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A Booklover’s Gift Guide

After years of book gifting, we have a long list of ideas saved up. And since book lovers like us seem to own most books, it’s good to have a stock of book-related ideas on hand.

So, welcome to our complete book lover’s gift guide! Whether you love books and want to share the wealth, or you need the perfect gift for a book lover, we’ve probably got something for you and yours on this list…

B O O K R E L A T E D

  • Bibliophile: An Illustrated Miscellany
    A beautifully illustrated love letter to all things books by Jane Mount. From bookstores and their resident pets to gorgeous curated stacks we immediately added to our TBR (to-be-read) list, this book’s the perfect gift for any bibliophile. Also, Mount just released a 2019 Planner that’s equally as swoon-worthy!
  • Ideal Bookshelf
    Jane Mount’s shop of book spine illustrations (and more). There are themed prints to choose from, or you can customize one with your favorites.
  • Out of Print
    They have endless clothes, accessories and housewares all related to books (their library card mugs are a favorite)!
  • Tiny Books
    This year Dutton Books released a set of John Green books in Tiny form. Designed to be held in one hand, maybe it will be the Luddite’s answer to the Kindle?
  • Juniper Books
    A little more pricey, but worth it! Juniper creates stunning book sets and custom jackets to accessorize and beautify your library.
  • Local Bookstore Subscriptions
    Popular destination bookstores (sure, that’s a thing) host their own book subscriptions like Literati Cultura, The Strand’s The Book Hook-up, and Shakespeare & Co. Year of Reading. They have unique categories, great finds and it supports booksellers!

R A I S I N G R E A D E R S

  • Moonlite
    Turning your smartphone into a projector, you can cuddle-up with the lights off and enjoy bedtime stories in a whole new way.
  • Wonderbly
    A great custom book shop we’ve used many times! Using the little one’s name, likeness, interests, characteristics… they can become a Queen in “Kingdom of You,” or a detective in “Where Are You?” and follow their own adventure.
  • Who Done it? by Oliver Tallec
    A great series of little picture mysteries like “who left their coat at home?”
  • Pearl by Molly Idle
    The most charming (and gorgeous) story about how even the littlest jobs can shine bright. As a stay-at-home mom this one definitely spoke to me.
  • Here We Are by Oliver Jeffers
    We love anything Jeffers authors and illustrates, but this one especially. A powerful story written as a note to his newborn son about what’s important in this world.
  • Windows by Julia Denos
    Perfect for any city kid (like mine) about a short neighborhood walk and all the wonderful lives behind each glowing window.
  • A Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo by Jill Twiss
    We can’t do this book enough justice, it’s amazing, just watch this.
  • Tomorrow I’ll Be Brave by Jessica Hische
    A new release by an extremely talented lettering artist and mother, it’s the the story about all the things we wish to be and how if we’re not our best today, there’s always tomorrow.
  • Love Is by Diane Adams
    A metaphor for the ups and downs of parenting as told through a little girl’s love and care for a growing duckling.
  • A Child of Books by Oliver Jeffers
    Another Jeffers favorite of ours with books, pages, and words used to create whimsical illustrations that tell the story of what adventures await us in the pages of books.
  • Orion and the Dark by Emma Yarlett
    The perfect story for any little one afraid of the dark. Orion is afraid of his dark bedroom, but soon he meets him, Dark, and realizes he’s nothing to be scared of.

F O R T H E R O M A N T I C

  • Love Poems by Pablo Neruda
    A gorgeous edition of the classic love poems of Spanish poet Pablo Neruda
  • One Day in December by Josie Silver
    The utterly charming love story of two Londoners; Laurie and Jack. Set in London, and described as Bridget Jones meets Love Actually, it’s the perfect winter romance.
  • The Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory
    One of this year’s most popular love stories, with a just-released sequel (The Proposal), we’ll be reading this for Bookly in February, so grab a copy and read along with us!
  • How to Find Love in a Bookshop by Veronica Henry
    A woman takes over her father’s bookshop in a small English town and she finds friendships, love, and a home she didn’t expect.
  • Love and Other Words by Christina Lauren (not pictured)
    A coming of age love story that jumps time and follows a few twists and turns before reaching its heart-felt ending.

