T5W: Top Five Terrible Covers

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Question of the week: What are your five favorite books with terrible covers?

I’m sure you won’t think me peculiar when I tell you that I generally shy away from purchasing books with terrible covers. Unless a book has particular, sentimental value to me, it’ll eventually get replaced with a more aesthetically appealing cover. For this challenge, I decided to only look at the books I’ve read this year — otherwise, the plethora of ugly covers out there would be limitless! (I also decided to contrast the ugliest covers I could find with the prettiest, to give you more incentive to look at this list.)

As always, feel free to reblog, comment, or make your own Top 5 list. You can find the T5W group linked at the bottom of this post.

1. If I Stay by Gayle Forman

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Melodramatic text and bad Photoshop techniques vs. beautiful colors and streamlined design. 

2. Stardust by Neil Gaiman

Too-literal interpretation with poor font choice vs. simplified color scheme and design.

3. Perfume by Patrick Suskind

Ambiguous imagery and nondescript font vs. inventive imagery and text (there were so many clever covers to choose from here!).

4. The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson

Terrifying, terrifying picture of a man vs. a gorgeous color scheme that does not feature a cane or a scary figure.

5. Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury

Very odd layering of poor quality images vs. eerie colors and evocative silhouette of the villain.

Check out the Top 5 Wednesday group here.

REVIEW: The Girl in the Flammable Skirt

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“I wanted to eat these stories.”

That is the only thing I wrote down after reading Aimee Bender’s The Girl in the Flammable Skirt, the first short story collection she published in 1998. It’s an absurd observation to make, but one that is aptly suited to Bender’s absurd style.

The Girl in the Flammable Skirt tackles a variety of topics and relationships, but is no less peculiar and whimsical than Bender’s later works. Among the 16 stories, we meet a girl who takes a hunchback for a lover, the wife whose husband returns from the war without lips, the librarian who lures male patrons away from the quiet bookshelves, and the girl who wears ballgowns on the bus.

On the surface, Bender’s characters read like fairytale monsters from the Brothers Grimm, but her unique use of metaphor and unexpected plot twists ultimately expose the condition of the human heart. Stripped of their absurdities, the characters pursue understanding and companionship, feel the ache of unfulfilled desire, and wither under the slow burn of loneliness. In many stories, if not all, these characters are denied a sense of closure or satisfaction, left to wonder what would have happened if they hadn’t risked everything for their hearts’ desires.

I’ll be honest: I don’t always “get” these stories. Like Bender’s The Color Master or B.J. Novak’s One More Thing, there were some tales that had me scratching my head by the end. Bender can be purposefully vague in her stories, leaving the reader to suss out what really happened – and while it drives me nuts at times, it also invites good discussion with other readers.

Overall, however, The Girl in the Flammable Skirt lived up to everything I love about Aimee Bender’s books – the whimsy, the dark undercurrents, and the expert use of metaphor that makes me wonder why I even bother writing in the first place. If you have a hankering for fairy tales and an hour or two on your hands, pick up a copy of this book (and then come talk to me about it!). It’s well worth your time and imagination.

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You can purchase a copy of The Girl in the Flammable Skirt by Aimee Bender at the Book Depository here. Seattle Books is a proud affiliate of the Book Depository and has committed 100% of proceeds from book sales to blog giveaways and site maintenance. All thoughts expressed above are the blogger’s and are not endorsed or solicited by the Book Depository.

Book tag: Summertime Madness

Summer is almost over (if you live outside California, anyway), but since I’m still doing a fair amount of traveling these days, I thought it was time to tackle the Summertime Madness book tag. I can’t remember the first channel I caught this tag from, but you can find the original over at JackEatsBooks here. If you want to participate in this book tag, consider yourself tagged!

1. Show a book with a summery cover:

Summer means baseball, hot dogs, and beer. It means long afternoons at the park, bad farmer’s tans, and the All-Star game. This cover may not be your quintessential stock photo of a couple holding hands at the beach, but it is undoubtedly Summer.

2. Pick one fictional place that would be the perfect destination for your summer vacation:

My go-to answers here are always Narnia and Hogwarts, and since Hogwarts is closed for summer holidays…

On second thought, let’s go with Faerie, home to Tristran Thorn, his star, and the rest of Neil Gaiman’s Stardust populace. It seems like the perfect place for enchantment and adventure.

3. You’re about to go on a flight to your summer vacation. But you want to read a book that lasts for the whole flight, so what novella do you choose?

Funnily enough, I just read the entirety of Gayle Forman’s If I Stay on a 7 a.m. flight last weekend. One of my favorite traveling traditions involves purchasing books at the airport kiosks, then trying to finish them on my flight (even the short ones!). With my upcoming trips in mind, I’d probably go for something like Tom Holt’s Snow White and the Seven Samurai, a modern-day fairytale retelling that would provide the right amount of relaxation and entertainment for a couple hours’ journey.

4. You have a case of “summertime sadness.” What happy book do you pick up to shine a smile on your face?

Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie. It’s a classic childhood story that has stuck with me well into my twenties, and I can’t think of a more whimsical or charming book to get lost in than the tale of Peter and Wendy, pirates and mermaids, and the impertinent fairy Tinker Bell.

5. You’re sitting at the beach all alone… which fictional character would be your beach babe?

For stimulating conversation… Hermione, from J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

For shenanigans and adventures… Lettie Hempstock, from Neil Gaiman’s The Ocean at the End of the Lane.

For dashing good looks… Gwendolyn, from Brian K. Vaughan’s Saga series.

6. To match your ice cream, you want an icy cool sidekick! Which fictional sidekick do you pick?

No question there: Aslan, from C.S. Lewis’s The Chronicles of Narnia.