers:

Leopard’s Spots by Bailey Bradford, Covers by Posh Gosh

Infected Series by Andrea Speed, Cover artist Anne Cain

TimothyNischal Leopards Spots 9

Infected Undertow coverInfected Shift cover

Scattered Thoughts Best Book Covers of 2012

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Once again its time to talk book covers and book cover design.  I have talked previously about my favorite covers from childhood and how the mere sight of a great cover in the window of a bookstore would draw me in like the scent of cheese to a mouse.  If the cover is the magnet the publisher and author uses to attract readers, there are certain principles of design that used to be taken into consideration to make that cover the one that grabs peoples attention, that yells look at me, that makes them want to know what that book is about.

For printed books, the designer has to look at several things such as book size, typographic palette (how blocks of text are located on a cover), book covers, book spines and fonts. With respect to eBooks, spines aren’t relevant, nor is book size, at least how it is normally used in the publisher world. It’s not the actual physical size that matters here with eBooks but that readers are often looking at a smaller graphic when choosing eBooks.  So now smaller has to make an even greater impact.  All the other design elements remain the same.  Book covers, whether for print or electronic books, must be compelling enough to make the reader to choose that book, to persuade the customer that what is inside is fascinating, marvelous stuff.

Another rule is that the book cover should match the book it is being designed for. Whether the design is simple or rich in detail, elegant or street tough, uses a cover model or an illustration, there should be no disconnect between the subject matter inside and out.  I can’t tell you how many times I thought nice cover but what does it have to do with the subject of the book? And it if is a book series, then all the covers should be similar enough to brand each book a part of a series, one glance tells you who the author is and what series you are reading (ex. Abigail Roux’s Cut & Run series with a singular object on the cover). A great book cover makes you anticipate, endows you with a need to discover.

On every review I write I also mention the covers and the cover artists.  There are always some cover artists who continue to turn out one enticing cover after another, there are some artists you  can identify just by looking at the style of the design or paintings on the cover (Paul Richmond, Posh Gosh). And then this year saw a new artist or two whose cover reached out with it’s compelling designs and emotional overtones.  This  year also saw a trend towards retro illustrations and design which I loved and others whose richness in color and detail left me gasping in delight.  It was hard to narrow the covers down as there were so many worthy of mention, so I did break it down into a few categories.

So here they are, Scattered Thoughts Best Covers of 2012(with apologies in advance for the formatting problems):

Historical Novels:

On the Trail to Moonlight Gulch by Shelter Somerset/Artist Anne Cain

The Mystery of Ruby Lode by Scotty Cade / Artist Reese Dante

The Celestial by Barry Brennessel/ Artist Winterheart Designs

On the Trail to Moonlight Gulch2

The Mystery of Ruby Lode 2

The Celestial 2

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Contemporary Novels:

Acrobat by Mary Calmes/ Artist Anne Cain

Mine by Mary Calmes/Artist Anne Cain

Mourning Heaven by Amy Lane/Artist Paul Richmond

Sidecar by Amy Lane/Artist Shoshana Appavu

Time Gone By by Jan Suzukawa/Artist Anne Cain

Turkey in the Snow by Amy Lane/Artist Catt Ford

Wake Me Up Inside by Cardeno C/Artist Reese Dante

Acrobat2

Mine 2

Mourning Heaven 2

 Sidecar2

Wake me up inside  2

Turkey in the Snow cover

Time Gone By cover

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fantasy/Supernatural Novels:

The Ronin and The Fox by Cornelia Grey/Artist Nathie

A Token of Time by Ethan Day/Artist Winterheart Design

roninandthefox_2

A Token of Time 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Science Fiction Novels:

Burn by TJ Klune/Artist Catt Ford

Josh of the Damned, Triple Feature by Andrea Speed/Artist LC Chase

Riot Boy by Katey Hawthorne/Artist P.L. Nunn

Burn2

Riotboy2

Josh of the Damned TripleFeature2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Series:

