Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Don't Judge A Book...

By Meghan B

Oh, bookstores. You are to me like half-Japanese girls are to Rivers Cuomo. You do it to me every time. You cruel catalogers of genre, you evil purveyors of... of... evil! You break my heart and my wallet. Why you wanna go and do me like that, make me go into the romance section and buy a book...

Perhaps I'm being slightly over dramatic. Or maybe my ire should be leveled squarely on the shoulders of book publishers and their art departments. Maybe the ire should be leveled at myself.

You see, friends, I read a review of a book on a website I generally trust with my reading life. It was smooshed in the middle of other descriptions of new release paperbacks. None of the books had cover images. This book, though the title was kind of lame, sounded pretty good. "It's Terminator meets My Fair Lady in this fascinating debut of black magic and brilliant ball gowns, martial arts, and mysticism!" the blurb proclaimed. The story was about a woman sent back to Victorian England to stop an evil sorcerer from destroying the world. To fit in, she would have to learn Victorian manners while trying to be an assassin. How could you NOT want to read that?

Armed with only a title and author, I went down to the local bookstore after work and dutifully stood in the info desk line. A cheerful employee lead me to the romance section and put the book you see to your right in my hands. I gawked at it. This... this abomination in pastel was my urban fantasy book? Look at that font! It's PINK! It's romance novel typeface! Why is this "Terminator meets My Fair Lady" book in romance and not sci-fi!

I stood there, gobsmacked. This could not be my time travel novel with demons and evil sorcerers. There must be some mistake. I quickly opened the book to make sure it was right and was almost immediately sucked into a Victorian world with magic and a cursing female character who used a gun that ran on her own blood to kill demons. Yup, right book.

I bought the book and quickly finished it within two days. It was fun, it was light and it was pretty good. The characters were interesting, the concept was interesting. I really enjoyed it. It was pure urban fantasy. Yet, I kept looking at that cover, trying to see how that was anything like the story I was enjoying inside.

As children, we are taught not to judge a book by it's cover. It's a nice, quaint little maxim. It's insanely true.  The story of Joan, assassin from the future, trying to become a respectable Victorian lady while trying to thwart an evil magician was clever. I highly recommend it, if you want some light reading.The cover art is so out of place for the story though. And that made me feel like a jerk. I was literally judging a book by it's cover, even as I read it.

As much as I was totally into the book, I couldn't help but feel silly pulling it out on the train to read it. I suddenly realized why people like e-readers. No painfully bad or hilariously wrong cover art to deal with. Does it suck that the publisher of No Proper Lady decided to stick a pastel blue cover on it? Hell yes. Does it diminish how awesome the book was? Not one bit. And it was pretty damn awesome.

But seriously, publishers, stop trying to give me an aneurysm.

(Are time travel romance novels a thing now? My mind still boggles...)
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  1. I remember reading an article about this very thing! In fact, let me see...
    I have definitely read some books where I was thinking maybe I'd rather not have people be judging ME on the cover of the book (tho I can't think of any examples at the moment)!

  2. And that is why I love my Kindle. One of the dads at my son's baseball games always stops and asks what trashy novel I am reading. His mother got a Kindle because she loved romance novels but was embarrassed to be seen reading them.

    Some of the covers are ridiculous with the headless bodies, washboard abs that go on forever, etc but this one totally misses the mark.

  3. Great post! I actually want to read this one too.

  4. I think you are right that this is a huge case of the cover not doing the book any favors. It would be fine - if it was a historical romance with some interesting paranormal stuff in it.

    I will be adding it to my list, though. Thanks for the review!

  5. Reminds me of this article, about an author who eventually ditched her publisher in frustration at the covers they kept saddling her with