F O R T H E A S P I R I N G C H E F

  • How to Grill Everything by Mark Bittman
    Grilling can be such an easy, healthy way to cook and Bittman gives endless delicious ideas that make you anxious for grilling season.
  • Love and Lemons by Jeanine Donofrio
    What exists as a blog inspired by fresh, italian cooking, this vegetarian cookbook organized by produce is delicious and makes it easy to add any protein along with it (the shredded brussels sprouts salad is a personal favorite).
  • The Food Lab by J. Kenji López-Alt
    Better cooking through science, this unique cookbook doesn’t just explain how, but why we cook food the way we do.

L E A R N S O M E T H I N G N E W

  • Life’s Work by Dr. Willie Parker
    An outspoken, Christian advocate for reproductive justice, Dr. Willie Parker chronicles his deeply personal journey as an abortion provider living in the South making a moral argument for choice.
  • The Healing of American: A Global Quest for Better, Cheaper, Fairer Health Care by T.R. Reid
    Organized by Country, Reid travels the world sharing all that he learns about the successes and failures of the health care systems around the world.
  • On The Run: Fugitive Life in an American City by Alice Goffman
    What started as Goffman’s masters thesis turned into years among men and women in a Philadelphia neighborhood plagued by mass, perpetual incarceration and the realities of a justice system gone awry.
  • Barracoon by Zora Neale Hurston
    Just published this year, Hurston interviewed Cudjo Lewis in the 1920’s and 30’s, who was at the time the last person alive who could tell the story of capture and bondage in the Atlantic slave trade.

T H E D A R K E R S I D E

  • Annihilation by Jeff Vandermeer
    A completely unique story of “Area X,” a mysterious government property that has scientists baffled, and the all-female expedition team that travels into Area X for answers.
  • Dark Matter by Blake Crouch
    This twisty sci-fi thriller takes you through a race of reality and chance to answer the question, “are you happy with your life?” and tell us something about humanity.
  • In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
    An American true crime classic. It’s the story of the senseless killing of a family while they lay quiet in their home in Kansas on November 15, 1959, and Capote’s hunt for answers.
  • American Fire: Love, Arson, and Life in a Vanishing Land by Monica Hesse
    The arson started on a cold November midnight in Accomack County and didn’t stop for months. A portrait of the arsonists and America’s history with arson.
  • Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife by Mary Roach
    With her sarcastic wit and curiosity, Roach tackles another mysterious subject in this unique non-fiction analysis of the supernatural.
  • Lady Killers by Tori Telfer
    A completely fascinating, smart and oddly fun look into the little known history of female serial killers, each chapter a new bizarre story of a frightening femme fatale.
  • I’ll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara
    One of this year’s biggest hits, McNamara’s tireless pursuit of The Golden State Killer (as she named him) gave birth to this soon-to-be classic true crime novel (don’t read it when you’re home alone).

E S C A P E I N T O A N O T H E R W O R L D

  • Hyperion Series by Dan Simmons
    A hard-to-explain classic sci-fi series from the 90’s with a devout fan base, the Hyperion series is one you’ll just have to read to believe.
  • Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
    After only 2% of the world’s population survives as mass disease the stories of characters we’re left with intertwine and weave together in the most beautiful, fateful, powerful ways that it will have you in awe and thoughtful days after it ends.
  • The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
    The mysterious Night Circus shows up with no warning and only at night. This cult favorite, filled with magical realism, love, and drama is a must read.
  • An Ember in the Ashes Series by Sabaa Tahir
    A MUST READ series featuring strong women, great writing, a world that’s ancient Rome meets the middle East, and a story of love, magic, family, power, and justice that’s nothing but enjoyable.

F O R W O M E N ( A N D M E N )

  • Dear Ijeawele, or A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions by Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche
    Asked by her friend for advice on how to raise a strong woman, this is Adiche’s response in 15 invaluable suggestions.
  • The Mother of All Questions, Men Explain Things to Me, and Call Them by Their True Names by Rebecca Solnit
    Read anything and everything by Rebecca Solnit. Her words are powerful, elegant, and perfectly placed. Her essays have a way of saying things exactly how you’ve been meaning to say them but never could.
  • Daring Greatly by Brene Brown
    How the courage to be vulnerable transforms the way we live, love, parent, and lead. Thought leader Brene Brown is a must read author.
  • The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
    What if the world were increasingly sterile, and women were kept as, essentially, reproductive slaves? Funny, unexpected, horrifying, and altogether convincing. It is at once satire, warning, and a tour de force.