Infected Series by Andrea Speed/ Artist Anne Cain

Knitting series by Amy Lane/Artist Catt Ford

Leopard’s Spots series by Bailey Bradford/Artist Posh Gosh

Lost Gods by Megan Derr/Artist London Burdon

Gilbert 2

Stone Rose 2

Infected Lesser Evils 2

How to Raise An Honest Rabbit cover

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There were so many others I wished to include and I know you have your favorites too.  Write and let me know who you feel should have been on that list (King Perry, Fallout to name a few that came close).  Check out the individual reviews to see the covers in greater detail and read about the books they so beautifully covered!

Play It Again Charlie cover

Favorite Series Covers and Cover Artists!

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Book covers have always fascinated me.  Some repel me, others draw me in immediately.  Think “ooh, shiny, pretty…” lol.  Others intrigue me by their content or graphic design, while others leave me “meh” or confused. When I think of series covers that are successful, all they have some of the same elements incorporated into their design.  The first being I can tell the books belong together at a glance, they have a cohesive design element consistent in every cover.  The fonts stay the same.  Each cover contains the same overall design with small changes that  don’t affect the overall picture they present to the reader.

So we are looking for consistency, cohesiveness, clarity and recognition.  Designs that convey a sense of connectedness between the books. Look over my choices and see if you agree with me. Many of my favorites series also have some of my favorite series covers. Yes, I have let quite a lot out but I need something for the next cover post, don’t I? Lets get started.

1. Cut & Run series by Abigail Roux and Madeleine Urban, now being written by Abigail Roux,cover design by Mara McKinnon:Simple and elegant.  The central object, which is prominent in each storyline, is changed out with each book.  I can tell a Cut &Run book in a heartbeat.

2. Lost Gods series by Megan Derr, design by London Burden. Each cover is a map of the kingdom the story is set in.  The color is important as it is a prime element for each kingdom and its culture.  Blue for the kingdom of Kundou, a land to whom the sea is all important.  It’s people have hair in all shades of blue and green, the color of water.  The orange/red cover of Burning Bright is self explanatory and so on. Subtle, expressive, simple on the surface yet contains hidden meanings just like the books.

3. Sanctuary Series by RJ Scott, artist/cover design by Reese Dante.  Each cover depicts the two men who will be the novel’s romantic couple, usually one is a Sanctuary op.  The design stays the same with the men being switched out.  The models are  consistent with the descriptions of the men inside.  Reese Dante  does the fantastic design.

4. Dance With The Devil series by Megan Derr, design by London Burden.  Effective use of a simple graphic design where the object floating in the center of a black cover is switched out for each new book. Again the main element is important  to the storyline. Effective, elegant, and easy to recognize that the books belong together without having to resort to the publishers note.

4. Cambridge Fellows series by Charlie Cochrane, cover design by Scott Carpenter: All the covers have a lovely vintage feel to them, sepia toned with elements such as furniture, buildings and mens clothing from 1900’s included on the design. Unfortunately, the last cover from Samheim had a more modern looking model which threw off the design. The newest title in the series has a completely different look as it was published at the different company. Can you pick it out?

3.  Superpowered Love by Katey Hawthorne, artist P.L. Nunn:  Just wonderful art by PL Nunn, the covers really set the stage for the stories within.  I just love these.  Again while the content changes, the style is the same and makes the books easy to identify.

4. Infected series by Andrea Speed, art by Anne Cain, cover design by Mara McKinnon: These covers blow me away.  Intense, dramatic, with that hint of menace.  Outstanding.  They are offered to download at Andrea Speed’s website.  I grabbed them, you will want to as well. Andrea Speed’s website http://www.andreaspeed.com.

5. Cattle Valley Series by Carol Lynne, art by Anne Cain.  It doesn’t matter if it is Book 2, Book 12 or Book 23, you can tell it is a Cattle Valley book immediately due to the great design and artwork by the wonderful Anne Cain.  This series is branded, folks! Total E Bound does more of a series branding than any other publisher or so it seems to me.