S . T . E . M .

  • Astrophysics for People in a Hurry by Neil DeGrasse Tyson
    What is the nature of space and time? How do we fit? There’s no better guide through these mind-bending questions than Tyson.
  • Seven Brief Lessons on Physics by Carlo Rovelli
    Exactly what it sounds like, and thoroughly enjoyable. It teaches us about who we are through the fundamentals of physics.
  • The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History by Elizabeth Kolbert
    Winner of the Pulitzer Prize, this is book about the future of our world, blending intellectual and natural history and field reporting into a powerful account of the mass extinction unfolding before our eyes.
  • How Not to be Wrong: The Power of Mathematical Thinking by Jordan Ellenberg
    A math-world superstar unveils the hidden beauty and logic of the world and puts its power in our hands.

F O R T H E H I S T O R I A N

  • One Summer: American, 1927 by Bill Bryson
    Charles Lindbergh crossed the Atlantic, Babe Ruth closed the home run record, Alvin “Shipwreck” Kelly sat atop a flagpole for twelve days, and in Chicago Al Capone was tightening his grip on bootlegging, and much, much more.
  • Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys
    Winter 1945. WWII. Four refugees. Four stories. A great historical fiction story for the YA audience and beyond.
  • The Nix by Nathan Hill
    A man’s estranged mother comes back into his life in an unexpected way launching a journey through different lives and different times (Chicago in the 1970’s) for one amazing story. Rumor has it it’s being made into a Netflix film starring Meryl Streep.
  • Belonging by Nora Krug
    A visually stunning graphic memoir telling the story of Krug’s attempt to confront the hidden truths of her family’s wartime past in Nazi Germany and comprehend the forces that have shaped her life, her generation, and history.

We hope you found what you were looking for, happy shopping!

Loving Elvis Babbit

Rabbit Cake by Annie Hartnett (our November selection) has flown somewhat under the radar. I’d not heard much about it until voting on what to read for Bookly in 2018, and I feel like that’s somewhat the norm. Not many have heard too much about this one, but those who have seem to have really enjoyed it.

It’s the story of Elvis Babbit and her family after her mother’s drowning during a routine sleep swimming episodes. Survived by 11-year-old Elvis, her sister, and her dad, the family goes down an odd path of grief involving world record baking, talking birds, seashell jesus sculptures, zoological metaphors, and more sleep-driven chaos. For all its quirks, Elvis, the Babbit family narrator, brings a bright and young perspective of hope to her family’s tragedy. Her voice was entirely unique and a pleasure to read.

I will say, this is the type of book/story that isn’t usually my first choice. A character-driven family drama where nothing much happens except a quirky familial arc. However, Harnett didn’t drag it along. The pacing and length were just enough to say what needed to be said. The writing was enjoyable. And Elvis was absolutely my favorite part of it all. Beyond that, this book is hard to describe. You’ll just have to read it for yourself. But I will say, if you liked any of these books*…

Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng
Tell The Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt
The Vacationers by Emma Straub
The Mothers by Brit Bennett
In the Unlikely Event by Judy Blume
(*family dramas as told by an young, endearing female protagonist)

… you’ll most likely enjoy Rabbit Cake (and vice versa). Now, on to the next!

 

 

December + January Book

The new year calls for us to learn something new. Our selection this time of year is always a nonfiction book that encourages its readers to see things in a new light. That’s exactly why we’ve chosen Angela Y. Davis‘ early 1980’s classic Women, Race and Class.

Image result for angela davis

After watching Ava DuVernay’s award-winning Netflix documentary 13th (WATCH THIS if you haven’t already), which features a strong presence by Davis, we were inspired to add her keystone work to our list. Davis is a prominent activist who was thrust into the spotlight in 1970 when she was labeled a “terrorist” by President Reagan for a loose connection to the crimes of Jonathan Jackson.  Although one can assume her only “crime” was an association with the Communist Party, Black Panther Party, and Civil Rights Movement. Ultimately she was found not guilty by an all-white jury. Davis later went on to use her strength and intellect on speaking tours, further political activism, and professorships at esteemed universities.

She’s led (and is leading) a critical and fascinating life with a deep well of conviction. Overcoming societal prejudices against her race, gender and sexuality, she’s worked tirelessly for what she believes in. Women, Race and Class is her examination of the Women’s liberation movement in America and how it has always been caged by the racist and classist biases of our leaders. Even a glance the table of contents proves how much we have to learn from this book…

1. The Legacy of Slavery: Standards for a New Womanhood
2. The Anti-Slavery Movement and the Birth of Women’s Rights
3. Class and Race in the Early Women’s Rights Campaign
4. Racism in the Woman Suffrage Movement
5. The Meaning of Emancipation According to Black Women
6. Education and Liberation: Black Women’s Perspective
7. Woman Suffrage at the Turn of the Century: The Rising Influence of Racism
8. Black Women and the Club Movement
9. Working Women, Black Women, and the History of the Suffrage Movement
10. Communist Women
11. Rape, Racism and the Myth of the Black Rapist
12. Racism, Birth control and Reproductive Rights
13. The Approaching Obsolescence of Housework: A Working-class Perspective

We can’t wait to read this nonfiction classic! No doubt we will learn a lot, and it’s our hope you’ll learn along with us. To be a member of The Bookly Club all you have to do is read this selection sometime in December or January. That’s it! If you’d like to take it a step further, please share here any thoughts and comments, or on social media using #booklymark. We’re excited to hear from you!

“Davis’s work deserves a wide readership… She has compiled much useful information not easily obtained elsewhere.”
The Nation

“She places in context the often acrimonious debate over the whiteness and elitism of feminism.”
Washington Post Book World

“A unique contribution to the growing body of literature on women in the United States… Davis’s masterful analysis leaves us with the confidence that we can understand history and, therefore, are not condemned to repeat it. Women, Race & Class makes an outstanding contribution to this endeavor.”
Freedomways

November Book

Road trips, shopping, cooking, dishes, gathering around the dinner table, eating, eating, eating – this month hosts a lot of time with family. A lot. And so does this month’s book. Rabbit Cake is a debut novel by Annie Hartnett (released March, 2017). IMG_1086Listed as one of Kirkus Reviews’ best books of 2017, it’s the story of Elvis Babbit, and family, after her mother’s suspicious sleep-swimming drowning.Her mother is survived by Elvis, her sister Lizzie (a sleep eater), and her father. As told from the perspective of 12-year-old Elvis, we start to see under the many layers of the Babbit family’s dirty laundry. But there are things yet to be uncovered. There are a few things that don’t seem right to Elvis, so she begins looking into the details of her mother’s life and death.

Written with a very original, charmingly young voice, you feel like you’re experiencing all the nitches of this bizarre family through the eyes of Elvis Babbit.


“Elvis investigates the strange circumstances of her mother’s death and finds comfort, if not answers, in the people (and animals) of Freedom, Alabama. As hilarious a storyteller as she is heartbreakingly honest, Elvis is a truly original voice in this exploration of grief, family, and the endurance of humor after loss.”


So if you’re with us, and would like to meet a new family entirely weird in their own right, read Rabbit Cake with us this month! How? Read at your own pace, sometime this month, and then chime in with any thoughts or pictures here with comments or on our Instagram.

Special Review: The Hiding Place

While doing some light research on our October book (The Chalk Man) and its author C.J. Tudor I read that she has a second book coming out this winter. So I took a chance and asked for an early copy to review along with The Chalk ManTHANK YOU to Crown Publishing for sending along the advance copy of Tudor’s next thriller The Hiding Place! It did not disappoint.

Not all four of us read it, just me, Katherine C. Although you can bet I’ll be recommending it to all of our Bookly Katherines as soon as it’s released.

SYNOPSIS

Joe never wanted to come back to Arnhill. After the way things ended with his old gang–the betrayal, the suicide, the murder–and after what happened when his sister went missing, the last thing he wanted to do was return to his hometown. But Joe doesn’t have a choice. Because judging by what was done to that poor Morton kid, what happened all those years ago to Joe’s sister is happening again. And only Joe knows who is really at fault.