6. Sci-Regency Series by JL Langley, cover by Anne Cain.  Sigh!  I love Anne Cain and her artwork.  Especially her cover for My Fair Captain.  That one is so drool worthy that I have to bring out the towels. Yeah, I know TMI!  But just look at that chest!  And the same goes for the other two books in the series, the last of which, My Regelence Rake, is to be released in October 2012.

7.  Leopard’s Spots series by Bailey Bradford, artwork by Posh Gosh. What a lush, rich group of covers,  They are like a feast for the eyes, I just don’t know where to look next.  The design pulls your eye around the cover, so nothing is missed.  Just superb.

So that’s my short  list. What is yours? Yes, I see the same artists over and over on covers I like.  Anne Cain, PL Nunn, Reese Dante, Posh Gosh and London Burden.  Lately I have also noticed Alessia Brio too.  I know I have missed so many great artists, help me fill in the blanks.  And don’t forget to leave a comment and be entered in the contest.

Review of In The Name Of The Law by Sue Holston

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Rating: 3.75 stars

Mitchell Dawson and Ivan Stanislav are detectives with the Baltimore Police Department where they have been partners and best friends for years. Ivan is engaged and soon to be married. And Mitchell is miserable. Mitchell fell in love with the oh so straight Ivan the moment he met him and now wonders how he will continue on watching Ivan with his wife.  The night of the engagement party Ivan’s fiance’ dumps him after a argument.  A night of drunken consolation leads Mitchell and Ivan to the bedroom and uninhibited sex.

Morning comes and neither  man acknowledges the events of the night before.  It takes Ivan being shot for Mitchell to realize that second chances don’t come around very often and its past time for him to speak up and confess his love for Ivan.

Sue Holston has crafted a very nice short story with a “gay for you” theme with In The Name Of The Law.  Her character of Mitchell Dawson is beautifully realized, with more layers and depth than I would expect from a story of this length.  Ivan Stanislav is a less complete character study. A Baltimore Police Detective and renown horndog he is completely heterosexual until the night his fiance (who is of course a bitch) dumps him.  One drunken night of sex with his partner flips his sexuality switch over to gay, a happenstance that always causes me to shake my head.  It takes a much longer story to make your case for this change in sexuality believable and 46 pages is just not long enough.  With Ivan a less substantial character, Mitchell’s love and longing for him never feels completely real. It is this disconnect that lead to a lower rating for the story.

One more quibble here towards something that happened in the epilogue. Both men tell their Captain that their partnership is both domestic as well as work related and he agrees to  keep their secret.  Realistically that would not happen.  Rules and regulations prohibit that and it is doubtful a Captain would risk his or hers retirement to keep their secret. Nor would they have wanted to put their Captain in such a bad position. It would have been far more believable if the author had them continue to work together and keep the change in relationship secret until either got  promoted out of the partnership.  That would have given Sue Holston’s story an additional touch of authenticity it needed.

With Baltimore as her setting, Sue Holston’s attention to detail and geographic atmosphere is terrific.  Baltimore is about 30 minutes away from me and I can tell you she has done her homework with this great city.  Nothing beats eating our Chesapeake Bay crabs and having a Clipper City Gold Ale from a rooftop deck overlooking the Inner Harbor. I look forward to reading more stories from this author in just such a setting.

Cover: Cover art by Posh Gosh.  Very nice cover.  Loved the harbor in the background.

Available from Total E Bound Press.