But the hardest part of all will be returning to that abandoned mine where it all went wrong and his life changed forever, and finally confronting the shocking, horrifying truth about Arnhill, his sister, and himself. Because for Joe, the worst moment of his life wasn’t the day his sister went missing. It was the day she came back.

With the same virtuosic command of character and pacing she displayed in The Chalk Man, C. J. Tudor has once again crafted an extraordinary novel that brilliantly blends harrowing psychological suspense, a devilishly puzzling mystery, and enough shocks and thrills to satisfy even the most seasoned reader.

In the beginning I was a bit turned off by all the similarities to The Chalk Man: a male protagonist with a failing career in education and a closeted drinking problem rehashing the sins of childhood friendships in his hometown. But in reading these two back to back I was bound to recognize each and every overlap. It didn’t take long before I was totally wrapt in the evil mysteries of The Hiding Place.

This book made The Chalk Man feel like a dress rehearsal. And the main show is not to be missed! Tudor’s writing felt more confident, it accelerated at just the right pace, the town—a character all its own—haunted you from every page, the characters were full and flawed, and yet again Tudor delivered some excellent twists and turns. I felt like I could see the town, I could feel the “creeping cold” that stalked Joe around every corner, and in the end it was truly scary. Although a bit more predictable than The Chalk Man, I liked this second book even more. It had everything I want in a spooky thriller; like an insidious Goonies meets the best of Tana French suspense mixed with that rare Stephen King surrealism, and of course twists and turns that keep you guessing like only Tudor can create.

So, if that sounds good to you order your copy of The Hiding Place as soon as you can (coming out February 2019)!

Great Mysterious Confusion

I’m always game for a good thriller or scary story. I think it goes back to why I first started loving to read. I remember watching my cousin devour R.L. Stine’s Fear Street series and telling me how scary it was. I was sure books couldn’t be scary. How could words on paper come close to a scary movie or haunted house? I wasn’t quite Fear Street ready so I started with Goosebumps. To my surprise Welcome to the Dead House was actually scary. Who knew words could have such power?! I know, give me a break, I was young.

Then came Fear Street, all things Mary Higgins Clark, and any good scare I could get my hands on. And that hasn’t changed. C.J. Tudor’s The Chalk Man was exactly what I was in the mood for, especially this time of year. Written by an English, author set in an English town, it tells the story of four young friends— Eddie, Mickey, Hoppo and Fat Gav— and how the horror of one summer haunts their lives. Playing with chalk figures to send each other coded messages, the figures start to appear at sites of sudden violence and crime around the town. Who drew them? What do they have to do with these four friends? And how are they connected? Are they connected?

Most of the time I was utterly confused. In a good way! Usually I can see where a mystery is leading, but Tudor kept the story twisting and turning in such a way that at times I didn’t know which was was up. Just when I thought I knew where the clues were leading something would happen to throw me off course. There was one thing I did see coming. In the first pages of the book the author introduces you to someone taking a trophy from a crime scene and I did predict who that would be. But otherwise, most of it was a thrilling surprise. There was even a little mystery leftover in the end, which I liked.

{SPOILERS} Who was really drawing the chalk men? I have a theory: it was a haunting. The insidious drawings first appear after Sean haunts Eddie from his driveway. So it’s a surreal representation of the town’s evil, embodied in Sean’s spirit that’s creating these chalk men drawings. But I’m not fully convinced that’s the right theory. My husband made the point that Eddie’s grasp on reality is not the best. It’s alluded to more than once that he has gaps in his memory, that he dreams these dreams that feel all too real, or he wakes up one morning with twigs in his hair without an idea why. We know Eddie drew the figures that led to Elisa, could he have drawn the others??

I’d say this book was exactly what I predicted it would be: good. Not great, but good. And entertaining. The pacing was a bit off (took me awhile to get into it) and I felt like I wanted more meat to the characters and the setting. Nor was it all that scary. Gruesome at times, yes, but not scary. Although I really did enjoy how it kept me guessing, and how at any moment the story would turn completely upside down and lead you in a new direction. In this, her debut novel, Tudor’s gift for thrilling writing definitely tells me I should be on the lookout for whatever she writes next.

In fact, Crown Publishing was kind enough to send along an Advance Copy of her second book The Hiding Place (out February 2019)! Check out the review here, it’s not one you wanna miss.