Chances to win this, $20  gift certificate and other books visit the following blogs for the rest of the Raise Your Glasses Tour:

Saturday, May 12th: A.J. Llewellyn hosts H.L. Holston
Sunday, May 13th: H.L. Holston hosts Scarlet Blackwell

Review of Oscar Leopard’s Spots #2 by Bailey Bradford

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Rating: 3.75

Oscar Travis has always been the odd cat out in his Snow Leopard shifter family. He is physically smaller and his coloring is different. And he is the youngest of four brothers in a family that had been isolated by their shifter nature and geography from those around them. But if those differences weren’t enough, the childhood shock and disfigurement caused by getting caught in a steel trap ensured him of a sheltered position within his close knit family, while leaving him vulnerable to schoolyard bullies.

When Levi, his brother, takes a cougar as mate, everything changed. They now know there are other shifters out in the world. Lyndon, his new brother in law, is being threatened by his cougar shifter father and hunted by his siblings. During one such attack, Oscar had to kill one of Lyndon’s brothers in order to protect his family and that has left him traumatized to the extent that he is not eating or sleeping. When his father takes him to San Antonio to track down Lyndon’s father, Oscar decides a trip to a gay bar will alleviate the stress he has been under. Instead he ends up being targeted once again because of his size and looks by a group of men intent on the pretty boy in front of them. Only the intervention of Josiah Baker, alpha wolf and future mate, keeps the event from ending in disaster. But Oscar can’t handle either the situation or Josiah, and flees, leaving his mate to track him down.

As the situation with Lyndon’s family worsens and there are more attempts on Lyndon’s life, Oscar and Josiah must come to some reconciliation of their status as mates if they are to help save the family and find the happiness they seek.

Oscar is the second in the Leopard’s Spots series and should be read in sequence to get the full backstory of the Snow Leopard, Cougar, and Wolf families involved (see review for Levi here). The character, Oscar, is introduced in the first book, and to me he was immediately the most interesting character. While Oscar may be small in stature, he is large in attitude and deeply troubled by events that happened in his childhood. Because Oscar is small, pretty, and has a disfigured hand, he was an easy target for bullies in school, something he never told his parents. Then he figured out that he liked boys instead of girls, and the school bullies daily harassment threatened to turn lethal. Oscar dealt with these threats by not telling anyone, a common problem. Instead, as he aged he became aggressive at almost every instance. And this is the state Josiah, a large and imposing figure, finds him in. He realizes that Oscar is hurting emotionally and tries to find out the source of his pain. Then just as the relationship dynamics are getting interesting, the familiar story of large mate/small mate starts to play out as the duo accept their mated status, help protect the family from the cougar shifters, and my interest is lost.

Being bullied at school and its effect on Oscar was a key component of his character’s development. An added facet of this story is that as a shifter, Oscar had the physical tools to take down the kids threatening him, but couldn’t use them without outing his family’s secret. This added more stress to an already stressed out child who was already used to internalizing his problems and made Oscar a very relevant character in these times. All this combined to make Oscar a character multidimensional and worth remembering had the story gone in a different direction. What a story it would have made to see a shifter deal effectively with this situation that now grabs headlines daily.

I think that this book represents a missed chance on the author’s part to speak about the problem of bullying and its long term effects on its victims. Bradford clearly started to address this as it is brought up again and again throughout the story that Oscar has been damaged emotionally by his past. But then Lyndon’s family drama takes center stage with an abduction, Oscar and Josiah resolves their differences and mate, then its back to solving the problem of the cougar shifters. Been there, done that.

Without giving anything away, I will say the ending seemed too quick and unsatisfactory given the buildup it received. And this is a shame because Bradford can write convincing, realistic characters and put them into situations that we can recognize and empathize with even as their shifter nature removes them from our reality. This is the way Oscar started out. I just wish this is how Oscar had ended.

I will continue with the series as Oscar’s cousin heads to the Himalayas’ and the secret of the Snow Leopards. The promise of a better story and Oscar’s family history pulls me forward.

Cover:  Cover art by Posh Gosh. Once again, a beautiful cover that speaks for the story.  Great graphics and font style.  Just lovely.

First posted on Joyfully Jay where I am a guest  reviewer.