October Book

The weather is changing and there’s a new chill in the air, so now’s the time for a chilling story. Maybe more than any other month, October begs you to read something fit to the season; something a little spooky to give you the creeps and put you on the edge of your seat. So if, like us, you’re in the mood for a good ghost story read with us!

This month we’ve chosen The Chalkman by C.J. Tudor thanks to our Instagram community. Normally we come up with suggestions among the four of us and vote. But this year we opened the suggestion box to our Insta community and The Chalk Man was a nomination by one of our followers. And we’re so glad she suggested it!

It’s British author C.J. Tudor’s debut novel that Stephen King commented on as, “Want to read something good?…If you like my stuff, you’ll like this.” Tudor lives in Nottingham, England and before writing she’s had a long history of various other professions (dog walker, voice actor to name a few). But with the success of this first novel it seems she’s found her calling as a full-time author. And her second book is in the works, set to be released in February of next year (The Hiding Place)!

Here’s what you need to know about The Chalk Man


In 1986, Eddie and his friends are just kids on the verge of adolescence. They spend their days biking around their sleepy English village and looking for any taste of excitement they can get. The chalk men are their secret code: little chalk stick figures they leave for one another as messages only they can understand. But then a mysterious chalk man leads them right to a dismembered body, and nothing is ever the same.
     In 2016, Eddie is fully grown, and thinks he’s put his past behind him. But then he gets a letter in the mail, containing a single chalk stick figure. When it turns out that his friends got the same message, they think it could be a prank . . . until one of them turns up dead.
     That’s when Eddie realizes that saving himself means finally figuring out what really happened all those years ago.
Expertly alternating between flashbacks and the present day, The Chalk Man is the very best kind of suspense novel, one where every character is wonderfully fleshed out and compelling, where every mystery has a satisfying payoff, and where the twists will shock even the savviest reader.


If you want to read with us (we hope you do) it’s pretty simple…

  • Read The Chalk Man at your own pace throughout the month of October.
  • Use the hashtag #booklymark on any posts so we can keep up with and share your posts!
  • At the end of the month, or early next, we’ll have a casual discussion for those who want to share their thoughts.
    We’re debating between a discussion post or an Instagram Live chat — let us know your preference in the comments below!

We hope to hear from you, happy reading!

Seven Brief, Though Thorough and Therefore Sort of Difficult to Follow, Lessons on Physics

If you read Katie C.’s review, you already know that I gave her a heads up that I found this hard to read. And it was. Despite being brief, the lessons were still lessons on physics, and physics was never really my subject.

HOWEVER. I still very much appreciated Rovelli’s “brief” book of essays. I highlighted more passages in this book than I expected to and than I have in most other books. And I highlighted for a lot of reasons. In some places I highlighted words, like “phantasmagorical,” because I simply can’t think of a better word, or phrases, like “Genius hesitates,” because they were awesome. Sometimes I highlighted because the prose is simply beautiful. For example:

A reality that seems to be made of the same stuff that our dreams are made of, but that is nevertheless more real than our clouded, quotidian dreaming.

I highlighted because I felt gobsmacked by what I read, because I certainly had no idea that “If a person who has lived at sea level meets up with his twin who has lived in the mountains, he will find that his sibling is slightly older than he.” WHAT?! But I also highlighted because I found myself laughing at how little I understood of what I read, and I wanted to return to it later and see if I could make more sense of it.

And lastly I highlighted SO. MUCH. in Rovelli’s closing chapter “Ourselves.” And most of this I highlighted because it scared me. It made me think. It made me wonder. And it made me really hope that what we have triggered can be undone or reversed or slowed.

What’s more, we do damage. The brutal climate and environmental changes that we have triggered are unlikely to spare us.

So I’m going to echo what Katie said in my own words: Read it for the beauty of Rovelli’s writing. Let yourself be in awe of the fact that someone can write so gorgeously about science. And if throughout the book, you find yourself understanding a little bit of something or learning something new, give yourself a pat on the back.

{A Reaper at the Gates} Cover Redesign

First things first. Have you read Sabaa Tahir’s An Ember in the Ashes series yet? I’m not a consistent fan of dystopian novels, but I’ll read them every once in awhile. Out of all the others like it that I’ve read (The Hunger Games, Divergent, A Darker Shade of Magic) this one is by far my favorite. The kickass female protagonist isn’t beholden to a love triangle or under the thumb of more powerful male characters. She’s independent and calls the shots all her own. The writing is that awesome, keeps you on the edge of your seat type. And the story has layers of mystery and magic with interesting twists at every turn.

But alas… let’s just say, without going into too much critique, the cover’s not a style that I think represents what’s inside. So, it’s been awhile, but every so often I like to design a concept cover. Just for fun, what do I think the cover should look like?


Some of the various covers to date . . .


 

After reading the third in the series (fourth and final yet to come), which was released along with a new set of covers which also fail to capture the story, I finally decided to take a crack at a redesign. Just for A Reaper at the Gates, to start. Here are some of the concepts I drafted…

   

 

I think this one is my favorite, which one is yours?

 

Humanity in Two Forms

I’d been looking forward to both of these books for awhile. The Giver is one I wish I’d read as a young adult, but never did. I still wish that, but better late than never, right? And Seven Brief Lessons on Physics initially hooked me with the beautiful cover and tiny size. But let’s take this one at a time…

IMG_20180921_181704

I first read The Giver by Lois Lowry, a long awaited check off my must-read-eventually list. But I think I made a mistake before even picking it up. A few years ago I saw the movie (2014), and I wish I hadn’t done that. As I was reading I was picturing the movie set, the actors, and turning over in my head the differences between the movie and the book. It ruined some of the magic. At least it’d been quite awhile since I’d seen the movie so it wasn’t fresh in my mind, but it was present enough to color my first impression. So if you haven’t read this one yet, definitely don’t watch the movie first.

That being said, I enjoyed Jonas’s story, the intrigue and themes of the world Lowry created, the beautiful balance between what you know and what you don’t know, and the timeless qualities of the world that creates a picture of the future no matter the time and place you’re reading from. It said so much about what it is to be innocent, to lose that innocence, and the essence of what it means to truly live. To me it seemed to put a lense up to the meaning of our humanity. It’s definitely a book I’d like to re-read in the future, probably with my daughters someday. I think it’s a story with messages to be heard anew with each reading, and I look forward to picking it back up someday.


 

“Nature is our home, and in nature we are at home.
This strange, multicolored, and astonishing world that we explore—where space is granular, time does not exist and things are nowhere—is not something that estranges us from our true selves, for this is only what our natural curiosity reveals to us about the place of our dwelling. About the stuff of which we ourselves are made. We are made of the same stardust of which all things are made, and when we are immersed in suffering or when we are experiencing intense joy, we are being nothing other than what we can’t help but be: a part of our world.”

Seven Brief Lessons on Physics
by Carlo Rovelli

 


And second, I read Seven Brief Lessons on Physics by Carlo Rovelli. I picked this one up for my husband actually a few years ago. It’s a compilation of seven essays Rovelli wrote, originally in Italian, that attempt to bring some of the world’s most complicated scientific theories to a level you and I can understand and learn from in a way that teaches us something more about what it means to be human and living among these laws of nature.

Side note: the book’s website is beautiful and fun just like the dust jacket.

00100dPORTRAIT_00100_BURST20180921180411567_COVERBefore reading it I’d heard from a few people that it was hard to follow and seemed to bring more confusion than clarity. But frankly, I think hearing those perspectives before reading it benefited my experience. I read each lesson under the assumption that I’d not be able to really understand most of the science. Sometimes I did, and sometimes I didn’t. But not working too hard to piece together the science made me really appreciate the larger message; how these theories of physics say so much about our humanity, how we fit into nature’s path, our curiosities, how much we’re capable of, and how much more there is to learn. I also read most of the book in one sitting which I think helps since as you progress lesson to lesson Rovelli refers back to previous theories.

But ultimately I LOVED this book. I didn’t think I would. It surprised me. But I think it was just what I was in the mood for… a step back for a look at who we are outside of the daily, for lack of a better word, bullshit. I could have highlighted nearly half the book. I found his writing poetic and the messages enlightened, intelligent, and hopeful (themes that seem to be lacking as of late). So if you haven’t read this one yet, pick it up! It’s 80 pages that will teach you some fantastic, mysterious, amazing things about the world we live in and who we are.